That’s it. Winter has arrived and the summer is definitely over. It was freezing when I arrived in Kingston upon Thames for the Thames Meander Marathon. 26.2 miles along the Thames Path through Barnes and Mortlake.
Kingston on Thames
Organised by Hermes Running, there is also a half marathon option which follows much of the same route. The sports centre was packed but I managed to register and collect my race number from Gareth (RD for the Richmond Park and Vanguard Way marathons) and set about filming bits and bobs.
Race start was right beside the Kingston parkrun site and one or two hardy souls ran the parkrun at 9am and then lined up to run the Thames Meander Marathon at 10am too. As it was, there was a short delay to the start because of a regatta being held just down the river. There were hundreds of people gathered with those huge long 8 person rowing boats, crossing the towpath to get into the water. It would have been carnage!
Thames Meander Marathon was started by a booming rocket firework at 10:15. I had not looked at the route prior to starting as I had assumed it was out and back along the river. However, although that was true, there is a little sting on the course. At the beginning, we set off heading west along the Thames past the regatta at Kingston Rowing Club. We ran around 2km before we turned and headed back past the start/finish. I had a horrible feeling that we would have to do that again on the return.
As we passed the start again, all the half marathon runners vegan their race. It was quite busy on the towpath for a while until it began to spread out. We were on our way east heading towards central London. I have run along parts of the Thames a number of times now. I’ve been at three events organised by Rik Vercoe at Phoenix Running running in different directions from Walton on Thames. I’ve done the Year End Marathon twice and a race called the Breakfast Race. I’ve also run the Thames Trot 50 mile race which goes from Oxford through Reading to Henley.
In all these races, the scenery has been similar. We have run on towpath, under bridges, through tunnels, across fields, past locks and expensive houses on the opposite bank. There have always been university students out on the river training in boats of 8 or 4 with a motor boat behind carrying a coach shouting instructions through a loud-hailer.
The Thames Meander Marathon was no exception. Although it was a rather grey day we did see some sunshine as the race went on. The river was busy as always and the trees were a wonderful mix of green, orange and yellow. I found myself running at a comfortable 5:30 per kilometre. I certainly had no intention of trying to run fast.
As I ran I interviewed a variety of runners, some of whom I know well and others I had never met before. There are always such inspiring stories. One if the first guys I spoke to was Brian. I asked him why he was here. He simply said that his mother has Alzheimer’s and is a shell of her former self. She used to come to Kingston shopping. So he thought he’d run the marathon and think of her. I thought that was such a lovely reason to run.
Things were ticking over quite nicely until the half way turn. Having run through Barnes and Mortlake, even eventually reached the turn directly opposite Craven Cottage, Fulham football ground. The ever present Donna Richards was manning the aid station there. I stopped to chat to Rhys who was running his 73rd marathon and suddenly felt all the energy drain away.
Thirty Thousand Pounds!!
I started back and met up with Gareth who organised both the Vanguard Way Marathon and the Richmond Park Marathon. He was running with Jagjit who us apparently the most famous Sikh marathon runner in the world. He has run well over 300 marathons including a marathon on every continent in the world…..all 7 of them. His next goal is to do 7 continents in 7 days. The cost is phenomenal though. I looked up the 7 continents website here. The entry price for 2017 is around £30000!
Anyway, by now I was really struggling. The Thames Meander Marathon is completely flat and the terrain was not technical at all. It was simply a case of my being unfit after the injury and having run the tough Beachy Head Marathon a week before. I am booked to run the 50 mile Wendover Woods ultra soon so hopefully the stamina will return before then!
It’s All Fake
Approaching the final couple of miles I chatted to Kets. This was his very first marathon. He had open heart surgery three years ago and he was running based on heart rate, slowing down or stopping when his HR reached 180bpm. Most normal people who have had serious heart surgery would sit on the sofa and just feel glad to be alive. This guy has taken the bull by the horns and life by the throat. Good on him.
I ran with Kets for the last few kilometres which seemed to go on forever! We had to run past the start, as suspected, out and round the little loop back to the finish. This time it took a lot longer than at the beginning and hurt a lot more! I had initially thought I might get round in four hours, but in the end it took me an hour longer than that. I also had to cross the finish line three times!! The battery in my camera died just before the end and I didn’t notice. So I got the spare out and did a fake crossing the line. Then I realised I hadn’t set the camera up correctly, so I had to go back and do it again! The shot of me finishing in the video is actually my third time crossing the line.
Thames Meander Marathon
I was quite relieved to finish and I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ the Thames Meander Marathon perhaps as much I might have if I’d done it fit and in the summer. I think this would be a glorious route in the warmth of the summer sunshine. As it was it was a little grey and blustery outside which matched the fatigue and lethargy I was feeling inside. Fortunately, Dave Ross and his team do indeed run this marathon route in the summer as well and I think I would like to come back next year and do it then. Please don’t allow my slightly downbeat report to put you off. If you want to come and do this it would be a great first marathon, a great first trail event and a splendid addition to your marathon CV.