An annual event organised by the Rainforest Foundation. This was my third entry, the other two were held in Victoria Park and Regent’s Park. This year’s event was a target for me as it coincided with my birthday and with the revived and growing London Vegan Runners group under Dave Arnold’s leadership there was an opportunity for a large presence of vegan runners. The event was an opportunity to support an organisation that shares many of our ideals.
Originally the organisers were not going to setup a baggage marquee as in previous years and discouraged anyone from driving to the venue but with less than a week to go they decided to erect a small marquee for what was expected to be over 1,000 entrants. Dave decided to setup our own Vegan Runners tent but with the crowds growing quickly approaching the start time and no sign of the tent or any other vegan runners yet I joined the lengthy queue for the baggage marque. As I approached the head of the queue after a long wait I could just see Dave’s club sign in the distance.
Suddenly there were eight of us in VRUK vests with Simon Jones still hastily registering and concerned that the price had increased to £20 rather than £15. There was less than 10 minutes to go but with a long queue at the marquee there was an announcement of a 15 minutes or so delay. Fortunately it was a relatively mild morning after the previous day’s wind and rain greeting Vanessa’s World Vegan day run along the Thames embankment.
I had not realised that Dave and a few others had lined up right on the start line until I saw Jim’s photos later. Myself and Andrew Taylor lined up in a position we thought would be relative to our prospective times. It was only two weeks since my marathon in Abingdon so was not expecting a fast time and Dave had warned us of an undulating course inside the park. I was not quite sure how many laps and the shape of the course until we complete our first U-turn. The start was fairly fast once we could overtake the much slower runners inappropriate positioned and looking at their watches as they crossed the line even though there was chip timing.
There was a long straight to the first turning with a significant descent followed soon by an equally testing climb and slowly downhill again to the U-turn, not far from the Start. As we approached the U-turn we could see all of the runners ahead including Dave and Andrew had started to establish a lead over me which I was not expecting given that his best was about 45 mins and I was aiming for about 42-43 mins.
After the U-turn there was another 5 vegan runners to pick out including our runners I had not previously met. Given that event was essentially a fundraising event for the Rainforest Foundation, there were few club vests to identify mainly at the head of the field and VRUK appeared to have the most entrants. It was a testing slow climb back to the large dip and similarly rising out of the dip. Returning towards the Start we noticed the Finish to the left but we carried on through the Start and onto the U-turn again but in the opposite direction back through the Start ( a bit confused!) like we were starting the race again. By this point Dave had gone much further ahead and Andrew had 30-40 metres lead over me. I thought Andrew was going to achieve a personal best by minutes.
It was only when we began climbing out of the dip for the third and final time (if correct) that I started to close the gap and before the turn (not a U-turn this time) I passed Andrew. Going back past the Finish I noticed some had already finished and then I noticed Dave sprinting to the line to my right grimacing and as it turned out was trying to beat 40 mins. We were also passing our VRUK tent & sign at that point. I was not quite sure how long I had to run before the U-turn onto the grass, quite some distance in the end but it was slightly downhill so able finish at a fast pace and noticed Dave already taking photos of us. I was surprised and disappointed to see a clock time of 44.30, a very slow time for me. The fact that I had overtaken a significant number of competitors in the last 2-3K was encouraging. I was tempted to say later that the course was longer than 10K but Andrew & Simon both ran personal best times if correct.
A minor inconvenience was to cross the path of runners to reach the baggage marquee. It was my turn to get the camera out and see Simon, Anna, Theresa & Chris finish. The sun came out for a brief period making it a pleasant finish for this time of year. It was not long before we were all together again next to the VRUK tent & sign. I thought there was an official photographer for the event but it turned out to be Jim, acting as the VRUK official photographer hence the huge filmstrip of vegan runners photos, an amazing album.
For a change most of items in the goody bag were vegan and healthy items such as dried fruit. Given our significant gathering we were almost the last of the entrants to leave the park. We walked towards the Castle Climbing Wall Centre about half a mile away and met up with Vanessa on the way. Not being a climber myself apart from the easy climbs, I was rather in awe seeing their manoevres. We relaxed in the small cafe adjacent to a climbing wall and was joined by Laurence Klein who had ran the next in the monthly Regent’s Park 10K winter series. Dave resisted giving a climbing exhibition.
We soon moved onto the Brownswood Pub with its Thai menu for a well-earned lunch. For vegans it was different dishes of tofu. We were upstairs and eventually had the top floor to ourselves. When I returned from ordering or doing the waiter’s task, a chocolate vegan birthday cake had appeared followed by a vegan chorus. I think the last time I had a celebration like this was back in my teens. I was also tasked to cut it into ten slices but got the calculations wrong with nine but fortunately Dave did not miss out after all of his efforts. The cake was baked by his partner Dawn and survived a short bike journey!
Well done everyone for turning up for the event and /or my birthday celebrations later.