When I started C25K last year I stumbled across a runner’s blog where she wrote about the Tamsin Trail (what a lovely poetic name!) – the full circuit around the inner perimeter of Richmond Park. She had posted some atmospheric photos and described it so well. Since then I’ve been fascinated by it – my own personal yellow brick road. But – it’s 7.3 miles! 11.8km! Would I ever be able to run that far?
Almost a year on, it was finally time to find out. I had a free morning, as I was working from home today, so last night I decided this would be the big day – I was really excited about my adventure.
I set off early (not Miles Yonder early, but it's all relative). It was a glorious morning and by 7.30am it was already hot and sunny. I started from Sheen Gate, heading west in an anti-clockwise direction. The idea was to go at a comfortable, easy pace – no racing.
The first couple of kilometres make up the second half of the Richmond parkrun – and how different it feels when you’re not going hell for leather. Then at Richmond Gate there is a lovely long descent down to Ham – I couldn’t help but speed up here. It is fairly tortuous doing this in the opposite direction, particularly at the end of a long run – but I promise next time I’ll tackle it the other way around!
Until today, I'd always gone east at Ham Cross, through the middle of the park to complete a 10k loop. But here’s where I took my first steps into the unknown… sharp right, downhill towards Ham Gate, still following the trail.
As I crossed the road by the gate and started along the trail, south to Kingston, I became aware of a Tasmanian Devil-like vortex of yellow dust approaching. It was two runners, a man and a woman, sprinting, all-out. They were FAST. They propped to a halt, pressing their Garmin buttons, grimacing in pain. The woman in particular was obviously a bona fide, elite athlete in training: super-low body fat, washboard abs, small and light with that long-torsoed build you see on long-distance runners. I wonder who she was? I did feel like a riding-school pony trotting past a racehorse.
At Kingston Gate (6k) began the dreaded climb up the fantastically named Dark Hill. It wasn’t quite the gothic horror I was expecting, actually – I took it very steadily, kept going and made it to the top without walking! But just as I was feeling invincible and victorious I was overtaken by a 30-something man in tiny shorts, zooming along, casually shirtless, showing off his triangular, muscly torso and gleaming tan. Meh.
The view at the top of the hill is glorious – I could see the city in the distance, flickering through the heat haze. What goes up must come down, however – and after a plateau with some blessedly cool tree cover, the trail snaked back downhill again. It’s pretty steep and quite difficult to run – though I’m not looking forward to trying it in the opposite direction.
Robin Hood Gate, 9k – and I’m back on familiar territory. I briefly stopped at the drinking fountain there before carrying on. By this time the sun was beating down on my head and I just wanted to finish this run – so without quite realising it I sped up over the next two kilometres.
At 11k, past Roehampton Gate – so near the end – it all went a bit pear-shaped. Here you have to cross a footbridge over the brook that runs through the park, but I could see it was closed and swarming with workmen. So I headed north towards the walls of the park – silly mistake. I was confronted with a fenced-off section of water and no way to cross. So I had to retrace my steps back over the tussocky grass to Sawyer's Hill, cross the traffic bridge there, then stumble back over more grass to the trail again, all in the relentless sun. As I picked my way past the bridge a couple of the men turned and looked at me in mild interest, with a sort of amused, I told-you-so expression on their faces… I was SO close to having a hissy fit at this point!
I paid for my faster pace earlier and was really tired for the last kilometre. I always think at the end of a 10k: ‘could I do this all again (plus a bit) and make it a half marathon?’, and today I idly wondered ‘could I just tack on the parkrun route now and make it a 10 miler?’ The answer to both is still ABSOLUTELY NO WAY!
So with the extra faffing around the whole thing was 12.11km, 7.52 miles – the longest distance I’ve ever run. It took me 1hr 14 mins. It feels great! And look at the map – I went all the way around! I’m really proud of that.
Happy running y’all!