Cleyhill Stompers, Sat 26th Apr
Mount Pleasant Social Club, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1SJ
Blues Night, Thu 17th Apr
The Swan (BofA), Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LN
Troy Ellis and Hail Reggae Band, Sat 12th Apr
Mount Pleasant Social Club, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1SJ
Wood festival, Fri 16th May
Venues across Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Spiers & Boden, Fri 16th May
Oxford Town Hall, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 1BX
By Jamie Hill
Interesting fact about Longleat Safari Park #5768 - It was opened in 1966 and was the first drive-through safari park outside Africa.
I didn't sleep too well last night. In fact I slept awfully. It was a combination of not being able to get to sleep and then waking up too early. All in all I clocked in about five hours sleep.
It was because I was worried about today's run.
The worry didn't end after I woke up. I was apprehensive about it for the entire hour's drive to Longleat having picked up my brother Mike along the way.
When we arrived there were thousands of people. I don't know the exact amount but it was definitely over a thousand.
And they were all wearing lycra.
Lycra was everywhere. I was drowning in a sea of lycra. I felt a little out of place as I hadn't read the dress code on the invite and didn't realise that wearing skin-tight lyrcra was what it was all about it.
Can I just say I don't personally think lycra is a good look? On anyone. It emphasises parts of your body that would be better off left to your imagination.
I tried not to look too closely at my brother Mike. Especially in his lycra leggings. I didn't want to have to deal with the flashbacks. There's certain things brothers don't need to know about each other.
I was wearing baggy trackie bottoms. Perfectly safe trackie bottoms.
As the start time neared, I quickly went to the toilet to make sure I didn't end up bursting for a wee halfway round. Is there a thing in running where professional male runners all have to have a poo beforehand to make themselves that much lighter for the race? The queue for the toilet stall was enormous (I suppose it could be a steroid thing that makes men poo. I'll have to ask Lance Armstrong some time). Luckily there was no queue for the urinals.
It was a bit like a carnival atmosphere as Mike, myself and my mum headed for the start line. My mum wasn't running. She was there solely to spectate and take pictures of us blurrily running past. I kind of knew that this might be a long shot in my head. My mum and technology are not a natural pairing. My hopes of her being able to work out the digital camera, despite its simplicity and the fact that we had shown her five times, were pretty low.
Mike and I headed to the back of the start line behind hundreds of people. They had placed it so the fastest people could choose to be at the front and the slowies like me, that bloke over there on crutches, the guy dressed as a bunny rabbit and anyone over the age of 75 could choose to be at the back.
And we were off.
Well, when I say off, the front runners were off. They were at the start line a hundred yards ahead of me, and they were speeding away like greyhounds chasing a rabbit.
Mike and I weren't off. No, we started shuffling towards the start line very slowly. Caught in a press of thousands. It was like an M25 bottleneck.
And then, when we finally reached the start line, we were released from the bottleneck like a Champagne cork and there was finally enough space for us to start running.
The first thing I saw was my mother take a picture of the tarmac in front of our feet as she completely missed the shot.
The first kilometre was really slow going. I'm a slow runner but some of these people were so slow that I expect they have to get up at five in the morning to walk down the stairs ready for breakfast at seven (a bit like my dad).
They were slow. So for the first kilometre, you end up having to overtake people. A lot.
There was even one woman who started to walk in front of me after about a hundred yards. We hadn't even reached the first hill yet. Going round her with so many other runners around was pretty damn difficult. Bloody big bottomed girl. And she was wearing lycra. She probably had enough lycra covering that bottom that it would have supplied the whole of the principality of Liechtenstein for a year. As you can tell, I was pretty annoyed with her for stopping in front of me. It's unfair of me to insult her really. She's probably doing a lot of good by doing the race. And all respect to her for doing it. JUST DON'T STOP RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME NEXT TIME!
The thing about running with other people is that if they are slightly slower than your pace you feel you have to accelerate to get past them. That means you increase your pace faster than you would normally go to get past them.
Then we hit 'The Hill'. This was a kilometre and a half long and very steep. We were only about 500 metres into the race when it came.
What surprised me the most was the amount of runners who slowed down to a walk to tackle 'The Hill'. They were dropping like flies.
'The Hill' definitely lived up to its name. It was very steep. Steeper than anything I had tackled in my training runs. 'The Hill' was still going strong when we passed the 2k mark. It seemed to be never-ending. To start a run off like this was both mentally and physically challenging. It was good that Mike was there as he was tackling it with ease so I had to keep up with him.
Then the hill finished and what goes up must come down as we descended for ages. Running down hill was a real piece of piss compared.
The downhill stretch took us back past the start line. I noticed my mum had been joined by my other brother Dave and his daughters. He was taking pictures meaning we wouldn't have to rely on my technophobe mother to document the event with her interesting pieces on tarmac.
As I passed them I did a stupid loping run whilst grinning like a madman at them with my thumbs up. That seemed to make my nieces laugh.
