After all the indulging and criticising of Michelin-star restaurants, the calories must be burnt off somehow. And so I ran the longest distance since my 25km run in Berlin in May, at Runthrough’s Bushy Parks half marathon, a first time event.
Torrents hit London on Saturday and the lazier side of me was almost tempted to bail, seeing the still lingering clouds in the morning combined with a few raindrops. Yet, my fellow runner’s “it’s meant to clear up around 10” response left no room for my doubts. There I was on my way, Victoria line down to Vauxhall, jumping onto the next train towards zone 6, a real adventure for a Central London girl like me.
Somehow lesser known than the other Royal Parks and its nearby neighbour Richmond Park, Bushy Park is beautifully situated right next to Hampton Court, surrounded by three stations, Teddington, Hampton Wick and Hampton Court, all an easy trip from London Waterloo.
Being a first time event and relatively small in size, the organisation obviously wasn’t the same like at those large scale races, something that has both upsides and downsides to it.
In some email, the organisers suggested that all three stations are almost equidistant from the race and about 10 minutes walk away. 10 minutes from Hampton Wick was true for being within Bushy Park but nowhere near the start line for the race (unless you were already dashing at your marathon pace) near the fountain on Chestnut Avenue. The size of the event meant no sign posting anywhere around the station, normal at mass races. And so I probably wasted about 5 minutes on walking the wrong direction out of the total 25 minutes I needed to get there.
Finally there, I experienced the rather positive side of a small race. Getting race documents and dropping bags in the little tents were just a matter of a few minutes, all the while still having time for a friendly chat with the volunteers, the start line right next to us. With just more than 240 participants, the start was very smooth with no delays. And for once, just as the Met Office and my friend had claimed, the skies had dried and even cleared towards the end with the sun peaking through.
The run was a three lap course through the park, a mix of road and a bit of trail. The previous day’s downpour caused parts of the course to be very buddy but also therefore knee-friendly. While slower runners like me could easily avoid the puddles, the more eager runners just dashed through and as the fastest overtook me right around the end of the second lap, I could see their backs covered in mud. Perhaps that’s exhilarating too?
Adhering to the restrictions of the Royal Park, there was only one water supply (water and Lucozade to fuel up) around the start line, which meant only every 7km. Still, under the cool weather conditions, that was quite comfortable.
Past the second lap, I couldn’t see anyone at all behind me and started to wonder if I could be the last one, bottom at this race. It was a possibility given the small size, which usually means a more competitive crowd. So, I made an effort to slowly catch up to the person in front of me. Half a lap later, I was happy to discover that there was still an entire group of people behind me, all the while also catching up to those who gradually started to switch to walking.
Mostly only doing city road runs, it was a pleasant experience to run through the nature and while I did runs through other parks (Victoria, Regents and Hyde Park) before, it was definitely the first time I got to see deers so close by.
Through the goal, I happily received my medal, reunited with my friend who ran about half an hour faster than me and collected my L size t-shirt (not a running shirt, just regular cotton) to be used as pyjama. Finally, we also took a picture with our medals in front of Hampton Court.
With no run of this distance under my belt for the last few months, it was a strenuous experience on the rougher terrain. But this was definitely the right motivating run to get me back in the mood. Downsides to this race were the fact that there was only one water station and that due to its nature course, there were very few people to cheer you on (although the few that were around, did a very good job!). This makes me think it might not be the best for a first time half marathon, but more for people like me who are looking for a structured long run towards a longer distance goal, perhaps a step towards a autumn full marathon?
From me, there’s a thumbs up for the Runthrough team who organised this very friendly and fun run!