Once upon a time, there was a woman who’d never shown the slightest interest in anything sporty (except knitting – that’s a sport, right?) And that would have been the end of this story, except that she married a runner. On one of their very first dates, the two of them went for a run in a nature reserve in dense fog and got hopelessly lost. There was probably a metaphor for something in that escapade, but the woman was too tired after her run to bother thinking about it.
Fast forward several years and they were running regularly, although the woman was more interested in pausing to watch wildlife than in clocking up the
pain miles. Unlike the Stoic-Spouse-to-be, she never seemed to get much fitter.
A wedding came and went, and then twin children appeared and stayed. Frankly, it was impossible to find any child-free time/energy for a few years. The woman became extremely unfit and started feeling her age.
Then one autumn day, the twinnage started school. The woman was only working part-time, and she realized that life was going never going to offer her a better opportunity for sorting out her fitness than this one. So she began to run four times per week. It hurt. It made her healthier and more energetic than she could have imagined, but it hurt. Improvement was slow.
But now, something weird has happened. Running has become, in a messed-up, masochistic, sort of way, fun. Mostly. And – let’s ditch the third-person pronouns – I started getting a bit better at it, both in speed and distance. I’ll never be much of an athlete, but I can run non-stop for over two hours without even pausing to drop dead, so that’s something.
On Sunday, the Stoic Spouse and I ran the Virgin Oxford Half Marathon, along with 8300 other people.
I didn’t win.
In fact, I came 5625th.
(It was my second time of running this race. The first one was here. I didn’t win then, either. Are you noticing a pattern emerging?)
But you know what? It was fun, in a teeth-gritted, lung-hurty, way. The atmosphere was joyful. So many thousands of folk wanting to get out there and experience some physical suffering together.
Due to the lack of foresight shown by Oxford’s 12th-century town planners, it took a wee while to filter through the narrow side-streets to the start. But there was plenty of entertainment along the way. Foot-guy took our cheering at him in good spirit:-
And then, we were off. The Stoic Spouse runs this kind of distance regularly, just for fun, so he was fine. But I knew I was going to have to stamp pretty hard on the accelerator if I was to achieve my secret goal of a sub-two-hour finish. Fuelled by jelly babies and over-optimism, I got on with the job.
Some of you know that I was running this race for Cancer Research UK, and as I ran, I thought about you and the stories you kindly shared as you donated. Thank you, fine people. (There is still a very little time to sponsor me here. We’re up to £535 so far!)
Gradually, the Stoic Spouse and I began to put miles behind us. I love the centre of Oxford. Every street, almost every building, has some kind of memory from all the years I spent studying and/or living there. The race was crowded, so it was sometimes tricky to keep a consistent pace. And it turns out that 13.1 miles is actually rather a long way. Who knew?! But there was a party atmosphere, with bands beside the road playing every kind of music, hordes of spectators cheering us on, and children offering trays of jelly babies so we could top up our blood-sugar. Yum. Sorry I can’t offer you photos of the experience (because I was too busy running), but imagine 8300 people out for a run together on a bright autumn morning, all trying to decide whether this was the best or the worst idea they’d ever had…
Eventually – and I really, really, do mean eventually – the race came to an end. We finished in two hours and seven minutes, which wasn’t too shabby.
As for my goal of a sub-two-hour half? I’ll just have to come back and try again next year.
Meanwhile, back to the knitting and the crochet.
Thank you, Virgin Sport, for so generously giving me a free spot in the Oxford Half in exchange for blogging about it here. Also, thank you for your most excellent post-run snacks:-