This was my first trip out to one of Rik's events over at Walton-on-Thames to run along the banks of the River Thames. Not only is Rik well known for his small friendly events but for his amazing medals as he is very creative and produces some brilliant bling. Being the bling tart that I am it's a miracle that I haven't been seduced into entering one of his events before but I've resisted until now purely because it's a bit of a trek and involves my most hated motorway - the M25 which has caused me hours of frustration in the past.
Anyway, I succombed and I'm so glad I did!
I'd better start with a bit of background about Rik, the Race Director. He's made an appearance on here before, the one I remember most is at the Tolkien Challenge last year which I wrote about here where you can a photo of his beautiful baby daughter Phoebe who sometimes helps him pass the miles. He's done all sorts of amazing running feats but the one I remember him for is his Guinness World Record at the London marathon in 2014 when he was the fastest marathon dressed as a cowboy in a time of 3:09:09 when I was doing my crochet there. I haven't got a copy of the group photo prior to the start as I was doing an interview with the BBC and missed it!
Right, back to the race report. This post has loads of photos so I'm sorry if it takes ages to get through it.
Because I knew my journey could be fraught with hold-ups I left even more time than usual for my journey. This of course meant that my journey was absolutely perfect with no delays whatsoever and I found myself sitting in the carpark of the Leisure Centre near Race HQ at 7:30am - the race started at 9:30. Never mind, I had my flask of coffee and the newspaper to occupy my time. It started to rain at about 7:40am which did not bode well for the day ahead.
I eventually headed off to collect my number and immediately spotted some of the usual suspects.
|Left to right; Kirsty (aka Crustie), Becky (James's mum), Ryan, Gary, Stefan and James|
|Our lovely ladies at registration, Emine and Gemma (with Rik rocking the teatowel-cum-shawl look!)|
|There was a display of some of their medals on the table and this is the one that really stood out - I've used my hand for size. It was huge and weighed a ton!|
About 10 minutes before the start we all congregated outside for the race briefing. He asked how many of us were doing our first event with them and it was aout 40% of us.
On the right of the photo there's a lady with blonde hair and glasses on her head and this was her first event. This is one of the lap events which are so popular now and so you could complete one lap or as many as you like within the 6 hour time limit which is great for people who've only just started to run/walk as it gives them a safe and supportive environment to try it out. She worked really hard and I was delighted to see that she completed 1 full lap and said she'd be back to try 2 laps next time. Brilliant!
The rain abated for a short while but then decided we needed a good soaking and soon after we started out it came back with a vengeance.
|Enda, in his yellow Marathon Maniacs vest. His wife Helen was manning the turnaround point at one end of the route.|
I spent most of the first lap chatting with James and fellow runners and didn't pay any attention to my pace until I looked at my watch at the end of the lap - 30 minutes. What? I was supposed to be targeting around 5.5 hours not setting out at a pb pace as I have another 2 more marathons a couple of days later so I needed to slow right down, which I duly did. Should know better you silly old biddy!
|I'm not sure what Bryan and I were laughing at but it was better than being miserable|
There were plenty of people out on the water - some were part of rowing clubs and there were several races going on throughtout the morning. In the afternoon the weather brightened up eventually and the pleasure boats came out too.
As always with these out and back events there was plenty of banter and encouragement from fellow runners which helped to pass the miles. The ladies at the aid station were fab too (thanks Emine and Gemma) and kept us topped up with sweeties and water (non of that gel nonsense!).
The next set of photos are from my final lap. Although it had stopped raining and I'd more or less dried out (except for my cap and a bit of my vest) it was still very grey and gloomy.
|Smiling in the rain - you can just make out some boats from the rowing club on the river behind|
The route was along the towpath and so we had to share it with an assortment of dog-walkers, tourists and wildfowl. The gravel paths were fine and the sections along grass or through bushes were OK and only a bit puddly.
|I was struck at how close to the waters edge those houses on the opposite side were. The geese are so used to people that they don't move when you go near them and they're very friendly.|
|I don't know what breed this rusty coloured duck is. There were several of them about and they have really long legs. Edited to add it's an Egyptian Goose (many thanks to Celia and Mary for letting me know).|
|With my favourite young man. He was on his last lap to get home under 4 hours - he'd already run 2 or was it 3 x sub-4 marathons in the 2 or 3 days before this! I'd still got 2 more laps to go.|
|Rowers doing a training session|
|Houses with a riverside mooring. It's certainly a lovely setting.|
|The bridge looking dark and gloomy (which you'll see again later but in a completely different light!)|
|Families enjoying the wildfowl - there were so many swans there and they were incredibly tame and unfazed by people.|
|Ooh look, a bit of blue sky making an appearance. Look at the line of geese going off on an adventure!|
|A nice brightly dressed Kirsty who I'd tasked with reminding me to collect my jacket from the aid station before I left which she duly did (Thanks Kisrty. It's just as well you did as I'd completely forgotten about it!).|
|The turnaround point at the far end of the route was manned by Helen for the first few laps. She completed her very first marathon a few weeks ago to the delight of her very surprised husband Enda.|
|Here's the bridge again but look how different it looked when the sun came out for my last 1.5 miles!|
|There were many beautful swans all along the river|
|Some rather nice looking pleasure boats outside a saleroom.|
i) The aptly named 'Swan Inn' which had a small garden alongside complete with tables and chairs within shelters. I loved the flowering yukka plants in the garden.
ii) The Anglers, an interesting building on an old riverfront wharf with an equally interesting sign.
This is one of the photographers who took loads of photos for us. Thank you!
Now for the bling. Look at this, isn't it fab! Based on the iconic image of the children cycling behind ET it has a sliding piece of 2 runners (male and female - good man Rik!) and ET's finger pointing towards home.
Why the parakeet then? Well if you'd been there you'd have heard them shrieking overhead as they are incredibly vocal! Parakeets have been living and breeding in Surrey for decades as there is a plentiful supply of their main food source (berries, nuts and seeds from urban gardens) and they have few natural predators here. I didn't see any but boy did I hear them!!!
|The name on this boat reminded me of the lovely Wendy Mitchell who you can see me chatting with in the short video on the righthand side of my blog. I must email her to see how she's getting on as she's been so active in spreading the word about her early-onset Alzheimer's that I haven't spoken with her for ages.|
|Here's Davo on his penultimate lap. I shared a few miles with him in Orpington recently.|
|Part of the weir near the start/finish area. As I took this I was being cheered and shouted at by Gemma and Emine..............|
|You can see I've still got my camera in my hand as I head towards the final turn point!|
|There was a family feeding some swans with cygnets a few metres from the finish and I stopped momentarily and was about to take a photo when the ladies told me off and so I went to finish first then went back to take the photo!|
See, aren't they gorgeous!
Behind him are Laura and her children. She's lovely and we were calling out support for eachother all the way through. I think I saw her last at the Starfish marathon a few weeks ago.
|Someone heading out for her final lap|
But the best thing is that there's a button on the back which when pressed produces a flashing light on the fingertip. How cool is that!
My official finish time was 5:29:33 so I did manage to redeem myself with a more sensible pace in the end!
I loved it and would recommend Rik's events highly. Many thanks to everyone involved.
Marathons 82 & 83 coming up in the next few days.