RunThrough.co.uk Clapham Common 10k: A 10k and a little bit extra…

imag0150After having a lot of fun incorporating the Brixton 10k into a 15 mile run a fortnight ago, I thought I’d repeat the same tactic for my longest run ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon. Obviously I wouldn’t be racing round the 10k, but I figured it would help push me for 6 of my 20 miles! It was also my last chance to do the Clapham 10k while I was still living a runnable distance away.

COST

£16 affiliated, £18 unaffiliated (in advance)

PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

The usual efficiency from RunThrough.co.uk! I couldn’t miss the race number collection area, and after arriving had my race pack within about 30 seconds. With rain predicted, they also had tarpaulin to cover the bags.

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TOILETS

As with Brixton 10k, we had park toilets nearby.

THE RACE

After running from Brixton to Clapham, I picked up my number then did a loop of the Common to get a few miles under my belt before the race. 3.5 miles into my day and the race kicked off.

The first kilometre was a little congested, but things soon thinned out and we were on our way.
Another 3 lap course from RunThrough, the Clapham 10k loops back on itself, with the band stand the central point. The band stand is probably the best bit, as Clapham Common itself isn’t very inspiring! This does mean you see the same marshals a few times, and I’m always impressed by their ability to maintain enthusiasm levels.

The second lap of the course is probably being the worst, as (if you’re me) you’re getting lapped with a fair bit of time to go. Although on the third lap you are painfully aware that if you’re being overtaken it’s because you’re slowing down!

For me this race was a tough one. Not because of the course itself – it’s very flat – but I just wasn’t running well. I’ve been struggling to get rid of a cold for over a month now, and was feeling the effects all the way. Struggling to breathe through my nose, my chest also felt tight, so the whole thing felt a lot harder than it should have done really. While during the Brixton 10k I was enjoying taking it easy and had plenty left in the tank for the rest of my run, here I was just very conscious that I had another 10 miles to go so couldn’t really enjoy it. After crossing the line I grabbed my flapjack and headed off to finish my run, which was a rather slow struggle in the end.

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RACE BLING

Nice medal featuring Clapham bandstand. This is was particularly nice given that the bandstand was such a central focus of the race itself.

OVERALL VERDICT

I think this was probably the first time I’d found a RunThrough lapped route a bit dull, but that’s partly because I don’t find running around Clapham Common particularly inspiring at the best of times. It didn’t also help that I was feeling rather miserable, physically struggling and painfully aware that I would only be halfway through my run when I crossed the finish his finish line. But I can’t blame RunThrough for that. Another well organised race with great marshals, with the added bonus of being flat!

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RunThrough Brixton 10k: 10k with an extra 14k on the end…

imag0112As I stepped up marathon training, I decided to make the Brixton 10k part of a 15 mile long run. Had it been any other race I potentially would have just left it, but this would be my last chance to run this race while I lived in Brixton – and probably the last time I’d live this close to any start line!

As this is only a week and a bit after the event, I’ll go back to my normal race review format…

COST: £14 affiliated in advance, £16 unaffiliated in advance, £20 on the day

TOILETS: No dedicated loos, but a few toilets close by within Brockwell Park.

PRE-RACE ORGANISATION: I had been ill the week before so had taken a while to decide whether I’d actually do the race, but mid-week saw there was no imminent danger of selling out. Unfortunately when I went to enter online 24 hours before entries were already closed. I thought a £6 price hike was little harsh but it was still quick and easy to sort out numbers on the day. There was even one RunThrough member speaking Spanish for one race tourist! Everything was all quite painless and once I had my number I was able to have a quick jog round the park until start time.

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THE RACE: Described as ‘undulating’, they’re not kidding. Each lap of this 3-lap race features two fairly hefty inclines, which makes it a tougher test than your usual 10k.

Given the hills and the fact this race featured just six of the 15 miles I’d be running that morning, I wasn’t fussed about time. My plan was just to keep a steady, comfortable pace so I had enough energy to carry on afterwards. Perhaps it was my relaxed approach, perhaps it was the pleasant weather (bright but not too hot) or perhaps it was the always-excellent RunThrough marshals, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable run.

I’ve always found the RunThrough marshals to be pretty cheery, and this time was no exception. One marshal was draped across two seats pointing a foam hand to ensure runners didn’t go the wrong way. Someone else, possibly the race director, was running up and down the route cheering everyone on. Sometimes you see marshals looking increasingly bored on lapped races, but everyone was just as enthusiastic on the third lap as they were on the first.

