Clapham Common Chase the Sun

Last week, we had an outbreak of the other kind of weather. Hot, sunny, weather. Finally, it was time to turn off the heating, take off the woolly socks and go swimming without worrying about how I would get the feeling back in my fingers afterwards. The only problem with hot, sunny weather is that it brings its friend Mr Pollen with it. You may recall that I suffer from such nasty hayfever that last summer I caught coronavirus and didn’t even realise because I am used to my respiratory system falling apart every May. Last Wednesday the air was thick enough to chew and I spent the whole of the journey to Clapham Common pouring Optrex into my eyes desperately trying to get them to stop itching enough to at least be able to see where I was going. As I reached the common, the sky clouded ominously and I was confident enough of rain to dare to remove my sunglasses. It was 28C and incredibly humid and I was glad at I was at Clapham Common, a course dogged with tree roots and a gravel finish akin to running along Brighton Beach – not a course for a fast time, so no point in knackering yourself giving it your all.

At the beginning of the race. Can’t bring myself to look for mid-race photos!!

But I hadn’t bargained for quite what an effect this weather would have on me. I set off at what my legs and watch thought was a fairly leisurely pace, but after less than a kilometre, I was puffing and panting the way I would after a sprint finish. I had thought that my previous best time at Clapham (37:58) was a rather low hanging fruit and that I would easily beat it, but now I wasn’t so sure. I slowed down to the sort of pace I do my long slow runs at, the sort of pace where I am usually not even slightly out of breath and could happily sing along to my music and shout obscenities at people overtaking me if I wanted to (I try not to do these things because it might get me arrested.) But I was still out of breath, in fact, more so. After a lap of steadily decreasing pace, I felt that my only options were to stop or to walk, so I walked. I literally can’t remember the last time I had to walk in a 5k, unless it was up a very steep hill or very deep mud. Even when I was injured a year or so ago I managed to plod, hobble and limp my way round. Worse still, even walking didn’t seem to make me feel any better. I just couldn’t get my breath back and my heart rate was about thirty beats per minute higher than what I’d expect for my (lack of) pace. I felt a mixture of worry and embarrassment and wasn’t really sure what to do so carried on following the route figuring that I would either recover or collapse at some point and if it were the latter it would be best to do so where someone would find me.

In the end, after what felt like the longest 5k in the world, I did neither and wheezed my way over the line at walking pace and then sat straight on the ground. A bloodthirsty paramedic leapt on me and started asking me what I’d had for lunch and other insightful questions. I finally started to get my breath back at this point and started feeling very embarrassed as he took my pulse and listened to my chest before telling me that I was in fact, not dying, or ill in any way and that I could go home. I felt like a complete idiot because all that was wrong with me was hayfever and I was being full on drama queen but at one point it really felt like I would never be able to breath normally again!

When I got home I took all my vital statistics (normal), did a lateral flow test (negative), sent off for a PCR (also negative) and then poured myself a large tequila of shame.

Things can only get better!

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