I have just nearly been run over again. Given that I am wearing a neon orange top and have pink hair, I can only assume drivers have a specific sort of colour blindness. I look like an overfed matchstick on fire and there is no way on earth that I am camoflaged against the leafy backdrop of a North Welsh narrow lane. You could probably see me from space. I notice a gender split going on actually, and start guessing the driver’s sex from how soon they brake (if they bother) as they approach. I am right every time. I also have to leap into the nettles in the hedge, into a ditch, and onto a gate, and it slowly occurs to me that not only is this the hottest day of the year so far and I am being cooked alive, but that actually I have stumbled into what passes for the local school run. I remind myself that were I a working donkey in Ethiopia, this would be my lot, all day, every day, one burning hot worn out step at a time. It gets me up the next hill, and as I dive into the nettles to avoid another careering Ford Focus driven by a bird with a face like a smacked arse (and a cargo of children who look like they’re sucking lemons), I also feel grateful that today, I have left the horse at home.
Yes, horse. I know that most people run with dogs, and when we accidentally got a dog, I
was quite enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately Hovis is a rubbish running dog, who trips you up at every opportunity, has the road sense of a lemming, and also has a range of exactly three miles, at which point he downs tools, sits down, announces he has heatstroke and needs to be carried home. He also weighs 30kg. Running with Hovis is NOT an option.
Running with people isn’t an option either, except on race days, where it is OK to run with another 10 000 people you don’t actually have to talk to. Running with a horse, though, that would kill two birds with one stone: JJ would get his daily trip out on non-riding days and I could get my run sorted too, which would (in theory) save at least an hour a day. Of course, there was another reason too, which is a bit more complex. I run anyway, but it’s been a while since I bothered to do a road race and on the two occasions I’ve planned to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London, I’ve been injured out–once in a spectacular head-on motorcycle crash into a lorry, and the second time for something less dramatic that I can’t actually remember. This year’s half is on 12th October and is going to be third time lucky. Or rather, because I decided that I was going to run to raise money for the Brooke, I’ll be running it even if I have a leg missing (or got run over, which is probably more likely). While £350 I’m aiming to raise as sponsorship doesn’t sound like a lot, it goes a long way in the countries the Brooke works in. Even a couple of quid goes some way to providing medical care and owner education, which benefits everybody. Also, if I don’t run the race, I still have to fork out the £350 anyway…which of course I’ll also have to do if nobody sponsors me.
This does worry me slightly actually since the few times I’ve mentioned it in passing on FaceBook, there has been a sudden conspicuous silence, you know, like when some teacher Asks A Difficult Question and suddenly everybody shuffles and refuses to make eye contact and makes themselves small and stares at some really interesting patch on their desk. I know they’re there though because if I then post something else everybody suddenly starts talking back with a palpable sense of relief. Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. There’s got to be a market for second hand pickled kidneys in the parts of the world where people eat odd stuff, after all. I haven’t actually started fundraising yet anyway, apart from setting up a Virginmoneygiving account ten minutes ago which I haven’t told anybody about yet. It is: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MischaRose if anybody wants to put something in it!). But, I digress. What I was going to say was that the main reason I decided to run for the Brooke anyway, was JJ.
Most of you probably already know that he has a couple of chronic and debilitating diseases–PPID and PSSM2–which makes keeping him sound and comfortable pretty difficult. At the moment he is OK and can be exercised and even ridden, but last winter was hard for him and even on increased medication, the PPID was barely under control and by Easter he weighed 421kg and looked like, as my friend put it, ‘something that the Brooke would be treating.’ JJ did slowly gain weight as the Prascend kicked in, and now looks pretty much normal. That comment stuck in my head though, and when the
opportunity for a place running the 2014 Royal Parks Half Marathon came up, I signed up, not least because I am grateful my own horse is still alive and if I can do something, however small, to help someone else’s, then I will. And the sorts of equines the Brook works with are not so much pets and companions, they are working creatures who often the main breadwinners for their families.
