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.
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.
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.