I’m chuffed. Yesterday I ran 4.9 miles as part of the Thames River Relay. I beat my predicted time by over 45 seconds per mile! Post-ultra, I decided I wanted to get faster so I’ve been doing self-styled speed sessions over the last month. While there are still improvements I can make, seeing such rapid progress is encouraging. And the race, it was followed by a picnic to end all picnics. My running club knows how to put on a great spread.
It was an early start with leaving home at 6.30 for a 7am pick-up. I’m not an early morning person but with kit sorted, ANZAC biscuits made and bag packed, I headed out the door. It was a glorious mornings. One of those mornings you’re glad you wake up early – blue sky with steaks of light cloud and a perfect temperature for running.
And off we went – Team Thames Torpedoes. There were five of us, me, Lou (team captain), Di, Ian and Laura with me being the slowest of the bunch. But this race isn’t about winning. The focus is on a good day out and team building.
The River Relay in relay race run over five stages from Boveney to Kingston-upon-Thames. It’s an annual event organised by the Stragglers Running Club. Teams have to be made up of five people – at least one woman and not more than three senior men. The stages range from 4.4 to 6.5 miles along the Thames. Runner of all standards are welcome.
I was stage 4, starting at Manor Park. I’d studied the map and had a good idea of where I was going. Laura came running in, baton handed over and off I went. I wasn’t expecting much apart from a reasonable run and some nice scenery. I took off quickly and headed out. With a couple of minutes, my breathing had settled a little and I was feeling strong. I was paying attention to my stride length and breathing.
I did the first mile in 9.10. This is fast for me. I had predicted running at about 10 min to 10:15 minute miles. Most of my running this year has been focused on building up miles to get through the London Marathon and my first 50k Ultra. There was a bit of my brain telling me I was running too fast but my legs were feeling strong and I knew I had the endurance. I kept looking at my Garmin thinking ‘I can’t be going that quickly!’
This race brought out the competitive side in me. I don’t consider myself particularly competitive but I think it’s in lurking in there somewhere. I saw the occasional runner ahead. As this was Stage 4 of a five stage race, there were big gaps between when we all started off. I passed one, and then two, and then three and four runners. Two runners passed me, one of them going at an absolutely amazing pace. I passed pedestrians and cyclists. There was some sort of small boating festival – lovely old style boats with music playing and folks wearing posh boating gear sipping champagne.
And on I went. I could see the teams in the distance and legged it.
Average pace – 9.13 minute miles – happy with that for now.
I handed over the baton to the last of our runners, removed my number, and continued on to get some extra miles. Those extra miles were lovely and I took it easy, stopping to take photos and walking when I felt like it. There was no pressure though I did know there would be a fab picnic at the end. I ran past Hampton Court Palace where I ran into some folk from my running club from the other teams. I ran for a while with Heather who was also doing extra miles but I let her run off after a while – I was a little tired and couldn’t keep up at her pace.
And on I went to the finish. There the picnic awaited!
Would I do this race again?
- A great day out
- Small and friendly
- A scenic and flat route
- Great value – £50 for an affiliated club, or £60 for unaffiliated. And the best part, any proceeds after expenses go to charity. As of 1 September, £2,400 had been raised for Shooting Star Chase, a children’s hospice.
Points to note
- You need to organise your own transport between legs
- No bling – You don’t get bling for most club races – bling is not the point here
- Very few marshals – this is why we were given maps; you do need to concentrate on where you’re going, particularly in the latter stages where runners are more spread out, and it’s all part of the fun
- Toilets – there are none. You need to be creative on this one so find a local petrol station with toilets or a local hotel who’ll let you use there’s. In some sections there are probably bushes you can use but as most of this is along the Thames Path, it’s pretty exposed. Again this is pretty much normal for club races.
A huge thank you to Team Thames Torpedoes, to Dulwich Park Runners, and to the Stragglers for organising this fab event! A great day had by all!