Review of Grand Union Canal Half: To celebrate 10 years of the Grand Union Canal Half, Purple Patch Running added in a spring ‘special edition event’. This race is otherwise always run in the autumn. This is a point to point race from Cowly in Uxbridge to Cassiobury Park in Watford.
I’d decided to run this as a training run and my final 10 mile plus run before the London Marathon. And I’m so glad I did – the sun and heat were brutal.
The race was a 10am start and I managed to get a lift with friends from running club. The pick-up was an early one – 6.30 am from outside a park near me. Not being an early morning person I don’t usually get to see this time of day – the skies were clear and the sun rising in a great ball of flame – spectacular.
We arrived at Cassiobury Park where we then hopped on the bus that had been arranged for those driving to the start.
We were there early. I like arriving early to races. There’s a bit of a thrill in seeing the build up. It gave me time to chill and douse myself a couple of times in factor 30. I tan very easily which is great but it means I can get rather odd tan lines which I do my best to avoid. And of course arriving early you get to use the portaloos before the queues start. And then of course you queue again closer to race time.
And off we went.
I wanted to practice marathon pace. I did manage this for about the first 3 miles – a loop around the park and then onto the towpath. But very quickly, I started to flag. This is not normal for me – I’d eaten well the day before, had an early breakfast and was well hydrated. The heat was starting to get to me.
I started having to walk a little from very early on – about mile 5. I could feel the sweat running down the back of my neck and the sun seemed to be sapping all energy out of me. My legs felt fine, they just wouldn’t move at the pace I wanted them to. It pretty much went downhill from there. Given the other runners I chatted to along the route, many of us were suffering.
In addition to the heat, I wasn’t expecting was how hard running along a towpath was on my feet. I’m used to running on concrete and bitumen – this was a definite change!
There’s lovely scenery along this route which was a great distraction. I took my time, no rush.
At about 12.5 miles, you enter the park and head towards the finish line. There’s a hill. This is not a nice hill. While it’s not something that would usually bother me, after all the heat and the sun, I was starting to get emotional. I think it was a mixture of being a little dehydrated and my breathing had turned into a slight wheezing because of the pollen and dust!
Halfway up the never ending hill, there was a woman ahead. I caught up to her and with only a few hundred metres to go said we should run together. While she was determined to finish, she was struggling and feeling unwell – the heat and sun had been too much. She wanted me to go ahead but I stuck with her and we crossed the finish line.
Then it was onto a picnic with folks from my running club with ANZAC biscuits I’d made the day before. After much hydration, crisps, salads, cake and fruit, we headed home.
A good but tough day had by all.
Would I do this race again?
- While it was a very small field of runners, there was a real variety of paces. This is great when you’re not necessarily the speediest of runners!
- Transport was well arranged from the carpark to the start of the race
- Number pick up and bag drop were quick and easy
- There were enough portaloos so the queues were ok
- The race started on time – I was in the second wave with the speedier folks in the first
- The marshals at the start, along the route and at the end did a superb job – it was a hot day and I think everyone was suffering a little. There were very encouraging.
- There were 4 water stops along the route which were well organised.
- Along the canal is beautiful. It’s a little harder on the feet than I was expecting as most of the canal path is dirt but it’s pretty much a flat race.
This was a great race – well organised with supportive marshals along the route. And the scenery is fab. This wouldn’t be a race I’d do if I was aiming for a PB, but it is a race I’d do again.
And while you’re here
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