November 20th 2016. I ran during the torrential downpour of ‘Storm Angus’ before flying to Nepal for an adventure I would never forget. I’d been to Kathmandu, and volunteered and ran a marathon around the mountain village of Kakani and the Shivapuri national park. In the days that followed I’d travelled all over Nepal, and had seen Annapurna from the Australian base camp, and took a flight past Mount Everest.
London has a Nepalese community around Northolt, and last year they’d put together their first Northolt 10K around Northala Fields. This year it was back and I’d entered it to see what it was like after having done parkrun in that park quite a few times now. The winner of this race, not that I’d come anywhere near close to that, would get a race entry for the Annapurna Marathon 2024. I could say with complete honesty that it would be an amazing experience for the winner.
Having already missed a race this year due to a trapped nerve in my shoulder causing arm pain, I didn’t want to be missing another. I’d already had to run one 10K slower than I’d have liked due to previous issues with the same shoulder, and I accepted that would likely have to be the case for this one too. In fact, even Leicester Half Marathon had been uncomfortable as Llanelli Half had revived the shoulder issues by the end of the day and I never really gave the shoulder chance to heal.
Carmen was in a similar position - she’d been planning on running this race fast, but with lingering knee issues she really didn’t want to risk agitating it further before her pacing in Larnaca in a couple of weeks, so had chosen to tail walk the race. Perhaps there was just about a fully functioning human between us.
We got to the car park just after 08:00 and waited around for junior parkrun after collecting our numbers and t-shirts. Today I was on timekeeping duties, and Carmen was tail walking, which would mean 3 out of 3 running events this weekend she’d had that job for. I found it so cold though. Once junior parkrun was done we got ready for the race, though I quickly ran over to McDonalds to use their loo as only one of the cafe toilets had been opened, and this had a long queue by the time I was free from parkrun.
There was a quick race briefing and some words from Mira Rai, and then a procession led by some bagpipes took us around the lake to the start position so we wouldn’t be crossing the start line just yet. When the race started I tried not to set off too quickly as when testing the shoulder by jumping on the spot I could still feel some soreness in it.
Once around the back of the hills we ran along the muddy path at the back of the lake and then out towards Rectory Park. There was a lot of muddy bits, and large puddles to avoid, but for the large part I managed to avoid getting my feet wet. After the first lap of that park I was already getting tired. It was ridiculous really as I wasn’t even going at a pace that even a few months ago I’d have considered okay.
For the next lap I ran and walked, and removed one layer whilst I was moving. I was overtaking people now and passed the 80 minute pacer so I realised how short these laps must be. At the end of this the route heads back to Northala and along the muddy path past what the juniors refer to as the troll bridge. The ground was swampy here and rather than get my feet wet, I ran on the grass and got muddy instead. The 45 minute pacer came storming past me, and I couldn’t decide if I was going slower than my watch suggested, or if he was going quicker than he needed to.
There was then a loop around all four mounds, and somewhere around there it seems Keith MacIntosh, who I know from the Nepal Marathon, was doing photography from there! At the other side of the mounds it then goes along another muddy path that the race had used earlier, and then goes back out to another lap of the Rectory Park. The first finisher was on his way along the finishing straight now, and the lead cyclist was calling ‘keep right’, but then after less than a minute others were calling ‘keep left’ as there was that point between oncoming runners that were finishing, and overtaking other runners that were going around for their second lap.
The grass was a lot muddier this time and to avoid sliding too much I went wider than I had before. I overtook the 90 minute pacer, and then shortly after I passed the 80 minute pacer for the second time. Knowing this was my last lap was a pleasant thought though, but at least it’d warmed up and it was sunny. Once this lap was over I was then onto the finishing straight, and one of the marshalls tried to direct me towards the troll bridge again - I shook my head and carried on. I could see the 45 minute pacer again now and he was standing around. I looked at my watch and was at 43 minutes, so he’d obviously gone under by over two minutes. Having paced Llanelli Half recently, I know what that feeling is like.
I finished 24th out of 285 finishers, with a time of 44:08. Sure it’s disappointingly slow, but considering I wasn’t completely sure my shoulder would allow me to even run the distance after these last few weeks, I guess it wasn’t too bad. They led me to Mira Rai who gave me my medal, and was then handed a goodie bag containing an energy drink, some water, and a banana.