One of the few downsides to Twickenham being the epicentre of last year’s Rugby World Cup was that it meant the cancellation of one of London’s most iconic races. This was the first time the Cabbage Patch 10 had missed a beat since its inception in 1982.
It’s a fast and mostly flat 10-miler which takes runners from Twickenham through Kingston and Richmond and back, on both sides of the Thames. This popular event in the running calendar was much missed in 2015 but it bounced back this year with some new management, apparently to the delight of everyone who ran it.
Bin bag raincoats were the must-have accessory on the start line. My friend John had bought his from M&S and it reached from his shoulders almost to his ankles. It attracted envious glances as 1,500 runners huddled together trying not to notice the frequent heavy showers. The rain eased shortly after the start and we quickly found the conditions were pretty much perfect for racing.
This was my first attempt at the CP10 (I’d hoped to run it in 2015) and I’d been warned to expect a very fast start; hardly surprising given that it usually attracts elite British and African runners (Mo Farah is a previous winner). For me, this provided an exercise in self-control. I was feeling good and really wanted to gallop with the herd.
But the race was part of my half marathon prep. My plan was to run the first eight miles at my half marathon pace and then see what I had left in the tank. So I did my best to ignore those overtaking me and focused instead on my form and my breathing.
Three miles in, we crossed Kingston Bridge and after a brief flit through the town, headed towards Richmond. The route became greener and leafier. I felt relaxed and in control. The stream of overtakers had dried up and I started to take in the scenery, the pleasant cool of the season and the atmosphere of a race I’d waited a long time to run.
Approaching Ham, at around the seven-mile mark, the course switched from road and pavement to trail and river path. With all the rain, there were plenty of puddle hopping opportunities but this only added to the fun. The route was quite twisty in places but I’ve never known a race so abundantly and enthusiastically marshalled. This year the CP10 was organised by two local running clubs, the Stragglers and the Bearcats, and there were damp but cheerful volunteers on every turn to ensure that no one lost their way.
The only real climb was a short, sharp pull up from the river path to Richmond Bridge. Once over this, and back on the tarmac on the Twickenham side of the river, I had less than two miles to run and decided to put the hammer down. I was reaping the benefits of my earlier restraint and managed to pass a couple of dozen people on this section and then enjoy a furious sprint to the finish with three other runners, a small crowd cheering us on.
The post-race handouts of t-shirts, medals, bananas etc were slickly managed and I was then directed to a building where I was given a top-quality sports massage. My legs were feeling unusually fresh as I made my way across town to the Cabbage Patch pub where my fast mate John (now minus his excellent bin bag) was already settled in.
The Cabbage Patch 10 is a rare example of an all-things-to-all-people race. It’s there for the elites and club runners to devour its super fast course. It’s there for the newer runners who want to tackle a bigger distance cocooned in the support of a real community event. And it’s also there for those who like to combine their running with drinking (they were handing out beer in mile nine).
Perhaps this is only to be expected from a race that was born in a pub. The Patch is a famous Twickenham landmark, a essential point of pilgrimage for many en route to the stadium. The race that bears its name is the brainchild of its former landlord and runner Frank Dupree and Stragglers founder Malcolm Ellis. By midday the place was rammed with runners. Some were there for the prize-giving. Most were there for the beer.
For me it became difficult to distinguish between the post-race glow and that brought on unaccustomed Sunday morning drinking. But you know you’ve had a good race when you immediately start thinking about running it again. The Cabbage Patch 10 is back and so will I be, next year.