I won’t deny the strength of the emotions I have felt before, during and after each marathon I have run (5 so far) and that I’m more proud of my participating and completing those races than most other things in my life. On the other hand, in my running career there are also those little 10k races that I show up to without any particular preparation, no tapering and no changing my week’s training. They are there just as a measure of my fitness and running ability at any particular time. For me my 10k time is a great indication of where I stand in terms of my times in distances ranging from 200m to the marathon. I have to say that hands down my favourite 10k races are the London Sri Chinmoy series of races that take place in Battersea park. They are a series of 10k races that happen between March and November on certain Saturday mornings. I used to live right next to this gorgeous south London park and would try and take part in as many of those 10k races as I could. The course is 4.2 laps on the inside of the park. The 10k start is on the Carriage Drive South.
After about 800m runners take a left turn on Carriage Drive East and head towards the Millennium Arena track. At this point another left turn takes runners towards and past the Bandstand.
At about 2k there is another left turn on Carriage Drive West and the first lap finishes by returning to Carriage Drive South. The course is as flat as you can wish for outside an athletics track and the field is fiercely quick. I was just going through the latest race results that took place on 1st of April 2017. Out of a field of 98 runners, 36 finished in 40 minutes or under, while the first man clocked 33.31min and the first woman 38.52. I have to say that there have been a couple times during such a race when I was not running in a pack and I had to turn back to check whether I was last (at the time I must have been doing 10k 47-48 minutes). Having said that, the races are very welcoming to runners of all abilities and the organisers and marshals are extremely supporting. Sri Chinmoy was the founder of the Sri Chinmoy marathon team that organises this series of events. He was a spiritual teacher and a runner that saw running as part of his ‘Self Transcendence’ philosophy, so there is something more in the air of those races than just being quick.
Apart from the 10k races, the Sri Chinmoy team organises Monday evening 5k and 3x1mile relays between June and August. The race courses consist of loops within the Park and they are UK athletics Course Accuracy certified. One can register online or just before the start of the race. Numbers are picked up at the registration desk just before the start of the race. There are no timing chips but there is no need for them as your time is recorded by the race officials as you cross the finish line. Water, orange squash and energy drinks are offered at the water stations on each lap. Finally, baggage can safely be left at Registration.
The Run and Become running store at the heart of London’s Victoria was founded in 1982, one year after the first London marathon, at the suggestion of Sri Chinmoy and helps sponsor some of the Sri Chinmoy running events. For 33 years Run and Become was on Palmer street just off Victoria street, a smallish shop with all that runners need. Runners in search of new running shoes would try them on while running up and down the little alley way just outside, while personnel would very attentively be checking whether these were the right shoes or not. Last time I was there (about 3 years ago when I still lived in London) I went there for my new shoes and probably spent about an hour with the lady helping me out. It was a lovely experience, one without treadmills and computers working out my gait. As I am writing this piece, I realised that after 33 years on the same spot, Run and Become that both me and my dad have loved so much has moved to a new location nearby. Although I am sure that this is a bigger and fancier shop and that they can accommodate better their customers, I can’t help but feel nostalgic and sad that the little gem of Palmer street is no more. I do though look forward to visiting the new Run and Become store in a few months time when I next visit London town.
A 10k personal best story
As I mentioned before I used to take part in quite a few of those 10k races as I lived about 30 seconds away from their start. On the morning of the race, I would wake up at about 7.30, go get my number from the race registration, go back home to pin it on my top and use the loo, then go out again for some strides and swift warm up before I lined up for the 8.30am start. Always the same routine! The last race I did before getting pregnant found me clocking 48.32 for the June 2012 Sri Chinmoy 10k race. 7 months after I had our boy and after taking ages to get back into running properly, I finally managed to better this by 10 seconds. Amazingly, 4 months months after this I ran my best ever race (apart from my marathons). The night before that race my husband and I watched Gounod’s Faust at the Royal Opera House where white wine, salmon sandwiches and crisps were consumed as usual. We must have returned home not before 11.15pm when we had some lovely Indian take away. I woke up in the morning and I remember very well that we had no bananas, which is always my early pre-race middle distance breakfast. Never mind I thought, I’ll just have some extra walnuts and raisins and that will do me. During the race I felt great, I passed 5k at 23.19, fist ever pass under 24 minutes. I was shocked and ecstatic.
I felt absolutely great and ran the second 5k in a negative split of 23.12 to cross the finish line in 46.32, a whole 2 minutes faster than my previous PB.
Oh the joy, smiles and hugs to my husband and 11 month old baby that came out to watch. So this is the story of my 10k PB that still stands. I still haven’t worked out whether it was the sleep deprivation due to motherhood, the salmon sandwiches and white wine, the Indian takeaway or the extra walnuts I had that morning that did it.