Billed as “London’s Music Half Marathon”, I wondered why so many people were lining up at the start of this year’s Run to the Beat with their earphones in. Perhaps it’s because the music came in the form of the occasional over-excited DJ bobbing his head in a caravan, interspersed with someone’s latest “Now” compilation CD playing out over a speaker by the side of the road.
I was there as a guest of Sophie and in no position to complain about a free entry; however, for all the organisational mishaps, which have been widely criticised, I found the biggest problems came with the number of people listening to their own music, turning an event of mass participation into a masterclass in mass halfwittery. With all the stopping and swerving in the middle of the course, it was like a zombie apocalypse had come and they’d raided Dixons. This event could be greatly improved if more people simply left their earphones at home.
I managed a decent enough run, with a short rest at 4 miles to queue outside Woolwich Barracks, but the highlight my day had to be a visit to the Meantime Brewery pub in Greenwich after.
Henley Swim Half Marathon - September 15th 2013
“Last year, we pulled out a few people with mild hypothermia,” said the organiser, casually, in the pre-race briefing. These are 11 words you don’t want to hear when you’re stood in a swimming costume, preparing to get in a 16°C lake.
In swimming, marathon distance is 10km, so this 5km paddle fitted the bill in my month of halves and I had opted to do this one without my wetsuit. Why? The guys at Henley Swim are organisers who know how to put on a good event and, after enjoying their Bridge to Bridge 14km swim in the summer, I was keen to give this local race a go. As with most of their events, a top 10 finish in your category will bag you a place at their popular flagship event, the Henley Classic, the following summer. In my line of sporting mediocrity, the best hope of success comes in the form of a tiny field; that’s why I found myself stepping into the chilly water with nothing but my cozzie, a grimace, and 2 other “traditional” ladies to contend with.
The half marathon was another great event from this small, streamlined set-up, with a fire pit, hot tub and bacon sandwiches to thaw us out after. Coming home with a shiny gold medal couldn’t be sniffed at either, even if it did take me until Tuesday to warm back up.
The Gauntlet Half Iron-distance Triathlon 2013 - September 29th 2013
Part of the popular series of European triathlons, The Gauntlet was a new addition to this year’s Hever Castle triathlon weekend and promised to be a good race if you liked castles and half iron-distance triathlons. I didn’t really see Hever Castle until about 6 hours into the race but, in the meantime, I’d had a nice swim followed by a lesson in being constantly overtaken.
Hilly bike courses aren't really my strong suit but this 90km one took us around many of Kent’s quaint and quirky place names: Chuck Hatch, Plummyfeather Lane, Brown Chamois Hill. That the last one was where a man in a Porsche Cayenne thought it would a sensible time to pull out of his driveway; a rare moment where I had gathered any speed during the day. There were many other points where I was moving so slowly that I genuinely wondered how I was able to remain upright on my bike. The half marathon run was no flatter, but it was fun and beautiful in equal measures.
Nearly 8 hours after lowering myself into the lake, a man dressed as Henry VIII handed me a medal and directed me towards the hospitality tent and barbeque. The Gauntlet was a well-organised and enjoyable event; in hindsight, this is probably a better race if you love hills but feel more ambivalent about castles. It definitely deserved a full pint afterwards.