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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Certified BADMAN

3 February 2015, 16:04

My running has been disrupted of late, to say the least. I was only just getting back into some sort of rhythm after my awful cold/flu over the entire holidays, when my grandmother suddenly fell into a coma and passed away. So I took an extremely last-minute flight back to Pennsylvania for the funeral, and somehow I managed to remember to throw my trainers and my warmest running clothes into my suitcase.

January in Pennsylvania is never the kindest month to run in, but I really needed the stress release and Me Time and despite two snow storms, enormous hills, and no pavements, managed to run twice in the five days I was there.

Snowy, icy selfie

I’ve run through 10-11 London winters now, in rain, snow, freezing winds, the lot… but this was something else! Monday’s run was through an active snowstorm (Blizzard Juno), with frozen eyebrows and eyelashes, and snow collecting on my mustard merino Surf to Summit Top. When I got back to my grandfather’s, my stomach was beet-red with cold even through the merino!

After my first run, I looked at the map and saw that “Badman Road” was only a few hundred meters beyond where I’d turned around, so of course I had to go that little bit further to get some selfies to prove my “Badman” status!

selfie with Badman Road sign

I couldn’t feel less like a marathoner, let alone an inernational track star at the moment, so I’m going to look at this photo whenever I need a boost. Yeah, that time I ran through a blizzard to Badman Road!

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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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Run Hackney - race report

24 June 2014, 14:56

I love that there are suddenly a bunch of new races cropping up in London, because it means there are more races that I can run after sleeping i my own bed and without paying a fortune for travel. I didn’t sign up for the inaugural Run Hackney race (aka “the Hackney Half”) immediately, though, because the £40 entry fee seemed pretty steep and I was holding out to see if I could get a place through someone dropping out instead. But then friends decided they’d come in from Copenhagen to run it, and if they were staying at ours, then it’d be nicer if I could help them with the transport by running it too – so I caved and paid up anyway. It turned out that offering a local race like this meant it was a popular choice for London runners – over a hundred members from Run dem Crew also signed up to run! There were so many of us in RDC shirts that people were jokingly calling it the “Run dem Half”…

It’s also nice to have a half marathon in the summer instead of being just one stepping stone in a marathon training plan, but it did mean that I really didn’t have any expectations for this race, nor any clear goal from what I wanted to achieve. I’m still not really 100% back on form, so a PB was never on the cards, so instead I decided that I just wanted to enjoy a race for once, and run it however I felt like.

Hackney Half mid race
Photo by Michael Adeyeye

It’s a good thing I wasn’t chasing a PB, as the day itself was swelteringly hot and sunny – literally my worst possible running weather (give me downpours any day!). I thought I might run with my visiting friends, but then I ended up next to my friend Maja at the start.

Maja is training to run her first ultra in 4 weeks time – the 100km Race to the Stones, so she’d already run 30km just to get to the starting line, and she really needed someone to keep her company as she ran the half. This was the first time she’d gone beyond marathon distance, and once we settled into a comfortable 5:15min/km pace, I told her I was happy to stick with her and help her out.

Maja & I at Hackney Half
Photo by Michael Adeyeye, Maja in orange to my left. Notice how I am considerably perkier, having only run 12 miles in searing heat!

The first half of the race was mostly me chatting at her, swerving into the shady side of the streets, and giving high fives to kids. The second half was a lot harder for her, so my role switched into motivational speaker, water carrier (LOVE those water pouches!!), and Bringer Of Perspective. We saw an awful lot of runners collapsed at the side of the road (more than I’ve seen in any other race), but I was determined this wouldn’t happen to her, so I kept an eye on her hydration and nutrition, too, and let her know exactly how amazing she was and how much harder 50km on hard surfaces is on her joints than 100km on soft trail!

Post Hackney Half
Me, Maja, Emily, and Christina at the finish area

This race could’ve been just a “stick the headphones on and suffer through the heat” experience for me, but helping Maja through her own achievement gave my run a purpose. I felt good from having helped a friend, and despite ending up with a PW time (first time over 2hrs!) I had one of my most enjoyable races ever. There may have been some issues with the starting pens, and the route wasn’t all parks and canals (running round the back of a Wetherspoons was particularly memorable), but I still think Run Hackney was better organised than a lot of races which have been going for years. I love that it was put together by Hackney Council themselves to promote fitness in the community, and that local people really did come out to see what was going on (although many just to stare rather than cheer – let’s work on that next year, folks!). All in all, it’s a race I really feel good about running.