JJ, thankfully, doesn’t have to earn his crust, which is just as well since I suspect he wouldn’t be able to (unless anyone can think of a suitable profession for the horse equivalent of Axl Rose crossed with Hannibal Lecter). In fine celebrity style, he bit the photographer during our photoshoot because he was thoroughly annoyed with someone pointing a camera at him. In short he is an interesting running partner. He doesn’t want to chat all the time, which is good, because I find running and breathing as much multi-tasking as I can manage. He is a quarter horse though, and even a crocked unfit middle aged quarter horse is blisteringly quick, and JJ moreso than most. If I trot along at 10 minute mile pace (which is about as fast as I can comfortably manage!) then he will inch up to 9 minute mile. If I ask, he will slow down. Unfortunately, my usual instinct is to speed up a bit. His immediate reaction will be to speed up some more. By the time we get to six minute mile–which is for me a flat out sprint because I am a bit of a plodder–then the QH genes kick in some more and he’ll drop his shoulder, whip round in front of me, round me up, then look pleased with himself and dive nose first into the nearest tasty bit of hedge.
There is cross communication going on here. *I* think we are going out for exercise. *He* thinks we are going out for lunch and that all my running about is awfully unreasonable. We have compromised, so now I take him out not for long runs, which he thinks are ditchwater dull, but for more varied sessions where we walk a bit, jog a bit, do flat out sprints, venture off road, and occasionally stop for snacks. This keeps him a lot happier, especially if I take along food for me, which he tends to help himself to given the chance, before he tucks into the landscape. We are now becoming a common sight in the forest and the mountain bikers and farmers come over and ask how it’s going. Nobody seems to think running with a horse is particularly odd 🙂
Of course there are practical issues. Both JJ and I are barefoot runners. His feet are about as good as they’re going to get with his chronic illnesses, so he tends to wear Easyboot Gloves or Renegades to help him over the rough terrain here. I can actually manage it totally barefoot, but JJ weights 460kg now and truth be told, has no idea where his feet are. Normally I’m an obsessive wearer of steel toecaps round horses, but that’s about as practical an option for running as wearing flippers. I have compromised and wear Vevo Barefoots, which are also hair-pink, and will of course do absolutely nothing if a yellow quarter horse decides to land on my foot. Still, psychologically even a useless shoe feels safer than no shoe at all. I bet JJ never frets about whether I’ll land on his foot, though.
Running with the horse, it has to be said, is a lot easier than running on your own. You can hang onto his withers or tail for a tow uphill, for a start, plus, I don’t take the horse anywhere dangerous so we normally have nice, quiet little tracks to ourselves. Out on my own, dodging erratic school run vehicles, then it’s time to think, and to plod on regardless of what I’m feeling like. I am a bad weather runner normally, and running in summer heat has nearly killed me if I’m honest–but then, it goes back to what I said earlier. For many working animals in warmer climates, this is their lot–the equivalent of running 7 miles, or thirteen miles, with little water, a heavy load, and burning sun. Every day, all day, and not just for fun. It is a motivation to carry on.
The race is in October, so I’ll keep on adding updates to this bit of the blog as and when anything particularly entertaining happens. Today’s run was populated with dead moles actually–many, many dead moles all over the track–so I shall skip that for now, and say only that 7 miles with a hangover is NOT the way forward, particularly against a backdrop of decomposing moles. Probably just as well I didn’t have H Pony with me, she’d have eaten them. At any rate, if you want to know more about the work of the Brooke Hospital, their website is here: http://www.thebrooke.org/ and if you feel like running the Royal Parks, or any other race, to raise funds for the Brooke, then you can join up online. Go on, you know you want to. I even have a spare quarter horse or two if you feel you really MUST have this year’s primary running accessory 🙂
The Royal Parks Half Marathon will take place on 12th October 2014 and JJ and I are aiming to raise £350 to help the horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that the Brooke Hospital tends every day in the poorest parts of the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It’s not just a few equines, it’s closer to a million every year–and the goal is to make it 2 million by 2016. If you can manage to donate even a couple of quid–especially if you can GiftAid it–then even that small amount will make a difference, because a couple of quid goes a very long way in the Third World. If you can spare a bit, you can make a donation here:
Sore Feet and War Horses: Running for The Brooke Part II
There is now a month to go before I head off to London for a bit of a run round a park to raise funds for the Brooke. Fundraising has been pretty good and we are now at about the 200 quid mark, with £150 to go to hit target, so I am chuffed with that (and obviously if you want to add a few pennies to it, you can do so here:
Even a tiny amount helps, especially if you can GiftAid it, and it can make a heck of a difference to the lives and working animals and their humans in the Third World). I’d like to say that JJ and I have been tearing round the lanes at a rate of knots doing lots of training, but the poor little chap has been awfully ill again.
