This was the first Olympic five mile race since the London 1908 Olympics, with the winner of this year’s race missing out on breaking the record by only three seconds. The event was full to the brim with celebrities wanting in on being one of the first to cross the finish line in the iconic Olympic Stadium. Many of whom were previous Olympians themselves, such as a certain Roger Black who gave us all an inspiring talk before our wave was ready to explore what the Olympic Park had to offer – “enjoy it, put a bit of fire in your belly but savour every step of your 300m in the Olympic Stadium because it’s very special.”
Marathoning royal, Princess Beatrice, started the race which saw wave after wave leave the start line shadowed by London’s newest landmark, the spiralling red Orbit, and begin to snake their way through the Olympic Park. The early stages of the course took participants through the Park’s common area and the recently landscaped City Mill River.
After crossing the River Lea, we passed the athlete’s village and got our first view of the Basketball Arena, one of the largest temporary venues ever built for any Games, and the graceful arc of the Velodrome. This was a particularly up close and personal part of the course as the route took us up onto the Velodrome’s concourse within touching distance of the iconic venue that will see the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Sarah Storey showcase their cycling talent.
We passed the Main Press and International Broadcast Centres, to then sneak a glimpse of the bright blue and pink hockey pitches through the yet-to-be-completed stands. It was here that only a fortnight ago the Duchess of Cambridge showed her Malborough School-honed hockey skills when visiting the GB hockey squads in her role as an official Team GB Ambassador.
Next up was the Copper Box, home to Handball, Goalball and the Fencing discipline of Modern Pentathlon, which was sadly giving off a dulled effect thanks to the typically cloudy British weather. This area of the park still looked like it needed a lot of work, however was still in keeping with the location’s industrial past.
It is clear that there is still plenty of work to do to the park, especially the public areas, which was evident by the construction workers that were scattered around the park working away. Despite their workload, many of them did stop to give us a cheer as we passed which was great on the hillier parts of the course where I needed that extra boost.
Then the wide eyed, goose-bump moment came. Just as the sun came out, the centre piece of the park, the Olympic Stadium, came into view. Instead of entering through the public entrance, we descended into the athlete’s tunnel where the acoustics echoed and we began to hear a faint noise that became clearer as we headed towards the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t just the expected noise of the 10,000 strong crowd in the stadium, but the organisers had put the iconic Chariots of Fire song on for runners to hear as they turned the corner and entered the stadium of the Olympic track for their final 300m.
Each runner was offered two spectator passes to share the experience with friends and family and provide a supportive crowd. This made running around the track that extra bit more special as everyone was searching the crowd for their loved ones, sharing the moment where they made history and became one of the first people to officially cross the Olympic finish line. I have to admit, the moment I hit that last 100m straight, I had a lump in my throat and even though my legs were tired, I managed to sprint my way down it, surprised to see a role reversal of GB athletes on the side cheering the public on to finish their Olympic race.
The day gave a fantastic glimpse at what London 2012 is going to feel like, both for a moment’s glimpse of what the athletes will see and experience from a track view, as well as for the rest of us, a spectator’s experience taking our seats in all these exciting venues.
I’d like to use this opportunity to say a big thank you to my friends Eliza Barrett and Hannah Oakes, who I shared this fantastic experience with and helped get me around the course. To find out more about my experience of the National Lottery Olympic Park Run, check out Sportsister’s features section for the event review coming soon!