On Sunday I followed in the footsteps of Olympic heroes in the National Lottery Anniversary Run.
Last year I won a place on the Olympic Park Run and was one of the first to cross the Olympic finishing line in the newly opened Olympic Stadium. At the time I thought that was a one in a lifetime experience…
The National Lottery, one of the biggest funders of the 2012 Olympics, thought otherwise.
Legacy was always one of the questions hanging over the Olympics. How would the Games translate into wider participation? Well, 10,000 people signed up, paid up, and ran the anniversary run with 5,000 people, children and their families, taking part in the 2.5k family run.
This year David was also able to get a place so we set off on Saturday morning for a weekend in London with our better halves. The 7am flight from Glasgow to Luton is always a shock to the system. It means a 4am start.
It also means that being shattered for the rest of the day! We spent most of Saturday morning drinking coffee and trying to wake up and shopping at Westfield, then it was off to check in to our hotel out at Docklands, a nap and then off to the West End for dinner and The Phantom of the Opera.
I’ve seen the show on TV and we watched the movie the other night but there is always something magical about live theatre. Phantom didn’t disappoint.
Sunday morning started at 7am with a light breakfast then we took the DLR to Stratford, along with thousands of other runners and their supporters.
There was a a real sense of excitement as we wound our way through the shopping centre at Westfield and out towards the Olympic Park.
The last time I was here the park was a building site. All the major venues had been completed but the landscaping and temporary seating was still being installed. Just over a year later and the Olympic Park is in a similar state. The temporary venues have been removed and their sites are being redeveloped. The extension wings have been taken off the aquatics centre (photo above) making it look very different. The new glass walls are almost complete and the building looks great.
The warm up, courtesy of Mr Motivator himself, Roy Gale preceded start by Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, track cycling king, Sir Chris Hoy.
The race route was different this year. It even had a bit of cross country at the start!
It was also pretty tight and twisty so it was difficult to run at race pace at the start of the race. And it was hot and humid. Thankfully it was cloudy which kept the temperature down a bit.
It was a great run and you could feel the sense of excitement building as we wound our way towards the Olympic Stadium. At around 21 minutes a roar erupted from the crowd as the first runner entered the stadium. The noise was amazing, especially as the stadium was less than half full. It gave us a real sense of what it must have sounded like as Mo Farah was cheered round every lap of the 5,000m and 10,000m on that Super Saturday.
I was only just past half way!
I was looking forward to the tunnel more than the stadium.
As I entered the tunnel under the stadium I could hear the crowd… but not the crowd from today. It was the crowd from Mo’s gold medal run, along with commentary from Steve Cram and Chariots of Fire in the background. I could feel a wave of emotion sweep over me as I pushed my pace knowing I was close to 40 minutes. There’s light at the end of the tunnel… brilliant sunlight.
The thing I noticed about the track is the bounce. Maybe it’s because you come straight off the concrete of the tunnel but the track is fantastic to run on. And all of a sudden you find yourself on the home straight and crossing the line, gasping and smiling and knowing that you have followed in the footsteps of legends.
Once we found Pam and Avril in the crowd we sat in the sun, ate our way through the nuts, biscuits and crisps in the goody bag, and watched the rest of the runners come in.
It’s fair to say that the runners came in all shapes and sizes. I stood to applaud a woman with crutches cross the line but also for a woman who must have been at least 20 stones struggle down the last 100 meters. At some point she must have thought “I can do this. I can run 5 miles.” And she did. She made it, along with all those others who must have wondered what on earth made them sign up, wondered if they could do it on such a hot and humid day and, as they crossed the line, knew that I can do this I can do whatever I put my mind to.
That’s the real Olympic Legacy.
There is something amazing about a mass participation event. There’s a sense of community, shared experience, a knowledge of what it takes to get to the start line, the gratitude to those whose support makes all the training possible. If you’ve never entered a run, try it. You never know where you might find yourself…
For us the rest of the day involved a picnic from M&S, a shower and a change of clothes and off into London for a wander around Harrods, a fantastic (and very expensive) cake from the Gand Cafe, sunbathing in Hyde Park and dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks at Covent Garden.
Monday was the hottest day in years. 33C. We headed back to the air conditioning of Westfield in the morning for some breakfast and shopping then to Trafalgar Square for a sandwich and then the National Gallery and a wander round Whitehall. By late afternoon we were just hot and tired so diner was Yo! sushi at St Pancras and then off to Luton for the flight home.
What a weekend.