I’m still sitting with my medal round my neck writing this and why the heck not.


Virgin Sport took a lot, and I mean a lot of grief from quite a few people, well, a couple of people, ok fine mainly one person on twitter about the pricing structure- you know who you are.

And yes, initially when they released their pricing at £58 for the Half and £25 for a 5.5k it was pretty much instantly wiped off my list of potential races this year. As I’m getting more comfortable with the distance I thought it would be a good local-ish one to do, however, seeing the price I couldn’t justify it.

The guys from Virgin agreed to having a chat and I wrote about it in this blog: https://bigcarlrunning.com/2017/02/03/virginsport/

However, from all the twitter abuse they actually did something and dropped their pricing – shocker!! (I only noticed while doing my research for the blog).

“from initially being £58, to £48 earlybird, £53 post Feb 1 and £58 post March 1 to now showing £48 earlybird and £53 post March 1.”

And I take my hat off to them, they actually did something when people complained, how many would do that. Although, I don’t think it was fair that after they’d dropped their prices and some people kept up with the Twitter banter really, you’ve complained, they’ve acted = you can no longer complain.

What most didn’t know was that the price was the complete price, so Royal Parks this year was advertise as £54 i think but once you added on fee and postage for sending out your pack (fyi: no option to collect pack for no fee) it came to £59 – RPH is a good race but that’s steep. The other thing it included was Photos!!! I complain every time i do at race at how expensive the pics are – £43 for Brighton 10k, what a rip off. So Virgin Sport throwing in photos is worth at least £30++ itself (I am yet to see the final results of said pics).

While I had my chat with Erin from Virgin Sport she offered me a spot for the Half – I gladly snapped it up. Disclaimer, as alway my blog will be truly honest, if i thought it was comparable to running through the devils anus I will say so whether its a freebie or not.

Race Day

Yeah, Hackney is not easy to get to, even from South West London – I should’ve learnt this from Victoria Park 10k . I like to get to the start approx. 1 hour before race start, so 8am today. This meant an alarm set for 5.30 [insert crying face here] then leaving the flat at 6.30, Northern Line to Waterloo and Jubilee Line to Stratford, then a 30min walk to the Event Village.


I met Sophie at Stratford just as I was getting my skinny Flat White – I needed to wake up somehow! We stood and chatted for a little while until i made my way over to the start. The walk seemed never ending and then finally you could see the walking dead all heading in one direction.

 

As soon as you walked through the treeline, boom!  The place was rocking, still an hour before the start. I went to the loo, non-existent queue and went over to the changing room to get my kit on and sort out my bag. Baggage was easy enough, bit of a queue but it was getting close to start time. I queued up for the loo again which did take a  little longer than what would be ideal but nothing extreme.


Over to the starting pens – some of you (particularly the faster peeps) will be overjoyed to hear they literally had security on each pen to make sure people weren’t going in a pen too far up as it was written clearly on your number).


I was in the back pen (don’t usually like that but what the heck) and WE HAD PACERS!!!!. I loved this, we had a peeps from @backpackersclc & @chasinglightscollective (go find them on Instagram) with three pacer flags:

  • Joggier – ~2h50 pace
  • Jogger – ~3hr
  • Run/Walk – 3h20 pace/finish.

I had a chat with Leeanne & a few of the other backpackers who said the Run/walk pacer was aiming to get round in 3:15 as that was supposed to be the cut-off. I was thinking of sticking with them as 3:15 is a longer-term goal of mine for the half. I went towards the front of the pen to buy myself some time against the Run/Walk pacer just in case i had a bad day and was way off 3:15, talking of which…..

Targets for Today: 

A) Finish – might seem silly but since I bailed at Wimbledon Half it had to go back on

B) Finish and Walk away (lingering thoughts of Royal Parks)

C) Sub-3:20 – no reason I shouldn’t get under

D) Sub-3:17.53 -official PB after Brighton was short

E) Sub-3:15 – on a really good day this shouldn’t be out of reach (if all stars aligned)

 

In the pen, ready to go – not quite. I wasn’t feeling it, my back had been killing me all week, I struggled when I met Katerina (from RaceCheck) before London Marathon for the cheer point and it’s been horrible all week. I didn’t really fancy taking any extra meds at that stage so did some stretching and hoped to run it off.

I also tried some new SiS Go Caffeine shot on the start line as it was part of a pack they sent me last week, I’d also be carrying the gels and some Colin the Caterpillars in my belt for when i got hungry.


It took about 15minutes to cross the start line – in my opinion quite a while but the pens were quite narrow I guess because the streets were also narrow in parts so it made sense.

As per back comment for the first mile or so I took it very easy and essentially at any Half Marathon I spend the first 3/4 miles purposely slowing myself down. There was a bit of a hill straight out of the marshes and then into the town. To be honest, I don’t know the slightest about Hackney so the route made zero sense to me and I was just following the others.


The first four miles flew by, couple of out and backs, around a park and tons of people we outside their houses (some in dressing gowns) offering water and jelly babies along with Steel Bands playing and marshals giving tons of support. I saw Lee-Lee on one of the switchbacks and I thought I’d kept enough distance ahead for where we were.

Any thoughts about my back cleared up after 4 mile and I was concentrating on getting to 10k in decent shape. I was feeling ok and switched my watch off distance/time/pace view and so it just showed the time – I wouldn’t check it again until 10 mile. I settled into a run 2min, walk 2min, give or take any inclines or downhills of course.

7 mile came up and it was up a nice looking high street with people mulling around and in pubs etc and the support was awesome, at the turn at the top there was someone dressed in a devil outfit offering a seat with signs saying “you know you want to”, “you’ve deserved a sit down” etc etc which was quite amusing but not tempting enough for me at that stage.

