To Race or not to Race? that is th... - Marathon Running ...

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To Race or not to Race? that is the question

linda9389
linda9389Administrator

Slowly, real races are popping up, claiming to be Covid secure, offering us the opportunity to experience the thrill of race atmosphere once again. But are they secure? Can they really provide the atmosphere we’ve been missing?

I signed up for Kew Gardens 10K almost a year ago, long before any of us had heard of Covid.

My last real race was back in January this year. My London Winter 10k in February was cancelled for bad weather. Then along came Covid. In March I decided to forego my place in the Bath HM even though it went ahead, and instead this became the first of several virtual races that have kept me going this year as one by one my event bookings were all cancelled and became virtual … except Kew 10K. This one defied the odds and went ahead at the weekend.

I love Kew Gardens and really wanted to do this run. The organisers emailed constantly, sharing their thoughts on a Covid secure format. I wanted to believe it was safe. They actually split the race over two days, with just under 2000 runners on the Saturday and just over 1500 on the Sunday (when I ran). They gave us other options, but I definitely wanted to run this !!!

On entering Kew Gardens, marshalls were checking we all had our masks on. There was a fair bit of steady walking, with everyone mindful of space. First up we came to a deserted bag drop which had been alphabetised and spread out across an entire car park. Next were some beautifully distanced portaloos, with beautifully distanced queues … most importantly they were the shortest loo queues I have ever seen! Handles were being regularly sprayed, and there was hand sanitiser everywhere facebook.com/RichmondRUNFES...

My main concern had been the pre-startline process, all that waiting around packed together in holding pens. I have to say though, that part of the event felt very safe. There was lots of space to stand around in until our wave was called, then when given the go ahead to move forward we all walked along, well distanced until we were corralled into lines between marked tape - single file, 2m apart (think car ferry queues!). Lanes were then released two at a time and we walked off double file, 2m apart until the orange dots on the ground split us into four lines walking side by side, 2m apart … and then there we were … a bin for each lane to drop our masks … 10m more to walk and we were over the timing mats! There were marshals with loud speakers at all points during this ‘crowdflow’, giving clear instructions and urging us to keep our distance.

Wow it was a fantastic feeling. I love running among runners (not necessarily with runners, but definitely among them). It was a bit like coming home, felt all familiar and uplifting and exciting!!! Woohoo!!!

Out on the course there were people overtaking me, people to overtake. The paths were wide and mostly there was plenty of room. I have to say though, at times in the first half of the run I had to hesitate, and maybe I didn’t always leave 2m as people moved. I wonder if this could have been improved if we had been started in a slightly more spread out manner - more waves perhaps? Having said that there was far less jostling than your average parkrun, let alone a race.

The course had been altered to stick to wide paths and to separate the start and finish areas; this meant there were lots of marshalls on lots of corners. They all held signs - ‘smile it will make you faster’ etc…, they blew whistles and they whooped, cheered and encouraged us on. There were people dressed as various animals (not sure why!) whooping and dancing, playing music and generally providing distractions. There were several water tables spread out at the halfway point, with one loud and cheery gentleman insisting ‘no smile, no water’. I didn’t want water, but it did make me smile! There were no spectators lining the route, but these enthusiastic marshals and cheer teams made plenty of noise and created a good atmosphere. It was definitely more Parkrun than London Landmarks Half Marathon, but it was miles away from the solitude of a solo virtual run!

The finish line was real - timing mats and photographers. Less cheering perhaps, but that wasn’t a problem as my main concern at this point was struggling to get my heartrate below max and my breathing quieter than an old steam train; the less people to witness that the better! The walk from the finish line, via the well spread tables of goody bags (sadly minus medals which are still sitting in a slowly moving container) to the exit from Kew Gardens was well spaced, yet filled with the sound of friends talking and people on phones … all the usual post race hubbub - without the jostling.

As I say, there was a lot of pre-race information from the organisers, and I found this article about outdoor risk particularly interesting: vox.com/future-perfect/2020... It at least balances the bad with the good, albeit a lot of the references on both sides of the argument are non-peer reviewed.

The organisers are declaring the event a success and this is their post event press release: richmondrunfest.co.uk/get-i...

Did I enjoy it? You bet I did, just look at the photos! Was there enough race atmosphere to make me try really hard? Again look at the photos - some weirdly intense expressions and the best photo of flying feet I own - they tell their own tale. Was I safe? Well, this was probably the riskiest thing I have done since the start of lockdown; having said that, I have been ultra cautious and I will say I felt safer than I would in a supermarket or on a train or bus (not that I’ve done any of those things since March). Would I do it again? Absolutely!!! I can’t wait. Larger events will struggle, but this showed that smaller events can be organised successfully, carefully and still provide a great atmosphere.

