As something of a running institution, I did not have to look beyond the Cabbage Patch 10 when selected my 2017 races which have focused on trying to set PBs across the board. I pressed submit on my race entry way back in February (despite the fact that my hip was still causing significant issues at the time) and, as is always the case, the race sold out quickly.
If you are looking for a 10 mile race to set a PB at, I was of the opinion that the Cabbage Patch 10, now in its 35th year (making it almost as old as the London Marathon), was probably the sensible choice to make. I was right!
The race gets its name from the local pub, The Cabbage Patch, whose landlord organised the first race many moons ago. Previous participants include Sir Mo, Paula Radcliffe, and Richard Nerukar (who ran it in 46:02 in 1993). The course is set around Twickenham, following the south side of the river towards Hampton Wick where it crosses to the North side and then back through Ham and towards the finish line via Marble Hill Park. Literally, the only hills are at the two bridges crossing the river at either end of the course. Flat? You bet.
If I were to have any criticism of the race, and I do only have one, is the organisation at the start. Runners are held, all 1,600 or so, on the pedestrianised section of the high street. This is sensible – the roads for the race are not closed. The problem with this narrow funnel though is that despite being less than about six meters from the start flags I could not hear a single word being said by the race organisers; maybe none of it was interesting, but I would have liked to have been able to listen and decide for myself. The race starts at 10am and once the buses have been stopped the runners move onto the main road for the start. At this point, my pet peeve of all races kicked in; why in the hell can’t people work out that the front of the pack = fast runners? I even heard some people remark that they were glad they were toward the front to avoid the congestion. No, mate, you WERE the congestion!! ARRGGHH.
So I spent the first half mile or so running around and dodging runners already going backwards and jostling for position a little. But from here-on-in I have no further negatives. The marshall support was superb, the crowd was thin, but supportive, and the route was beautiful.
From a personal point of view I struggled at times, but I can’t blame the race for that. I went off at what felt like a reasonable pace, but by about the third mile I felt like I was working too hard. I had been fighting off the germs that my delightful family were trying to share, and it was a humid morning, but these are probably just excuses. Small groups of runners had formed in little clumps of target times and I seemed to have gotten caught up in one apparently aiming for about 1:08 (according to one guy asking another just ahead of me.) My target was low 70s – which would better my best 10 mile effort by almost 20 minutes. I had carried a gel with me, and between about 4.5 and 5 miles I slowly consumed this. I passed the halfway point as the roadside clock clicked 34:00 – a little fast perhaps.
Almost instantly my guts started really grumbling about the gel. Indeed it was so uncomfortable that I was certain I was going to have to slow or, even worse, stop. Quite how my 6th mile was the third fastest of the race I have no idea! From here though, despite the uplift in my mood regarding the pace, I began to lose my head a bit and just struggled a tiny bit more. The climb to the bridge at eight miles was the final nail and I was certain that the wheels were going to fall off completely.
As a result of the twisty nature of the course (and a quick jaunt through an underpass) my Garmin had failed to keep in sync so I was never entirely sure how close the finish line was, but all I knew was that I was desperate to get there. The final corner is a sharp ninety degree left turn and the clock appears in front of you under the finish gantry. I gave all I had left and crossed the line in 1:09:17 ; taking 20:34 off my best set in Dorking (the race that sealed the need for knee surgery in 2014.)
Upon crossing the line I collected my medal, then a bottle of water, then a giant banana, then a can of beer, then a chewy flapjack, then a t-shirt; possibly one of the best race t-shirts I have ever earned. Value for money = very good!
With huge thanks to the amazing Abradypus I was able to put diesel in my car and drive home, basking in the glow of a race that didn’t feel great but for which I managed to beat my target.
So, would I recommend the Cabbage Patch 10 as a race to do? In a word; YES! There are a lot of club vests on show, so it’s a competitive field, as can be attested by the former winners, but there are also a great many non-club runners; it is welcoming to all. As far as distances go, the ten mile race is not the most common in the UK, but it comes at that perfect spot between a 10km which takes an enormous amount of effort, and the half marathon which for many can seem like a ridiculously long race. With good marshal support, excellent race organisation, and a nice flat course, you should definitely sign up for next year; I am already thinking that I will!
The race website is here, but remember you will need to sign up early; it sells out for very good reason!