Thames Towpath 20 miles, 6/3/2011

Ed: Cherryl Sinclair & Kate were entered for their longest race distance to date in pursuit of marathon fitness for their respective events on the south coast early in April. Due to the narrow towpath, even a small field of maximum 250 is too large for everyone to start at the same time. The start was staggered at one minute intervals from 8am. Travelling from home on the day by public transport, I could not get there for the start at Bishop’s Park, Fulham, instead aimed to get to halfway at Richmond by train and bike. As I approached the Thames I saw what appeared to be another race setup in Old Deer Park with start/finish, etc. The odd runner was beginning to approach the finish and I could see lots of runners ahead on the towpath going both ways. Luckily the towpath is quite wide at Richmond as I parked my bike and tried to work out precisely who’s who? Could tell from the running numbers that most of the runners were in a 10K otherwise difficult to pick out the 20-mile runners.

I had not been there long when suddenly I picked out Cherryl in her vegan vest looking comfortable on her way back presumably between 10 & 11 miles. Could not get the camera ready quick enough so had to take a rear photo! As for Kate I doubted if I would quite so fortunate but amazingly, in about a minute, a group of runners went by on the way back who appeared to be following a pacer and at the back was Kate also going well at this point. It must be stressed that the return leg was mainly into a cold wind and I was cold standing around.

My next stop-off point was at Mortlake via the direct roads, cutting miles off the towpath journey. I did however stop-off at the finish of the Old Deer Park 10K to use the rather convenient toilets. Lots of runners were now finishing. The cycle journey was not quite as straightforward as the map suggested, needing to use the old fashioned method of map reading. Arriving at Mortlake (about 16/17 miles) and the towpath, a trickle of runners were passing at what appeared to be a slow pace unsurprisingly. I was unsure if Cherryl & Kate had already passed and it seemed that the runners were becoming further dispersed so did not want to risk missing them at the finish so cycled on. Arrived at the finish shortly before 3 hours and there was no sign of them yet so stayed put. Not the most picturesque of finishes, the runners having to negotiate pedestrians as they cross Putney Bridge over the Thames and a narrow entrance into Bishop’s Park with buildings and cars in close proximity and suddenly the finish appears without gantry or clock, just cones.

Again I did not have the camera ready when Cherryl suddenly appeared but took the pictures moments after finishing. Kate followed several minutes later but declined photos hence the absence.

Cherryl briefly reports a few days later – I recovered well after Sunday I think maybe because I’ve done quite a few (very slooow) long runs now. Although, I have bruises on my knees, elbow and down the side of my leg because of my fall. It would have been funny if it didn’t hurt so much. A volunteer shouted out ‘well done, you’re running well’ and at that point I fell over – hard! I’m a little disappointed with my time but I think I started out too fast at the start.

I was sent the results today, ran it in 3:24:49; Kate did it in 3:32:13.