Race report: British 10k 2014

There are few races I’ve enjoyed less than the British 10k 2013. I was lucky to have my place paid for by my employer at the time, and I ran for my industry charity, GroceryAid. However, the race itself was pretty terrible – it started off badly by taking over 45 minutes to get across the start line on one of the hottest days of last summer, and didn’t get much better from there.

I then went onto run the Color Run in the same afternoon, which is probably the only race I’ve ever enjoyed less than the British 10k. Now that really was AWFUL. So hot, so much waiting around, so boring, so crappy to run around Wembley. I haven’t been back to North West London since. Just eurgh.

So after all of that, you’d probably wonder why on earth I would even bother showing up to this year’s British 10k? Well firstly, I was lucky (again) to win a place with Tiger Balm to run as part of their #BorntoRun team. I’ll get the race fee thing out of the way straight away. No 10k should cost £50. It’s just ludicrous. I would not have run this race either last year or this if I had to pay for it.

And despite getting the race place for free, I still found myself no more impressed with the race this year than I did in 2013.

Tiger Balm were excellent. I got the place only a few days prior to race day, their communication was spot on and the pre race meet up – despite being early – was friendly, organised and really good fun. They asked us to wear onesies for the photocall, with the option of wearing them for the race. We were given a tshirt too, but I thought it would be fun to go with the onesie.

IMG_9894

This obviously made me really, really hot. But this wasn’t what I disliked about this race – I still wasn’t as hot as I was running it last year. I disliked the long walk to the start from the bag drop, the long wait before we got started (although admittedly not anywhere near as long as last year) and the fact that there wasn’t start pens by finishing time – which meant a painful mixture of weaving around walkers and being elbowed by faster runners. That was the worst. I’ve never felt so jostled, nudged and just generally harassed as I have in this race. It really started to stress me out by the second half and I ran the final 3k with panic rising in my chest.

The long walk to the start…

After the horrible bit right near the end where you reach Parliament Square, but then get shot off towards Victoria for an out and back loop along Victoria Street (my least favourite part of the whole route – and you run through the Blackfriars underpass – twice), I was really glad to have finished.

The we all got held from entering Whitehall Place, the location of the bag drop. The crowds mounted up quickly as more and more people crossed the finish line. It all got a bit ridiculous.

It then transpired that everyone was queing for the Help for Heroes tent, regardless of whether they had run for them or not and it was blocking the whole road. It took almost half an hour for someone to come and sort this out. By the time I made it to my bag and to Charlie, Harry, Jonny and Seb, I was so on the edge of panic from being hot, tired and packed in a crowd for the past hour and a half, that I did a little cry. I thought I was past the point of crying at 10k’s… so thanks for that British 10k. Oh, and one more thing – I still have no idea what my time was because when I put my race number into the website, someone else’s result comes up. Not that it matters, but you’re supposed to be able to find it out.

Thankfully, my day drastically improved post race thanks to my awesome ambush of tigers, as the five of us headed to Le Pain at the Southbank Centre for fizz, granola, coffee and a whole load of bread. Love Le Pain.

Then me and Charlie shared a peanut buttery cake of amazingness from Outsider Tart‘s stall at the food market, accompanied by a coffee whilst soaking up the sun.

I gave the British 10k a second chance, but I don’t think I’ll be giving it a third…

 

Race report: We Own The Night Amsterdam 2014

Running has felt very up and down since the marathon. I was absolutely loving it for about a month, but since my 10k PB at We Own The Night in London, it’s all gone a bit lacklustre.

So I went into this race with absolutely no expectations – I was in Amsterdam for the weekend to enjoy myself, I wasn’t going to hold back on what I ate, drank or did in favour of a better race. But this was a thoroughly enjoyable race (despite me being in a massive grump about my time afterwards and Charlie having to tell me off).

Myself, Charlie and Laureen were all running, with Laureen’s sister Alice also along as support. We knew very little about the race before we got there, the route map was in typically minimalist Nike style – with us knowing nothing about the layout of the city, it gave very little away.

We were also completely unaware that the race began at 22:30 until the day we arrived in the city. This was a bit annoying to start with, as I’d hoped to experience some Amsterdam nightlife, and such a late race was eating into this, but it was so hot during the day that a late start was appreciated.

After sitting down for dinner at pretty much the same time we were running the London race (that felt very odd!), we made our way out to the Olympic Stadium via bus. On the way we saw so many girls in their turquoise shirts travelling there by bike. I was very jealous of the ease and elegance of just jumping on a Dutch bike to go run a 10k.

As we got to the stadium, it completely clouded over and started to rain (I’d just bought some new sandals about 3 hours earlier as it was so hot. Typical). This did nothing to dampen the brilliant vibe in the stadium and we managed to easily while away the time before the race start by visiting the portaloos, playing around in the Vogue Nederland photo booth and having our picture taken by their photographer, finding our names on the WOTN wall and meeting up with the girls from Running Junkies.

