Date and time: Saturday 18th December - 11am
Location: Victoria Park
Organised by: Pride Run 10k committee, endorsed by London Frontrunners
Weather: Bright and warm
Distance: 10k (duh)
Goody Bag: 6
Post After-Party: 6
The Pride Run 10k is another landmark run for the London Frontrunners. A record-giving course of 3 laps at the corner of Victoria Park where the Victoria Park Harriers call their home.
There's not a lot of training to be done for a 10k race but some HIIT training can help with speed. While I did not specifically train for the race, I feel that the treadmill workouts I do on Apple Fitness+ which feature such sprints and variety did help me in my race. This is despite the heavy cloud of woe that I anticipated a struggle from my previous race at the Vitality Big Half where suffering was endured.
My usual mode of transport to Victoria Park pre-COVID would have been to take a train to Lewisham, DLR to Westferry, hire bike to a docking station fairly close to the bag drop. This year though, with my fervor to keep on cycling (as it's just more fun, adventerous, healthy, cost-effective), I decided to cycle my usual route through Greenwich, to Rotherhithe and its tunnel, along the canal towards Mile End and eventually into the gates of Victoria Park. Whilst the pros outweigh the cons for cycling in, there was the consideration that by doing so meant my legs would be using some of its battery and also the issue taking the bike to any post-race eventualities, both of which, I will elaborate later.
I arrive at bag drop in good time, about 25-minutes to race time. I bump into familiar faces and take some time to prepare my timing chip and running accessories (water bottle - no water stops, Trekz headphones - EA approved, running belt for phone).
Making my way to the start-line, I bump into an old friend from Manchester Frontrunners. Sporting some lockdown locks, it was a nice surprise and reminder of memories past when I used to travel up to Manchester for their Cake Race (Pride run equivalent). Thomas comes down to visit and to my delight, his partner was joining in today's run. We would catch-up more at the after-race party.
And we're off! I start my Apple Watch and set on running. Making sure I don't get caught in the wind-rush. I find a comfortable pace and keep to it. Finding feet that I could follow, I coast behind their pace and observing the surrounding park and cheering crowds. I spot familiar faces of the volunteers that ensure no racers stray off course. I even cheer for them as I pass. I look at my watch and observe the pace. My ideal time would be under an hour so for 10km, my ideal pace would be 6:00/km. To my shock and awe, I am between 5:05-5:11/km pace. I double-take and see if I'm pushing too hard, too fast but I'm not. I'm actually feeling good about the pace. I keep at it, keeping in mind that I might not feel the same in the next 2 laps.
Keeping pace with a fellow London Frontrunner, I tend to follow behind as to not affect their speed but perhaps close enough for them to hear my panting and my heavy footsteps! At perhaps lap 2, I can see that their pace is dropping to around 5:11/km. I assessed myself and decided to hop onto the next pacemaker. She was an older woman and I could see her AirPods and aligned with a fellow Apple product user. As we continue plodding around the course, I mentally prepare myself for a sprint finish. I figured at 7.5-8km I would switch to a faster pace, not exactly a full lap as that would probably burn me out. Like with my pace, I used my Apple Watch metrics to keep track of the distance. At 7.5km, and the final lap, I activated Siri on my watch and demanded for my Apple Fitness Mad Beats playlist (a curate playlist of really good beating music from Apple Fitness) to push my feet into a frenzy and into a sprint. It helped me improve my cadence but sprinting felt like a farfetched dream. I did have a competitor and as we approached the final stretch, I shot off. Unfortunately, he had more juice than I and he shot off too. When we finished, I congratulated him on the sprint finish.
I was pretty happy with the result. I was aiming for under an hour and this time would even prove to be better than some of my previous Pride 10k finish times. I would go far as to say that it is my Personal Best!
