So. Today should have been the day of the London marathon, which I would NOT have been running. However I always like to watch bits of it on television, and this year I knew a couple of people running it, so I might have even travelled into town to cheer them on. But of course none of that happened.
Back in December I ran the final run of my 12 half marathons of 2019 with a running organisation called Phoenix Running. It was such a lot of fun, and everyone was so friendly that I entered another half marathon with the same company in May. That’s been postponed until next year. Then up popped a virtual NOT the London marathon – or half! Something that we can all do with careful social distancing and some planning. So I entered. Now it might seem a bit strange to pay money for a medal and a Freddo and then run by yourself… but it actually it was just what I needed to get myself going again. The last few weeks of running have sometimes felt a little bit aimless. Last year I was very focussed on a race every month. This year I didn’t want to do so many, but I already had three booked in, and they were all abruptly cancelled. I do love running simply for its own sake, but I also like to have something to aim for. So this virtual run came at just the right time!
The normal London marathon raises a lot of money for charities. Last year £66.4 million was raised. Due to the current COVID 19 situation charities are unable to raise funds in the same way that they are used to. The 2.6 challenge was devised as a way to try and raise awareness and money for charities. JDRF, who fund research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes, will double your donation until 30th April if you donate at their website. Please consider making a donation if you can.
Last week I started planning the route. I didn’t want to go too far from home, and I wanted to do a route I knew well, so there wouldn’t be any stopping to check a map! I decided on two local laps of a route I’ve done many times and know is almost exactly 10km. I added a loop on the first lap to bring the total up to 21.1km. I knew I would have to start early to miss as many walkers and runners as possible.
I wanted to make it as much like a proper race as possible. I designed a bib with a number – 2.6 for the #twopointsixchallenge. I added the JDRF logo.
I packed a goodie bag! First in went the Freddo from Rik at Phoenix. Then a banana because you have to have a banana. Then a packet of crisps – salt replacement. Then a beer – fluid replacement;-) Although I didn’t actually drink that at 8.45 am! And of course the medal itself.
I planned to start at around 6.30. Up early to eat some toast and almond butter for breakfast. The race village (aka My Street) was very quiet – nobody about at all in fact. Except my loyal supporter/sister Charlotte! By now regular readers will know that I am a bit fussy about race village toilets.. well no need to be concerned today – spotless, no queue and very close to the start line!
The first 11km were very quiet, just a few dog walkers and other up-with-the-lark runners around. It was easy to keep away from people. The birds were singing and the air was fresh and cool, the sun shining low through the trees. In a few sheltered places there was frost on the ground. I heard a cockerel crowing – quite incongruous as I was barely a quarter of a mile from the A40 and could also hear the hum of traffic from what is usually a busy road.
As I approached home at the end of the first lap I could hear the merry sound of a cowbell – my sister ringing it as I ran up the road. Goodness knows what my neighbours were thinking – it was only just gone 7.30!
After a quick drink of water I was off again for the second, slightly shorter lap. This time there were a few more people around, but it was still easy to avoid them by stepping off the path and into the grass. I imagined I was doing a proper trail run (which I should have been doing yesterday in Suffolk 😦 ) as I tried not to twist my ankle or step in something horrible. It really was perfect conditions for a run, sunny but not yet hot, and beautiful blue skies with a very light breeze. Back up the road home I could hear the cowbells again (!) and my cheering team of supporters! Post run breakfast was bacon/egg/black pudding roll and a coffee. Perfect!
All in all it was a great run, with a fab medal at the end. The Phoenix Facebook page has had plenty of stories on today of other people doing the same challenge – it has been a lot of fun reading them. A couple of people have done marathons up and down their streets! 400 plus laps! That is some determination. I would like to give a big shout out to my friend David, who was supposed to be running the Real Thing today and instead ran a marathon locally in just over 3.5 hours! And he wasn’t even going all out!
Doing a ‘virtual run’ isn’t the same as doing it with everyone around, and getting the encouragement and motivation from runners and spectators. However it really is the next best thing. I would definitely consider another, just to give myself the motivation.
Now where’s that beer?