The Thames Meander Marathon and Half have often been a “nearly ran” for me. A popular and well known event in these here parts it appeared on the race calendar as early as 2013 but an injury leading up to an aborted Berlin marathon put a stop to that. One of the seasonal runnings (they hold this event 4 times a year) gets pencilled in when I am drafting the next year’s calendar, but then it ordinarily gets replaced by something bigger, shinier, or overseas. And this is normally because, after signing up, or at least adding it to the list of possibilities, the things I do not like about the race surface and convince me otherwise: No music, a couple of water stops, and a long there and back route along the tow path that I have run loads of times. People will not mind about any of these things, but I see them as unnecessary. The route is not open to traffic, so you could allow the music. Citing UKAAF rules and arguing DQs is not needed. The route, a looooooong there and back, could involve at least some deviation.
And so this year, in a gap between a US trip and my 14th marathon or above for the year, and Hurtwood 50K and 2 further marathons in December, with no other options selected, I have decide to finally run it. So all I have this month is Thames Meander by Hermes Running. And it will be my 20th race of the year.
Note: I had signed up for the full but would be joined later in the proceedings by London running buddy Jen Morris back from the Cirque du Soliel tour of Europe and South America and now ensconced in a new show in London, and so dropped down to the half for the sake of a casual bimble. Joined too by Sarah from the UKRUNCHAT unicorns (on the marathon comeback trail) and a couple of my wider circle of running guys.
On the Way
The race starts at 10:30am, which is lovely, so a proper breakfast and a lie in is possible. It is also on a Saturday, so conceivably you could run a twofer weekend if you found something to run on the Sunday. Rather than travelling down on the day though, I decided on a hotel the night before, slap up Italian meal (including Tiramisu and Limoncello) and a fry up breakfast. Job’s a good ‘un.
Before that though was a train to Kingston, during which the most adorable little girl, maybe 3 or 4 at the outside, clapped her hands, then opened her hands out wide. Looked at her mum and then said, “rainbow clap.” It was precious. And, despite that it will probably cause endless fights, is now going to be my default type of applause.
How I did
It was horrendous! The race packs are not sent out (one negative point there). So you need to get there and queue, and collect your bibs. Despite changing rooms and toilets being available at the YMCA (the race HQ), everything happens in a marquis tent. The wind was up and the rain was torrential as we arrived. The secure bag storage was actually tarpaulin on the floor, and not all bags were on it. So I guess not all bags were secure. Or at least dry. Some of the bibs did not have baggage tags on the bottom. Some did. Mine didn’t. I had to write my number of a piece of gaffer tape and stick it around the handles. Not that it mattered. The bags were not looked after, no one checked numbers or tags.
And then we were out, huddling under trees to shelter from the rain, before being called to the start for a mandatory race briefing that you couldn’t hear anyway. A garbled 10 count and then we were off and down the tow path.
And that would be it, pretty much. A 9 and a bit kilometre run along the tow path along the riverside, mostly on the path (starting very crowded and then finally evening out). A guy even said he was feeling claustrophobic it was so busy. Me? I was just trying to manage the cold, the wind and the rain, having swapped my planned Brooklyn tee for base layer and gillet early doors.
We followed the bends in the river. Avoiding walkers, and runners, families, and cyclists. There was a major incident in the offing at one point, with RNLI boat in the water, ambulances, police cars and a fire engine. Goodness knows what was going on.
We passed under a bridge or two, around a lock or three, over some cobbles, through a army cadet manned water table and then to the turnaround point, more cadets, apparently the best Ribena ever, and a comfy plod. No mats at either turnaround. No mats other than the start finish. So opportunity for a bit of naughty course cutting in both directions.
A few of the runners around us did sport headphones. It is a dull route. I have run the tow path and the Thames path many times. There were no marshals. No timing mats at key points. It was pretty much a training run for many of the locals. I could have done with some music. But, as it was, I was running with Jen who, due to her new show, had not been running at all. And I was happy to keep her company as we headed back to the start/finish area for a fast (for me) finish.
It was the same bling for all distances just with a different ribbon.
So used to running on Sundays in a waterlogged, tired moment I spazzed out at the pub as half the race went there for a celebratory lunch.
Me – (to server) hi, there don’t seem to be any Sunday roasts on the menu. Do you have a separate Sunday Roast menu?
Server – (confused) yes, but we limit it to just Sundays
Me (initially) –
Me – (realising it was Saturday)
Had a great fish pie and a pint in the end. So all good.
Jen liked it and said that, whilst glad she dropped down to the half, she would seriously consider the full in the summer. Me? I was less enamoured with the race. I started the year at the Zurich New Years Marathon. It was 4 soul crushing loops along a muddy, puddle pocked tow path, across a bridge at 5K, then along the tow path on the other side of the river, before crossing a further bridge by the start/finish. That was so soul destroying I ended up running just one lap with almost all of the field. Here the route was better but still a long run by the river then back again. And it was one I had run a lot, having raced in Teddington and Richmond and Kingston many a time. And so I was glad I ran it, but was so slow, and so meh! about the whole race that I am now determined the next races at Hurtwood and the Bobble Hobble will be epic.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THE THAMES MEANDER? In the nicer months.
WOULD I RUN THE THAMES MEANDER AGAIN? No
NEXT UP: HURTWOOD 50K