He does have Cushings, and at this time of year it inevitably gets worse–and I don’t think I increased his meds soon enough. At any rate he dropped weight, developed sore feet and then another mega-abscess in his right hind hoof. For anybody out there who is a normal, and sensibly horseless, human bean, you might at this point want to imagine a very large tooth abscess in a very small space, a kind of organic bomb really. They usually brew up for a week or so then explode vile goo everywhere, after you have spent about fifty quid on animalintex, epsom salts, vetwrap, and treats to keep the wretched creature still while you soak, poke, and wrap flailing limbs, and then phone other horsey people to discuss the imminent and glorious explosion of vile frogscented ooze, usually into your eye. Poor JJ was on three legs and could barely walk, let alone do any running (although to be honest he still managed to go faster than I could when he realised the garden gate was open and there was a reasonable chance he could get out and into the haybarn). Still, he is fully recovered and much improved on a higher dose of Dried Pink Frog Pills (that’s Prascend to those of you who are not alumni of Unseen University) to the point that he is out and about on the grass tracks, being ridden a little bit, and is now walking out every other day. Yesterday, in fact, he even managed to do some running, after we met a very large lorry on a very small lane, and I decided discretion was the better part of valour and legged it. I will say at this point that neither JJ nor the delightfully kind and cheerful lorry driver were the slightest bit concerned, but both tolerated my quarter of a mile spook–one by resignedly running alongside me. and the other by crawling along at a careful distance, grinning, presumably at the sight of some mad fat pink-haired bird attempting to sprint whilst wearing high heeled cowboy boots. JJ appears to be fine, anyway. I’m not so sure about myself!
Running on your own is rather easier than with a horse, since I don’t have to concentrate on not diving into the hedge for snacks or spooking at horse-eating sheep. It does give you time to think though. I probably wouldn’t admit to most of what I think about (nor remember it), but there have been a couple of recurrent things I’ve been pondering recently. The first, suppose, is how bizarre fundraising is nowadays. Merely running a half-marathon isn’t enough to get folks digging into their pockets–or heading to PayPal–any more. I mean all of my people are being remarkably generous, even if they can’t afford to be, but just looking round at what other people are doing, they are having to hold bingo nights and garden parties and set up cupcake stalls or raffle their children’s kidneys and God only knows what else, AS WELL AS running for fifty miles a week in training for whatever race it was they are supposed to be doing to raise funds. Running is clearly a bit old hat, although perhaps not when you’re doing it with a horse. The main reason I was thinking about this though, of course, is the ALS icebucket challenge, in which otherwise perfectly normal people felt obliged to empty buckets of very cold water over themselves and donate money for medical research for a disease most of them had never heard of up until that point. I considered filming myself getting back from a long run in horizontal rain, uphill, freezing cold, soaked through, to see if that would work as well, but my mate pointed out that it would probably raise more if I emptied a bucket of ice over JJ’s head.
Whoa. Hang on right there.
I know there were plenty of people stupid and mean enough to do that–I saw at least four on facebook, who clearly had no regard for their equines whatsoever–but if anybody tries emptying a bucket over mine, there will be a pair of a second hand skewered kidneys up for auction, assuming the horse doesn’t get you first (in which case your kidneys are going to be the least of your problems). I understand that people often expect some element of entertainment or return on a charitable donation–but there are ethical limits. I’m quite sure JJ doesn’t mind trotting round the lanes, and the exercise is good for him. He probably doesn’t have much of a concept that his trotting about is helping donkeys in brick kilns in India, mind you, and I bet he’d be absolutely horrified if he met a donkey (he is not a fan of cows either, especially the mooing, and the small ponies down the road are apparently dangerous minions of the Anti-Christ and are plotting to roast him for lunch).
I draw the line, however, at causing discomfort to one (already frail) animal to help another, however needy. And I think, on the whole, that everyone I know is in agreement with me on that. The British value the welfare of non-edible animals very much: I did see earlier on today that folks had rallied round and raised a vast amount overnight to help the Manchester Dogs’ Home, which was the victim of an arson attack that caused massive canine fatalities. People are astonishing–they were queueing up with bedding, food, offers of foster homes, and while as species go I tend to like horses and parrots rather more than humans (and, I’m afraid, dogs), I am with TH White on this one. The one redeeming feature–possibly the only one actually–is that people WILL do without themselves to help other species when they have fallen on hard times. Maybe only some species–I doubt there would have been front page news if the Pont Y Clwyd Tarantula Sanctuary had been razed to the ground–but all the same.
