Harry Hawkes 10 2016 by Rob Willin

It was a gloomy overcast start but I had optimistically packed my sun hat.  Mike and Angela Duff picked me up on Ealing Green and after a different route to Thames Ditton (don't always rely on Sat Navs) we got to the race village in good time.  The Harry Hawkes 10 is small with only 700 entrants so the village on the Green outside the cricket club was compact and low key, parking was easy although we used the second car park.  We beat the rush so queues for loos and number pick up were short, but it never got out of hand.  It all worked well with the numbers and so the venue never felt crowded.

With about 30 minutes to go I stripped down to running kit and started the gentle warmup to get flexible (but really to not get cold). At that moment there was the odd touch of sun so I needn't have worried.  Bags dropped (a self service arrangement that worked due to the small numbers), running plans discussed with the few Eagles and others including Martin White and Lydia, we wandered over to the start line for the official warmup.  I had just had my energy gel so was prepared.  At 9:30 we were off and it only took me 6 seconds to get over the line.  There was the inevitable bunching at the start but no real problems due to the low numbers.  I was aiming for about 7 minute miles and kept it at that pace through out.  I kept pace with Mike to start with but then watched him slowly pull away, but this was for me a fast run and not a race (honest guv!).  Angela had a different strategy and so started right at the back aiming to keep an 11 minute pace throughout as for her it was also a training run. 

The first mile or 2 was a loop around the Thames Ditton woods.  This was rather pleasant and the cross country training helped, fortunately it had dried during the previous week so it was not the mud bath that it might have been.  The pack had started to stretch out so although there were lots of runners around it wasn't too crowded.  Then back past the start and on into Kingston on the south side of the Thames, I was happy with my pace and I did not overtake many or get overtaken.  Meanwhile at the back others were obviously starting to tire (obviously starting too fast) and Angela with a steady pace was reeling them in.

Through Kingston town centre and over Kingston bridge, the run up onto the bridge seemed like a semi serious hill (undulation in EHM speak), so it was time to break out the secret weapon.  But disaster, I couldn't open the pocket zip on my shorts.  It is not easy to run at pace and fiddle with a zip on your shorts, good job Mr Yabsley wasn't there as he would have been yelling "ARMS".  A quick slurp of water at the next water station on the North side of the Thames and another fiddle with the zip and finally I could reach my wine gums.  The packet had already been opened (previously cut carefully with scissors so it wouldn't rip) and I managed to retrieve a couple for an energy boost.  This faffing about probably cost me about 10 seconds on that 5th mile, but it seemed to have some effect as I started to reel in the odd runner as we ran past Hampton Court Palace.  Back across the Thames at Hampton Court and down the A309, the speed limit said I could now do 40 mph, although that was a tad unrealistic, my pace was not dropping fueled by a few more wine gums and I was reeling in more runners that were slowing down.  My legs were starting to ache but otherwise I did not seem to be tiring.

We turned off the A309 and onto the side streets.  We weaved through these back streets and if it hadn't been for the runners in front, the signs and all the wonderful marshals, I would have been lost.  I finally recognised the bits of the Thames Ditton woods where we had run before.  The trails were not any muddier, it was easier with fewer people around and it is nice running through the woods with a bit of sun. I was on the home straight, down the final bit of road and then finishing off with half a lap of a cricket pitch (complete with players).  A cricket pitch is a big obstacle to get round and I am glad that they weren't hitting any sixes that day.  I had my final runner in sight but although he was slowing he was just too far ahead (if only there had been another 200m), I crossed the line with 1:10:39 on the clock.

So job done target of roughly 7 minute miles over 10 miles reached.  I got another big gong of a medal, I did ask the lady cutting the timing chips of the shoes whether she could do my toe nails at the same time, but that would have been an extra.  The banana and water were rapidly consumed.  I met up with Mike who finished just 80 seconds ahead of me with a PB of 1:09:21 (1:09:16 chip) and we sat and waited for Angela to cross the line.  I even managed to get all the stretches and stuff done whilst waiting and watching the other runners come in.  Then along came Angela with a time of 1:50:23 (1:49:36 chip) so perfect timing for 11 minute miles.  Although Angela did confess to a fast couple of miles at the end, but you are allowed a fast finish to overtake some rivals!

At the same time they were announcing the prizes and I almost got the fastest 55+ ladies prize but they realised the mistake (must have ticked the wrong box on the form or something).  We also met up with Dave Carlin who was running with a friend who was running gently at the back and swapped tales of the slow runners, especially one lady with a really odd arm action who just so happened to cross the line at that point.  Unfortunately we did not spot any more Eagles.

In conclusion, it is a great low key race but there were some quite fast runners from other local clubs there (fastest times being about 55 minutes).  The route is quite scenic in places and the marshals were very helpful and friendly