On Sunday I participated in the Vitality British 10km London Run, having been lucky enough to be offered a free place by SOS Children’s Villages.
I hadn’t been in a mass participation race since the 2011 Royal Parks Half-Marathon and I’d forgotten what it was like – the crowds of runners looking to drop their bags, the queues for the toilets (not too bad, actually). Surrounded by thousands of runners walking down The Mall, St James’s Street and finally Piccadilly, what struck me was this: every Saturday, about THREE TIMES this number of people participate in a parkrun in the UK. It’s just that, spread over the 250+ venues, the crowds are not nearly so obvious.
The start was anticlimactic. We stood, shuffled forwards a bit, then stood again. The start gantry was just about visible way down the road. Then there was a roar from the crowd and runners became visible approaching us on the other side of the street. The leaders flashed past, followed by a motley crew of runners at varying speeds. Meanwhile the part of the crowd containing me shuffled and stopped and shuffled. About 20 minutes later we crossed a bridge, walked, jogged and finally ran through the start.
Standing in the crowd, it had appeared that I was near the back, but now as we ran back up Piccadilly it was evident that thousands were still waiting to start.
I was there to run, not to race; no PB chasing. I settled into a steady run – or at least as steady as possible in the circumstances, constantly picking and weaving my way between slower runners. Up Piccadilly, St James’s Street, Pall Mall… along Victoria Embankment to upper Thames street and some odd bits in tunnels under the road and looping around, then back down the Embankment to and half way over Westminster Bridge.
I exchanged a few high-fives while crossing back over Westminster Bridge, although many people sadly ignored my outstretched hand. A final stretch down and back up Victoria Street, round Parliament Square and half way up Whitehall to the finish.
We were very fortunate with the weather. Rain was forecast for the Sunday morning, but the first light shower didn’t arrive until about 9.20 am and the temperature was warm enough that it did no harm – very different from the inaugural Greater Manchester Marathon in 2012 (four degrees centigrade before wind chill, gale force winds, heavy rain, and hail). A few other showers developed during the race, which were pleasantly cooling.
The water stations were well marked and it was warm enough that I accepted a bottle at the 3K mark, drinking a couple of mouthfuls but pouring most of it over my head and down my back – not enough cooling showers!
My ankle was fine for about four miles then twinged a bit so I slowed down until it quit twinging, gave it a few minutes then speeded up again.
Queues to get back into the baggage area appeared massive and unmoving, until I discovered that the bulk was a queue for the “Help for Heroes” tents and the rest of us could squeeze past that bottleneck. Bag, medal and a pair of bright red, white and blue shoelaces in one hand, water bottle in the other and I headed off to get the train back home.
Not exactly a proper substitute for my cancelled run in the London Marathon, but at least I’ve done ONE race this summer!