Stap My Vitals!
I must confess my recollection of where I first heard this phrase is hazy, and definitely comes with a kind of Long John Silver Cornish accent: "Well stahp me vittles!"; but it's a recurring theme in John Vanbrugh's Restoration comedy, "The Relapse". (Learn more here.)
Some research shows that there was a production at the National Theatre in 2001: sample review, "Alex Jennings is highly camp and side splittingly funny as Lord "Stab me vitals!" Foppington but Vanbrugh's play lacks lustre when Jennings is not on stage". Was it that I saw? Dunno, but I'm prepared to bet a significant sum of money that I wasn't there for the original 17th century production.
Anyway, it's a bit of a running joke in the play, and that's about as close a connection to running as I can think of, but as my regular readers will know, I like to be creative in my connections.
So, the Vitality London 10,000 — presumably '10k' doesn't sound big enough — is upon us, and Amanda and Claire have got special free or bargain entries for doing loads of parkruns and/or being members of London clubs and/or other stuff. To be quite honest, Amanda probably wouldn't bother if she had to pay the headline price, and I doubt she's the only one, but in the circumstances it's probably going to be a bit of fun.
Fun? On a Bank Holiday Monday, I have to get up earlier than I would if it was a working day?! Yeah, ok, I'm still definitely not a runner (alright: I run sometimes, but not because I'm a "runner", it's because my toxic masculinity means I can't back down in front of women!), but I seem to have somehow got sucked in to the Dark Side nevertheless.
Victoria Station would normally be the most convenient London terminus, but engineering works have scuppered that option, so we look at our alternatives and decide that it's probably going to be easiest to just go to Waterloo and walk. Google offers various alternative public transport routes, but they're more faff than they're worth.
So we'll walk from Waterloo, and what do we see?
Gosh, the Elizabeth Tower is finally free of the scaffolding, and Big Ben is revealed to the world once more! (Well, no, you can't actually see Big Ben. You did know that, didn't you?)
This is one of those buildings we've seen countless times and just somehow never thought about until today. It's almost like a French Château, but it transpires that it's "Whitehall Court", and was built as a kind of 19th century version of today's Internet scams.
Ok, not just historical, but back on theme too: Amanda is heading down The Mall towards the start.
Some random guy is having a bit of a jog before the race.
I won't wait for the start, because I want to get some pictures at Trafalgar Square so I need to get there while I still can.
The wheelchair elites are the first to go. I'm not sure if there are any wheelchair non-elites, because even the back markers seem to have these seriously high-tech carbon fibre racing chairs, and I can't help thinking that I'd need an engine to keep up with the slowest of them.
Here are the first of the running folk. As you can see, His Holiness the Mo isn't actually forging ahead. By the time you are reading this, it will no longer be a spoiler to say that his day is not about to get better.
Now, I have a theory that I can get a more scenic angle with Nelson's Column behind the runners from a slightly different spot. Here, if I zoomed out enough to get the whole column in the picture, the runners themselves would be a bit insignificant.
My plan works!
We didn't know Ceara would be here, and out of the 16,000 or so runners, it was a bit random to bump into her on The Mall before the start. The Epsom Oddballs yellow top is a similar colour to Stragglers, so I'm sensitised to looking out for people in yellow. We will later find that Maria Jovani is also in this wave (and with an absolutely stonking time, is probably towards the front where the field is quite thin) but we don't see each other.
And it's Phil. We didn't see him before the start (and won't see him afterwards), but Amanda says they had a bit of a chat in the staging area before starting.
Aha, here comes Amanda!
I think this works quite well. The official pictures at Trafalgar Square are pretty hopeless,
I suppose if I'm being generous, I'm able to concentrate on the few rather than the many, and to be scrupulously fair, Sportograf do considerably better here than they did at the Vitality Big Half in 2021, when I was more than a bit scathing about them:
I'll add to that previous negative review by saying that while the facial recognition came up with no false positives, there most definitely were false negatives (ie, pictures of Amanda that weren't identified by the algorithm) which I found by manual searching. Of course, if the photographers had accurately set the time on their cameras, that would have been really useful. (Me, I have a download program I wrote that compares the camera's time with highly accurate Internet time providers and adjusts the photo timestamps if necessary, then updates the camera to be exactly right again. Perhaps I should be selling this...)
"Hi, Jo!" - which I don't actually say because I don't realise it's her for a moment, and then it's too late. I see the Dulwich vest, but not the human being inside, which I think makes me a bad person in 2022, but I'm not sure. It's so difficult to know what to feel guilty about as a boomer these days. I doubt any of you will be surprised to learn that I don't bother feeling guilty at all, as it's just too much like hard work. Sorry, Millennnials and Gen Z-ers...
I had thought that Claire was in the wave directly after Amanda's (green), but it turns out she's actually the second after that At this point, I'm thinking that the waves have gone through and I have somehow missed her, but I hang on a bit because there's no great rush yet, and lo and behold, she's there in the Grey wave.
Only five drummers drumming? Good job it's not the days of Christmas, I suppose.
The elites are nearing the end before the majority have even started! And look, that's some guy nobody has ever heard of in the lead! It will turn out to be the sensation of the day, but we'll leave them to it and get back to the mere mortals.
Because it's a pretty much straight out-and-back route, there's no way I can get ahead on foot, and I haven't brought my bike, so I basically need to stay in or near Trafalgar Square
Phil is the first of our crew to get back here. Yes, he is there in the picture, look more closely!
Ceara's not far behind, but she knows how to get photographed!
Slightly out of shot in the previous three pictures, there's a guy sitting on the ground on the inside of the corner with a camera. Few if any of the runners even notice him (unless they are taking a tight enough line that they nearly trip over him), but it will turn out that he's one of the official photographers. Suffice to say that when we get the gallery link and go looking, we're not impressed.
They head off down Whitehall and I will now try to be ahead of Amanda at the finish line. I can take a much shorter route, although I've no idea what access will be like when I get there.
It's tight, but I make it. Unfortunately, Amanda doesn't see me at all, and then she gets shunted off where I can't see her either. I make my way to what I think is the exit for runners who don't need to collect from the bag drop, but still don't see her. It will transpire that for some reason she was told she couldn't go that way, and had to take the bag drop exit regardless. Don't really know what the situation was - whether she was given duff gen, or whether people coming out my way were publicly flaunting their rejection of the fascist hierarchical structures of oppression, or what...
But we are re-united in the end, and further re-uniting with Claire will continue at the pub!
[And for the avoidance of doubt, Amanda wishes me to make it clear that the displayed time is from when the elites started, not her own start!]
Afterwards we walk back to Waterloo Station, and I will leave you with a picture of some pretty spring flowers in Whitehall Gardens, just in front of Whitehall Court as pictured earlier.
That'll be the last city run for a while, we'll be back to hills and woods and stuff like that soon.
Love to all,