RunThrough Christmas Greenwich Park 10k

Christmas these days seems to be defined by a distinct lack of activity, closures and cancellations and gleeful gluttonous overconsumption of poor quality foodstuffs. Thank god for RunThrough to save us from all this with a festive run in Greenwich Park! They’d pulled out all the seasonal stops, with marshals in inflatable Santa suits and reindeer costumes, a rock choir singing festive faves and home-made mince pies and candy canes at the finish along with the regular flapjacks and bananas.

The view from the top of the hill in Greenwich Park

I have been to Greenwich Park many times for picnics and piss ups but this was my first time there as a runner and my perception of that massive hill in the middle has changed quite remarkably. According to the research I did when I got back, it’s actually double the height of the infamous Finsbury parkrun hill and the well-known hill sprinting ground, Primrose Hill. (I have spent about two hours since I got back comparing various hills of my acquaintance on Strava. Parliament Hill seems to be the hilliest hill that I have ever run up.) I may have mentioned before that I am a fan of hilly routes. Greenwich Park isn’t really hilly though, it’s just one massive hill. The 10km consisted of three three-and-a-bit-kilometre laps. The first half of each lap is almost completely flat, around the top of the hill, then there’s a fantastic downhill. I love running downhill. Being of above average weight for a runner and having rather poor balance and control of my limbs, I find I just plunge down the hill like I am on wheels, gathering speed and praying I will reach the bottom of the hill before my feet get tangled in each other and I fall flat on my face. In fact, on my second time down the hill I caught up and overtook several runners who had just lapped me on the flat. (Of course, they overtook again at the bottom of the hill). There is then a short flat bit alongside the college, and then… what comes down, must go back up again. I think it took three goes for me to get my technique for this hill sorted – on the first attempt, I ran slowly at the less-steep beginning and then tried to sprint up the steep bit (didn’t work, sprinted approx 2 metres before walking the rest), on the second I tried to run the whole thing slowly (similar result) and on the third I alternated running and walking all the way up (quickest time of the three, according to Strava).

At the start (wearing hideous charity shop hoodie to keep warm)

At the beginning of the race I noticed a few people lining up in some admirable fancy dress costumes – I saw at least one Christmas turkey, one Christmas cracker, a gaggle of trees, a complicated costume with legs hanging off the side like a cowboy riding a horse (what this has to do with Christmas I don’t know) and thought to myself that if I got lapped by any of these people it would be time to give up running. Fortunately, I can report that none of them lapped me – the worst I had to contend with were several pairs of antlers and a woman in a “sexy Mrs Claus” Santa dress, which I can cope with. I learned a long time ago that runners in fancy dress aren’t likely to be slow – slow people don’t tend to handicap themselves further with awkward clothing! There were a lot of red and green striped leggings, which don’t flatter anyone (not even runners with perfect runners’ legs). My own concession to Festive Attire was a hairband with sparkly antlers attached. One of the antlers refused to stay erect. I also had a few festive tunes intermingled with my usual running playlist. I finished on Slade.

The bottom of the hill pre race

There seemed to be a lot of slower people out today than at the Chase The Moon last week, so this time I had plenty of company for my last lap. I decided to keep a tally of how many people overtook me and how many I was overtaken by in the last lap and the final total was: overtook seven, overtaken by zero. I was quite proud of this, firstly it shows that I have plenty of energy left at the end of a 10k now (when two months ago I couldn’t finish one without walking) and secondly it allows me to go a little further with my self-delusion and fantasies that I am Mo Farah overtaking the opposition in the final kilometre of an Olympic Marathon. (Do other slow runners do this or am I totally crazy?)

I didn’t much care for the placing of the finish line – near the bandstand just at the top of the hill – I was still recovering from the hill and didn’t have much of a “finish line feeling” let alone the energy for a sprint finish. I suppose they have to put it there for the toilets, but I’d rather it was at the bottom of the hill! Still, this is one small niggle in what was a great way to chase away the abject misery of the unfestive season. It’s my last race of 2017, too. My time was 1:16:06, which is nothing to write home about, but with that hill I knew this was always going to be more of a hill training session than a race.

Note to self: New Year’s Resolution 2018 – do more hill practice

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