Polar bear hugs, snow zones and a medal shaped like a snowflake, could this be the most fun you can have freezing your arse off running around London? Quite possibly.
The race started at Embankment, with a course that followed the river all the way to the Tower of London, then looped back on itself with a little detour past St Paul’s. Though we were pre-allocated wave times, these weren’t policed in any way. We were told by email before the race that you could start in a later wave but not an earlier one, so because a few of us had planned to meet up for brunch afterwards we decided to try and start as close together as possible.
Lining up at around 10am it took 20 minutes before the group we had ended up in were let out of the proverbial gates. The start was a little congested, and we had to do some weaving, but eventually we broke into a stride and got to a comfortable pace. I’d lined up with Mollie, Pattie, Beki and Becca, but unfortunately we lost Beki and Becca within the first mile.
At the start line we’d been talking about a “Swiss Winter Wonderland” that was set up as part of the race, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed when we actually got to it; all it seemed to be was a projected logo of a stick-man skiing, and a Swiss flag logo. Oh and some cow bells. Perhaps a little bit built up for what it was.
The snow zones, however, were great fun (if a little sparse). Very realistic snow foam was sprayed into the air in a few places dotted along the course. Very picturesque.
We stopped for a photo at the Tower of London and St Pauls, but inbetween these stops we kept up a fairly decent average pace of 9.5 min/mile. We had been hoping for a finish time of around 55mins, but the busy start and selfie stops meant this realistically wasn’t going to happen. We picked up for the last couple of miles anyway, hoping to get in under the hour and finished in a time of 59:14.
What was good:
- The route. I love running in London anyway, and a run that takes in the sights of the Houses of Parliament, the tower of Big Ben, Tower of London, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, St Pauls and more… and on closed roads, is definitely worth the entry fee.
- The polar bear hugs. I’m not really a “huggy” person, and giving a stranger in a bear suit a cuddle is always going to be slightly awkward, but it was all part of the fun and certainly made me smile.
- The bag drop. I’d been expecting nightmares with this, but it was actually really well organised and I was in and out in minutes, both on dropping and collecting my bag. In fact, there was so much chatter about this before the race that quite a few people didn’t bother using it – Mollie and Pattie both ran with bags – perhaps this was part of the reason it was so quiet?
- The atmosphere. Despite the disappointing Swiss Winter Wonderland, the rest of the route was fun, with plenty of support, cow bells, snow zones, and even the church bells were ringing in a very wintery style as we approached Tower Hill.
- The medal. I don’t think I need to say more… just look at it!
What was not so good:
- The starting waves. I wasn’t a fan of the way this was organised. It would have been much more clear if there had been funnels for each wave, clearly marked with the start time, or even volunteers holding up paddles in the crowd with the wave time, would have helped. Also, I understand the need to let people who want to, run together, but I think a lot of people moved back to later waves, meaning those got congested. Perhaps letting people choose a wave as a team pre-race might be better.
- The Swiss Winter Wonderland. This was just a little disappointing really, they could have really made this good with action skiing footage, music, etc. I think they missed a trick.
- The finisher’s “funnel”. Usually finishing lines are organised into a funnel, with a clear route for runners to follow and collect their medal, refreshments, or a goody bag. Unfortunately this just seemed to be a little too wide and we had to search out a volunteer for our medals.
All in all, the London Winter Run was a really fun race, and with such a good atmosphere I’d certainly consider doing it again.
Pre-sale for next year’s race is already underway, pre-register here.
I was kindly given a free place by Human Race through Elle (Keep it SimpElle) who was the official fitness expert for the race. Thanks Human Race and Elle!
Running shot from official race photos. All other photos thanks to PT Mollie.