There’s more than one way to explore the capital, as a slightly knackered Katie Scott discovers…
Charity events come in all shapes and sizes, but when I spotted the advert for education charity Teach First’s Run the River race this September as I tootled up the escalator at London Liverpool Street, I couldn’t help but be attracted by what looked like an incredibly scenic route that embraced the very centre of our great capital and showed it off to its full potential.
Offering both a 5km and 10km route, Teach First have certainly presented a unique opportunity to do some London sightseeing. Kick starting in More London by London Bridge tube station, the full course sees runners cross Tower Bridge, Blackfriar’s Bridge and Southwark Bridge, zig-zagging back and forth across the Thames as you ooh and ahh at views such as the Shard and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Uniquely, this city-centric run is ideal for those who work in London, as the 7pm start time means you can easily get there after work and depending on how speedy you are, you can still get home in plenty of time for an early night before work the next day. Taking place on Tuesday 6th September in association with Citi, I promptly signed up for the 10km, recruited my mum to act as my personal bag drop and waited for the big day to arrive.
I think this is the first route I have done that hasn’t been closed. This of course poses certain pedestrian based challenges, which is not helped by the narrow riverside pathways that make up the majority of the route. Donning my bright blue event t-shirt, designed so that marshals would know I was part of the race and not a random runner, I was due to start at 7pm in the first wave of runners. Despite the staggering of the start times, there was still a complete bottleneck as we jetted off towards Tower Bridge. Part of skill involved in this event was not purely running and stamina based but also logistics, as I attempted to weave between both slower runners and unsuspecting pedestrians whilst also running the sheer obstacle course of bridge crossings around posts and pillars, jumping up and down stairs and also ignoring the tantalising scents from the riverside restaurants. With so much congestion on the course, I initially found it really difficult to hit my stride as in many cases, my pace was dictated purely because of what was around me rather than how I was feeling. This was a tad frustrating when you wanted to get off to a good start, but luckily as the race continued and people found their pace, we seemed to all spread out a little bit and I was able to put more of a spurt on.
Dodging pedestrians, whilst entertaining, was also an annoyance so I was rather concerned about my mission for a PB. However, if I was in a less competitive frame of mind, I certainly would have taken my phone out to snap some pics – scenic views of the Gherkin and Shard looming up above you were breath-taking, and who doesn’t love the imposing structure of the Tower of London, sitting primly on my right as I stomped down the pavement next to it. As well as the lovely views, tackling the bridges and the other pavement users meant that concentration levels had to be at a high – you couldn’t zone out at all.
For us 10km runners, there was a water station at the 5km mark. The marshals were very encouraging and helpful at pointing out the route, especially as there wasn’t any of the usual signage such as tape and barriers. My only slight grievance here is that there weren’t markers at every km, which as other runners will know, does make managing your pacing a bit trickier. I usually try to sprint the last km, however because there wasn’t a 9km sign, I couldn’t, which was a bit annoying.
Despite the difficulties out on the road, I still managed to get a personal best, which I am super chuffed about! I usually time myself roughly using my normal watch – I’m probably the only fitness fan who doesn’t use an activity tracker or sports watch – and then I double check my estimate with what my timing chip says. I worked out I hit about 45 minutes, which is two minutes faster than my previous 47 minute PB. My official results however had me at 43.06, so I’m even happier with that result.
The goody bags were a win. The organisers must have teamed up with M&S, as I had a cereal bar, chocolate bars and Percy Pig sweets from the retailer in my stash, as well as a pen and a Fitness First voucher too. The apple juice didn’t last long as I gulped that down as soon as I stopped! Leftover t-shirts were also given away which was nice, so I swapped my sweat-drenched t-shirt for a clean one for the journey home. Hopefully I didn’t offend quite so many people with the smell!
On the whole, I would say that the route was a flat one, although you do find yourself running on different pavement surfaces, so you can go faster on the harder surfaces but also mind your feet in case of tripping hazards. And yes, I would count pedestrians as a tripping hazard. I’m not sure if this is an ideal course for obtaining a PB, but I have proved that it is a possibility if you are prepared to get creative and use the gaps in front of you as and when you spot them! It can be rather stop-start at times, especially near the beginning, but this may suit less experienced runners who use this method to build up their stamina anyway. The route was gorgeous, it was a really fun atmosphere and I had a really great evening. I’m already looking forward to signing up again next year, although I think I’ll try and get a bit nearer the front!
Another point to bear in mind is the price. The entry is very expensive for an event like this – £40 to be exact. However, this covers your entry as well as a charity donation and you then don’t have to raise any more money if you don’t want to. Of course you can raise more money if you want to also.
Just a note on fuelling while I have you here. A lot of events are held on the weekend, and first thing in the morning, so fuelling is relatively easy. You can carb load the evening before and also have a nutritious breakfast to see you happily through the event (my breakfast of choice, porridge with Nutella and bananas).
Running immediately after work does make planning your food a little bit trickier. I think I over-ate slightly, but then maybe the extra fuel helped with the PB, I don’t know, but what I did know is that I hit lunch on the head in terms of getting it right. I visited a little café near my office called Reynolds, where you can buy boxes of a main dish paired with three different salads. I went for a really protein and carbohydrate filled meal that I knew would keep hunger at bay and also help my body prepare for the race. I know it’s only 10km but I wanted to put in a good time.
My lunch consisted of a chicken breast in a slightly spiced rub, with a pesto pasta salad, roasted butternut squash and red pepper mix and a lentil dish. It was totally delicious and cost less than a tenner with a flat white to accompany it. Before the race, I also had a cheeky little slice of chocolate cake (office birthday, no choice), a raspberry Lucozade and a banana half hour before I set off. When I got home, I made sure to have dinner too with more protein and carbohydrates to help my body recover – beef meatballs and brown rice.
And I felt fab the next day!