My first 10k back was indeed a shambles – but not for the reason I thought it would be!
The race was part of The Race Organiser’s summer Royal Parks series, and took place in lovely, hilly Greenwich Park. The first 2km went really well, my legs felt fine and I was moving at roughly 7:20/km pace, which isn’t bad for me considering the hills and the months’ break. I was about ten places from the back, which is nothing unusual. At the 2km mark I was just behind a couple who I was intent on overtaking soon, and just behind me was a girl who was run/walking and thus kept overtaking and being overtaken by me, and another girl whom I had just overtaken on the downhill.
I could see that the course was uphill from this point, not up the steep hill but on the diagnonal paths beneath the observatory. There were runners in all directions and I wasn’t sure where they all were in the course but figured that I would just follow the signs and the couple ahead of me. But then we got to a big intersection with no marshal and no signs and none of us had a clue where to go. The couple started up the hill, then thought better of it and took the right hand fork. I followed, and so did the other two girls. Take a look at this picture: which way would you go?
(The correct answer is “left”, and as I discovered when I returned to take this picture, there was an arrow – but several metres down the path, out of sight at the junction itself so you had to actually run along it to know you were going the right way).
At the end of the right hand turn the path intersected with some runners coming the down the hill and it was fairly clear to me that I’d taken a wrong turn so I asked the marshal, making it clear where I’d come from, but she assured me that I was going the right way and directed me down the hill. Now I was alongside lots of faster runners and it definitely didn’t seem right. There wasn’t another turn in sight and sure enough, there was the 3km marker – I’d only just passed the 2. I stopped at the next marshal and asked for help, and she was a bit more helpful, but by now to get back on course I’d have to run nearly half a kilometre back the way I’d come. She told me it was okay to carry on, but I was so far ahead of where I should have been that it felt like cheating. I was starting to get a cramp in the back of my leg, perhaps from stopping mid run, and had completely lost the will to continue, so I followed the course to the 5km mark, walking most of the way, then picked up my bag and went home with the massive hump.
To be fair, I did speak to the bloke in charge of the race and he offered me a free place in another race (and let me take my medal and goodie bag) and seemed to take my comments on board. He seemed to think that the runners would follow the lead bike and then follow each other, so there was no need for marshals at every junction, but when you’re slower gaps open up and there’s no one to follow. It was quite a contrast from my experience at RunThrough last time, where even at a walking pace I felt welcomed and encouraged – today I felt left behind for being slow, which isn’t a very nice feeling.