Monday, September 1, 2008

Nike+ Human Race 10k

Yesterday, folks, history was made. No, it wasn't that Nike sponsored 10k races across the globe in 25 major cities; it was that Danielle ran her first race, finished it, and finished it in a shorter time than her goal.

I signed up for the Human Race in June, when I was still living in Willesdon Junction and running pretty much every day. It was £30 to enter, and 1/3 of the fee went to one of three charities (I chose WWF). The race was to be held in and around Wembley Stadium, the home of English football (the hallowed pitch, the Brits call the field), in northwestern London, and I figured it would be the only time I'd ever go there. It seemed like a good idea to enter the race at the time, but over the last few weeks I started to question this decision. The forecast for Sunday was torrential rain and thunder and lightning all over southeastern England, and while I don't mind running in the rain, I do mind running in an electrical storm. I mean, really... did I want to spend my Sunday evening running 6-odd miles with 20,000 other Londoners in a silly red shirt? I had no idea any of the specifics (start time, route, etc), and I was, to be honest, feeling really lazy.

But at the last minute (about 2pm), I decided that I had spent the very large amount of money, I had the shirt, so I was going to run the run. All of the runners had to be in the stadium by 6pm, and when I got there I found out that there was a rock concert before the run. There we were, 20,000 cold runners, standing around watching a band that most of us hadn't heard of, being told to jump up and down and make some noise, when we were all just wanting to get going and running already. The second band was Moby, and that was just as bad, listening to music from 5 years ago that usually puts me to sleep! The security staff were treating all of us like football hooligans, denying entry here, telling us we couldn't sit there, herding people according to their running waves, and generally being unhelpful. There weren't many places to stretch, or keep warm, as the roof of Wembley was open and we had to check our bags nearly an hour before the race started. So we sat in the stands as long as we could, then headed down to the pitch to wait for the run to actually start.

A bad MC showed us a lot of images of the other cities' runs; Paris, Munich, and Shanghai all looked like it was warm and sunny, and they also all looked like they ran through their city centers. Paula Radcliffe, Britain's premier woman runner, Seb Coe, some other British athelete, and the head of the London 2012 Planning Committee were all there to give us tips and encouragement. A team of aerobics instructors gave us a warm up routine that we couldn't really do because so many of us were crammed into a small place on the pitch (which, by the way, was covered by plastic, which I understand was to protect the turf, but then you're not really standing on the hallowed pitch, are you!?!). Finally, after hours, Wave 1 took off. Just as they did, of course, the cloudy sky overhead opened up and we were covered in a light rain that quickly turned into a steady drenching. I was in Wave 2, so we had to wait about another 20 minutes in the rain, but then we were off as well.

I feel like I started out really fast; there were a few downhills and I was zooming down them. We went out of the stadium and through a tunnel, and then all of a sudden we were in the parking lot and snaking through barriers. The course was very narrow, and I spent a lot of time dodging people, passing them, and slowing down as I came up to slower runners. I feel like my running on the canal towpath was good training for the obstacle course of this race. The course overall was pretty boring, and subsequently I found out it was also pretty badly designed. There were a lot of hairpin switchbacks, which in the rain and with the crowds were pretty dangerous. The scenery was shite, as the Brits say, because we were running through an industrial park and around a big Ikea and Tescos. We ran along a highway at one point, and I thought I'd get sprayed by cars driving through the puddles in the outside lane! The lighting of the course was also pretty bad; the race planners relied on the street lights and a few of them were out, and you really noticed how dark it was at those points. Also, there were no spectators - just a sea of red-shirted runners. Thank god I had my iPod, and was listening to Dolly Parton, Jimmy Eat World, and Rihanna. I know, what a mix.

Running-wise, I felt really good until the 4k marker, when I started to feel it; at 5k I thought to myself, I'm halfway there! and then stepped into a lake of a puddle. I put my head down for 6-8k, and felt my pace slow; I wasn't so much tired or hurting as I knew I couldn't keep up the pace for the rest of the race. At the 8k marker I sped up, and soon we were back into the Wembley parking lot, snaking around through barriers. At 9k I sped up again, and I really couldn't wait to finish. I had no idea where the finish line was, but I rounded a turn and there it was so I sped up really fast and finished 1:01:02 after our wave started.

Once through the finish line (the only place where there were spectators, which made such a difference), you basically had to stop running and couldn't slow down properly. There was a ramp where people were handing out Lucozade (British Gatorade) and Nike longsleeve wick-away tees, which were great because I was soaked all the way down to my underwear. I met up with my friends back at the bag drop at the stadium, and gingerly walked to the tube to head home. I actually felt really good after the race, albeit cold; I wish I had brought sweatpants with me so that I could stay warm after running, instead of walking around in my wet baggy Umbros. Nike texted me with my exact time, 58:04, right after the race - I had aimed to finish the race in an hour, so I was happy despite getting home at 10pm.

Overall, my first race was a success; I'm not sure I'd do another expensive Nike run, but I definitely loved running and trying to do well, and having a race on the calendar helped me continue to run and train. I'm pretty proud of myself for doing it, and I feel like I'll continue to do runs in the future. Who knows, maybe my earlier goal of a half marathon will actually become a reality!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that sounds like a lousy first race experience for you! Congrats on your time--I could never hit that mark, especially in such dismal conditions. Why on earth did they have you running at night, in the first place?? And to force you to sit (stand?) through a concert beforehand, that's just torturous. I do hope you give racing another shot, because there are MUCH better ones out there. At least here in the States there are.