And it is finally here, let’s dance, let’s put on our red shoes and dance the blues, an opportunity to wear my David Bowie tee again at the SVN Music Legends Challenge dedicated to David Bowie. I wore it first, you may recall, for the Supernova 5K last January, my second race of 2016, and the first time I met the lovely Moosenshoes.
I had, as you may well know, planned to go “full lightning bolt” (see below) but I bottled it in the end and just ran in the tee. I did match the orange of his hair with my kit, but it is still a little disappointing. Which, as you will see, will become the watch word for this post.
Within a year of the great man being taken from us (F U Cancer!) those wonderful people over at SVN added the Music Legends Challenge dubbed by us BOWIEATHON to the calendar and so we had a chance to make some ch-ch-changes, be a hero *(just for one day) and earn some epic Bowie Bling!
Joining me on this adventure were Jen, Helen, Marty Ewers and newcomers Stacey and Guy. Another cold lap race in Kent, this time longer (5.125 mile laps) and when I say cold I do mean it…
It was to be at the Gravesend Cyclopark again, this time on a different route to Punk Run, a straight route according to the website, so potentially a very dull there and back repeated 5 times for a marathon. And this would be the second after the Portland Coastal Marathon, and unfortunately for me, the second in 7 days. My left knee had a sore bit that hurt when I extended it fully, about the size of a fingertip, right on the knee cap and my right had a soreness behind it that took all week to go. Going into this one I knew I had little hope of completing the marathon distance of 5 laps. I knew the others had varying levels of confidence (Guy had never run over 5K and he and Stacey were ill, Jen had only run Brixton, and Helen was looking to max out at 3 laps), but I was unsure I could even do as much as them.
Rest assured though Pancreatic Cancer UK, if I didn’t make the distance, I have booked the Relativity Run in November in Margate just in case, another SVN run with another cool medal to complete my 12 marathons or above in 11 months.
Helen had run a SVN race before, but this was a new experience for the others. It would be my fourth in less than a year after the Alice in Wonderland Caucus Race, Punk Run and Cakeathon and if it hadn’t been for my own concerns with completing the distance, and subsequent impulse sign-up to Relativity Run, it would probably be my last.
I have never been in particularly good shape when I have run these races, and I only persisted to marathon distance at Cakeathon as I wasn’t keeping anyone waiting. I would this time. So I had my eye on not going the distance so we can all get the customary pub lunch together straight after. We may need it, given the freezing temperatures.
Although not all that far away, I decided on a hotel stay rather than an early morning schlep from NW3 to Gravesend. The plan was a nice leisurely train ride down, check in, pub, pasta dinner, early night, breakfast, taxi to venue, race then pub. Simples. Well, kinda. It was pretty darned cold as the London crew descended on the town. It was snowing a little that night as we were ensconced in the bar of the hotel that sat right on the waterfront. Anyone coming or going ran from or to their car rather than freeze. It was an odd one, the weekend before Valentine’s day and the restaurant in the hotel was doing a fair bit of business with the locals. The very impressive menu kept the punters happy but we were booked into a local Italian for a carb-o-rific pasta party.
The pasta was superb, the cheesy garlic bread particularly cheesy and very very garlicky, to the level that it becomes all you can taste for the rest of the day, even after cleaning your teeth, and the beer? I actually left it. Can you believe that? Yes, well you know the effect of freezing temperatures on the elderly.
Next morning and my brilliant idea to have the free breakfast was replaced with hitting the SNOOZE button a few times, and I couldn’t even eat my standard porridge pot so this would be my second race in a week that I went into unfuelled. Taxi! And we were all down at the Gravesend Cyclopark for that would be a celebration of Bowie.
And people really did make an effort! That was good to see. David Bowie, as I may have alluded to in the past, certainly in conversations, was an ever-present in my life and his passing did upset me. He was in Labyrinth, the movie starring my first teenage crush Jennifer Connelly, Jareth was my first decent impression, Absolute Beginners was one of my favourite songs, Heroes was on my play list, The Man Who Fell to Earth was the first movie to creep me out (nipple surgery), he is the best thing about Zoolander (other than the gas station opening), and the Bowie episode of Flight of Conchords was one of my favourites.
