I like having training goals and challenges to work towards. I enjoy following plans that tell you how to gradually progress towards faster times and longer distances. I also really enjoy exploring new running routes and appreciating the scenery. Which is precisely why I decided to run a half marathon 4 days before the ‘event’ and chose to do 528 laps of the garden as the route!
I’ve completed a fair few running events over the years, but hadn’t been running longer distances while in Mexico completing my professional scuba training. I managed 11km on a day when it was a bit rainy, but otherwise it was just too hot. So, on my untimely return to the UK, and before travelling to France to volunteer with refugee aid charity Care4Calais, I tried to come up with a suitable lockdown challenge that friends and family might sponsor me for. Inspired by Everest stair-climbs, balcony marathons and of course Captain Tom Moore, a half in the garden seemed the obvious choice. I measured the garden using my GPS running watch first of all, and calculated the number of laps. Then I panicked and measured it again using a tape measure to be sure but yes, 528 laps to make up the full 13.1 miles of a half marathon.
As event day dawned I already had a lot of generous sponsorship from people who thought it was mad enough to support. Event Director Mum had prepared the aid station, Event Photographer (also Mum) was poised at the start line and once the time-lapse camera had stopped falling over, I was off. The first lap went by in a flash - ‘click and buzz’ went my Garmin - one down, 527 to go. It only took about 40 laps for my brain to start getting bored “You’re really doing this for over twenty kilometres?!?!”. After around 60 laps my left ankle began protesting against all the sharp cornering involved. After 100 laps I changed direction. What a relief! My right leg was better at the corners. The first 100 hadn’t felt so bad. As planned, the aid station appeared around 40 minutes in - the sweet taste of water on thirsty lips! After changing direction again at 200 laps, I tried to put my brain to working out my pace and distance and it wasn’t long before the halfway point of 264 laps was in my sights.
The next aid station had snacks and more water and distracted me for about 20 circuits nibbling my energy bar and sipping the water. Just as I was questioning my entire existence, the ultimate boredom killer was introduced - Clover the dog was brought out to keep me company. Well, that was the plan, Clover has never been much into running and clearly couldn’t see the point of running in circles. She managed a pathetic four laps before being relegated to spectator. The next big milestone - ‘Parkrun to go’ just about coincided with the change of direction at 400 laps.
The grass held a visible testament to the number of loops already completed. As the final orbits were counted down, the full cheer team (Mum and Clover) burst into words of encouragement. “20 to go!” The crowds counted down the final 5 laps. “It’s finished!”. Final photograph before collapsing into a dining room chair. All the constant turning had really taken its toll on my ankles and hips. We staggered outside for the presentation ceremony, my first overall 1st place! The vegan chocolate in the goodie bag didn’t last long. At least there were no queues for the toilet on the way home.
As I stagger around the house in my stylish, homemade medal, I’ve decided I certainly won’t be doing that again, but I’m so pleased that my friends and family felt encouraged to donate to such an important charity. Care4Calais are working harder than ever trying to support displaced people living rough in northern France. Other agencies have been forced to cease operation for various reasons, and support from the French government is completely inadequate. More than £700 raised from this event will provide food packs for groups for around 30 people for 3 or 4 days. Thank you so much to everyone for their support!
Written by Hannah Parry: Hannah is an organist, divemaster and travel blogger currently figuring out how to get to Calais. Sponsor her https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Parry and follow her other adventures at www.hannahparry.co.uk