At the switchback near 7mile i got a shout out from a marshal with “Go Carl from Twitter” or some variant of that from the lovely @Miss_Donkers. I loved that you could write your own name on your number – you could personalise as much as you wanted, I went with plan black – boring I know, but it also means you don’t have any mishaps like Southampton did.. You get such a big boost from people shouting specifically for you, oh and people of Hackney (and everywhere else) its Windmilers, Wind-milers, WIND-MILE-ERS. I got Windmillers, Windmolers, Womblers, Womble – made for some good bants though too.

The next aim was to get to Mile 9, I knew Becca and Rebecca from IG said they would be waiting somewhere near Mile 9 at Victoria Park and the thought of knowing someone really kept me going . I saw Becca and Rebecca who were kindly at the bottom of a nice hill (the reason they thought i was looking so good). It was awesome to see them, Becca had a great sign – but i think she was lying! I had hugs with both and that would’ve seen me to the finish mentally.


The next mile or so is a bit weird – it’s aka to the industrial plant at Brighton Marathon, it’s an odd industrial estate near the Olympic Park, but somehow there are still people out supporting including one bloke telling the girls in front of me “only one mile to go” FYI he could see the 10mile marker from where he was standing – I (as politely as i could after 10miles) corrected him and trotted on.


10miles done and I knew I could/would finish. I took a look at my watch for the first time and I’d managed to keep on pace, I had 45mins to do 3.1miles for sub-3:15 – it would be close.

There was a bit of an include up into the Olympic Park and RunDemCrew had their cheer point here – wow. The road was painted with works of encouragement and it was like the end of a Tour de France stage where the crowd is in tight screaming for you, just before i was joined by two people (one suspiciously similar looking to one of the girls from Mind over Marathon) who were saying “keep going these people are here all for you”, and it was humbling. I even ran up the hill and high-5’d as i went through the tunnel of people, I will be giving RDC a really awesome shout out on Twitter, they owned Hackney as they’d provided some of the pacer and one guy running back and forth to check everyone was good and delivering water to people – awesome, awesome peeps. I left them behind feeling amazing.

The last two miles were never ending through the Olympic Park but fortunately I knew my way around there, I tried to stick to a few people but they either left me or I overtook them along the way.

Then the finish, again tons of support from runners who had already finished (so hard not to try and look at the medal) and before long I turned onto the matting again, not much of a sprint finish, probably because I saw 3:15 tick over as i turned onto the straight, I urged the crowd on as much as I could and finished with a huge smile on my face.

So, how did I do?

Targets A, B, C, D all smashed! I was on pace for sub-3:15 until the final few miles but that is a goal i will have to work at but I am sure that on the right day it will come. I’m ignoring Brighton Half PB seeing as it was short, but taking Silverstone’s 3:17:53, yesterday was a PB by almost 2 minutes – mostly because I didn’t have to run round the service roads of Silverstone where there was zero support and the incentive to run just wasn’t there. I was happy with the way i felt too, if I’d had done sub 3:15 but collapsed over the line I would’ve been less that happy than my actual result where I walked away and managed the two mile walk back to Stratford.

After finishing I was joined by Erin from Virgin Sport and we had a nice chat & I thanked her for offering me a place and congratulated her on an awesome event.


Medal in hand, water, crisps, weetabix drink and a bants with the T-shirt team when I asked for another XS but apparently XL might be a better fit – well, Brighton didn’t think so (I won’t share the picture again just in case you’re eating).


I collected my bag in seconds and headed for the changing rooms where I put my Skins recovery tights on, Oofos under my feet and took my SiS protein shake which was actually really nice and far better than any other shakes I’ve had.

I went and gave the 5.5k race a cheer and met Fleur from Twitter/IG as well as Paul Addicot who was pacing his second race of the day – thanks for the kind offer of pacing the 25mins group Paul – if only I hadn’t packed my shoes away.


Then it was over to the main stage for some High Intensity Interval Training and Pilates…..I didn’t really but some were seemingly really enjoying it.

 

So what did i think about it? 

It was awesome, goes up as one of my favourite races. The support on the course makes it though – running that route on a cold, wet Tuesday evening in November its going to be dire, but the sun was shining, the crowds were out in full support, jelly babies in hand and the marshals were brilliant too.

There were signs at every turn, literally every turn – it was impossible to get lost. The water stations were more frequent than any race I’d ever done before and I could see they had overstocked and people had made sofa’s out of the remaining water bottles – a lesson learnt from last years’ heat I imagine.

The bling is gorgeous, decent good bag (actual tote bag not plastic morrisons bag) including t-shirt and usual goodies. The event area was perfectly laid out and tons of room for people to get around and even have picnics and they had these water dispensers dotted around (see below) and tons of bike racks.


Honestly I can’t fault it – if i had have paid full price for the event (original £58), i’d have winced slightly but I’d say it was worth every penny.

I’m having to be really nit-picky now, two things:

  • the mat from the start/finish line to the road crumpled up a bit and was uneven, we can run on the grass for that far, but it seems like they were sorting it out as i came in.
  • the Lucozade aid point had the drink ready poured in cups but no one was actually handing them out

Literally that is all I could think of to change.

I’d like to see them doing the triple medal thing that has taken quite a few people to MK this weekend to do the 5K and Half/Full Marathon combo – worth thinking about as I’m sure some mad people would do both for the bling (me included).

I trotted off home, via a pub, always have to have a beer/bling pic, thoroughly happy with my run and chuffed to see that VirginSport have done a cracking effort on their first race.


They also have the British 10k coming up and I look forward to hearing the reviews as if Hackney is anything to go by they’ll have sorted lots of the issues from previous years out. There is a discount code for £5 off the British 10k: vs10k17

 

Next Race: Wings for Life (Cambridge) Sunday 7th May.

 

Happy Running!!!