This weekend saw 10,000 runners take to the streets of Westminster for the Asics London 10K. Strong Women editor Miranda Larbi explains why it was such a moving experience.
The 10k race is the embodiment of what makes our running community so bloody special. They’re entered into by people of all ages, shapes, races and genders – all with different kinds of motivations – and are a celebration of our running community. Those of us who love running and pushing ourselves hard can sometimes forget why we run; it’s not just about chasing those PBs.
No one gets into running because they love the stress of killing themselves on the road. We first get bitten by the bug after realising that running makes us feel bloody amazing and part of something bigger than ourselves.
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That’s never hit home harder than it did on Sunday, walking to the start line of the Asics London 10K. I was behind two women wearing shirts emblazoned with “I’m 80!”. God, I hope to be like them in 50 years. The group behind us, running for disadvantaged kids in Nigeria, looked as though they were at Carnival – clapping and dancing along to the warm-up music. They brought a smile to every person around them.
The incredible volunteers at the event who steel-panned, famvir einnahme DJ’d, handed out water and shouted encouragement from their loudspeakers made sure that no matter how fast people were moving, they were cocooned with support.
Cantering across Westminster Bridge and seeing the city sprawled out in the brilliant sunshine was an emotional moment – odd, considering that I run that route on a semi-regular basis. But there really is something moving about running with thousands of people who are battling the urge to melt for a good cause. We finished by Downing Street, the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere in marked contrast to the events here in recent weeks.
While marathons are definitely a humbling (and, in my opinion, spiritual) experience, this 10k hammered home the universal truth that running really is for everyone.
I’m a pretty old hand at running, with umpteen marathons (and even an ultra-marathon) under my belt. But 10k events are usually ones I avoid. The idea of running fast for the best part of an hour sounds painful. You’ve got time to settle in, make changes and zone out when you’re running a marathon, but 10k is about starting strong and keeping going.
To improve, you’ve got to do speed work, hill sprints and genuinely just get used to putting more effort in. You’re up against people smashing sub-40 minute times. It’s like the 800m at school: an unacceptably long distance to try to run fast for. So, when I was asked if I’d like to run the Asics London 10K on Sunday for Strong Women, I agreed with a degree of trepidation.
But turning up to the event on Sunday morning and meeting the gang of Strong Women readers – who united to run on behalf of the UN Women Safe Spaces campaign – immediately changed my perception. We had women of all abilities and experiences, wearing all sorts of kit. Women running in shorts, tracksuits and hijabs. Women who’d never really run before and one woman who was writing a PhD on female ultramarathoners. And everyone was dead excited to get out on the course, to see London from a different view and have their first sip of something cold and fizzy at the end.
The first time I ever ran more than 3k (a decade ago) was at the Asics Winter Run, which a group of mates decided to enter. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and my resounding memory was being amazed that it was physically possible to run so far. It seemed an extraordinary distance to cover. My second 10k was a race on the Caribbean island of Nevis a few years ago, a beautiful but quite serious race that sees runners travel from the US and, in my case, the UK, to enter. It was fast, mainly because the temperature spikes every extra minute you’re out on the course.
But after a series of injuries and after so many cancelled plans over the past couple of years, I’ve really wanted to concentrate on nailing those shorter distances. Marathons are all well and good, but so are having periods of balance and running for overall health and wellbeing. But, like loads of sporty people, I’d never enter something and not try my best, and I’ve got my own idea of what makes a ‘good’ time – so shorter and less ‘serious’ events can still be super stressful.
In the run-up to Sunday’s race, I spent about 10 days working with run coach Ania Gabb to get in a few hill sprints, some speed work and one long-ish run at an easy pace. But 10 days is barely anything in the grand scheme of things, and certainly doesn’t prepare you for surviving an hour in super-hot conditions. That first training session together saw us ‘warm up’ faster than any of the runs I’ve done this year, let alone the 10 x two-minute sprints she made me do. I can’t remember the last time I finished a session feeling quite so shell-shocked. While I’m comfortable running for an hour or more, it really hit home just what serious 10k runners do in order to be ready for race day.
But on the day (and in the scorching heat), it became less about chasing down a PB, and more to do with looking up and enjoying a 50-minute runner’s high, surrounded by the very best that our city and community can offer. And focusing on that actually meant that my time was far better than I’d imagined (especially given the heat). If anything, that’s all the proof I need that you don’t have to be glued to your Garmin to run strong.
Images: Getty/author’s own
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