If you have a big family that congregates around family events such as birthdays and Christmas, you’ve inevitably got that cousin who nobody hears from for the whole year, surprises everyone with their presence and stays around long enough to eat up all the food.
As a member of Run Dem Crew, I’ve basically been that cousin. Not intentionally, but through circumstance I’ve been a serial in-and-outer, seldom around on a Tuesday but always feeling like an honorary part of the crew. As such, I have always been welcomed ‘home’ whenever returned.
Earlier in the year I watched Run Dem Crew’s takeover of Berlin come and go, wishing I was part of the experience. At the same time, I’d made a commitment to actually commit to running. While 2011 saw me take my first Nike-clad steps into fitness through running, 2012 was the year when I’d transition from being the overweight underdog who entered the races with something to prove, to the girl who entered the races with a goal to be fit for life.
Upon seeing Charlie announce Amsterdam as the next Bridge The Gap location, I quietly signed up. Training primarily alone, I saw my fitness improve greatly as the seasons changed – but I wasn’t running enough. A wobbly British 10K run this summer with the crew reminded me that I had to fix up – Go Hard or Go Home wasn’t a mere utterance, it was a mantra.
Between July and October I worked hard, getting more comfortable on the road, eating up miles and picking up pace (while a proud tortoise, going from averaging 12:30 minute-miles to 11:30 minute-miles felt like an achievement). Physically and mentally, I was healthier than I’d ever been and I felt race ready. So on taper Sunday – a week before Amsterdam – I felt awesome after a 5-mile run, deep stretches and a conditioning session.
The next day, I woke up with pain shooting down my right calf. By Tuesday I couldn’t walk without pain.
“What have you done to yourself?” my sports therapist gasped as she touched my calf during my emergency session. I shrugged with a sad smile, confused about how I’d ended up with an injury. Then came the advice; “You’ve got five days until Sunday so see how it goes, but I’d suggest missing this one out.”
Disappointed, I resigned myself to being a member of Cheer Dem Crew (a squad whom are as fundamental as the runners) for the trip. More than just the opportunity to run the city with the crew, the visit to Amsterdam was also a birthday present to my younger sister so I decided to focus on that instead.
However, the trip got off to a tumultuous start. On Thursday, our first night, I wondered aloud if I was meant to be in Amsterdam at all. I am a firm believer that nothing happens unless it ought to, but even I had to wonder if I’d pushed fate this time around!
Friday, I pushed my fretting aside to go and party on a boat with Run Dem Crew, the Bridge Runners, Paris Running Club and the Patta team who hosted us. I’ll let other race reporters tell you just how dope the parties were (and they were dope).
“I didn’t know you were coming!” Charlie said as I arrived at the dock, like the uncle who greets the wayfaring cousin. My sister and I climbed aboard and fell right in sync with our family. Of course, because of my wandering ways, I had lots of new people to meet – those who joined the new iteration of the Crew as seasons past.
Somewhere during that night everything clicked into place. I accepted I was meant to be there, and as such I was going to run, and collect my medal on Sunday. If running, and then in a very literal way, the trip to Amsterdam up to that point, had taught me anything at all it taught me tenacity.
Sunday came and I was void of the pre-race nerves that most around me were experiencing, and which I usually experienced. Before hitting the Dutch streets, as a collective of over 100, we shook away our demons with a firm “AWAY, AWAY, AWAY!”
When we set off I felt strong. I hit 5K faster than my usual time, and at 10K I was on track for my pre-injury time of sub 2:30. Somewhere after that, the searing muscle ache gripped my calf. Of course, I kept going. Nathaniel and Veems met me just over half way; we journeyed together for a while and I enjoyed the company before they went on. Between 12 and 16K many begun to pass me as my pace slowed and I had to walk as much as I ran. My right ankle begun to ache.
But as the course emptied, I never begun to panic and I never felt lonely. That feeling of absolute, utter, aloneness that most runners can identify with can take over during a race. However, that feeling is just not possible when Run Dem Crew involved.
Seeing the first member of Cheer Dem Crew, dear friend Bangs and a Bun who I affectionately moniker my running ‘mama’, I limp-ran up to her excitedly. Fuelled on by her support, I continued on towards the finish line.
Somewhere between 16 and 20K we journeyed through a long and winding park. The course was almost bare, filled with just us ‘walking warriors’ who were determined only to get to the finish line. Recognising more than ever that many of them didn’t have the support I do, I hobbled up to them to tell them ‘hello’, ‘well done’, ‘keep on going!’ or ‘we’ve got this!’
I found a little speed when we emerged from the park. I recognised the road as the final stretch. Charging forward as best as slow as an injured tortoise can, I ran into roars of “TAHIRAH!” coming from my sister, one of my best friends Niran, and the whole of the Crew – no, the family. As I passed the supporter zone it didn’t stop, RDC members journeying from the finish line back to our spot belted out my name, or if they didn’t know my name “RUN DEM CREW!”
I took it to the finish, got my medal, and limped back to our base with Bangs while I took in the magnitude of the family that Charlie Dark has created.