And this, of course, is why organisations such as The Brooke exist. Have you seen or read Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse? I confess I haven’t–I was traumatised by Black Beauty and I met Joey the War Horse puppet at BETA earlier in the year and that was enough to
set me off. But war horses are the reason The Brooke exists–they were founded in 1934 to treat, rescue, and humanely destroy those British Army horses that had survived the First World War in Egypt, and had been abandoned to live out the rest of their lives as working animals on the streets of Cairo. This is what Dorothy Brooke has to say about them:
Out here, in Egypt, there are still many hundreds of old Army Horses sold of necessity at the cessation of the War. They are all over twenty years of age by now, and to say that the majority of them have fallen on hard times is to express it very mildly. Those sold at the end of the war have sunk to a very low rate of value indeed: they are past ‘good work’ and the majority of them drag out wretched days of toil in the ownership of masters too poor to feed them – too inured to hardship themselves to appreciate, in the faintest degree, the sufferings of animals in their hands.These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water, or a kind word in English?
Many are blind – all are skeletons.
Her first letter to the English newspapers raised the equivalent of 20k, and this rescued five thousand old horses. Many of them were in such a state that they had to be put down. 80 years on, and The Brooke’s charitable spend last year was 12 million pounds, helping over a million horses, donkeys and mules. And, of course, medical knowledge is rather better now than it was in 1934, so we’re in a much better position to prevent all those working animals, across three continents, from becoming the often blind and always skeletal wretches that Dorothy Brooke originally saw.
It is of course 2014, and the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One and the hostilities that killed 8 million equines, and left an incalculable number to live lives of hard labour. Unfortunately, for every person willing to do something to improve the lot of other critturs, there are others who are determined to create the problem in the first place. I have never much liked that damnable animal war memorial in Hyde Park, because to me that two million quid could have been spent more wisely elsewhere. It does the job at reminding people exactly how many blameless creatures were destroyed in conflicts not of their making, though, and I suppose as a long term investment it is probably going to raise more awareness and probably indirectly, even more aid than it cost. On race day, though, I think we have to run past it, or very near it, which given the origins of The Brooke seems entirely fitting, particularly in the Centenary, though all that is no doubt going to be far to solemn for somebody with pink hair wearing even pinker donkey ears.
You can read more about the history of The Brooke at http://www.thebrooke.org/ and about the Animals in War Memorial here at http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk/
If you can, please sponsor my run on 12th October. You can donate here:
If you can’t contribute with funds (and of course, if you already have!) please consider sharing this blog post on your Facebook page, or on any forums or discussion groups or anywhere where you think peeps might be interested. Thank you 😀
Helping a Horse to Help Other Horses Help People….
We are nearly at target with just over a week to go!!! 😀 😀 😀 Many thanks to everyone who has donated, and a quick reminder to those who have promised to, haven’t got round to it yet, and of course, all you dozy beans who haven’t been keeping up and haven’t heard what we are up to yet 😀 Here is our fundraising page where you can part with your hard-earned cash (if you have any!) to help the Brooke help people and animals in the Third World:
and of course, if you have already contributed, or are as broke as broke can be, please share the penultimate bit of the running blog which is right down below! ! 😀
Well, in just over a week we will be in London. I say, we. *I* will be in London, I suppose JJ will be stuffing his face on the tracks or in the yard, wondering where on earth I have gone, and I will have to phone home every twenty minutes to make sure he is OK. At any rate, that eight months of planning and trudging round the forest went quickly. OK, maybe running up some of the hills wasn’t very quick, and felt like an eternity. But in general, it is now nearly winter, and my bit of a run in the Park is a week away, and very soon I will be lining up with 16 000 other people in silly trousers who will all smell of fabric conditioner.
The fabric conditioner thing is a real issue for me. Running, you see, seems to sharpen up my sense of smell. I can now tell you that the house outside the village is owned by coffee snobs who would clearly die before they made a cup of instant. The farmhouse next door to them, as well as smelling like…well, farms, uses the dreaded fabric conditioner–I can tell when the washing is on the line, and when they are in the garden, despite a six foot hedge, because I can smell them. I can smell women in cars as they drive past, too, and in town, I can smell them before they come into sight around a corner, or in the next aisle in Tescos. In short, the world has become a ghastly barrage of loud chemical synthetic smells that drown out normal smells, and it’s vile, like living in a world entirely soundtracked by thumping drum n’ bass.
