As a runner, as a competitor, I’m always the one toeing the line. Rarely the one on the other side of the fence, rarely the one doing the cheering supporting and chasing around on the course. My Dad and Mum have done a great job over the years, chasing me around marathon courses, local events and travelling up and down the country to show their support. Whether it be Snowdonia, Edinburgh, London, York or Manchester. My Dad meticulously planning, trains, cars and walks between point on the route, always including a coffee stop or landmark. My Mum describes it at times as chasing after my Dad who likes to be on time and on point! I’ve had The Butchers, Shaun, Hannah and Jack, do the same at events. They’ve chased my Dad followed his instruction and navigation around courses. At times I’ve always sat down after the events and thought to myself it can’t really be that difficult or stressful being a supporter, but this weekend I got to experience it myself!
As always my weekend includes a parkrun, it’s great for the event to be back! The last 3 weekends have all included a different parkrun, a novelty for me! I’ve done 332 parkruns and 317 of them have been at Barnsley, the World’s Greatest? Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve done Beverley, Barnsley and now Beckton. All 3 beginning with a B! I’ve done them all with Naomi.
They’ve all been different and offered something to the table. I’ve wrote a bit about Beverley and Barnsley in my previous write up on the: Pontefract 10k
Beckton itself was a lapped course, with a mixture of grass and tarmac, a few cobbles for good measure and plenty of turns. On paper the course looks pretty confusing but in reality it’s pretty simple going! Small jog up and down London Docks beforehand and managed to get soaked in the torrential rain, called back to the hotel and picked Naomi up to go for a jog to Beckton Parkrun.
Made the park in good time, unsurprisingly there were 2 parkruns within 0.5 mile of the hotel. We are in London after all! But Victoria Dock was cancelled because the Triathlon was in town. Milling around at the parkrun and chatting to everyone felt great, really puts into perspective what parkrun is all about. The Run Director stepped up to talk about the route, whilst we all intriguingly listened up! It only confused me and Naomi more! A small step around the community centre to the start line, a glance to Naomi who by this point was looking rather nervous, nerves quickly settled by a parkrun regular who had broke the silence with her, a quick 3, 2, 1 and we were off. Out onto the route and straight onto running around the football pitch, on the grass slipping and sliding. The rain had paused tactically around 8.57am. Breaking from the pitch through a gap in the bushes, onto more grass before we made a left turn onto tarmac. Barnsley has 50% downhill in a lap and 50% uphill, this has a 50/50 split of grass and tarmac. It had a flat out and back section, with a Billy Elliot jump around the lamppost. It would be perfect on a proper summers day! Lap 1 was done in a flash, before taking it on again. This time the grass was marginally trodden and even more soaked, the rain began again in the process of lap 2. Making my way past the tail walker who was running with a umbrella to protect the person he was accompanying! Class act! Glanced at the watch, mad dash again on grass to the finish.
17.05 and 20.59 for Naomi
49 people in attendance, quite possibly the smallest parkrun I’ve ever done, including some snowy endeavours around Barnsley!
We spent sometime talking to people around the finish, notable mentions include the guy with a stopwatch who was a West Ham fan and took part in West Hams Community Walking Football team. A woman who was a pastor and had a hip replacement 6 months ago, she had only run 2.5k on doctors orders in her rehab process. She had trained in Mirfield, a stones throw away from Barnsley. Two really enthusiastic gentlemen, who were keen to learn ‘running tips’ and learn more about mine and Naomi’s training process. Jokingly saying is the secret a 100 mile week? Also including the guy who spoke to Naomi on the start line, who visits his brother at Rother Valley every now and then, he was asking Naomi about the triathlon taking place tomorrow.
Naomi’s interpretation of the race coming up! To give you some context, she is aiming to qualify for the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championships 2022, taking place in Abu Dhabi.
