Nike Women's 10k #WeRunLondon race report

27 June 2015, 12:42

Despite the name change, this is essentially the same race as last year’s “We Own the Night”, but shifted to the usual Sunday morning time slot instead (I guess “We Own the Morning” doesn’t sound as good?). In any case, I had a surprisingly good time last year, and apart from some issues with the timing of the start waves, it was well organised enough for me to want to run it again this year.

If you’re not familiar with this race series – it’s a women-only 10k (two laps around Victoria Park) with a big race village in the center for freebies and pampering before and after should you wish. This year saw 10,000 women running round Victoria Park on a Sunday morning – 60% of whom had never run a 10k race before, which is a mind-blowing statistic and really shows the sort of reach Nike have to get new women into the sport. This was a fantastic race for beginners, and since it’s in a park rather than closed roads, there was a generous 3hr cut off time, too (which works out to 18min per kilometer!).

One of my major problems with last year’s race was the lavish overindulgance of a few select princess bloggers leading up to the event, which I’m pleased to report that Nike really toned down this year. It makes for a much more inclusive race feel when you don’t see a few people getting hundreds of pounds of freebies while others struggle to pay the race fee, arrange a babysitter, take the day off work, etc (in other words, real life demands!). There was a strong emphasis on crew love in the pre-race pep talks, encouraging us to give others encouragement and a pat on the back if we saw anyone struggling or in trouble, which was really nice.

I had an awful time actually getting to the start, with planned engineering works taking out my preferred route, and then finding the Overground down once I got to Stratford, so I ended up just walking the 32 minutes from there rather than waiting 29min(!!) for a bus. But I still had plenty of time to pootle round the race village in the sun, check out the decent array of freebies from various stalls, and use the loo and bag drop without any queues whatsoever (nice one!).

Then it was off to the start, where my 44min PB put me in the fastest (black) starting pen. But like last year, they actually mashed together the first two pens, so everyone thinking they could run a sub50 (purple) were also there. But I’d learned my lesson and walked right up to the starting line behind the ladies wearing race panties (seriously?) and after a 20min delay, got to watch Ellie Goulding sound the starting horn from about 3 feet away.

No really, I was right at the front, as you can see in the official start photo!

Nike Women's 10k starting line

Thankfully, unlike last year, there were no princess bloggers to trip over at the start (who thought it’d be a good idea to put them before the speed demons anyway?!), and I pretty much kept RDC’s fastest lady, Sorrel, within sight for the first lap (she ended up finishing in 6th pace, which is awesome especially since she’s training for a 100k race in a few weeks!). After about 3km I came across another RDC lady, Jules, who had started with Sorrel but couldn’t keep up, so I convinced her to stay with me instead and kept her legs going when she kept complaining there was nothing left.

Nike Women's 10k - photos from David Gardiner
Photo credit: David Gardiner

I didn’t really have any expectations for this race, but like in Bupa, I wanted to test my 5k time in advance of the World Transplant Games so I pushed it really hard throughout, and a look at my stats afterwards showed my slowest kilometer split was 4:37 (that’s 7:26min/mi), which I’m really proud of. The general race atmosphere was fun, with several bands along the route, lots of banners and motivational signs in the pastel-fluorescent colour scheme of this year’s race, and, despite my speed, I still managed to high five a trumpeter in a band on the side. I’m not sure which was more impressive – that I could swerve over to high five him at speed, or that he carried on playing with his other hand!

With so many RDC ladies taking part, the RDC men stepped up to the challenged and manned (so to speak!) the cheer dem crew duties. Despite there being a fair amount of spectators along the route, the RDC guys were the only ones making any noise, which was just weird. I mean, why go to a race and just stand there and stare? My husband James took advantage of the nice weather to cycle up and join the cheer dem point – he even got to let off a confetti cannon in my honour on each of my laps around, too (facing the correct way round, too, I might add!).

