Race Review – The Virgin Sports British 10K

I did swear I would never run the British 10K again. I swore that after the first time I ran the Nike version in 2012 (my second ever 10K). And then again when I ran the Vitality version in 2015. I swore I would never run it again. But with the utter clusterfuck that is the Stoke on Trent Festival of Running I found myself in a subdued, post World Cup exit London with nothing to do.

Enter the Teach First charity, for whom I ran my 3rd 10K back in 2012 (one that measured 400 yards short due to poor marshaling), needing bodies to fill their charity spaces at the Virgin Sports British 10K. If things had been different I would have gone to Stoke. I did sign up with the idea of going. But a “website coming soon”, zero communication from a RD way out of his depth and lots of rumblings from Facebook and Twitter and I said screw it, this will do. And so the earnest crowd of Baz, Kaya, and Jenni Morris meant that the Rod, Jane, Freddie (and Zippy) from Ware 10 would be back together. Jen has been raising money for Crohns and Colitis for her friend, who would be running too. So there was a degree of serendipity about this race, we were all kinda destined to run it… well, most of us were….

3rd running, 3rd different banner organiser/sponsor. Could it be any better? Could it be 3rd time’s a charm? God, I hope so.

Injury Update

Every day I have been doing my rehab exercises and I am no longer in pain, which is, if anything, a good start. I feel I lost a lot of fitness over the last 5 weeks but a parkrun at Southwark that was only 5 mins off my normal pace in new shoes, and a 10K at Ware in the heat that was only 10 mins off my race pace I am confident I am on the way back. I did, as I said before, bin 5 marathons during this period but am going about it the right way. 10K last week, 10K this, then in the week, and then a half in a couple of weeks at Leigh before another 10K at Pride and finally a test at the end of August at Hell on the Humber. I did cancel the Summer Phoenix mara (the summer version of the race at Walton on Thames where I completed my 12 in 12 last year), the Episode IV a New Run – A Star Wars themed 6 hour race, the GoBling King 6 hour run, the Stoke Mara as mentioned earlier is a giant clusterfuck of ineptitude from the RD re comms, and then I dropped the Leigh Track Marathon down to the half. I do have to run it as the lovely Matt Bowman, Secret Marathoner and Ant will be there, so it would be rude not to. Shame though, as I did pick up this marathon patch specifically for this occasion.

Photo Hoodoo

I do ninja the odd race. I was only captured by Elle at Ware, despite seeing ALL the photographers. The British 10K, however, I never got a photo at either attempt. I only got the shitty finisher’s certificate and you know where they can shove that. True, they would probably be £40 of Marathonfoto but I am determined to get one this time around, seeing as I think they are free.

The Route

I do dislike the British 10K route. It is inferior to the London 10K route on so many levels. Too many there and backs. Not enough of the Embankment or parks. It could be infinitely better.

Still shit

Ok, am going to recap all that was wrong in 2012 and 2015 and then see if 2018 was any better or… how bad was Nike and Vitality compared to Virgin?

Would you trust this merman to organise a race?

Comparisons. How did they do?

2012 – the NIKE Year

  1. Organisation. This was all about Nike, not charities, not running. Nike was everywhere. Not that I really mind, as I wear Nike shoes and Nike clothing, but really.
  2. Portaloos. Not as many, not in the right places.
  3. Route. Pretty much the same as the BUPA London 10K.
  4. Bag drop. A shambles. It was raining but rather than bag drops under tents like the BUPA, these were pens, just fences in the open air, off Pall Mall, manned by volunteers who, when we all returned to get our bags, caved in and just let everyone clamber over all the bags trying to get their own.
  5. Collection of medals and gift bag. Again a shambles at the bag drop, and not at the end after you made it across the finish line. One person I know got a bag with 6 medals in. Another had none.
  6. Collection of commemorative t-shirt. First we did not know if the t-shirt that came with the pack and numbers was the commemorative t-shirt or not. It turned out that it wasn’t. But it needed an email to find this out.
  7. The packs. These were still arriving up to the day of the race. I understand that there are 25,000 people but isn’t Nike a huge organisation.
  8. Pomp. The band of the Coldstream Guards (tick), the Lady Mayoress of London (tick), Heather Small singing some boosting song (tick), some idiot DJ rambling like a freak (cross). Oh, and Mo Farah again. My NEMESIS!! Lol. Only kidding. I narrowed the gap on him this time around.
  9. Race T-shirt. We were given a race tee with our number on. But the pack also included the race bib. Did we wear the tee, or the bib, or both?

