Tonic Trustee Abbie reports on the adventures of an 'assortment of conscripts and volunteers' running the beautiful Royal Parks half marathon.
I should start by explaining I’m not a runner. I’ve never had a particular aspiration to be a runner. I don’t particularly like to run. But I do like the post-run calm. After a few months of training for this I would go so far as to say I need it. Niggles and irritations seem easier to deal with, things that seemed disastrous at the beginning of a run seem less so by the end, and my glass seems to miraculously pivot from half empty to half full again, which on many levels is where I prefer it to be. I don’t know if this is true for people who enjoy running - I mean if you are out there thinking “this is great, and there is nowhere I’d rather be, nothing I’d rather be doing” do you get the same sense of calm post-run? I maybe should have asked some other members of our Tonic team on Sunday.
Ten of us - an assortment of conscripts and volunteers - congregated by the Royal Albert Hall in our new Tonic Ts, posed for photos, and nervously waited for our respective starter zones to be called up. We ranged from those wanting to finish in under 2 hours, to those of us who just wanted to finish, and to see the London sites from a different perspective. The team was made up of Aron Tennant, David Mawby, me and my husband Mike, Suzie and Russell O’Brien, Nick Priestley, Francesca Hartwell, Christian Keegan, and Lucy Sampson. Lucy warrants a special mention for stepping in relatively last minute when a place became unexpectedly free.
Not unreasonably, those with a faster predicted run-time start first, and those of us with a more relaxed target waited for the several thousand in front of us to set off. Suzie, my sister Francesca and I put ourselves in the ‘let’s aim to beat the rubber T-Rex’ category although were disappointed to find ourselves lined up behind three inflatable dinosaurs on the way to the start line. 16,000 people run the Royal Parks half marathon, and it did seem to take an age to get to the start line (nearly half an hour after the official start), by which time even I was actually wanting to run. Most of those 16,000 people seemed to be wearing charity tops of varying descriptions, many with messages so moving we weren’t far off crying before we’d even set off. The fact that so many people turn up to cheer also tugged at our heartstrings. It was a beautiful, crisp, autumnal day, the royal parks were resplendent, and once we finally got going, all seemed to be well.
In the half hour waiting to cross the start line, we were encouraged by the event organisers not to listen to our own music, but to soak up the atmosphere of the event: the DJs, the supporters, the bands, and the choirs. This was good advice, the support was immense, the bands and choirs were amazing, and added to the emotion of the day.
The three of us were running well together, and at one point I even said, “This is great, it feels really comfortable, we’ll be fine to finish at this pace.” Of course, I had talked it up, and disaster struck for me just before the 5th mile - my right hip suddenly tightened up, something went ‘pop’ and I had a searing pain across it. I stopped, hobbled a bit, had a bit of a cry, and forgot to breathe for a little while (not recommended). I was so disappointed to have trained really quite hard for this event and the next 8 miles seemed an insurmountable problem. I felt really bad to have slowed down Francesca and Suzie who had also trained really hard (and I knew wanted to beat those dinosaurs) and tried to get them to go on without me. They both refused. They flagged down an attendant who said the St Johns Ambulance stop wasn’t so far ahead. The medics kitted me out with pain killer and ice packs. I don’t suppose running with ice packs down my shorts was a flattering look, but they were certainly very effective! I will not be looking at my official marathon photos, for fear of never running again. Suzie and Francesca stuck with me for the next 8 plus miles, running ahead to each medical station to get me fresh ice packs, and feeding me at each water station with jelly babies. We crossed the finishing line together.
The Royal Parks half marathon really is a beautiful route. The event is well run, and tremendously supported. I would recommend running it, or any other similar organised event especially if you are looking to raise money for Tonic of course. (At the time of writing this our team of runners has raised over £7,000, which is beyond wonderful.) But its not just about raising money; running gives a headspace that I think is probably unique to running. Maybe it’s because of the monotony of it, I don’t know - I’m sure it’s been studied. Training required that I took the ‘selfish’ time just to bugger off and go for a run. Whatever it was that felt like it needed dealing with before I went for a run didn’t need dealing with that minute after all - it could (and did) wait. And it gave me time and space to think, sometimes out-loud running with Suzie, sometimes just running through things in my head, and sometimes keeping them out of my head, letting my subconscious deal with it, and returning with more clarity after an hour or two out in the fresh air. Oh and don’t let my hip injury put you off, in a couple of weeks I’ll be good as new, it was just bad luck.
The run may have finished but if you still want donate you can on our JustGiving page. https://www.justgiving.com/team/teamtonicmusic