When a bathroom selfie will have to do

Royal Windsor HalfToday, I slyly ran a half marathon. I say ‘slyly’ because my place was kind of booked on a whim a few weeks ago and I didn’t really tell people about it. (I guess there’s a lot of ‘getting out of my own way’ that I still need to do when it comes to just sharing bloody good news.)

I ran the race alone and there was no one there to support me. But that’s not me being self-pitying; when it turned out that my friend who suggested the race couldn’t run it after all (this was once I’d already signed myself up with the utmost enthusiasm), I actually relished the idea of making a weekend of it alone. The race was in Windsor, a good hour from where I live (and that’s being generous to London traffic). It made sense to already be in Windsor on the morning of the race. So I booked a hotel and called it a solo staycation (because why wouldn’t I?).

The start of the race was the most haphazard I’ve known. It went like this: 1. Turn up. 2. Cross the line, pretty much in your own time. It set the tone for the rest of the event, which was chilled and friendly and just really, really nice. I don’t think I’ve called a race ‘nice’ before. But this one was set in the most beautiful spot that it couldn’t be called anything but.

If ever there was an argument for moving out of London, Windsor offered a good one. I wish I could put into words the feeling of having genuinely fresh air in my lungs and getting among green grass and big trees and horses and swans… It’s the simple things. And it’s been a long time. The other runners in the race chatted among themselves, helped those who stumbled. Because a trail run brings its own challenges, like rocks and tree roots and random bumps in the path. Runners fell, and others stopped with them. But they dusted themselves off (literally – the countryside is a bit mucky) and kept going. Because that’s what we have to do.

Other than stopping to cross a busy road and walking to drink my water at the energy stations, I ran the whole way. (Oh, apart from the times I had to slow right down to cope with the bottleneck effect of having 2500 runners all navigating narrow, winding paths.) I had to wait hours for my time to be announced – again, if the race itself was chilled, why would the results be rushed through? I eventually found out that I ran 2 hours 8 minutes. Sub-2 hours would’ve been huge for me, but considering the aforementioned bottlenecks, the new terrain, the stream of stunning sights for me to take in… I’ll let myself off. There’s always next time. And anyway, this run was all about the quiet (and there was a lot of it), about enjoying it, and as my friend put it, “running my own race.” I felt good all the way round, got so lost in the beautiful route that the time passed before I knew it. And that’s really all that matters in the end.

Riding solo meant there was no one to take my finisher’s photo after the race. But I still gotta have one, so I took my own. There I was, post-shower, in the hotel bathroom, holding the new medal I’ll add to my collection. Feeling smiley and fuzzy and all the excited adjectives that spring to mind. Because I like the feeling of having something to collect. But also, today showed me just how great it is to have people who care. People who are there, even when they’re not. People who are proud of the things I do. People who send me messages and tell me how proud they are. It helps me to feel proud of myself, too.

And after all the love and the pride, right now, I neeeeed to sleep (the exhaustion is real). That, and figure out where the next addition to my collection might come from…