Sunday July 22nd, 2018
I decided to do something a little different on my latest run and entered into a ‘flexible’ running event. There are a few of these advertised run by various companies and to be honest I’ve never really thought of them as proper races and therefore never bothered with them before. But I really fancied joining a race/run and there was not much else on at ½ marathon distance that I fancied and was convenient (was in Portsmouth at my parents for the weekend).
The basics of this type of run are that you have to a set time limit, in this case 7 hour, to run as few or as many laps as you like of a set 5k route. This means that it caters for everyone with all sorts of abilities, do just one lap and you get your medal and goody bag and as it’s not a race as such you can take as long as you want to do it.
This particular run was organised by Saturn Running (https://www.saturnrunning.co.uk/). Saturn running are a family run company who were set up in 2017 and their aim was to provide an event for all abilities and ages. They run a number of events and each one has a specific theme, this one was the Goblin, or “Go Bling” King (David Bowie) from Labyrinth. Other events they have held are Star Wars, Runners (Raiders) of the Lost Ark and even a Royal Wedding themed one. I think the next one coming up is themed around He-Man. All the events are distance certified and approved by the 100 marathon club. They are held under the UK and England Athletics rules and have been granted permits by the Trail Running Association. The run was based next to the Thames in Reading.
I arrived around 8:30, parking was on the road next to the park alongside the river. The run itself started and finished next to a multi-water sports centre and Saturn Running had a gazebo set-up to hand out numbers and to provide a support station. I think there were between 70 and 100 of us to taking part. Everyone was really chatty and friendly, almost like turning up to a Sunday club run. A couple of blankets had been provided next to the gazebo where we could leave any baggage. The station was manned the whole time so security wasn’t a problem. I then that the table was filled with goodies to keep us going with; sweets, fruit, flapjacks, biscuits, bottles of water or cups of fizzy drinks (and it kept getting topped up throughout the day). Looked that good I almost didn’t bother with the race lol
As it was so hot, the organisers had managed to sort out a large bucket of cold water and sponges so we could cool off as best we could between the laps. There was even large tubs of sun cream, vaseline and bio freeze gel (if anyone had any niggles) for everyone to help themselves.
We all set off together at 9:30 the route was pretty straight forward, but on the first couple of laps there were marshals out at key points to make sure we didn’t get lost. The route is not closed so as the day wore on it did get a little busy as it’s a really lovely walk along the river and the turning point has a café next to a lock and gets lots of visitors. The first part is on grass through a park area, then you turn onto a gravel track which runs alongside Thames. Once at the lock, it’s back on yourself along the path and a different route around the park area back to the start. This is where your lap finished and you were given a wrist band each time you reached this point so that they could keep track of how many laps you had completed. 4 laps = half marathons, 8 laps = full marathon 9+ laps = ultra. Once you had had enough, you rang a bell at the aid station and your time and distance were recorded.
Only wanting to complete a half marathon I went off at my normal speed and got through the 4 laps fairly quickly and as it was really warm I couldn’t really manage any more. When I do another of these events I will take it at a more leisurely pace and see how many laps I can do as opposed to what time I get and make the most of the event. One thing that really stood out was again how friendly and supportive the others runners were whilst out on your lap. I lost track of the amount of ‘well done’, ‘keep going’ and other comments as we passed one another. Some of the other runners were stopping after each of their laps, helping themselves to a few bits off of the food/drink station, having a chat and a short break before setting off again making the whole a more relaxing event. Don’t get me wrong there are still the real speedy ones out there, just as I was leaving the first of the marathon runners came in at just over 3 hours.
Another good thing about this run was that the organisers had come to an arrangement with the water sports centre so that we could use their facilities including showers free of charge. They also had a small café, I do like my cup of tea once I’ve finished ;-) Toilet facilities were both in the water sports centre (start/finish area) but we were also allowed to use the toilets in the café next to the lock at the turn-around point if we needed, so unlike other runs you were never caught short.
At the finish you received a substantial medal in a design that matches up to the particular events theme. So mine has the Goblin King on it. If you managed one of the major distances you also get a pin badge attached the lanyard stating which distance you completed. There was also a goody bag filled with more sweets, chocolate, crisps and a fizzy drink all the stuff that you fancy (as if you hadn’t had enough at the aid station lol).
Not so good Points
This event was everything that I normally dislike; hot, on grass and gravel track, laps and cost more than my normal runs. But, I have to say I loved every minute of it. The whole event is just so relaxed, the organisers and everyone taking part are so friendly and encouraging and it’s set a beautiful location. It’s definitely opened my eyes to different events and I’ll certainly be back to do another one!!