It was tough to give up one of the summer league fixtures but the chance to run on the London 2012 Olympic track just about edged my diary towards The National Lottery Anniversary Run. Entry was based on a first come, first served basis so I spent a day hitting refresh and reading through their Facebook page for tips on getting through to secure a place. I was able to bag myself a spot in the 5 mile Anniversary Run but I was not so lucky in securing The Son a spot in the 2.5km Family Run.
As the race weekend approached, I spotted an update on the Anniversary Run Facebook page offering limited free Family Run places for the first people to respond by email. The post had been there for a couple of hours but I noticed that there were only a handful of likes so quickly fired off my email and received a welcome reply just a short time later to confirm that I had won a place.
My friend Dan had also entered the Anniversary Run and grabbed a Family Run place through the same route as me so we timed a meet on the front carriage of the tube at Hanger Lane. I did not make it to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park during London 2012 and was relying on Dan to help guide us from Stratford to the Olympic Park. Fortunately there were plenty of helpers at Stratford because Dan took us the wrong direction (doofus!).
The Son bagged himself a spot in the Olympic Stadium, armed with his iPod and a book, while I joined the crowds making their way to the start pens. I was in the second starting wave where I inched my way reasonably close to the front section while making sure to retain a view of the video screens. In the end I was close to the warm-up guy perched on a cherry picker so had no excuse not to join in with the warm-up.
Our official race starter was Sir Chris Hoy, who received a huge cheer from the crowds of runners and spectators, and introductions were also made for Victoria Pendleton and Paula Radcliffe as both were running. The first wave were off and we were led forward to the start line and suddenly I was jogging around the course. Yes, jogging. Thousands of people snaking their way through relatively narrow pathways is not hugely conductive to running.
The course began to widen and I was off running around the quiet roads within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park although I am being kind by using the official ‘Park’ title since it resembled a building site. There was not really much to see as venues had either been torn down or were being worked on to convert into the new permanent state. I could clearly make out the BMX course shape but the diggers had been busy trying to flatten it so no speedy bikes had a chance of flying around now.
The last section of roadway finally led down into the bowels of the Olympic Stadium and the potentially boring run through an underground tunnel was turned into a real ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moment. Strategically placed speakers were blasting out a looped Chariots of Fire theme with the Steve Cram commentary of Mo winning 2012 gold overlaid. I savoured every second of this journey before blasting out into the light and onto the track with the crowds cheering. Even with a few thousand spectators cheering it was just awesome to experience a tiny bit of 2012 glory, it really must have been magical for our athletes competing in the London Olympics.
I decided to hug the inside lane while imagining Mo winding up his finish to block anyone from overtaking on the outside. I crossed the finish line with a grin on my face amid all the runners doing the Mobot or striking the Bolt of lightning pose. I passed Iwan Thomas in the finish area as I made my way back into the stadium seating area to meet The Son.
There was time enough for me to grab some food and drink before we struggled to find the correct baggage drop area for the Family Run participants. Unfortunately it was not clearly marked and most of the marshals had no idea either. Thankfully we finally found someone to point us to the correct place and then we both made our way to the start line together.
No finish time waves for the Family Run as it was first come, first to the front. We watched the first group of parents and children run through the start line and then we were off to join them on a much shorter version of the course that I had run earlier.
There was a real mixture of age groups among the kids and their parents / guardians and we found ourselves overtaking everyone as the little kids grew tired and started to walk. This was no race and everyone was having a great time no matter what speed they decided to travel.
Once again I ran down the slope and into the tunnel of Olympic commentary blaring over the Chariots of Fire theme – my neck hairs once again stood to attention. We ran out onto the track together and The Son went speeding off in front of me. However, we had agreed to stop at the 100m start line so I met him there for a non-official Olympic 100m father-son smack down.
At this point of my tale I believe that it is only fair for me to point out that I had already raced 5 miles and joined The Son for another 2.5km before our 100m race began. Plus we had no official starter so the little scamp shouted GO just after he had already started to run. That’s right, I am firmly getting my excuses in early.
We sprinted down those 100m together with The Son pipping me to the line by a matter of centimetres… well, it certainly felt that way to me! Just 100m of racing together and we were both grinning and laughing like the Cheshire Cat.
Paula Radcliffe was smiling and chatting to finishers and I silently cursed myself for not carrying my phone so the opportunity to get a photo went as we made our way back to collect our bag before heading home.
We had an awesome day on our first visit to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and it was truly inspiring to walk around the stadium and run on the rack. The race itself is nothing much to write home about, the route is just roadway through what appears to be a building site and not a former Olympic Park and it also suffered from pinch points where runners were forced to ground to a walk.
There is definitely a couple of big buts… running on the London 2012 Olympic track where Mo twice won gold… racing the Son over 100m where Bolt once again left scorch marks… the memory will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Magical.
- Chip time: 0:43:10
- Garmin time: 0:43:11
- Position: 3735 / 11839
- Age group: 35-39
- Age position: 666
- Gender position: 3041