It isn't often that you get something for nothing, so when I first heard of the AMBA City of London Mile I was sceptical. Surely there was a catch? How can anyone offer a free race, in the centre of one of the more expensive cities in the world, that offered chip timing, medals, closed roads etc. etc? Were we going to be expected to donate an organ after crossing the finish line? Would we be subjected to three hours of hard sell that would result in me becoming the proud owner of a time share apartment in some far flung part of the globe that I have no wish to visit?
It seemed not. So I signed up. What did I have to lose? I couldn't find a timetable of the races on the website, so to be on the safe side I signed up to run two miles. One based on the time I thought I would complete in (I guestimated 7 minutes) and the other was the women's mile. That way I doubled my chances of getting there on time. And it wasn't as though it was costing me any extra!
With my tendency for arriving slightly early, I found myself at the race village before the race village had arrived! Pret still wasn't open, so I had a nose around the area, which has changed considerably since I worked in the City! One New Change offered lovely loos part of the City of London Community Toilet Scheme, it shows how early I arrived because I am now fully informed about this excellent scheme - more communities should adopt it! Having educated myself I emerged into rain, bumped into a strange man who told me, apropos of nothing at all, that he was aiming to run sub 5 mins, he then looked me up and down and told me that there was no way I'd run it in less than 8mins 30! Cheek. But not exactly a confidence builder! I collected my race numbers, grabbed a coffee and croissant at Pret and planned how I would get from the end of one race to the beginning of the next one and change my number and timing chip. I figured I had about 30mins.
After that it was the normal pre race routine, nervous wees, bag drops and warm up. We assembled 10 minutes before our start time and were walked to the start, right in front of St Paul's Cathedral. The starting gun was loud! So loud that on both occasions I was shocked into starting my Garmin on the gun. A few seconds after crossing the line I heard a quieter 'gun' - was this the echo? I tried to calculate what the sound could be reflecting from and how far away it might be - but my physics brain was not playing ball! I did make a note to listen again next time to see if it really had been an echo - not just a distant car misfiring.
The roads were slippery, but I still went off too fast. It was just a case of hanging on, and on, and on! It did seem a very long way until we got to the sign saying we were half way. It was then just a case of keeping going until the finish line. As I approached the line the clock said 6:58 and I instinctively dipped to cross the line - daft really as that put the timing chip further back. I was desperate to run faster than 6:58, but I had no time to wait and check as I had to get to the baggage check, retrieve my bag, swap my number over etc. and get back to the start. In the queue my phone chirped at me - a text with my official time! 6:54:48! A new PB. Only 4 seconds - but a PB non the less.
The women's mile had a very different atmosphere. Lots of women who were taking part in their first ever race, lots of nervous faces amongst a smattering of club vests and race t-shirts. Hopefully they all had a fantastic time. I decided to run this one for fun. While I think I could run faster than 6.54, I don't think I could do it on the same morning as I had just run 6.54! I listened out for the echo - yes, definitely there - and chatted to a few people as I ran round (and pulled silly faces for the photographers!)
As this wave wasn't based on predicted times, the start was a bit bunched up with trying to get past slower runners, but pretty soon it became a lot more spread out. I was overtaking people constantly, which was lovely. I finished 20 seconds slower (7.13.58) than the first mile and those 20 seconds made a huge difference to the way I felt! After my first mile it was all I could do to stagger to the railing, hang on and gasp for breath, snatching a brief conversation with a fellow Fetchie before ambling to the baggage tent. After the second race I was a little bit out of breath, but perfectly capable of nattering away to a lady from the Wimbledon Windmilers!
Again, my results text came through within minutes. Not only did we each get a medal we also got a goodie bag! The organisation was amazing. There really was no catch. I still have all my organs and don't own a timeshare apartment anywhere. I would definitely do this race again.
So, what's next? I seem to have signed up for a very early start next Sunday, but it isn't every day that you get to run on a runway, then on the 26th June I have the Giant's Head Marathon. After that, the diary is a little bit empty, but I am open to suggestions…. I'm also plotting fundraising ideas for The Royal Parks Half Marathon which I will be running for my favourite charity, UNICEF.