I was delighted to be asked by Heidi to be part of her team to raise funds for the amazing charity Spread a Smile. Heidi has been a loyal member of the club since we set it up so we were devastated to hear that her 9 year old daughter Trixie had a brain tumour. We wanted to do all we could to help so imagine our delight when it involved running! The Royal Parks Half Marathon is a popular race and entry is by ballot (which I have entered in the past without any luck) or through a charity. The race takes in some of our Capitals most famous landmarks and 4 of London's 8 royal parks. Our team of 6 (Me, Heidi, Julie, Gemma, Denise and Annie) had a minimum target of £2200 to raise but I'm pleased to say that at the time of writing this we have raised nearly £5k!
So onto the weekend of the race. Us 6 runners and our 2 supporters Heidi's friends Gemma and Jodi, travelled to London by train on the Saturday afternoon. Our hotel was a 10 minute walk from Waterloo. For a budget hotel, I was surprised to see that I had a view of The Shard from my room! (small things eh) We were all checked into our rooms and down to the bar by 5pm, discussing our preferences for our pre race meal. After a couple of very over priced Gin and Tonics we decided on Carluccio's Italian restaurant which was a 15 minute walk away. This was full which was a blessing in disguise as we made our way onto the Southbank and had a lovely walk along the Thames. We had no problem finding another Italian to stuff our faces! After we had eaten we had a lovely walk back as it was such a warm, balmy evening. Back at the hotel bar we checked and re checked every weather forecast going but they all said the same thing RAIN. Good job we had all come equipped with raincoats, bin bags and brollys! After a quick night cap we all retired to our rooms ready for the early start.
So the morning of the race...yep its raining and the sky is so grey and miserable. We leave the hotel at 7.30am and get on the tube to Green Park. Its 2 stops. We need to get on a different line to Hyde park corner but the tube station is so congested we couldn't move. It was unbearably hot and the clock was ticking! In the end there was an announcement that all runners needed to get out of the station and walk. So we got out of there and went with the flow of the other runners and it was only a 15 minute walk in the drizzle to Hyde Park. We made our way through the many charity tents to The Great Ormond Street Hospital tent. We were allowed to hang out in here as Spread a Smile work in this hospital and they are too small a charity for their own tent. Within seconds of us getting under cover the heavens opened!! We were all desperate for the toilet but none of us wanted to venture out and get soaked in the queues. We then heard the announcement for the green wave to make there way to the start line. We hung on for as long as possible then miraculously the heavy rain stopped! We made our way over and sneaked in at the back of the wave. On setting off, our bladders reminded us that they were full! About 200m in to the race we spotted a handful of portaloos so we all made a bee line for them....but there was a queue.....then we noticed a large oak tree with low hanging branches.....Julie and I looked at each other and I knew we were thinking the same thing so we dived under the tree with Gemma and did our business much to the amusement of our fellow racers!! (You can take the girl out of Pompey but you can't take the Pompey out of the girl)
So we get back on track, running a bit faster than planned as we had lost a couple of minutes. Also the threat of the heavens opening again! Julie and Denise were just slightly ahead of Heidi and myself with Gemma and Annie behind. We made our way past Horse Guards parade, Buckingham Palace and through Leicester Square. At mile 4 we stopped for hugs and photos from our support team Gemma and Jodi then we headed back towards Hyde Park. Once back in the park the crowds were really loud almost deafening. There were drummers too which reminded me of the Great South Run and the Santa Runs that we have here in Portsmouth. We then made our way through Green Park and Regents Park. Again lots of supporters and people shouting out our names. The miles were just slipping away it was great! We started to tire a bit as we approached mile 10 but we were met again by Jodi and Gemma our support team. We stopped again for photos, hugs and alcoholic shots....Well I'm not sure what was in those shots but it certainly gave me a boost! Just a bit further along we were met by the lovely Spread a Smile ladies who had been patiently waiting for us in the rain. We stopped again for hugs and off we went again. Just 3 miles to go! With this in mind, we all upped our pace! I went ahead with Denise and Julie took my place with Heidi. We all stayed close in these last couple of miles. As we passed the 12 mile mark we all started fantasising about a nice hot cup of tea and some chocolate when we finish! We started to encourage other runners who looked like they were in danger of stopping in good old BFC style! We saw the 400m marker and tried our best to stay in line so we could cross together. Then the last 100m we held hands as best we could and crossed together . A moment I will treasure forever. Our time was 2:11:32 which was quicker than my predicated time of 2:12. This was never going to be a PB race for any of us. It was a celebration of all the fundraising we have done to help this wonderful charity.
We posed for a photo then we were ushered on to get our medal, water and banana. We made our way back the charity tent and got under cover just as the heavens opened again!! Our minds turned to Gemma and Annie who were still on the course. We checked the tracker to see that they were both on there way and wouldn't be much longer. The charity tent was buzzing with lots of runners and their families. There was lots of food and drink on offer and massages too. It wasn't long before Gemma and Annie arrived so we could all relax and celebrate. We were met by the lovely Spread a Smile ladies who presented us with a goody bag and lots of hugs. We spent about an hour in the charity tent as we needed to be out of the hotel by 2pm. Luckily the tube wasn't as congested and we managed to make our way back in time. After changing our wet clothes and grabbing our belongings we headed back to Waterloo and got on the 3pm train.
We arrived back in Pompey at about 5pm as we got on the slowest train ever that took us round the houses. It went really quick though as we were all enjoying each others company and chatting about our individual experiences of the race. My legs started to cramp up towards the end of the journey... a reminder that I haven't run that distance for many months. This however was sorted out with a nice long soak in a hot mineral bath and some red wine when I got home!
If you would like to make a donation to Spread a Smile here is the link. Thanks for reading.