It is an interesting insight into how horses perceive people, too. JJ finds it pretty offensive when people are smelling of stuff other than normal people smells. Storm likes sniffing you–woe betide you change your shampoo, you can’t get him out of your hair–literally–for days, and we caught him sniffing knickers on the washing line too.
But JJ literally will snap at blokes for wearing Lynx and he pulls faces at anything particularly hefty on the fabric conditioner front. You will be sniffed, he will recoil, curl his upper lip, and make it VERY clear–often with snorting and nose tossing and pinned ears–that your personal niff is NOT to his liking. I am beginning to understand why, although sadly nearly fifty years of social conditioning is putting me off skidding to a halt and biting anybody who has marinaded themselves in some vile gloop.
Still, I suspect that a few miles into the run, no amount of fabric conditioner and foul bodyspray is going to matter too much. I live at 900ft in a forest, where the trees outnumber the people about 20 000 to 1, so trying to breathe in London to me is a bit like trying to inhale custard. I am reminded about what Douglas Adams said about New York: that the best way to get a breath of fresh air, was to open a window, and stick your head into a building. I’m not planning to break the two hour barrier, let’s put it like that.
Once upon a time, of course, I would have a Race Plan. How fast to do mile 7, what to listen to in Mile 10, negative splits, how to get to the finish faster than I did last time, and so on. Now I am planning to turn out without a hangover, preferably on time, and maybe to chat to a few folks en route, perhaps take a few pictures, that sort of thing, and having survived long enough to see the FINISH line, to go visit the Brooke tent and perhaps to potter over to Southwark for a swift half in The George. At least I won’t have to stop to haul my running partner out of a bush, or deal with his now ingrained habit of speeding up in certain places. Quarter Horses learn quickly, and once they have learned that a particular stretch of road is good for running along, then you ARE going to run along that bit of road at every opportunity. Even when you are being sat on. Except then, of course, rather than having a human on a bit of string slowing you up, you can actually lurch into a 50mph gallop down the road, because apparently that is perfectly reasonable. I pulled him up eventually and he was extremely annoyed with me for ruining a good hoon.
This has been one useful side effect of taking JJ out training, of course: he is slightly fitter. Now his last bout of abscessing is over and done with, and his meds have kicked in, he is actually pretty sound, and at the moment–for the first time in years–he is back out on the grass tracks and even in the top field. He is moving more, eating far more, looks much better, and is slowly regenerating his back muscles. He is still far from normal, but he is better than he has been in years, and is remarkably cheerful too. He hasn’t tried to kill anybody in ages, at least so long as they don’t smell too bad.
It feels like a long time since Easter time, when JJ had started to improve slowly but even then I wasn’t even sure that he was going to survive, and I decided to do this race. I suppose I would have been running anyway, but probably not whilst thinking about the impact of poverty on animals in the Third World. It has been interesting seeing people’s happy reactions to the banning of working cart donkeys in Tel Aviv. Huge victory for animal rights? Well, not for me. What is going to happen to all the folks who were scratching about making livings recycling junk? I bet they weren’t using donkeys and horses because they preferred them to a pick up truck: chances are they were using them because they can’t afford a truck. They’re probably not recycling junk for a laugh either. So in one glorious blow, we have created a further welfare situation, taking away humans’ meagre livelihoods and making the animals useless. Chances are they will be abandoned or destroyed, and what will happen to the people? Israel already has a 20% poverty rate, higher in some places.
Perhaps it would have been better to instigate something more like the Brooke’s policy, where owners of working animals can have access to education on welfare and management, and veterinary care. I suppose we are up against a very British view of the world though, where animals are companions and pets, and not ‘working’ creatures: I see a lot of Facebook pictures of overloaded donkeys and plenty of bayings of how this should be ‘banned’ and so on, by folks with finely tuned selective compassion. I doubt the little kid working in an Indian brick kiln is having a great time either, and if you think working a donkey is wrong and it should be eating its way to laminitis in a grass field, then remember that the poor kid could probably do with being in school and learning, not working in those conditions, if he is to have a future at all. But he probably has about as much choice as the donkey, and the best we can hope to do is educate him so he can look after that donkey, which can then help the child and his family to earn more and have better lives. I’m afraid being irritated by fabric conditioner is a bit of a First World Issue compared to conditions in a kiln (I’m afraid this doesn’t make the fabric conditioner less irritating or me any less wound up about it, though), but you can find out more about what the Brooke is doing in the brick kilns here.
