Windsor HM River Trail – the good, the bad and the thirsty.

This blog could go two ways. I could adopt my ‘bad cop’ review hat and give the event a bit of a hard time for the now well documented problems people encountered on the day, (just look up the event on Runners World reviews), or I could focus on the positives. Since I’ve just come back from a blissful 40-minute swim in a very empty public pool, (empty of people, not of water I might add), I’m inclined to don my ‘good cop’ hat and focus on the positives.

So here goes…

Windsor Half Marathon River Trail was simply beautiful in terms of scenery. The course was a flat route, starting from Alexandra Gardens, Windsor,  with views of Windsor Castle, then meandered along the Thames public footpath, through Bray – before looping back over the other side of the river to finish at the park. We passed what we dubbed the ‘Billionaire’s Row’ of waterfront homes, the stunning ‘Waterside Inn’ (the Roux Brothers’ Michelin Star restaurant), Danesfield House Hotel (the setting of George and Amal Clooney’s UK wedding celebrations) and many locks, barges and day cruiser boats. Not to mention being able to glimpse the Olympic Eton Dorney Rowing lake through the bushes! (Which I have in fact run around 4 or so times in a previous Half Marathon).

For a change, I was not worried about my time or breaking any PBs. I have got a bit hung up lately on breaking a sub-2 which makes Half Marathons a bit stressful for me (current PB is 2:02). Instead, my role on the day was really one of moral support – to get a friend through her first Half Marathon in her goal time of around 2 hrs 30 minutes. Due to events beyond our control, (lots of queues and issues with bag dropping), we actually started the run really late – at about 9.10am. This actually worked to our advantage as there were no crowds of runners on the tow paths from the mass start and we felt almost ‘on our own’ – a very different experience to many of the running events I have entered before. We enjoyed the peace and tranquillity around us and relaxed in the sunshine, keeping to a steady pace.

windsor2Having fun before the ‘dog attack ;)’

Five miles in, we had a little bit of a glitch. As I was running along, I felt what I thought were paws on my back and the yelp of what I believed to be a large dog. I shrieked, turned around and saw that it was not actually an errant hound, but my friend falling to the ground behind me, having tripped on a branch! It is very funny now that we look back on it, but my friend was pretty cut up and bleeding and we couldn’t see any first aiders nearby, so we pressed on and managed to wash the cuts up as best we could.

We carried on up the river and were delighted to see our support crew – a friend and his two daughters who ran alongside us with a Go Pro in their fairy dresses! It was very cute to see and gave us a lift (as we were flagging a bit with dehydration – ok here comes the negative…) The event had run out of water at the 8 KM water stop. As it was a hot day we were really disappointed –  we’d decided not to carry our own water as runners had been promised regular water stops along the route. We were given a High 5 gel though by a very apologetic Marshal, which at least was something, but our mouths were as dry as the Sahara!

thirsty

Thirsty much? (pic credit: animalpics1.com)

However, the lovely residents of Windsor had obviously heard that there was a shortage of water along the route and a kind man came to our rescue and offered us a few cups of water which was perfect and couldn’t have come at a better time. By now, we were over half way and feeling strong and ready to go again. After a quick calculation on my Garmin, I was able to tell my friend that we were well head of her target time. This had her so excited, she started talking about running a marathon next time (since revoked).

As the miles ticked by, my friend was starting to drop pace a bit as her earlier fall was causing her hip to play up a bit. I kept up with my motivational chat and promised her glasses of red wine, chocolates or bubble baths at the finish if she just carried on a bit longer. If I could have mustered up George Clooney to meet her I would have done! Finally, I was able to announce that we only had a Park Run to go (5K) which lifted her a bit and meant that the end was in sight.

At nearly 13 miles I told her to dig deep and just think of the word FINISH: “We’re so close now, think of that medal,” I said. As we turned the corner, we saw the finish line and I grabbed her hand and pulled her the last few metres!  We’d done it: 2 hrs and 22 minutes and 15 seconds. We’d taken 8 minutes off her target time and I’d had one of my best half marathon experiences – just chatting, being relaxed and just having a good time.

windsor1My friend, Petra, (left) and me (right)

I might have a go at it next year again for myself to see what ‘my’ time would be – however despite the great day we had, I am not sure I’d enter again. I think the organisers have some way to go to improve the race experience for everyone. It’s potentially a great event and I think it could be fantastic – certainly one of the prettiest courses in this area. But as I am in a positive mood, maybe I’ll give them a second chance to put right a few of the  issues (and I’d  make sure I wore a Camelbak next time).

Race in a nutshell: Flat, pretty, friendly participants, all abilities welcome. Decent bling.

The good: Route, medal, parking in local school, chip timed – with instant time print out at the finish.

