The six months from the start of lockdown to the Kew Gardens 10km seemed like a long time. I had no idea it would be another ten or so months until my next race. I’d signed up for London 10km race probably nigh on two years ago. This race was formally known as the British 10k and has changed sponsors and organisers over the years. I’ve run it several times and even-paced it in 2018.
With the lockdown malaise of every day being the same as the last, the date of the race rolled around and took me by surprise. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to run it. I’m glad that I did though. It was great to be back in central London, at a big event, doing something that felt very normal.
I shuffled out of bed and pulled on my ready prepped kit, grabbed some water and headed out the door on a lovely morning. As ever this summer, the weather forecast predicting rain was wrong. A takeaway coffee perked me up on the quiet train. The staggered start times and being in Group A suggested I should arrive before 8 am for the 9 am start. Knowing the route and how long it takes to get to the start, I dropped my bag after changing into my Wimbledon Windmilers vest around 8.30 am had a final safety wee and walked the 10 mins to the start on Piccadilly.
Being latish, there were plenty of Group B people already in place and raring to go. I weaved my way through as far as I could until it got too dense to squeeze through (still quite a long way back). During the 10 minutes wait, I bumped in Simon from the Windmilers, who was also trying to weave his way to the front.
There were some extra protocols to go through before the run, a pre-race health declaration and a lateral flow test 24 hours before the event, of which I completed both. It was stated that the declaration was compulsory and that they would be undertaking negative test result spot checks on the day. I cannot see how enforceable the declaration was and I didn’t see any test checks on the day and again it wouldn’t have been particularly enforceable.
The staggered start times aimed to reduce congestion. The space in the starting pens was as it was pre-Covid. It was fairly crowded, which didn’t concern me too much. The distancing relies on everyone being sensible and everyone at the race had chosen to be there and were probably aware that they would be barrier’d in, surrounded by strangers.
The rolling start worked well and I was through the start line 10 or so minutes after the gun. I wished Simon good luck and settled into the feeling of racing again. In the past, I’ve tended to go out fast and try and hold on. A very risky move, if you are not in good shape. Although I’ve run a lot during lockdown, it has been all much of a muchness. 4 or so miles at a steady pace. The field quickly evened out and there was plenty of space, no weaving required. I tried to manage my effort which was easier said than done. I keep checking myself in the early miles, letting others pass me and not chasing them.
There were plenty of crowds with support along the way, especially near the start and around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. It always intrigues me when you’re walking to these events and see tourists step out of their hotel with bemused looks on their faces as they see thousands of runners heading to the start.
The route is workman-like in places, including six U-turns, but it does cover some of the iconic streets and landmarks of London. The real highlight is the Embankment. If you don’t get the opportunity to run the London Marathon, the London 10km does give you the chance to run one of the most iconic parts of the marathon route. Sadly, the crowds along the Embankment were lacking and little can recreate the atmosphere of the last miles of the marathon.
Before I knew it, I was on the Embankment looking at Westminster Bridge in the distance, hanging on and trying not to blow too early. I paced it well, averaging 8.10 min/miles pushing but still feeling comfortable. I always have in my mind that the back and forth across Westminster Bridge is nearly the finish, but there is still over 2 km to go. I held on and managed a good sprint down Whitehall to cross the line in 50.36. I was pleased with my time and how the race had gone, which is, it was not hell, and didn’t have me cursing myself for thinking that I’m 25 kgs lighter and I can smash a 10km at the drop of a hat.
I collected the goody bag containing my medal, finisher t-shirt, Kind Protein bar and Tensing drink, then wandered to the bag drop and changed out of my very sweaty vest into my finishers t-shirt. I bumped into Simon again and swapped stories.
Having done the event on my own, I headed back to the train and looked on forlornly at The Sherlock Holmes Pub, where I’ve enjoyed many post-race beers with friends.
Well done to the organisers for getting this event up and running and putting all the protocols in place for people’s safety. It’s one of the best annual running events in Central London, attracting seasoned and new runners alike. It was great to be at a big event again. I enjoy these events, but running them on your own is a lonesome experience. I think from now on, I’ll try and do them with or through the various groups I run with. I think the social aspects of running sometimes outweigh the physical ones.