Race Review – The London Revolutions Trail Marathon

Advertised by this mob (honestly they get everywhere) this weekend I took part in the new Threshold event, after completing King and Stones in 2016, and Tower in 2018, the London Revolution trails marathon and ultra.

I was pissed off from the start. I may look back and rate completing the Threshold series of Race to the King, Stones and Tower as a highlight in my running life, but there is always something fundamentally wrong with the organisation that pisses me off at the time, be it no photographer at the Stones at Stones, or at the finish of either Stones or halfway at King, or them totally arsing up the tees and hoodies at Tower, and losing all the website orders. Their communication is always dreadful. They may charge you over £100 a race, and blanket bomb you with glossy emails, but when you actually need an answer for one of your own questions? The money grabbing swine are nowhere to be found.

For this race it was a couple of things from the off, well 3. 1. Active.com. They still use them and so you need to ask to pay a different way to stop your banking info being sold around the dark web. 2. No merchandise, even when it was ordered months ago. 3. No communication. I mentioned it during the other races I think, Threshold are notorious for taking your money and not replying to any messages. I messaged about the merch (see 2) and got a blanket response. As of 10 days before the race the event tee, that I wanted to wear during the race, is nowhere to be seen.

Oh, and the website is shit. This was originally a bike race and parts of the website still refer to it being such, losing context when you are talking about running, and so you are left confused and needing to mail Threshold, only to get no response.

And, in fact, now a day after the race, they have already dismantled the 2019 pages, you can’t go on and find photo info, or even the results as they are now geared up to overselling it to everyone for 2020. But anyway… breathe…. breathe…. ommmmmmm.

6 days after a 50K PB at the rerunning of St Illtyds I found myself in Marlow with a few hundred runners and walkers about to embark on the inaugural Dulux Revolution Trails ultra/marathon(although they said it was over 27 miles in the paperwork)/half. It was in one of the fields of the rugby club, a 5 minute walk from my hotel and I was feeling ok. As the walkers had trundled off at 8.30 I knew that the course was open until 9pm so I could literally crawl it in if I wanted. Sticks dropped from last weekend, even through the first half of the race is in the Chilterns, I kept with the trusty Scott backpack with the 2 large bottles, starting with one full of water and SOS and the other a can of Lucozade. Original too, the one that would come with that shiny paper around the top of the bottle.

Bants from the MC, there were quite a few novice ultramarathon, marathon, and even trail runners, embarking on their first race of this type, but then I did see more recognized runners from the community, Adam “Tango” (the eventual winner), Daz Staley and Danny O’Reilly mingled as I focused. It was supposed to rain at some point, some said 1pm, others 3pm. That difference is quite large, I would be done by 3, but not by 1. Would I get soaked? Would I end up drenched and miserable? Would I finish on legs broken by the hills of Wales?

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance. It did rain but only for a few minutes and very lightly. It was so sunny that my comedy tan has a new layer and I resemble the Liquorice Allsort that is black, brown and white striped. I did finish. I finished so strongly that I knocked a full 25 minutes off my trail marathon personal best.

The Route

Marlow to Windsor, technically I could travel in the morning as it is an hour from me, HOWEVER, I booked a hotel just in case, and they took full payment, so I guess I am staying overnight. The route is from Marlow Rugby Club through the Chilterns, along the Thamespath as far as Windsor Racecourse.

Rather than it being abstract I have actually run parts of this before. I’ve run the Thamespath at Windsor, at Eton around Dorney lake and at Windsor itself at Beat the Boat. Just not in one lump. A lump that starts at 9.15 ON A SATURDAY! And will be shared with an ultra and a half and an army of bike riders.

How I did

This race is comically named London Trails (probably due to the bike route) but as a running race it makes no sense. It starts in Marlow in Buckinghamshire and ends in the Royal Borough of Windsor. It does not go into London.

More bloody coos

The walkers start early and then there are two runner groups. I was going off in the 9.15 “competitive” group with the aforementioned runners and we were told to look out for signs showing the way. 1500 arrows in all, if you haven’t seen an arrow for a couple of minutes you are lost.

Overcrowded: Oxford Circus station is closed temporarily more than 100 times a year

The 9.15 group headed out and along paths in Marlow. It went through the little town, crossing a bridge and then down zigzagging alleys that reminded me a lot of the original Wolfenstein 3D. You know, just without the Nazis and Robot Hitler.

Down by the river for a bit then you come to CP1 (about 6K in). Here the ultra runners slip off to do their own loop of the difference, before coming back to here and rejoining the marathon route. And here you lost most of the other runners. It went from being a nice sized gaggle (60 marathon runners) to, well, just me for much of the next 10 miles.

At times it felt that this was a private marathon. I had signposts showing me the way, I had CPs, tunes, and no one else around. The ultra runners were doing the extra loop, I had passed all the walkers from the 8.30 start already so just enjoyed the sights and sounds of London.

