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Tuesday 1 July 2014

Trotting out the Excuses and Exploding Bladders: 2 Castles Race

This race promised a lot. There were blue skies, warm sunshine and no PB pressures. I’d met up with my running club, Northbrook AC and we’d posed for a photo with the castle in background. We looked confident and slick and like serious athletes and quite different to the devoted cake-aholics we actually are.

Northbrook AC (Pic taken from here)

The start of the 2 Castles race was on the ancient cobblestones in the courtyard of Warwick Castle and it was the most beautiful setting for a race start. Or it would have been if there wasn’t a massive great loo queue stretching across half of it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how old the cobblestones are or how beautiful the castle is if the one thought repeating through your mind is “Bloody hurry up, Person-In-The-Portaloo. I am in danger of dampening my lycra.” And hopping from leg to leg like you’re starring in some strange crouchy aerobics class video. But with gurning.

I was standing in the longest toilet queue since the London Marathon and worryingly, at the end of this gargantuan line were only 5 portaloos, huddled together as though supporting each against this influx of incontinent runners. Maybe they were ALL occupied by people with extremely nervous tummies or the organisers had forgotten to unlock them as the queue didn’t seem to be getting any shorter.

There are many benefits of being a girl – pretty shoes, being able to chick blokes to finishing lines, being first to leave sinking shops - but I was conscious that this was a queue of females only. The chaps were looking at the length of the queue, weighing up the wait and strolling casually off to find a secluded spot to water the gardens. I imagined families walking round the castle later on in the day wondering why the whole area smelled faintly of urine. “Maybe it’s to simulate the smells of the olden days, Tarquin. So clever these historians ...”

It was a few minutes to 9am and although Bladder Alert had moved from orange to red, in terms of actual space, I estimated I’d moved approximately 10ft despite being in the queue 20 minutes. Unless I was prepared to ignore the starters horn, wait for my turn in the plastic cube of poo and then sprint to catch up the rest of the runners then I needed to find my place in the starting pen. I desperately accepted that I’d have to find a bushy hedge along the first mile of the route. I know I wasn’t going for a PB, but I was pretty sure that wouldn’t do my race time any good. I’d be the only person finishing the race with wet trainers on a hot day, leaves in my hair and with a really good negative split.

I had no choice – it was time to get into the start pen. I dropped out of the queue and prepared for a really uncomfortable race. Possibly with hopping until I spotted a nice bushy bush. At least I’d remembered my hayfever tablet. Sneezing could be really bad right about now. My trainers could do with a wash but preferably not in urine.

I saw Lozza and Helen briefly in the courtyard of Warwick Castle on my way to the pen. Helen mentioned later that I looked “a bit peed off”. Nope. If the portaloo queue had moved quicker and I’d peed off, I’d have looked a LOT happier.

However, my look of panic and distinctive gurn was spotted by some club mates and they gave me the best news possible ... there were some deserted toilets in a far part of the castle. I lurched off as fast as my crossed legs would carry me. Empty loos ... and loo roll. It was a race loo dream.

By the time I got to the race pens, I discovered that they weren’t pens as such but a mass, a huddled mass of people all squished into a tiny high walled lane overshadowed by trees so we couldn’t see the sunshine and blue skies we knew were there. I spotted a couple of club friends, Linda and Chris and we chatted the time away until the start of the race. We were a bit too far back for our race times, but we were wearing timing chips on our shoes and I wasn’t going for a PB so it was a lovely relaxed start to a race. Best of all I no longer needed the loo. Life was good.

Not needing a wee = happy (pic source Tim Nunan)

The starting horn blew and everyone applauded and a few moments later we all began to move forwards in anticipation. The first section was all downhill. A lovely downhill, through the castle gates, over a roundabout past some pretty houses and through the town of Warwick before heading out onto the lanes. Pretty scenery, the sun was shining, I longer needed the loo ... all was good, right?

Pre-excuses … (pic source Tim Nunan)

Yep. You would have thought so ... no PB pressures, no bladder pressures, just a nice run in the sunshine. Instead I started trotting out the excuses ...

