Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In praise of Luton!

On Sunday I drank a Red Bull, a can of  Fosters , ate trifle and sat in front of the television from early afternoon until ten. If you took a snap shot of my life in that timeframe it would appear that I was the archetypal couch potato but I would argue that my calorific intake was less than those which I burned in the morning.


The reason? The inaugural Luton Half Marathon.

I consider myself kind of seasoned at halves: Bedford (3 times) Watford, Hitchin (twice) Stevenage, St Albans, Silverstone, London, Milton Keynes, Mablethorpe, and I’ve done five marathons so little old Luton should not be a problem.


Preparation hadn’t exactly been to the letter. My trip to Dominican Republic had meant 2 weeks without any running, and I’d majored on gym work in the run up to this race so that I could use the shower at the gym (see previous blog for saga of boiler)

Actually quick aside on that. If you have to change your cylinder, don’t let your plumber dispose of it for you unless he gives you something for it. I found a great little recycle place in town that took it off me for £50!!


It was also unfortunate timing that I promised to help my daughter move out of her flat in Bethnal Green the day before. 2 trips between Luton & East London – circa 60 miles in total – and I was in the car, driving on the brake for 6 hours. Don’t you just love London! It’s enough to take up cycling but I wouldn’t have been able to get her wardrobe in my wicker basket!

When you drive through London what always strikes me is the number of people everywhere. It’s the ultimate busy city but nobody seems to talk to each other. Why do people want to live there? Why not move to Hull, Rotherham, Grimsby, Gosport?

Anyway, I got back at about ten on the Saturday night, leaving it late for me to carb-load. Watched the news and heard of the impending storm brewing for Sunday night.

Day of the race and the newest resident of my chateau announces that there are no trains between Luton & St Albans and so after downing two sachets of porridge (with a blob of strawberry jam) I drive her to St Albans and arrive back in Luton half an hour before the race start.

I park in a side street and start to walk the half mile to the venue. Yesterdays pasta is telling me it’s time to leave, I’ve got to  register and warm  up and I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t cut it a bit fine? But that’s how I do everything:

·         Work colleagues know that I leave 5 minutes too late for an appointment
·         Football mates, have I ever seen kick off?
·         Church, do they start with a prayer or a hymn?

But my luck was in, a van screeches to a halt in the road and a cheery voice shouts ‘Jonny cobb do you want a lift’ and my good friend Phyl is a steward for the race and she drops me off at the registration hall. This also happens to be my gym so I am able to nip to the secret loo in the health suite and avoid the queues!

I’m beginning to think this could be my lucky day but I hadn’t allowed for two small matters;

Perhaps if I were well read I may know that Luton comes from the Latin ‘Lutinous’  which means to climb! ( I made that up alright!) as apart from Montrose Avenue, every other road seemed to be inclining up or at best flat. As the end wasn’t the start, this wasn’t a negative sum game, and to face the hill of Gordon Street at mile 12 was the closest I have come to walking during a half.


Yes it really was that hilly. And to add to it, however fond I have become of Luton, and I’ve lived here 26 years now, it’s not exactly got any iconic landmarks (Kenilworth road? Tommy Robinsons Tanning Salon?) and just running through residential street after residential street did not exactly spur you on.

Anothe satisfied customer Tommy?

Having said that, a lot of people go on about the London Marathon and the great iconic sights there. The majority are beyond mile 20, and take it from me, running past anything other than your woman shouting ‘I’m yours when you’ve finished’ is not particularly inspiring after that distance.

Look, there’s the London eye!

So what! I’m in my own personal hell here!

Anyway back to Luton.

This storm didn’t happen until Sunday evening, but it sent an advance guard in the morning. At one point,  a side gust actually blew my back leg across my front leg causing me to stumble, and turning into one road (which was also a hill) the wind was so strong and in your face that I could barely move forward!


But I did it, and I wasn’t too unhappy with a 1:49;22 which is way off a pb but was not too shabby in the circumstances.

My guess is that if you aren’t a runner you won’t still be reading by now anyway, but although I pigged out guilt free last night, and I still ached this morning, I’m already wandering which one I will do next. Once running is in your blood there’s no use fighting it, you’re an addict!

I can be overtaken by a 60 year old woman and then I overtake a man half my age. We run against no one but ourselves (good job really) but I never feel so free, healthy, close to God, coherent in my thinking than when I’m running.

I’m going to praise Luton. You gave us a challenging run and that’s what it’s all about. Yes there’s room for improvement with regards to the route but ultimately you allowed me to eat guilt free trifle and that makes the day a success in my book!

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