Putney 10km – a review

Putney 10m Running to the finish

It was rather last minute (I submitted my entry just 10 days before the race) but The Putney 10km potentially offered the final chance to break 40 minutes for the distance in 2017.  Suddenly available to run races on a Sunday with a clear conscience (swimming lessons have been changed) I scoured the web for a chance to run fast in one last attempt.  About ready to give up I stumbled across the Putney 10km on the RunUK website.  Not a company I had heard of, I looked into the race and came up lacking much information. Sod it, I thought, and I hit enter on my application form.

In the week running up to the race I received a perfunctory email regarding basic event details and it was a case of collecting race numbers and timing chips on the day.  Keen to not miss the race I made sure I had made a note of the full address for Barn Elms Sports Centre, and studied the Google map telling me how to get there.

As such, despite a night of poor sleep thanks to a coughing child and a morning spent in the darkness thanks to a power cut, I left early and made good progress up the A3 past Richmond and Wimbledon and into Putney.  I parked easily because I was nice and early and set off across the building site that currently masquerades as the Barn Elms Sports centre.  Unaware of the actual course I was surprised to be walking across the playing fields, but heartened by the fact that despite the drizzle the ground still felt firm under foot.

Being early meant plenty of milling about, and also the chance to have a little jog and do a few plyometric warm up exercises.  All the while I ummed and ahhhed about what to wear.  I had gone in vest and shorts but as more and more people seemed to be wearing long sleeves and, frequently, even jackets with numbers pinned on, I began to contemplate putting a long sleeve tee underneath the green and black of the Gees.  Almost ready to pull the long sleeve on I looked at the dial in the car which read 8 degrees and decided to MTFU.  Many people looked at me like a loon as we mingled in the starting area. But I knew I had made a more sensible choice than they had.  Following a group warm up (man, I hate those things) we were called to the start line according to projected finish times.  Hoping for a sub 40 I was in the second row and finally found myself amongst people also hardy enough to just be wearing a vest.

Putney 10km Route
Twisty turny; the Putney 10km route map

The course starts on the grass of one of the many rugby pitches and in an attempt to round up the distance it resembles a stage in Snake when you have to start backtracking. Eventually though, we were on a footpath and heading towards the river.  From here it was a simple act of following the good signage with support from marshals stood out in the cold and drizzly weather.

Turning past Craven Cottage, Fulham’s home ground, we passed the 5km mark and I saw the lead bike heading back towards me followed by the eventual winner, Mark Vardy, who was running phenomenally.  The water station came and went (who needs water on a 10km?) and then we were heading back past the Cottage and making our way back towards the river.

For me, this was truly about digging in now.  My watch was ticking off the laps (set to one mile) but I wasn’t looking at them; my goal was simply to run as hard as I could. I was a matter of meters behind a Fulham vest, but with a couple of miles to go I was joined by a Sandhurst Joggers vest and another guy.  I got the sense that all three of us were trying to reach the same target and we pushed on well – while I wasn’t checking my watch, Sandhurst barely stopped looking at his.

After crossing the river we were back on the unmade path were footing was a little slippy so I searched for whatever firm ground I could.  We turned onto the playing fields again and re-entered the  snake pit.  In those situations it is hard to know when to open up your sprint, but I kept pace with those around me and pushed as hard as I could.

Putney 10m Running to the finish
Charging into the finish line

It was only on rounding the final turn that I saw the clock and knew that the time had eluded me, again! I tried to remember what my PB was and whether I had beat it, then remembered that I needed to finish strong and to stop dwelling.

The Sandhurst guy never passed me, but looking at the results he wins based on chip time!

Crossing the line I was awarded my medal, a bottle of water, a capri sun, a kit-kat, a banana, and a bottle of coconut water.  What a haul!!

 

In December there can be no guarantee for good weather.  We were lucky on Sunday in that the worst the weather got was a little bit of drizzle mid race.  Having been dry for the preceding few days the rugby pitches were firm and not too greasy in the damp.  It could have been a different day though and times could have been much slower with 10% of the course something of a slippy mud-bath.  For us this weekend though, conditions were perfect and I’d recommend the race in future years.

Cabbage Patch 10 – A Review

 

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!

On Running Cap

 

Founded in recent years, Swiss brand, On, have developed quite a niche in the running market – the Cloud shoes. Armed with an arrange of small springy pillows, or clouds if you will, the shoes supposedly bounce you along the road. Now, I say supposedly because in all honesty I only ever tried them once, at Write This Run, on a little jog with Scott Overall. The shoes were super comfy, and although I tested them on a grassy path I could tell there was something kinda cool about them but I wasn’t in need of new shoes at the time (I certainly don’t use that excuse anymore!!) so I never got round to actually buying any. Hop forward a few years, and the postman recently bought me a new #onrunningcap to play with.

Now, a hat is a hat, I know you were thinking it – but this is definitely a little different to anything else I had tried before. First thing I realised as I pulled the hat from the packaging was that it was incredibly light. I am pretty sure the attached tag weighed more than the cap itself. I have had a few other hats in my time, most recently one from Salomon, which I thought was pretty light; I was wrong.  With its tear-proof (that’s as in ripping and tearing, not getting all emotional and teary) fabric, that is welded rather than stitched together, laser-cut air holes on the sides, and a soft but minimalist headband, this hat is CRAZY-LIGHT.

One might typically think that a cap is to be reserved for days when the great golden orb illuminates the sky, but as he has been well hidden during the 2017 UK ‘Summer’ I gave it more use protecting me from the rain. At first, I was slightly annoyed that despite trying to add a bit more curve to the peak of the cap it kept bouncing back to place, however it soon became clear that this worked in my favour as the peak certainly keeps a lot of the water out of my face; throw in a pair of Sunwise glasses with a light lens on and you are good to go!!

When running at night, the cap also comes with the benefit of super reflective logo’s to keep your head safe from oncoming traffic; a good feature!!

onrunningcap
shine bright!

uses for a hat

At the end of the day, this On Running Cap is super light, but what else can you say about that? Over on instagram I was trying to come up with other uses for the cap, and some of my tips were quite handy. Others probably um, less so!

No squirrels were actually harmed, or indeed touched, by the cap! Gross!!

£32 quid might seem a little pricey for a hat, especially one that is so light you can practically forget it exists!  However, if you are a hat person, or if indeed you are not but fancy giving one a whirl, then you would not go wrong parting with a bit of a dosh for this hat.  You can find a link to the On Running Cap here

 

Disclaimer

I was sent the cap free of charge via a request for reviewers on the Freestak platform.  At no stage have I been told what to say – the thoughts above are my own!