It had always been on my mind to run a second marathon but having missed out on the spring marathons I’d assumed that I would wait a year.
And then I came across the Richmond Running Festival, a two day event featuring a 10k, half and full marathon on September 16.
I don’t quite know what it was that got hold of me – may be it was having a decent race in the City of Norwich Half marathon; trail running around Felbrigg in the glorious sunshine last weekend, watching Mo Farah finish third in the London Marathon, or simply buying new running shoes.
But whatever it was, I made my mind up – I decided to enter a marathon this year.
If you think about it, it kind of makes sense, I’ve got myself into half marathon shape and now I can push on.
But not only that, when I trained for the Edinburgh Marathon a couple of years ago it was in the darkest winter which proved a real challenge, but now I can run in the evenings and or early mornings and in the summer.
The next question was which marathon to run?
That was quickly solved after seeing what races were available. For me if I’m going to sign up and commit to another marathon it has got to do several things – and it’s not just about the course or getting a decent time – or actually just finishing. Because of the training involved and the fact it will knock out a whole weekend there has to be something in it for the family too.
In fact, if I was going to swing the idea of a marathon with my wife then it has to be a family friendly event, and somewhere nice I can take her away too.
And one of the places she’s always wanted to visit is Hampton Court Palace.
So, I couldn’t have picked a better event – the Richmond Running Festival marathon takes you through Kew Gardens and past Hampton Court Palace itself.
“So,” I announced, “we could go on the Friday, then spend Saturday exploring the area, taking in Hampton Court Palace, and the surrounding area (actually is there a good Italian in the area as I’ll need to eat pasta on the Saturday night?).”
There was a pause – and then a nod.
Ok let’s do it, the nod said. It all proved to be a far easier sell than I was expecting, though maybe that’s because she has got the running bug herself recently.
The only fly in the ointment being that because it’s a school night we can’t stay over on the Sunday (but that’s ok I can drive back…can’t I?)
The Richmond Running Festival was set up by race director Tom Bedford and run by a small team with the support of an amazing army of volunteers, many of whom have been involved since the start in 2013. (Btw Sharp-eyed readers may recall from a previous post that there are two other Hampton Court halfs earlier in the year, both of which are totally separate and nothing to do with this event).
Jade Parker, assistant race director explained to me that there would be around 4,000 people doing the half and the full marathon, and similar numbers doing the 10k on the Saturday. There will also be 1,500 runners doing the kids’ race after the marathon ends.
In fact, anyone who can do both the 10k and then either the half or the full marathon the following day will receive a specially created “Laureus medal” inspired by the laurel wreaths bequeathed on ancient runners by the Goddess Nike (a happy sponsor co-incidence).
Was it a London Marathon thing?
With so many people both inspired and frustrated by the London Marathon (because they can never get a place through the ballot) I wondered if Richmond gets a surge of entries from London Marathon wannabes who missed out?
“The London Marathon does inspire more people, but every year we always sell out about now,” says Jade who herself ran London this year in a shade under four hours (which because of the heat was slower than the 3.45 she was going for, but still a time I can only dare dream about).
In fact, anyone looking to sign up for a public entry spot needs to get a shift on as places sell out fast though there are still spots available for charity entrants.
“Richmond was inspired by London 2012 as part of the Olympic Legacy and started the following year,” Jade explains. “The marathon starts in Kew Gardens and runs through Hampton Court Palace and finishes about a mile from the start at Old Deer Park which is where we have our big stage and bands.
“We have distances for everyone from 10km, to the half and full marathon, but it’s not just about the adults, we wanted to do something for the kids.
“It’s a lovely atmosphere and people do stay at the end. At the London Marathon, once you have finished, that’s it. We wanted to create something where you can bring your family, and there are our exhibitors and there will be bands and lots of things going on.
“Every child taking part in the mile race gets a T-shirt courtesy of sponsors Nike and a medal and there are 850 places given away free to children in local schools.”
The family will also get free entry to Kew Gardens on the day – another result as far as I’m concerned. And being September it should be nice running conditions.
“We are lucky at that time of year – it’s not too warm and the weather is nice,” says Jade. “We are lucky we haven’t had any rain yet.”
(I seriously hope I don’t bring a jinx with me).
This year the race’s headline charity is Great Ormond Street Hospital, and volunteers will be dressed in Peter Pan themed costumes in a nod to the link between the eponymous character and GOSH.
“There will be a Neverland theme, and our volunteers will be dressed as pirates or the Lost Boys, the medals will also have a gold inside, so you will get some treasure!”