Four years ago I was wandering around the Olympic Park in awe watching Paralympic athletes from around the world compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. I have always wanted to go back to the site since and see how it has changed/developed. Working in the Sports Development profession has meant I have been curious as to how the Olympic legacy has been maintained within the area and what steps have been taken to avoid the park becoming a 'white elephant'. Despite my curiosity I never thought my return would actually see me running around the park, let alone finishing inside the Olympic Stadium itself.
I was able to take part in the Great Newham Run 10k after my friend won two places in the race - bonus! A weekend in London beckoned and needless to say I was excited to be heading back to the Olympic Park. Race day was beautiful, and after a pretty poor night's sleep in a hotel with especially noisy guests, the bright sunshine was a welcome wake up. Walking to the Olympic Park was like a trip down memory lane as I remembered taking the same route back in 2012. The Orbit structure looked slightly less red, and the footpaths were less packed with people, but aside from that the stadium was as impressive as ever. As my friend and I went through the usual pre-race procedures of toilet trips and bag drops it was apparent that it was quickly becoming very, very warm. Stood in the start area my skin was burning and I was sweating already just from standing. The man on the tannoy was repeatedly warning us about the weather and the need to not go for a PB, but I had already lowered my expectations. Regardless of my time I knew I was going to finish the race happy - how could you not when crossing that infamous finish line?
I tried to start the race steady, aiming for a stronger finish, but the downhill beginning meant I did get a little carried away and nearly managed the first kilometer running alongside my faster friend. I reined in my pace though as the hills started to appear and the heat started to hit. The course was unexpectedly hilly as we weaved through the park, taking in the old athlete's village, the velodrome and various other structures. The hills were not good news for my quads which were very sore from a 14 mile marathon training run on Friday and a parkrun on Saturday. In an ideal world I would have been rested for this race, but my Berlin Marathon training needs to take priority, so I had to accept I was not in peak race condition. The heat was a killer too, I even poured water from the drinks station over my head and back in an very un-glamorous attempt to cool down.
After 5k mark was reached I fully accepted that this was not going to be a good run time wise. People around me were walking already and I was simply determined to run the entire way and hit the track with some speed at the end. The final sections of the route led us into the edge of the stadium, taking in the walkway the Olympic and Paralympic athletes would have used to enter the arena for the 2012 Games. As we ran through here and the BBC's Olympic theme tune music played over speakers I had goosebumps thinking about how the athletes would have felt four years ago. This spurred me on and as we briefly exited the stadium and then made our way back to the track I exerted some pace from my struggling quads. We completed the final 300m on the Olympic track which was simply surreal and a truly wonderful ending.
My time was 53.58 - by no means a PB and nothing like what I would like to be running. However in the conditions I was happy and had enjoyed the race greatly. My friend and I had both ran almost exactly two minutes slower than our 10k times at the Nottingham Women's Running 10k the week before, which gives you an indication of the difference in both course and weather conditions. My quads were so sore upon finishing that climbing the stairs to enter the stadium and spectate the rest of the race was a painful process, almost like I had ran a marathon! It was worth it though to see the joy on everyone's face at crossing the finish line - I am not sure I have seen a race where everyone finishing is as happy - a testament to the event.
Nearly 15,000 people took part in the Great Newham Run, enjoying the Olympic Park and making use of the wonderful stadium. Residents of the Newham borough was also encouraged to take part and had special bibs to show they were local to the area. The Great Newham Run gave me a small insight into the Olympic legacy happening in the park and immediate area, and I was very pleased with what I saw. I hope everyone who took part had as much of a memorable experience as I had and is inspired to keep at this addictive activity we call running.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...