Royal Parks half marathon in the style of Haruki Murakami, US embassy, autumn bulbs campaign success
Royal Parks half marathon in the style of Haruki Murakami.
Every year I run a half marathon. At least for the past five years anyway. Apart from last year, when I was ill. So this year I decided to train harder to make up for missing last year. I ran round Wimbledon Common at least twice a week. Another reason for my desire to run harder was age. I am getting older and want to beat the times I ran as a younger man. As each year goes by it becomes more difficult to run as fast as when as I was my twenties, or even thirties.
The half marathon begin in Hyde Park. Royal Parks press officer Neil Coyte had arranged for me to have a place after I met him during an Olympics event in the same park. But I found when I arrived at the park that I did not have a VIP pass, as at previous events. I queued behind Katie Piper (the woman who campaigns disfigurement discrimination) and her boyfriend.
Inside the VIP tent I saw Hyde Park manager Nick Biddle, who I had met two days earlier at the US Ambassador’s House in Regents Park. My name was not on the list so I trekked through the mud, picking up free gifts as I went, to the normal runners’ bag drop. Then I made my way to the start. I saw Gordon Ramsay, looking younger than he used to, and Jenni Falconer, who was on the tube as I travelled from my home in Wimbledon to the event. I also saw Will Greenwood, the former rugby player. And Ben Fogle, who evidently was not running this year. He had Ludo, his child, on his shoulders.
Fogle and Nell McAndrew started the race. I did not fell nervous. I had drunk some Red Bull and taken some painkillers for my sore hamstring, damaged during the warm up to my last race, a 10km a fortnight ago in Regents Park. It may look like I only run in Royal Parks, but that is not the case.
I set my watch and went with the flow of runners. I was near the front so did not mind being over taken. In fact, throughout the race, I was overtaken by more than 100 people I would guess – I did not count them. This is simply an estimate. But I was sanguine about my performance after reading Haruki Murakama’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running book. Reading this on the way to the race is rather like wearing a Smiths T-shirt to a Smiths concert. However, I enjoyed the calm feeling the book gave me on the way to the race. I had been up since 5.30am with my two children.
A song was in my head during the opening part of the race, which ran down Constitution Hill to Big Ben. It was Thomas the Tank Engine. This was slightly annoying but when I looked at my watch I did not mind because I had run 6.47 for the first mile. Slow down I thought to myself. I thought the same for the first few miles. Blade running Paralympian Richard Whitehead passed me at four miles. Many people spoke to him. He replied, talking about how he had won at 100m in the Paralympics, a month earlier, but this half marathon was much further and more difficult. He was being self-effacing.
I did not mind him passing me. I had read that he was a very fine runner, with a best marathon time of 2.35. Mine is 2.59, which shows the comparison. My belief was because many people had begun behind me, they would pass me during the race. And they did. I did not mind. The sun was out and my need to urinate was decreasing as I began to sweat a little.
My seven minute mile pace did not let up. I passed 10km in 43 minutes, only a minute less than I had run the whole distance in my disappointing race in Regents Park a fortnight before. I was growing more confident. This was because I was not putting pressure on myself. Many people would say I do test myself with challenges and that leads to stress. Today there was little stress. I was calculating the worst case scenario time in my head. If I ran the second half of the race five minutes slower than the first, which was unlikely as I was feeling quite strong, I would complete the race in 1.36. That would not be the end of the world. But my pace was steady. The runner carrying the 1.30 pace flag passed my after exactly 10 miles. I tried to stick with him but only managed that for a few minutes. He had begun behind me and was therefore running faster than my pace. I would have to beat him anyway to make under 1.30. I kept running on. I heard a steel band. They mostly play at festivals when I hear them, usually high profile runs such as this. I neared the end. My pace had not slipped. I tried to speed up but as I did not want to hurt myself earlier in the race by testing the boundaries of my pace I found it difficult to step up a gear. I cantered down the finishing straight and finished in 1.31.13. Seven minute mile pace or just under. I had to walk a long way to fetch my bag. By now I had six Lucozades, six Bavaria non alcoholic beers, is Rude Health granolas, 6x Eat Natural bars, 6x Rice dreams – and an M&S banana. I caught the tube home. There were no runners nearby. At home it was as if nothing had happened. I had run my best time in a decade.
At US ambassador Louis Susman’s house Winfield House in Regents Park the other day for New York High Line event. Met Mark Camley who is looking after Olympic park legacy. A lot of Elsworth Kelly art. And signed pics of Barack and Joe Biden. I drank G&T and ate Ferrero Rocher.
3. If you get an email telling you that you can catch Swine Flu from tins of ham then delete it. It’s Spam.
4. I see Daily Telegraph has this week published a piece on what bulbs to plant now. I wrote this a few weeks ago one how article son bulbs should be out now rather than in spring, as they usually are. Amateur Gardening’s Kris Collins says he does spring bulb articles in autumn when you plant bulbs. KC has won a T&M trip to Essen for best tree lily pic.
5. Put away the barbecue and garden furniture this weekend. And tidied up the allotment for winter. Indoor growing now. My Westland chillis are coming up.
8. And the other one climbed the woodpile. This could become a children’s book.