As I laid out my running kit in Egham Travelodge the night before my return to a proper race I realised that I was missing one fairly critical item of clothing… My running shorts!
Surprisingly, Mary was actually quite supportive with my predicament and said that because it had been such a long time since I had raced, it wasn’t a surprise I had forgotten something. She never once mentioned other items I had forgotten previously at races – she repeatedly brought them up!
I had however managed to pack two pairs of running boxer shorts – supportive and with good wicking properties! So whilst preparing my kit bag I considered wearing them both and running – well – people do wear lycra shorts so it isn’t that different.
Luckily, since my last ill-fated race I had obviously not sorted out my kit bag so in amongst the out of date energy gels I found some shorts and my favourite vest! With glee I quickly tried on the kit!
Unfortunately, I am unable to blame Mary for shrinking my kit in the wash as they were year old run fresh… or as I like to view it, pre-odoured. I would have no problems with social distancing if anyone sniffed my shorts!
Just before lockdown began the physio gave up on me and my Achilles and told me I could return to running. So I have spent 5 months in training – unfortunately not to run but to eat! Over the 5 months I have become very good at stuffing my face and the COVID Kilos have crept on! Actually they have raced on faster than I could ever move.
Whilst I briefly considered wearing my Mr Bump running vest, Mary did say that I couldn’t be done under the trade descriptions act wearing it and that compression clothing is apparently good for you.
With kits all set out ready for the morrow, Mary and I sat down to watch the race briefing on YouTube. One of the adjustments at events to reduce runners gathering in groups is no massed starts so the briefings are online.
Pulling into the carpark to get ready for the race was a strange affair. Rather than the usual milling around chatting to fellow runners we had to wait in the car for our allotted time – 10minutes before the start to collect our numbers from the table outside. Before we got to touch our envelope containing our number and pins we were zapped from a distance with an infrared thermometer – too hot and you don’t get to race. I was rather nervous as Mary has always said I am hot stuff but it seems as though that before a race I am cool and calm… in fact ice cold, I didn’t register on each of the zaps!
As soon as our numbers were pinned on we were good to go! We had elected to run together as a bubble; the Saturn running system allows you to allocate yourself to a group of up to 6 people which allows them to limit contact and if needed track and trace runners easily.
Within barely 5 minutes of starting Mary had run off and left me! And I hadn’t been that mean to her by then (at least I don’t think so!). I was on a walk/run strategy – as my longest run since May last year was 4½ miles. So for the rest of the race I would need to run alone as the rules stated.
This weekend Saturn used the longer 4.37mile loop with the aid station in the middle so you pass it twice each lap, meaning a marathon is 6 laps. Thankfully the out and back loops along the wide Thames towpath and runners being set off at different times meant that it wasn’t long before a friendly Saturn Runner passed you on the way out or back. So despite being deserted and without any headphones I wasn’t totally on my own.
The sun shone down on the Thames and I regretted putting gloves into my run backpack rather than a hat or sunglasses as the river sparkled. The aid station wasn’t the normal help yourself buffet of previous events or a place to stop and chat – maintain that 2m gap. So despite bits on offer I carried my own gels (yes the out of date ones – waste not want not!) and sweets but I did get my water bottle filled up each time.
Despite having a comfortable 7hours of the event so a marathon was possible, Mary and I had agreed to run just a half feeling it would be better to leave feeling we could easily run more (I really couldn’t) and race again sooner.
As I approached the aid station to do the final extra loop Mary had finished her ½ and decided to joined me on my last mile and a bit. Probably so she didn’t get cold waiting for me to finish!
Although this wasn’t a normal preCOVID Saturn event, it was great to be back up and racing and picking up a goodie bag and medal for a real rather than virtual one. In fact all the arrangements in place to reduce the risks of COVID to runners, helpers and the general public made it seem a lot safer than the stop at Starbucks at the service station on the way home.
Whilst the event wasn’t quite the same as the races before lockdown it was great to be back running and racing with others. To have that shared experience and camaraderie and chat, even if it was in brief snatches as you passed each other or shouted from metres away from each other. We shall definitely look to be booking future events with Saturn Running – it would be good to see some other Massey Runners at future events.