The bad: Late start, baggage drop queue (and £5 payment), long toilet queues, inadequate amount of water for the number of runners, no goody bag. Lack of first aid on the route.

 

For fun on the doorstep, think local.

Race report: Prestwood 10K 

 

Local races often get over looked. They can be smaller, with less impressive bling than some of the big ticket events – and with less participants, there is always the worry that you could come last, (well for me anyway – I still worry about being dead last!)

For the past 13 years Prestwood village (in the Chilterns) has been host to the Chiltern MS Society Prestwood 10K which brings together a community of club runners, beginners and most recently, children’s races. The route is pretty easy – taking in country lanes and residential roads with a couple of inclines in the first half. It’s a route tried and tested by me as I often use it in training. Over the past seven years since we moved here, I’ve probably done the event a handful of times and always enjoy seeing local friends and neighbours along the route and cheering outside their houses. This year I also met up with new running friends Steve and Pete from UKRUNCHAT who live locally too!

Yesterday, I joined the start line with a bit of a sore head!  Not the best plan. We’d had friends up for the weekend, so the inevitable BBQ and sunshine drinks ensued. For morale support (and to stop me from wimping out) my friend Chaz decided to run with me, (I think he was suffering too and wasn’t in the mood to try a PB). I set out to run it under an hour and be back in time to see my son race with the 10 year olds. It was quite tempting half way to just pop home – since we passed my house!

It was great having my own personal pacer – as if I naturally slowed down, Chaz was always there to remind me to pick my knees up or ‘man up’! As I was feeling under-par, I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself at all. So with a bit of encouragement from Chaz (who barely broke a sweat), we got home in 58:39 (official Gun time). Quite possibly a ‘course recor for me – as I seem to remember previous attempts at this 10K just scraping in under an hour with a few seconds to spare. However, yesterday was not about the PB or the medal, I was just pleased to be participating in something so local, as well as encourage familiar faces and congratulating friends.

Local races need the support just as much as larger races. Often there is a running club or local charity organising the event, making it more pressing to raise funds or improve facilities. It’s a great way of making new friends too, or find running buddies.

A village or town event also sets a great example to children to watch their mums, dads, aunties or teachers running in a local event. Three years ago, the organisers of the Prestwood 10K decided to introduce children’s races for age five and upwards, which were popular yesterday with many local school children taking part – although perhaps not as many as there could have been.

Two of my sons ran – one only aged three, but insisting he wanted to ‘run like Mummy’ – and made us very proud wearing their race bibs and collecting their fun run medals at the end.  I hope that I have passed on the attitude of ‘it’s good to try’ through my own running journey. I’ll never be an amazing runner, but that’s not the point of it. Having a go and enjoying yourself is just as important, if not more so, than winning. It’s all about just getting out there and having a go whether it takes 30 odd minutes to do a 10K or 2 hours – having something so motivating on the doorstep is a great opportunity to try running events. And yes, you may come last. In all my worry I never have – and even if you do – who actually cares!? They always get the biggest cheer anyway 🙂

Have a look on Runners World for your local events – you might meet new people and discover new running routes! Or if you know of any good smaller events please comment below.

Happy Running!

Woop! I’m in…

Claire germain marathon 2015

It’s official! I have finally been accepted for a place in the 2015 London Marathon. I am so excited, although I know there is literally a tough road ahead. Unphased, I am already preparing for the run. One trip to John Lewis later and a 25% discount on Adidas gear, I’m all set! I’m sure I have plenty of adequate training gear, but it’s nice to have a fresh start. Besides I had nothing to co-ordinate with my brand new Asics which help prevent my flat feet from rolling in – or in technical terms, over pronating! Get me, I even speak the running lingo.

However, jesting aside, its not really a case of ‘all the gear and no idea’. I’m not a complete novice to running. To marathons, maybe.  I have previously completed the Royal Parks half Marathon a few years ago (beating the Cheeky Girls to the finish line I’ll have you know).  I now just need to focus on doubling that distance.

marathonapproved

Having my place written in black and white ,(well more a pink and grey) is fantastic. Not only do I have proof of the challenge for fundraising purposes, (I’m not planning to jet off to the Bahamas honest), but it makes everything seem very real. 26.2 miles is quite a long way to drive in the car…running it will be a great challenge.

Training is going quite well so far. I’ve read loads of blogs on running, ‘liked’ several running pages on Facebook and I’ve done some actual running too. Hills and everything. Currently up to about 14.5K on my longest run…that’s about 8 miles in old terms. So time to up my game.

I’m looking forward to documenting my journey in this little bloggette. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, but the main thing is to accept the challenge ahead and hopefully raise lots of money for Tommy’s the baby charity. They do amazing work with pregnancy – helping people cope through miscarriage, premature births and sadly still births.

If you would like to sponsor me visit www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/clairegermain

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Jogging on now,

Claire x