In fact, we got a bit carried away, and before we knew it, pretty much everyone else was in their pens ready for the start. I’d told a very small sub-50 fib when picking up my wristband so I could be in the same pen as Charlie (who wasn’t telling any lies when she said she could run a sub-50). We jumped a fence to get into our pen, but accidentally found ourselves in the one for VIPs… in front of pen 1. OOPS!!

The atmosphere in the starting pens was the best I’ve ever experienced at a race. The DJ was awesome and the music was actually LOUD. I’m sure the time of the evening also helped, but we were RAVING at that start line and ready to GO! And then it all went silent, a bloke came on stage and wittered on in Dutch for a bit, before the DJ came back on and pretty much had to recreate the previous 15-20 minutes.

The race didn’t actually get going until nearly 23:00, by which time I have to admit, I was definitely in the ‘let’s just get this over with, shall we?’ mindset. I lost the other girls almost immediately, and didn’t have any music, Nike+ or Garmin with me (shocking, I know), so had no choice but to take in and enjoy what was going on around me.

I thought that running in London we have a lot of ‘street furniture’ to contend with. HELL NO. This course took in big bollards, wide bollards, and worst of all, shin height bollards. As well as steps, cobbles, low hanging trees and of course, bikes. Some parts were very dark and very uneven. There were street parts, but a large chunk of the course took place in Vondelpark.

Also along the course was a giant little up arch with music pumping and dancers (much more impactful that the light tunnels at the London race, I thought), quite a few cheering crowds (most drinking!) and topless guys on light up podiums (not sure that would’ve gone down in London…?!) I think 10k continues to be my favourite distance – long enough to earn a medal, not so long that it turns into a slog.

Finishing in the Olympic Stadium was pretty cool, we ran through and onto the track to be handed the usual coconut water, brown paper goody bag and necklace medal, designed by The Boyscouts.

Other than the annoyingly delayed start, I had a brilliant time at this race, and in Amsterdam. Obviously you have to get there and pay for accommodation, but this race was only €20 to enter – an absolute steal for an event like this. The flight over is super short (less than an hour) and pretty cheap, and I’m sure we could’ve got a better deal on a hotel if we’d booked a bit more in advance. Would I travel abroad for ‘just’ a 10k again? Absolutely!

Read Charlie’s absolutely brilliant race recap here too.

A weekend in pictures: running adventures in Amsterdam

Last weekend I spent a flying 48 hours in Amsterdam – for some running, obviously! More on that to come, but for now, some snaps of what we got up to…

Race report: We Own The Night 2014 (aka the most perfect day of food and fitness)

The weekend kicked off early on Saturday morning, with a trip to Southwark parkrun. This is technically now my ‘home’ parkrun, as it is the closest to me, but I am also in fairly easy Overground distance of Highbury Fields, Hilly Fields and maybe even Crystal Palace too (but am yet to venture there). I decided to walk the relatively short distance over the river and along Jamaica Road to Southwark park to meet up with Charlie and Laureen who had also volunteered.

Charlie’s photo

Steph, ever the parkrun tourist, joined us from SW London as she edges to within touching distance of her 50 tshirt (just checked – she’s on 48!) I was given barcode scanning (it took me a while to get the ‘knack’ of it and at one point quite a queue had built up!), Charlie on finisher tokens and Laureen was marshalling out on the course. It was a really miserable, cold and wet morning, but it was great fun and we headed for brunch on the promise that we’d all be back soon.

Brunch was at Village East over on Bermondsey Street. Fairly quickly I recognised a lot of similarities to The Riding House Café on Great Titchfield Street (where I went for a ‘nice’ lunch with my mum a few months ago) which were in no way a coincidence as a quick Google search told me they are part of the same company, along with The Garrison, also on Bermondsey Street.

I had the bacon sandwich with avocado and chilli jam (£7) with a side of oh-so-creamy scrambled eggs (£2). Avocado is always a winner for me, and I do like a menu to make a bit of an effort wih staple brunch items such as sandwiches or a full English. Speaking of which, Charlie had the Village veggie breakfast (£10) which was one of the most inventive non-meat breakfasts I’ve come across with halloumi, egg, mushroom, tomato, quinoa, chilli and carrot. (As a side note, the Bill’s vegetarian breakfast (£7.95) is pretty ace on this front too.)
Laureen’s photo
After this, we decided we wanted brunch pudding, so headed to Del Aziz. All of us have been there before, and we decided on a pot of fresh mint tea and three cakes to share between the four of us. We went for baked cheesecake, banana and walnut cake and apple and walnut tart. I am LOVING apple tarts at the moment! The cake was massive, the tea delicious and we spent almost three hours lounging on the sofas in the corner. Devine.
Charlie’s photo
Finally, I get to the race report part. I went home, had a cake-induced nap and woke up grouchy with the rain lashing down against my window. Going to run around Victoria Park was the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, soon I was stood freezing at the start line, and instead of a plan to take it easy, Charlie had somehow got me and Harry to agree to try (for as long as we could) to go sub-50. Umm, what?!
Charlie’s photo

We were the closest to the start of a race that I’ve even been, so we were off very quickly. We settled into a 8:45 pace for the first two miles, with me and/or Harry saying “I could slow down” at fairly regular intervals. We passed the awesome Cheer Dem at 4k, and despite speeding up after coming through the cheers, it become obvious by around halfway that sub-50 was off the cards.

