As usual it was pouring down with rain at 7am this morning. No worries I thought - the race isn't scheduled to start until 10am. However, when the rain got heavier at 9am I gave serious consideration to driving to the start. But it began to ease, and much to my surprise had actually stopped when I ventured out at 9:20.
The start location had been given as "Luton Hoo Hotel, Warren Weir" which I was able to determine in advance (thanks Google) was actually on the far side of Luton Hoo on the banks of the River Lea. It was therefore but a flat three-mile easy jog away via the Upper Lea Valley Walk.
When I got to Warren Weir, Luton Hoo's posh new conference centre, there were lots of people milling around outside. I'd say about 60% were women (so Niall, that will be 40% men) and around 1% were runners, no make that 0.5% runners. I paid up my ten quid entry fee and picked up my surprisingly good quality cotton Adidas race T-shirt.
The start was delayed for about 20 minutes while we waited for Esther Rantzen, who gave a short speech, and then we headed off. There was no start line and no countdown. The initial direction of the route wasn't even obvious - someone started running and everyone else followed! A short section of gravel road quickly turned to footpath and then tyre tracks through long grass - not easy by any means. The 'runners' there quickly moved to the front: two ahead and three or four more in my general vicinity.
After a couple of hard miles we finally turned onto a tarmac road - oh the relief. However, the joy was short lived as with heavy legs we then started on the half-mile climb to the top of the estate. There was a fair bit of overtaking on the way up as we all suffered. However, I emerged at the top in 4th, having been overtaken halfway up by a very strong running lady.
Once back on the flat everyone's pace went up and the gaps remained constant. I couldn't sense anyone close behind which meant two of my companions from the first couple of miles must have slowed. Three and half miles in and the guy in front of me blew. Speaking to him later he explained he was a triathlete and never runs more than 5K - his legs simply gave up! The final half-mile was down hill - but gravity was everyone's friend so I was only able to gain slightly on the lady in front.
So I finished third having completed the four and a half miles (yeah I know 5K - apparently we went the wrong way!) at an average of 7 minutes per mile. The second mile through long grass had taken 7:15 while the following, which included the hill, took an agonising 8 minutes.
This was clearly a charity fun run rather than a serious race. However, it was still a hard, enjoyable workout. Everyone was very friendly and it was touching that most people were running not because they were dead hard athletes with something to prove but because their lives had been touched by someone who's life had been cruelly cut short.
You can read Karen's story here.