It was so lovely last Sunday.
Finally a ghost from my youth, the spectre of the 1970s games teacher, drawn vividly in The Smiths' Headmaster's Ritual was laid to rest. Tormenting in their tracksuits with their whistles and their stopwatches and their seemingly endless punishment laps, teachers for whom, at the first sight of snow, would take great delight in sending us all out on cross country runs in the shortest of gym knickers, the thinnest of vests and uncushioned plimsolls (that probably would pass as "barefoot" shoes theses days) all in the name of character building.
The gym had arranged a "fun" run in one of my most favourite parks in London for Sport Relief. Over 200 people got involved and not a single character needing to be built in sight.
And everyone at the gym got stuck in to help.
We donned our yellow plastic Sports Relief vests, me being pathetic as far as cold temperatures are concerned, with so many layers under my puffa coat I looked like giant yellow marshmallow standing in a corner of the park pointing runners in the right direction and offering encouragement if necessary.
It was a gorgeous atmosphere; all ages and all abilities from the girl who ran the 6 miles with a seemingly effortless, strong, long limbed stride, to friends side by side gently doing the jog/walk/jog and gossiping all the way. People running with their dogs, lots of families running with their kids, some hand holding, some needing bribery and persuasion and some sprinting on ahead, some in fancy dress; little girls in rainbow coloured tutus and Harry Potter with a stitch... There were lots of familiar faces from people who work out regularly at the gym and even some of my friends turned up and surprised me.
Who could fail to have been impressed and inspired by the sheer guts of Davina McCall and the endurance-athon she undertook to help people less fortunate than herself? Now, for some reason, when I was reading about her trialathalon through the tears her story moved me to, I was reminded of the said sadistic games teacher saying "I didn't have brains, I wasn't bright as a kid, but I had guts and guts got me through"... I'm thinking hang on... they could be onto something here... you push to achieve and the achievement brings you a sense of pride and happiness.
On Sunday, whatever their ability everyone raised the bar and challenged themselves. Endured a little something, pushed a little further than they usually would, all for a great cause. Some may also have exorcised the exercise demons (sorry) and may feel inspired to take a new path, taking control of their health and well being. For some it may just be a job well done and a great start to a Sunday morning. Nonetheless there was energy in the air, everyone was buzzing, making the most of taking the opportunity to do something positive and really worthwhile and it was great to see the smiles as they all got their medals.
It was cold but the sunshine held out right until the last couple crossed the finish line. They had run pushing a baby in a buggy for three miles and ended up taking turns carrying her screaming through last mile. Valiant effort and tears were replaced with smiles and delight when she was presented with her medal!
Then the heavens that had kindly held off long enough opened and an almighty hailstorm thundered... it was time to beat a retreat and get in a hot bath with a nice cup of tea.
Sport Relief has given everyone a reason to participate, in that if you can't do it for yourself do it for others and see where it takes you. Some may run a marathon, for others it's a feeling of achievement just brushing the dust off the trainers and going for a jog.
Exercise doesn't have to be unpleasant but it's good to push sometimes and see how far guts and determination can take you.
All images supplied by Sarah Blackwood.