The Gold Challenge Event at the Olympic stadium was a wonderful way for us to say thank you to Gold Challenge participants and, judging from the feed-back, it was a great day for everyone involved. However, for me personally, it was also the chance to do the ‘flat track running events’ part of my charity challenge to do every different Olympic and Paralympic event.
There are 7 ‘flat track running’ events in total – the 10 000m ; 5 000m ; 1 500m ; 800m ; 400m ; 200m ; 100m. The total distance involved – 18km – is a reasonable challenge.
But to make it really interesting we set ourselves the goal of doing every distance in twice the world record time. Not only did this mean that we had to run every distance at a good speed but it also meant that we had to switch running styles from a fast jog (for the 10000 and 5 000m ) to something akin to a sprint for the shorter distances.
So it was that 8 of us arrived at the Olympic stadium at 7 a.m. on 1st April – Rianna, Jon, James (from Sport England), Crispin, Jeff, Mick (from GLL), my brother Matthew and me – with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. We worked our way through accreditation and security and made our way into the stadium.
It really is something to walk into that stadium. I was lucky enough to have already had a stadium tour but there is something about being on the Olympic track in the Olympic stadium that’s genuinely awe inspiring. I almost forgot the pounding headache that had kept me awake almost the whole night (not the ideal preparation for the runs ahead..)
Mick, who was a star throughout the day, warmed us up and, after a slight delay while we got permission to go, we started our first run – the 5000m – just after 8 a.m. There’d been some debate about the best way to sequence the runs but we followed the advice of Mick and his fellow GLL coaches and, in retrospect, the 5000m was the right choice for our first run. It got us thoroughly warmed up without exhausting us.
It was also the first test of whether or not it was possible to do everything in twice the world record. Paced by Mick and the others, I got round in 24 minutes – more than a minute inside our target. The others were good enough to let me ‘win’ the first race and, as this was the first 5 000m run on the track, I am now the proud Olympic stadium track record holder for the 5000m. I have a suspicion that Mo Farah may go a little faster come the Olympics but, for the moment, I’m the record holder!
Next up were the 1500m and the 400m. In both cases we got inside our target but the 400m, in particular, was tough. The last 100m of a 400m is a killer.
By 9.30 we were ready to start our 10 000m. Crispin sailed off into the distance but James and Mick held back to keep me company and we settled into a steady pace that allowed me a chance to take in the surroundings. 10 000m on a track isn’t necessarily the most entertaining of runs since it involves going round the same track 25 times. However, when it’s the Olympic stadium, there are some compensations. The acts from later in the programme were performing their warm ups, the stands were slowly filling up, digital clocks at the end of each straight helped with the timing, and (disconcertingly) the video of my Gold Challenge efforts to date was playing on the huge video screen. Mick and James slowly cranked up the pace and we finished in 47m 36 sec – a full 5 minutes inside our target.
Post the 10 000m we got to rest our aching legs and start to enjoy the day itself. At various stages we went back onto the track to do our 800m and 200m – getting stiffer and more tired with each race. Eventually we came to our 100m.(Actually my second 100m race as I’d earlier had the pleasure of running the 100m with my family. Mary Peters started that race and I was beaten to the line by my 7 and 9 year old girls.)
By now there were 20 000 people in the stadium, Simon (Head of Sport at the GLA) had joined us and we were running in the actual lanes that Usain Bolt et al would be running in at the Olympics. Surely time to put on a show and really give it everything? By now my hamstrings were screaming at me to take it easy and reminding me that they’d popped the last time I tried to run a proper 100m. I settled into what might generously be called a canter and crossed the line in a bit over 16 seconds. 4 seconds slower than I’d been at school but none of that mattered. We’d done it. We’d run every track distance at the Olympic stadium within twice the world record time.
The rest of the day was fantastic – lots of media, and a chance to enjoy the entertainment and the races. Finally, the Gold Challenge staff race and a last walk round the stadium with Fiona thanking everyone who’d attended.
A day I’ll never forget – huge, huge thanks to Sarah, Fiona and the team in the office, everyone at FastTrack, to the hundreds of volunteers, to LOCOG, to my fellow runners and to the 20 000 who showed up on the day to run, to join in the parade and to spectate. Thank you all for supporting Gold Challenge and for turning our Olympic stadium dream into reality.