I’m writing this still smiling – I didn’t want to go to bed last night as I knew it would bring an epic day to an end.
Yesterday wasn’t just a race, it was my 2-year runniversary (more on that later) and my debut in the world of pacing….yeah I know, the fat lad at the back is going to be pacing – pacing who the sweeper bus?
Let’s rewind to 30th April and I’m in the pen for Hackney Half (https://bigcarlrunning.com/2017/05/01/virgin-sport-hackney-half-2017/) and see a few people with flags on their backs saying Jog/Walk, Joggy and Joggier. They tell me they’re from Backpackers and pacing towards the end of the race – where you don’t normally get a pacer but a sweeper bus or someone riding very slowly on a bike. Anyway, they invited me to run with them sometime and I did. Three months later, I’ve met the nicest group of inspirational friends you could ever wish to meet. We’ve been treasure hunting, we’ve been for dinner and on Sunday even had a Nando’s and a Snog! (FYI: Snog is an Frozen Yoghurt place in London).
I’ve been running with the Backpackers for a few months and I really really wanted to run the British 10k after experiencing what Virgin Sport did with Hackney. So when our Captain Leeanne asked if anyone wanted to pace my hand went straight up. Initially I was down to go Joggier (1:35-1:40 pace), but after a bit of wiggling around I ended up doing Jog/Walk.
Our aim was to finish after Joggy (1:45) but before 2hr mark and essentially get people over the line. The lead up to race day was a little fraught and lacking info but I’ve been informed by Paul that it’s the same for pacers no matter what race.
Race day didn’t start great, i wasn’t feeling great, mostly probably to nerves and not having been eating much in the last week, the next bus was in 23mins (yeah I know, normally every 3mins weekdays), so I Uber-ed it round to South Wimbledon Station, just missed the direct tube but joined a few other runners on their way to the start and started to relax.
Lee had kindly picked up all our race packs so I could head straight to the British Academy and pick up my pacers flag, tee shirt, belt/pouch and backpack that the flag goes in. I met up with Mr Pacer himself Paul & we posedfor a selfie in front of a sign saying “screw it” 😂. Always a pleasure to meet up with Paul & looking forward to running together again in the future.
I can’t comment on the baggage situation as I didn’t leave my bag, but Katie did and she seemed to be in and out in no time. Now from what I remember of the first and last time I did this race there was a bit of a walk to the start and they’d kept the same route, I did get a few moans on course from people saying “i’ve already walked 2k to the start line” but in all honesty for the amount of people, they have very little choice on where to send us.
We got round to the Pens and we were all going to be in Pen.H, we were at the bottom of the hill and I joined the loo queue which seemed to take forever – as I say to all races, get urinals for the gents – the gents get in and out quicker and the ladies are free to use the portaloos all to themselves and they move quicker. But anyway, with a flag on my back I was like a massive beacon for people asking questions about where to start, what time we start, where we go etc etc, completely missing the volunteers with “can i help” on their backs – next time, give them flags with ‘info’ written on – not that i minded of course, it was nice to chat to people.
We did a little Backpackers warm up routine with some of the people who said they’d be running with me and Katie (non of Craig’s hip flexors this time thank goodness) and we made slow progress to the start line, winding round Piccadilly whilst being chased by the sweepers who were already tidying up after everyone before we’d even started. Quick selfie with Chasing Lights founder & Mind Over Marathon Coach Chevy Rough – @Chasing19.
We finally got round to the start line about 35mins after the first wave and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I had a target of getting in under 2hours but if i kept my head down and run/walked it i’d be coming in closer to Joggier pace. So I had a little jog out of the start and then there were quite a few people who were just walking it and had no interest in running – and that was fine, they knew their plan and they started in exactly the right wave.
I took to catching people up, stopping having a chat then if someone stopped, i’d go over, check they were ok and tell them that I’d got some sweets and I’d get some extra water at the aid stations if they needed any in between.
I’d walked with a guy that reminded myself of me two years ago. He was a big chap, probably about the size I was then too. He was keeping his head down, listening to music and cracking on with it, if I’m honest, of all the people I wanted him to succeed then maybe in two years time he’ll be there again helping others. I ran with two ladies, one of which was pregnant and they said they were just out their to enjoy a nice walk around London in the sunny weather – quite an expensive walk if you ask me, but whatever gets people out of the house.
