After a few months of partially committing to training (and a minor injury), I’ve decided to get back on it. Which means schedules, a rough plan of action and at least a marathon-distance race/organised run a month. This has become so much easier in the last few years as marathons are popping up everywhere. More relaxed, less congested and an ideal way to get the training in, these less established races are a good stomping ground for anyone who wants to try out the distance without the pressure of the crowds. And you may even discover a completely different pocket of your hometown (mine being London) as I discovered at this year’s Suunto Run Wimbledon Marathon.
Powered by Suunto
If you’ve not heard or Suunto, then listen up. Back when I took on the Marathon des Sables 2015, their activity trackers (or watches) were the top choice of most people who wanted information on their performance throughout the course. I wasn’t particularly bothered and went old school with a Casio but I think the battery life of the Suunto far outperformed the competitors. Today, among running circles, they are highly-regarded as a great choice for helping you to improve your performance. The fact that the Wimbledon Marathon was sponsored by Suunto didn’t sway my decision to do it; I would have signed up anyway. Knowing, however, that they were backing it meant that I expected the race to be well-organised.
A late start
The other sweet thing about this particular race was the later start time at 2pm. When you have been at work all week and are in desperate need of a holiday, an early wake-up call at the weekend can prove difficult. Granted, I can be a fan of a race that starts early – you get it out of the way and have the rest of the day to relax. But starting at 2pm meant I could relax in the morning before heading across London to the start line.
Small squad, huge gains
As I’ve mentioned many a time before, the big races can be exciting but they can also be congested, and therefore difficult to navigate. Just over 100 people took part in the Wimbledon Marathon 2017, which was just about right seeing as it was mostly on the trails. This meant it didn’t take you that much time to get into your stride and work your way around the course.
Loop the loop
The Wimbledon Marathon was four laps of two loops around Wimbledon Common. Or four figure of 8 laps, where each circle would take you back to the start/finish for water or a glass of SIS. If you didn’t fancy the full blown marathon, you could also sign up to do the half (2 laps) or a 10K (a slightly shorter version of a lap). It was certainly hilly in places and some of the track was only suitable for one runner at a time but the route was a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With a mix of terrain – mud, stones and grass – your body certainly got a good workout. By the fourth lap, I was less bounding more plodding up the hills. But I really enjoyed discovering this part of Wimbledon Common.
Alongside a medal for your efforts and bottle of water, you also receive a neckerchief tube (otherwise known as a ‘buff’) which is really useful for runners. It may not be the same as the bigger races where you get a goody bag full of bits and bobs but since the field is so small, there’s also more of a chance to be placed. The entry fee is also relatively low. As a member of a running club, I paid £33 (£35 for non-affiliated) but this varies according to when you sign up. When you consider the cost of some half marathons (around the £60 mark), this is relatively low cost.
As for the Windmill
This is with reference to the pub that we must have passed eight times on the course which also acted as a marker for the start. As tempted as I was to try out their many offerings, I had to make my way back up to North London because I underestimated how far the start and finish actually was from the tube. Next time I will definitely put the postcode into Google maps to avoid the little 1.7-mile warm-up dash from the station to the start so I’d actually arrive on time. I made it – just – with 10 minutes to spare.
If you’re a Londoner, looking for a relatively local marathon with a small crowd and hilly terrain, then definitely try the Suunto Wimbledon Marathon. Hopefully, they’ll do it again next year.
For more info, go to www.runwimbledon.co.uk