The Baton of Life 2016 Review By Jacqui Wellington
The opportunity to run round the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and refresh some amazing memories of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics was too good to miss. When I saw that it was in aid of Little Havens, something very important to fellow Flyer Chris Parker, I quickly signed up. The event was being sponsored by MUFG in memory of one of their colleagues, Andrew Corbett, who sadly died whilst running in 2011 aged just 41.
My pre-run build up started with meeting Lauren who had decided at the last minute to join us, and an obligatory tour of Westfields which, to Tony’s huge relief, was mainly just a window shopping experience! We were surprised to find that Lee Valley VeloPark is actually quite a long way from the mall (next time I need to read the information properly) and it felt like we’d already covered at least 10k by the time we got there. The heat meant we had to stop off and get some extra water as we ran out very quickly just on the walk to the starting line. We arrived at the same time as Tony and Keith who had travelled up via the dark side (whatever the other line to C2C is called!) and made our way to the Registration desk. The registration process, which was open from 5 to 6.15pm, was easy for anyone that wanted to sign up on the day and with a swift handover of cash and a bit of form filling, Lauren was officially in the run. For anyone that hadn’t already been sent one t-shirts were also on offer to either wear on the day or to take home. There were plenty of toilets available (the cleanest portaloos I’ve seen in a long time with, oh joy of joys, toilet roll!) and changing facilities were also on site.
At first there seemed to be more marshals than participants but as the start time approached the area suddenly filled up very quickly. Most people decided to wear their Baton of Life t-shirts but, in true Flyers individuality and spirit, we all decided to keep our orange Flyers tops on. We were soon joined by Chris and also Mike and Ann Hepworth who are new to the Flyers having recently moved to Southend. Mike was going to be running and Ann took on the role of our fantastic Flyers support crew and photographer. In all there were about 240 runners that turned up even though there could have been a potential 350+.
Unusually for me I wasn’t at all nervous about this run as it was all so friendly and we benefitted from the usual great Havens organisation from Judy Grocott and Emma Beardsell. This meant I didn’t have any last minute toilet panics and even if I had, there weren’t any queues for the plentiful loos anyway! As the park is used by the public we were to start in groups of approximately 30 every 15 seconds or so to avoid congestion; we decided to be the last group. So with our numbers ‘on the front’ and a resounding “Have a good run” from Chris, we were off. Chris quickly became a speck in the distance and initially the rest of us were together. Mike started to pull away and Lauren settled into her pace, so that was me, Tony and Keith running together. The route took us through the fabulous park which is full of intentional wild planting (not overgrown weeds Tony!) – Great for those that love gardening but not so good for those with hay fever. The course was 2 laps and included, gulp, hills. As I really hadn’t taken any notice of the route shown on the information email (did I mention that I must start looking at these??) I thought it was going to be relatively flat but very shortly into the run we heard a “Go Flyers”. When looking up I saw Chris high above us and that was the moment when it sunk in; there were going to be hills…
There were marshals at every possible corner made up of staff from Havens and MUFG. In true Flyers fashion we made sure that at least one of us thanked them each time we passed them which sadly, was not something I heard many other runners doing. Clearly we have the right idea as there wouldn’t be a run without the volunteers – hopefully our etiquette and genuine gratitude will rub off on other runners for future events they take part in.
There were lots of loops and turns throughout the park and there were at least fifteen hills on each lap (ok, it was probably just two but as I dislike them so much I generally try to erase them from my memory!) The oppressive heat made the course quite a challenge and Tony had started to drop back a bit, but with Keith pulling me along on the flats and him using my (ultra speedy) slip stream to power up the hills we were soon catching Mike up. My ankle was holding up well despite stupidly tweaking it the week before but once we were alongside Mike I decided not to push any harder as the heat was making things rather difficult, despite there being water on hand provided by the Baton of Life team. I was surprised to see the finish line appear so quickly and almost wished it was a 10k as I was enjoying the run so much, honest! The course was actually a little short but our times were a very respectable 27.29 for me, 27.34 for Mike and 27.39 for Keith, quickly followed by Tony with 28.16. Chris had stormed in with a time of 23.30 and, as he was the only one capable at that point, looped back to escort Lauren to the finish line with a time of 41.14. Trophies were awarded to the fastest runners by ex-West Ham player Geoff Pike. The fastest male came in with a time of 16.30 and the fastest female with 15.56 (#thisgirlcan)!
Afterwards our happy team made our way to the nearest pub for a well-deserved drink. Me, Lauren and Ann and Mike stayed on for something to eat while Tony, Keith and Chris sadly had to return home, but the meal was a great opportunity to get to know Ann and Mike a little better and welcome them to the Flyers.
Things I have learnt from the Baton of Life run:
· Read the information beforehand.
· Beware of hills – if Keith’s there, the hills will be there!
· The Havens team are a friendly group of people who couldn’t do enough for us.
· If I’m going to write a run report, take more notice of the course and what’s going on around me!
· It was really enjoyable and I would definitely do it all again.
· I love meeting new Flyers.
· Running with a smaller group of Flyers is a really nice experience (although it would be great if more could do it next year and maybe combine with a picnic if the weather is fine).
· Clean portaloos with toilet roll do exist!
Put this in your diaries for next year folks – it’s a good one!