Most Londoners (well, most Londonistas anyway) have a considered and careful plan of where to go if the city was taken over by zombies. Zombies move slowly, frequently bump into things and aren't fussy about traffic; if the day of the dead really did spring itself upon us, most of us would know what to do and where to go.
But how prepared are we for an invasion of really fast non-zombies? What should we do and where should we go if our city was suddenly taken over by thousands of people dressed in red t-shirts, each branded with a unique number and running with determined looks on their faces? If you haven't come up with a plan yet for that odd and unfeasible day when London is overrun with... well, people running, you'd better start planning pretty damn quick: the Nike 10km Run London event is taking place this Sunday with three simultaneous runs taking place in Hyde Park, Battersea Park and Victoria Park.
Three foolhardy Londonistas have entered and are facing the final days of training (or non-training) before committing themselves to the full 10km. Are they ready for it? Read on to find out...
Hazel (Hyde Park)
It's week 9 and golly, have I come a long way. Approximately 9km in fact - yes, that is the last distance I ran without stopping, puking, "doing my hair" or being tripped by kids breaking their ASBO curfews. I have changed from a heaving wretch who feels ill after going up a flight of stairs too quickly and have become a dedicated regular runner complete with headphones, pedometer and cunning little joggers' water bottle (a cherished present from someone who did the marathon so it's not only practical but also imbued with the mystical blessing and approval of a true long distance runner).
It's clear it will take me quite a long time to finish the full 10km. In all the evenings I've been pounding the streets of my local area, I've not managed to speed up very successfully. But I've decided I didn't sign up to this to record a brilliant and breathtaking time - I'm just running a specified distance at my own pace and enjoying it for the first time in my life. The progress I've made has amazed me and the people around me and my average week now includes not just a few sessions of running but also one night at the swimming pool, a pilates session and as much yoga as I can manage in my slightly too small flat. Did Nike change my life? Not really. Did Nike encourage me to change my own life? Yeah, I suppose so.
I may not be a very fast runner - I go slower than a Routemaster with three wheels. I may not be a particularly good runner - should my knees get so wobbly going around corners? Why has the second toe on my left foot turned black and will it go back to normal soon? But bloody hell - I'm a runner now and that's enough for me! I'm looking forward to Sunday and not fearing it any more: I will run that part of London and do my best for myself and everyone who has supported me and wished me well in this sporting endeavour. See you at the finish line!
Ken (Battersea Park)
Things I have learnt during training:
1. Football match fitness is a good base on which to build for a middle-distance run. I found it surprisingly easy to run a fair distance in my first proper training run. When once I feared not being able to finish even half the course, I am now thinking in terms of how to improve my time.
2. Football match fitness is not enough to start off a training run at 10kph. Much as I would love to be able to do the 10k in an hour, I would like very much to be able to walk by the end of it.
3. Watching the video for Beyoncé's Crazy In Love helps to pass the time and distance in a stupidly effective way. Watching football highlights, on the other hand, nearly caused me to stack it spectacularly, as I reflexively went up for a header; something not conducive to running on a treadmill.
4. Queens of the Stone Age's Feelgood Hit of the Summer is a surprisingly great running song; The Chemical Brothers' Hey Boy, Hey Girl is a surprisingly rubbish running song.
5. The part of the race between 3k and 5k will be the hardest for me. It represents some sort of barrier when I'm not yet 'in the zone' but have been running long enough to be bored of it, if the wrong songs on the iPod Shuffle come on. As long as I get through this, I think I should be fine.
6. I enjoy running more than I thought I ever would. I'm more of a team sports man but, provided I have good music to keep me occupied, I can push myself further than I ever thought would be possible during a lone sporting event. I even intend to continue the long running sessions after Sunday so, like Hazel, I grudgingly admit that perhaps this has changed my life. I don't think I've got that much fitter, I think I have just proved to myself that I am capable of more than I thought, an attitude that has transcended mere sporting activities.
Alex (Victoria Park)
Up until last weekend, things weren't looking too good for me. The topsy-turvey nature of my training schedule had continued into Week 4, when the feeling of omnipotence created by the purchase of a brand new pair of running shoes (from Run and Become , who are quite awesome and who will be featured on these pages very soon) soon lapsed into crushing impotence, brought on by a fierce cold and a gammy knee. Not a single run in two whole weeks and everything seemed ruined. The excuses and lack of willpower had won and I would have no option but to pull out of the race but then write about how well it had all gone and how I had naturally run a much faster time than Ken and Hazel.
However, the knowledge that Sunday represents not an end, but a beginning, spurred me back into action. I have committed myself to running the London Marathon in 2006 and if I can't find it within myself to run 10 kilometres in a local park, then I've got no business entertaining notions of 26 miles ending in triumph. So back to work it was. A short 20 min stretch of the legs was completed in mid-week and then last Sunday I finally capitulated and joined one of the official Nike training runs in Victoria Park. Certain aspects of it were as cringe-inducing as I feared, a communal warm-up for instance, is obviously a sound idea, but do we really need to be forced to shout 'YEAH!' when asked if we can feel a stretch? Pah. It was good to run with other people for a change though and whilst my competitive instincts caused a slight failure to pace myself over 5k ('heh -I'm fourth..I'm really good...this is a breeze....hmmm...feeling a bit tired now.....how long to go now? WHAT THE?!?! Who are all these people over-taking me? Godammit...'), they also helped me to post a respectable sub-30 minute time. Confidence was restored.
More running has been done this week in order to keep up the good work, the official race shirt has been picked up from a heaving Niketown and the dodgy knee has been treated with some sound advice from big sister (warm up longer than you normally would, stretch down fully at end, and nurofen and deep heat for the knee....sorted). I feel prepared. Just. I'm confident that I can complete on Sunday without killing myself, but I also know that I'd find it easier if I had trained more, and that there is a dark thought lurking in the back of my mind which tells me that a half-marathon (let alone the full whack) is never so forgiving. Still, one step at a time. Wish me luck.