Posts Tagged “olympics”

FcertA4.tmpl-1On 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.

Anniversary Run

 

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.

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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.

Anniversary Run

 

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.

Anniversary Run

 

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.

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The London 2012 Olympic Games start officially today.

There are loads of reasons to complain.  It cost too much.  It’s too corporate.  The sponsors are inappropriate.  The traffic is a nightmare.  There’s nothing else on TV.  The ticketing was a shambles…

The thing is, I don’t remember sitting at home as a child watching the world’s greatest athletes compete and thinking anything other than I wish I could do that… and going outside and try to copy them.

I didn’t rush to the fridge for a carbonated drink or to the local fast food outlet.

I ran, swam, rode my bike, made javelins from sticks and shot put stones.

I remember North & South Korea walking together behind one flag.  I remember Derek Redmond limping round the track, helped by his dad.  I remember Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, Kelly Holmes, Cathy Freeman, Steve Redgrave and many, many more incredible athletes push the human body to beyond what we thought possible.  I remember Mohamed Ali, shaking due to Parkinson’s Disease, light the Olympic flame.

I was inspired by their talent, courage, determination, commitment, fair play and their joy.  I still am.

So, you’ve had seven years to complain.  Now, please be quiet and let a generation of young people be inspired to be “faster, higher, stronger”.

Let the games begin.

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31 March 2012 – A once in a lifetime day – The National Lottery Olympic Park Run

Last year I entered the draw for the National Lottery Olympic Park Run. They would pick 5,000 runners from all 40,000 entrants to be the first people to run in the Olympic Stadium. I won a place. I couldn’t believe it.

This is the story of an incredible day making history…

0730 Time to get up. Yesterday was a long drive from Hamilton to our friends Linda & Denis’ house in Brackley. 6 hours driving is not the best preparation for a run but I was feeling ok. My back was a bit tight but nothing unusual considering the trouble I’ve had with it recently.

Great pre-run breakfast of bagels, scrambled egg and smoked salmon (courtesy of chef Linda). One last check of the bag, put on the red race t-shirt and make sure Avril and David have their spectator bands.

0910 Off to London

Parked at Greenford Tube Station a took the central line direct to Stratford.

1230 The entry to the Olympic Park was through the fantastic Westfield shopping centre, the massive new mall right next door.

Olympic Park Run Banner

The advice was to arrive early, allowing a couple of hours to clear the airport style security, and as we approached the Olympic Park it looked like would need all of that time. The queues moved quickly though, and despite Avril being directed to a different scanner we were soon reunited and heading into the Olympic Park.

The Olympic Park was dressed head to toe in Olympic Park Run banners and National Lottery logos. It looked amazing.

The first buildings in view as you enter the Olympic Park are the Olympic Stadium straight ahead and the Aquatic Centre to the left. As stadiums go the Olympic Stadium is pretty cool. It isn’t a tall or imposing building from the Westfield side but it is distinctive and I like it.

Olympic Stadium

You enter the stadium at the concourse level above the lower tier of seating which explains why the stadium doesn’t look very tall. It’s unlike any stadium I’ve every been in. There are no turnstyles and the toilets are built into the outside of the stadium. It is surrounded by small buildings which look like they will be concession stands for the Olympics which makes lots of sense in terms of space.

The seats have plenty of space but aren’t very steeply sloped so you feel a little far away from the track and I’m not sure how it would work as a football stadium after the games. The pitch might seem a bit remote, but that’s for another day.

Olympic Stadium

Before we go any further I should address the most important matter of the day… it was FREEZING.

The wind was whipping round the stadium and the spectators were so cold, a real shock to the system after the great weather of the previous week.

We watched Killer Queen who performed on a small stage at the opposite end of the stadium. Still, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to a Queen stadium gig, clapping along to Radio Gag and We Are the Champions. Then it was time for me to leave Avril and David and head out to the start…

white wave start

13.30 As I began warming up the sun came out a little and I made the decision to ditch the thermal top and be a big boy and run in just my t-shirt (so glad I did). Bryan Burnett was hosting the start zone, and doing his usual great job of it. It makes such a difference to have someone hosting the start that really understands how a race feels from a runner’s point of view. The big tunes (Moves like Jagger, Barbra Streisand, Firework (someone got Now That's What I Call Running!for Christmas) pumped out to get us pumped up and our warm up was assisted by Mr Motivator off of the 80’s.

