Despite edging towards the three score years and ten mark my road running career only took place in the period 1984 to 1989, and from when I took it back up again in 2009 after I joined 26.2 RRC. Although I have almost lost count of the number of road races that I have entered I do however have documentary evidence of the majority of my race results and I’m always interested in my personal best times on the off chance that I might, yet once again one day, beat them. For the 10km these times are recorded as 41:43 in the Berlin Road Runner’s 10km (last millennium) and 53:37 in the Bupa London 10,000 (this millennium). Consequently the Bupa London 10,000 is one of my favourite races and partly explains why I entered and ran it again this weekend.
First held in 2008 this was the seventh occasion for this fantastic bank-holiday event which costs half of some other London 10K races, which I won’t enter at such high prices, and with the exception of the first one I have taken part in all of the others. On a personal level Mo Farah withdrawing a few days beforehand had nothing to do with my entry but was apparently due to a lack of race fitness and not being race-ready following his marathon debut last month. Being in a similar situation I however, soldiered on and treated it as a Sunday morning training run with a few thousand others – but then I always do that nowadays when entering races! To be fair to Mo he was at the start line setting off each wave of runners and as such did receive plenty of cheers as runners passed him.
The course itself follows that of the London Olympics Marathon which was 4 laps of the 1 lap route that 17,200 of us runners registered for to run this year. In the past this race has been held on the bank-holiday Monday but due to a royal event taking place it was held a day earlier this year and whilst over the years London Marathon Ltd have tweaked the start and finish points, plus reversed the course direction, it has tended to remain the same. The Assembly Area is in Green Park with plenty of porta-loos and an extremely well organised system catering for runners. Out on The Mall there were 16 start zones and the route is basically a loop through Westminster and the City of London via the Thames Embankment. The organisers describe it as “flat and straight in most parts following a clockwise path from royal London through political London to financial London and the ancient alleyways of old London Town. It swoops past religious London, ducks under market London, takes a view of cultural London and embraces park London – providing the observant runner with more than a sight or two of the icons of tourist London as they flash by”. Each kilometre was clearly marked up high, with a timing mat halfway to take our 5km split times, and there were water stations at approximately 3km and at 7km. For the first time this year, the finish was moved from The Mall to Spur Road in front of Buckingham Palace.
Having finished in 55:26 last year my race plan was to run under one hour again knowing that it takes me some 4 – 5km to sort my breathing out and to get comfortable with my running. Consequently I aimed for (don’t laugh) a pace of 5:30 minutes per km but, because I know that races are crowded at the start with slow runners in the way (hark at me!) I work in 2km stretches checking my pace at 2km – 11min; 4km – 22min; 6km – 33min; 8km 44 – min and 10km – 55 to 59 min depending upon how it went. I don’t panic too much about the times at my 2km interval checks so long as I’m under the hour but that sort of pace calculation fits in with my military/maths teacher mind or as others might see it I could have some sort of mental problem!!
At just gone 10a.m. the race elites set off heading for Admiralty Arch. The 16 starting waves were being set off at 2 minute intervals so being in the 6th start zone (Blue B) I was 10 minutes behind the leaders before being allowed to start. After Admiralty Arch it was a right turn at Trafalgar Square into Whitehall and then left down Horse Guards Avenue before turning left again, just after the 1km marker, onto Victoria Embankment. By now we had sorted our start congestion out and whilst trying to sort out my breathing we headed for Waterloo Bridge and then Blackfriars Bridge with good crowd support along the way and some bands playing to create an atmosphere worth entering for alone. The water stations (small bottles) were located under Blackfriars Bridge and also just happened to be approximately 1km after where I had started passing the elite runners, bearing in mind that I was still heading out for The City as they were returning from it. A short uphill stretch shortly after had me running into a bit of a breeze and heading for the London Lord Mayor’s Mansion House official home before turning right and briefly going into the covered Leadenhall Market to be greeted by yet another band supporting us runners.
By now I had sorted my breathing out and was starting to feel pretty good at this point so with a left turn followed by a couple of right turns I started heading back towards the finish point as I ran over the 5km timing matt and straight on for Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street, with yet more bands playing, with a greatly appreciated short downhill stretch bending back towards the River Thames and onto Victoria Embankment at Blackfriars. Once again it was under Blackfriars Bridge with its water station setup as we encouraged runners still heading in the opposite direction to us and then it was a nice flat 2km stretch under Hungerford Bridge to Westminster. A slight incline took us up to pass Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, then along the side of Parliament Square into Great George Street and with under 1km to go on to Birdcage Walk running alongside St James’ Park before turning right with 100m to go for the finish on Spur Road in front of Buckingham Palace.
Fortunately the weather was almost perfect and after a cloudy start it had remained dry with some good sunny spells and pleasantly warm conditions to run in throughout the morning. The goodie bag at the end contained four different drinks and some nibbles not forgetting that all important medal and finishers t-shirt. Results were up on the website ( https://www.london10000.co.uk/ ) the same afternoon and apparently (subject to ratification) I finished in the 4917th place with a 5km split time of 28:10 and a 10km finish time of 55:47 so although not a new personal best I’m fairly pleased with that. Since the sun was shining and there was an M & S nearby a family picnic lunch in St James’ Park was quickly organised to round off a very pleasant afternoon.
Finally, for your information the Bupa London 10,000 is presented by the London Marathon and the 2015 race will be held on Monday 25th May, starting at 10a.m. With a race entry fee of £26 for UKA affiliated runners it really is one of those events that you should enter. I will definitely be running it again so hopefully I will see some of you there.