Run Hackney (half marathon). 22 June 2014. 2:02:16

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My running story

20 August 2013, 16:21

Like a lot of people, my first introduction to running as an adult was on a gym treadmill. I started when I joined a gym in 2003, running for five minutes before jumping onto other machines and a few weights before my self imposed half hour was up. Around 2006, I started to get serious (and scientific) about weight loss, and I asked a personal trainer at the gym about the best way to use my half hour. His reply? “A half hour running on the treadmill.”

I gradually built up the amount of time I could run on the treadmill over the next nine months, eventually losing over 20kg and becoming much, more more fit as I dropped dress sizes. Those nine months of weight loss and fitness really helped shape my outlook on nutrition, portion size, and exercise ever since, and it was during this time that I had the realisation that running could actually be enjoyable at times!

Shortly after, my husband (then boyfriend) and I bought a large Dutch barge, and we were incredibly fortunate to find a beautiful, welcome mooring on the Thames near Tower Bridge. Over time, I found myself using the gym treadmill less and less, and running along the river ever more, until I eventually let my gym membership lapse altogether.

The wonderful thing about running along the Thames in central London is that you’ve got any number of circular routes with very little traffic and wonderful views. My usual formula is to run along the south bank of the river, cross over a bridge, and return back along the north side to Tower Bridge and home. This means that my running routes end up being named for the bridge I cross over midway through, and these are inextricably linked with their loop distance in my mind – Millenium Bridge is approximately 5km, Westminster 10km, Battersea 20km, and (in the throes of marathon training), Putney is just over 30km!

But for years, I’d only ever run the Westminster Bridge 10km loop, and I’d run this faithfully, three times a week, at the same pace. It was during this phase that I noticed in October 2008 that I was feeling more sluggish than I should, and I had bleeding in the whites of my eyes, which I got checked out by my optician, and then my GP. The short version of this is that my bone marrow was failing, I had incredibly low blood counts, and within the space of a few months, I needed four transfusions every week just to stay alive. The Anthony Nolan Trust sent out a worldwide call and found my anonymous bone marrow donor who saved my life with an emergency transplant in July 2009.

A bone marrow transplant involves an entire week of high dose chemotherapy, but unlike most people, I wasn’t overly concerned about losing my hair – that would grow back in time without any input on my part. But the body I’d worked so hard for over the past several years, and which had deteriorated along with the rest of my health, well, losing that hurt more. I had been the fittest I’d ever been in my life, and I couldn’t see how I could ever get to that place again.

My transplant had been a fairly easy one – no complications, everything went as planned, I successfully fought off boredom in my bubble room, and I didn’t even feel sick from the chemo. I was released early, but the first six months post transplant were just about the worst anyone could have – I was readmitted for blood pressure headaches, then meningitis, a severe liver infection which may have spread to my lungs, and culminated finally in my having to travel to hospital every day for four months to have an IV antifungal.

Eventually, though, at the six month mark things started to brighten – I finally had enough hair to get a pixie cut and ditch the wigs, I started back to work, and I even started running again. Once you’re a runner, it’s painful to watch others out there enjoying what you’re not able to do, and my first run after my transplant was a big, big step for me. I surprised even myself that I was able to run 5km without much trouble, even after 18 months off running and a completely new immune system!

I knew I wanted to mark my first anniversary with something big, so I signed up to run a 10km race within days of my first “rebirthday”. I didn’t come close to my pre-illness PB, but I wasn’t far off, and the memory of my transplant friends who died helped push me to run the whole race. For the next few years, this anniversary 10km run was the only racing I’d do, even though I returned back to running several times a week.

If my transplant was the first major milestone in my running journey, then discovering Run dem Crew was definitely my second. When I started running with the crew in July 2011, the transplant was still very much a defining part of Who I Was, but gradually, as I became a stronger, faster, and more confident runner, I began to see how resilient my body was and that I could move on from it both physically and mentally. Soon I was running comfortably at a pace I couldn’t have sprinted even before I was ill, and I got to know other runners who overcame equally enormous obstacles in life to end up where they were. We were all there to find friendship, comfort, camaraderie, and just have a good time and positive space on Tuesday nights, and I found myself signing up to more races, and eventually, even a marathon.

I can now say, ten years into my running journey, that I’ve experienced highs and lows, been fat and slim, been healthy and sick, and my love of running has endured it all. I am without a doubt, the strongest and fastest I have ever been in my life, and yet still I continue to push myself, and to find new challenges, just to see what I’m capable of achieving. It’s not always easy, but I know I’ve been through worse.

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