Ran in this stadium / Crystal Palace Park back in 1987 for an entirely different event, the Runner’s World Family Fun Day 10K. It was one of my early events and recovering from serious injury playing volleyball, it was my first proper run for 10 weeks. I tried to run as normal but found it tough and hit the wall towards the end, struggling to finish in my slowest time of 50 minutes. I felt like I had run a marathon.
Last Sunday was an entirely different event, hosted by the South of England Athletic Association and incorporating their championships. Unfortunately the long postal dispute in that area held up postal deliveries for weeks and it was the first running of the event. The official title was not eye-catching for the average runner i.e. SEAA Open & Championship 10K. A more attractive title would be as given here i.e. Crystal Palace 10K (inc SEAA champs). It was held at a grand venue, one of the biggest athletics stadiums in the UK with a long and distinguished history.
Arriving there were few runners around and not many more turned up, originally I was visualizing many hundreds at least. One club from Surrey, Reigate Priory AC supported it in numbers around 15-20 and Vegan Runners UK had possibly the 2nd largest number of runners, 6 if you include non-member but fast runner Matt Woodman who wears our club vest.
When I arrived at the train station, Andrew Knight was on the same train and we soon met up with Sid Delara near registration who had travelled up from Southampton. Matt Woodman was warming up and stretching with serious intentions. I jogged a lap of the pristine track, there were no warnings to keep off any area for fear of damage so it was quite relaxing being there. We later met up with Chloe Vincent and shortly before the start Theresa Webb who had earlier rang up to say she had not received confirmation of entry due to the postal dispute but was encouraged to turn up so set off late by bus.
To deposit our baggage in a safe area we had to climb 30 or more steps to the top of the stadium on the far side to reach the press box. Lining up on the start line it felt like a track event with a small field. With mainly a quality field of runners, the start was fast which made me feel slow as we completed a lap of the track and out of the stadium for the first of 3 laps. We were soon climbing out of the sports complex and into Crystal Palace Park which took me by surprise and by that time many runners had overtaken me including Sid and Andrew, the latter was a surprise. Turning left at the top for a short respite we had a further less steep climb and at this point we could see the leaders well ahead. It took some time to recover somewhat but was breathing heavily for a long period during and after the climb. We eventually descended and the surface changed to a trail and as we approached the sports complex again we had a short sharp climb which slowed us down again and took time to recover but back up to speed as we entered the stadium.
Starting the second lap and climbing the double hill again was not so much of a shock to the body. Andrew Knight who was up to 20 metres ahead for much of the 1st lap slowed and I overtook him before the hills meanwhile Sid had stretched his lead over me but was in sight. Sid is normally a fast starter being a 5K specialist so I had a chance of reining him back. Began to pick up a few places but with a small field we were well spread out with Sid only two places ahead. Going up the first hill, runners minutes ahead were coming down and turning left onto the trail if I remember correctly.
As we climbed the hill for the 3rd and last time I could see Theresa descending on her 2nd lap. Towards the end of the 3rd lap some of the slower runners were being lapped which gave me confidence that I was not quite as slow as I thought compared to the real championship runners. I had not made up ground on Sid who had increased his lead over me and on approaching the stadium increased my pace, enjoying the run around the track despite the absence of atmosphere in the almost empty stadium. I was slightly disappointed with a time of 42.47, Sid achieving 42.10 and Matt 36.28 for another impressive 21st although he is missing from the results due to a close finish with two other runners, I guess a fast finish caught out the timekeepers.
Quickly met up with Sid and Matt who were lying on the ground recovering, I prefer to stand up unless I have hit the wall or very tired. Cheered the long striding Andrew Knight home in under 45 mins and not long after Chloe Vincent in 47 mins (in two weeks she will be running the Dresden Marathon in Germany). When Theresa entered the stadium she was not quite sure where to finish with a large gap to the runner ahead and stopped for a few seconds but managed to beat the hour.
We all met up for a photo-call but only to find my batteries needed recharging however eventually others came to the rescue and we had mobiles if necessary. As I write, await pictures to be forwarded. We decided to find a local cafe, the Spirited Palace health food shop and cafe was suggested by Theresa who new the way but unfortunately was not open yet so we found a local community cafe which turned out to be very comfortable and spacious but the menu was limited although they did have soya otherwise we could have quickly bought a litre from the nearby Sainsburys. We enjoyed a long chat over a jacket potato and salad with Sid enjoying his personal protein drink/meal, possibly one of the reasons behind his good performances for a V50? Talking about other events, we were encouraged by an official in the stadium to enter the Brighton 10K on 15 November with some forms available at the time. There was some interest amongst us although we need to focus our attentions mainly on World Vegan Day and encourage members nearer Brighton to enter their 10K on 15 Nov.