Louis Waterman-Evans reviews the scenic Kingston Run Challenge
An 8am start for any weekend event is a daunting prospect, especially so for a long distance race such as the Kingston Run Challenge. Luckily for me I had my crash pad sorted and so the wake up call wasn’t too painful. I was signed up for the 24-mile event in what was supposed to be a good gauge of fitness after 8 weeks of training on 70-80 miles per week. The main draw of the event are the 6 minute-mile pacers on offer as well as a scenic route along the Thames and through the leafy suburbs of South West London. More importantly, it is a fast course.
Human Race put on good events. Unlike many big organisers that seem to neglect the essentials in favour of gimmicks and flashy stuff that most runners really don’t have time for, this is an event that has a great course profile and organisation at its heart. Having pacers for 6/7/8/9/10/11/12 minute-miles is also unheard of in events like this so it scores big points there too.
It does not take long for a lead pack around or just in front of our target 6 minute-mile man to form and so as we head out along the towpath for what will be lap number one of hopefully three we get to weight up the competition. It seems like the front end of the race will be sharp, but with no real depth. I suspect that the race competing with so many high profile events such as the Royal Parks Half Marathon and Chester Marathon this weekend has something to do with it. We live in an age now where we always have at least half a dozen races to choose from each weekend, so the front end is often quite thin on the ground.
The day is shaping up to be a runner’s dream, with temperatures of around 11 degrees and a light sunshine forcing its way through the morning clouds. As we run along the Thames towpath to Hampton Court Palace it is truly beautiful. I still have people to run with at this point and have a quick chat with a guy wearing a ‘Vegan Cyclists’ shirt. I give him respect for being vegan, but also think to myself, “If this dude’s a cyclist what on earth is he doing up here at the front end?” He seems to be running strong though. He is also doing the 24 mile, three loop circuit too, so I know I won’t be running alone in the later stages, a comforting thought.
I complete the first 8 mile loop in just under 6 minute-mile pace; my original target. So far so good. Then comes the trouble. The pain in my right calf starts to flair up again after about 10 miles. It gets to the point whereby it feels like I am going to keel over in excruciating cramp pains at any moment. I know that today is no longer a 24 mile day. It becomes about adjusting expectations, holding on in there for 16 miles… and sticking with the Vegan cyclist.
Running into Kingston along the other side of the river to the towpath and I have a quick word letting him know that I will be pulling out at the end of the lap. No need for him to try and match my final mile maximum effort thinking I was trying to make a break for it now. Crossing the line feeling comfortable and with plenty in the tank fitness wise, the calf cramps up pretty quickly. Being handed an envelope with “16 mile race- 2nd placed male” confirms that I made the right decision to stop. A tidy bit of prize money for the morning’s efforts!
This race taught me a lot about knowing my own body. If this had been the London Marathon I would have no doubt pushed on to the very finish and suffered the pain and possible injury. It wasn’t however. Funnily enough I landed a new 16 mile PB as well, one which I have a strong inkling might just stand until next year’s race! Although most of the other runners at the race seemed to be doing the 8 mile version, this is the perfect race for anyone looking to get some quality long miles in at a pre-determined pace. The course is great, flat and varied in landscape. Anyone out there looking for a new 8/16/24 mile PB?