Admittedly, this one didn’t get off to the best of starts. I woke up early enough, well 6:45ish with the plan to be on my bike by 7am.
I thought that cycling to the start -Wembley Stadium – would be the best option because it meant I didn’t have to go into Central London and back again. And for the first 45 minutes or so, it was pretty straightforward. My phone/sat nav took me across parts of North London I’d never knew existed. I then arrived at the point when I could see that Wembley was not that far away….
“Go right, then go right again, then go right again, then go right again” suggested the sat nav.
OK, I thought. Right, right again, right again…hang on, I’m cycling in a cycle and this just doesn’t feel right when I looked behind me and saw that I was actually going away not towards Wembley.
I took the phone out of my pocket. The map was showing a dot where I was and indeed Wembley was just across the road. Only this road was the big old motorway. So backtracking to find a bridge, I found myself in one of those huge Tesco Extra carparks. The clock was ticking…Oh cripes, it’s now 7:55am, there’s only 35 minutes to get to the start. Thankfully, once I’d found my bearings, Wembley really was only 5 minutes up the road but when you’re racing a race, those extra minutes can make all the difference.
Flustered and with my heart racing, I parked my bike up against a Vitality North London Half sign – there was no way I was going to try and find “official bike parking” – made a beeline to the loos for a standard pre-race wee and then in less than 5 minutes (I swear) managed to whip off my cycling leggings and sweatshirt, pin on my race number, hand in my stuff to the luggage and hastily race to the start.
Now here’s where the race begins…
With only perhaps 4 minutes to spare, I snuck in at just behind the 2nd 2:15 pacer. Little did I know that this would mean it would take an absolute age to actually cross the startline. The gun went off and we all steadily made our way up to the bridge where we could eventually start racing.
I don’t know whether it was my exceptionally good dinner at Noble Rot the night before or just the adrenaline of my race to the startline but boy, I was steadily pacing it out. I knew that I had some ground to make up due to my position way behind the wave I was meant to be in and this spurred me on.
The first half of the race consisted of me mainly trying to manoeuvre my way through the crowds. I don’t remember much about the scenery apart from the RAF museum and a band at Colindale roundabout. That’s not because I wasn’t enjoying it, I felt strong that day. But if you haven’t run a large race in sometime, you forget about the traffic and have to find new ways to get ahead.
The Vitality North London Half isn’t ALL about finishing in Wembley (although that probably the biggest selling point), the halfway mark at Saracens was also pretty special. Your name flashed up on the board and there was a camera projecting the runners onto a big screen so you could make funny faces as if you’re saying “‘ello mum, look at me”. Definitely one of the highlights.
The rest of the race is retracing the steps of the first half, only this time there are hills. In particular, the hill at mile 10. One of those slow, gradual hills that don’t make you breathless but certainly put the pressure on.
Second half speedy
Nevertheless, I was on a mission. In your face hills, I thought, and pushed on towards the stadium. Entering via underground, it was pretty special to cross the finish line at 1:49:07 and then grab my medal, t-shirt and goody bag.
Timing is everything
When I say I crossed the line at 1:49:07, I knew this was not my chip time. In fact, I was really excited to see my time. I felt this was a pretty good race. My legs held out and I was strong out there. I cycled back home (via another route I hasten to add) and with nervousness and glee went to find out my results.
OK, in the grand scheme of things, Brexit, Trump and global warming, this isn’t a big deal. But, and there’s a but, it’s ruddy annoying. How can it be? I thought to myself. I definitely did not start at the front of the race. The answer came a few days later from the racing chip company. Apparently, my chip wasn’t registered when I crossed the startline. Major sad face.
So if anyone wants to help me work out what my time actually was, please let me know. I started around 6 rows behind the second 2:15 pacer. Did you start around then? A week later and I’m not overly bothered, it would just be good to have an idea of how well I actually did.
Back to the race
Despite my rubbish timing chip and disappointment that followed, I thoroughly enjoyed the Vitality North London Half.