Scientists at Kings College London discovered that the levels and concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emitted from vehicle fumes in the Oxford Street area, were ten times higher than the recommended limit set by the European Union.

In one field the farmer drove by in his 4×4 to ask if the race was on today. Not in the habit of wearing a race bib when not running I said it was, he asked how many people would be coming through and I guestimated about 400, not knowing how many were in the 9.30 “leisurely” wave. He seemed impressed through and went on his way, leaving me to enjoy the dystopian concrete and steel skyline of the City-State Capital.

In London, the high-rises and other waterfront developments are redefining a once desolate landscape.

There were no timing mats at the CPs so really you only needed to stop at them to refuel. With the bottles I had I didn’t stop at the first 3 and made half way by 2 hour 40.

Around 59 per cent of the Thames foreshore was found to be tainted by minute particles of plastic in the annual Thames 21 survey of the tidal river from Teddington to the estuary.

It was here that my idyllic, quiet, people free, solo, green and pleasant trail marathon became a noisy, crowded mess for at noon they start a half marathon. 2 and a half hours into the hot and hilly run the half joins at the Thames path (the flat bit) and changes the whole feel of the event.

I had injured my wrist this week and started with a support. I put that away, and the cap. It was just too hot. At CP4 I saw people putting on sunscreen and it was wise. The rain was nothing more than a sprinkle. It barely cooled us down.

And the Thames path, either nice surfaces by the water, as you ran from lock to lock, or muddy trail paths a little further back became the route for the next couple of hours.

And sooner, rather than later, I could see the flags of the racecourse the other side of the river. It was clearly within reach but one of those mind jobs where you still needed to run a good 5K to get there. Up to the next bridge and back on ourselves. I was eating up the half field at this point and even saw a runner cheat and take a short cut to the bridge. For the half? Come on.

And then I was chasing down runners as cycle bods zipped by and toward the finish. I saw a guy a few hundred yards ahead. It would be close but I felt I could get him. Foot on the gas, the MC from the start started commentating on the race but the guy then woke up and clearly had been keeping plenty in the tank, and he waited until I was almost level and sprinted the last few yards to the finish. Still, I managed a 25 minute trail marathon PB, somehow. Marathon 37 toward the 100MC and 6th of the year. Goodness knows how that happened. And that sprint finish? Just look how happy I am at being beaten.

And the pics are from Pic2go, and so free (nice touch) but require you to have a Facepage account (fuck off Zuckerburg) so you need to ask someone to house the album for you, or sell your personal information to Cambridge Analytica.  Still I got to see Mike setting up before heading to half way, and it is always good to get them for free.

The Bling

It is alright. Says “inaugural” says “Dulux” nice ribbon, yeah like it.

Aftermath

There was an Old English Sheepdog at the end, ready for photos. He was a performing dog and was only allowed to perform for 4 hours a day according to the lady with him and so I joined what I through was the queue as people milled about. When the queue I was in went down I stepped forward and made a fuss, looking forward to my photo and then a group step forward to say they were next. Clearly queue management was non-existent as others stepped forward too. With a train out of Windsor booked, I said “fuck this noise” and binned the idea. Still I got a photo with the local ragamuffin ratter back in London.

Savage beastie

Scores on the Doors

Tee was £20 (if it ever arrives), virtually no support, the timing of the half was demotivating for the full and ultra runners and the dog needed an orderly queue.

As previously mentioned Threshold are shocking when it comes to bidirectional communication, they are all about themselves. At the time of writing have outstanding emails/DMs/Tweets about the results, the finish line photos and the missing tee.

Summary

As inaugural events go this was pretty well run, if you look at the logistics, the CPs, the medal, the race HQ at the start and the finish. It is what you would expect from Threshold though, who have done this for Stones, King and Tower for years. The numbers were surprisingly small though. They piggybacked on the cycle event though and so no one really knew about it. I didn’t know anyone in my core running crowd who even knew it was on. The website is a mess, most of the links are cycle related. It needs it’s own site. Communications, or lack thereof, are annoying.

Personally it was a Jekyll and Hyde race for me. Lots of good and lots of annoyances: I wore a pair of Nikes I’d only worn for a 10K before and they were not all that comfortable. I did not like the half joining us just as I passed the half way mark, especially as they missed the trickier Chilterns half. It was good to see Mike. I got a trail mara PB. I did not get a photo with the Dulux dog, the finish line photos are still nowhere, the communication is piss poor, the results are nowhere, and my legs are a bit fucked from last week. It was also over 26.2. They even say this before the race in the bunf. But it was nice when it was just me on the paths by myself.

WOULD I RUN THE LONDON TRAILS AGAIN? Yeah, probably, it will only get better. The wrinkles will get ironed out.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE LONDON TRAILS? Yeah, for those who like to be looked after, and like the other Threshold events then sure.

NEXT UP: HALF FIRE AND ICE

125KM ACROSS ICELAND

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