Taking part in the Richmond Runfest events has been something I’ve been trying to do for some years. Most of the time it’s because it sells out so quickly, due to its popularity. This year I was on it and got my place sorted.
I like the build-up to a race as much as the race (or finishing a race) itself. My kit was prepped, so pulled it on and headed out the door at 6.30am. On a beautiful day, prepping and packing my bag was easy. Apart from keys, card and phone, the only thing in my bag was my running vest. I grabbed a coffee and jumped on the train to Kingston.
Although Kew Gardens is not too far away for me as the crow flies, it is not so easy to assess from west of it without going up into London and down again, hence the early start. My number had not arrived in the post so had to collect a new one. In Kingston, I was unsure which bus stop I needed, but it became clear when there were half a dozen people in shorts and running shoes waiting by one. The bus became fuller and fuller and was standing room only by the time we got to Kew Gardens.
One of the added bonuses on the Kew Gardens 10km is that spectators and supporters also get into the gardens free (normally £18.00 on the gate – without donation) so the Gardens were already buzzing with people at 7.30am. My worry about getting my number sorted was misplaced as within a minute I had been issued with a new one. (I had emailed the day before to inform them). I settled down on a patch of grass in the sunshine, attached my timing chip and pinned my number on trying to figure out the perfect time to drop my bag, go to the loo and not have to hang around at the start for too long.
The start set-up at the race worked very well; the bag drop was in a conservatory right near the entrance, which did just the job. The Gardens have their own toilet blocks and restaurants with toilets that eased the need for portable loos (which there also was) and the start was only a 100 or so metres away.
I did my business and jogged to the start trying to wake up my weary legs. In the morning sunshine, it was manageable to be stood there in just a vest. Music was playing and the MC on the PA was saying something, but neither were very loud or of a clear enough quality to be heard.
The now obligatory group warm-up was done, however the girl leading it was hidden from view from the waiting start waves by a tent, and could only be seen by the first few rows of elite runners at the front of the first wave who were probably not that interested.
Entrance to the start pens was not supervised, which was based on your number. There was a guy on the first pen for a few minutes but was busy doing other things too. With a number in the 4000s, I wandered into the first pen although my number should have been under 700. Runners are a sensible bunch, and most self-selected their correct pen. I heard the 45 minute pacer say that they would be doing 7:10 min/miles. I’m currently nowhere near PB shape, so gently moseyed out and into the second wave pen behind the 50 minute pacer.
The first wave was off at 8:30 am and the second was only 2 minutes behind. The weather was great and I was off running and happy to be “racing” again in my first race since the London Marathon at the end of April. Since that marathon, I have been all over the place with my training. I focused on cycling for a while, with varying results. BMF has lost its lustre and running has just felt frickin’ hard. This race could either send me into a further spiral or reignite my running.
Nursing a niggling groin/abdominal pull, I set off calming and stayed close to the pacer. I’ve been to Kew Gardens many times so I know the layout and beauty of the trees, plants and sights well. For a first time visitor, running around the gorgeous gardens must have been a treat, especially as in many south-west London races you end on a pavement next to a bus lane.
The course was quite ingenious. It weaved around the park and at points it felt like you were running the same section but the other way; however you weren’t, with only the first and last km being repeated in the opposite direction. The course is very flat but there are lots of sharp corners that required some thought and acceleration. There was one water stop halfway around the course with compostable cups.
With the beautiful sunshine, blue skies, spectators, drummers, jolly marshals and cheer squads the race really was a pleasure to run. The pacer disappeared from view around 6km and left me battling with runners around me to keep my pace. I didn’t go particularly hard, but tried not to fully relax and was “fairly” comfortable throughout. The sub 50 mins time slide by (which was a tad ambitious anyway), but I strode in at 50:19, with which I was very pleased.
I collected my medal; Nike T-shirt and biodegradable goodie bag containing a Kind bar, Graze box and 2 sports clothes washing capsules as well as the obligatory leaflets which included a free beer at the Richmond Fitness Expo in Old Deer Park or a few local pubs.
The T-shirt is Nike, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best of quality (very thin) but nice enough. On getting home I found I had been given a Richmond Half finishers medal (I didn’t look at it at the time) which was being run at the same time as the full marathon the following day. I’ve emailed the organisers to see if I can swap it, which they kindly mailed a week or so later.
As well as the half and full marathon run on Sunday, there was also a Kids mile. On Saturday evening, there was a family mile and 5km.
A 10km was a well organised event, which is big but never felt busy. No queues (except for the ladies toilets), great surroundings bolstered by the fantastic weather and you also get to enjoy Kew Gardens for the afternoon for “free”. One to definitely put in the diary for next year.