So kudos to everyone who took part. And even I, after bottling on the makeup at the Supernova Run last year, painted the lightning bolt on my face to match the rest of my outfit.
Someone who didn’t make an effort for the David Bowie inspired Music Legends race was the medal designer. Now, I guess we are all disappointed and I will get to it later, but I could tell something was up when 100 Marathon club Marty Ewers, Guy and Stacey, Helen, Jen and I listened to the race briefing and the medals were not on display for all to see.
To the Race
Ok, first, I have raced here before. The Punk Run started in the car park and looped around the track, the mountain bike path (that gave me my PF) and then the long out and back, albeit with the out and back on parallel paths, not the same path. Then we spent all our time outside. This time we made use of the facilities and enjoyed the Cyclopark café, toilets and waiting area to fend off the cold as much as possible. The route had also changed. Starting in the car park we went out and to the long out and back, but the out and the back was on the same path. We then passed the entrance to the car park and did a much longer out and back going the other way and then up into the car park. Rinse and Repeat.
How I did
Off the bat, let me put it out there, I could have run a marathon easily today. Despite a little bit of patella tendonitis and PF I could have kept going all day. This could have been marathon 3 in 5 weeks BUT I decided against it. There was a lot of talk of 3 laps by the gang and, at lap one when we saw the medal and the crushing wave of disappointment washed over us, I think 3 laps was pretty lucky.
Guy did his one, Helen 2 and Jen 3. Marty ran the full as expected. But I now felt bad. I ran with Jen the first lap, seeing the others on the way around, then I ran alone with my thoughts. I felt strong. And I think this bodes well for road marathons and even the London and MK two maras in a week I have in the Spring. The locals didn’t like us too much.
One dog walker was muttering something quite unpleasant based on his expression as he saw us and I gave the swamp creature a wide berth when I passed him on the way back. I could have gone on, but after 22K I said enough and went and took off the lightning bolt and got a hot chocolate that got all slimey with melted marshmallows IN WET CLOTHES, may I add? Wet clothes because the bag drop tarp had collected water and somehow my non-waterproof bag lay in it.
It may be as big as the Notorious B.I.G. but it is not Bowie. It may be as heavy and Heavy D and the Boyz but it is not Bowie. Only the ribbon mentions the songs of the great man. I am pretty gutted, not for just me, for all the Bowie fans who expected more. Side note: I am guessing this is the medal they will use for other music icons (there is a PRINCE race this year) and they’ll just change the ribbon. Doesn’t make it any better though.
In the end I think they could sense this and ALL the medals from the other four races that weekend were out (Tigger, Star Fleet, Usual Suspects and Valentine’s day). I saw people had decided to choose those over the music one when given the option, and I don’t blame them. I would have gone for the Valentine’s one myself if I didn’t feel responsible for the people NOT getting Bowie. The goody bag was good though – but it always is.
Looking back on the weekend I am glad many more of the UKRUNCHAT crew did not sign up for it. Gravesend is not a particularly nice place and on an unhospitable wintry weekend it was less so. Traipsing down there on the promise of a David Bowie themed adventure based on my understanding and tweets I would have been feeling pretty terrible. As it was I do feel bad for Stacey and her Bowie fan-non-runner hubby Guy, Helen and Jen and Marty Ewers and everyone who made the effort only to get a generic (albeit huge) medal. To sum it all up, the pre-race Italian meal was far too garlicky, my post-race hot chocolate was too marshmallowy, Jen’s potatoes at the pub after were not at all roasty, my fig pudding wasn’t really figgy, the locals were far too shouty, and the medal, alas, wasn’t at all Bowie.
Would I recommend running the Music Legends races? No, not if you are expecting bling in the shape of your favourite musician (KISS, Prince, MJ, Madonna, the Beatles, you name it).
Would I run the Music Legends races again? No.