On the final lap I was feeling good, managing to keep a decent pace up the final hill and overtake a few people in the process. On the final corner I started to overtake a couple running together – the guy shouted something to his running partner along the lines of “don’t let her get past” and we all sprinted to the line. I think it ended up as a photo finish – a fun way to end the race! I had a flapjack, topped up on water, then ran off to Dulwich to complete my long run.

RACE BLING: Great Brixton Academy medal accompanied by a tasty flapjack.

OVERALL VERDICT: I was a little miffed at the on-the-day price hike, but that soon disappeared once I arrived at Brockwell Park. You really can’t go wrong with a RunThrough event; solid organisation, great marshals and decent race bling. Brixton 10k offers a bit of a tough course but at least you really earn that flapjack!

RunThrough Wimbledon Common half marathon: wombling along

wimbledonOnce again Wimbledon Common marked the beginning of ‘proper’ marathon training. Last year it was for Berlin, this time for Yorkshire in October. Last summer the race had been rainy and the course ended up being a mudbath. This year had near-perfect conditions; dry, cool, overcast.

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Unfortunately I’d had next to no sleep night before, so when I arrived at start (an hour early) I was slightly zombified. This translated into a particularly slow run, with a constant feeling that I was running through treacle.

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About a mile in (and around the 7 mile mark on lap 2) there’s a long hill, which actually wasn’t as bad as I remembered. On reflection, this was probably a) because it wasn’t a mudbath this time around and b) I was running so slowly it was probably easier! For the first mile I was going at my usual pace, but then after the second mile I found myself feeling sluggish, with my pace already dipping. Not ideal. Accepting it was just one of those days, I trundled round and just tried to enjoy it. The womble high-fiving at the end of the first lap is always a welcome sight!

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While I’m not a huge fan of lapped routes, I actually quite like the two-lap course of Wimbledon Common. This is partly due to the fact it’s a fairly nice route, but mainly due to the enthusiastic marshals, who are always on hand to cheer you on. I refused to walk at any point, but it did feel like I was on half speed, so I was grateful for the motivation!

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I knew fairly early on that it wouldn’t be a good race for me, so I just took it easy and treated it as training run. In the end I didn’t actually see what time I finished in and didn’t bother checking the results – I know it wasn’t great though! On days like that I just try to remember that I have still managed to get up and run 13.1 miles before some people have even dragged themselves out of bed, and be grateful for the fact I’m able to get out and run at all.

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The first race of 2016: RunThrough.co.uk’s Brixton 10k

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Having started the year’s running off with Brockwell park run on my birthday, keeping it local and making Brixton 10k my first race of the year seemed too perfect an opportunity to miss.

COST

£14 affiliated runners, £16 unaffiliated runners

PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

The usual fuss-free good organisation you’d expect from a RunThrough.co.uk event. Enter online, pick up your number on the day and drop your back off in a grand total of 5 mins tops. The start point changed slightly due to the muddy park but this was very clearly communicated – you couldn’t really miss it.

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THE RACE

As a Brixton local I’m very familiar with the inclines of Brockwell Park, but being on home turf didn’t really help me much here. Having not really looked at the route properly I factored in doing the same hill three times… But it wasn’t until I started that I realised the three laps also incorporated another hill! Oops.
Given that I’d just about managed to dip under the hour mark for a 10k in December, I thought managing under an hour on a fairly challenging route would be a sign I was doing well.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be – by hill 6 I had slowed down a fair bit – so I ended up with a time of 1:00:35. All in all it was a challenging but enjoyable 10k. Guess I will have to try again in June!

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THE BLING

As someone who lives in Brixton and has been to more gigs at the Academy than I can count, I absolutely LOVED the medal. I was a bit confused by the ‘Brxiton Academy’ typo but overheard someone say it was for copyright reasons… Either way, still a cool medal.

FINAL VERDICT

Good organisation and a great challenge to kick start the year!

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Olympic Park Mo Farah Foundation 10k: race review

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I very nearly didn’t make it to the start line, having managed to both catch a cold and injure my back in the days before the race. Plenty of rest and Lemsip and I was just about ready, although I vowed to take it relatively easy.

COST

5k: £20 or £25 with £5 donation to Mo Farah Foundation. 10k: £25 or £30 with £5 donation to Mo Farah Foundation.

PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

Race entry was pretty straightforward online. With plenty of email reminders on the week of the race, it was pretty hard to miss any of the major race details.
The 5k took place at 9am, while the 10k was split into two races. The ‘elite’ run, for people aiming to finish in 55 mins or under, was at 10am. The ‘mass’ run for everyone else was at 11am. This was fine for me as I was running alone and grateful for the lie-in, but I imagine it was rather annoying if your partner/friend/family member was faster/slower than you and participating in a completely different race.
Splitting the races worked well in terms of thinning the crowds – picking up my number and dropping my baggage off took no time at all – but it was a little surreal walking to the start against a crowd of finishers.
I must praise the toilets-to-runners ratio. Compared to the ridiculous queues at the Great Newham Run in the same location last year, these loos were a dream (and well-stocked with loo roll too).