Interestingly, Monty Roberts has been in India this week looking at the work of the Brooke–he has a long history of working with disadvantaged kids as well as animals, and he is very difficult to keep quiet once he has a bee in his bonnet, so I am delighted that he is taking an interest in the Brooke.
This is what he has to say about the work of the Brooke in India:
So, that’s one place your donations are going, and you can see that it’s clearly making a difference! I’m actually pleased that we’ve been able to do our (very small) bit to help, too, and I’m hugely grateful to all the folks who have also done their bit–through donating or sharing these blogs–to help my horse help other horses to help people. We are now nearly at our target of £350–I think if you include GiftAid we have about £75 to go, though we have a bit promised from various nice human beans we know. If you have any spare pennies of course, JJ and I will be delighted to relieve you of them at:
And of course, if you happen to be about in London on the 12th Oct, do come along to one of the Royal Parks and look out for me. I’ll be the one plodding along like an old bag with pink hair, donkey ears, and an orange shirt, so I think I should be reasonably recognisable even without the horse. And, if you are daft enough to have bathed in Lynx and washed your hair in fabric conditioner, I’ll certainly spot you a mile away.
Well, We Did It–Running for The Brooke with Pink Hair and Batman….
Well, we are done, and the sum total of our fundraising for the Brooke has bought in £650 (or nearly £770 with GiftAid!) which has blown me away somewhat since I thought I would probably manage about 200 quid even with a good bit of shameless self-promotion and random JJ being naughty pics!
People’s generosity was remarkable and it has to be said that the fundraising proved to be almost as entertaining as the race itself, with my OCD asserting itself late on and various mates variously contributing to round up the total raised to a tidy figure…and others then donating 79p or other evil unbalanced numbers to disrupt the balance of the total (and the universe) yet again. I thought we were doomed actually. but The Brooke has been adopted as the official charity of Team Mick Karn and TMK Pen managed a literal last second donation from Peter and from badge sales over the last week, in memory of Mick–I think it went through just a millisecond before the official fundraising page closed, but it also rounded the figure up to £650 so the universe is now back in balance and I am getting stressed about people who hang up their headcollars on the wrong peg in the tackroom instead. I mean, really. Still, what an amazing total–I can’t thank everyone who contributed, with money, time, and lots of help promoting the run, though I should have emailed you with even more thanks by now 🙂
The race itself was quite fabulous. Having been injured out of the Royal Parks Half twice before, I was pretty astonished that I managed to get to London the night before without getting myself killed (I had been forbidden to do anything involving riding horses or motorbikes for the week before!) and I managed to stick to my Race Plan (turn up without too bad a hangover being step 1) because a couple of pints of cider in the hotel bar came to fifteen quid and that nearly choked me. (In my defence, Ron Hill, who has got to be one of the greatest runners of all time, reckoned you should never have more than a couple of pints the night before a major race anyway, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s OK for me. I can only assume he never made a habit of drinking in London though). I went back to my room and amused myself writing the names of all my sponsors on the back of my shirt. This amused my son no end since he had identified himself as MISCHA SMELLS on the fundraising page and needless to say he had already written something similar on the shirt, which was much commented on the next morning.
The next morning though, disaster nearly struck when I woke up at 6am with a migraine..however I had decided by then that short of being actually properly dead, I was doing the race, so I abandoned all thoughts of finishing in the planned 2 hours, drafted up a survival plan, checked where the St John’s Ambulance points were, drugged myself up to the eyeballs and feeling rather spaced out and queasy, headed for Hyde Park. Helpfully all the tube stations adjacent to Hyde Park were closed, so a mad warm-up dash following a crowd of runners following a chap in a full Batman costume ensued, in which I learned that running in minimalist barefoot shoes over cobbles is awkward. But the headache had gone by the time we arrived at The Brooke tent to have pictures taken, so I reckoned I would probably survive.
And I did, by dint of trotting along cheerfully and when the flashing lights came back at miles 6 and 10, by walking until I could see where I was going again. In actual fact, just jogging along was a jolly good way to run a race. I got to talk to folks, admire the carefully manicured trees (it is a bit wilder here in the Clocaenog), the extremely fat squirrels, the bizarrely gingerbready cottages that dot the park. I saw a horse (and was grateful once more that JJ was at home, since I can assume he would have had something to say about it). got confused and spoke to an interested dog in Welsh, and coveted the gallops (which JJ would have probably approved of). 13 miles passed in no time actually, and I think it was probably the best and happiest run I’ve ever done (possibly because there were a lot of things to look at, and also, we got to run over Westminster Bridge which for some reason was wildly cool).
