I had been really looking forward to The National Lottery Anniversary Run, having never been to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before I was excited to have a snoop around! I also had a nagging desire to avenge (never undramatic) the disappointing race experience I had at Crystal Palace a couple of weeks ago - get my racing mojo back so to speak!
The route of this race was the main attraction, looping around the rolling parkland past some of the icons of the Olympics - Copper Box Arena, Velodrome and London Aquatics Centre - there was always something to anticipate during the five mile jaunt. Even though the park is now open to the public running a race there felt like a real privilege, like I was participating in something really special! And, as I had never been to the park before, it was the perfect introductory tour!
Even before I headed out on to the course I was acutely aware that this was going to be a hot one - the short shorts where out and I'd been hydrating manically for days. I wanted to feel the best I could in the soaring temperatures. Jigging about on the start line, waiting for Sir Chris Hoy to sound the start horn, I kept in my mind that this was not a time to push my luck and get carried away!
Out on the course I felt good. Yes it was hot, but my preparation had paid off and my head was in the right place - it was hard but it wasn't a struggle. Also, I was listening to the fabulous Chrissie Wellington's book, and I dare anyone not to be inspired by that amazing woman!
Pushing through the miles (and can I say, having always run races in kilometres, mile markers feel very far apart!) I paid no attention to pace, instead I focused on Chrissie's story and occasionally cursed the steep ramps that climbed on to the various bridges dotted across the course (I have a habit of entering 'flat' races that are dotted with bridges!).
Ramps aside, this was a race that flowed, there were no bottlenecks, no dodgy bits of pathway, relief came at just the right points - it was exactly what I needed to make me feel good about racing again. It was pretty perfect.
I spent so much of this race in my own zone that it took me by surprise to see a sign declaring there were 300 meters to go. Popping out my headphones I heard the sound of crowds cheering - recordings from the 2012 Olympics were being played - and I was consumed by atmosphere, even though there were no crowds.
Digging deep up the final slope, I passed the 100 meters to go marker and broke in to a sprint. Technically speaking I shouldn't really have done that...it probably isn't smart to sprint the end of a race when it is really really hot, but it felt so good! It also felt really good to cross the line in 44:30 and to be spritzed in the face by a nice man with a plant spray!
The National Lottery Anniversary Run is one of those great races that is well organised without being over the top. There were all the touches that you get with a 'big race' - professional organisation, a celeb starter, a rather lovely medal and a goodie bag - but none of the stress or waiting around! I will definitely be signing up for the race next year, and I can't wait to cross the finish line inside the Olympic Stadium!