We Own the Night - race report

13 May 2014, 12:50

I was really grumpy about this race in the leadup to it. It was in no way an A-race for me (or even a B- or C-race), and Nike’s lavish treatment of a select few bloggers in the months leading up to it really rubbed me the wrong way. There’s nothing like watching other people get given £120 shoes, £90 leggings, 3 course dinners, 12 month Spotify passes, and countless gallons of free booze to make you feel like a chump for stumping up £30 for a 10k race. And that some of those people had barely run in the past 12 months (and then didn’t even run the race in the end) whilst other bloggers were out running ultras and gathering together teams of women to help run, well, it doesn’t exactly promote unity (Note: I in no way expect to be invited to these things. My problem is that I’d rather have seen the hundreds of pounds spent on each blogging princess instead gone to reduced race entry for local people, those on benefits, students, etc).

This, plus a forecast of heavy rain, and my legs still not yet recovered from London marathon meant that I was in a “well I’ll turn up and try to enjoy it I suppose” frame of mind.

And do you know what? I really enjoyed myself.

We Own the Night had taken over the top end of Victoria Park in East London, and rather than the feeling of a race, it honestly felt more like a music festival, with loads of tents, food trucks, a massive stage, and plenty of chill out places. In fact, the only bad part was that it was so cold and windy that I didn’t really want to hang out for long afterwards.

There were a few minor problems with the start pens (at least they had some this year!). I was in the fastest, black pen, for the sub-45min girls, but we were jumbled up together with the next, purple pace (sub-50), so we all had to push and squeeze our way to the front, which was awkward. Then a whole bunch of VIP pink band ladies were let out right in front of us, meaning the first 500m were carnage – tripping over much slower VIP runners (some of them in big groups) whilst trying to duck and dive around the purple pace runners, too. There is definitely room for improvement here next year – please put the VIP racers at the front of their prospective pace pens, for starters, rather than at the very front. I’ve been on the other end of this, and it’s equally un-fun to be overtaken and made to feel like you’re standing still.

Once we broke free of the pack, I settled in with a few of the RDC Cheelite ladies for a fast but comfortable first lap. I was moving at a good pace, but comfortable enough to hold a conversation and to go out of my way to give the Cheer Dem Crew guys a good high five! We Own the Night did a great job of making the course feel really festive, too – the kilometer markers were brightly lit up like old cinema signs, there were several bands along the course (including a brass ensemble covering Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” at one point), a DJ booth featuring Josey Rebelle, and two disco tunnels with teal and purple strobe lights and balloons. They also had chip timing points at every single kilometer, too, so you got a rundown of all your splits at the end. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a race with that many timing mats before!

We Own the Night high five

Top marks to Nike for going the turquoise and purple route, too – I’m thoroughly sick of brands thinking all you have to do to put on a women’s event is make it pink, give out cupcakes, and halve the distance. There was clearly a lot of thought put into this by women at the top, and some great graphic design work on the day, too. For our entrance fee, we got a designer tote bag, a really nicely designed technical race tee, and a designer necklace in place of a medal, too. The goody bag had two brands of coconut water plus a bunch of Kiehl’s samples and a bag of popcorn (so not the best I’ve ever had, but not the worst either). I’d love to see a women’s marathon in London like they’d done in San Francisco in years past, but this is a great place to start.

But back to my race – since it’s a two lap course, it was inevitable that the faster runners would be overtaking slower ones at some point. When I ran Bath Half back in March (also a two-lap course), the organisers split the width of the route with barriers and clearly signposted to run on the left for the first lap and the right on your second lap. As we were rounding the bend to start the second lap, I let out an almighty torrent of expletives, because there were now several thousand runners (including the 1hr10min pacer) just now starting their first loop and taking up the entire width of the path. I have no idea why they chose to start the slower pens just as the faster pens were coming around, but it meant that the majority of my second lap was spent running next to the path just to get around the thousands upon thousands of slower runners. It meant I ended up going a lot faster in the second half, moving from trail running alongside the path, dodging bins, spectators, kilometer markers, etc, and having to weave onto the course in places and then darting in and around other runners. I’m sure I ended up running rather more than 10km in total, but it was the only way I could get moving at anywhere near the pace I wanted to go.

I wasn’t planning on going for a PB, and in the end, it wasn’t really PB conditions, and afterall, I wasn’t really sure how my legs would feel so soon after London. But it was good to give them a stretch, feel like I was moving fairly fast, and I ended up finishing in 46 minutes, which is only 2min off my PB from earlier this year. I’m also glad I wore my RDC shirt instead of the provided race shirt, as it meant that Charlie Dark (leader of RDC and the start/finish line emcee) was able to pick me out and announce “Give it up for Melissa Fehr!” as I approached the finish line. It was a great finish to the race, and having the last 600m separate from the loop meant I really could open up my legs and go for a final push.

I also took advantage of the nighttime festival atmosphere to debut a running jacket I’d just made which was also my first foray into wearable electronics – it features LEDs sewn into the back which twinkle and fade (more details on FehrTrade.com later this week)! It was too warm to wear during the race itself, but perfect for warming up afterwards and keeping the wind off while I devoured my cajun catfish burger from the food trucks! I didn’t end up redeeming my complimentary sparkling wine coupon as there was a massive queue to get into the bar tent so we opted instead to head home early for some chips and a hot chocolate.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this race at all, and I was pleasantly surprised. With a few tweaks to their media relations and start pen management this could be one of my favourite races.