I will start with my Leeds Triathlon results, to give an idea of progression and how the two events compare. Maybe if Gareth approves I’ll come back and write a full Leeds report.
|Leeds||Swim 1500m |
|Bike 36.4k |
|Run 10k |
|Age Group |
|London||Swim 1500m |
|Bike 40k |
|Run 10.5k |
|Age Group |
On paper London was a perfect race for me, enclosed dock swim, flat closed roads for the bike and three out and back loops for the run. A dream…. but the reality is the wait between getting into the pen pre swim went by in a split second feeling penned in and surrounded by athletes you were unable to identify if they were in your age group or not. The water was choppy, wavy and there was a undercurrent pulling you towards the banks. I was one of the later starters (9:30) for a qualifying race this is unheard of, normally we would be the first to start as inevitably we are aiming to smash out a fast event. By half way on the swim I was in the mix of another wave start, I had over taken 3 different starts by the time I had exited the water, recognising them by the different coloured swim hats. Meaning that from the gun I never had a clear path to race and was constantly overtaking and weaving through other competitors and of course the varying abilities.
Leaving the water we had to leave the choppy docks and run up a slope into ExCel, making our way up two flights of stairs; having to remove the wetsuit before entering the building and carry it in a plastic bag, kind of like removing your mucky shoes before going into Grandma’s house. Transition was inside, fantastic because it gets you out of the elements and into a warm environment taking in all the experience while looking for your bike. Not so great was the slippery wet through floor making it feel like an ice rink under foot. My transition times are two of the slowest times I have ever performed during a race.
A phrase used a lot in cycling is ‘on your right’ simply meaning move I’m passing on your right. If I was to say I said this around 300x I wouldn’t even be exaggerating. The closed roads were great but with horizontal rain and smooth surfaced London roads and thousands of competitors it made for a roller-coaster feeling, also constantly dodging the drainage and man-hole covers meant that I would’ve been more at home on a obstacle course. I spent most of my race what felt like holding on for dear life. Water was puddling across both sides of the road. Cones seemingly popping up from nowhere and confusing signs made for a more technical course than I had anticipated. My Garmin couldn’t keep track due to bridges, tunnels and the amount of trees on course. Often telling me I was going sub 9mph. The course compiled of one big lap & one smaller lap; filled with athletes from all walks of life, mountain bikes, road bikes and TT bikes, even bat man made his appearance. By the end of my little lap I was elated to see the signs for transition. A steep uphill climb before I attempted a flying dismount back onto the ice rink to navigate the other competitors and find my running trainers.
By this point my voice was a little rough, the run route was a narrow out and back on the dockside, and I was running with my emotion and disappointment of what I thought was a rubbish bike. I’ve massively focussed on my biking fitness since Leeds Triathlon at the beginning of June, neglecting my other disciplines in the process. On paper the run for a standalone 10k, it does however measure 10.5k, is a ideal personal best course offering minimal elevation gain within the distance. The majority of the run was on cobbles avoiding other competitors and being polite as possible, much like the rest of the event. I set off feeling pretty comfortable clocking my first mile at 6.03 pace, before turning back into the headwind swiftly dropping to a 7.06 pace. It became a race dictated by the headwind and tailwind, fluctuating between the two. The 3 lapped course went by pretty swiftly, with no landmarks or viewpoints to aim for; constantly having to think about dodging other competitors and battling the road surface. The run was my most enjoyable aspect, and I can take a lot of confidence away from it with how strong I felt at this point coming off the bike.
Approaching the finish I felt strong and I’m very happy with my overall results, but again was swallowed up by a sea of unguided athletes milling around the ExCel arena floor collecting medals and t-shirts on our own accord. It wouldn’t be a particular race that I would recommend. If put in the position where I wanted to qualify I would complete the event again, however would much prefer to support more local races. In hindsight I improved dramatically in between Leeds and London, walking away with fresh legs and feeling as if I had plenty more left in the tank. Finishing 6th in my age group is a fantastic position having only been training specifically for 3 months, leaving me feeling confident that I can make further improvements. I’m looking forward to my next, more relaxed, triathlon. I’m awaiting results being announced whether I have made the qualification standard for Abu Dhabi in 2022.
