I have been very much looking forward to doing this race, mainly because I did a similar race here in spring last year which I really liked.
The race organisers recommended that we park by Richmond tube station and either walk or catch the tube from there to Kew Gardens to avoid the traffic mayhem. I have to say, it was a very convenient solution but I could have had lunch in Nando’s for the price I paid for the parking only ;-( At least I got a cool Nike technical T-shirt at the end which somewhat compensated me for having to dig deep for parking!
When I hopped on the tube, it was already packed with runners, mainly 10k-ers who were starting a bit earlier. I have to admit, I was having some jitters: I was stupid enough to do a high intensity workout a few days earlier and I had a rather dodgy landing on one foot at the very end, causing a mild sprain. As a result, any twisting or sudden, jerky motion caused pain inside my foot so I had to rest it a lot for the rest of the week and I was also considering pulling out of the race. I started to have visions of being wrecked during the race and being put out of action for months again. The excited ‘butterfly in the stomach’ vibe was being overpowered by some really dark thoughts as the tube train was heading towards Kew. I was certain I could not face having to sit out another race season again. Eventually, the only reason I turned up on the day is because my footsie was getting better and I could not feel a thing during walking and running and there was no swelling whatsoever. I will certainly not make this rookie mistake again of doing high impact workouts that include jumping around at least a week before a race, and just follow common sense and stick to safer low impact exercises!
Kew Gardens filled up with hundreds of people and as the sun came out, it turned into a really beautiful day in the end – one of those perfectly bright and crisp autumn mornings every runner hopes for on race day! So I tried to reason with myself and think what could possibly go wrong on a morning like this? I silently prayed that God would grant me an enjoyable and injury-free run (and feeling very guilty about asking such things of God when he must be very busy attending to more important matters in the world such as the refugee-crisis and world hunger etc.). I was trying to soak in the atmosphere as I was watching the 10k runners whizzing past me and the big lake in front of that giant glass Palm House, instead of constantly conjuring up images in my head about what could go pear-shaped.
In the end, all was well – I did not have a single twinge during the run, I was focussing on maintaining good posture and watching where I was going, taking the turns carefully. In fact, my footsie somehow ended up feeling in a much better shape at the end of the race which I am still trying to get my head around!
We started from the Orangery restaurant, in waves every couple of minutes. They had Jo Pavey last year as the celebrity guest, this year we had Hannah England who earned a silver medal in the 1500m distance a few years ago. She sounded so young, I reckon she is at least 10 years my junior!
In comparison to the other, very similar Richmond Half that I did last March, what I liked about this one is the fact that the first few km’s were within Kew Gardens rather than around it so it was a nice opportunity to peek around. There were also no segments with traffic so I did not have to worry about falling off the narrow pavement into the busy road or tripping over pedestrians/push chairs/cyclists coming from the opposite direction. The riverside path to Ham House and back was similarly pancake flat and we were able to take in some lovely views over the river, the rowing boats, the posh houses on the other side, a glimpse of Bushy Park and the promenade. Once I was able to relax, I started to really enjoy the race which brought back many great memories from last year. I was not fussy about my pace, I was just so happy to be able to run at all, so I was aiming to maintain a relatively relaxed speed to get me across the finish line in about 2 hours, whilst observing the surroundings and absorbing the atmosphere.
I was so pleased I made the decision to still run the race, I think in circumstances like this we have to make educated decisions but be prepared to change plans if things do not work out. A ‘DNF’ instead of not even trying to give it a go would have been the worst outcome for me. And so what, this is just one race out of hundreds, in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes the demons exist only in our heads and the very thing that scares them is looking at them straight in the eye. I am of course not talking about acting irresponsibly and racing whilst injured. I am merely pointing out that using sound judgment and common sense instead of succumbing to fears and being overly cautious is part of being a good athlete.
The finish was somewhat funny as I found myself running alongside a lady who was shouting loud encouragements at someone called ‘Tracey’. I could not see any Traceys around her so I think it was just her way of trying to get herself through the finish line. I have to admit, I drew a lot of strength from her as I was trying to navigate the final mile which was a psychological torture as its various bends seemed to take us even further away from the finish line banner!
The goody bag included a luxurious medal (probably the heaviest and most glittery one I have seen), the previously mentioned Nike T-shirt, some High 5 nutritional products, a can of London Pride beer and some water. Not bad! The only disappointment was the lack of fitness product sellers – the whole event was advertised as a ‘running festival’ so I kind of expected a market style reception at the finish. I did reward myself with a Costa Coffee on my way back to the car park though.
Oh, deer, I have run Richmond!
I spent the rest of the afternoon having Sunday roast with my family and then heading out to the Marlow riverside with them to take advantage of this beautiful sunshiny afternoon.
What else do you need for a perfect Sunday?