Bushy Park Half Marathon – for the experienced runner

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.

bushy park

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?

course

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!

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City summer runner

I live in London, work in finance in the city and run… And so it was about time that I took part in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge under the flag of my bank. The two-day event in Battersea Park has around 13,000 runners each day for their 5.6km run.

Last year, right around this time, I remember a poor bunch from my office who had to go into poring rain. Waiting before the start of course was a pain but was followed by the muddy trail and no relief later on, as unlike some of our competitors it wasn’t like we had a tent or anything. After that experience, many chose not to participate this year. Who can blame them.

Not marked by that fowl experience, I was more than happy to give it a go and was rewarded by wonderful weather. It’s a bit of a pain to get there, being a slight walk from Sloan Square station where me and my colleagues chose to go from the City. Yet, who’s really to complain when the aim is actually to do something healthy and run 5.6km? Our group passed the massive tents in the two villages representing major participants with their large running groups to join our little team which had organized picnic mats and a few flags next to the goal. Thank god it wasn’t raining…

I joined the slowest group and waited for the staggered start to take place. Surprisingly this was done rather efficiently and we didn’t have to wait all too long before we were on our way. Like all such bigger events where the biggest couch potatoes take up the challenge (which is of course great!), it was like an obstacle course not to run into anyone who’d decided to walk after a few meters. I got to admire many corporate t-shirts, actual technical running shirts with company logo unlike ours that were heavy cotton with the charity we sponsor. At the end of the day though, with all these costs, I suppose I should be thankful enough I could run this.

All in all, a beautiful run. Not the sort of place to mark a PB, at least for me, but a nice way to finish off a work day with colleagues. The JP Morgan Corporate Challenge t-shirt is another nice addition to the runner’s collection.

JP Morgan Corporate Challenge

In the same week, actually the following day, that I’ve completed the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, I also ran the Standard Chartered Great City Race for the first time.

Despite being a 5km run through the City, this seems to be the run that’s less driven by financial companies with all kinds of company logos surrounding me on the day (I ran not for my own but a friend’s workplace).

The start seemed a bit less clear than at the JP Morgan run and a complete standstill around Barbican with a human traffic jam building under the tunnel was annoying.

Running past my own office was enjoyable for a split moment but running through the City gets old quickly (at least for me) and I realized I preferred the river and the park to those concrete buildings all around. The good thing about 5km runs is that they are over rather quickly whether you liked the race or not. Positive surprise towards the end was an unexpected cheering from my colleague waiting in front of Mortgage station.

I’m also weak when it comes to goody bags and so took the (for a 5km quite impressive) medal with all the foods and samples quite happily after the run.

Standard Chartered Great City Race2013-07-11 20.38.13

 

Checking out the results later, the top man and woman on both races were the same… The City’s fastest couple, Phil and Emily Wicks!

If you’d ask me which one I’d do again… It would probably have to be the JP Morgan one even though at the risk of rain, I’d rather abstain from both…  By the way, even if I keep on forgetting, all these runs are for a good cause!

We Own The Night

nike

  • When: 17 May 2013, 20:00
  • Where: Victoria Park
  • Number of participants: 3386 (though run open to up to 7000)
  • Distance: 10km (2 loops)

Over 3000 women (and the occasional man) all wearing the same orange t-shirt running 10km on a beautiful Saturday night through Victoria park. That was the setting of my last Saturday.
I must say I was a bit concerned… As my roommate went to pick up the documents at the Nike store, no one seemed to be able to point her in the right direction, making her wander up and down in their flagship store on Oxford Circus.
Additionally, as it didn’t say anywhere on the papers whether there is a baggage drop-off, I called in, where again, no one could really tell me… Customer service however made the effort to find out for me and called me back a few hours later. Still, it’s a bit surprising such a major event, with the good Nike name on it is that disorganized.
On the actual day though, organization seemed to run smoothly, with helpers right from Mile End pointing us in the right direction. The runner’s village that was set up was quite impressive and the thousands of girls all warming up together under a very energetic MC were overwhelming. I chose to remain on the sidelines for that one…
The actual run was divided into three groups depending on targets being either a top runner leading the flock, realizing a PB or just being there to finish it.
On the upside, the atmosphere was absolutely amazing and definitely contributed to me marking my PB.
On the downside, the event was definitely overcrowded… It took me and my friends up to 10 minutes to get through the first kilometer…
But what’s with all the wristbands?? a light pink one as goody before the run, a dark pink one with a “We Own The Night” golden plate on it and… finally a color blinking band depending on targets. (Oh, I forgot the paper band to record emergency contacts.)
Anyway, I almost forgot to mention the absolute highlight of this run! As I fought my way through the first loop, I just saw the shadow of a women rushing past by me in an instant and vanishing ever so quickly on the reverse side… Turns out, that was Paula Radcliffe!! Even if an hour later, it was an absolute highlight to run on the same course as her.
Another upside to this run: most cheerers are men who came with their girlfriends or wives, so the cheering fire power is absolutely brutal!
If you’re not a super competitive female runner and can enjoy a slightly crowded run in good company, keep this date free next year!