London, you are going to do a great job of hosting the Olympics! Be proud, be ready and celebrate.
Things started well when Gary and I arrived at our hotel and checked in on Facebook. Within minutes we’d had a reply from our high school friend, Chris who works just round the corner. We were soon catching up in the hotel bar and it was as though we last met last week. We reckon we haven’t seen each other in 20 years,
And today has been fantastic. From the moment we got on the tube and two guys asked if there was a race on today, through to getting directions from a cheery fellow in a bright pink hi viz vest, “It’s salmon!”, he said, everyone seemed to be on friendly duty.
We got to the stadium quite early and had to wait a while to go through security checks, but everyone was patient and it all felt quite relaxed. Once into the park, it was impossible to miss the stadium and giant sculpture. Cue lots of photo opportunies.
We went inside the stadium and managed to bag a great seat on the upper level, with views over the track. The stadium is deceptive. Once inside, it feels small, but then when people started to appear on the stage, you realised how vast the central area is. I definitely got goosebumps walking up the stairs and looking down on the track to see the 300, 200 and 100m markers.
After watching some of the entertainment, they started to call runners to line up. So I made my way to the start, a bit chilly in my shorts and T-shirt, but ready for a warm up led by the same guy who does them for the Great North Run. I had a chat with a couple of other runners in my pen, Sandy from Manchester originally, now in London and Deborah, running the Hull marathon next week. We all laughed as the first race for the wheelchairs false started. And groaned at the sound of ‘You lift me up’ which was supposed to spur on the first wave of runners.
Soon it was my turn and I crossed the line waving at our celebrity starters Steve Backley and Roger Black. Oh boy, what a rush! I actually laughed out loud, it felt so amazing to be there, to be running. A line of spectators took photos and videos along the start and then we were off into silence around the park.
The course twisted and turned around the main venues, getting up close and personal along the walkways and under the wooden awnings of the velodrome. I went off in a rush, a surge of joyful adrenaline and had to remind myself I was supposed to take it easy.
My mouth was dry, from excited nervousness and adrenaline and my breath was coming fast. I even felt the first stab of a stitch. So as we came by the venues I slowed, stepped to the side and snapped some pictures.
I had to keep reminding myself to slow and keep it easy, not to upset my foot. But I felt amazing, just to be running and racing again. When the first mile clocked at under 9 mins, I knew I had to suck it back a bit.
Lots of building going on in the park, so the odd worker in hard hat and boots stopped to watch with a smile, and in patches marshalls cheered us on. But beyond the venues, it was a little like running around an industrial estate.
I was enjoying myself, just running relatively easy and still managing around 9 min miles.
There was a long bridge and a chorus of Oggy Oggy Oggy! And a man in an NUFC top. I saw a blind runner with a guide and a bloke powering along on crutches. He was getting loads of respect from the runners. I cheered and clapped the drumming and brass band playing on our route.
We wound round and round, with the stadium growing closer, then further away. Just after 3 miles there was a bit of an incline up a road. A lady just ahead of me slowed to a walk, so I said, “Shorten your stride and pick your feet up,” and she did. I encouraged her on to the top and I felt like I was flying on the down hill.
The end approached, with the stadium teasing close and then away again, until suddenly we were running into a slope down into a dark entrance below the stadium. This was it, the final stretch. Round underneath the stadium seats, you could hear the crowds above and workers lined the endless grey corridor with smiles and applause.
They were playing Chariots of Fire. I knew the entrance to the stadium would be approaching and the sense of occasion got me. I gulped back a couple of tears moments. This was amazing.
And then the light of the entrance. Like a gladiator running into the light and seeing the crowd in the stadium. I was out onto the track, gulping air, to draw back the emotions and waving like a loon down the first 100m, looking towards the stands where I knew Gary would be. Blowing kisses to the crowd, I enjoyed my Olympic moment.
And then I saw the 100m marker. The final straight. I’d though I’d sprint the whole way round the track, but in the end it was just that final 100m. And my legs powered me on, passing runners, bouncing on the amazing track, feeling effortless, floating over the line.
I didn’t want to leave, but I knew other people were coming through for their moments. I stopped by a barrier to get my breath back and stretch. And spotted Roger Black finishing a TV interview. He walked over to a group of girls who asked for a photo, so I got a snap with an Olympian. Bonus!
I still can’t quite take it in. I did it. I ran on the Olympic track! What a wonderful thing to be able to say.