03/05/2013

The Shakespeare half marathon (Stratford Upon Avon) or The Race that never was…

The weekend of the 28th April I was to run the last race of my inaugural year as a runner, as next month (May 27th) I would have come full circle and returned back where it all began, with the BUPA London 10K.  On the Friday I checked into the beautiful Mercure hotel, staying in the Fluellen (one of Henry V’s Welsh knights) room.
This had been in my calendar a long time (10th November 2012 I booked myself on it) and it would be run at the same time as the marathon, on the same course. This would be something new for me. Ordinarily, in my experience at least, the different race distances are run at different times, like the Amsterdam marathon in the morning and the half in the afternoon.It would mean for confusion, as you are running with both marathoners and half marathoners. The bib colours being the only thing allowing me to discern the two.
Anyway, I decided to take a long weekend off, and enjoy Shakespeare town for 3 days. Friday I headed over from London’s Marylebone station, drank at the Griffin, ate at Lambs, and Saturday decided to go for a bit of a run. Here is the map of that ill-fated venture.

Oh yes, it was ill-fated all right. I ran along by the graveyard, the final resting place of the Bard, down to the river, along and across a foot-bridge, thinking that the race would be quite pretty, regardless of the weather (it was a little chilly). And then it happened, TWANG! Right in the middle of my thigh.

Right in the Futu!

I was in a lot of pain deep in the centre of my thigh and limped back to the hotel for ice, rest, ibuprofen and prayer.

Alas though…

The day of the race…

I woke able to walk but not run. The sheer geography of the race itself (starting right under my bedroom window) rubbing my nose in it. DEATH BEFORE DNF! proclaim some runners’ shirts. What about DEATH BEFORE DNS?
And that is what it came down to, I DID NOT START. I was just a spectator. One of the many faces you see, or don’t at the side of the road. It was a challenge, and one I did not like.

I went back to bed and got ready for breakfast, as outside the runners had gone, and the barriers were being put onto lorries.

At breakfast itself, the Rotary Club marshals walked in and took up the table next to us, as I tucked into my Full English Breakfast. They did not throw me as much as a cursory look. Why would they? I was not a runner, running the half or full, I was just a tourist.

Having eaten we took a walk through the city, and a market, and saw a few things. Shops were ventured into. Things were bought. Postcards even, to send to the kids back in the US, were purchased from one shop or another, and all the time, in the back of my mind, and out of my peripheral vision, a race was going on.

It reminded me of Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and how someone could park their spaceship in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people without it being seen. It was a cloaking device, it was a SEP Field, a Someone Else’s Problem Field. If it is someone else’s problem, you ignore it. Simple.

I did want to write this review though, so I walked though the crowds leaving the finish, in search of a well earned beer, and a cheese burger, and I felt like a tourist. It was weird.

So the piles of banana skins were just mess, they were not a desperate recovery snack. I had no enthusiasm to  find the nearest food, water and the guy with the medals, so I could snap myself and post on Twitter my latest achievement. 

It was odd, standing at the finish, after walking against the tide of people with their medals and bananas limping home. I was not part of them, and I wouldn’t be when I sat at the Garrick (Stratford’s Oldest Pub) for a beer later. I saw them all, of course, medals around the neck, glad to tuck into cheese burgers and ale. Their reward. I had no reward, I did not deserve it. The camaraderie I seek post-race was not offered or sought out by me, an outsider. I am not sure I could just watch again.

The Bling

On a positive note, I remember reading last year that the bling at the race for the 5K the year before the same for the marathon. This year the marathon and half marathon medal looks the same, albeit with one with the gun metal colour metal and blue ribbon stating it was the half and one with the brass colour metal and red ribbon for the full. It did look very cheap, and a lesser medal than most of my 10K medals (esp the BUPA ones).
Will I run the Shakespeare Half marathon next year? No, I think it has been sullied for me. I may, but I think the cost, and the bling, and the whole experience from this time ruined it for me.
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