Race Recap - London Winter Run 2016
So, I decided to enter another 10km!
I had signed up to the 2016 London Winter Run about this time last year, in an effort to motivate myself and give myself a bit of a challenge. How smug I felt, sitting back from my laptop having registered and set up my fundraising page. 'It's not for a whole year!' I thought, 'I'll easily smash it' I told myself.
Guess who left their training till the last minute ONCE AGAIN?!
It's ok though - somehow within a month I managed to get myself running up to 8km comfortably (albeit slowly) and the day after the much dreaded race, I was sitting basking on the sofa - still wearing my medal and with minimal leg soreness/stiffness and only two blisters - both which had been slowly developing over the past month. (Note to self - time to invest in some nice running socks.)
Amazingly, despite my terrible nerves & a sleepless night I had a really brilliant day! We had enjoyed some rather nice mild, clear days in the days leading up to the race but unfortunately the weather didn't hold out for us runners. In the morning I was greeted with quite a grey sky, some drizzle and it was definitely a bit colder, although perhaps not as cold as I am used to back home Up North. There were lots of runners surrounding me that had sensibly bundled up in lots of layers, hats and gloves, but I felt ok in just my tshirt & windrunner - I always find that once I get going I start to feel too warm, and then I have the hassle of carrying all these extra clothing bits around with me. I always find London quite warm anyway - this past week I've been striding around the streets in just a jumper, attracting a lot of odd looks by those swamped in scarves and coats. I'm not saying the weather isn't cold, I'm just saying that I spend my days in a building without heating or hot water so I'm used to it being colder. Any trip to London feels like a tropical holiday, with the tube in Summer feeling like actual torture. In fact the drizzly rain on race day was a bit of a comfort - it was like running with my own personal pool mister and worked wonders on my usually beetroot red face.
Anyhow back to the race and my brilliant day - I found the whole event pretty well organised, with the exception of the starting waves which I found a bit confusing. We'd all been emailed our 'wave times' before the event but on the day it seemed a bit 'start when you want!' - this may have been because I can never tell what anyones saying on a loudspeaker anyway so I may have just been ignoring clear & sensible instructions. We all started on time, and I found that once you were 'in the pens' that you didn't have to wait too long. In fact, I pretty much started when I was meant to be anyway. Another negative would have to also be the ridiculous queues for the toilets - however having attended lots of running and similar events this is more of a universal complaint. Runners have the smallest bladders imaginable and I think it would be impossible for an event to ever supply enough toilets to keep us happy and the queues minimal. Plus we were smack bang in the middle of London in Trafalgar Square. What does anyone expect? There were plenty of toilets along the race route that you could visit if necessary, and lots positioned at the Finish Line so actually overall I think the organisers did rather well, and I also noticed that any non-runners that had come along to support were holding back from using the facilities and instead letting runners take priority. Very kind.
My Mother came along with me to cheer me on and was very impressed with the whole spectacle. In fact I think she got rather caught up in the buzz and started insisting I have my picture taken with the St Bernard dogs and taking photos of people warming up etc to put on Facebook. Luckily, her phone ran out of battery before she forced me onto the podium to pose alongside the Snowmen and I was able to escape to the starting pens. I hate that feeling of just hanging about and so was keen to get started as quickly as possible. I'd had a horrible training run on the Friday before where I had just totally run out of fuel & struggled to complete 6km, so I was feeling particularly conscious on the day that my pre-race breakfast of peanut butter & bananas on toast had been a few hours ago. I had been prepared and stocked up on powerballs from Deliciously Ella's The Mae Deli on a visit the previous day though so I had one of those and a banana before starting.
After a warm up that got us all pumped up, and a cheer for the fundraisers that got me a bit teary (just for a moment whilst I thought about the various folk I was running in memory of) we set off with a bang (literally, thanks to their Snow Cannon!) and we got started on what I thought was a really lovely route through Central London. Being used to running through the rural Scottish Borders, or the more woodlandy parts of Cheshire and Lancashire, it was nice to swap the green hills for the architecture & urban landscape of the city. The route took in a few landmarks - although the one that stood out to me was hearing the bells ring as I ran past St Paul's Cathedral. The km's whooshed by quite rapidly on what I felt was quite a fast & flat course and there were plenty of people out supporting, ready to provide moral encouragement at the right moments. The last km was probably the longest of the race as we ran straight down, forgive me if I get I get this wrong but I'm just going to call it Whitehall, and finally made our way across the finish line and into the arms of the waiting polar bears. Everyone had been so friendly throughout the race, with fellow runners calling out that they loved my sign and the volunteers were absolutely superb. Many of them had been required to dress up as penguins, polar bears and snowmen and their costumes & attitudes were really fab. Sometimes you just need someone in a penguin outfit to high five you with a flipper to keep you going. They hadn't let the cold and rain dampen their spirits, and they really helped keep me going. Anyone who gives up their Sunday to volunteer at an event like that is a real hero, and they were played a huge part in the days success. I'm definitely going to look at volunteering at future events to help 'give back'.
It was such a quick course that I felt that as soon as we had started we had finished. I got given my lovely medal and I was soon on the tube back home, feeling rather smug with my medal round my neck. This was my first race for 2016 but it's definitely helped me to catch the bug and enter more. I'm already confirmed to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon for 'Team Squirrel' raising money for the Royal Parks Foundation, and I will also be trying the Matterhorn Ultraks 16k Trail in Zermatt, Switzerland in August alongside my partner - who will also be doing the 50k race the following day! (I'll be in the spa!) I've found the threat of an upcoming race to be highly motivating and it has often been the only thing thats got me out into the cold dark night for a run after work. Now that I am reasonably confident about running an 8km/9km I definitely want to keep my training up and see where I can go. I'm aware that the 16k trail race is going to be very tough and James has already put the fear into me by saying that 16k up a mountain is very different to an average 16k. It definitely won't feel like 'just a little bit further', and I'll probably be spending over 4 hours on my feet. Looks like I'll be commencing marathon training soon enough then, but first I need to get my hands on some trail shoes alongside some posh socks.
I also managed to raise a total of £240.00 for Cancer Research UK - eclipsing my initial pledge of £70! Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for this run, as it was your support that got me out training on the cold, dark, wet nights more than anything. If anyone would like to add a little something to the total then please feel free to do so via my Just Giving page - or you can help me get started with my next fundraising challenge!
All in all though - I think this was a really great race and would be an excellent first race for someone new to running. A great atmosphere, great support, no pressure and plenty to look at. Oh and a rather fab, glitzy medal -all you want really!
If you would like to give The London Winter Run in 2017 then pre-register here - and it's not too late to enter the Manchester date for this year, which is being held on 28/02/16. Good luck & let me know if you do!