Monday, 22 September 2014

on gorillas....

In the full suit
 My racing season has started. Unfortunately, the calendar doesn't give two hoots that I spent the summer enjoying theatre and traveling the American West and having a thoroughly wonderful exercise-free time. Races have been signed up for. Races must be run.

Given that humiliation was always going to be part of the first race, I went as full-on as possible. The Great Gorilla Run. In a gorilla suit. In the City of London.  From Mincing Lane past the Tower and The Globe and St. Paul's and back again.

The amazing thing was, I wasn't the only one. There were at least 500+  crazy fools with me. Well crazier actually, as I made the least effort of the whole crowd. I couldn't even keep the top of the suit up, it was so big. Almost everyone else wore the entire suit PLUS a costume on top, many with the suffocating mask as well. Almost everyone else slowed to a walk within minutes of the start. It was a warm and muggy day, after all.
So adorable!

WHY????? I hear you all moaning. Well...I could say that we are all passionate gorilla conservationists and will do just about anything to raise money to protect their habitats. There are only 800 Silverbacks left in the world. As worthy as that is, I doubt that was the reason most of us were there. And certainly not me. Yes, I feel great sympathy for the plight of the gorilla and happy to do my small part. But the lure of running through the City streets in a gorilla costume was what attracted me. And why wouldn't it? Sounded so much fun.

Well the reality was a little less fun. But I learned several things about London and her people. London is a most marvelous place. It is a city in which you can travel in a crowded tube carriage for 11 stops, dressed in a gorilla costume, and no one looks twice, not even the children. I passed a man carrying a surfboard on the street. Now that really looked strange. But apparently only to me. No one else seemed to notice.

So many Gorillas
Londoners may be blase about the exploits of others, but they throw themselves into their own fun. People really made an effort with their costumes. Impressive.

This run was really a long photo op for startled, bemused tourists. And enthusiastic Londoners did not disappoint. The guys running ahead of me jumped into/posed with every tourist along the route. Shocked couples, delighted children, and lots and lots of grinning selfies with gorillas. It was a pleasure to watch.

Gorillas on Tower Bridge
And the crowds energetically cheered us on. Not just the tourists ("here come more," was something I heard shouted over and over), but cab and bus drivers, road workers, maintanence men, Starbucks and Pret employees, and all those other wonderful people who make London work. They honked and waved and called out "keep on going" and "well done."

And then things went a little wrong. Near the end of this 5 mile run, the disinterested and distracted marshal sent two us of us the wrong way. So we ended up having to do the long middle section twice. Usually I find running along Bankside a positive. But trying to run in humidity, holding the top half of a fake fur/plastic costume up, and negociating a bewildering number of stairs (instead of having us ever cross a road, we took each and every subway and elevated walkway available. Groan.) It wasn't ideal. But then, this certainly was not a race for time. It was a race to finish.

And I finished. Eventually. Conservationist Bill Oddie put the medal round my neck. He said, "thank you so much." I gave him a big smile. Pulled my suit off. And headed home. For some reason, carrying the gorilla suit attracted attention. "I have to ask, what is that?" the young man on the tube asked me. I told him the whole story. He laughed and laughed and laughed. I love making people laugh, even if it more at me than with me. I love running. I love London. And I love gorillas.

Bring on the next.

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