Over the first weekend in April, fifteen Burnham Joggers packed their running shoes, sampled the delights of Terminal 5, Heathrow (a certain few even made use of the Club lounge, names withheld) before jetting off, bound for the picturesque city of Prague to take part in the annual half marathon. With over ten thousand runners expected, everyone was looking foward to having a good, hopefully relatively painless time. We chose the specialised running tour operator Running Crazy to take care of the usual things such as accommodation, airport transfers and race entry. On our Friday arrival, the head honcho Malcolm was waiting for us at Praha airport, though we could hardly miss him in a garish green top. A quick but slightly nerve wracking bus journey to the hotel followed. Diplomat as it’s known was perfectly adequate for our needs, close to the old town and a short train ride away from the start. After check in, Malcolm talked us through all the necessary details for the weekend before we went out for the afternoon to sample the local brew and listen to his stories about running and having a ‘female friend’ in every port. Later on, after receiving our race packs we met up with the rest of our group (which consisted of people from various running clubs around the UK) for a carb load pasta meal and further local brew sampling at a restaurant in the outskirts of town. Luckily, the race didn’t start until noon the next day so there was plenty of time for a decent lie in or the chance to burn the candle at both ends depending on your age and stamina!
After a hefty breakfast at the hotel on Saturday morning, the luminous vests of the BJs lit up reception and we then proceeded to the start line. The weather was particularly hot, not a cloud in the sky but nonetheless it made for a stunning setting and atmosphere. There were runners from all walks of life, warming up and getting ready to set off, numerous bands played and an endless line of marquees could be seen. Meanwhile, the crowds were taking their place on the sidelines ready to offer some audible support. Due to the rather strange starting arrangements, most of us were at the back. Still, when the gun fired there was a huge cheer from runners and spectators alike as we set off through the cobbled streets of Prague. The route took us out of the old town, along the river Vltava and across to the other side, passing a local brewery on the way. Malcolm was chasing us around, taking pictures, as we tried to look cool for the camera. We then did a figure of eight back over the bridge, along the river into the old town again and took a slight detour along a main road leading back into town once more toward the finish. By about mile 10 however, it was getting too hot. Many people were stopping and some collapsed with heat exhaustion. Those last few miles were tough on us all. We made it home in one piece despite the cobbled pavements and slight undulations which proved to be a bit cruel over the last mile or so. Hats off to Charles Allen who was first in for the BJs and achieved a PB too, the milky bars were on him. Liz Annetts wasn’t too far behind, coming in second and Simon Peralta a respectable third. The rest of us came in around the 2 hour mark. Everyone did really well considering the glaring sun and humid conditions.
No rest for the wicked they say and shortly after the race, we put our ‘glad rags’ on and headed off to a local steak house in the old square. We were meeting Malcolm later on at the Hard Rock Cafe for the after party, where some complimentary drinks would come in rather handy. After using our free vouchers, he then took us to another bar with the rest of our tour group. We sat and watched a video taken during the race which raised a few laughs whilst some fellow BJs tried to contemplate how Jon Lock could drink so much beer in one sitting. Malcolm then took us all to a nightclub to dance our weary legs away, the cocktails flowed and more local brew was sampled. So, a great time was had by all. As one BJ put it “thanks for all the great company, camaraderie and dodgy dance moves!”. Malcolm did an awesome job looking after ‘the running crazy gang’, the organisation was excellent and everything ran like clockwork. I must say he is rather a dapper fellow once he hits the floor. So, on behalf of us all, a big thank you and also to Andrew Gilbert for arranging the trip. He loves it when a plan comes together. Hopefully this won’t be the last time it does.
© 2014 Pete Rann