From a spectators point of view, as you can imagine it was very different! So back over to Gareth…
I’d left Naomi at the ExCel just before she went to assemble for the Swim, myself making a quick dash back to the hotel to drop her bag off before venturing out. Because of the logistics in trying to see her swim and only being able to see a sea of swim hats in the water, I opted to skip watching the swim and start my run out onto the bike route. With the plan to try and see her twice, on the way out where I would then turn around and then hopefully see her on the way back. A side goal of mine was to try and get a 12.5 mile run in, to take my weekly total to 100 miles. So off I went venturing into London following the bike route and trying not to get run over. It wasn’t until I clocked 3 miles where I then decided to stop and check the tracker, anticipating that it was roughly 20 minutes and Naomi would roughly be out of the water. To my surprise, the tracker said Naomi was out of the water and roughly 2k into the bike route and fast approaching me. I was positioned just after the Billingsgate Turning Point, where the Triathletes would be making the turn for Lap 2 of the bike. Naomi should have been flying past me performing her 1st larger lap! I was watching the tracker for a bit, keeping my eye on the race. Naomi was nowhere to be seen, as I watched the little dot go through where I was stood. I gave it 5 minutes before making the decision to run further up the course. Thinking to myself, what if Naomi made the turn at the wrong point? Loads of Triathletes had been cycling past me, asking if the larger lap to Westminster was to be completed first.
I’d made the dash now of course anyway, towards Canary Wharf and eventually finding myself back on the course near Limehouse Basin and roughly reaching Shadwell Basin, checking the tracker as I go. Looking up and across trying to see Naomi’s bright pink bike and cheery face! The 1st time I managed to see her I looked up and shouted across the road, ‘Go On Naomi!’ Brief enough and that was that, before I then made the dash back to the ExCel to hopefully see her on the smaller bike lap. That I managed to do, at least once! Even managing to get a photo of her on the bike.
I eventually got back to the ExCel and London Docks, myself clocking just over 10 mile at this point. The Docks was heavily congested so I got myself to a good vantage point where I knew I could pick her out in a crowd, seeing her on the 1st lap of the run, just as the heavens opened and a downpour began. She asked me what position she may have been in, with qualifying heavily on her mind. I checked the tracker, it however didn’t show the position of the competitors. I then jogged up and down, to try and see her a few more times on the run in the bustling crowd. Naomi at this point looked pretty annoyed in her facial expression however I could tell that she was running pretty strong, she had also had a phenomenal performance on the bike.
Planning in my head to see her on the way out on the third and final lap, before dashing back to the hotel, getting a bag with some warmer clothes in and catching her at the finish. Planned it to a tee!
I got back into the hotel, chucked a extra hoodie in the bag and made the mad dash to the finish. The quickest and simplest way into the ExCel was shut, with the doors being locked. So I went the longer and slower way around and down towards the arena where the London Marathon Expo is held. Because I had a bag, security had deciding to stop and ask. I must look dodgy? I eventually made my way into the arena just in time to see her cross the line, before then weaving my way through the bustling crowd to meet her at the end of the completing open finishing funnel. Complete free for all! I’d say quick subway lunch and back to the hotel, subway had near enough run out of salad to put on the sandwiches! Cyclists everywhere in the ExCel ranging from £100 bikes to £20,000 bikes, manic! But honestly the busy atmosphere is nice to see, especially after the last year and half we’ve all had.
The Rest of the London Experience
I’ll keep this one shorter and sweet? We went back to the hotel, slept our morning off before going to a pizzeria called 8 Slices, really nice!
Monday morning we woke up and Naomi was feeling pretty fresh so decided to join me on a sightseeing recovery run through Greenwich and Woolwich tunnel. Just over 10 mile completed in a nice and easy pace. Taking it all in, in the process. Nice to just chill out and enjoy the running for what it is worth. We then made the long drive back up the God’s Own Country of YORKSHIRE!
All in all, a pretty fantastic weekend away in the capital, hectic, manic and obviously fulfilled. Got a lot of races coming up over the next few weeks, staying focussed and hopefully injury free to get myself in a nice rhythm, one foot in front of the other but…
In the meantime, Just Keep Running…