Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Down and out in Stansted

The Stansted 10k took place on Sunday 15 June. It involved chasing Jamie Oliver as he ran between the anti-new-runway-for-Stansted campaign, and the clubhouse for the first-class only airline he flies to NYC.

It didn't. It was, instead a very pleasant course around Stansted Mountfitchet and nearby farms and villages, multi-terrain and not very flat. It's a fun run, so there were no timing chips, no lead car (or cycle), and some people had dogs. I wished I'd brought Mercury because we would have won the first person with dog category, had there been one. And it would have been more fun.

I travelled there with my friend Michelle from running club. Neither of us wanted to do it, but that's the great thing about friends from running clubs. They make you do things you don't want to do, just as you're making them do something they don't want to do, in a perfect symbiosis of mutually assured gloom.

I've had a cold for a week, though I never get colds, a cold so severe I've been unable to run for fear of getting really ill. So I knew that my time wasn't going to be great. Accordingly I was more than happy to accept a dinner invitation for the preceding evening, with my friends Eivind and Sudeshna. And I was very good with the wine. I restrained myself to a couple of glasses of rosé. At least until the food arrived. Then Eivind pulled out a classy Riesling. And then a 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin, which was gorgeous in its gloomy and resinous intensity. And then he had a desert wine that we had to try out for some reason. So when I called on Michelle on Sunday morning I had a hangover and couldn't breathe.

We made it to the start in good time, but the finish was another matter.

There was a sharp right turn five metres in front of the start line. That was interesting. And then it wasn't very flat at all. And there were hills too. Hills up fields, with uneven footing. Fields of corn. And it rapidly grew lonely. There was no passing or direct competition. After a couple of miles there were ten or so men out of sight in front of me, and no one audible behind, not even barking dogs. Occasionally there was a marshall. However, the Stansted 10k is a biannual fun run, so the marshalls don't get much practice. Only one didn't have his or her hands in his or her pockets, and he was holding a camera. I wasn't always sure of where I was going, and once had to ask. What with the pain, the gloom, and the loneliness I objected to this a little.

Still, the last kilometre was rather splendidly downhill , and for a while I was chasing someone thinking I might catch him up. After a decent first half (about 19), the more severe second half took its toll, and I came home in a miserable 41:03, close to a personal worst. Still I got to cheer Michelle - who had no idea of how quickly or slowly she had run it, being watchless and fundamentally disinterested - and we went for a beer at the Rose and Crown pub overlooking the finish line. It was a funny beer. It had a funny real-aleish sort of name and had undertones of rancid lime. Still, Roger Bannister used to go for a beer after his sessions at the Cowley Road track, so I'm sticking with it.


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