After a luxurious honeymoon all over the south of France, we did what any normal couple would do. We flew to London and spent the last day of our honeymoon running the British 10K London Run.
We had planned a side trip to the UK after our adventures in France for some family fun. We ended up with one free day in London so we searched for fun things happening on July 14. It turned out, the “world’s greatest road race” was happening in London. How could we refuse?
The British 10K boasts a route through the heart of central London passing many of the city’s most historic landmarks. Throughout the race, we passed The Ritz, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the British Houses of Parliament. It was a pretty epic race route for our first race outside of Canada.
After 2 weeks of low activity and delightful (read: unhealthy) French cuisine, I wasn’t exactly in my peak form for a 10K, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to go out and have a fun, easy run and enjoy the sites. And besides, the race organizers sent out an email before the race encouraging people to take it easy as London was experiencing a very unusual heat wave with temperatures around 30 degrees.
I have to admit, for a race that proudly declares it is the “world’s greatest,” it was one of the worst race starts I have ever encountered. There were no corrals so all 25,000 runners just massed together in a first-come-first-served blob. We waited shoulder-to-shoulder with other runners for more than half an hour before they started the pre-race proceedings which included a performance from Katrina and the Waves (yes, she sang THE song), a marching band and various anthems.
Finally, the announcer said, “Now it’s time to start….the wave!” Everyone moaned loudly assuming he was going to announce the race start and since no one could see the announcer through the crowd, we had no clue where this wave was supposed to start. It was a huge flop. Finally, they did a big, anticlimactic countdown and the race began. Sort of. The first runners set off… and we waited another 35 minutes before we finally started moving.
Waiting around isn’t so bad if you have some music playing to pump you up, but apparently the British 10K DJ got a memo to play the world’s most depressing music at the starting line. I started the race to the song Everybody Hurts by REM. No joke. This was arguably the least motivating song they could play. It was also a bit prophetic. I was definitely hurting during this race.
In the words of one runner we passed, it was “hotter than the centre of the earth” and the heat emanating off the pavement was steamy. I had a real low moment around the 7K mark where we stopped and took a walk break. I was mad at myself for being so lame. Graham aptly reminded me that I should just take in the awesomeness of the sights and forget about my time. His pep talk got me out of my funk and I was able to finish the race without keeling over, which is more than I can say for many race participants suffering from various degrees of heatstroke and dehydration. At least we’re used to this sort of weather in Canada!
Aside from the awesome route, the fans in this race were also pretty incredible. They lined almost the entire race route and cheered enthusiastically in charming British accents. There were also tons of people running for various charities and many were in costume. We ran next to a team of runners dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, complete with a guy dressed as April O’Neil.
Despite the lame start, the end of the race was really well organized. Short lines, quick and easy access to our bag and a cool race medal. I still haven’t checked my time. I’m sure it was well over an hour, but I don’t really care. It was my first race outside of Canada and a good experience overall. I believe this may be the start of a trend.
Have you run any great races outside of Canada?