Simplyhealth Great Team Relay 2018

parkrun done, it was time to pin on an actual number and line up for a race. I’d been invited to take part in the Simplyhealth Great Team Relay, an event requiring a team of four runners to run 5k each round the Olympic park, passing a baton between them. 

I know a lot of runners, so I asked three of my favourites to join me and we dug out our Team Rainbow shirts. Team Rainbow was born several years ago for a team event, though I don’t remember what it was.

Over the years we’ve picked up a couple of new members and encouraged each other through races both individually and as a team. We swam a Team relay, an iron relay, ran a marathon together, celebrated a hen party with a 10k and when I was running an 80k ultra through Paris I carried them all with me in my pocket, cheering me on via our lively group chat. There wasn’t a more fitting way for me to return to racing than with three of this brilliant baby bunch of humans. 

After dusting both literal and metaphorical cobwebs off my bike, I made my way through east London to the Olympic Park. We looked at the crowd of runners in their various team shirts waiting to enter the former Olympic stadium. It was pretty man-heavy and we discussed what our chances were of making the podium for the all female team category. There were prizes for first female, first male and first mixed team.

Once inside, numbers secured to our chests and running order confirmed, it was time for Laura S to take the baton and the first leg. Laura, who has also had a baby in the past year, was our sensible, measured start. We waited for the first runners who re-entered the stadium after 16 minutes, then a few minutes later the first woman came running down the home straight.

We cheered all the runners back towards their teams, waiting for our own Laura S who brought the baton safely round, not going off too fast as many around her did and avoiding weaving. She delivered the baton to the changeover with some important information: “stick it in the back of your bra!”

There was no fumbling as the baton passed safely from Laura to Josie, well within the changeover box. The we’d shrugged off the stigma of British teams dropping batons as though we’d been coached by Gareth Southgate. Josie was off round the track and out into the park. 

We looked up at the team standings on the big screen, but our name wasn’t showing in the first page of results. There were more female teams than we’d expected. 

I took my place in the changeover box and Josie, with the face of someone who’d been reminded just how painful a 5k can be, passed me the baton. She’d shown me 23 minutes into my future and it didn’t look great. 

Still, being on the Olympic track with a crowd of people cheering made the legs do what the mind was reluctant to. I followed the trail of runners round 300m of the oval and out into the bowels of the stadium. After taking a loop under the stadium, the route spat us out onto the warm-up track and then out into the park. 

It was a warm Wednesday evening. The race had begun shortly after 6:30pm but the air was still hot and humid. My baton tucked safely in the back of my bra, I focused on the runners ahead, overtaking as many as I could. The 4km marker seemed to take an eternity to arrive. I wanted to stop, but three other runners would be trying their hardest for the team, surely I could put up with five more minutes. 

Heading back into the stadium and down the finishing straight, I could see Cathy straight ahead. The fastest member of our team, we’d put her last in the Usain Bolt leg knowing her own legs would give his a run for their money, hopefully without the pulled hamstring. 

One of the team handed me a beer and presented me with my medal. It seemed wrong to receive the medal before all our runners had finished, but I had no such issue with accepting the beer.

The clock ticked over, we struggled to do the maths to decipher when Cathy would be heading back, but then she was there, tearing past us and over the line. And then we could hear her too. She was being interviewed on the finish line and the announcer was saying something about winning. And then the big screens confirmed it: Team Rainbow, first women’s team.

We’d negative split our way through the field, each running as hard as we could and collectively achieved something that none of us could individually; we’d run faster than the other women in the field. That’s teamwork.

Everyday health care provider, Simplyhealth kindly gave me the place in the race. Team Rainbow made it great. If you’re following along, I ran 23:22, just 5 seconds slower than the parkrun from a couple of weeks ago.