The hard work was rewarded with a goody bag. A familiar looking bag for a storage company that must have been surplus from previous years. Inside was a pot of jelly beans, an apple, a biscuit and non-alcoholic beer. The exciting pieces were firstly, the Pride Run 10k 2021 medal, a foot shape, with rainbow strewn over the the metal and the band (a copy of a design that I've seen before). Secondly, a piece of cloth. One that a fellow Frontrunner joked would sit readily available at the top draw of his bedside table.
The organisation was pretty slick. If I had to compare with previous runs, this time did feel a bit dull. Probably due to COVID guidance or perhaps funding, there was no changing room at the Victoria Harrier clubhouse. And for similar reasons, there was no drinking stations, which on this warm day, would have been welcome. Finally, no bagels that I could shove into my mouth? I guess the jelly beans will have to do.
The London Frontrunners usually have a massive group photo. It didn't happen this time, either there was no time or just forgotten about, as Christos, the Secretary, seemed saddened at the race was about to start.
The after-race party was at The People's Tavern, which was about a kilometer away in the park. Drinks and food ensued for the equally ravenous and victorious. Those fortunate to buy a meal deal before it sold out, queued patiently as people got merry and let loose. As custom, Mrs Jones, our in-house drag queen presented the raffle and got the crowd to do the macarena to a variety of tempos.
One thing I enjoy about the Pride Run 10k, is it's facility to re-unite people. New runners with old runners, The recently joined with the veterans. Monday runners with Tuesday runners with Wednesday runners and so on. Social runners with competitive runners. Home runners with Away runners. I love it and that's why I come back every year.
With the struggles of a pandemic, it is warming to see that as humans, we are resilient and that we continue to strive. Pride Run 10k is another staple event that proved to me that we want to dive right back in.
At this point of time, I was playing with the idea of going to the After-afterparty at The Glory. The problem for me is that I had been drinking all afternoon and I did a race today! I was in two minds but after some deliberation, I would plough through the hesitations and embrace the celebration.
After saying goodbye to the last stragglers still drinking at The Peoples Tavern where regular punters now outnumbered runners. I set on my saddle and take a short trip to The Glory. Anchoring my bike to a lone lamppost outside, I enter the crowded venue. Immediately and time-willing, I came at a time when the Social Secretary of the club was moving bags to a safe location within the depths of The Glory. I happily hand over my heavy singular bike pannier bag.
The runners I vowed to meet at the venue are here and different people are hustling and bustling around the ground floor. Downstairs, a drag show is occurring at a premium of £12-£15. I passed. Chatting the night away, the danger close environment of the venue slowly wearing my wits away.
The show finishes and the dance floor opens. From memory, this little hole into the basement was called "The Glory Hole", not sure if it still is today. I head into the hole and the aircon down here is refreshing. There are lasers haphazardly scattered across the floor. I find friends and dance as much as my tired legs allow.
Social dancing is exercise, right? Well it's on my Apple Watch and I utilise it. Dancing until midnight, I feel tired, bloated and exhausted. A point of saturation. I decide to retire and time it for a new day of closing my rings. I ask the Social Secretary of how I can retrieve my bag and from his response, it would seem he has been asked many times as he snorts with "Yes I know! Your bags!". I find this rude but understandable. I just want to go home and in this environment, I can relate to the feeling of uneasiness. If someone asked me to do something at this time of night, I might give off the same steam.
After a bit of wait and pleading my gratitude to a unresponsive Social Secretary. I prepare my bike for the journey home. At this point, as I dodge the revelers of Liverpool Street vicinity, I wonder how wise I was to be cycling after all I have gone through.
I'm always an advocate for cycling. I can see more of London than being in a tube or train or even a bus. And this view is on normal circumstances a beautiful view from London Bridge looking over to Tower Bridge. However, this was just the first half of my journey, the second of which I found excruciating. I felt the edges of sickness as my stomach core jiggled as I cycled. At Blackheath Hill, a hard push for a cycle, which I could normally power through, I had to push my bike. Nonetheless, I made it home safe and I jumped into bed having truly seized the day for the fullest.