2015 – Vitality Have a Go

  1. It cost £50. Yes, you read that right, £50. For a 10K. Insane.
  2. The route, due to work on the Cycle Super Highway (scene of daily meltdowns as I watch cyclists ignore all the road signs and lights), was now more in the west end, going up Lower Regent Street and along the Strand.
  3. The Bibs were either red or blue. There were no waves. It was a free for all.
  4. Walkers from the start, because of 3, meaning you could barely run at all until you got past them.
  5. Massively over-sold and over-subscribed. 15,000 runners made it too crammed.
  6. The bag drop on the way in seemed fine. Bag drop on the way back was a comedy act. The Alpha Female Troll, faced with thousands of runners wanting to get home, started looking down at the sea of bags and then randomly called out numbers she was seeing.
  7. There was only water, no Lucozade, no bananas, no granola bars, no gels, no goodie bag, nothing you get at the London BUPA 10K, probably my favourite UK race and this was how much more? You get more at a fifteen quid park race with 200 people.
  8. No loos on route
  9. There were no corrals based on expected time. And goodness knows how some people got around, I caught up with a herd at 9KM who were walking so slow and looked like they had walked the whole way. No way on earth was that legit. At least getting corrals based on expected time would take away the painful weaving process needed to get to the end. You could never get a good time it was so crowded and full of walkers in the middle of the road oblivious to the chaos they were causing.
  10. It was over-subscribed, possibly doubly so. 14,000 finishers? I would have halved that.

2018 – the Virgin Sports British 10K

Okay, let’s see how Virgin did.

  1. Better bag drop. Yes. Despite the rude people manning them demanding that “unless you decant your backpack into the bag provided I have been instructed to refuse to accept it.” So, I want you to be able to see my phone, wallet, Reg Grundies? No, sir. I dumped out my shorts and a tee from the backpack into the bag and left the rest in. There was no wait though, straight in and straight out.
  2. Better waves. At least there were waves this time.  But you had to be in your pen an hour before the start? Crowded pens as it was oversold again. I got in early. I sat down near the front of my pen and waited. And then they came. “You are pushing forward to the front of pen D. Do you think you are really gonna win?” My biggest concern was  unregistered runners joining. As the warm-up started a couple of guys, up to no good, started making trouble in the neighbourhood. They  had no bibs  and climbed over the barriers and joined in. They looked around but there was no policing of the pens and they ran, or at least started the race. Security issues? Dangerous much?
  3. Much smaller field. Although the numbers on bibs went up to 13 or 14 thousand, only 11,389 people finished. This is much less than last time I ran it.
  4. Still very crowded.
  5. Worse medal that Vitality. Nice ribbon though.
  6. Very good tee from Asics.
  7. Route is still crap. Too many there and backs. Should go back to the BUPA route from 2012 that went all the way along to the Tower of London.
  8. Another £50 race. Again far too expensive. £35 max.
  9. Nuun hydration as well as water. Although most people spat it out.
  10. Showers on a baking hot day. Tick.

How I did?

My times have been odd since I got injured. After 5 weeks off I came back to a 30:00 parkrun at Southwark, 5 mins off my pre-injury pace. I then ran a 1:05:00 at Ware. My time at the British, a good 10 minutes slower than normal. This one was a bit more binary…. 01:01:01. No, seriously.

The Bling

Nice ribbon, but the medal is a bit poor compared to the Vitality one.

In Summary

I must concede there have been improvements. The bag drop used to be a massive ballache but this year it was seamless. The route is still poor, but does cover a few of the sights. It could be better. Personally I wouldn’t bother with the Regent St and Strand parts. I would head along the Embankment and take in the Tower of London, and would finish on the Mall after going through Admiralty Arch. It is still too busy, too expensive, and too crowded. I did speak to a few people who liked it. They had not run the London 10K, which is a far superior race. Better crowds, better route, better medal, and cheaper too.



And did I get a photo? Not as yet.  I guess we shall see.



One Comment Add yours

  1. matttbod says:

    Think you sum it up better than I did – the route is just crap! £35 max for sure


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