Something really quite spectacular happened this bank holiday weekend. On Sunday, Hackney opened it’s roads to thousands of runners for the Hackney Festival of Fitness which included: the Hackney Half Marathon, Hackney Chase Your Mates 5.5k and a school run for the wee ones. That wasn’t quite where the spectacular was though, I mean, the organisers did a good job of hosting the event – but for me, the real beauty of the event was found within the people running it, and supporting those to run it.
I’m talking about the communities that lined the streets to cheer and support the runners. I’m talking about the pacers from running crews around London who supported and helped people to achieve their goals, targets and aspirations. I’m talking about the running crew that I have grown to love so dearly, Backpackers CLC, who supported the nervous, the slowest road warriors and the first timers. In that group of nervous, slow first timers was myself.
I have signed up to many, many half marathons in my time. Before Hackney I have made it to 0 of those start lines. At Hackney I very nearly didn’t make it to the start line again – but something was different to before. I had the support of wonderful people around me. Wifey dragged me out of bed with a, “I’m not leaving for work until you get your kit on and in the car with me”: this got me to the event venue. I started sorting myself out with food and hydration and my million morning wee’s that happen every race day before running to the back of the last pen looking out for the run/walk flag that served as my beacon in that moment.
I was already crying by this point. I said “Hi”, showed my face and tried to hide my tears but they protested and won. I was so nervous, and had been trying to control my nerves for weeks by this point but they took control for a few moments of a mini panic attack – if I had been on my own I would have definitely gone home defeated at this point. I wasn’t alone though, I had crew around me, supporting me, giving me a hug and a pre-run pep talk. They got me breathing and they got me race ready.
This is what crew is about. Supporting each other to do our best and holding each other up. I have met these guys since february, and I still have my reservations about people. In my mind, the majority of people = bad in a whole humongous number of ways. What crew is teaching me is so valuable – that there are some bloody brilliant people out there who are wonderful, and supportive, and understanding, and non-judgmental.
Mind = blown!
This was all before we crossed the first chip timing marker point – the start line. Crossing the start line was harder than crossing the finish line. Once we were on our way, my mind game grew stronger: keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line – and now I have crossed the start line, I’m bloody well makign it to the finish line now.
I had two friends with me, who had run this distance numerous times and could have easily chosen to run ahead but didn’t. They chose to stick together for the whole journey: start to finish, dancing, singing, laughing, skipping – generally acing it like a walk in the park whilst I plodded my way behind them enjoying their antics.
You know when your cheeks start to ache from smiling so much, and it is at that point you realise how much you’ve been smiling, how much you’re enjoying yourself, how much you are grateful for pushing to get to this moment because your face hurts – that! I had that. I had that on a 13.1 mile run. I have never run this distance before, and I never imagined that when I did I would be running the streets of London smiling like a Cheshire cat. I did, we did. Together we crossed the line as the same group that crossed the start line, but in the words of Alice, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”
I now know I can cover the 13.1 miles of a half marathon. I now believe that a panic attack doesn’t have to set you back or stop you in your tracks. I now feel like perhaps, just maybe, there are people out there that are truly wonderful and that actually, sometimes days with people in them aren’t the days that go wrong and make you feel bad and hating on the world – sometimes, they’re the days that pick you up.
This is the power of running. This is the power of crew. This was my own version of mind over (half) marathon.