I had planned on getting in plenty of speedwork after Swansea Half Marathon, so I'd be ready for my first proper 10K race of the year, but this hadn't gone to plan. I was also in London yesterday doing a parkrun at Fulham Palace, but had deliberately kept it slow, but at any rate, I'd not had the best preparation for this 10K I'd been wanting to do for a while. It didn't matter though, this would be one I was doing for fun as it'd likely be too busy and too humid to go as fast as I'd like. Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the scenery, even whilst racing.
Having stayed on the outskirts of London overnight, I took the tube from to Baker Street, then to Charing Cross. I managed to position myself just right on the trains to have the shortest walk on the other side. From Trafalgar Square I walked to the bag drop, and then used the loos before walking along The Mall. I decided to go for a short warm-up along here and recorded it. Some tourists asked me how to get into the palace as well. I then made my way across Green Park to the start pens, and was there early so sat on the wall for a while and watched other runners pass by.
There were some spots of rain whilst I waited, but it never came to much, and just before the race started the sun came out. It was promising the warmth wasn't going to be a repeat of Swansea at least. Ahead of the race starting, the pen moved up, around the bend, and ahead of us was the start gantry. I felt very close to the front for a big London race. 18,000 runners they'd said before the start, and here I was somehow a stones throw from the start line. Madness really, I should have been further back. I could see the two 40 minutes pacers slightly in front, and I felt I should probably keep them in sight and not push too hard as I’d still want to get another sub-40 and despite this humidity I might try to overdo it too soon and then fail.
The start is a slight up-hill, and I think that helps to not set off too fast. I dropped further behind the sub-40 pacers pretty quickly but once at the top of this stretch to Picadilly Circus, they then stayed about a consistent distance ahead of me for quite some time. That certainly seemed like it was going well to start with.
Just after the first mile, not far from Oxford Circus, is the first U-turn on the course. It’s marked by a traffic cone, and as it’s just the one (i.e. not creating a rounded corner using a few) a lot of people were trying to take it as tightly as they could. For this first one, I did the same as I’d covered the first mile in 6:29, and felt like I needed to speed up to get a sub-40. It was a bit on the humid side though, and I realised that the water station was at 6K so it’d be some time yet, so wasn’t sure how long I’d be holding onto this sort of pace for. I felt like holding this for 5K was probably about my limit today. If I could run-walk at a decent pace, or just drop my pace a little for the second half it might turn out okay. At least, that was my thought at the time.
After the U-turn the route went back to Piccadilly Circus and down-hill to Pall Mall to where the second U-turn was. This was around 2 miles into it, and again I saw most people taking the U-turn as tightly as they could. This time though I saw someone slip over in front of me, but he picked himself up and got going again before I got there. I decided to take it a little slower and wider to make sure the same wouldn’t happen to me.
This next mile went along Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, and it was quiet there compared to other visits to London, but there were some spectators sitting on the statues there to cheer people on. This then rounded onto Charing Cross Road, and eventually another U-turn after going so far up the road. At this one, someone else slipped over, and I think she was one who’d narrowly missed the other person falling over at the last one. It definitely made me feel like I needed to be more cautious as the ground didn’t look that wet. I guess looks can be deceiving.
At halfway into the race, it rounded onto Strand, and eventually a right turn down towards Temple Station, and the River Thames. This bit did feel a lot easier to run along, and it felt like a reminder of the London Marathon, running along the Thames to Westminster. Unlike that one though, it crosses Westminster bridge, does yet another U-turn (nobody fell over at this one that I saw), and then passes around Westminster Abbey for one last U-turn at around 9 kilometres in.
I’d already walked so much but this point that I wasn’t too bothered how quickly I got to the finish. With one last push I finished in 42:10, in position 902 of 13,420 finishers. Considering there were 18,000 entrants (although a later email said they'd had 17,000 entrants), that meant a lot of DNS and DNFs, but I suspect that’s what they’d expect normally. Sweat dripped into my eyes again, and this time made them incredibly sore, so stopped and kept my eyes closed whilst I tried to wipe them enough to see where I was going. I collected my medal, which looked incredibly nice, a can of water, and then a t-shirt and goodie bag. There was nothing in the goodie bag of interest to me (alcohol-free beer and some Tenzing). I'm glad to have done the race, but feel it's one I don't need to do again - I'd prefer to find one without the U-turns.