We Own the Night London. 10 May 2014. 46:12

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  1. Hey Melissa, I totally agree about Nike’s obsessive favouritism with bloggers, it really wound me up this weekend and I know a lot of the other girls felt the same. I am absolutely fine with people getting stuff for free but the special treatment should be for those that are committed to the sport, not just the people that look hot in a crop top and shout about it the loudest on social media. Sure, that stuff is a bonus for Nike and I can totally see why they pick the pretty ladies, but it’s insulting to the rest of us that they can’t look beyond the people that look cool in their clothes. Sadly it’s not about how inspiring or encouraging they are with their sport at all.

    — Lucy    13 May 2014, 13:56    #
  2. Totally agree with you and Lucy on this one. I was a “selected blogger” for last years WOTN, and actually worked my ass off to pull together a team of 50 girls – many of whom took on WOTN as their first EVER race. For 10 weeks, I held training sessions, wrote a newsletter and featured Nike’s trainers and tips to get these girls to the race. They had a great night – but…I was less than impressed with the race organisation. So I blogged the honest truth about the race and my criticisms.

    So…guess who WASN’T on the list this year! Part of me was pissed off because I had done so much to promote it last year, but mostly I was relieved. I’d rather not be part of all that – and be free to have my own opinions (plus, I clearly don’t look that amazing in a crop top haha). I begrudgingly signed up for this year, expecting it to be crap again. But I’m pleased to say that deep down Nike listened to all mine (and other honest bloggers) feedback and corrected everything for this year. I felt like I was running the course going “tick, tick tick” and actually had a real blast. I’m glad you did too! :)

    Leah Evans    13 May 2014, 16:45    #
  3. Great and honest recap Melissa! I get the critiques but do think Nike would rather keep the race (and their princess bloggers) as is and have the speedy/competitive female runners move to another race. There’s clearly a market for their type of running and I can see loads of women running WOTN as their only race each year.

    That said it’s a shame as I’d love to see Nike promote and encourage the speedy awesome women like they do in the states. The non-pink shirts are a start, now let’s not be scared of a few competitive women getting their elbows up!

    Laura S    13 May 2014, 17:07    #
  4. I honestly didn’t have high hopes for the organization considering how abysmal the Nike Run to the Beat Half was last year, but I signed up anyway figuring how bad could a 10k be. There was a small fiasco when picking-up my race pack and them being out of my size shirt so they had to post it to me later (and then i actually got 2 shirts in the post so I probably shouldn’t complain. :) But it also would have been nice if you could have picked up your race pack from more than just the Oxford St store as it didn’t seem like the numbers weren’t pre-assigned to runners but they just entered in with your name as they gave you your packet.

    But overall I was pleasantly surprised at how well organized this one seemed to be on race day. I agree the starting pens were a mess. I was in the orange pen, one up from the slowest yellow pen but we were all crammed in together and had the same try to shove to the front. Either have less color bands or more pens. And then as you said, they didn’t let us start until most of the elite folks were pretty much coming around for lap 2. I basically felt like I was constantly being passed on my first lap and then had next to no one around for lap 2.

    But even so, the course was lit up in a fun way and I actually didn’t mind being slow because it meant I actually got to see it in the dark for my lap 2. And considering it was a night race, I was impressed at the number of staff they had manning the course for safety and how enthusiastic even they were cheering folks on.

    — Amy    13 May 2014, 18:38    #
  5. Funnily enough we were chatting about the price of some 10k runs on our way back from Market Drayton 10k on Sunday. We all agreed that £14 was a good price £30 was not! The ‘goody bag’ we recieved was HUGE! OK so we got the obligatory t-shirt (far too big!) and medal but on top of that, oats, gingerbread man, sweets, a whole tray – yes tray! – of Muller yoghurts (missed out on the Muller rice), pork pies, sausage rolls…. the list goes on. There were issues with a malfunction on the timing mats at the start but other than that it was really well organised and at £14 incredible value :-D

    Louise    13 May 2014, 20:46    #
  6. Thanks for a great race report Melissa. Although I’m now distracted by the thought of the jacket with wearable electronics which quite frankly sounds awesome! From, a running blogging non-princess, more a pauper!

    — kathleen    16 May 2014, 09:53    #
  7. Your race report was brought to my attention Melissa so thought I’d stop by… don’t EVEN get me started on the whole princess blogger thing. 100% agree.

    I still had my gripes about some of the condescending girly stuff – giving us ‘skinny popcorn’ in the post-run pack does not a refuelling snack make and telling me to change into my dancing shoes instead of running shoes after the race… I wear flyknits thanks!

    I think at the end of the day they’re slightly between a rock and a hard place. It annoys me that they think we need necklaces, skinny popcorn and a non-competitive atmosphere but if they did organise a female-only race aimed at competitive runners they wouldn’t get the same take up… so then what does that say about the state of women’s running? They’re not really elevating it, but at least they’re getting girls who may otherwise not have run to run through the race. They should feature more fast girl runners rather than Instagram runners as inspiration… surely there’s some out there who run a fast 10k AND look pretty in a crop top?!

    — Jules    22 May 2014, 17:18    #

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