This is one weekend I’ve been looking forward to -the reasons are far too long, but I’m racing again, my dads coming to stay for the weekend & running the race with me, the Olympic stadium, Monday off work……the list continues.
Friday night I went and collected dad from Euston and headed back to Wimbledon for a nice dinner and chat. Saturday was supposed to be a nice lay in before race day but that didn’t happen for either of us, so we made a move and headed up to the village for tea in the new Ivy Café (great place) and lunch. Mid afternoon and attention starts to be aimed at race day – bottles of water in various sizes for both of us, bananas for breakfast, milk for porridge in the morning and some things for dinner. So I get to cook, lucky me, spaghetti bolognaise – my favourite and great carb loader! Numbers on, kits ready, bags pack and electrolyte drink made.
One thing about the number most won’t have noticed – the little holes in the corners – godsend! I used Event Clips [www.eventclip.net] and most race numbers come without and I have to cut them, it was a pleasure to see that they’d already thought of this – thank you Great Run!!!
Sunday morning after and ‘OK’ sleep, we make ready for the race, pre race porridge, mine with strawberries, banana and a spot of jam, dad’s plain and I’m sure could’ve been used to paste over some cracks in the wall, but dad is an old school runner, no energy gels, bars, tablets, electrolyte drinks, just a 500ml bottle of water and he is ready to run!
Over the road we get the number 57, while another guy joins us, wearing race kit and a bin bag, fairly certain he’s heading to Newham too or a new fashion in SW London. Just get to the station on time to scramble onto a train along with a few other runners who are eagerly putting numbers on vests and constantly checking the time of the delayed train – not a worry for us in the pink wave.
We got to the Olympic park without too much bother and find a bench outside the stadium to change – something I would never have done in the past -‘far too shy to take my top in public but I guess running takes the shyness out of you. We sit for a bit and drink some water, apply body glide/ Vaseline and some sunscreen – were getting the feeling it’s going to be a hot one.
We made our way in the general direction everyone seems to be gathering as the signage wasn’t brilliant, we got the baggage tent to find you just stick your stuff wherever you want and no one really looking after it, not the normal organisation I imagined for such an event. Joining the humongous toilet queue we have a nice chat with a couple of ladies in front of us who give me a few tips on Great North being from South Shields and another who is running the Royal Parks in October too.
So we’re ready to go, we discuss our tactic and dad is going to run the whole way with me – we agree that dad will run behind until it gets a bit clearer so we don’t block the road up for any quicker runners. Dad tells me to run my own race and don’t worry about chatting if I don’t want to – turns out chatting would become a nice distraction in the end.
The staring hooter goes and it take about 5mins to get across the start line – after high-5’ing Christine Ohuruogu on the starting gantry. The start was well organised and I’m well on my way – as it turns out too well, I got to the 1km mark in under 5minutes – far too quick for me, so I told dad I was going to slow it right down, almost to walking pace. I don’t think I quite slowed enough and did the first mile in about 13mins, a whole minute quicker than my PB at London 10,000.
So I know London isn’t perfectly flat and after doing the BHF 5k (well 4.5km actually – never forgive them for that) I know the Olympic park isn’t flat either, so approaching 2k and dad says “who put this hill in” I know it has the potential to be tough. I walk up the hill – still trying to lower my heart rate a bit and the shower of mist comes as a welcome cool-down. By this time the field has thinned out quite a bit and not so much dodging around people. It was great to see that the organisers had been very sensible and put an extra water station just after 2k.
The next part of the course is pretty unspectacular and quite industrial – especially passing the roller and digger on the side of the road. Approaching the Copper Box you get to see your fellow runners coming in the opposite direction which I actually enjoyed and share a bit of support and a couple of high-5’s. Heading around HereEast was quite nice with a few downhills (yay) and a bit of support from the people in the restaurants along there.
When 5k comes up I am feeling pretty tired and don’t have much in the legs & hoping that the gel I had on the start line would kick in anytime soon. Also I am regretting not bringing any pick me ups (gels, jelly beans, energy bars) along and deciding to leave the belt at home after a nightmare with it at London 10,000. I aimed to run the whole way from HereEast to the turning point over the bridge which I do, although I spot a photographer just over the other side so I carry on a jog but the photographer stops clicking to check his camera 😔 – luckily there’s another one on the other side of the road I didn’t spot.
I actually enjoyed the next part, albeit undulating and forces me to do a run-walk around the velodrome, although we are starting to pick off a few of the faster starters who were beginning to fade – especially a group of 8-10 chatting rather loudly and spread right across the path forcing me onto the grass – grrrr.
Anyway, onto a nice piece coming upto 8km and knowing we aren’t far from home and the stadium is becoming quite close. We drop down towards the stadium and I pick up nice run. Then, we basically we run round one of the service corridors underneath the stadium. Nothing inspiring you would think, grey walls and ceiling, pipes and random service doors. However it was the most emotional experience – Dad and I went completely quiet as we ran through 9km – they had chariots of fire playing which meant a lot to me as the organisers of a Fun Run always used to do, played it as I entered the finishing straight, wearing #1 bib when I was a little one. Then over the music they had Steve Cram commenting over Mo Farah’s 10km gold medal run in 2012. Well I was almost in tears and dad has gone somewhat quiet too, but we ploughed on and tried not to make eye contact until our eyes dried out a bit.
One lap of the training track outside which was lovely underfoot after hard tarmac, had a little rest to prepare for a run round the Olympic track – and getting very excited. We got a comment on our TeamGB kit to my answer – when am I ever going to get to wear my country’s colours on an Olympic track? (well, you never know!).
We approach the stadium and see our names and ourselves up on the big screen at the opposite end – amazing and a great idea. The support was immense, the best support from all the way round the course. Taking it steady along the back straight (hehe weird saying that as a road runner), for a bit of a sprint finish. We planed to give ourselves a bit of room for the photographers to spot us and to enjoy the experience. We didn’t chat down the last straight, just concentrating on getting to the finish and picking up the knees. We stuck our hands in the air to celebrate and focused on the finish line getting closer and closer.
And it was done!
I was a little disappointed with my performance, I though under 1.30 was possible, with the high temperatures, humidity and the fast start, it was always going to be difficult. I guess with having only ran about 15miles in the past month with holiday and Achilles injury I’ll take getting around as achievement as I didn’t really know if I could run until a few days beforehand.
Once we had finished and collected our bags we headed back to the stadium to get changed into dry clothes and take a few selfies! We also caught the last two finishers coming in who got the biggest cheer of the whole race and we sat and watched the family run for a bit too – some of the little ones were tiny little things and so adorable – future Mo Farah’s and Jo Pavey’s!!
More selfies on the way out of the stadium and a very slow and creaky walk back to Stratford Station, got home and put the kettle on for a well deserved cup of tea and a cheese sandwich.
It was an incredible experience and a really nice event – I would recommend anyone to give it a go – registration is already open for next year. Organisation has a little bit to be desired – signage was almost non existent and the baggage area was miles away from the start and even further from the finish – not what you want post-race. Goody-bag consisted of a bottle of Lucozade, bottle of water, 9bar and Soreen, so felt a bit underwhelming but the main appeal of the race is the experience. The race and the route itself are very good and I wouldn’t have any issues with returning to do it again.