So back to those start waves – it’s not difficult to look at the lap times of the fastest pens, see when they hit the second lap, and ensure that the bulk of the slowest pen has already started by that point. Or perhaps it is, because yet again, when we came around to start lap two, the entire width of the course was taken up by ladies walking round! So for the second year in a row, my second lap was mostly a trail run – running entirely along the path, behind the bins and benches, swerving around spectators. The only real improvements made this year were marshals and signs encouraging people to “keep left and overtake on the right”.

This would’ve been much better in reverse (keep right and overtake left) for two reasons – one, the course is counterclockwise so the fastest runners (ie: those who actually care about a few seconds) had to run a wide perimeter of all the corners rather than the shortest distance, and two, when we got the the lap changeover point, the guidance changed to “keep left for finish and keep right for the second lap” which meant all the fastest runners had to suddenly cut diagonally through the crowd and vice versa. Carnage! So a consistent message to keep faster runners to the left would’ve solved both these issues.

Nike Women's 10k finish with champagne

Some might say that the finish time is the least interesting part of a race, but considering I pushed myself hard throughout, I actually do care about my times. I finished the first 5k in 21:28 (several minutes faster than the gold medal time at the previous World Transplant Games!), and crossed the line in… 43:28. Yes, I missed a PB (earned last month at Bupa) by 1 measly second!

Since I spent around 10 seconds stopped, trying to convince Jules to carry on and not DNF after the first lap, I’m going to count this as a PB no matter what the official clock said! And really, it just proves that I can consistently race at a sustained pace and pain level over the distance, which is good knowledge indeed.

Nike Women's 10k - selfie and necklace

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Nike races are unmatched in terms of swag, and you will always get your money’s worth. For the £28 entry fee we got a really nice tech tee or vest (I personally loved the colour and design this year!), two tote bags, a silver finisher’s necklace I’ll actually wear, champagne, a Birchbox full of skincare samples, coconut oil, peanut butter sachets, and gourmet popcorn. It was such a nice day that I didn’t mind having to pay a few quid for protein ice cream to eat sitting around in the sunshine afterwards!

So, despite the few problems (greatly reduced from last year, IMHO), this was a wholly enjoyable race, and one that was super welcoming to first timers and those recovering from all manner of illness and injuries. Leading up to the race, had I been injured, I’m pretty sure that I would’ve crawled around in order to get the finisher’s necklace and swag! Maybe Nike have worked out that a lot of us just need a little carat to aim for after all?

Nike Women’s 10k London, 21 June 2015, 43:28

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Bupa London 10,000 2015 - race report

28 May 2015, 12:52

This was the 6th time I’ve run the Bupa London 10,000 race, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that there couldn’t possibly be anything left for me to say about it. But you’d be wrong (and I forgive you), because this year, not only did they add in more starting pens, but the route was entirely new! The route still starts and ends along the Mall, but this year, instead of going along the Embankment (which is being torn up for the new cycling superhighway), the Strand was used instead, taking us up into Holborn, out to Bank and around back to Trafalgar Square and Westminster, finishing along St James’s Park, right in front of Buckingham Palace (Course pdf here).

selfie with Liz's House

As you could infer from my running it six times, I love this race. The organisation is brilliant, it’s easy to get to, cheaper than most other central London races at only £28, and the support along the route is just great. I’ve also really enjoyed the standard route, so I wasn’t quite sure how the new one would feel – but honestly, I think I preferred it (as did all of my friends)! Somehow there seemed to be more downhill stretches without any additional uphills (they must’ve just been subtle), and while you still got to see the Elites passing by you on the Strand (like the Embankment in most years), the route was wiggly enough to make it feel more interesting than just an “out and back” course. And my personal favourite – no Leadenhall Market so no cobblestones this year!!

