Olympic Park 10k

RunThrough at the Olympic Park: Socially distanced racing is possible

Or #RunForrestRun

Sitting on the train yesterday morning I was excited. Really excited.

I was as excited as a child gets on the night before Christmas. As excited as you get when about to board a plane en route to sun soaked shores and adventures.

The reason for my excitement was I was on my way to the Olympic Park to do something I didn’t think was going to be possible this year.

Olympic Park 10k
The race in the Olympic Park was my first since September 2019 and I was more than a little bit excited
Olympic Park 10k
None of these people are me. These people are super quick (Picture by RunThrough.co.uk)

I was going to take part in a 10k race. And, because it was a RunThrough event, there would be a flapjack at the end (if there had been no oaty syrupy snack I would have cried).

Coronavirus cancelled my plan to do at least one park run a month.

It led to the postponement of the Beat Box Hill 10k event (which had already been postponed from last year due to bad weather).

It also destroyed my dream of starting the Superhalfs half marathon series with two events – Copenhagen last month and Cardiff earlier this month.

And what would have been my first half marathon of the year, London Landmarks, was postponed and then eventually cancelled.

This photo with the gun time visible is proof I was far slower than the people in the photo above (Picture by RunThrough.co.uk)
Olympic Park 10k
It’s great to get a bit of bling at the end of a race
And a famous RunThrough flapjack – obvs. I would have cried if they had all gone by the time I had dragged myself over the finishing line
Olympic Park 10k
If you know, you know

So I was delighted when I discovered races were back on and I could do my first race since last September on my birthday.

(Running has been a part of my birthday celebrations since 2012 when I did a 23 minute park run and continued with a half marathon in Romania four years ago and a Runthrough event in Stratford two years ago, so it made since to keep up the tradition.)

But as well as the excitement there was also a nervousness. A nervousness about whether I’d be able to do it (more on that later) but also a nervousness about what measures they had in place to ensure everyone is safe.

After all, back in the early days of the pandemic there was a lot of chatter about whether runners should have to wear masks while running, whether deep breathing would make them more or less likely to get coronavirus if they ran past other people and so on and so on.

To bring things back to the present day, with all these uncertainties in mind, the race organisers in Stratford did everything humanly possible to make it as safe as possible for everyone taking part.

Before COVID-19 everyone who was taking part in a race would start at the same time, jostling for position on the start line, overtaking slower runners who had overestimated how fast they could go.

In these unsettled days, there were effectively four races. Two for people running 10km and two for those completing the 5km distance.

Olympic Park 10k
Everyone was very spread out for the warm-up
Olympic Park 10k
In these days of social distancing, lining up for the start was a very different experience than in days of old
Olympic Park 10k
There were signs to remind people to stay safe and follow social distancing guidelines
Olympic Park 10k
And telling them not to spit

This meant far fewer people in the event village before my race, hardly anyone in the queue for the toilets and a warm up where everyone could stand at least four metres apart from the next person.

And, instead of jostling for position and getting hit accidentally by someone doing last minute stretches, there was a queuing system to start with people 2m apart and then only four runners at a time starting at 15 second intervals.

With hand sanitiser everywhere and people having to pick up their own medals from a table, instead of it being put around their neck, I think Runthrough did everything they could to make it as safe as possible.

My only complaint is about my time. I used to be able to run a 10km in under an hour (and have always dreamed of being able to do it in 45 minutes) but at one hour and eight minutes this year’s event was probably my slowest on record.

The overall results tell a familiar tale of people overtaking me while I stopped and started, knowing the pace I needed to run to keep going but seemingly unable to run that slowly so running quickly but then having to walk . . . a lot. And the winner of my race did it in exactly half my time!

Running is obviously about the taking part – and I’m really pleased I did it – but it’s also about training and improving so I’ve already booked my next race. It’s not for another month so I’d be very appreciative of all tips on how to build stamina and speed before then.

Stay safe for another week!