1/ Everyone had told me this wasn’t a PB course ... so why should I bother running quickly. In fact, why am I running? Why don’t I just stop and walk? It got to the point (at about 5.5km in) where I decided I was actually going to drop out and walk. Then I realised that it was a point to point race, I was already halfway done and I HAD TO KEEP GOING IF I WANTED TO CATCH THE COACH HOME. Yep. I kept running simply because walking was slower. Can everyone say “Lazy cow”??

2/ Apparently at mile 3 there was a MASSIVE HILL and at mile 6 a MASSIVE HILL... And everyone knows Warwickshire is practically mountainous. (Cough, cough, pancake-flat, cough) Besides, it’s absolutely physically impossible to get a PB of any sort if there’s a hill anywhere near where I’m running. Right? Even if I just see one on the horizon.

3/ I’d had a dodgy tummy last night. I don’t want to aggravate the Poo Fairy by running too fast. This never happened. My tummy was fine. I’m not even convinced the Poo Fairy even exists.

4/ It was too hot ... EVERYONE knows your legs fall off if you try to run when it’s too sunny.

5/ I’d already run a 10k PB recently ... I don’t want to be greedy and try and get another one, do I?

6/ I had a marathon in a week – I was conveniently forgetting the 10k PB I’d run the week before London marathon.

7/ I’d started too far back so the course was congested ... it was on roads ... not tightropes. I could overtake if I needed to.

8/ I’d damaged myself due to waiting for a portaloo ... Obviously a bladder rupture was imminent. I didn’t want to run too fast and explode all over everyone.

There we are ... I’d set myself up to fail ... so it wouldn’t matter if I did. What a tit.

It was a lovely course, starting at Warwick Castle and ending in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle. The route weaved through the lanes and villages and the roads were dry and easy to run on. Also because I’d started a little way back, I was seeing more Northbrook club members than usual as I was moving through the crowd rather than staying with the same group of runners. I kept an eye out for my Hampton Magna running buddy but the distinctive orange vest didn’t materialise on the horizon. It was a warm day on a very slightly undulating course and I should have been enjoying the scenery, the running and the sunshine but instead I was going over and over my running excuses in my head.

The expected MASSIVE HILLS didn’t materialise ... the course was undulating but not hilly. It was warm but the organisers had planned well and set up an additional 2 water stations. I’d started a little way back but as it was chip timed, this wasn’t a problem and, needless to say, the massive bladder explosion didn’t happen, people didn’t get drenched with urine and exploded body parts and I didn’t have to get scooped up off the road with a spoon and buried in a shoebox.

Also unsurprisingly I didn’t get a PB. But I’m blaming this entirely on the bloke who PUSHED ME OUT OF THE WAY ON HIS SPRINT TO THE FINISH LINE (What happened to MANNERS Mr.Stampy?) and not at all on the fact that I didn’t pace myself properly and didn’t run at the speed I needed to get one. Yep. Completely his fault.

I also don’t believe in the Poo Fairy.

(Disappears under steaming heap of manure that miraculously appears from nowhere)

A bit of crazy golf post-race. Best way to stop The Sulks.


19th lady / 1345
258th /3490
Garmin Info here 


  1. Every single one of your race posts makes me laugh SO hard. Thank you! x

    1. I'm glad you enjoy them!! Writing them is like running the race again - it's good to get it all down. But in a sitting-down way :)

  2. My goodness if we ever ever run together I don't think I'll be able to keep a straight face :)

    1. Well I wouldn't run BEHIND me, that's for sure! :)

  3. Ha, I had to pull out due to being double booked on a weekend away in Norwich, dammit. I was at Northbrook this weekend wondered if you'd be there for round 3 but the PF bout explains it. Doing Kenilworth half in september if you fancy out sprinting me over the last mile again..

    1. Hope the Northbrook 10k went well - it's a good course. The first half is hard but that amazing downhill all the way to the end makes up for it! I'll have to have a look at the dates of Kenilworth and see whether I can get there. Every year it's clashed with something else on my calendar but I'll see if I can get there this year.