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Running scared: Beginner Victoria Thake's Bupa 10k experience


New to running and (almost) full of enthusiasm, Victoria Thake, 34, a journalist from Greenwich, London, reveals how she survived the Bupa London 10k and why it meant more to her than just a run…

Hello everybody. My name is Victoria and I’ve recently started running. I say started - I mean had a go at and I didn’t keel over and die. I say running - I mean jogging. I say jogging - I mean that when attempting to go uphill in a pair of garish and overpriced trainers (invariably with a name like ‘Run Precision Wave Nirvana’ - like exercise is ever going to help me reach a state of heavenly utopia), I could easily be overtaken by a snail. Or a slug at least - I’d like to think I can propel myself forward faster than a creature that drags its house along wherever it goes.

But, dear readers, please note the important point I made in the paragraph above - I didn’t keel over and die. I did in fact manage to run/jog/limp round May’s Bupa London 10km in 55 minutes and lived to tell the tale. Don’t me wrong, it hurt a fair bit and I broke no records, but the important thing is that I got out there and did it. And I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to do it again. Over an even longer distance - 13.1 miles to be precise - at the Windsor Half Marathon at the end of September (eek is all I have to say about that).

But before we get into the nitty gritty of how painfully hideous training is - sorry, I mean how uplifting and satisfying training is - I want to share a bit more about why I’ve decided to put myself through another mass-running event when surely one is enough for anyone with a usually sedentary lifetime. It isn’t the challenge, or even the sense of achievement - although doing the 10k gave me both of those in spades. The reason goes a bit deeper than that; it’s because of the extraordinary sense of togetherness and common purpose that running with a group of people - whether they are good or bad, sprinting ahead or simply walking the distance - gives, and what a feeling that in turn gave me.

The Bupa London 10k (that I hadn’t bothered training for, despite my best-laid plans) took place in central London just a few days after the brutal, senseless and unjustifiable murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, just a few miles down the road in Woolwich. It also took place on the same day - and in very close proximity to - an equally senseless and unjustifiable anti-Islam march by those delightful chaps and chapesses of the English Defence League. I’m sure every one of you reading this can remember how high tensions were running during this time in this area of London, if not across other parts of the country.

Yet, as I was making my way slowly around the course I was struck by a number of things which brightened my mood. One being how fast the race leader and double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah can move - believe me the man is fast! Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, was the reception Farah, a practicing Muslim, got from the thousands of runners he left trailing in his wake. As, lapping us all, he moved past the long trail of runners, the applause and shouts of ‘Go Mo’ were deafening. Each one of us amateurs beamed with pride as we saluted him for his ability, his personality and his achievements as a proud Brit, regardless of his background, skin colour and religion. Far more deafening, I’m pleased to report, than the chanting and grimacing of the handful of EDL supporters who stumbled out of a pub in Trafalgar Square to voice their distaste for people like Mo.

I’m not saying sport can bring complete harmony to the world - and a running race can certainly do little to ease the suffering of Drummer Rigby’s family and friends - but what I did see for the first time, at the grand old age of 34, was that it can unite people and restore a bit of faith in human nature. I finally got why people were so much happier during the London 2012 Olympics than they were before, or have been since.

After witnessing the reception Mo Farah got, I spent the next six or seven kilometres of my own run focusing not on the pain I was in (although that was certainly there), but on my fellow runners - of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours and religion. I saw a crowd of spectators cheer as hard for an overweight lady walking through the half-way point as they did for an elite runner skipping through an hour earlier; I saw groups of kids high-five a Sikh gentleman who looked to be in his late 70s as he jogged past them; and I saw runners disregard their own attempts at personal bests to help a woman who had tripped and fallen get back on her feet. And let’s not forget everyone who was putting themselves through it to raise money for charity, to help someone in need, or in memory of a loved one.

So that’s why I want to do it again. To hold on to the feeling that - whatever is going on in society, or in our individual lives - for one, two or three hours, we’re all in it together and, as runners and as spectators, we’re all there for each other. And to remind myself that the majority of people in the world are good and just want to have fun. I hope you out there might want that as well, so I urge you all to sign up for a race and join me in my weekly training woe. It’ll be worth it, I promise.