It was a chilly, it was tough but boy I really enjoyed my first ever duathlon. Despite my very early start and the fact that I had to cycle from Hampstead Heath to the start at Richmond Park (it was the only way to get my body and my bicycle there!) and then part of the way back, the race itself certainly proved a real test for this runner-cum-commuter-cyclist. I opted for the London Duathlon Sprint challenge, which was a 10k run, followed by two laps or a 22k by bike, and finishing with a 5k run and I have to say it was a revelation. Here are seven reasons why I’d like to do it again (and a few things I need to work on).
1. The gorgeous setting distracted me from the pain
Running has taken me to some beautiful parts of the country. From the spectacular views of the South Downs to the manmade Kielder Reservoir, where we spent an entire weekend disconnected from mobile networks and the internet, I really enjoy running with a view. So it was with the greatest pleasure that I was able to be one of 3,000 competitors to take part in the London Duathlon, held within the grounds of Richmond Park. It certainly beats the concrete skyscrapers of what I like to call the no man’s land part of the London Marathon. I couldn’t have felt closer to wildlife during this event especially when at one point I ran about two feet away from what looked like Bambi’s dad. Part of me felt awkward, as if I was invading his territory, but then again they are so tame around there, crazy runners like me just become a part of their scenery.
2. I want to do the cycle race on a proper racer bike
I pumped the tyres, tested the brakes and removed my much-loved bell the night before. I then attached my number to the front and back in the hope that making my two wheels more “racer-like” would help when it came to speed. But let’s face facts, my poor hybrid just isn’t built for racing full-stop. It’s a perfectly decent machine for bumbling around town on but when it comes to speed work, my Trek simply does not make the cut. I tried all the techniques I could think of – bum off seat BMX racer-style, head down like a falcon, knees in and neat little rotations, hands off brakes going down the hills (not recommended) – in fact everything but “look mum, no hands”. I made a huge effort. especially on THAT hill (There’s a very steep hill named Broomfield, which I had to climb twice as part of the course) but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Other cyclists seemed to whizz past me. Next time, I’ll get it sorted so I have a feather-light aluminium-framed number to see if that will make any difference.
3. The rules made the race super-easy to get into
And I’m not just talking about pre-race racking of your bike in the right area and checking that you had the right equipment . The little details such as “do not litter, throw your empty water bottles in the bin provided” meant there was not the usual chaos of water bottles strewn all over the path of slower runners. As a runner, who has participated in all types of races, I really liked the overtaking rule of keep to the left unless you’re overtaking on the running part of the challenge. The course was by no means wide, so this ensured that people could speed up if necessary without the problems of bottlenecks. If only other running races could follow suit. As a newbie to duathlon, I really appreciated the explanations before the race began and the whole organisation and stewards dotted all over the course made it so easy to follow that I could concentrate on the actual challenge. This puts your mind at ease and any race that can do that is worth trying again, right?
4. It’s given me a new goal
Another rule, which I was uncomfortable with at first, was the one about no headphones during the race. It’s rare that I run without music or podcasts (only during Cross Country). How would I cope without the friendly voice of the Woman’s Hour presenter or my mix of hits from the 90s? Extremely well actually. Armed with my Tom Tom Runner watch for company, I sped off with the aim of going as fast as my little legs would take me. I knew that cycling would be my achilles heel so would have to make up for it in the running part of the challenge. And you know what, I think I did. Running without music freed me from distractions. Now I know I can do it, I’d love to see if I can really focus the next time and beat the times for the 10k and 5k parts of the challenge that I completed.
5. Next time I will remember where I left my bike
I’d racked my bike and set up my helmet all ready to follow the rules I learnt earlier during the Brick sessions. I even did a trial run, much to the amusement of my fellow competitors who had racked up next to me. I’d come in from the Run area farthest point away, race up to my bike parked in Sprint lane 7 (lucky number seven), place my helmet on and then take my bike to the white line to set off on the next leg of the challenge. So far, so planned, all good – or so I thought. Fast forward to around an hour later and I was running up and down the lanes of the transition area mumbling “where is my bike?” No one in their right mind would take my bike, so what had happened to it? Well. after two seconds of stopping to take a breath and clear my mind, I worked out that my bike was at the other side of the transition area. This whole experience cost me almost three minutes of time but I can tell you that I’ll never make the same mistake again.
6. I was inspired by the lean machines
There’s nothing like running among triathletes to be inspired and some of these athletes were lean machines. My goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much power as they sprinted (no joke) around the first 10k. Then it was on to the cycle and dressed in their velodrome gear, with their Jetson-style helmets, they flew around the course. Even during the final 5k, they were chasing for the finish line. It was like watching true artists at work and I wanted to be a part of their gang. Maybe it’s not a reason to do another duathlon and maybe I’ll never get there but it’s certainly fired up my belly.
7. The run-cycle-run felt kind of good (afterwards)
As I said, I’m completely new to multisports and didn’t have any expectations about the London Duathlon. I was especially curious about the sensation in my legs after the cycle part of the challenge. But you know what, it felt kind of good. Dare I say it, the cycling had warmed my legs up so they were raring to nail that 5k. The adrenaline was pumping, my legs were going and I was feeling strong, even in the last kilometre. Maybe it was the different disciplines, beginner’s luck or simply my mental state of mind on the day but the run-cycle-run just worked for me. It seemed to gel well together and give me the impetus to perform on those runs. The two guys who I shared my rack with enjoyed it too (it may have helped that we missed the rain) and they were also relatively new to the idea of multi disciplines. I’d like to give it another go to find out whether this could be the next step, perhaps upgrade to a classic. The question is will you be joining me?
I was asked to take part in the London Duathlon by Boutique Sport. I haven’t scheduled my diary for next year yet but if I’m around in September, I’ll certainly sign up for the London Duathlon again. You can register for the London Duathlon 2014 too by heading to by heading to the London Duathlon site.