I’ve been having a bit of a running wibble. I know it’s just a wibble and it will pass, but all the same, it was time to try and take it a bit easy on myself. So normally, even though I was heading off on my sister’s hen weekend, I’d have tried to get a 10k run in either before, after or during. But this weekend I deliberately didn’t pack my trainers.
And of all the places we could have gone to, we just happened to pick Barcelona – on marathon weekend.
I had no idea until I got on the plane and overheard my neighbour passengers talking about something running related. So instead of my new book (Kelly Holmes’ autobiography) I ended up chatting about running and racing and all the great stuff it’s brought me.
As I strolled out with the girls along the boardwalks at the beach I saw runners, just jogging, stretching out the legs, trying a few strides, getting ready for the big day. And every time I saw one, I thought, ‘I want to be doing that’.
Not the marathon, you understand ( I still think it’s a distance too far for me). But to be out there enjoying the freedom and the challenge.
It gave me an excuse too to bore my sister’s friends with my running stories. So much so that two of them came out with me on Sunday morning to cheer on the competitors.
Our hotel was close to the end of the route and I saw the eventual winner sprint past behind a blaze of sirens as I was enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.
We walked along the last few kilometres of the route, marvelling at runners who still looked so fresh, so strong, barely breaking a sweat and churning out speeds I could only dream of managing for half a mile at most.
And later as the runners who would finish in around 3 hours 30 or so came through to the end in waves, we stood and cheered and clapped the Marcs, Miguels, Kevins and Colleens.
I felt privileged to be there. I’ve run. I’ve raced. I’ve felt the joy of a shout a cheer, a hand clap, a band along the route. But I’ve never watched a race close up like that. It’s almost as infectious as running it.
So when Enrique came past, his face grey, his eyes glazed, legs beginning to stumble, we all shouted his name and clapped hard to urge him on. And we turned to each other with tears in our eyes.
I have no idea who you were, my friend. Just a name on a shirt. But I hope you made it to the finish line.