May's racing delights, including our very own Watchless 5
Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2022 – Saturday 7 May 2022
By Sam Heady
Back in 2019 Richard and I, together with some friends, booked to take part in the 2020 Rat Race Dirty Weekend. But then, like so many events, the race was postponed due to Covid. So, three years and two virtual Dirty Weekends later we made it!
Our team consisted of Richard and myself, some university friends, some school friends and a few friends of friends – in total there were eight of us plus around 4,500 others ready to tackle the 20 miles and 200 obstacles that made up the ‘World’s biggest obstacle race’ on Saturday 7 May 2022.
And what a day it was. Thankfully the sun made an appearance so although soaked through for most of it, thanks to all the water obstacles, we didn’t get too cold.
Burghley House was the backdrop for the race and the undulating course included a lake swim and numerous water obstacles, including a seven-metre jump into somewhat murky water. I might add I was lucky not to be knocked out here, as somehow Richard landed on me in the water, but alas I was fine to continue the race.
The day saw us wading through (quite frankly stinking) ponds up to our shoulders, climbing scaffolding, wooden and tyre structures and making our way across wooden villages of obstacles. We climbed, shuffled, hopped, swam, swung and tunnelled our way around the course. Some obstacles were so big we needed to work as a team to get over them, most were fun, nearly all were challenging and some were utterly terrifying. Think heights, small spaces, dark tunnels and deep cold water.
Richard deserves a special mention here for completing 150 metres of monkey bars. As far as we know this is the longest set of monkey bars in the world, and it was his personal mission to complete the lot. We could see his exhaustion when he had about 20 metres to go, but collective cheering and screeches of encouragement on our part and grim determination on his part saw him swing his way to the very end. Massive well done to Richard!
Our team stuck together and we made it to the final obstacles after about six and a half hours. All of us found some of the final miles gruelling. Tired legs from the miles, and general fatigue from the physical challenge meant each of us had to pull on some inner strength reserves (and a few jelly babies and gels) to get us through the last few miles. The crowds were cheering as we tackled the penultimate obstacle – the travellator, to mixed success. Then it was one final huge climb to the top of an inflatable slide, all the way to the finish.
A decent level of running fitness was needed for this event, but it was a pleasure to take part in a race that was so much more than ‘a race’. The finish line was what we all wanted, much less important was the finish time.
Sadly, this was the last ever Dirty Weekend, so we cannot revisit it, which is a shame because I think nearly all our team would have signed up again, and I’m sure we could have convinced a few LFRs to join us!!!?? But there are similar events around, so if you like the sound of this I would definitely encourage you to have a go, it was so much fun and a genuine challenge, completely different to a typical running race.
Battersea Park Half – Saturday 14 May 2022
By Nolan Johnson
This was a bit of a last-minute decision. I love the half-marathon distance and as the Milton Keynes NSPCC Half had been postponed until next year, I really fancied a final race before my marathon training starts in June. Plus, running has been a fantastic avoidance strategy to prevent me from doing university work, and I had a lot to do!
For those who have never come across them, RunThrough host a series of races throughout the year at locations all over the UK. In London, they host races in the likes of Victoria Park, Regents Park, the Olympic Park, Hyde Park and Battersea Park. The races are fairly reasonably priced, although I noted an approximate £5 increase to £30 on this event. RunThrough events are very well organised, the volunteers are super friendly and its founder Mark can often be seen walking around the course with his huge smile cheering everyone on. The capacity for this event was 500 runners.
I really enjoyed the race. It’s a very simple flat course of approximately eight laps. There was a huge warm up although I always seemed to be out of sync with the others and ended up looking like a confused toddler dancing on their own at a birthday party trying to mimic others moves!
There were water stops and there was also a choir banging out a bit of Whitney Houston en route! It was a very warm and sunny day, but a lot of the course is in the shade. However, after 17km I struggled and my pace dropped, finishing in a reasonable 1hr 52. I'm still chasing a half marathon PB from three years ago, so when the time is right, I think I'll take myself off to Battersea again!
Buckingham half – Sunday 15 May 2022
By Will Langdon
Five LFRs headed to the Buckingham for what someone had informed Paul Thomas was a flat half marathon race. Someone lied.
After Saturday's bright sunshine we were wary of an unpleasantly hot run, but that wasn't to be and anyone still on the course after two hours was caught in a downpour.
Chairman Andy Heale led the LFR pack in, followed by Will Langdon and Dan Lovelock then a soggy Paul Thomas and Dawn Kennedy completed the course.
This is a brilliant local event put on by Buckingham and Stowe running club, the Marshalls were all encouraging and friendly all the way around.
The Watchless 5 – Sunday 22 May 2022
By Liz Webster
Sunday 22 May was a gorgeously warm and sunny morning – some might have argued too warm – for this year’s iteration of the Watchless 5. The course went out for 2.5 miles – over parts of LB that I certainly didn’t know existed before – until you got to Dougie, ensconced in trees at the halfway mark, and then 2.5 miles (thankfully downhill) back to the start.
For this first-timer, the Watchless 5 is what LFR does best: a really fun event with loads of support, incredible volunteers and CAKE! As usual, there was a huge mix of people taking part, from social runners to those mad people running the route in under 40 minutes. Julia Gallie started us off at 9.52am, with Jim Buttleman the final runner to take to the route at 10.22am. I only know of one person doing a bush wee who missed their start time, but there may have been others…!