The next bit was going to be flat according to my map that I had studied for all of 30 seconds before. Blessed flatness. For about four kilometres before we had to tackle 'The Hill' again.
I had managed to get into a rhythm at this point. I must admit having Mike running alongside me was good. He kept speaking to me to tell me how fast we were doing each kilometre. I could just about hear him and then, because I had my headphones on listening to music, I invariably shouted a reply at the top of my voice and he would have to make a signal for me to lower the volume.
We passed the four kilometre point and it all seemed to be going well.
And then something bad happened.
There was another hill ahead. I could see people snaking up it into the distance. This hadn't been in the brochure.
It was a stealth hill. A ninja hill that had jumped out on us. And it was steep.
I felt my whole body sag as I saw it ahead. Mike said that we should take it slowly and not burn ourselves out. I took his advice.
This second hill seemed to be a lot harder than 'The Hill'. People were slowing down to walks again around us but we kept going.
Halfway up we passed the 5k marker. Usually knowing that I was halfway would give me a little boost but not when we were in the middle of a bastard hill that had leapt out of nowhere. Every muscle in my body was hurting at this point.
Eventually we reached the top and there was another downward stretch again. I've decided I like downhill stretches. They're my friend.
The next couple of kilometres were hard. My breath was pretty damn ragged at this point. Weirdly seeing other people finding it as difficult as me was actually comforting.
Mike was good at this point. He could see I was suffering and was egging me on. He, personally, seemed to be taking everything in his stride and didn't even seem out of breath. Bloody hell he's in good shape for a 44 year old. Bloody over-achieving competitive older brother. I wasn't going to let him see that I was dying. I had to keep going. And I did.
At the 7k point we saw my brother Dave, mum and my two nieces again. This time, there was no silly thumbs up or loping run on my part. I think I managed to smile at them through my pain. It probably looked more like a grimace though.
And then we had 'The Hill' to contend with again. I was in no fit state for this.
People were slowing down to a walk again around us. I wanted to join them. But I didn't. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
At that moment I hated hills more than anything else in the universe. Why couldn't the earth be completely flat? What was the point of them? Alright, they look nice in the distance but to actually traverse up one when you've already run seven kilometres is not nice at all. In fact it's pure hell.
I kept on running though. Mike seemed to be finding it a lot easier than me. He kept having to turn around to see how far behind I was getting. At one point he was even running in front of me backwards to try and egg me on. How the billy heck did he have energy to be running backwards? Where's all his bloody energy coming from?
We passed the 8k mark halfway up the hill. I was really struggling at this point. There was a part of me that was beginning to make quite a rational argument in my head to just stop. Don't do any more. This thought process was getting more and more angry as I continued until it was shouting at me in my head, "For the love of God! Just bloody stop! Are you mad? You're in pain. You are exhausted. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!"
I think this was my wall.
I've heard about these 'wall' things. They're points where a runner just can't carry on. When a runner can no longer continue.
I carried on running.
And then I was at the top of 'The Hill'. I had beaten it. For some reason this gave me even more energy.
I knew now that I would do this. I knew that there was only a kilometre or so left and it was all downhill.
We passed a pub. A pub has never looked more inviting in my life. A lovely pint of real ale would have gone down really nicely about now.
And then we were at the 9k mark and we were heading downhill. Our pace had increased.
A few minutes later and the finish line could be seen about half a kilometre in the distance. Mike was beckoning me to increase the pace. I couldn't.
But with 400 metres to go we did.
I started to run as fast as my body could take me. I was overtaking people. The finish line was getting closer and closer. I knew my mum, brother and nieces would be watching somewhere but I was too lost in my sprint finish to think of anything else. In reality it probably wasn't a sprint at all, but the pace the really fast runners did the whole thing in, but it felt like one to me.
Mike was running alongside me. I, now, wanted to beat him.
And there was the finishing line and I crossed it ahead of Mike. I had beaten him.
I had done it.
I had completed the 10k!
They even gave me a medal shaped like a lion. And a goody bag.
The goody bag had an energy drink in it called pussy. I love a bit of pussy after doing a 10k run. It left me feline great!
I was exhausted. Sweat was rolling off me like a tsunami. But I had done it.
And I had done it in my quickest time ever. I had beaten the hour mark. We completed it in 59minutes and 31 seconds. That's a minute faster than my fastest ever training run.
During this challenge I have achieved three things -
1. I had run 10k in under an hour.
2. I had lost nine pounds in weight. My belly is still there but it's a lot less than it has been for the past three years.
3. And I've managed to raise £1,290 so far for ICP Support - the charity that helps women suffering from a severe pregnancy condition called 'Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy' which my wife has got at this very moment meaning we're going to have to induce our baby at 34 weeks on Monday February 11. That was the reason I've been putting myself through this hell.
I know as far as the fundraising is concerned a lot of people might have been waiting until I completed the challenge. Well I've completed it now. If you've enjoyed my blog, think I've achieved something or are just feeling generous please donate to my cause. You can find out more and donate at http://www.justgiving.com/28daysofpain
I did it and now I can't stop smiling.