I love running in London. I always say how I kind of know London as if it’s one of those blacked out maps you get on computer games where you uncover it bit by bit – popping up in different parts of London from the underground I didn’t really know how it was all connected until I started to run it. But it’s hard to take it all in while you’re navigating busy tourist areas and the traffic of the streets of London, so when Vitality invited me to take part in the British 10k in London, with a route taking in iconic London landmarks on closed streets, I excitedly said yes!

At first I had intended to use the race to hit a new PB, looking at whether CrossFit can make you a better runner, but with a lack of discipline on my part meaning I didn’t run nearly enough to even entertain the idea, I decided to take it as a fun race with friends instead. I even recorded much of it on my Snapchat as I ran!

Snapchat Finish Line at the British 10k London

Snapchat Finish Line at the British 10k London ¦ Wearing Lululemon tank, Reebok sports bra, Bjorn Borg capris and Brooks Glycerin 14 trainers

Taking it all in

Starting on Piccadilly the route took us towards Piccadilly Circus, taking in Regent Street, Pall Mall and St James Palace. We then turned right towards Trafalgar Square, before heading down Charing Cross Road. We dropped down to the Embankment, before turning left towards the City. Following the Embankment, we then took a left into Temple Place, where we followed the length of Temple Place before making a wide turn back onto the Embankment in the other direction, soaking up the atmosphere (and the water sprinklers!) before turning left onto Westminster Bridge. A u-turn in front of the South Bank Lion Statue took us back towards the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, before taking a loop of Parliament Square and then heading back towards the finishing straight on Whitehall.

The route involved lots of out-and-back sections, something I’m not usually a fan of, but I can see the benefit of them for race organisers because of the cost of road closures, and luckily the route was well designed so that none of these sections felt too long. And with a turn out of 11,000 runners, and plenty of support lining the route, the atmosphere was definitely one of fun. Several bands, choirs and DJs also provided entertainment en route, and there was a lot of charity support too, with runners racing for a variety of causes from Epilepsy Research UK to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

Big Ben running the British 10k London

Big Ben running the British 10k London

Running comfort

I ran most of the way with Charlotte from Lunges and Lycra, who had run 11 miles of trails the day before and agitated niggles and blisters from her ultra last month. Had it not been for this, I would barely have seen the back of her! It was nice to have the company and we complained and chatted in equal measure (I’m surely not the only one who goes through “why am I doing this?” moments in every. single. race?!). Unfortunately Charlotte’s feet and hips were suffering by 8.5k and she dropped back for just a short while. I could easily have suffer a similar fate as I was wearing new trainers – the Brooks Glycerin 14. Running a race in new trainers is something I always advise against, but I was excited to try them out so took the risk and thankfully they were super comfy and cushioned and I needn’t have worried.

One comfort issue I did struggle with though was the need for a pit stop just over halfway. We were at the blue bag drop, which was a 15-20 minute walk from the start line, where we waited for another 40 minutes or so before the actual start and by the time I got running I already felt like I needed to pee again! Luckily the route was well stocked with both water stations and portaloos so I stopped at around 6k.

 

{RUN LDN} Really fun morning running the @british10klondon. The route was a great opportunity to take in the sights (even if it was made up of lots of out-and-backs… not normally my fave!) and was lined with support from charities and spectators. It was so nice to see lots of friendly faces too @lungesandlycra @ellelinton @helsieboo @laura_fat2fit @adriennetmm @therunnerbeans @eclecticcake and @peachy_runs! Hope I haven’t missed anyone 🙈 For those of you who helped me decide on my kit… I went for team right 👉🏼 with @bjornborg capris, @lululemonuk tank and @reebokwomenuk sports bra, all to match my @brooksrunninguk #glycerin14 #british10klondonrun And look at the size of that medal 🏅🇬🇧👟❤️💙

A photo posted by 🏋🏼 CrossFit 🙏🏼 Yoga 👟 Running (@fitcetera) on

Race support and bling

If there’s one thing that I dread at races it’s bag drops, but fortunately the Vitality British 10k team were a well oiled machine and everything was organised down to a tee, including the directions at the arrival tube stations, the queues at the portaloos, the finishers’ funnel and, yes, even the bag drop lorries. When I came back for my bag after the race it was being fetched from the lorry before I even reached the barrier!

