Lets get the slightly disappointing bit out of the way first…I’ll keep it brief so I can get on to the fun stuff:
What? Run To The Beat
Distance 13.1 miles. One lap course.
Where? The o2 Arena – Greenwich
Cost? Around £45 I think
Size 12,000 raced, apparently 18,500 entered
USP It’s marketed as ‘London’s Music Half Marathon’
Terrain Roads – undulating.
– Technical race t-shirt instead of a race number, provided by Nike.
– A couple of interesting parts of the course at Greenwich Park and the Royal Artillery Barracks.
– Good crowd support at the start and finish.
– Frequent water and Powerade stations.
– This race is all about the music…apparently. I was expecting live bands and varied genres…almost like a festival atmosphere. All I remember is hearing/seeing a number of DJs blasting out UK garage music every few miles. Nothing special unfortunately. Between each DJ…I was underwhelmed by the silence… this may be the quietest race I have ever taken part in.
– Spectators on the route were few and far between.
– Not much going on in terms of scenery. It was pretty bleak, not helped by the grey skies and misty rain.
– Boring medal? But I’m so happy about what it stands for that I don’t care…others may though. Also…they handed out the medals folded up in tiny plastic bags. What a waste of plastic?!
– NO GOODY BAG. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I was handed another a Powerade at the finish. All I wanted was water…I could see others with it but I wasn’t offered any and couldn’t see any. I thought they would hand out cereal bars or bananas or SOMETHING to encourage people to refuel. I couldn’t see anything for sale either…
The Verdict: This is clearly a very popular race…and if 18,500 people are prepared to shell out £45 a year for this, then the race organisers and sponsors are laughing all the way to the bank…so I can’t imagine the race will improve. It would be interesting to know if things have been the same every year. Very little thought seems to have gone in to making this special…or even making this on par with other races. I have NEVER been to a race where there was no obvious way of refuelling. I’m just so glad I had water, chocolate peanut butter bars and a banana in the car! With all the great half marathons that go on in London and across the UK, I am not sure I’ll do this again, although the technical tee and the PB potential may just get the better of me, never say never :).
I bounced out of bed at 6:15am after a restless night’s sleep. The clocks went back today which meant an extra hour in bed so it didn’t feel too early. I didn’t sleep well due to a combination of someone getting in from a stag do at 3am, the fact I was not sure whether my phone alarm would know the clocks went back, and due to the excitement and anticipation of today. It turns out all my electronic devices knew about the change…apart from the Garmin.
I started the day with a cup of earl grey tea (with milk…I know I know…) and a cinnamon and raisin bagel. I also had lots of water and a lemsip, plus half a banana when I got near the venue.
I got my kit together and caught up on some reading whilst waiting for my friend to arrive.
My friend picked me up around 8am and we drove to south east London. The roads are dead on Sunday mornings so the only traffic was waiting to turn off at the O2 and queuing for the car park. We used to work together so had a great catch up about life, work and running. We drove past the Olympic park which was quite exciting, the stadium, velodrome etc looked fantastic. After parking and sticking on our throwaway gear, we only had about 15 minutes to get to the start but we both really needed to use the port-a-loo so we joined the HUGE queue. We must have been waiting around twenty minutes so we missed the start gun, but by the time we got to our pen it was still nowhere near the start line so we were fine.
We decided to run together for the first mile, but my friend told me to head off on my own after that mile because she was concerned about the pace. I totally understood….we each had our own race to run, and it’s horrible when you feel like you are either holding someone back or putting too much pressure on them, so we wished each other good luck and parted ways.
Miles 2-4 were lonely. Lonely and cold at first. At mile three I had warmed up so I ditched my hat and gloves. At mile four I was getting into the swing of things and trying to think positively. I knew if I could stay strong until mile six I would be nearly half way. There was a tough incline around mile five…but I remembered some of the horrible hills I conquered during training and fought hard to get to the top and enjoy the gentle downhill section. I hit the ten kilometre mark knowing that I’d probably run my fastest ever 10k so I felt confident going into the second half of the race. I guessed a sub-2 would probably be out of reach, but I was excited to know that a sub 2:05 was looking like a realistic possibility.
Somewhere between miles 7-10 I tackled another hill and got chatting to another runner before heading into Greenwich Park for what was undoubtedly the prettiest part of the race. There were quite a few out-and-back sections where you would see runners coming towards you, and at one point I was getting disorientated and thought I may have accidentally run back round the same section twice! Thankfully I hadn’t done that, it was just slightly repetitive. I’m not complaining though, the autumn leaves were beautiful and I enjoyed a steep downhill coming out of the park.
As I crossed the mile 12 marker, the DJ put Florence’s You Got The Love on and this gave me the final push I needed to make it through the hardest mile. I knew I could make it to the finish, but I was desperate to finish strong and give it everything I could. I wanted to finish with nothing left in the tank. As I spotted the finish line in the distance I made a final kick and pushed on for a sprint finish. The crowds were good on the final straight and I was elated as I crossed the finished and spotted the time on my Garmin. I couldn’t stop smiling:
My official time was 02:03:06, average pace of 9:23. The average pace for the whole field was 2:06, I’m really happy to finish in the top 50%.
Splits were: 9:13; 8:57; 9:04; 9:14; 9:47; 9:28; 9:17; 9:17; 9:29; 9:34; 8:57; 9:10; 9:29; 2:11.
I realise my review of the race itself is not very positive; there was nothing special about the race and they missed some fundamentals. That said…it doesn’t take away from the fact that I loved racing today and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to take part.
Now…time to rest these feet and my slightly painful left knee and hip.