Spotting other Brooke runners was also extremely good–there were 26 of us in the end, all in orange and we definitely had the loudest cheer team too 🙂 I’m not sure what the final total raised is yet, but it was well over 16k at last count. I will say one thing, if you want to run a half for charity, the Royal Parks really ought to be the one you go for. It’s not hugely competitive, not least because almost everyone in the mid pack of ordinary runners is fundraising. Even people who were clearly NOT runners by choice were running, often rather well, to raise money for pretty much every charity you could think of. Battersea Dogs’ Home, various cancer charities, many in memory of relatives who hadn’t made it. ‘I am running because my Dad can’t anymore,’ said one shirt. Another girl was raising money for Great Ormond Street, in memory of her baby daughter, whose picture was printed on her shirt. I sniffled my way round miles 7-9 I think. Everybody had a story, everybody had something to say. The chap who I ended up running next to for a bit, who was wearing the (really rather good) Royal Parks shirt you are given before the race, said he was doing it because he needed to lose seven stone and had lost four training, but that he felt a bit left out so was going to do the race as a charity run next year (‘By which time I’ll be thinner and I’ll break two hours if it kills me,’ he added, which is something I can heartily sympathise with). I didn’t see Batman, apparently he came in a few minutes behind me, still in his full rubber suit, presumably a bit cooked, but the spectators were great and very encouraging, and if you look a bit loud–which I was, in orange with pink hair and my name on my shirt–people do shout lots of encouragement. I’d have loved to hear what they said to Batman though.
The Royal Parks is definitely the best organised race I’ve ever done–we were very well fed at the end with Bounce Balls and bananas, more offerings of water and Lucozade, and the most enthusiastic volunteers I’ve ever met handing out the rather excellent wooden race medals to us sweaty folk in various stages of banana-clutching exhaustion. I’m afraid I felt perfectly fine in the circumstances, but I’m putting that down to running in the barefoot shoes with proper biomechanics, and not slamming down heel first, rather than the fact I had spent the previous hours trotting along chatting and not, as my much hated old PE teacher would have said, ‘putting any backbone into it.’ But I shouldn’t think the donkeys will care very much (plus I got to mooch round London, visit the Tower, and stroll along the South Bank later on without actually being in agony) 😀
Back with Emma at the Brooke tent, and we were fed rather well again actually, with protein bars and coconut water. and I picked up my Other Half who had been my pack donkey for the day, and had been looked after rather well by The Brooke as a result. I was grateful for that actually since I was convinced he was probably going to get bored and go to sleep on a park bench somewhere and be arrested for vagrancy, but actually he had been t-shirted and recruited on to the Cheer Team, which meant he managed to take photos as well, though not of Batman.
Needless to say JJ the Quarter Horse was terribly badly behaved in my absence, and in between being vile to everybody, human and equine alike, apparently was standing by the gate looking for me. I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have been any better behaved in Hyde Park though, and the aftereffect of taking your horse running is now that he thinks he can bomb about at trot everywhere, often leaving me hanging onto his tail as he buggers off, or just hanging on if I happen to be sitting on him. Since I didn’t think he’d live to see this winter though, I’m not complaining: I’m grateful that he is still around to have done his bit raising some funds for other equines who need help.
And help it will. So–a round of applause for TMK, Peter, Pen, Mel, Sue, Daisy, Phoenix, Becka, Matti, Craig, Adam, Angie, Sam, Emma, Houdah, Leanne, Kate, Victoria, Natalie, Jenny, Nessie, Guilia, Simon, Magda, Rohan aka MISCHA SMELLS, Dani, Catrin, Freyr and Eldar, Yann, Louise and Flynn, Phillipa, Jen, Dana, Annette and Telyn, Lucy at The Saddlery Shop, Jill, Lorraine, Julie, Chris, Ann-Marie, and the totally anonymous person who I failed to track down despite the best in OCD detective work. Maybe it was Batman. Our thanks to you in Britain, Finland, Texas, and New York, from us in Wales and a lot of donkeys in India, Africa, and South America 😀