Given that this is a running blog (and often a racing blog) you’d think that a posting about the Tough15 in Greenwich would mainly be about my racing but let me set my stall out immediately and tell you that you would be incorrect. This is the story of one mans journey to get to a race because 2 minutes can be the difference between a medal and not a medal.
I live in deepest darkest Kent but the journey up to Greenwich is actually not too bad and so I had signed up to the Tough15 race around the park – three laps of what I thought would be ambling round having a few laughs. I awoke on Saturday morning at about 6am and drifted into the warmth of the shower, layered up my nether regions with vaseline and threw on my favourite Ronhill top and teamed it with my Inov8 245 and a pair of old Nike shorts. I’d also decided to run with my Salomon hydration belt to ensure that the expected days higher temperatures didn’t catch me out.
I left bang on time and jumped on my train, just a short hop from my house and this is where the problems started, while the train was on time it was delayed outside the station I needed to change at – only for 2 minutes but I only had 2 minutes to spare. Anxious I stood glaring out of the window – watching my next train in the distance bellowing out to the passengers that its door where closing. Inside my head I could hear the muffled scream of a man who was watching his race day dreams fade into obscurity.
My train started moving again and we finally pulled into the station just in time for me to watch as my ride drifted slowly away.
Hand on phone, I immediately tweeted my situation because thats what people do who need immediate feedback and support and also a plan and while there was a lot of sympathy for my plight there wasn’t a plan in sight and then I had an idea. I opened the National Rail app on my phone and started checking times for the various routes I could take and saw that I could drift into London and grab a return journey that should put me into Blackheath for about 9.05, then platform to registration line needed to be covered in less than 15 minutes – it was only about a mile or so, but it was uphill, it was just moments before a race and I really needed a toilet stop and not the kind you can have at the side of a building in Blackheath.
From here the trains ran to time but my anxiety was growing and the thought of not hitting the start line was annoying me as this would pretty much be my finally preparation before the SDW50 and although not perhaps the distance I was looking for it would give me the medal that helps with the mental side of things and also offers the race experience which I find invaluable before an ultra.
At 9.04 I hit the platform at Blackheath station, and when I say hit I mean hit. I pelted out of the station and straight up the hill across Blackheath, beyond the church and straight over towards the wrong entrance to Greenwich Park and so I thundered down the road as quickly as my fat thighs would carry me and hurtled up to the registration desk. I’d made it and with a few minutes to spare – though I was now a sweaty, dishevelled mess and the lady who handed me my number looked at me quizzically – perhaps wondering if I had already done a 15km that morning. I chose to ignore her quizzical stare and instead slapped onto my Inov8 the timing chip and the number to my chest – I was ready
And so to the race (at long last I hear you cry).
I’ve run a couple of The Fix Events and they have always been pretty well organised as this was no exception. The start line was clearly marked, the registration line was clear and the numerous toilets were located just far enough from the start line to ensure they didn’t intrude on the main waiting to run area. There was an excellent lady manning the PA and her enthusiasm amongst a surprisingly muted crowd was much appreciated and she kept going throughout the event.
I took my customary place at the back of the field and listened to the runners chatting, being on my own for the race today meant that I simply waited for the race to begin. Funnily I wasn’t really feeling the desire to run and even as the race started I saw no great desire to push off at a great pace. My lack of enthusiasm though may well of been of benefit as the start was pretty slow – partly due to the human traffic on the course and partly because I wasn’t yet feeling it. We all turned into the first corner and suddenly things started to open up a bit and I hit the afterburner to get myself some space and once found I drifted back down a gear.
As we started down the first major hill I saw a chap go past me and he was pushing a Mountain Buggy Swift – a lovely little buggy seemingly perfectly suited to running with your child – I chased him down and we had a lovely little chat about the practicality of using one of these and he gave it a glowing recommendation. It turned out he wasn’t running the race but was there as support to his partner and so I was glad I realised I wasn’t to follow him as he went off the course.
The course then proved just how tough it was as the route started bending in and out of the hills, the turns meant that pace was knocked right back as you span round them and the hills challenged your knees. The final hill on the route was a real bitch too and in my Inov8 on the tarmac meant I could feel it, however, pressing onwards was never a problem and I felt rather sprightly as I picked up some water at the 5km mark and the start of the second lap. The second lap was when the heat of the day started to get to me and I once again (after the Sidcup 10) realised I was wearing one layer too many, but it was too late now. The second lap also meant that we had lost about a lot of the runners who were doing the 5km race and had now finished, I was therefore able to push on with a bit more space and I was finally finding my stride by about kilometre 8. The tough final hill came back around at kilometre 9 and I pushed through it once again, rather enjoying the experience this time and then swiftly into the third lap. The third lap was much the same as the first 2 but again with less and less people to overtake or be overtaken by. At kilometre 11 I briefly stepped off the course to kick the football back to some young kids who had blasted the ball as far from the pitch as was possible to and then at kilometre 14 as I endured the final hill I asked a girl for a bit of a push and she obliged a few feet against my sweaty back – what a sport! I of course thanked her with all my might and then pushed on for a reasonably fast finish.
Crossing the line was a nice experience and I really enjoyed it – this wasn’t a race I was bothered about my performance in but in truth I was quite happy with the way the race panned out. I didn’t push myself too hard, I enjoyed the hills. There was a good medal for the race, the cost was reasonable (£21), the course was challenging and despite three laps was never boring. The atmosphere while not over the top was certainly pleasant and I would highly recommend the race if you were looking for a last minute warm up to the London Marathon or any of the other April marathons. The other great thing about this one was that it was a Saturday race – this means that my Sunday is free for a bit of a swim or cycle, perhaps both. If you decide to do this next year, enjoy it!
Happy running chaps