When folk from outside London think of Peckham, images of Nelson Mandela House spring to mind. In fact, like most of the capital's suburbs, the area has been somewhat gentrified and is home to Peckham Rye Parkrun, a flat, winding run through an Arboretum and over the River Peck.
It was at this location on a cold Saturday in January that we three competitors met up for the first time since our New Year's antics. All three of us were doing well, with Adrian and I setting PBs regularly, and Tommy having equalled his best time of 21 minutes dead just the week before.
So tension was high; it was unlikely that the pot would be won today, but someone could set down a strong marker. We lined up at the start with 114 other runners, like greyhounds waiting for the traps to open.
The starter released us and we stormed off. The pace was quick, and we would not be able to sustain it, but the adrenaline was pumping. 40 metres after the start, and Adrian was two paces ahead of Tommy, who was two paces ahead of me. We were in the leading pack with 5 or 6 other runners all jostling for position. This was shaping up to be an exciting race.
And then: disaster.
In front of me, I saw a tangle of legs. Tommy had got caught up with another runner, he stumbled...and then recovered...and then stumbled again. Seconds felt like minutes, as Tommy desperately tried to keep his footing, but to no avail. His knee was the first thing to hit the ground. His knuckles followed, as his hand went down to prevent his face hitting the tarmac. A quick roll, and he was on his back, facing the oncoming runners.
I stopped to help him up (along with other runners). Notable by his absence was Adrian. He had sped off, taking full advantage of the chaos. He was later quoted as saying: "I knew something was going on behind me, but I thought: 'There are plenty of other people who can deal with it', so I kept on running."
|Tommy's war wound no. 1|
Unsurprisingly, Adrian went on to record the fastest time of the three of us. In fact it was the fastest time that any of us have ever recorded, the first time any of the three of us have run under 21 minutes. It was a hollow victory though, as he will forever be remembered for abandoning his friend. Strictly speaking, he didn't break any of the rules of the competition (you can check the rules here), but what price integrity, honour and companionship?
|Tommy's war wound no. 2|
|The Road to Sub 20 competitors; with my future wife (who also ran a PB)|