Ministry of Silly Hats by Angela Duff

I’m a big fan of silly hats. Especially at Christmas. Earlier in the week I’d shared a gallery of several silly hats I’d bought for the work Christmas drinks (my favourite was the turkey, incidentally) and that morning I’d rooted my much cherished silly red ski hat out for it’s annual outing to the Santa Run. Love a good silly hat.

And here was another silly hat being waved about in front of our faces - four in fact; four golden crowns for the four lucky winners of the club ballot places for the London marathon.

The committee had gone all out this year to ramp up the tension of the ballot draw with a frankly terrifying X Factor style chair line up, complete with a tense heartbeat soundtrack. I felt weirdly nervous, although looking at the top drawer bunch of people I was standing up there with I thought I’d have been happy with any of them getting the places, so the outcome could only be positive whatever happened.

Hayley won the first place; excellent, super pleased for her. Then Massimo, and Chairman Carlo - that’s nice, the two people with maximum points have each got in. Good for them.

Last one. Dave Bone started dancing about in front of us waving the final silly hat.

It’s been a week of silly hats, I thought. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe, just maybe, there’s one more silly hat coming my way…

And then my name was read out and the crown went on my head and it was happening, I got the final place!

Still slightly in shock and in the glare of the disco lights, we were asked what getting a club pace meant to us. I fluffed it a bit but I’m not sure anyone was really listening much (shame, Abi’s speech in Italian standing in for Massimo sounded pretty articulate to me!), so I’ll tell you again now I’ve had more time for it to sink in.

I joined the Eagles in 2015, after Mr. Duff and I decided we were definitely staying in Ealing and bought our house. I wanted to make some local friends and be a bit more involved in the community. And goodness me, didn’t that happen!

Something club related happens every day for me. Whether it’s just chatting to one of the many mates and genuinely close friends I’ve made in the Eagles, planning a track session, emailing with the coaching team or answering a quick committee related question about the Santa Run or something on the website (I was on the committee for two years, so apologies if getting the place means you’re a bit sick of the sight of me!).

That’s not even to mention the running; since I joined the club I have run 4 marathons and taken half an hour off my half marathon time. I’ve taken part in three editions of the multi day Green Belt Relay, raced the mile a handful of times and have a medal rack so full it’s in danger of bringing the dining room wall down. I’ve been all over the world and run races in Japan, New York, California and various places in Europe.

Quite simply this running club has changed my life, and I’m not the same person as I was before I joined.

I mean, I’ve got less hair for one thing (it’s more aerodynamic, I’m sure...).

So why, if I’ve been doing all this running and racing anyway, did I want to put my name in the hat for a club London ballot place?

Well, although I have learned and improved a lot over the last few year (and the last few marathons!) and I don’t think I’m slow by any means, I’m not exactly lightning fast either. I’m not likely to qualify for a GFA place or a championship place, or to represent the club at something like Welsh Castles, or covering us with glory at a track race. And I know the club is proud of all of us and our individual achievements, however speedy or however steady. All I’m saying is that when I was looking at whether to enter or not I knew in my heart of hearts that it would be very special to represent the club in a sort of official capacity, and that I would be thrilled to be lucky enough to get one of the ballot places because I have nothing but love for the Eagles and what the club stands for.

I am thrilled. I’m absolutely delighted. There’s a very long way to go before we get to the big day, and the old advice to not wish for something more than you work for it is very much on my mind. But the thought of racing London in club colours makes me so proud already that come race day I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself.

Whatever happens between now and then, I promise that I will do my very best to make sure I don’t let the club down!