Blog: Running Through My Mind
I took part in the Heroes v Villains run in Brighton on Sunday 18th May 2014. This was their 10th anniversary of the Heroes run, so they decided to mix it up a bit by adding a Villains run option to the day.

Have You Seen 101 Dalmatians Pass By This Way?

I took part in the Heroes v Villains run in Brighton on Sunday 18th May 2014. This was their 10th anniversary of the Heroes run, so they decided to mix it up a bit by adding a Villains run option to the day.

The premise is quite simple: it's a fun run, over 5km or 10km (or a shorter distance for the junior/youth runs) where everyone dresses up, as a hero or a villain! The winners, Heroes or Villains, are determined by which side has 100 runners cross the finish line first.

I saw this run advertised on a dreary day in February and decided it sounded like a brilliant idea and great fun. It didn't disappoint.

I decided I would be a villain (well, they have the most fun, don't they?!) and settled on Cruella De Ville as my choice of character.

So, come Sunday morning on what was forecasted to be the hottest day of the year so far, I found myself getting ready and thinking that they were the strangest preparations for a 10km run I had ever made.

At 8 o' clock in the morning, when I would ordinarily be fretting about my running kit and whether I have everything I need for the run, I was actually busy backcombing my hair into a gravity defying hairstyle and carefully applying white hair colour to one half of my head! (My “careful” application of the white hair dye resulted in a pretty good effect on my hair, but I can't say the bedroom carpet is the better for it. Oops!) Of course, I still found time to obsess about safety pins and directions and all the usual stuff, just not as much as usual!

The Heroes v Villains run is advertised as a fun run, so although you do get a snazzy medal for finishing, there is no timing at all unless you do it yourself using trusty gadgets, such as Garmin, Tom Tom or iPhone apps. This didn't stop me from hoping to beat my personal best of 52 minutes 44 seconds for the 10km. Neither did the fact that I would be in fancy dress, nor the fact that it was very hot (I believe it peaked at 22 degrees centigrade) and I was so far only used to running in cool weather, usually with a bit of wind, rain or, on the odd occasion, hail, thrown in for good measure!

I arrived at the event in plenty of time for my race, having negotiated the extremely confusing seafront parking at Hove Lawns and mastering the ticket machine, which wasn't interested in the handful of change I had dug out of the glove box, because it was a new-fangled thing which only took cards or telephone payment.

Standing in the obligatory queue for the portaloo (rather go now than wait until 1,000 people have gone before me), I started chatting to a young woman, who commented on my outfit and my funky hair in particular. She asked me which race I was running and when I told her I was running the 10km she replied, "Me too, but it’s a lapped run, so I think I might just stop after 5km as it's so hot!". This was an idea I would not thank her for later.

Having gone to the event on my own and with it still too early to start warming up for my race, I milled around a bit and watched the very young kiddos take part in their toddle race. As I wandered back up to the green, I heard a shout, "Karen!" and looked over my shoulder to see Tess, a friend made purely through Twitter and the running community on there! I knew she was going to be there supporting friends, so had Tweeted a photo of myself in my full Cruella outfit with a comment for Tess to remember to give me a cheer when I went past. It turned out, she had been given someone else’s entry, so was going to be running it too!

Pretty soon, we were called to the start line to get ready for the 5km and 10km races, which would set off simultaneously and I found myself standing just in front of Tess and her friends. Being the talkative type, I also had a bit of a chat and a laugh with a girl next to me, who also appeared to be on her own. She wasn't in fancy dress, but proper running gear, so I assumed she was a 'serious' runner and that I probably wouldn't see her again. After some very silly warm up exercises, with a lot of apologising for nearly elbowing or kicking people around us, we were off.

The first 2.5km passed by quite easily, with plenty of entertainment to be had watching the other runners in their fancy dress. I particularly liked the Mario Bros guy who kept leaping in the air like the computer game character (that soon stopped when the heat started to take its toll, I can tell you!) and the team of elves who were clearly in it purely for the prize for the biggest team, as they all tore off at a rate of knots from the start line, only to grind almost to a halt after no more than 1.5km.

I was starting to feel the heat by the time I reached the turnaround point at the Hove Lagoon, but I was determined to keep my full outfit on, including the elbow length red satin gloves. After all, I told myself, it's a hot day, so I will still be hot even if I take them off, so what's the point? By this stage, the spectators had thinned out a lot, as had the runners, but the stewards gave me a nice boost with a "great outfit" and a "well done" comment. I then realised the 'serious' runner I had been chatting to at the start was running beside me, so we were keeping pace, which meant I must be doing quite well. We made some comment about it being hot, couldn't manage much more and then I lost her on a bend. I had no idea whether I had overtaken her, or her me, at this point - I think I was a bit delirious in the heat!