Now, as for my own race experience this year – the upside to running a local race like this is that I can roll out of bed 90min before the starting gun and still get there in plenty of time. In fact, I was still yawning in the starting pen, wondering what exactly my legs were capable of. If you’ve been keeping track, in the previous four weeks I’d raced London marathon (26mi/42km), Run Hackney (13mi/21km), and cycled the Medway sportive (31mi/50km). So my legs weren’t exactly fresh, and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was fully recovered from London marathon, either.

Bupa 10 starting pen view

So I figured I’d run the first 5km of the race all-out and use it as a benchmark for the World Transplant Games road race since the last time I’d raced 5km was my first-ever race in 2007, so having a new time to whittle down over the next few months is useful. So I belted out of the starting gate, pretty much hitting 4min/km along the way, and crossing the 5km timing mat in 21:26, which was wholly respectable, I think.

Then I had a bit of a mental wobble, with the usual “ugh my legs feel heavy”, “wait, what am I doing again?”, and “why do I care exactly?” going through my head for about 30 seconds before I shook it off and told myself the quickest way back was to just push it as hard as I could. I mostly maintain a 4:20min/km pace (or thereabouts) through to Trafalgar Square, and then when I hit Horse Guards Parade (the same final 2km of the London marathon), I cranked my legs up to sprint speed and blew past a ton of people in the last few hundred meters.

Finish photo at the Bupa 10k

In the end, I actually came in a full minute under my previous PB, and no one was more surprised than me! I honestly wasn’t expecting it, especially considering my lack of motivation for the second half, but it goes to show that my legs really can surprise me when I turn my brain off and let them do their thing!

RDC group after Bupa 10k

I met up with a few other Run dem Crew guys and my husband at the finish, and after some lunch, went up to the Viviobarefoot store in Covent Garden where I had a total geek-out session with one of the staff there about biomechanics, form, and flexibility. For like 2 hours! So all in all, a pretty great way to spend a Bank holiday Monday.

Oh, and registrations for 2016 are already open. I’ll definitely be signing up for my 7th time!

Bupa London 10,0000, 25 May 2015, 43:27 (PB)

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Greenwich Park Movember 10k - Race Report

3 December 2014, 14:35

What a difference a week makes! Last weekend I ran the extremely hilly Three Molehills 16mi race and my friends and I came in last place. This weekend I ran the Greenwich Park edition of the popular Movember 10k series, and well… I was definitely nearer to the front!

This race has a reputation for being very hilly and one of the toughest 10k races in London – it’s two laps around Greenwich Park, taking in the two biggest hills – twice. This was my first year running it, though I cheered last year so I saw the larger of the hills, and then I ran the course as a practice run a few weeks ago, too. So I felt pretty well prepared, especially since the weekend before was both longer and hillier.

For a bit of fun, I took the elevation graphs from my running app and adjusted them so they were all at the same scale, comparing the Greenwich Movember course to both Three Molehills and Flatline (the race which is just 10 times up and down Swain’s Lane).

Elevation comparison

Amazing, right? Anyone who’s run the Movember route will swear that it feels a lot tougher than it looks here, but I think it’s important to put everything into perspective when you’re chugging away up a steep hill.

Thankfully I had another motivating (not so secret) weapon – the mighty Cheer Dem Crew were out in force, cheering on all 162 Run dem Crew members who were racing. They perched along the steeper hill, cheering us on both as we sailed down the hill, and then turned around to struggle back up it. They even brought the confetti cannons, though their aim definitely got better as the race went on (I don’t recommend taking a confetti cannon in the face at close range!).

Charlie & Glenn
Glenn (RDC Movember organiser & total legend) and Mister Run dem himself, Charlie Dark

I also felt it was high time I dusted off my gold medal leggings, having previously raced in them back in early 2013 at the dismal East London Half. They’re a bit too big for me these days, so I had a bit of sagging round the ankles, but I got an awful lot of attention on the way round and I was really easy to spot in the crowd!