Speaking of the finishers’ funnel, the t-shirt and medal were so good – honestly one of the best I’ve gotten at a race. The t-shirt was unisex, so I went for a size small which is a great fit, but for some reason unisex tees have really tight necks! The colour and print are perfect for summer training though, and it’s a technical tee so you can run in it with confidence. The medal is huge and really iconic for the race – you don’t normally get medals that good until you start hitting half marathon and marathon distances!

Run it next year

If you want to take on the streets of London and earn yourself a whopping great medal next year, pre-registration for the 2017 British 10k London has already opened.

Did you run the British 10k this year? What did you think of the course and the race?

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This post is sponsored by Vitality British 10k.

I really wanted to start this post by saying how I used to run away from cars in my rebellious teenage years, but unfortunately I didn’t really have quite that juicy a childhood to dig into. Despite my lack of experience being chased by white cars with flashing lights on top, this was still a race that, on paper, reminded me of a Police chase.

What am I talking about?

The Red Bull Wings For Life Race, of course.

The worldwide race, the UK instance of which was held at the legendary Silverstone Race Circuit in Northampton, was one with a very unique format – in 35 locations worldwide, thousands of runners would set off at 12:00 BST, and 30 minutes later a car would start its pursuit – first at 15km/hour, but picking up speed until all athletes are caught… an ever-chasing finish line. A few weeks before the race the exciting news was revealed that David Coulthard, retired Formula 1 driver, would be driving the UK catcher car. Epic.

David C Catcher Car

Mr David Coulthard in his catcher car – probably the slowest he’s ever driven. Copyright Red Bull Content Pool

The race website had a really useful predictor page where you could enter your planned pace and it told you how far you could run before the catcher car would reach you. My rough pace of 8:45-9:00 min/mile churned out a 12-13 mile predicted finish and I excitedly decided to try and aim for a half marathon.

The excitement soon dwindled, though, as driving up to Northampton with Lauren (aka Powered by PB) we saw nothing but heavy rain and spray on the motorway. I’d decided earlier that morning to run with a small Camelbak in order to be able  to carry a light jacket to throw on at the finish, as I’d heard it can be a bit of a walk to the buses, depending on where you get caught by the car. As the sky cleared and the race was about to begin I started to regret my decision, but it was too late by this stage – I was committed.

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On the track

Meeting up with the blogging and journalist friends pre-race was really nice (thanks to Freestak for organising the places and getting such a great crew together!) – it’s always a much more fun experience going to a race in a group and we all posed for photos and chatted excitedly before the race. In fact, all the runners seemed in high spirits after pre-race interviews with David Coulthard (who’s advice to runners for when he drives up behind them was “Squeeze your bum and look your best”, lolz) and Mark Webber, who was also running the race, and as we got off to running there was a lot of waving to the cameramen on motorbikes who were live-streaming the race.

Pre-Race Shot

What a bunch of fools. Little did we know this photo would contain the two winners! Photo courtesy of Emma Lax (Lunges and Lycra)

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The first 8k of the course is constrained to the Silverstone track, which has its good and bad points. There’s plenty of space for the masses to spread out, which means very little weaving and dodging, and you can also get a nice racing line round the bends (“vroom” noises optional), but it does feel perhaps a little lonely and boring as you make your way around the track. Before too long we were heading out onto the country lanes, and that’s when the race really comes into its own.

Track portion of the race. Copyright Red Bull Content Pool

Country Lanes

By contrast – the country roads. Copyright Red Bull Content Pool

Hot and hilly

On the drive to the race Lauren had asked me if it was likely to be hilly, to which I’d replied “no, I don’t think so… Northampton’s not that hilly really”. Oh how wrong I was. It wasn’t long before the first climb hit us and my legs started to complain. Not only that but, in true contrast to the morning, the heat had really started to turn up and I was getting pretty hot. I supped on the water (flavoured with a Zero tab from a mini tube I picked up in my goody bag at Be:Fit) from my Camelbak, perhaps taking on more than I would have had I not been carrying anything.

