Alison Crowther-Smith

Conversations With Lily: The Windsor Half Marathon

5.50 am on the morning of the event.  Lily and I meet on the landing.

Me:  morning.

Lily:

Me:

Later, dressed and in the kitchen.

Me:  porridge or banana or both?

Lily: *elaborate urging noise*

I make porridge which we both fail to finish.  While this is happening, Mark and Jack stand about, reviewing impenetrable gloom of pre-dawn, but are utterly silent and remain so for much of following 3 hours.

Despite elaborate packing and planning of previous day, we all fail to find our exact belongings and begin panicking or at least, I do.  Eventually, dogs, all dog paraphernalia, all our stuff, food, blankets, running accessories, knitting and water are assembled and hurled into car, except the dogs who are placed lovingly in sleeping crate, shrouded in blankets and allowed to go back to sleep.

After second comfort stop of journey, we all rally slightly as we take coffee on board and also It Is Light.  Sit in back of car with Lily.  Try to eat lovingly prepared cold sausages.  Find, sadly, that I am repulsed by what is probably my favourite food after cheese and tangerines.  And Tuck biscuits.  Force down 1.5 cold sausages and press others upon Lily who is reluctant.

Become aware of unpleasant and rising sensation of some emotion that I think at first may be excitement but quickly recognise as fear.

Lily:  it will be alright, won’t it?

Me: (with a ring of sincerity that indicates how wrong I was NOT to become famous actress who would, by now, be National Treasure and much sought after by film-makers) yes.  It will be amazing.

Lily:  what if we can’t do it?

Me:  (with further BAFTA-worthy polish) what nonsense.  We not only can do it, we have proved it.  We have often run over 10 miles, and once we did 12.

Lily: yeah, but that last mile…

Me:  (now assuming manner of Mary Poppins) that’s enough of that!  The last mile will be the best one.

Join endless queue of cars trying to get into Windsor Great Park.  Watch other runners, running to the venue. Feel utterly overwhelmed by certainty that if I had to run to the venue, I would be unable to participate in the actual event. Finally park the car and get out, get out the dogs, load them into the dog-pram and start trance-like walk to tented village in the distance.  World assumes dream-like quality in which I am both 100% certain that this is real, and at same time, convinced I am still in bed and this is all just a Terrible Nightmare.

Tents, feather-pennants, barriers and a disembodied voice yelling through PA system all beckon us.  Notice banks of portaloos. Note corresponding gigantic queues of people wishing to use these facilities.  Am instantly overcome by urgent need to wee.  Join a queue.  Observe, this being Windsor’s half, more Sweaty Betty leggings, tops and jackets than I have ever seen, including in a SB shop.

Later.

Lily:  where do we start?

Me:  I have no idea but I see the race numbers are colour-coded. Let’s ask!

We approach a couple who are limbering up in style of 1986 fitness video.  They are, however, far too cool, what with their purple gear, and in one case, luxuriant Mexican style moustache, to be bothered talking to us and they rudely just say:  oh, over there and wave hand in direction of Windsor Castle. Finally sort out non-existent system for starters and begin to join our crowd but am, once again overcome with need to wee, so we peel off and join another and much longer queue for the portaloos. Finally re-join crowded starting area.  Start sounds and we shuffle forwards for ages.  As the crowd slowly reaches more open spaces, jogging starts except for Very Important and Good Runners who have inexplicably been penned further back who now begin sprinting forward, dodging the rest of us and on several occasions almost shoving us over.  Curse as much as breath will allow which is not much as by now we are in The First Hill which is quite steep but mainly very long.

And so, we toiled round a long, hilly, hot and frankly boring course.  Why boring?  Well, it’s just a park isn’t it?  Hardly any people though the ones we saw, mostly Army Cadets, were lovely.

I picked up a calf injury in mile 10 and Lily’s foot was very sore most of the way.  But, we did it, and I am so very grateful to you for your support.

Mile 13.  We are making painful and messy progress to the finish line.  This part of the course is pretty impressive and also some of it is downhill.  We are still running though, and realise that we are both also half-laughing, half-crying.  Stumble over finish line and meet our people and dogs. Meet my niece, Phoebe whose mother was Judith and in whose name we ran.  Rest of day and evening is now almost a complete blur though I did eat an impressive carvery that evening.

Next day, Lily, Phoebe and I spent the whole day together and it was lovely made even lovelier by arrival at breakfast time of a DVD of one of my all-time favourite books, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  The sender is a dear soul and I love her.  Such a thoughtful thing to do.  The film captures the book beautifully.  And it was a fairy-tale ending to a frankly surreal weekend.

I will never run another half.  I am far too old.  I am still running though.  I want to thank you all properly for your support, be it donations to CRUK or your messages and love.  WE DID IT!

 

 

 

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