It was grey and wintry, but it didn't stop Forest Fitness Runners bringing their best back to the Olympic Park for the Christmas 5k & 10k.
Construction work around the park meant that the course was different to last year. 2 compact and flat loops for the 5 and four for the 10.
We had two groups running this year. Walker 2 Runner and Runner 2 Racer. It meant there was a fantastic group of 20 of us racing.
Everyone brings something different to a race.
If it's your first time then it's a mixture of nerves about the unknown and the excitement of a mass race.
You might be looking to beat your personal best, thinking about your positioning at the start and your pacing through the laps. When to sit, when to push.
You may be using the race as rehab. Testing the body to see if your recovery is on track.
Whatever it is, at the start there's a stillness and a concentration then you're off. The crowd mill around you as you work to find your place in the field, find your own race. Pacing is important. The excitement of a mass start pulls you along then you settle into your rhythm and the race begins.
The lapped course makes pacing easier and it was flat (no towpath section this year) which meant you could comfortably open the stride and not have to change gears too often.
You work your way round the back of the stadium, reading the lyrics to "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" on the stadium doors in reverse order; picking people to catch and pass, while at the same time being caught and passed yourself.
Leaving the stadium behind things quieten down and you head out into the park, past a playground, over a bridge, whip around an U-turn, then a nice slight downhill back to the stadium and the next lap.
Whether it was 5 or 10k all the Forest Fitness Runners did brilliantly with a lot of personal bests all across the team. I took quite a few pictures at the finish line until it became clear that I'm an awful photographer, so Karen took up the mantle and did a much better job. See if you can spot which are mine, which are Karen's and which are the official race photographer.
The temperature dropped and the wind picked up, blowing over the finishing gantry and PA speakers at one point; so once we were all home it was coffees and warming up in the cafe, before heading over to Crate Brewery for some well-earned beer and pizza (Stilton & Sweet Potato - who knew!!!).
Really brilliant work everyone. Keep the running up over Christmas but don't forget to have a wonderful time and we'll see you in the New Year.
All the best