The 2022 Watchless 5 was won by Janet Langdon, an incredible two seconds off her estimated time. AMAZING! In fact, the top five places were all within 10 seconds; what incredible pacing from everyone. Kyra Michael picked up this year’s Wooden Spoon. Sadly, I didn’t keep the Webster flag flying this year – sorry Tom.
As well as doing super work on the start line, it was also James Smith’s 50th birthday, which led to him being presented with a Colin the Caterpillar and a rousing LFR Happy Birthday to the bemusement of a couple of people who had just come around the corner walking their dog.
Thanks to everyone who ran and volunteered this year for making it such a fantastic event.
Pick ‘n’ Mix – Sunday 29 May 2022
By John Kirwin
Pick ‘n’ Mix is an LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) event that allows runners to enter. Starting from a school in the lovely village of Great Missenden, they offer a choice of loops starting and finishing at the school. This year on offer was 1 x 12 miles, 3 x 8 miles, 1 x 6 miles and 1 x 5 miles and you can do as many loops as you want in the 10-hour time limit.
I set off just before 8.00am with four ex-LFRs, Verity, Marianne, Paul D and Mark B. The loops are not marked and navigation is done by following a route instruction narrative sheet, which can make for some interesting debate in the middle of sections of unknown woods!
I had last done this event in 2018 and so some of us had my Strava GPX on our watches, hoping the loops would be the same. What could go wrong?! We shot out of the school, taking selfies as we ran, only to realise after a few hundred metres we had already gone wrong… Making our way back to the start we ran the gauntlet of smiles from the walkers, who are used to runners charging past and then heading back as they try to find the route.
We did the 12-mile loop first, the most scenic, hilliest and a lovely run, after which Verity left as she only wanted a short run. Next up we picked the Blue eight miler and the four of us made steady progress with just a couple of head scratching moments out on the trails. I showed Marianne how to use a compass on this loop as the instructions contain a number of compass bearings to follow.
Pleased she could now ‘put the red in the shed’, she took over navigation and guided us back to the school for the second time. Here we said goodbye to Marianne and Mark, as 20 miles was enough for them. Doyley and I were after marathon distance so our day was not over yet.
One of the charms of an LDWA event is the cakes, sandwiches and hot drinks available at the checkpoints and we certainly got our money’s worth out of the £9 entry fee before heading out for loop three, the six miler.
The legs were feeling it now and the final leg was a matter of grinding it out. We teamed up with a couple of 100 marathon club runners that I knew and we ran as a four to finish on 27 miles.
As we enjoyed the post-race buffet and collected our certificates and badges, we saw Carrie T and Debbie R from LFR, who had walked the 12-mile loop with another friend and Glyn Raymen who had just completed the 12 miler twice and was heading out to make it 30 miles for the day. I cannot recommend this event enough, it’s a low key, social run or walk, with lovely views and a bargain entry fee.
And finally, because we embrace all sports at LFR, especially those that involve Strava and cake, time for something a little different as some of our members, including Captain Emily, swapped running shoes for clipless pedals as they took on a very special century…
Ride London 2022 – Sunday 29 May 2022
By Emily McClelland
The last time Ride London took place, in August 2019 it was on the Surrey route, but 2022 saw the iconic cycling event take place on a new route out to Essex and back with over 20,000 riders taking part, two of which were little old LFRs! This event was particularly important for Michelle as, if she completed it, it would mean she would complete the London Classics.
What are the London Classics I hear you say?! This includes completing the three major London events – The London Marathon, Swim Serpentine (2 miles) and Ride London (100 miles). Though I would like to point out that this year’s ride was in fact 102 miles!!!
Race day, Sunday 29 May we arrived in London via super taxi Dougie by 7:30am, it was cold but sunny. It took us the best part of two hours to get to the start line as we queued up with many (a scary number) other riders.
By the time we reached the start we were cold from waiting in the shade and feeling the wind blow down the streets... and then we were off, filled with a few nerves and plenty of excitement. It took 15 miles to get out of London winding our way by Canary Wharf, Bow, Stratford, Hackney Wick including some interesting sections on the A12 with a few tunnels before we reached Epping Forest.
From here we got onto some nice rolling Essex roads, snaking through woodland, farm fields and picturesque villages. The wind was somewhat stronger than we would have liked and the rain showers were not appreciated! The miles slipped on by with Michelle and I passing each other, I'd overtake her on the ups and she'd fly past me on the downs. At Great Dunmow the route started to loop back and then we stopped at the mile 53 welfare stop, grabbing some snacks and a water refill but not hanging around as we were getting too cold.
The next 49 miles actually went pretty well, both fuelling with tailwind for the duration, the sun making a very welcome appearance. Cycling back through Chipping Ongar and Chigwell the support from the crowds was awesome. Joining back on the A12 the wind battered my nerves a bit, slightly lightened by the singing pubgoers in Hackney Wick. The final tunnel had the riders whooping making echo sounds before we had to contend with a very naughty steep hill coming out at mile 95, happy to say that both Michelle and I cycled it, whilst many others opted to walk the bike up it. Six miles later we swung around a corner to a big "Go LFR" shout and there was a happy cheering Dougie, and around the next corner was the finish line, AKA Tower Bridge.
Over the line, a big relief, a bigger hug for each other and an even bigger smile! We did it, our longest bike ride, Ride London done and in the bag, and for Michelle... London Classics, completed it mate!