When I reached the turnaround point with stewards telling 5km runners to carry on through the finish line and 10km runners to run round the bollards and do it all again, I remembered the lady telling me she was going to stop after 5km and I have to admit, the temptation was strong, but I cursed her for planting the thought in my head and forged on....

I heard the 'serious' runner just behind me again (turns out I had overtaken her, not the other way around) and glanced back to say something along the lines of "so, you're still here then?", to which she gasped back "just about". I never saw her again after that. I hope she made it to the finish.

I saw Tess heading back towards the start line ready to loop round for her second lap, but I don't think she saw me wave as she was focused on the (only) water station on the whole run, which was just to my left.

And so the second lap began. I checked my progress and, to my surprise, my pace was pretty good - I was on track for a PB. The crowds were bigger here, as we were back near to the start and finish line, with lots of excited children shouting out the names of the characters as they recognised the fancy dress outfits. Lots of small children had their hands out for high fives, so this slowed me down a bit, but it was a fun run after all, and who can deny a little six year old shouting "Cruella" a high five? Not me. I must, however, apologise to the young boy of around ten who decided to run into the middle of the promenade for a high five on my right hand side and nearly had his eye poked out by my fake cigarette filter, which I was still clutching in my satin-gloved hand! I know I was a villain for the day, but I didn't mean to do it, really I didn't.

On I ran and, once again, the crowds started to thin out. I decided the organisers had very unfairly decided to move Hove Lagoon further along the prom, as surely it had not been this far away on the first lap? A mean trick and I will be writing to complain.

I found myself keeping pace with a man dressed in what looked like normal running clothes as we continued our quest to reach the Lagoon. We ran, almost side by side, without acknowledging each other for about 2km before I realised he was, in fact, wearing a pair of tights on his head in an old fashioned bank robber style! That must have been so hot and uncomfortable. I decided if he could run the same pace as me wearing that, then I wasn't going fast enough, so I picked up the pace a bit more and left him behind. I also passed the poor guy in a full centurion outfit complete with shield at about 7.5km and felt very smug at my choice of outfit, which involved satin elbow length gloves, admittedly, but at least the rest just comprised of a fairly sensible tutu (if there is such a thing!) and a dalmation print waistcoat.

Ordinarily, when I race, I keep something back for the finish. I love a good sprint finish. On this occasion, however, I was pretty much spent. Instead of speeding up, I found myself slowing down. The heat and the high fives were definitely taking their toll. A review of my splits later showed I started with a 5 minute per km average for the first 2km, dropping in degrees until the split time was 5 minutes 22 seconds per km for the final 2km.

With the finish line in sight and not much gas left in my tank, the crowd, once again, gave me a final boost. One little girl very excitedly shouted "Cruella" and her Dad smiled and agreed, yes I was. I asked whether they had seen some Dalmatian dogs and were they heading this way (whilst pointing roughly in the direction of the finish line)? This bit of panto appeared to please the father as much as the little girl, with him calling back that yes, they went that way!

Chasing my imaginary Dalmatians, I raised my arms in triumph as yet more young voices shouted my character name and cheered me across that elusive finish line.

As usual, I forgot to stop my running app on my iPhone immediately and, when I tried, discovered I couldn't because I was still wearing those darn gloves! Pulling a glove off rapidly I pressed the 'stop' button and the time read 52 minutes 59 seconds and 10.08km. With an average pace of 5 minutes 15 seconds per km, this could well have been a 52 minutes 30 seconds personal best, but I guess I will never really know. Given the heat and fancy dress, I am happy with either of those times!

There was just time to snap a couple of medal 'selfies' before watching Tess come in for a strong finish - I understand she paced a friend round for the 5km race before picking up the pace for the second half.

I then realised I was very thirsty and people everywhere had bottles of water and Weetabix breakfast bars – I had only gone and missed the freebies at the end of the run! I wandered back and snagged myself a drink, some glucose tablets and some Swizzle Stick sweets (they took me back) before my hands were full and there wasn’t a carrier bag in sight.

The event was rounded off with a prize-giving for best costumes, with the elves winning the larges team, as expected, before I headed for home. I would like to say the journey home was uneventful, but unfortunately the dual carriageway was closed for approximately an hour due to an accident, after I was already on it and I attracted a bit of attention when I needed to get out of the car to retrieve some snacks and water from the boot – well, it’s not every day you see a tutu and trainers-wearing Cruella De Ville driving a hot hatch, is it?!

Would I recommend a Heroes v Villains run? Definitely; for children, adults and spectators alike. Would I do it again? Very likely (but perhaps minus the gloves). Did I manage to get the backcombing and hair colour out? Yes, but it took three shampoos and a bit of effort.

(... I don't think the carpet will ever quite be the same again though.)