Sunday 18th September 2016 was the anniversary of my first ever Half Marathon race, the Canada Army Run back in 2014. This same race was running again over in Ottawa. Since I could not be there, I ran the Richmond Half Marathon instead. It was to be my 20th Half! What a difference a few years makes.
I have been marathon training, so this race was just another “training” run. “Just” she says! It was the ultimate training run that just happened to have refreshments and fab volunteers a long the route, and a medal to collect at the end of it. Who’d say no to that. 🙂 I actually only booked this race as a friend, and I, wanted to run a race together. I had no idea that it landed on an anniversary run for me. In the end my friend couldn’t make the race – she was winging her way to the states for work 🙁 A little disappointing for me, but good for her, so that’s ok.
The race bibs were posted out ahead of time. They came along with the timing chip, which needed to be attached to your shoe via the laces and some ties. They also supplied safety pins and a route map with the race info. This week was supposed to be the start of my tapering period for the full marathon. My Sunday long run should have been 14km, and because I would be running an extra 7km, I decided that I would not run too much during the week. In the end I only ran once and only less than 3km. For some reason this made me a little nervous, probably because I thought that 3km was too short.
Race day came, and I was up at 6am to get ready to leave by 7am. I made toast and coffee for breakfast. Showered and changed and was out of the house at 7.05am. What’s 5 minutes 🙂 The roads are quiet on a Sunday morning so I arrived in Richmond just after 8am, as planned. I had plugged in directions to a multi-storey car park, but I just missed the turning and I couldn’t turn around easily due to a dual carriageway! Good Start!! It ended up being a stroke of luck, because when I was able to turn, it was into another car park … the car park for the Old Deer Park. This was perfect, as this was just across the road from where the finish line was, I could see it. I finished off my coffee and got my stuff together. It was not difficult to know which way to go as I saw a stream of runners walking in the same direction. It was a bit of a way to go, to get to the entrance to Kew Gardens. At least 2km I would have thought. A bit of a warm up.
As I walked through Victoria Gate, the entrance to Kew Gardens, there was a sea of runners. Some at the coffee shop, others waiting in line for the toilets, others prepping putting on their bib numbers. I went to stand over by the lake, and put my own bib number on. I didn’t bring anything else with me, so I walked over in the direction of where the start line was. There was a huge crowd and a race MC calling runners by wave/times, and geeing up the runners with dance music.
We stood on the grass, in between some beautiful flowers. I was in the last wave, the catch all wave – those running over 2h 30mins. Surprisingly there were not that many people in this wave. I suspected that some had decided to start in earlier waves. After a briefing, warning us to respect the park and not stand on the flower beds, we were released to walk up to the start. There really was not that many of us left to start, and there was a huge gap between each wave. Just before 9:30 the countdown started and then we were off.
I haven’t moved away from measuring my runs in km yet. I’ve been back for nearly a year now and still can’t work in miles! Even the markers are in miles and I have to re-calculate it back to km. 🙂 The first 5km was basically the most beautiful park run ever! We meandered through the paths of Kew Gardens. The beautiful flowers, trees, monuments and buildings. It was lovely. I really must go and visit Kew Gardens properly. My splits were 6:28, 6:44, 6:43, 6.52, 6.40 bringing my first 5k to 33:29. Good going, but I was hoping I wasn’t burning myself out too early. I felt good, I felt it was a comfortable pace. I didn’t want to slow down my pace just yet. It would help me to keep the momentum going. My plan was to only walk at the water stations. I was glad that the first one, did not arrive before my watch buzzed for the 5th time. I did not bring my own drink today. The weather was cooler at the start.
The water station arrived just after mile 3, after exiting Kew Gardens. I hadn’t needed to stop and walk up until this point, but did so to drink from the cup. I drank my water, then continued on. This 5K stretch took us along the tow path along side the River Thames. I could see people on the river on their canoes. I love running along the river. Doing so takes me back to running along the Ottawa River and canal. It was a perfect day for it too. It had rained the night before, so occasionally I came a cross a puddle or a section of wet mud, but generally the path was clear and dry. It was uneven in sections though. My splits here were 7:39, 6:59, 7:14, 6:49, 6:55 with a total time at 10k of 1:09:06.
Finally a UK race that had something other than water at an aid station! At around 6.5 miles they had bottles of Lucozade Sport. Perfect. The bottles were larger than the normal cups of water, so I held on to mine. Pretty much until the next water station. Also, it was easy to run and drink at the same time, with the no spill opening the bottles have. My pace was was beginning to slow down, as it tends to do in the second half of the race. I couldn’t seem to keep the momentum going and my plan to run to each water station was foiled, I had to walk midway. My splits here were 7:43, 7:23, 7:52, 7:07, 7:20 with a total time at 15k 1:46:34.
The last full quarter of the race, was hard going but fun to run. Its the most tired I will get. We rejoined the tow path along the river. And back passed the cheering spectators. There were a few pubs and restaurants along this stretch, and at this point it was nearing lunchtime, and the weather was warming up by now, so there were more people cheering. Some of the charity stations were brilliant too. All a great boost to keep you going. My splits here were 7:51, 7:22, 7:32, 7:41, 7.16 with a total time at 20k 2:24:18.
On to the finish. A little bit of a slow 1km at 7:41 and a speedier 0.14 km at 0:43. It was a little frustrating though, because it was a meandering finish where you loop past a live band, passing the finish line before you have turn out and back again. It seems so much further away to get to when you have to pass the finish line but not go through it, just yet. I stopped my watch, looking at my time, I had a huge smile on my face! I finally did it! A half marathon PB!! 2 hours 32 minutes 43 seconds!!! I am so pleased. I collected my medal, of course, and then picked up water, finishers t-shirt, Lucozade and a can of London Pride! 🙂 Only problem was there was no bags provided to put them all in. As I was on my own, I ended up going straight back to my car, and so missing out on the “festival” part!
Would I run this race again? Yes I would. It was a nice flat course, beautiful scenery – running through Kew and along the Thames, great volunteers and spectators, and I’ve got to visit the festival next time! Of course a great medal!
Did you run Richmond this year?
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