Greenwich Park Movember

I didn’t really have any goals in mind for this race, considering it’s so hilly. But as there’s no starting pens, the first 2-3 km were super congested, too, which took some time off, too. I spent most of the first few kilometers running on the grass beside the paths, trying to duck and dive around people so I could stretch my legs. Unusually, I also decided not to wear my headphones for this race (I usually run with music unless specifically prohibited) since there were so many Crew running it and I could better cheer others on without them.

Running up that hill...

The great thing about having 160-odd friends running a race of about 1600 total is that you are constantly seeing people you know. The two-laps plus large amount of double-backs meant I was pretty much constantly giving high fives, gunfingers, and shouts of “Yes yes!” which also helped make the race fly past.

Greenwich Park Movember
Note: Satan is not a crew member!

So back to the results – I ended up finishing in 44:57, only 38 seconds slower than my 10k PB, and finishing as 8th lady! To be honest, had I known I was that close to getting a PB, I might’ve actually tried harder! ha! So in less than a week, I went from finishing last in a race to finishing in the top 10. Life can be pretty funny sometimes…

It was a great race to finish off my 2014 racing year, leaving on a high and getting me ready to start marathon training again in a few weeks.

Greenwich Park Movember 10k, 29 November 2014, 44:57

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Bupa London 10,000 - race report

27 May 2014, 14:58

I ran the first ever Bupa London 10,000 back in 2008 in a steady downpour. It was my first ever 10k, and despite the weather, I utterly loved it and I knew I’d be back. Great course, perfect organisation, easy to get to, and always a good time. I’ve run it in apocalyptic rain and searing 32C heat, and last year only a week after I ran a marathon and flew halfway around the world for work, and it’s still always guaranteed to be enjoyable.

This was my 5th year running it, so I totally knew what I was in for. They’d tweaked the course slightly over the years, reversing the start and finish, leaving out St Pauls, and making the finish closer to Buckingham Palace, but it’s still comfortable enough that we feel like old friends. Despite running We Own the Night a few weeks ago and it being 6 weeks since London Marathon, I must confess that my head still isn’t back in the training game. The forecast was decent enough and my legs were in good enough shape, so I set off at the front of my starting pen at a comfortable 4:15min/km and figured I’d try to maintain sub-4:30 through to the last few hundred meters and try to kick out a sprint finish.

On paper, it looks like this was a massively successful strategy – I pretty much kept between 4:15 and 4:20 for the entire race, and sped up a bit in the last 200m. But this felt way tougher than it should’ve, and I know it was all mental. It was a nice day, I had good choons on my playlist, I was on home turf, and yet it felt like a struggle to just keep going and not stop midway through for a sandwich or something. I know this is normal after a big race, and I’m hoping that a return to a training schedule in a week or two will help matters.

For me, the highlight in the race was hearing my name shouted out at around 4.5km and suddenly being in the midst of half the Run Dem Crew Elites – Mani, Sorrel, Barefoot Tom, and Jeroen were running the race like a peloton, each taking turns at the front and encouraged me to come along for the ride. I got caught up with them for a few hundred meters but then realised that their sub-4 pace was way too fast for that early in the race so I told them to go on ahead. If I’d met them at 7 or 8k, or if it was a few months down the line, this would’ve been a dream race experience for me, especially since they finished in 39 minutes!

Post Bupa 10k

I didn’t finish too badly though – despite my mental game being decidedly “off” I ended up with a new PB by about 40 seconds. It’s the third time I’ve finished 10k in 44 minutes-something recently – first was at the un-chipped Marrowthon, and then the second was the first 10k of London marathon, so it’s amazing I was able to carry on after running the first quarter so quickly!

But a PB is a PB, even if it’s just by a few seconds, and I’m feeling very fortunate I was able to pull it off at all. This is one of my favourite races, and I just feel grateful every year that I’m able to participate at all. Each year I remember the only two years I didn’t run it, when I was off having my bone marrow transplant and then recovering from it. My BMT “rebirthday” isn’t for another month, but somehow this race is always linked to it in my mind, and it’s a great reminder of why I run at all.

