View From Under An Umbrella
The Petts Wood 10k run took place on the 13th October, as the leaves were turning yellows, reds and gold.
PW Running Club had been busy planning for the day. Sponsors, security and stewards. Information packs sent and registration forms completed. Seven hundred and fifty runners signed up. Elite runners to those who had never run a 10k, but took up the challenge. They put in the training, pounding pavements and counting down the days.
Refreshments, red and white tape and sound system. Nothing had been left to chance.
Sunday, 13th was the sort of day that prompted Noah to built his ark. A low weather front. Rain lashed winds swept the country. Autumnal winds that made sailors shudder and surfers smile.
The competitors and PW Running Club watched the weather bulletins, sighed, shivered and put away the sun block. Hunted out waterproofs and packed a towel and bin liners.
A day of leaden skies. A day children puddle jumped and race organizers quietly cursed, between marking out the course and hanging signs from lampposts. The competitors arrived, collected their tags and tried to keep dry. They failed.
They took their place at the start line. Elite, honed runners at the front, pensive rookies at the back. Stopwatches checked, tags secured, muscles stretched. The Race Organiser wished them well, urged caution and
they were off. Ahead lay 10K, rain, mud and pain. A rainbow coloured stream of numbered running vests and black bin liners circled the cricket square, where fielders had taken wickets and batsmen had struck elusive sixes in the summer.
Spectators watched under umbrellas and welly wearing children, with rain splashed smiles, jumped in puddles. Forlorn dogs sighed, sat on the wet grass and longed for home. And as the runners broke up into groups and counted down the kilometers, children competed in their own races and claimed their chocolate medals.
The elite runners were the first to exit the wood. Mud splattered they crossed the New Bridge and turned down Birchwood, to the recreation ground. The first runner across the finish line wore a black vest and a quiet smile,
followed by the rest of the field. Some were home and showered before the last person crossed the line.
But it was a race about so much more than who came first and last. It was about all the bits in between.
The Race Organiser and his team. Soggy stewards and course marshals, who encouraged the field, from first to last.Delegation, detail and paperwork. Red tape, counting medals and remembering to buy the biscuits and milk.
It was about the competitors, organizers, spectators, wet dogs and welly wearing children.
It was a jostling start line of numbered running vests. Vibrant yellows, oranges and muted blacks. Waterproofs, trainers and bin liners. Those who had put in the hours and those who had let the hours slip away but were prepared to take on the challenge. For themselves and Harris HospisCare.
It was about the Petts Wood runner, who ran with the children and threw in a few mud dives to entertain the crowds.
It was about Woody the Gorilla, with his fixed grin and enthusiasm and Wendy and Jackie on the tea urn
with their big smiles, soggy feet and biscuits.
It was wet haired Emma on the mike, with her red beret and all the rest of the PW Crew who made it happen and smiled through the rain.
It was about the Spring Boks runner, with his dog called Lucy and little girl with a pink umbrella. They both ran in the rain and took home their medals.
It was about the runner who finished first and all those who followed in his footsteps. The competitor who hobbled through the pain and the runner who stayed by her side and got her across the finish line, long after the elite runners had done their cool downs and headed home with another medal.
A day to remember for competitors, spectators and welly wearing puddle jumpers. A day of pain and rain and
lactic acid. Fallen leaves and tree roots. A day of achievement and overcoming adversity. A day of wet dogs and bin liners. Medals, mud and memories.
PW 10k Run. Viewed under an umbrella.