I had not really been aware of Sport Relief this year until I saw a status update on Facebook on the Saturday afternoon from the St Albans Half-Marathon team saying that they were taking part in the Sport Relief Mile the following day, so I thought I would give that a go. When I got to the online entry page I saw that although online entries were closed you could just turn up and register on the day, and also saw that there were three options – 1 mile, 3 miles and 6 miles – so that set me wondering about what I could do. My training plan did call for a 7 mile run this weekend anyway, and it was too late in the week for me to change things around so that I could miss the Regiment Fitness bootcamp session in St Albans in the morning, so I reckoned combining the two would tick sufficient boxes. I would run down to bootcamp for 1000, get back around 1130, and set off to do my Sport Relief run at 1330, which hopefully would give me some time to recover from the morning.
The event itself was being held at Highfield Park, which is why I needed to leave at 1330 although the run itself did not start until 1430. As it happened, Highfield Park did not turn out to not be the park I thought it was, so getting there was almost my downfall. I had used Google Maps as my guide for a walking route, which indicated it was at the end of Camp Road and about 1.6 miles away. I turned off Camp Road far too early and followed cycle track signs to Highfield, wondering if deciding to take part was actually a good decision as I was hit by a rainstorm, before eventually coming to Highfield Park, fortunately right next to a map, which showed me I was in the wrong part of the park. I quickly made my way clockwise around the edge, saw some Sport Relief banners, and was able to make my way to the registration point just in time. I was supposed to be there with 30 minutes to spare, but I had left myself less than 5. Fortunately the registration process was very quick and efficient, filling in a form, paying the registration fee of £6 (to which I added a donation of £4 because I had come with a £10 note), pining on the running number, and then I was ready, although too late for the warm up.
I made my way to the starting point. We would be following the white line which had been painted on to the ground, doing two laps of the main part of the route, with a lap round a playing field at the beginning and a different route taking us through some woods at the end, the combined route taking us round this area of the park and into an area where they were planting new trees. I started my stopwatch as we set off and also activated my Strava, which then went a little haywire, asking if I wanted to save the run, even though we had only just begun, which meant I spent most of that initial lap trying to sort that out before I could really get going. We were running on grass around the playing field, and then on a dry mud track as we ran down through some trees and back up the other side of them, which brought us out into the open and over the grass of the park, going back and forth across the path which runs through it until we got to the other side and turned right on to a made up track which led into another pathway. We turned right into the woods again, weaved up and down to bring us back to where we had come into the woods and were then running out in the open, coming to an upward slope after which we turned right and reached an open part which contained a crows nest beacon. This was in the area where they were planting the trees and we weaved our way through this before running a lap of a football pitch, which brought us to the end of the first lap. I was going well, although my legs were definitely feeling heavy after the bootcamp session in the morning.
I was on my second lap but as there were no markers I did not know exactly how far we had gone. I was working on the basis that we must be at least half way, or if not then not very far from it, and at least I knew most of the route this time around. The weather had stayed sunny and overcast up to now, which was pretty much perfect, although the sight of some blacker clouds probably made me put in that little bit more effort. I was also glad I was running because the air felt cold, and the running was keeping me warm. As I came back to the tree plantation I could hear cheers as other runners presumably got to the finish. I came round the football pitch and was directed by the excellent stewards into the woods to follow this new route, which joined up with the main route for a while before taking a different turn into the woods again, waeving around until I came out into a large field beside a clubhouse, and there I could see the finish line. I still had something left in my legs so I gave it an extra push to bring me in at 51 minutes and 44 seconds. And although Strava is telling me that the course was 5 miles, I reckon it was probably somewhere between 5 and 6, because I did not cut any corners !
I was handed my medal and a bottle of water as I crossed the line, and the whole event had been very well organised, from the simple registration, to the warm up (which I sadly missed), to the very clear instructions about the route, and to the excellent and very helpful stewards and helpers who made it all possible. I thank them all for their time and support. After taking the obligatory selfie I started walking home, following the more direct route this time, and realising just how very cold it was. I was glad I had just spent the best part of the last hour running.