I moved to west London last November, but have never actually run with the local Fulham Running Club. I’ve seen their black and white stripes around at parkrun and cross-country (where their women’s team dominated), but haven’t been along to either of their weekly sessions which start just a few kilometres from my place. That may all soon change, given how well organised and welcoming today’s event was!
The ‘Boat Race’ 10-miler was a free race put on by the club as a trial run for possible future races. It came across my radar late last week, and although I wasn’t terribly enthused by participating in another race (there have been a lot lately!), the lack of cost and proximity to home were enough to sway me. My coach would even be running the race too, although he had given me strict instructions to run it at marathon pace and not to race it. I decided to also take along my pompoms for more London Marathon costume practise.
The route ran westwards along the north bank of the Thames from Bishop’s Park to Chiswick Bridge, crossed over and came back along the south bank to close the loop at Putney Bridge. With a field of 50, it was a small affair without any closed roads, in addition to which we had to deal with a multitude of rowers bringing their boats down to the water for the Head of the River race. However, there were plenty of marshals to guide us along the route and with the sun out it was a very pleasant day.
The aim was to run 5:00/km, so of course for the first few I ran 4:50s after discovering that the lovely ladies I was chatting to were running too slow for my liking, and that I therefore could overtake a few people ahead of me. By 5km though I had overtaken the last person I would be feasibly able to catch, and now there was a large distance between myself and the two blue-shirted people running up ahead. Around this time I also managed to get a stitch in my right side which hung around for the rest of the race.
I’d enjoyed those first few kilometres, but had not been able to find my ‘comfortable’ fast place where I can just keep running happily for a long time. Holding my pace was starting to require real effort, combined with the constant thought of being caught by the runners I had last overtaken. After halfway, I couldn’t mentally hold onto it anymore and unintentionally started slowing down. My legs were still ticking over though, and while my splits were slower than before I was surprised with every kilometre when they showed 4:59, 5:00, 4:58. It was a challenging part of the race where there was no runners in front and a long way between marshals, and I nearly chucked it in a few times. The only thing that kept me going was to switch the sweaty poms from one hand to another, press on the stitch and try to quiet my mind and let my legs do the work.
12km in I finally was overtaken by two guys, and that was an absolute lifesaver. No longer did I have to press forward, but instead could be pulled along by their speed. My pace immediately improved even though there was no noticeable increase in effort. The kilometres finally started slipping away and the ‘comfort’ kicked in. Here we were, this was good. I could keep running like this, no problem.
The welcome back at the finish line was lovely – previous finishers milled around and cheered for those crossing the line behind them. A multitude of prizes were distributed, along with bananas, muesli bars and free beer for everyone! It was a lovely atmosphere, and I have (nearly) forgotten about the tough section in those middle miles. I look forward to participating in the official FRC races.