The first 8 miles or so had been brilliant; I’d stuck to my target pace of around 8:40 min/mile and felt great, but then the wheels started to fall off. The heat was getting to me, and I was starting to feel a little sick from the amount of water I’d taken on. I was making my way up one of the hills when I had to stop and walk… something I very rarely do – mainly because I really struggle to start running again once I’ve walked. At the top of the hill I let my legs recover a bit before starting to run again, but sure enough another hill came along and I walked again. This pattern of running on the flats and down-hills and walking the up-hills continued for the rest of my race, dropping my overall pace to roughly 9:30 min/mile and I was willing the catcher car to reach me.

Eventually though, when the leading cyclists rode past warning that the catcher car was coming, my attitude changed and I wished I had just a few more minutes. As I heard the car approach I grabbed my phone and run-posed for a selfie with Mr C. I’d made it just over 11 miles before being caught.

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After party

After the race I collected my finishers’ medal and goody bag (with a very nice Buff, towel and t-shirt – see below!) and my bag and headed off to the after party. Unfortunately it was one in:one out at this point, but soon enough we were let in and up to the balcony to look out on the big screen still showing the leading runners. We were given a bottle of beer (which unfortunately I had to decline as designated driver!) and a bag of Propercorn to enjoy as we finished watching the race.

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This was exciting in itself as both the male and female winners were known to me! Tom Payn from Run Fast, who I’d met at the Amba Hotels City of London Mile launch event, covered 61.09km in 4 hours 10 minutes and Kate Carter, editor of the Guardian Running Blog, who I met at Reading Half Marathon and who had run the London Marathon with a 3:04 PB only the week before, was caught at 34.73km after 2 hours 39 minutes. Cheering as they were caught by David Coulthard (Tom even got an F1 hug!) and handed their sashes and glass globe trophies was an honour. The male and female winner of each race gets to pick any other Red Bull Wings For Life Race in the world to take part in next year – all expenses paid. Now that’s a winners’ prize worth shooting for! Read Kate’s recount of her race here.

David Coulthard and Tom

What a way to finish! Tom Payn celebrates his win with a hug from David Coulthard. Copyright Red Bull Content Pool

Winners!

The winners! Kate Carter and Tom Payn clutch their trophies. Copyright Red Bull Content Pool

Facilities and organisation

I have to say that, overall, the Red Bull Wings For Life Race is a very well organised race. From the ponchos that were given out as we collected our race numbers, to the boxes of water bottles on the buses that took us back to the start, almost everything was like clockwork. I say almost because a few things stood out to me:

  • The first was the race number printed with two tear-off tabs for your luggage… that were the wrong way round. No-one was clear on what to do with them.
  • Secondly was that there were only large and extra-large t-shirts left when I got back to the finisher’s collection area… with a lot of faster runners still to come.
  • And finally the can of Red Bull and race information booklet… that arrived two days after the race! I was very grateful for the energy drink any time, but the booklet might have come in handy before the race!

Would I do it again?

Hell yes! I really hope to be able to do this one again next year and get a half marathon in.

The blips in organisation were minor enough not to have been mentioned (had everything else not have been so well organised) and the smooth running of everything else made it a pleasure to be part of. That and the pure excitement of such a different race format are enough to get me back again. Plus, I need to represent for the women! Perhaps unsurprisingly, being held at an F1 venue, the majority of runners seemed to be male, so let’s get that female ratio up, shall we?!

Pre-entry is already open for Red Bull Wings For Life 2016, get your name down here.

About Wings For Life

Worldwide, millions of people are dependent on a wheelchair after having sustained a spinal cord injury, most often as the result of a traffic accident or a fall. Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation with a mission to find a cure for spinal cord injury. Since 2004, Wings for Life has funded life-changing research projects and clinical trials around the globe. While the cure is still to be found, steady progress has been made. The €3 million raised in the inaugural Wings for Life World Run and all future entry fees and sponsorship of this global running event will help work towards their ultimate goal.