A runner, running.

I am aware I have been banging on about this half-marathon as if I’m the first person ever to have run one for far too long. In my defence it’s been in an attempt to distract you with bad jokes while picking your pocket for sponsorship cash. So before detailing the full extent of my suffering let’s deal with the sponsorship.
Thank you so much to everyone who’s sponsored me in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. As I write this the total has crept up over £3,800 which is roughly an extra zero beyond what I thought we might be able to raise.
Seriously, I am absolutely overwhelmed and stunned by how brilliant you all are. Not too overwhelmed and stunned, however, to point out that sponsorship is still open, so read the following tale of woe and see if you enjoy my agony enough to part with some hard-earned, if you haven’t already.
Well, I got round all 13-and-a-bit miles around the ancient city of Bath. My ‘chip time’, as we top athletes call the official hours and minutes, was 2:45:03, about fifteen minutes slower than I’d hoped.
I have, as you might expect, an excuse for this.
It was a glorious, hazy, sunny spring morning, the sort of Sunday better spent in bed with toast and the papers and a vague intention of going out at some point than standing around a muddy field in Bath wearing shorts and trying to affix a race number to your t-shirt with safety pins.

Some excellent nephew jelly baby distribution.

Once we were underway things were quite comfortable. I had worried that all the excitement and an innate tendency to show off in front of a crowd would see me sprint away at a fair old clip, possibly blowing kisses, but there were so many of us bunched together that this wasn’t possible, thank goodness. Hence, after five miles I was feeling good. This was a new experience – I had never felt good while running before.
At seven miles I passed the wife and my pals Jenna, Graeme and Martha. I stopped for a chat and a jelly baby. I told them I was still confident of winning and pranced off again feeling suspiciously good.
Which is when things started to go wrong.

Outpacing a septuagenarian, like a boss.

Around the eight mile mark I developed a sharp pain in my right knee. By the time I passed my mum and my sister’s family at nine miles nothing could disguise the fact that I was in quite a bit of discomfort. I didn’t want to worry them, but the fact I kept saying, “Youch, I’m in quite a bit of discomfort,” didn’t really help keep the cat in the bag.
The rest of the race passed as a limpy hobble (as opposed to the easy, Kenyan-style languid grace I’d adopted thus far of course), but I kept running, after a fashion. I was tempted to walk the rest of the way, but I also just wanted the whole thing to be over as quickly as possible so on I lolloped, lopsidedly trundling at snail’s pace, my dreams of 2016 Olympic glory fading with each step. Believe me, you know that you’re not going to post a spectacular finishing time when you’re overtaken comfortably first by two blokes in a camel costume and then by two people dressed as bath taps.
But on I pressed. The last mile was cruelly uphill until I turned a corner and saw the finish line. In my head, I found a second wind, forgot about the searing pain in my knee and finished like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. Later I saw the video of me finishing, which disabused that description entirely. I looked like the top and bottom halves of my body were trying to go their separate ways, had an expression on my face that suggested I was undergoing a circumcision without the luxury of anaesthetic and lumbered in with all the athletic grace and poise of Bernard Manning on ice skates.
As soon as I stopped my knee gave out completely. I couldn’t put any weight on it at all and hence am possibly the only person that day to have received their finisher’s medal while hopping.
Jude was surprisingly reluctant to carry me to the pub in a fireman’s lift, as I’d demanded, so we compromised by my putting an arm round her and pressing her into service as a crutch. This is why I married her.
Three pints of bitter later the knee didn’t seem so bad. But it was, as I discovered when I hopped off a bar stool and let out a scream of pain that would have had people looking up from whatever they were doing as far away as Bristol.
Remarkably I finished only 25 minutes behind my friend Emily, a former Irish international rower and the sort of person who spends her Sundays spattered with mud and running up and down mountains. For fun. I thought this was the biggest achievement of the lot until I learned that Emily had woken up that morning with the beginnings of a chest infection and after four miles had ducked into a first aid tent for a restorative snooze. She still finished nearly half an hour ahead of me.
The day after the race I hobbled into the care home to see my dad. Now bedridden, lately he spends most of his days with his eyes closed and mumbling incoherently to himself, but I told him all about the race and said, “We’ll have to get you out there with me next year, dad”. His eyes stayed closed but a faint smile pulled at the corners of his mouth and he said, “you’re jooooking”. Which is exactly what he would have said before he was ill.

My dad, not running a half marathon.

Those two words were worth all the effort, all the dark, wintry mornings running around Greenwich Park, all the sweat-flinging interval training sessions and certainly worth every penny of more than £3,800 of sponsorship.
The above is definitely my final word on the half marathon subject – especially, *cough*, if we can push the sponsorship total past the magic figure of £4,000. You can still sponsor me here and let’s face it, you’re basically paying for me to shut up about bloody running, which has to be worth a few quid of anyone’s cash.
A few quick thank yous to finish. My coach pal Sarah put together an amazing training programme for me covering everything from interval sprints to breakfast. I don’t think I’d have even got to the start line without her support and encouragement, not to mention putting up with my endless fraught texts and e-mails at all hours about every faint ache or pain. To my race day support team of Jenna, Graeme, Martha, Olivia, Tris, Louis, Eddie and my mum, I’m sorry if I worried you with all the screaming and teeth-gnashing and swearing about my knee. If it’s any consolation, it really, really hurt.

Team Connelly

Thanks of course to Jude for endless encouragement and inspiration and especially for not saying, “Christ, you’ll never run thirteen miles” as I barely made it to a mile without collapsing as we ran together in Brighton barely three months ago.
Most of all though, thanks to everyone who’s sponsored me. You’ve been as immense as the amount of money you’ve raised for Alzheimer’s research.

Image courtesy of Tobyayre