Grit, Kindness, Beauty

If you do three things, you should click on:

It is two days after the Hampton Court Half Marathon, and I am still in shock, walking around in a daze. The culmination of a long, arduous, powerful journey from October to March, including parkruns, longer runs, and weekly training at the Olympic Park.

The Journey

1
The inaugural session, November
2
Excitement at the track, Mo Farah style
3
Buzz!
4
November teamwork
8
December parkrun
5
January focus
6
February speed
7
March excitement
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Building identity
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Friday anticipation
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The supporters stayed till 630 on Friday evening making a personal sign for each and every student runner.

The morning

Bitterly cold weekend. “So cold that I couldn’t leave the house” complained one teacher the next week. Not for 21 brave students, who all turned up at 645am at Stratford station, carb-loaded up, nervous, swaddled in layers, ready. We met a gaggle of 19 teachers at Waterloo, joined a train crammed full of lycra-clad athletes (and my dad), and were off out to Hampton Court. This was the only race across the whole country to not be cancelled – so lucky!

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The team crosses the Thames
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Pre-race pic

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The race (complete pics here)

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Binbags and grins at the start
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Guyan hadn’t run in 20 years before November… His family were at the finish line cheering like mad
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Brothers
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Happy team
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James, Noemi, Jezza
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Lifelong mate
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Joe and Noemi strike out together

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Ahmet – first student finisher – pushing himself to the limit

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Thahura bumps into Esther
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Partnership
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Heather’s PB. Excellently muddy.
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Debs storming to the finish
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Teacher and student reaching out to each other

Story One: James and Kindness

Mark and I ran with James for the whole course. See his excellent blog here. Throughout, strangers were remarkably generous to James. Is he okay? Should I call a medic? Does he want the last of my food? Does he want my coat? Questions and concern and help came flooding in as James slowly sunk more and more into pain.

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Mark and James on south bank of Thames

After passing the six 21 cheer squad, I felt really good and threw my hands upwards like I just won a 12 round fight in a boxing match.

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A calmer pose
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Volunteers look after James at the finish

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Pushed himself to the utter limit

Story Two: Zepora and Grit

A flash of red hair from a lower level of the gardens, and Heather and I gave chase, jumping over barriers and climbing a wall to meet Zepora, just after Mile 8. She had been running for 1 minute, walking for 1 minute, and continued to do so, like a machine, for an astonishing 4 hours 44 minutes and 22 seconds. What incredible self-discipline. Never stopping the flow, never stopping moving. Smiling throughout.

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Muddy hills are not helpful
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4 hours in and still happy

Students and teachers had waited out in the cold, well after their race had finished, to cheer Zepora in at the finish. What a sight to see 10 students sprinting towards us to bring her home, screaming their hearts out.

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Story Three: Wintana and Beauty

Wintana (supporter) was bowled over by the beauty of the palace (built 503 years ago!). She pinkie-promised her friends that they would return in the summer to explore the world-famous maze. Daniel and I had deliberately chosen a race in a beautiful and relatively distant location, to encourage the students to get out of the East London bubble.

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W supporting Rodi
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Flowers and snow!
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Sublime architecture

The Aftermath

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Runners and supporters enjoying a hard-earned meal (provided very kindly by our sponsors!)

On Tuesday in assembly, we reflected:

If you spend your life doing nothing but watching television and playing computer games, you will have nothing to tell to harpies in the world of the dead, and there you will stay.

The highlight was the 10 minutes of students popping up, in front of 150 of their peers, and recognising other people for kindness on race-day. A pregnant silence at the beginning eventually gave way to outpourings of gratitude. Thanks for never giving up on me, thanks for always encouraging me, thanks for all the support, thanks for dragging me over the line. We are deliberately creating a culture of recognition in the sixth form, and the authentic and eloquent tributes were testament to the hard work invested from the start.

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Admiring the posters
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Writing thank-you notes to our sponsors – George’s lovely parents.

Post-script:

Thank you to Daniel for training and collaboration, Steve for expertise, Heather and Debs for supporting the girls, Karenann for leading the supporters, Martin for mopping up late students, Rachael for cheering at the finish in the freezing cold, Mark for caring for James, Papa for taking photos, and many more kind and lovely people. Such a great team effort from the teachers.

The next challenge: Run21 takeover Hackney Marshes Parkrun, 200 students from school run it. 19th May. Game on.

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