Then it was race time.

1400 The elite wave is set off by Princess Beatrice and the chief exec of the National Lottery.

1412 The white (royal – Princess Beatrice was running in it) wave is set off by Olympians Roger Black and Steve Backley.

The course wound through the Olympic Park passing the brilliant velodrome, basketball arena, handball courts, copper box, and aquatic centre. Much of the park is still a building site but you can see that in a very short space of time it will be transformed into a place with lots of green open space.

I loved the velodrome. It’s by far the best of the buildings. I looks much more permanent than some of the others and is beautifully designed.

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The BBC’s Nick Hope gives a great runner’s eye view of the run and I’ve added some runner’s youtube videos at the end which give a great sense of running around the tunnel under the stadium and emerging onto the track.

Running in the Olympic Park

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There were some pretty steep inclines along the way with a long drag at about 3.5 miles. It was worth the climb though as the top of the hill gave a brilliant view of the stadium, our destination.

The highlight of this run was always going to be the finish. This was the first time that members of the public would be given the chance to be first across the Olympic finish line.

As we approached the Olympic Stadium I started to get really emotional. I think the realisation that I was about to do something that only a very few people would ever get the chance to do was suddenly very real.

We entered the tunnel and ran 300m around the tunnel under the stands. (My Garmin went in the huff at this point so it looks like I flew over the stadium) After a few meters of the tunnel I could hear music… It was the Theme From 'Chariots of Fire'. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but I certainly felt inspired. The tunnel seemed to go on for ever but all of a sudden there was a bright light at the end of it…

…and I emerged onto the track of the Olympic Stadium.

It was amazing.

This was a test event. There were only 12,000 spectators but even with that amount of people the atmosphere was brilliant. I decided that the time didn’t matter. It was great that we could take a couple of spectators to witness this unique event. Running is often quite a solitary sport but for most people it’s impossible without someone to support your efforts. I’m in the middle of training for my first marathon. I was injured for most of January and without Avril’s support I’d have given up then. It was really special to have her there to watch.

Before the race both David and I had predicted I’d run it in 42 minutes and I was on target for that but I was never going to get this chance again so I moved to the outside of the track, hoping to see Avril and David on the way round. Of course I didn’t have my glasses on so I was really hoping they would see me because I couldn’t see very far! David saw me but just as I approached the woman sitting in front of Avril stood up and started waving to someone behind her so Avril didn’t see me until I was round the bend. (I’m impressed she didn’t belt the woman in front! I would have after sitting in the cold for two hours for that one moment!)

home straight

Without really realising it I found myself running down the home straight. It was almost over… and a sub 42 minute time was still on. I turned up the pace, well you have to go for it across the line, and headed for home.

finish line

I finished the 5 miles in 41:51. (that’s me under the right hand corner of the pink wave timer – the time on the White Wave was for the start of the wave and I was at the back!)

olympic park run certificate

What an amazing day. I still can’t quite believe that I spent Saturday afternoon running round the Olympic Stadium. And just in case you are wondering… I beat Princess Beatrice, just.

My Flickr photo set

Soundtrack of the day:

Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky) – woke up with this in my head

Firework, Moves Like Jagger, Forgte You, Sexy and I Know It – warm up songs

Nesun Dorma – sung to us as we set off

Theme from Chariots of Fire – playing as we ran through the tunnel under the stadium

Barbra Streisand – playing in the warm up and when I entered the stadium

Videos from other runners

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Love the Steve Jones reference in this!

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Tomorrow I will join 4,999 runners in the first race to cross the finish line of the London Olympic Stadium.  I’m beyond excited.

The race will be started by Princess Beatrice and joined by a host of celebrities.  Most exciting of all, we will be cheered across the line by 50 Team GB Olympic Athletes.

I’ll be tweeting (@stewartcutler) lots and if you want to send good wishes to the runners then tweet with the #olympicparkrun hashtag and your tweet will appear on the big screens inside and outside the stadium.

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Here’s the route for Saturday’s Olympic Park Run!

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blankety blank

I can write a message on the ‘number’ on the back of my Olympic Park Run t-shirt for Saturday’s run finishing in the Olympic Stadium.  What would you say?

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My race pack for the Olympic Park Run arrived today!

It has a pretty decent technical t-shirt with this across the back:

first

and this smaller logo on the front.

Olympic Park Run t-shirt

My number…

number

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