No directions for this one, the course was supposed to be marked all the way. I got off to a good start with a lap of the cricket pitch in St Margarets and immediately onto what must have been the steepest part of the course - a footbridge over the railway line. After that we were soon onto the River Lea where we stayed, or on the various diversions of it, for the rest of the race. The first 5km went quickly, too quickly really in 25 minutes. And another 25 minutes for the next 5km. A bit quick into a headwind given that is 3:32 pace and my PB is 3:50, and I wasn't feeling 100% going into this one.
It all went wrong at 14km with a missing arrow and a right turn instead of a left, making the classic mistake of following the runners in front of me. I'd got a good half mile along this route before runners were heading back towards me and we ended up with around a hundred confused runners standing at the junction where the missing arrow had now appeared, although nobody was sure which way it was supposed to have been pointing!
I set off again in what turned out to be the right direction and followed a winding route through the lakes north of Waltham Abbey. This is a great area for birdwatching although I didn't notice much apart from the swans and ducks as there were so many twists and turns along the way. This confused more runners - another group had managed to take a wrong turn and miss out about 5km. I heard later that they had made up the distance running round the field at the finish line!
I hit the halfway sign in 1:57, although this was really just over 14 miles, and then it was much easier to follow the route. Just head South along the River Lea. By this point I was paying the price of setting off too fast, with cramp in both calves to contend with. Add on the headwind and the extra mile which had blown away any chance of getting close to my PB and it was a struggle to push through the next 13 miles. But I kept plodding along. At least it was all on familiar ground now.
There's not much to add for the second half. It hurt. It rained for a few minutes, but the forecast rain for the entire race never materialised (and I could have done without the waterproof in my rucksack weighing me down). It was dull. The scenery isn't great along that part of the Lea Valley, its all warehouses and pylons through the Enfield section.
|The finish line|
There was an out and back section along the river and then a short run across the football pitches at Hackney Marshes to finish in 4:03:54. Disappointing to miss out on sub four which would have been comfortable without the wrong turn.
|Post race refuelling|
I don't think I'll run this one again. There were too many tales of wrong turns and I heard similar stories from last year too. Its a hard course to mark, with so many footpaths and junctions, but credit to the organisers because almost everywhere it was well marked and marshalled. There were spray painted orange arrows on the ground, which were incredibly effective, but there needed to be clear arrows at a few more junctions.