Week 48: Stratford VeloPark 1/2 Marathon

Saturday 26th November

The Velopark 1/2 marathon is held on the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games on a img_0460
purpose built 1-mile closed loop. The smooth tarmac and uniform width of track with smooth rises and drops, sweeping corners and wide hairpin bends is intended for fast cycle races. The concept of 13 laps of a 1 mile course sounds tremendously dull but it turned out to provide a hypnotic comfort amongst the backdrop of an incredible Olympic memories 4 years ago. My run partner today was David Ormandroyd. We both went to King James’s School in
Knaresborough and we know each other through David’s sister Louise. David’s PB from a few years ago was 1hr37mins as part of a full marathon. With both of us nervous to commit we tentatively made that our target.

screenshot-2017-01-25-19-49-39The circuit was set next to the elegance of the Olympic Velodrome where Bristish Cycling dominated day after day after day at London 2012. The back half of the course swung you around for a full view of the Olympic Rings on the hillside with the Olympic Park hovering in the mist behind. The last turn brought the Velodrome back into view before plunging down under the road and back up to the finish line again. The monotony of the path was contrasted by the periodic reminder of such an amazing event 4 years before. David and I pushed on, holding ourselves on our limit lap after lap. We made 10km in under 45mins and then 8miles in under an hour- 2 milestones that I target if I’m going to do well in a run. After that the course became weirdly quite hypnotic and I started to gain comfort in the repetition. David and I discussed early on our coping strategies for the stress of running hard for 95 minutes. His was a loud yoga breathing he’d learned previously which he warned me may cause some alarm to those around him. Mine, I shared, was just letting my face go loose with no focus in my eyes and no tension in my jaw. A bit like a slobbering dog! After the hour our chatter went quiet and the course drew me into an almost meditative state. Each loop went up, down, Olympic Rings, sweeping bend, Olympic Stadium, round and round again with the Sun piercing through the morning mist. My jaw was hanging loose but my body was burning. At 11 miles David img_0463pulled away and I continued to just tic over. There wasn’t a race to be had. I was going as fast as my body could go. The last 2 laps had the most extreme contrast of sensations I think I’ve ever experienced. My body was pushing at full tilt, just about holding off stitches and cramp. But my head was calm, with a drunk focus that’s detached from the hell that’s going on below. Your head obviously wants to indulge in the suffering but it doesn’t have to, it doesn’t help and it’s possible to detach and imagine the miracle of your body functioning at full throttle.  A heart spontaneously beating as fast as it can possibly go, blood cascading around the body, my lungs sucking air in from the cold bright air and ploughing oxygen into the muscles of my legs saving just about enough to keep me conscious. This course lulled me into the closest experience of a meditation this year. What I thought was going to be a dull 13 laps unfolded as one of the most intensely positive and interesting experiences of the year.

David and I finished 1 minute apart at the end. He achieved 2 minutes off his goal of sub 1hr37mins and I finished at 1hr35mins50secs. We picked up our bags and wandered back to Stratford underground then went our separate ways on a beautiful London morning.

Not a bad effort, all before 11am on a Saturday. Thanks David.

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