Last year, I was lucky to be 1 of about 5000 people to get a place in the National Lottery Run 2012 and become one of the first to cross the finish line in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. The stadium became the venue for many amazing performances for Team GB later in the year in the 2012 Olympics.
At the time, I thought that it would be a once-in-lifetime opportunity; to run around the Olympic Park and then about 300m of the track within the Olympic Stadium. It turns out, I’d be crossing that finish line at least twice more.
Earlier this year, National Lottery announced they’d be holding the National Lottery Anniversary Run and the National Lottery Anniversary Family Run at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The main event was a 5-mile run open to adults and the latter was a 2.5km (1.5 mile) run which parents and their children (over 5s) could run together.
I won’t bore the readers with the details of the less-than-perfect entry process, the missing spectator wristbands or the travel arrangements for the weekend but will instead cut straight-to-the-chase.
Denise, Daniel, Connor and I arrived at Stratford at about 8am and then walked to the park. As we’d stayed overnight locally, we had a fair amount of baggage with us so getting through security took some time as each bag was inspected.
Once inside the park, we had the opportunity for a photowith (a cardboard cutout of) one of the greatest GB Olympians of 2012, Mo Farah.
As we made our way to the stadium, we had about an hour until I needed to head to the assembly area of the first run so found some seats overlooking the finish straight. Perfect.
The plan was I’d run in the 5 mile run and then rejoin Denise and Daniel before heading out to do the family run together.
The weather was warm but overcast as I headed to the assembly area for the start of the run with the other 12,499 runners who were taking part. Given the number of participants, we were allocated waves and I was in the white wave (2nd wave to set off).
The route of the course was different to the pre-Olympic event and that was good as there were bad memories of parts of the course (mostly involving incline-climbing) which I hoped wouldn’t be repeated this year.
After a warmup and some words of encouragement and support from none other than the legend, Chris Hoy, the first wave was on their way. About 10 minutes later, the white wave were underway. My run had started.
The course took us through various areas of the Olympic Park which again resembled a building site. In places, the paths we had to follow were narrow, there were sections of gravel and even some straw. The narrow sections led to some bunching but the event wasn’t about PBs for many, myself included. It was about enjoying the experience with lots of others who wanted to make their own history.
I didn’t race and was pleased to see that my pace was roughly 9 minute miling. Not too slow but not anywhere near race pace. My plan was to enjoy the run, run every step and have enough left in the tank to make the most of my experience once I got into the stadium.
The course weaved around the park and it looked like part of it was normally open to traffic (Not sure if that’s the case).
In the latter miles of the run, there were a few mildly challenging inclines. I really didn’t think I’d enjoy these but, as it turned out, they were absolutely fine. I’m sure my recent RR10 at Marwell helped these feel seem easy in comparison.
With a mile to go, it was time to head back to the stadium. I knew that there was a section through tunnels under the stadium of about 300m that would feel like much further. However, to ease that, as well as playing the theme from Chariots of Fire, there were snippets of Steve Cram’s commentary of Mo Farah winning gold at the Olympics. Inspiring stuff.
Before long, there was literally ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. The moment had come to enter the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd time.
The bright sunshine beat down on the runners and I raised my arms revelling in the experience…
I was drenched in sweat at this point (in fact, soon after the start!)
The track was so springy!! I had little choice but to step things up a notch. This could be the last time I could sprint across the finish line of the Olympic Stadium.
The graph below show the step change in my pace!
An opportunity not to be missed…
I weaved in and out of the runners and hit the 100m to go sign at full speed (not physically you understand!)
I kept looking up to try and spot Denise and the boys. It was impossible so waved in the general direction instead.
What a finish. I crossed the line with a chip time of 43:46. This felt a lot faster than the Olympic Park Run in 2012 where I’d resorted to walking for some bits of the course. However, it transpires that I was only 13 seconds quicker. I could have been disappointed in the lack of any real improvement but given the fact I wasn’t pushing it and the hot weather conditions, I was more than happy with my whole experience.
However, the experience wasn’t over. I had one more opportunity to cross the finish line which I’ll share in my next post.