Fingers crossed I don’t get a call now from Track & Trace to say I passed/was passed by someone who has since tested positive!

63 Replies
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roseabi
roseabiAdministrator

This is great, what an amazing job the organisers did!! And those photos are fabulous - a massive well done to you xxxxxxxxxx I have running-in-Kew envy now 😊😊😊

Thanks for the info too, very interesting!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to roseabi

Kew is an amazing place to run. I'd love to do it again next year. Are you doing the Brighton race or sticking with a wholly virtual marathon?

roseabi
roseabiAdministrator in reply to linda9389

I'm doing the virtual full marathon, but I'm looking forward to popping along to the 10K to see how it looks!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to roseabi

Having seen how that went this weekend, I think I would be very happy to volunteer at a race now too. Nothing was handed out - it was all left on tables. Standing on corners cheering waas well distanced. There was no touching or closeness involved. Not sure I would've wanted to dress up as a Kew animal, nor as a toilet roll or a poo though (in case you didn't watch the video, they were the toilet attendants armed with disinfectant sprays)!!!

Great photos Linda, thanks for sharing, it looks like it was a beautiful day.

It's interesting too to read about how it all worked it did sound very well organised. I'd be definitely up for trying a real race when I get better!

Thanks again for posting and well done for a great run.

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Celeriac

Thanks - hopefully there will be lots of choice when you're ready to look for a race 🤞

Decker
DeckerModerator

Congratulations Linda!! You did a fantastic breakdown of the whole process. Wow what a well organized event. Great pics too!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Decker

Thanks Decker - is your race confirmed to go ahead yet?

Decker
DeckerModerator in reply to linda9389

I just got the deferral email yesterday, but a couple of friends have offered to ‘crew’ for me, (snack table too!) so I’m going to do it anyway. Still don’t feel 100% about pulling off the full 50k (42 a couple of weeks ago was really tough) but we’ll see.

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Decker

That's a shame, but if you're not 100% the deferral may be the best outcome. Do you have to do it solo on the same date or can you add a couple of weeks training?

Decker
DeckerModerator in reply to linda9389

Haha you may be right, but I think no matter how much I train, I’d feel that way, so I’m just going to go for it and see what happens. I’ll see how the next couple of weeks play out. Still have a couple of longer runs including a 32 this weekend. Fingers crossed 🤞🙂

Buddy34
Buddy34Half Marathon

Congratulations Linda and it definitely sounds like a well organised event the way you describe it. Your photos are brilliant. 👏👏👏😁😁

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Buddy34

It felt super well organised. I liked so many of the photos this time that I ended up buying the lot (if you wanted more than 4 that was the only option!). Some are happy, some are intense and as for the flying feet, well there is no doubt I'd got a wriggle on by that point 😃

Sandie1961
Sandie1961Half Marathon

Fantastic! Gives us all a bit of hope for the future. How did you manage to smile (or at least look as though you were smiling 😂) My race photos are always awful!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandie1961

It definitely made me more hopeful Sandie. I will be looking out for other smaller scale races nearby. I was grinning because I was so happy to be back out there, sadly the migraine put paid to that which is probably what's responsible for the more intense faces (definitely not me being over competitive!!!) 😂

GTFC
GTFCMarathon

You do look the business in those pictures! Loved reading all about this as I've never run any race or park run so it's nice to hear how it all went. Good training too for the biggie!!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to GTFC

Is that a specific choice GTFC? or is it a by product of Covid times? I love and hate races in roughly equal measure; love bit erases the memory of the hate bit every time for me though!!! I have really missed it over the last 8 months.

GTFC
GTFCMarathon in reply to linda9389

Choice if I'm honest. I love running by myself. Still, never say never 😁

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to GTFC

I love running by myself too, but there's something very affirming about doing it with a whole bunch of likeminded souls, in a situation where there is no requirement to socialise or make friends so you are still effectively alone.

Stephen_UK
Stephen_UKHUHM vHalfMarathon

Well done, Linda. This is encouraging to read about and gives us hope that events can find a way to be managed safely.

Great pictures, too.