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THE RACE

In terms of speed, this hasn’t been a great year for me running-wise. For various reasons I haven’t been able to put the training in, doing just enough to get me through. As a result, there have been no PBs for me this year, and haven’t managed a 10k in under an hour. So add in a back so painful I could barely move on Friday, plus a cold and general feeling of sluggishness, I wasn’t expecting miracles on Sunday. Getting round was the aim.
Despite splitting the 10k into two races, the first km or so was still quite congested. A lot of the route was fairly narrow, which made things a little tricky at times. There was a friendly atmosphere though, so there wasn’t the frustration I’ve seen at some other races.
The course itself is two laps around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is a little dreary on a drizzly December day. Even the sight of the Olympic Stadium wasn’t quite enough to inspire me! While I was managing to broadly manage 6 minute kms, I was feeling sluggish and found myself switching off while running. At the 5k point I realised I was just over 30mins, so a sub-1 hour race was still theoretically possible if I didn’t slack off.
With the painkillers wearing off my back was started to ache, so I decided to try and push on but remain comfortable. At 8k I was just below where I needed to be, but by 9k I had dipped a lot and had to do my fastest km of the race to finish sub-60 mins. I decided to go for it, thinking I might at least beat my fastest 10k. Bizarrely, there was a water stop about 200 metres from the end. Ignoring it, I powered through to the end. I was well above the hour on the clock, but according to my watch I could still make it under an hour. As I crossed the line I thought I had done it, but would have to wait for my chip time to confirm it.
After grabbing my medal and t-shirt I tried to take an obligatory picture with the Olympic Stadium and Orbit in the background, but was struggling in selfie mode. Thankfully a nice man dressed as Iron Man helped me out!
In the end the chip times weren’t published until the evening, which was a little frustrating, but I was delighted to see my chip time was 59:45. Might have left it a little late, but I’d finally managed to get back under 60 mins for a 10k in 2015. Next year I’ll be targeting a new PB.

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THE BLING

Ah, the bling. To be honest this had been my main incentive to actually get to the start line! A very hefty medal featuring the Olympic Stadium and a Santa doing the Mobot. Finishers also received a technical t-shirt featuring the Mo Farah Foundation logo on the front, with the Mobot Santa race logo on the back.

FINAL VERDICT

Nice bling, although not the most thrilling route and not nearly as atmospheric as the Great Newham Run. I might be tempted to do it again next year, but probably only in fancy dress with a group of friends!

RunThrough.co.uk Greenwich Park 10k

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Having been impressed with Wimbledon Common half marathon back in the summer, when looking for post-Berlin events RunThrough.co.uk was my first port of call. So I came to find myself at the Greenwich Park 10k.

COST

£16 affiliated entry, £18 non-affiliated entry, £20 on the day

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PRE-RACE ORGANISATION

Refreshingly fuss-free. Online entry is very straightforward, then a few days before you get an email containing all the vital pre-race info. On the day the entire process of picking up number, picking up chip and checking in bag took a grand total of 5 minutes. Quick trip to the loo (where the park waived the usual 20p charge) and I was ready to go.

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THE COURSE

The race also had a 5k option, but the two starts were both pretty clear, with the 5k runners setting off a little in front of us a couple of minutes ahead. Then we were off. Usually I’m not a massive fan of lap-based courses – I find it can be both tedious and demoralising at times – but this three lap route was so lovely it didn’t matter. Running through the park in sight of the Royal Observatory before jogging past the Maritime Museum, you also got a pretty decent view across London too. The only downside was the rather challenging hill at the end of each lap, which I was rather fed up of by the end of lap three! Shout out to the family sitting on a bench near the top of the hill, who enthusiastically clapped and cheered the runners during all three laps. After hill number three it was just a quick jog around the corner then I was done.

The triple hill had killed my vague aspirations for a sub-60 10k, but I’d had fun and felt I’d had a decent workout at least!

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THE BLING

The RunThrough races go for a small-but-perfectly-formed approach with their medals. Greenwich Park gets an appropriate clock theme. The post-finish flapjack was pretty great too.

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FINAL VERDICT

Well-organised, nice location and hassle-free race. If you want a slightly challenging timed 10k in a nice London location then I’d definitely recommend.