Photo by Ash Narod

Did this mean Charlie let us step off the gas? HELL NO. She was the ultimate cheerleader and pacer all in one, tearing her way through the crowds and for most of it I literally felt like I was clinging on. It was super congested by the second lap, but somehow we managed to gain speed. Round two of Cheer Dem was even better than the first, and boosted us to a fastest final mile of 8:07. This was followed by the final few hundred metres at a pace of 7:30!

Unfortunately neither Charlie or Harry beat their PBs, but their fantastic pacing, dragging, chat and encouragement helped me take almost 3 minutes off mine (which still stood from WOTN last year), coming in at 53:15. I am absolutely chuffed with that time, and it has given me the confidence to think that one day, I might be able to conquer sub-50 (Charlie’s definitely got it in the bag).

After the race, we found a few of the TNR girls (in the tent handing out free Prosecco, natch) and we headed to Shoreditch for Pad Thai. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Charlie's photos
Charlie’s photos

Despite being really dubious beforehand and really not wanting to run at the time, this was a really, really good race. It’s come on LOADS since last year (bigger race village, speedier bag drop, more starting waves, less windy and narrow course) and I had a really great time. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending people sign up. For me to have broken my PB at this race two years running it must be doing something right, eh?!

2013 and the medals that made it

A look at my year in running – without a doubt the best so far – through the medium of my medal rack…

1. Energizer Night Run, April

My first race this year and my first race for over a year. I stupidly wore the massive race cotton tshirt (it’s like that in a year I forgot what not to do whilst running). And then it rained. Hard. So that was nice.

2. We Own The Night, May

Somehow, in 5 weeks, I managed to knock off 9 minutes from the April race and land a 10k PB – which is still standing. I drank the free Prosecco within about 17 seconds of crossing the finish line, then felt really sick for the rest of the night. So that was nice.

3. Wimbledon Common 10k, June

At this point, I’d lived in Wimbledon for four months and hadn’t set foot on the Common. I did not realise it had mud and hills and trees like an ACTUAL FOREST. I came about three from last. And, despite being less than three miles from my flat, it took bloody ages to get there. So that was nice.

4. British 10k, July

Waiting for what felt like forever (I think it was actually about 40 minutes) on the hottest day of the year, to then run 10k on the hottest day of the year. My least favourite race ever. Oh, and then I went to run The Colo(u)r Run that afternoon. I was so grumpy, so very grumpy. So that was nice.

5. Copenhagen half marathon, September

I was still so grumpy from the double runday Sunday in July that I decided not to run for most of August. I went to Copenhagen and had a really lovely time in a great city with some ace people. Then I ran a half marathon after nowhere near enough training, cried throughout the last 3k and had to be escorted over the last kilometre. So that was nice.

6. Whole Foods Women Only Run (5k option), October

Again proving that just because something is in South West London, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near my flat – which is also in South West London. I walked further to the race than the rest itself, but despite having the previous two days off work sick, I smashed my (albeit ancient) 5k PB. Now that one was actually nice.

7. Mo Running Battersea Park 5k, November

I now think an HP Sauce van pumping out the smell of freshly cooked bacon is the secret to race success. Because I was so bloomin’ hungry at the beginning of this race, that despite promising Leah I was in it to ‘take it easy’, I literally did race back to the manwich goodness. And broke the previous month’s 5k PB in the process. Another quite nice one.

8. The Running Show 10k, November

On the surface, this race was back to not-so-niceness, what with the boring course (and the three glasses of wine the night before). Oh, and the migraine that came on in the last mile or so. Bleurgh. But, I ran sub-60, showing that 9-something minute miles were now my new norm. Nice!

9. Mo Running Greenwich Park 10k, November

Blimey, to think I thought Richmond was far away. Greenwich is something (or rather, somewhere) else. But a beautiful day, a course on the right side of challenging, and 70+ other RDC runners made this a perfect race. I loved it.

10. CAFOD Nativity Run 5k (oops!), December

On a chilly, but clear and gorgeous December morning, me and 14 other lovely running ladies decided to dress as elves and go for a little run around Clapham Common. I felt awful and the course was the windiest I’ve ever run, but it just goes to prove that this running thing is about far, far more than just the running. I was surrounded by brilliant, like minded people, none of whom I knew a year ago. And that made this the nicest race of them all.

Oh 2014, you’ve got a pretty big racing year to top…