I caught up to three ladies walking and they told me that they’d already been speaking with Katie and they thought i was the back-marker and so begged me not to go past. I wasn’t and didn’t. I stuck with them for a bit until we caught up another group and I stayed with them, just making sure that I was under 12min/km.
I gave my sweets away to a group of young adults with disabilities walking with their carers and I chatted with them all and discussed about their fundraising and training – these guys are the real inspirations from day’s like this.
The first water stop was a little further along than I think most expected, but it was clear they had at least twice as much water as needed. I stuffed a few bottles in my backpack and caught up with a lovely lady called Gillian and another power-walking for MS Society.
Getting back to the bottom of Regent St there were already quite a few who’d already finished and picked up their bags – I told my guys to check out the medals and use that as inspiration to get to the finish line.
By the Strand I was handing out my water like sweets and the distance was a bit too far between water stations on a really hot day like Sunday.
I caught the three ladies up again and told them to think about walking along the river and the mist shower we could see on the opposite side of the Embankment.
I saw Katie coming the opposite way and there was only one or two people between us as the field had really stretched out. I did was I could to support others coming the opposite way, giving them a cheer and telling them they were on their way home.
Along the Embankment i ran between the group of three ladies and two Asian ladies behind who were chatting the whole time and just having a ball – they were lovely to speak to and they’d only met on the course, I thought they’d had been friends for life!
I ran to the next water station and brought water back and stuffed a few more in my pack. Over Westminster Bridge I heard a very familiar sound of Cowbells and a very loud whooping – now who could that be? Only my favourite cheerer extrordinaire and super-hugger Becca (@redfaced_runner on IG) and her support crew. I ran forward, said hello and asked them to give the ladies coming through a huge cheer as well as Gillian who wasn’t far behind but now holding up the rear of the race.
It was the final stretch, 1km to go – I took to telling everyone around that this was it, this was their moment, they can smell the medals (yeah I don’t know why either but it worked) and they were going to do it. I had a few confused tourists ask me what was going on and I think they were still slightly bemused when i told them they were doing 10k for fun! At least no one asked how long the marathon was!
The final stretch, through the Power Tunnel/Tunnel of Love by Chasing Lights and we could see the finish.
Two I got two muster up enough for a sprint finish, the others were happy to keep it slow and enjoy the moment.
There was still one person left, Katie and I shared a knowing look as to say “shall we?”, Well we’re Backpackers and we don’t leave anyone behind – we sprinted back down Whitehall and there was Gillian with A MARCHING BAND!!!! Oh yeah!!
We walked to the finish with Gillian, slightly teary, hearts overflowing (sorry, some pass the tissues i’ve started again….) I won’t comment anymore, just watch the video..
We’d completely forgotten about our medals, which I really like, t-shirts were out of a bucket and only in very few sizes and there were no goody bags which i believe contained tea bags and baked beans?? Something to do with it being the British 10k or something?
So how to spend my two year runiversary….
I couldn’t have wished for anything more, I owe Leeanne so much for letting me pace today, and being a superstar organising us all and supporting everyone over the line. I might not have chosen Jog/Walk if given the choice but I’m so glad I did. I would’ve loved to have had someone with me to give me that extra nudge when I did the British 10k two years ago, I think having the pacers until 1:30 and then us Backpackers is fantastic and I wish more races did it. Given the opportunity I’d love to have a go at pacing Joggier, it would be a really nice challenge and a good opportunity to have my own ‘funbus’.
It’s incredibly humbling to see these people doing it their way, and most importantly getting there. No one really gave a damn whether they were last or not, they were doing it and doing it their way – as we say in Backpackers we run at #PartyPace and #WeLeadfromtheBack. I’ve got so much respect for the guys at the back, they’re on their feet for 2hrs+, I was more tired on Sunday than I am after a Half Marathon. Sunday was hot, and everyone who was out there and got to that finish did an awesome job, first 10k or millionth.
Now I might have mentioned my crew (BackPackers) once or twice. So if you want to come join us – don’t worry about being too slow, I am slower than a herd of snails though treacle. Come to Lululemon, Regent St, 6.45 and we’ll have you back to the store for 8pm. You can join one of three pace groups and you can switch half way through if your groups is too quick or too slow. Come join us!!!
Some of my favourites official pics from the day (all free).