Richmond Half-Marathon - Richmond Borough of London England
This is a race report for a Half-Marathon I ran Sunday March 23rd in Richmond England. I had known for several months ahead of time that I was going to London to teach a week long course March 24-28. Whenever I teach in Europe I leave on a Friday, typically fly overnight, arrive Saturday late morning and then have the rest of Saturday and Sunday to recuperate from flying and adjust to the time change before beginning to teach Monday. It occurred to me that if there was race in or near London on Sunday I could run it and this was the ONLY possible day I could do so because I was leaving the following Saturday morning early. At first I thought maybe it was a nutty idea because I cannot sleep AT ALL on planes so I knew that I would be up the entire night on Friday and two nights before a race is the most important night of sleep for me. However, I could not get the idea out of my mind and how fun it would be to run a race in a different country so I set out to see if there was even one going on. I searched online and did not find anything. I then decided to check on facebook to see if there was a running club in London and sure enough there was. I posted there (after being accepted into the private group which took several steps) asking if anyone knew of races on Sunday March 23rd and got a quick response about a 10K and a Half-Marathon going on in Richmond.
Richmond is a London suburb along the Thames River about 8 miles south west of London except there they do not say suburb but rather they say borough so this town would be known as: “Borough of Richmond upon Thames” Has a nice ring to it doesn't it? After speaking with my coach to see if he thought this was a ridiculous idea (he thought it was a great idea to run it) I went online to register and found out the half was filled to capacity. Never one to give up easily, I contacted the race Director directly and begged him to let me in giving him my legitimate sob story…that this might be the only international race I ever have the opportunity to run.
Well, I guess he felt sorry for the whining woman from the states and promptly gave me a code to override the website that was shutting me out of registration. After all that I thought “Oh dear, now I really do have to run this race after all!” You can’t beg to get into a race and then decide not to run it! After converting pounds to dollars it was bit of a pricy endeavor but I thought what the heck…once in a lifetime opportunity right?
My next concern was how to get to the race. It was easily accessible by subway…known as the “underground or the tube” in London but every time I researched how to go I found a different route and I was also concerned about the subway running less frequently on a Sunday morning. It was about an hour by subway with needing to change from one subway to another twice and some walking to and from the stations. I am a bit obsessive about things like this anyway but also knowing I had to be at the race at a certain time made it even worse. I finally decided I knew the route I would take and tried to stop thinking about It until the time came.
When I arrived in London Saturday morning after taking the fast train from the airport my co-worker and I made it to the hotel around noon London time. By this time we had now been awake for more than 24 hours. My co-worker traveling with me told me in no uncertain terms that she thought I was absolutely crazy for planning to do this the day after arrival and that she would be sleeping in on Sunday. She did agree to walk with me Saturday to the station I would need to go to on Sunday morning so that I could be sure that I knew where I was going when I got up the next morning.
I found King’s Cross Station and here is a photo of it.
I thought that I had everything worked out to get there in the morning and was trying to calm my nerves about this whole thing. The race started the next morning at 9:00 AM and I planned to get the earliest subway I could on Sunday which was at 7:00 AM. If all went well I could get there 1 hour ahead of time. I got on the tube breathing a sigh of relief that I was on my way and then I looked down and saw I had my pants on inside out! What the heck!? I really was anxious wasn’t I? Well, all did NOT go well! I had quite a time getting there because after I got on the tube at King’s Cross after about 3 stops the subway was stopped because of radio problems. After sitting there quite a while they told people they needed to get off and find street level transportation. By this time the time was about 7:40. I did not have anything worked out in my mind about how to get there by bus.
