24. April 2016

To run or not to run – that is not the question

At the end of last year, I had decided to spend more time outside of London to discover the rest of the UK. In order to make that happen, I booked a few races in various parts of England. Today, on the weekend of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this brought me to Stratford-upon-Avon.

I was a bit busy the week before and did not set aside a lot of time for travel preparations. As such, unsurprisingly, after only glancing at the train connections, I managed to get out a station too early at Leamington Spa (which is not always a mistake, but at this particular train there was no connection to Stratford-upon-Avon). This way, I arrived late in Stratford-upon-Avon, where I was greeted by the sight of the Cathedrals Express which was coming from London for a day-trip. I also was late for check-in at the Racecourse Touring Park – my campsite for the night. Fortunately, the warden was still around. To my positive surprise, she corrected my expectations about what to pay down to £10, which is a bargain as compared to the other accommodation offers at this very busy weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon. There are still people who are honest and do not try to take advantage of you, even though the latter might be shortsighted anyway.

Based on a recommendation, I had a quick look at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which really looked marvellous along with its garden – but was closed. So, I found the town centre by dead-reckoning and invested the “saved” money from accommodation into more carbohydrates at Caffe Vineria. Back at the racecourse, I pitched my tent, got a few hours of sleep (too few) and then accepted the warden’s offer (she had figured out I might be attending the Shakespeare Marathon the day after) to drop the bag at the reception. Very kind, and possible because the campsite was not very busy. Most non-runners opted for a hotel or B&B, I assume.

At the start of the race, I completed my breakfast at a conveniently located Cafe which also made me eligible to skip the queues for the toilets before the start. The day was bright and sunny but windy and only few degrees in the morning. The town is quite picturesque, so the atmosphere is nice. What I still don’t understand is why races need a lot of entertainment prior to the start. I would be totally happy with “hey, welcome, we’ll start in 10 minutes” and then start in 10 minutes. But maybe other runners see that differently.

I have seen a lot of pretty countryside in England but the scenery around Stratford-upon-Avon is outstanding. The houses have nice corners, and look well-maintained. Spring has arrived and the river Avon is drawn onto the green landscape. I guess I might enjoyed it that much because I see so many cars and concrete during the week. In any case, the lack of huge audiences as with the London Marathon is compensated by the entertaining change of scenery.

In total, I was pleased with this excursion, and the race itself was well-organized with a lot of friendly and committed marshals. By train, it takes about 2.5-3 hours from London to Stratford-upon-Avon.