Bupa London 10,000. 25 May 2014. 44:19

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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 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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Three Weekends, Four Races

17 March 2014, 11:52

Composite of my four races

I’m reaching the last crescendo week in training for the London Marathon, and I certainly feel like I’m ready for the taper to start now, but not necessarily because of a particularly few hard weeks of training. Rather – because of a particularly busy few weeks of racing! In the past three weekends I’ve raced four times, rather more than I like to, but the timing worked out and they all came together.

First up was the Bath Half on 2 March, which I’ve already told you about in detail. This was the one I pushed the hardest on – definitely by “A” Race of the four, and one that saw me earn a massive PB in my perfect race conditions.

Bath Half photos

Then the following weekend I had the semi-regular Flatline 10 race on the Saturday. Flatline is an event my trainer puts on and involves 10 repeats of the steepest hill in London – Swain’s Lane, by Highgate Cemetery. Up and down is precisely 1 mile, so by the end you’ve run the toughest 10 miler you could possibly do. Last month I got a new Flatline PB of 1:24, but this time around I knew I had a 10k the next day so I held some back in reserve and finished in 1:28, which certainly felt respectable.

Flatline finish tag

The day after I had the Anthony Nolan Marrowthon in Regents Park – an event I’d signed up for months in advance when I agreed to run London Marathon with the charity. The 10km race was two laps of 5km each, and once Flatline was announced, I decided I’d just “fun run” this and enjoy myself. Happily the weather cooperated and we saw one of the first gloriously sunny, warm days, so I basically just bounded around the course with my headphones on, enjoying the sunshine and thanking all the marshals. It wasn’t until the second lap that someone told me I was the first lady, but I still didn’t bother to up my effort at all until the last 100m, when the guy behind me started to sprint past. “Oh no you don’t!” I thought, and I matched him so we crossed the finish line together, all smiles.

Marrowthon sprint finish

I then looked at my GPS and realised that not only was I the first female, but that I’d somehow run a new 10km PB of 44min-something. Umm, how did I manage that when I was seriously just running comfortably and enjoying myself?! And can I please have some of this on London marathon day?

Finally, yesterday was my last race before London – the Surrey Spitfire 20 miler. This race is organised by the same people who do Bacchus, so I knew it’d be a good one! I’d somehow convinced my friend Viv to run it with me, too, even though it meant catching a 7:30 train from Waterloo, and err, running 20 miles. Again, it turned out to be gorgeously warm and sunny, and I had zero time expectation so just vowed to stick with Viv throughout, as she’s a bit slower than me and had also been having ITB troubles. Unfortunately, the latter reared its head after about 40min and we slowed it right down to help her push through the pain, but there was no way I was leaving her! It wasn’t entirely noble – it’s a no-headphones race and I really wanted her company and conversation through the countryside, too.

Viv and I after Spitfire

Due to the slower pace, my heart rate barely raised an eyebrow, even on the hills, and I really nailed my nutrition and water, too, meaning I finished feeling really fresh, and having enjoyed my 3:18hr run way more than I probably should’ve! The only downer were the two between-toe blisters I picked up, despite wearing toe socks and copious amounts of Body Glide, so I’ve learned that I won’t be wearing those socks on marathon day!

So I’ve reached the end of my month of races, but I feel like my training during the weekdays in between has been a bit listless – the first few days of the week have been spent recovering from the weekend, then the last few days are spent in gearing up for the weekend’s race. I’m a real creature of habit, and it’s probably no surprise that I feel disoriented by having an inconsistent training plan, but I think the challenges I’ve faced over the past month will ultimately make me better prepared for race day. Running four races in three weekends isn’t necessarily something I’d recommend, but I think I’ve come out the other side stronger, partly due to running smartly and not racing them all.

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