On Saturday, I did the Summer Breeze Wimbledon Half Marathon for the first time. This is a festival incorporating a 10km, half marathon and the London Enduro 50km overnight race.
Unusually, the races take place on Saturday afternoon – with the 10km starting at 4pm, the half marathon starting at 4.30pm, and then the 50km race starting at 7pm. We arrived at about 1pm to have a picnic beforehand. The race village was still in “set up” mode, but the toilets were ready for you, which was all we needed.
Two friends of ours – Gus and Simon – were running the 10km, cheered on by their wives and children. The four children ranging between nine months and three years old had a great time playing together, with the race village in a large field some distance away from any traffic.
At 4pm, the boys started their 10km and I cheered them off with the kids who stopped playing for long enough to offer their dads high fives as they set off. This was quite a small race – with only 450 people doing the half marathon, and fewer doing the 10km – which made it really easy for spectators to spot the runners and vice verse. This is a major plus for me.
I got into the half marathon corrals, and was surprised that the fastest one was sub 1:50. “This must be a race for slow people” I thought. Oh the naivety. I joined the sub two hours coral, which went second and as we set off I heard the race announcer use the expression “very challenging course”. Uh oh.
Boy, he wasn’t kidding. I kind of wish I had stopped to take a photo of some of the hills. It was a route around and across Wimbledon common, and no sooner had we entered the woods than the hills began. My legs were screaming for the first two miles or so, and I began to worry I wouldn’t make it.
The 10km does a single lap of the course, and the half marathon does two. As I ran past the start/finish at the end of lap one, Simon – having completed the 10km – said he felt for me having to do a second lap. (Still, spare a thought for the London Enduro runnners, who ran continuous loops for 12 hours. Last year the solo winner ran 17 laps!).
It was by far the hardest route I have ever run. The below is from Gus’s watch showing a single lap of the course.
It was a very picturesque course though, and having done one lap, I knew that after the hills of miles 1-4, it became less hostile. Mentally it was good to get the hills out the way.
I managed to complete it in 1:57 which I was very pleased with. My half marathon PB is 1:42 but I quickly realised this was a completely different game, and was seriously worried I would have to walk a lot of it. Lots of people were walking the steepest hills, but I managed to keep on going. I ran a lot of the race with two girls, and though we didn’t exchange a word, we stuck together which really helped me keep my pace steady.
When I got back, I learnt that Simon had come third in the 10km! His time was 42 minutes, which is amazing for this course. That said, the winner managed it in 36 minutes. Insane. Incidentally, Simon actually took the good photos in this post. Check out his website! A man of many talents.
By the time I finished the half marathon, Gus had headed home to recover, but Simon hung around for a celebratory beer with me. There was live music and a great festival atmosphere. Two year old Jacob took quite a shine to the lead singer of the band!
This was an entirely off-road course, and I somehow managed to get covered in dirt on the way round. A major plus of hanging around with parents is that they always have various wipes on them, so I was able to clean up before we headed home.
The race t-shirts were pinks for girls and blue for boys. Normally I would despair such gender stereotyping, but I actually love my t-shirt. It is easily my favourite of all the ones I have. Matthew and I stoppped off for a quick drink at our local pub….
….then headed home for celebratory wine and pizza.
This was an absolutely fantastic race, and one I would strongly recommend. It was a tough course, and not one for a PB, but the woodland is beautiful and it is a very entertaining course. There was no queue for the toilets or the bag drop, all the marshals were smiling their encouragement all the way round, and there were lots of children handing out the drinks at the refreshment stations. A VERY big thank you to everyone involved!