Race Report - The Run Through Olympic Park Christmas 10k
RUN THROUGH Olympic Park 10k
Terrain: Road, Flat
Saturday night brought billowing storms of icy rain to Walthamstow. Despite obsessively checking the forecast and being told Sunday morning would be clear but cold, I didn't believe it. So I pulled my usual trick of over preparing and packing too much kit. Although I did only bring one pair of running shoes in the end.
As it turned out the forecast was right and the day was clear. A short tube journey from Snaresbrooke to Stratford. A low winter sunlight bouncing off the Westfield glass as I walk towards the Timber Lodge and after meeting up realise that the race is on the other side of the park.
As the morning went on it was clear that the day was going to be glorious. Crisp, but clear and not a cloud in the sky.
Everyone is always different before a race. Some are quiet, some chatty. We sort out race numbers, bag drop, final emergency wee, then warm up.
It's always amazing how that hour before start time just disappears. You think you have all the time you need to get ready, then suddenly you're called to the start.
I love the electricity before a start. Nerves, excitement, expectation. For some it's a race they've been training for gunning for a personal best, or it's just part of a build up to something bigger, or it's just a fun way to spend a Sunday morning.
Races bring people together brilliantly. All shapes and sizes. All creeds and speeds. It doesn't really matter. Everyone gets something from it. Whether you are a pushing it at the sharp end and going for the win or just wanting to complete the distance, and everyone in between.
So we're off! At 9:30 exactly (impressively punctual). The leaders stretch the pace, the field opens up nicely over the first 400m and we settle into a rhythm. Those first 2 miles or so are always tricky. You need to find the right pace to carry you through strongly. Don't get too carried away so you struggle in the latter stages, and don't sell yourself short leaving you with too much work to do in final few miles.
The conditions are perfect. The overnight rain has mostly dried and there's no real wind to speak of. The course is flat and fast. There are a couple of little hairpin turns and kick ups that can disrupt the rhythm but as long as you concentrate you can keep on top of it.
It's a pretty fast field with plenty of fancy dress all through. I was running with someone wrapped in flashing Christmas lights and jingling bells for most of the first lap until he pulled away bells and all leaving me trailing in his festive wake.
Once the initial rush is over the reality of the race kicks in and you discover exactly what you have in the tank. The middle miles are what decides the race. There is no BS when it comes to racing. It is a crystal-clear distillation of where you are. This IS how fast you are. No excuses or explanations. I love the brutal honesty of it.
It's a 2-lap course and there is a 5k race running concurrently. I'd be lying if there wasn't a voice in my head whispering "You could just do 5. It's still a good run. No one will think any the less of you." "NO!!!" I say and think about inspirational quotes, maybe with a picture of a kitten hanging off a branch, as I stride past the 5k finishing straight before I change my mind.
Thankfully there's familiar face and a friendly cheer of encouragement from the sidelines (thanks Matt).
Now, in theory, the second lap is when you are supposed to open it up and push for the final 3 miles.
Not for me. Not yesterday. I was still pretty happy with the pace I was running, but it was clear there were no more gears for me to shift into. It was more about holding pace and not slowing down (too much). Keep it steady. Keep my posture. Keep my rhythm and technique.
As I said the mainly flat course has a couple of little kinks which are felt a bit more second time round and then finally, a cruel little joke at the end.
There's short ramp up from the canal, over the bridge and you head towards the large inflatable blue finishing arch BUT, in order to make up the full 10k, the race organisers take you within kissing distance of the finishing line then take you off to the left for a couple of hundred metres before looping back towards another 90 degree turn and a short finishing straight.
That little grumble aside, it was a great race. Well organised and marshalled. There were no problems with bags or registration or numbers and there was a very cool Christmas medal as well as minced pies, water, bananas, energy bars, free post race massage and strange little non-dairy fruit things in cups. We'll definitely be back next year.
Everyone who raced did fantastically well, logging some great times. I awoke this morning a little on the stiff side in my lower legs.
That blood curdling scream you'll hear later is the sound of me foam rolling my calves.
Many thanks to Matt Miller for coming down to support us all and taking some fabulous photos.