I can pinpoint exactly when I developed my fear of the start line, I was 5 it was sports day I was convinced I would do a false start in the running race. I concentrated so hard I heard the bang of the start gun and I ran. Half way down the track I became concerened that I could see no other runners so I stopped……turned around …..at which point the other determined 5 year olds charged past me. I was sad ……Ma thought it a genuinely hilarious story and still shares it over 35 years on. The only saving grace is the lack of video evidence to support this episode in my running life.
So getting to the start line for anything has become my biggest challenge! At swimming lessons my little sister had to take me by the hand and lead me to the poolside (she was 2 I was 4) and being lead to the start line has become a bit of a ritual ever since. I am always terrified so the situation takes some careful handling.
My Dad has walked me to the line on some of the most notable occasions in my life and when he was nearly lost last year my biggest concern was who would walk me to the line? His approach is one of quiet calm. My first open water swim he not only walked me to the line but walked along the dockside for the whole mile with Ma and Mr R so between every stroke I could see his 6 foot 4 frame walking along 10 feet above me. For my first triathlon in Hyde Park he reluctantly left the hospitality tent to come with me to the start zipped up my wetsuit and said “off you go” At Blenheim Triathlon he comes to the swim start mainly because he thinks the man who does the race brief is funny! But he is always at the top of the swim exit “encouraging” me not to faint as I try to run up hill on jelly legs and take a wetsuit off! He is rarely at the end of a race but always at the start line. On another memorable day in Blenheim he walked me to the start line of my marriage with a great sense of relief!
Mr R has adopted a no nonsense approach to getting me to the start line. There is the accountants rational and logic “you have done the training you can do it” “just get on with it” emergency details are written on bibs and safety pins applied. In the minutes before the race he plants a kiss on my cheek and always says “have a good run” before going to start with the “fast people”
So the morning of London marathon my start line terror levels peaked as Mr R bundled me on and off trains – I have no idea how we got to the park! It was grey and raining and there is a point where supporters have to leave you! From the above you will have got that calm and factual and reassuring do the trick so Booms approach was unusual and unorthodox.
As we entered the park a steward said to me “don’t look so worried” Boom helpfully added “she always looks like this” There followed an hour of selfies outside female urinals and many questions about their workings…..a warm up that involved me being a leaning post whilst he performed a my little pony style routine. He later admitted that some of was dancing in an attempt to “cheer me up” and a battle over jelly babies as he tried to convince me that they would do me good!
As race time approached I went to my pen to find it full…..so had to climb in the back. Imagine the iconic picture of the start I was the person right at the back that on the TV they say will be starting some time later…..It really did take ages to get to the start line and there was no iconic marathon music by the time I stepped across the line! But I had made it and was off!
Once I am off and running I have learnt never stop never look back