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Stephen_UK

I'm not sure LLHM will be able to pull it off the way things are. The waves for that were huge and we were packed like sardines in the pens en route to the start line. The sheer scale would make safe crowd flow much more difficult and time consuming. But with a bit of ingenuity and creativeness, who knows... 🤞

cheekychipmunks
cheekychipmunksHUHM vHalfMarathon

Wow, they did a wonderful job by the sound of it linda9389, and so did you judging by those flying feet! 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️ It’s nice to know it’s possible to make races happen. 😀

As you know my Severn Bridge 10k last month was turned into a time trial, all starting at 10 second intervals to avoid the start pen crush entirely. It worked really well too, and like at your race, the marshals were joyous along the route to make up for the lack of crowd. No goodie bags for us, but we did get our bling. 🏅 Hope yours comes soon. Bling is very very important! 😍

Let’s hope more events can be like Kew Gardens or the Severn Bridge. 🤞

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to cheekychipmunks

It's interesting to hear how the two differed. I just checked the results and see that Severn Brdige had just 750 runners (that's the same as our local parkrun on a fairly busy day), so it was half the size of Kew on Sunday. I guess it's a lot of extra work for the organisers for a smaller return at the moment, double whammy. Tricky to balance.

cheekychipmunks
cheekychipmunksHUHM vHalfMarathon in reply to linda9389

Yes, and with a large turnout it wouldn’t be feasible to start people at 10 second intervals - it would take too long. Ok for smaller events though. 😀

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to cheekychipmunks

I'm not sure how often our groups of four crossed the line - they had said it would be every two seconds and it may well have been, but it wasn't timed as such ... we just started running as we got to the blue mat. One of the reasons I changed from Saturday to Sunday was to hopefully benefit from anything they had learned on the Saturday (plus the slightly reduced numbers too). I guess it's a learning curve for everyone at the moment.

Wow, what a great run report, and super photos! You look fab!

Plenty of space there and the precautions in place will have kept you safe to fully enjoy your day...

Well done to the organisers and Really well done you! Your medal will hopefully soon be with you Linda.

🏅xxx

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Bluebirdrunner

Thanks BB. It didn't always feel as spaced out as I might have liked, but it was much more so than a race usually is, and did feel pretty safe overall. I understand the containers blocking the container with our medals have started to move .... doesn't sound like we will receive them this week, but maybe nest week 🤞

SueKen
SueKenHalf Marathon

Fab run report! Gives me hope and confidence for 1st Nov!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to SueKen

Good! I will keep my fingers firmly crossed for your event 🤞🤞🤞

Kevin41
Kevin41HUHM vHalfMarathon

Thanks for writing this Linda9389. An enjoyable read but also a good insight into what to expect at events for the next while......

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Kevin41

Everyone perceives risk differently and has to make a personal choice, but I thought it was worth trying to share how this was set up to show that the organisers were most definitely taking it seriously and the runners were too. I heard so many people saying how wonderful it was to be back and I also talked to one lady who was there for her very first race (I do hope she enjoyed it).

Dexy5
Dexy510 Miles

Well done Linda, a brilliant race report and I am so glad you enjoyed the day. I love Kew Gardens and to be able to run there must be amazing. It sounds like it was brilliantly organised.

UpTheStanley gets to do the reinvented new Forest 10k this weekend and I will sit in the car park waiting for him as I sold my ticket.

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Dexy5

Your race entry also gets you free entry to the gardens for you and your spectators. Mr9389 wasn't allowed to watch the race because of Covid restrictions, but I met up with him on Kew Green after I finished the run. The gardens were shut to the general public till 11am, so we had over an hour of peaceful wandering to start us off, and didn't leave till about 2pm. A very good value day out! I hope NF is as successful. Good luck to UTS, and hopefully you will be back next year too 🤞

Dexy5
Dexy510 Miles in reply to linda9389

Oh yes I will order an early bird ticket in October.

misswobble
misswobbleMarathon

Well done 😃👍🏃‍♀️ It must be fab to be back out racing. Lots of us missing it I’m sure. I”m champing at the bit to get back out there

Lovely venue indeed 😃👍

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to misswobble

It was every bit as fab as you can imagine Miss W. Hope you get to run a real one very soon 🤞

misswobble
misswobbleMarathon in reply to linda9389

I was racing with my niece in a virtual race on 17th Oct but I think that might be off too as she’s nursing an injury 😟

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to misswobble

Oh no 😢

misswobble
misswobbleMarathon in reply to linda9389

Not doing very well am I 😁

Still getting my training runs in so hopefully I’ll be ready if she changes her mind. She’s paid for the race, medal and shirt so it’ll be a shame if she can’t do it.

BrianUK
BrianUKHUHM v10K

Fabulous report Linda 👌 lots and lots of interesting and useful information. I hope the Brighton 10km on October 11th is as well organised. Thank you for sharing and fab photos too. Well done on the run. 👏👏👏👍

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to BrianUK

It will be interesting to hear about Brighton 10k. Do you know how many runners there will be?

