Sacrificing glamour to help save lives

Once a year, I like to hang up the heels and literally run for dear life for charity. Having lost my grandmother quite suddenly from ovarian cancer in 2003, I know only too well the heartbreak and devastation that cancer causes families. Losing her changed my life forever. Today, 14th June, I ran the the 10K Race for Life for Cancer Research UK in her memory to raise funds to help find a cure to save all of us.

After cutting my 5K time by six minutes in six weeks with a careful mix of running, packing in 14K exercise bike sessions and ramping up my glow yoga classes, I hoped that running the 10K wouldn’t be such a sweaty ordeal!

The weather was typical of a British summer, so dark, grey and overcast with light showers, but this didn’t dampen the spirits of the runners, joggers, walkers and crawlers at Crystal Palace, South East London. On an early Sunday morning when most people are still tucked up warm in bed, cuddling their pillow and rolling over to fart occasionally, we were out in force, driven to run the race by our personal stories of loss or survival. And good on us!

From the starting klaxon, you’re all packed in tight like sardines vying for even an inch to move your feet, but you can quickly charge ahead of the people talking, texting, tweeting and fiddling with their iPods. Gaining momentum at 3K, I thought the race would surely be a piece of cake. Running around a gorgeous park alongside dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs), couldn’t be that bad, right? Well, crunch time set in just around the 5K mark when there was a fork in the running route – turn left if you’re a 5K runner and you’re done, or turn right  and do it all over again in the rain running uphill, downhill, on cobbles, dirt tracks, mud, concrete and uneven grass…. Most of the runners veered off to the left. My mind panicked as I quickly turned to see their relieved faces. With my clothes soaking wet and stuck to my skin, my brain wanted to give up. I’d lost focus and hit the wall. Even having Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a Battlefield‘ blaring through my headphones couldn’t motivate me. My legs felt heavy, my ankles were creaking and I could taste iron in my spit! It was like every school sports day I’d ever had.

I soldiered on, with very few runners venturing on to do the full 10K, with more running space. The paths were clear. I got a kind of ‘second wind’ and was spurred on by the 7K sign. I embraced the iron in my spit and the freezing cold t-shirt on my back and envisaged crossing the finishing line, collecting my medal and scoffing a well-earned pub grub after. I could picture my boy’s proud face at the finish line. I was away. Before I knew it, I was right there crossing the line, back at the start.

I finished in an hour and nine minutes, but would have made it in an hour if there’d been a few less lovely ladies with buggies and dogs in the path. But, Race for Life is a friendly, non-competitive event with more of an upbeat, inclusive, family feeling than some – the British 10K last year was more about your finish time. Runners each wear tribute messages on their back about why they are running. You get a real insight into their lives and stories. I was moved seeing other runners in tears at their achievement.

Though cream-crackered, I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat when collecting my medal and was greeted by my very own personal cheerleader and partner in crime just in time for one last sudden burst of energy before collapsing in a messy, sweaty, disgusting heap.

My victory dance at the end of the race was captured on video. Excuse the hair!

Here are a few tips for a race day from me:

  • Do train. Don’t assume it’s a short distance and you’ll be fine because you ran a 5K or 10K once ten years ago at school. Be realistic.
  • Porridge is a great race day breakfast for slow release energy. You’ll need it.
  • Think carefully about what shorts or jogging bottoms you’re going to wear when running. Firstly, if they’re the kind that disappear up your butt, you’re going to be forever fishing them out of your behind. It’s not a good look. Secondly, you’ll get sweat patches…
  • Don’t get distracted by what others are doing during the race.  For example, I actually paused for a second to tell a woman that her two pug dogs were cute. It slowed me down. Stupid.
  • If you have to slow down abruptly or stop, don’t just stop in the middle of the running path. Get out of the way. It’s safer for you and you won’t piss off all the the runners or joggers behind you.
  • If you’re participating as a group, don’t just all walk along together like a coven or the Pink Ladies. You’re in the way.
  • Prepare a good, upbeat, positive, uptempo playlist on your iPod so you’re not skipping through tracks for something suitable to run to. Plan ahead.
  • Common sense – water. Carry some with you or stop and take the water from the volunteers.
  • Post-run, have a hot or cold bath as quickly as you can. Your body will thank you the next day. You might still walk like John Wayne, but imagine how much worse it could have been!

If you’d like to sponsor me and have a few spare pennies for a very good cause, here is my sponsorship page. It’ll still accept donations for a couple of weeks. A big thank you to all my sponsors.