It’s been a while since I have done a race report although I have been doing some races. However, this race is pretty central to the universe and is extremely welcoming of all walks of running life….even Netty (if you have been following the latest Spen 20 gossip) Plus, I throughly enjoyed it, not something I usually say after a marathon.
So to begin, having come across Dave and Mel Ross (aka Hermes Running http://www.hermesrunning.com/) at many events including most of the Centurion ultras I volunteered my services at the summer version of the Thames Meander last year with no other reason than to want to help out. However, that was before I sat down and worked out my training plan for the 50 and realised a few weeks ago that the race slotted in nicely for my final long push with the instruction from my coach to go out for 5 hours. For volunteering I received a free entry but the race isn’t overly priced like many a marathon.
Having convinced my running buddy Lisa that it would be a good day out we found ourselves ready to go at the start in Kingston. It was a chilly old morning and as usual I overdressed mainly through indecision! Race briefing, following by a quick tune from the bagpipes and we’re off. Thank the lord; the course has slightly altered so that the 2 mile loop to Kingston Bridge and back is done at the start not at the end so no running past the finish and so playing with your mind! Once that is out of the way, I realise I am a little too warm, a quick strip and dispose of a top at the water station we start the chuff up the Thames Path to Putney Bridge.
Apart from the 5 hours on my feet my brief was to not kill myself, to run within myself at all times, fuel well (before, during and after) and execute a walk/run forward progress motion. We agree on 25 min run, 5 min walk, not too long walking to forget how to run or get cold and easy to compute in my brain dead race head.
The miles ticked steadily away and occasionally we roped in a runner, that always bodes well for us propping up the value for money end of the race. The water stations were nicely spaced and well supplied with water, squash, gels, choccy brownies, flap jacks, jelly babies and crisps all of which I took advantage of..well it would be rude not to! Only in an endurance event do I eat jelly babies squashed between crisps! A quick wave at Stephen Whitehurst, a fellow Arena runner, as he ran past on his way down back to the finish…luckily we were in our running phase at the time!
At the race briefing I thought I heard mention of a bike race, as we approached Putney I realised Dave had said BOAT race, boats, oars and women everywhere. Although I enjoyed watching them on the river, there was a slight irritation blocking the pavements of Putney. We battled through without getting embedded on the bow or whacked by an low flying oar made it to the turn and started the journey back to where it all began. I was feeling pretty strong here although slightly wilted by the time we made it back to the water station at around 17 miles. Revitalised with a JB/Crisp sarnie it was off again, down into single figures now but I am sure my Garmin is slowing in the process; those miles are taking a while to click off. Still sticking to the walk/run we continued to reel in stray runners, trying to keep a check on my form too, don’t droop, shoulders back, work those arms a bit. All that lifting heavier weights in the gym seems to be paying off finally, those upright rows, overhead presses etc…. I’m feeling strong!
I’m not usually very chatty during a race, I prefer to get my head down and work but this event was so friendly I couldn’t help but chat to the runners we passed…not sure all of them were happy to see me but most returned with a smile.
Mile 19 and I’m beginning to get a little bored of the view, the river is the river and the houses are expensive even the rowers are thin on the water, mile 20, thankfully we are into the last chunk of the race although I feel like Paula Radcliffe at times, a quick check of my shadow confirms I don’t look like her! Shoulders up Groves! 22 miles, not far to the final water station, 23.5 and we’re at the water station, chocolate brownie and crisps for the rest of the journey and I am quite sure there are a couple of runners ahead that we can reel in….in deed there was and despite an attempt to stick with us we managed to shake them. With 1.5 miles to go we were into a walk break, an executive decision I decided we were only allowed 2 minutes’ walk (especially as we hadn’t quite shook off those two runners) . The last mile seemed to go on a bit but finally we rounded the last little bend and there it was the yellow flags of the finish. Over the line just 6 minutes outside of my planned 5 hours and a whacking great medal placed round my neck, a long way off my marathon PB but that wasn’t the aim of the day neither was this race my goal.
I thoroughly recommend this race and any that Hermes Running put on, the Thames Meander has potential for those aiming for a PB, the trail is fairly firm and some sections are on road. A few rainy days might turn some parts to mud but this weekend it certainly wasn’t a problem, the winner came in at around 2.40 and the last runner around 6hrs.30min. Expect to see a number of 100 marathon club folk and embrace the low keyness of the event, so much nicer than all that corporate trip trap! And for those who prefer something shorter there is a half marathon too.
So all in all a great day at the office, after refuelling on chips and post-race glowness, despite earlier saying I was bored of the river, I find myself thinking about the Triple Crown (August and November versions) or worst the TP100.