“I’m afraid your number isn’t on my list”.
Dreaded words, not in the numerous dreams I’ve had this week about not being able to find my kit, getting lost on the course, or getting to the start, but the words I heard as I brandished my official entry letter today at the Excel Centre.
Part of the tradition of the London Marathon, in fact most of the bigger marathons, is the trip to collect your number, your pass to enter the exclusive entry gate so you can finally cross that start line.
“I’m sorry?” I said brandishing my photo id as though this would suddenly make my number appear on the list in front of the very personable London Marathon volunteer. “If you just go to the help desk I’m sure they’ll be able to sort you out”.
“Ok” I said sheepishly, suddenly wondering if this was another dream and I was about to be sent on a long marathon-like chase round the long open spaces of the Excel Centre searching for this elusive race number.
25128 since you ask. That’s all I was there to collect, my race number, my timing chip and the required toddle round the expo looking at all things running you have no intention of buying or looking at, but somehow seem magically drawn to at any exhibition of this kind.
“I’m going to need more than a help desk if this number isn’t here” I thought, “especially if this is all some cruel misadventure”.
So at the helpdesk I explained the situation, the chap nodded, tapped something into his computer, and promptly said “I need to go out to the back, I won’t be long”. Thank god it wasn’t “Computer says NO”.
“The back” I thought. “What’s at the back? Where’s my bloody number? How long is this going to take?” I kept thinking, whilst maintaining a calm and understanding smile. What’s that about swans? Calm on the surface, paddling like mad beneath.
“I’ve run all the way to Hamburg and a bit, how can this be happening?” I thought, still smiling…. grimacing…gurning?
After a shortwhile there he was and yes he had an envelope. “My precious” I thought.
So with ties, safety pins, number and my last minute instructions I collected my timing chip to fix to my shoe and wandered through the big Adidas welcoming portal. Seems they might be sponsoring the race this year – kit to the left of me, kit to the right of me. “Must resist” I thought.
These exhibitions are very funny, quite alien places that are marked by a funny drama playing out all the time. Essentially you are there to look around and all these people on the stands are there desperate to suck you in to their stands to view/buy their products, enter their race, or try their bars, blocks, gels or drinks. Flyers and other offers are all handed out offering a range of discounts. It is amazing the stuff that’s on offer including the Hannover Marathon, other trips to hot parts of the world to run in half or full marathons, and even a Zombie Evacuation race (5k over obstacles escaping from the grasps of zombies, you can even volunteer to be a ‘Zombie’ “the fittest are the tastiest” goes the blurb. “Must resist” I thought.
So did I crack? Have I returned with items I never intended to purchase?
Of course I bloody did.
Two pairs of racing socks and a couple of post-race bars was the sum total of my purchases. The reasoning, well I do need a new pair and after last year it’s lucky to have new socks for the race.
And so to leaving, and the opportunity to collect my goody bag and make my way home. And the contents of said goody bag to smooth my way to race day?
A small bag of Wholemeal Basmati rice (bizarre), very small tube of toothpaste (practical), chewy glucose tablets (potentially useful), oat bar (eaten, but crunchy so no good as an immediate post-race snack – see a previous blog entry), sweet chilli peanuts (curious), and a plant based running food (intriguing, especially with the accompanying photo showing it sprinkled on ice cream).
So early to bed tonight, sleep maybe hard on Saturday night.
I’m ridiculously excited, it’s like the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood all over again. And as I travel on Sunday ‘santa-like’ with my red sack of kit, I know I’m going to enjoy this.
A wish fulfilled at last, after many twists and turns that have taken me to Hamburg and beyond. Leaving the non-running Goths behind and concluding with a few Nan Jogs.
Now the final leg, and a final blog in this series.
I’ll let you know how it went in the next entry…