BrianUK
BrianUKHUHM v10K in reply to linda9389

I’m not sure how many are taking part Linda. I’ll attempt a write up but it’s not my strong point mind. 😬

Sandraj39
Sandraj39Half Marathon

Wonderful race report Linda 😀🏃🏽‍♀️and fab photos - you look so happy and super fit in them! 👍 Great to read how much thought the organisers put in to this to ensure that it was a safe, yet fun event for everyone involved.

Thanks also for the link re outdoor risks - I shall have a look at that later.🙂

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

I was certainly happy Sandra! The article is a positive read and provides a good counterbalance to a lot of the early negative pieces that have been stuck in my head.

Irishprincess
IrishprincessHalf Marathon

I loved reading that as I feel as if I was there. Very interesting how they organised things.

Those are great photos Linda, you look as if you’re running fast 🏃‍♀️Were the gardens nice? Maybe you didn’t notice as you were running quickly 😂

I really miss my races especially as I purposely had a rest from them last year so your post has given me a well needed race boost. Thank you!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Irishprincess

I didn't take in all that was round me during the run after the first km (I'm not sure where my head goes during a race, but it's the same every time), but the race fee included free entry to Kew for me and Mr9389 for the day, so I got to enjoy Kew at an extremely leisurely pace afterwards - and it was wonderful. Over 32000 steps on Sunday 😅

Irishprincess
IrishprincessHalf Marathon in reply to linda9389

How lovely 🙂

Beachcomber66
Beachcomber66Half Marathon

That is a wonderful uplifting report and the pictures are brilliant. A great combination of good organisers, sensible runners, a wonderful venue and excellent weather. The joy of running captured beautifully. If anything could tempt me to try a real event at the moment, this is it!!

I guess my concern about an organised run now is that I would need at least the first three of those criteria to be met to make me feel reasonably secure and there is a limit to the scope for assessing them in advance. Probably just an old guy's caution ! 🙂

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Beachcomber66

You're so right, you can't really know until you're there. As well organised as it was, I have to acknowledge it wasn't risk free and was the riskiest thing I have done given that my exposure to people has been minimal over the last 6 months. The enjoyment and lift I got from it were amazing though. Everyone assesses risk differently and it's a very personal choice - it has to feel right for you personally and I totally understand why it might not.

Wow to you! Stress fracture to this athletic looking super runner. Fantastic. Well done to you! 🎉👏🏃‍♀️😊🏁 I do hope the medal arrives before too long. 😊🌸

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to over61andstilltrying

Haha ... all I see is the half stone lockdown weight I've managed to put on!!! But yeah, from stress fracture to the confidence to push as hard as I could - that's really something to celebrate 🥰. I finally received my medal and t-shirt yesterday from the duathlon I did back on 2nd August, so that will have to keep me going while I wait patiently for the Kew medal😀

Deals1
Deals1Half Marathon

Yaay. Pleased the medal arrived and t. Shirt arrived from August duathlon. Hope the kew one not far behind!

You've done great with all your cycling and running... Well done. U r back and smashing it and the photos proove it. Great report too, sounds very well organised and secure. Pleased u enjoyed the event 👌👍

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Deals1

Thanks! I am ready and waiting to sign up next year!!!

Wimborne
WimborneHalf Marathon

Ooo love this happy runny race report. What fabulous photos and looks such a beautiful run and well organised too. Happy days 😀

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Wimborne

Yes, it was a really happy day. I get very 'involved' so race days become pretty intense and full of emotions that make for great memories 🥰

Sandraj39
Sandraj39Half Marathon

Hi Linda - just watched a video review of this by Rick on The Running Channel. Thought you might be interested?

m.youtube.com/watch?v=h0jC-...

😀

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

Thanks - I'll take a look later. I listened to some of the Parkrun Q&A session too today

Sandraj39
Sandraj39Half Marathon in reply to linda9389

...ooo, I missed that...

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

It's VERY long. I keep nibbling away at it!!!

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

I just got round to watching this! Really enjoyed it, thank you. It's exactly as I remembered it too. I have to say I quite liked the quiet of no spectators - the marshalls and cheerleaders gave a much needed lift every now and again, but I didn't really miss the constant clamour that you get at some of the bigger races (quite the opposite in fact).

Time_Lord
Time_Lord10 Miles

Brilliant, well done. Sorry I didn't see this earlier when you posted it x

linda9389
linda9389Administrator in reply to Time_Lord

No worries. I thought it might give an idea of how a race might look in these strange times 😊

Time_Lord
Time_Lord10 Miles

It was interesting. I did a Covid safe race when I did the Run the Lights 10k at Blackpool.

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