When one race finishes, the hunt for another race starts, cause once you have caught the running bug, you’ve caught it. After the RunThrough UK Wimbledon Common Half Marathon (read my race recap here) I was looking for something flat, close to home, and that I’d not done before. I came across the River Thames Half Marathon, organised by River Thames Running.
The time was right, it started pretty locally (in Walton-Upon-Thames), and it promised to be very flat. I pinged a message around to my mates Christie and Nat to see if they were keen. Both were well up for it. Done deal – race booked ✅.
Training went pretty well. I did a rough plan (check out how I plan for my races here) and roughly stuck to it – which is pretty good in my books. Both Nat and Christie had a disrupted training cycle – due to various issues, and it was touch and go if they both would be lining up with me on the 28th October – but we all made it to the start line 🏁.
The pressure to reach sub 1 hour 50 on a half marathon was mounting in my mind – an actual mountain 🏔️ out of a molehill. So, what did I decide to do – sabotage myself 🤦♀️. I ran 9KM on Friday, 9KM on Saturday, and had a Chinese and a beer for dinner the night before. So, I showed up on Sunday with tired legs and a slightly irritated tummy. This wasn’t a conscious decision, but in hindsight – I was doing these things to give myself a reason (a valid excuse) as to why I didn’t PB, when I really should have.
We received a good number of email prior to race day from the organisers. One of them alerted us to the fact that the race packs were not sent in the post – we could collect them from a local estate agent, or pick them up on the morning. This was a bit of a bummer, but I’ve been to plenty of races where you pick up your number onsite, so it was no big deal.
Cold Early Birds
The race organisers advised us to be there no later than 7:30, or there would not be enough time to collect our race numbers and get to the start by 8:30. Considering I am always nervous on race mornings, I heeded this warning and booked our taxi for 7am, and we were there 7:25. Now after we collected our race numbers, it was 7:30, and there was nothing to do, nowhere to go, and it was so cold ❄️.
We sheltered behind the wall of a closed café near the start – the café owner missed a trick – he would have made a killing that morning in trade. Then the rain started. We huddled, cursing ourselves for getting there so early (and cursing the race organisers for insisting that we do). Looking at our watches every few minutes or so, time inched forward at a snail’s pace 🐌. Muttered utterings of, ‘if you guys weren’t here, I’d be gone’, ‘what are we doing’, ‘this is insane’, ‘where has this bloody rain come from’.
Finally, it was time to start thinking about that final loo trip before the race started, except the rain was chucking it down with icy abandon, and the 6 porta loos had a huge queue which was completely exposed to the elements. Teeth chattering, Nat went to the queue –and Christie and I ensured into the woods for an alfresco wee.
We met up with Nat still just half way through the queue, collected her bag from here and went to the bag drop. I kept my hoodie on (despite not planning on racing with it) as by this point I was so cold, the idea of taking it off was not even an option. Nat came over, and we all huddled under the bridge. We were not sure where to stand.
Start, stop, start, stop
There were various start signs, but we really couldn’t make head nor tail of it, as all the runners just looked to be ambling about. Then a rush of people started to shepherd themselves up the bridge, in a slightly panicked jog – we kept asking, is this it, is this the start, what’s going on. No one had a clue.
We jogged on🚦, unsure, then we all stopped 🛑. The rain continued to pelt down on us, then we realised we were in the sub 1:40 start carrol. Opppssssss. But from listening to the other conversations around us, we were not the only ones. To be fair, this is the right place for Christie – she’s super speedy.
Then we all collectively started jogging again – with the same questions – is this it, is this the start? It was so confusing ⁉️ After another stop and start, we eventually ran over the timing mat, and we were under way.
The main event
So, onto the race. I did not study the race route, so I was just running along with everyone else. Nat and I stuck together, and we did the first 5 km loop together, which luckily ran us past the start and we were able to discard our hoodie and her jacket to the bag drop lady without breaking pace 👍.
The on the second lap, I pulled away from Nat, but with all the rain, I wasn’t going to be able to listen to any music, and none of the other runners were too chatty at this point (probably too miserable, from being so cold). The supporters on route were pretty great, loads of cheering, which made me smile. The route out along the Thames tow path was lovely, and I was really enjoying puddle jumping, avoiding tree roots, and the pretty scenery. Then we turned inwards to the road, and the pavement felt very harsh on my tired legs. My pace slowed, the rain continued, and the slog began 😓.
Eventually we wound our way back to the trail and more importantly back to the start. My pace returned a bit, but the conditions were treacherous, like we were all in a massive muddy slip and slide. My legs were suffering at this point – and the return route seemed to be taking forever. Then at mile 11, I heard my name being called out. I looked over and by the road, Brian and the kids were cheering me on ♥️. I was so happy, I kept saying (to my fellow runners, who were not at all interested) they never come, they came, they cheered me, I’m so happy.
It was the mental boost I needed, and I picked up the pace (actually, not just in my head) until the end and finished with what I thought was a nice little kick (but if you look at the race photos on my finish, it looks more like a graceless plod). I finished in 1 Hour 53 minutes, which I’m totally fine with. Not my new PB, but respectable.
After the race, we met up at the café (now open) and I put on a dry top and jacket that Brian brought for me. The post race chocolate orange eluded me, and I was a bit bummed as I do like a chocolate orange.
I went home and as I looked in the mirror, my lips were blue, actually blue. Time for a hot shower. The race photos came online the next day, and they were pretty bad. I can’t blame the photographer, as the subject (me) was probably pretty uninspiring.
Would I do it again – yes, it was a nice friendly flat course at a reasonable price. The organisation was a bit haphazard at the start, but it didn’t really effect the race, and if the weather had been better, I don’t think we would have cared.
Have you run the River Thames Half? Would you run it again? What was the last race you ran in rainy cold conditions and how did you get on? Did they affect your performance?
- Next Race: October 2019
- Organisers: River Thames Running
- Website: www.riverthamesrunning.co.uk
- Recommendation: A flat half marathon set on a pretty section of the Thames Tow path, with nice local support.