July 20, 2015
Three months ago (check out this post) I was running in the glorious sunshine with the iconic London 2012 Stadium in the background and chatting to running legend Paula Radcliffe about how we get more women enjoying the sport of running, yesterday I stood on that very same piece of grass with 17,000 other runners with the sun shining once again, about to take part in the Morrisons Great Newham 10K Run.
There had been a bit of pre race banter on social media with Paula challenging me to run a 10k PB (which is 1.06 in case you were wondering), and I had been really working hard on my training to give this a good go, but three weeks ago disaster struck after injuring my knee after a pretty intense cross fit session. A panic stricken trip to the Physio revealed it was a problem with my medial collateral ligament probably caused by my tight calves and hamstrings…so what followed was 3 weeks of deep tissue massage (I’d take child birth over this any day), acupuncture and heavy strapping…I kept myself positive by focussing on eating well and keeping up my fitness with careful cycling and swimming, but I didn’t know if I would be able to run the race at all.
So lining up at the start line at 9.40am yesterday I can honestly say I felt sick with nerves.
Despite the race taking place 5 minutes from my home, I was on site from 8am with a media pass and access to the stadium before any of the spectators had arrived. I managed to have a good chat with Paula about what she’s up to, and gave her the low down on my knee issue, I also met Brendon Foster the British former long-distance runner, and now sports commentator for the BBC who founded the Great North Run.
But all this hob nobbing with the stars of athletics was not going to help me run this 10K race though, so I headed out to the start line and scanned the crowds for some familiar faces for some moral support, and it didn’t take long before I spotted some of my ladies wearing their TFTR official merchandise.
With just 10 minutes to go to the start of the race I grabbed a lucozade after realising this morning that someone had eaten the last of the bread and I didn’t have time for porridge, so I had opted for a bag of mini cheddars and an apple…this didn’t bode well, clearly I have not yet mastered the fuelling like an athlete part of my plan…well not this time anyway.
I was in the white wave which was the 2nd wave to head out. The anticipation was terrible, would my knee hold out? would my rubbish breakfast sustain me? would I die of heat exhaustion? as it was already pretty hot by now. Too much to worry about…and then we were off.
I took things really steady, with this being the first time I had run properly in 3 weeks. I was being overtaken by everyone in my wave but the course design had allowed for this with no problem and my decision to run without headphones had been a good one, as there were loads of comments of support as runners recognised my vest. I soon passed the 1 kilometer mark and I thought “ooohhh just 9 more to go and my knee feels OK…at least for now”
I was running between 13 and 14 minutes miles, which is a little slower than I normally run, and I was uber aware of my how my body was feeling. I also took care to sip water continuously around the course having grabbed a bottle while in the holding pen. It was great running on such familiar roads, after all the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is where I train most weeks and the twists and turns of this particular route were great, allowing for spectators on all the bridges and entertainment at key points to keep the lively atmosphere up.
At 2K came the first of the real inclines, I heard some guy say “oh I didn’t realise the course would be undulating” but I knew there would be hills. There were plenty of people walking by this point but I was determined to run as much of this as possible so I slowly but surely made my way to the top. The next mile or so was lovely, along the canal as we headed towards Hackney. I knew that one of my ladies would be at the Copper Box so I focussed on staying strong until then…and there she was armed with her camera to capture the moment. The loop around the old Press Centre was a little more challenging as the heat was starting to get to me now, but I was almost at half way so I just focussed on getting to the 5k point. Which I managed with little drama.
Back in the main Olympic Park I spotted Pearl at the water station. Pearl is a bit of a local volunteering legend and I am glad to call her a friend now after managing her for a number of years at all kinds of exciting sporting events and she even featured in one of my first photoshoots for TFTR last year. She managed to get this fab picture earlier in the day of us both and Brendan Foster.
Anyhow, with some cold water to cool me down I plodded on, spotting a few of my ladies on the loop back through the velopark where there were a few more hills to tackle. A few times I actually felt a bit faint, well more spacey than anything. I think the heat and lack of a proper breakfast was taking its toll. But we were counting down now and I still had no knee pain and my fitness was holding up too.
The next couple of kilometers were a bit of a blur but it didn’t matter because I knew what was coming. Without sounding like a bit of a show off, I have in fact run in the stadium twice before (2012 & 2013) so I knew what to expect but it didn’t make the moment any less exciting. Running underneath the stadium in the cool corridors with the epic sounds of Chariots of Fire did its job, and then the light appears and the roar of the crowd can be heard.
Running on the track felt awesome. I was trying to film myself, trying to spot my friends in the stands and trying to enjoy it all at once (not doing a great job of any of it) but I managed a sprint finish of sorts with my hands in the air…in a symbol of relief more than achievement I reckon. I finished in 1.18.33 which although not a PB, its also not the worst time I have run a 10K in either.
What an awesome event…and I mean that whole heartedly.
Sitting in the stadium afterwards watching other runners have their moment of glory you realise what this amazing opportunity means to people, and not just to the runners themselves but to their families and friends too, these memories will last a lifetime.
I felt immensely proud of all my Clubhouse ladies who took part, I think there were about 12 of us in total, although sadly this was the best effort on the team photo front. (Note to self must be more organised at our meet ups)
Being able to spot TFTR ladies by their vests & tec tees was fabulous and made the day a whole heap more enjoyable, especially for the ladies heading to the event by themselves.
There were some great performances on what was a challenging course and in difficult conditions (namely the heat) and I am now really excited about our next two meet up race events in the Autumn, the Richmond Running Festival and Race for Life Half & Full Marathon (Come and join us in the Clubhouse for training and support)
While we are talking about our Clubhouse members I want to mention this particular lovely lady who did the family run with her son who has recently injured his foot. She was a little apprehensive about the event a few days before as she has an injury at the moment but the clubhouse ladies sorted her right out with a whole heap of advice, love and support. 2 miles on crutches is an amazing accomplishment, and what a role model to her kids.
It looks like all that effort paid off though as they got to run with Paula in the finishing straight.
Congratulations to the organisers for an amazing event, I can’t wait to next years race now!!