I said a little prayer asking God to help me know what to do and within seconds I ran into another runner from London (actually a Parisian living in London) and he also was not sure about how to get there and still be on time. I suggested sharing a cab fare and he said that would be VERY expensive! As we were trying to work out what to do, they re-opened the underground and we got back on. Once we got back on we saw many runners on the tube. I felt better knowing that I could just follow everyone for the connections and that I would not be the only late runner if I was late! Once getting to the final stop and walking to the race I had about 15 minutes to get my number, check my bag, stand in line for the for the porta potty and get to the start. Of course, being late, I got in a line that was literally not moving for the porta potty! I had to chuckle inside when the person in front of me said “I think we picked the wrong queue for the loo!” First because of it being British speak and second because it rhymed. Once in the loo I had to decide…do I take the extra time to fix my inside out pants? What a ridiculous thing to have to think about. I decided I wanted to do my first international race with my pants right side out I literally had to run to the start to get there before the race began. This added a lot of stress to me but I was happy that I made it! The conditions were windy with drizzling rain with a temp in the high 40’s.
I jumped in near the 1:55 pace group. I did not have a pace in mind for this race knowing I would be jet-lagged, sleep deprived and was dehydrated from the dryness of many hours on a plane. I decided to run by feel. The early miles I felt shockingly good considering my less than optimal pre-race days and the rain stopped.
As for the race itself I liked the course a lot. We started out on the streets of Richmond. They did not have the streets blocked off only some people trying to direct traffic so there was a lot of running around parked cars and up and down from the sidewalk. It was slippery with the rain and volunteers at corners were yelling “Mind the corner!” I tried to take in the historic buildings and enjoy the beautiful parks we were running by. We were now at mile 6 and still no water. I was VERY thirsty.
I asked the man beside me... “Do you know when there is a water stop?” He said “No, this is rubbish!” Meaning he was not happy that we did not have a water stop yet. Again, I smiled inside enjoying the British expressions. It WAS rubbish! Just past mile 6 there was water but I felt that going this long without water was going to catch up with me later and it did. Soon we got on a gravel trail that went along the Thames river where most of the rest of the course would be. There were fans before and after we got on the trail. They all kept shouting “Well done!” which also made me chuckle since at mile 6 I was a long way from done but you know that’s what the British say… “Well Done!” and “Brilliant!”
The trail was enchanting on the way out. There were folks playing fetch with their dogs by throwing floatable balls into the Thames and having their dogs retrieve them.
Of course, they were all very hunting stock types of dogs such as Labradors just at the British would have. The trail no longer seemed so enchanting on the way back when I was tired navigating the stones and mud was much harder. I knew my pace was slowing and I really wanted to have my last mile less than 9 minutes. I know that each mile I do under fatigued conditions counts all the more for my training so I tried to push. I did not have as strong of a finish as I like to have but I did drop back down under 9 minutes for the final mile. My final time was 1:53. I ran an 8:39 pace averaging 8:20-8:40 in the early miles. The first 6 miles felt effortless and I was thrilled as I saw 8:20-8:30 pace clicking off with each mile. At mile 7 I suddenly felt tired. I decided to check my heart rate and it was at 170 which is my danger zone. I can tell almost immediately when my HR goes above 170 and if it does there is good chance I am going to blow up if I don’t get it back down. I held on until mile 10 where I dropped off to an 8:51 and 8:47 for mile 11, 9:07 for mile 12 and back down to 8:47 for the final mile with my HR now at 178 which for me is DANGER , DANGER so it was good that I was done. I think that with better pre-race conditions and more water I would have been able to hold my early pace the entire race.
The finish was similar to a US race with volunteers waiting with your medal and ready to cut your chip off you shoe.
However, there was only water and bananas at the finish! I am used to bagels and some other snacks at the end of a half but then again Americans eat too much! HAHA! I went over to the gear check and got my backpack with dry clothes to put on for the train ride back and for milling around a bit with the other runners. Boy did those dry clothes feel warm and cozy. I hung around for a while chatting with folks and then headed back to my train stopping at Starbucks on the way.
Overall I found it to be a wonderful race. Well organized and a lovely course. I am very pleased that the race director was kind enough to allow me into the race. It was indeed, BRILLIANT!