Racing for a Queen

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

Diamond jubilees are rare. Great Britain has only had two monarchs who reigned for more than 60 years. Running a race for me is almost as rare an event. But against the odds on Thursday evening I found myself running 6 km (one for each decade of the Queen’s reign) in the Great British Run.

Lots of Union Jacks were on display.

Two of my colleagues Nick Walbridge and Paul Romita were running this race and my plan was to cheer them on, take some photos and enjoy a bit of Little Britain on a balmy New York summer evening. (Paul was in Vienna and was missing out on a chance to run for Queen and country though this week-end he caught  the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant and Diamond Jubilee Concert in London)

Royal masks turned runners into members of the Royal Family.

The bandshell area in Central Park was littered with iconic British symbols – red phone boxes, lots of Union Jacks, rugby games led by coaches from the Premiership Rugby and a Beatles tribute band, BritishMania belting out a string of Beatles hits.

British Mania doing their thing.

I had even convinced the organizers (the UK Consulate) into giving me a press pass and could have hung out with Kim Cattral (apparently Samantha from Sex in the City was born in Liverpool making her a Scouser!), who was the celebrity race starter. So what convinced me to line up at the start in a funny hat with a 1000 British expats and Anglophiles in patriotic fancy dress listening to a message from the Queen?
As I wondered around soaking in the cheery atmosphere, I found myself thinking this could actually be a fun race. Since I had not planned to run it I hadn’t worked myself up into a ball of nerves so there was also a chance that I might actually enjoy it. And no chip meant no official time so it didn’t matter how long I took to get to the finish!
I impulsively marched up to the registration table, handed over my $25 (which would go to two charities, St George and Disabled USA) picked up my t-shirt but was still undecided when I spotted Nick and Paul R who had just picked up their t-shirts and were busy pinning on their race bibs on. And so I resolved to participate instead of spectate.
Runners were told to come dressed in their “British best” and they did not disappoint. There were many clothed in some version of the Union Jack, a couple of female bobbies  with mustaches, dragon slayers  and a few Queen Elizabeth lookalikes. (I was pleased when I overtook one who ran in a knee-length dress and carried a very appropriate Queen-like hand-bag.)

Nick and Paul R. kindly kept me company throughout the race. We were running at such a relaxed pace that it was possible to make the occasional wise-crack. Paul R. even had enough lung capacity to belt out the opening bars of Chariots of Fire whenever he felt we needed inspiration.

The race route which I had barely glanced at before the race.

Me and my running mates happy to be done with the race

I was grateful that the organizers had picked one of the least hilly 6 km routes around Central Park. And even more grateful to Nick and Paul R. for sticking with me. After a relatively comfortable first half, the second half was a bit more of a struggle. My stomach reacted to the nervousness that I thought I’d outsmarted and I started feeling nauseous towards the end. Having the two boys running alongside kept me ticking along at at a steady pace just when I felt like walking. We came across the finish line together with our arms raised aloft. We may not have won any prizes but it was a victory of sorts for me just to have run a race.

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