Yesterday, I headed to Potters Fields near London Bridge for an emotional reunion with my RunThrough buddies, whom I have not seen for a whole six days. Now the Chase The Sun events are over, we are all feeling a bit bereft, so it was nice to have an alternative evening run to attend. I was somewhat surprised to see Linda there, as she’d run the Richmond Marathon on Sunday and posted earlier that she’d just been for a “little recovery run” (5km). She assured me she was only going to do 5km and this resolution must have lasted a whole thirty seconds before she wavered and said “actually, I’ll do 10, it’ll be okay if I do it slowly”. Some people just can’t stop running.
This was my second time taking part in Run The River, which is a charity-organised event (Teach First) along the River Thames (as you probably already guessed). The last time I did it, three years ago, I actually got a PB (1:16ish) though this was mainly because I didn’t have much of a PB to beat. This is not a PB course as it involves:
- Trying to crush a thousand people over Tower Bridge on the pavement, whilst seemingly deaf and blind tourists do their best to create an impediment.
- Running up and down several sets of stairs. Queuing to enter staircases.
- Crossing busy roads.
- Trying not to get swept away by the “Midnight Runners”, a terrifying running club who prowl the Thames Path at warp speed carrying actual ghetto blasters on their back.
- Trying to find yellow arrows in the pitch black and follow them, and ignore the multitudes of other arrows and signs.
- Getting dizzy crossing the Thames six times, to the point where you don’t know which side you are on and think that St Paul’s Cathedral has been moved.
- Running on unsuitable pavements which constitute a greater trip hazard than Victoria Dock.
Once you realise you are going nowhere fast, though, it is actually quite a fun course with a lot to see. It starts at 7pm, just as night starts to fall, and as you run along the path you see the sky dim over the landmarks. This would be a particularly nice race for a visitor to London to take part in as you see so much – Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s, the Tate Modern, the pedestrian Millennium Bridge, the city skyscrapers and the Shard. Even I was quite impressed, and I’ve lived here for 41 years. The course was quite different (and more perilous) than last time I did it – more diversions from the path inland to the pavements and more bridge crossings.
Quite early on, it became apparent that my Garmin and the kilometre markers were seriously out of sync. I couldn’t work out if it was due to dodgy GPS, a short course, misplaced course markers or a wrong turn. I passed the 5k marker after 35:10, which would have been a non-track PB, but I didn’t feel I had been running particularly fast and my watch said I had a quarter of a kilometre left. At this point I was starting to think that the course was short and worried that I was going to end up with an incredibly suspect time that I wouldn’t be able to beat. However, it transpired that kilometre 7 was a quarter of a kilometre too long, and lo and behold, watch and markers were perfectly in sync as I passed 8km. By the time I finished, the watch said I had done 10.1km and all was well.
Strava unhelpfully tried to inform me that my finish time was 1:17:25 but on closer inspection I realised that it had knocked two minutes off for times when I was stationary waiting for tourists to fuck off/traffic lights to change/stairs to become available. I downgraded my reaction from Very Pleased to just Pleased. At least 1:19:25 is under the crucial 8 minutes a kilometre, and I’m sure I could have done it in 1:17 if there had been no obstacles to contend with. Certainly a significant improvement from Kew Gardens.