Tales of the Unexpected – Cancer Research Winter Run

Well that was unexpected!

Today was the Cancer Research Winter 10k in London. I mentioned earlier in the week that I was apprehensive about this race because I really didn’t feel that I was properly trained or prepared for it. On the other hand, when I have done a bit of tempo running lately the pace has felt like it’s still there, so I was in two minds whether to run it or race it.

Some of us volunteered at this race last year as part of the Skins Racemakers team so I knew it was a big event which involves road closures and diversions, and a bit of a scramble for the bag drop and loos. I was going to the event by myself which is unusual, but given how many races I’ve been to now was actually sort of nice and made it very low maintenance; I got the tube to Oxford Circus and enjoyed a quiet walk down through St James’s because there’s a Pret I know there with a nice clean loo to visit on the way (I am VERY glamorous).

From there it was easy to find the route to the bag drop and the start – in fact there were volunteers as far back as Piccadilly Circus helping people find their way which was a nice touch. The peace and quiet of my walk suddenly opened out into the total chaos caused by nearly 20,000 runners milling about in a very small area!

I got my bag in, did a bit of a warm up and it was time to head to the start pens – no time for hanging around. I ran into a club mate in the same start wave as me and we traded possible reasons for not racing. I was still thinking I would try to race, but see how I went. Aim for a time with a 55 at the start if I thought I could. A blast of fake snow and loud cheesy dance music later and we were off!

Now, I could say I raced really sensibly but it might be a bit of a fib.

The way this race works is that the runners are divided into waves arbitrarily and not by pace, so although I was in the fourth wave of nine that didn’t mean that all of the runners in that wave were doing a similar pace. Everyone is all jumbled up together and the start of the route, from Trafalgar Square out onto the Strand, is comparatively narrow. That means that there’s a lot of dodging about and argy bargy in the first half a mile to deal with if you want to get up to pace pretty immediately. So I ended up going out a lot faster than I usually would and decided I would just have to just hold on and try to keep going at or around that pace.

So, crowds aside, this is how my race went:

Mile 1 –  goodness there’s a lot of people. Ooh, into an 8:55 straight away, good. Hmmm, satellites are a bit off. Just run to effort, you’ll be ok. Just don’t go too fast at the start…

Mile 2 – seriously, you need to calm this pace down – Chancery Lane is a positive incline! That’s good, you got to 2k in under 5:30k’s. You know, if you ever ran in k’s so that meant anything to you.

Mile 3 – getting a bit twisty turny. Why is the guy at the water station yelling that we’re halfway when we’re quarter of a mile off 5k? My watch can’t be that out. Oh no – there’s the 5k. Oof – not far off your parkrun PB – calm down!

Mile 4 – should have calmed down. Should have calmed down. Why are there so many out and back, wiggly bits in this mile? Ugh I might die on my arse here if I’m not careful. I hope we’re not running up the whole of Fleet Street, that’s a hill…

Ooh – dancing penguins who are all grinning and waving and being amazing and supportive! Oh cheer up you miserable cow, stop checking your watch and getting caught up in the stats when there are dancing penguins to wave at.

Mile 5 – Hooray – we’re not doing the steep bit of Fleet Street!

Mile 6 – Right, back to the Strand and some wonderful soul has chosen Dog Days are Over for the sound system. Run fast for your mother, your father, yourself, everyone! Time to open the jets!

There’s Trafalgar Square! Left down Whitehall for the final few hundred metres…this is going to be well under 56…COME ON WOMAN! SPRINT!

The finish line! Made it! Bloody hell, my watch says 55:08 – I was not expecting that. Gosh. Imagine what might have happened if I’d trained!

My official time came in at 55:03 – not sure how it managed to be less, I must have missed the finish mat and gone for a further one for stopping my watch (better safe than sorry).

I enjoyed the race this morning, but the funny thing is I wasn’t sure I was enjoying it at the time – I suppose that’s the difference between running and racing.

Running or racing, I’d recommend it. The course is undeniably fast and flat, and as it’s now been going for a few years they have ironed out a lot of the organisational kinks that holding such a big event in the middle of central London can bring. The one thing I’d worried about was the loos, but actually the loo queues weren’t terrible when I got there about 20 minutes before the first wave went off.

You get waves, high fives and hugs from penguins, polar bears, yetis, huskies and some frankly terrifying looking snowmen (remember that Christmas episode of Doctor Who? Scarier). There’s also a lot of very good music on the route; as well as some absolute bangers on the sound system there was a Rock Choir (I heard Something Inside So Strong and Don’t Stop Me Now – excellent choices) AND one of those incredible drum bands which are always fantastic at running events. A lot of entertainment for a 10k, and appreciated. Plus you get a really good, chunky medal and a couple of healthy tasty treats instead of a goody bag full of crap. Much better.

It is very crowded at the start, and this actually continues through the race to a greater or lesser extent as you catch up with the earlier waves. Usually this would really wind me up but to be honest, today it didn’t bother me. I knew beforehand this was how the race was organised, so it’s not the same as when it’s supposed to be by time and people have just put themselves in the wrong place. It’s also really important to consider that a huge number of people running Cancer Research events are doing so in support of or in memory of a loved one. Loads of people had cards on their backs saying who they were running for. If you want a clear run at a fast, flat course then maybe go to a smaller club event. For an event like this, the people who are battling against cancer or loss are the important ones and it was humbling and a privilege to be running alongside them.

I’m delighted this turned out to be a PB course, but it would have been just as much fun running it if it hadn’t been. When do entries open for next year?!


Duffrunning has been shortlisted in the 2018 Running Awards in the Personal Blog category. You can vote here under ‘publications & online’ and then ‘blog (personal)’ until 15th March. Thank you! 


5 thoughts on “Tales of the Unexpected – Cancer Research Winter Run

  1. Pingback: Moving Targets |

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