On Friday, I took part in the Serpentine end of the month 5k race; finishing in the perfectly average time of 22 minutes 47 seconds – about 10 seconds faster than I had run last autumn, which was the only timed race I’ve been in since I started running again roughly a year ago.
I like the Serpentine club: it is a huge club of around 2000 people, big enough so that there are always enough volunteers to marshal, time, organise, maintain a website, etc, etc, etc. There is a steady through-flow of people, but also a core of familair faces, some of whom I recall from my very first Serpentine runs which must have been 9 or so years ago. The club is by far the largest in London and has some of the city’s personality: frantic, focussed. As a runner, you learn gratitude for the other people who give you the opportunity to run. And there is nothing bad about being left along to focus on your own race; this is something that Steve Ovett was very mindful of, when he set up his own running club in Brighton in the early 1980s – the need to give a chance for people to run by themselves. It is a solitary activity.
The club does have its critics (the 10k-er who sold me my new Brooks; put it nicely on Monday; “that’s what I like about Serpentine, you show up at an event and there will be 10 Serpie runners, and only one or two from all the other clubs taking part.”) And, if I’m honest, I’d like to know more people there. But the club has involved more people in running in London, and given more running visitors a temporary home, than anybody else could do.
I had hoped to meet a friend Ed at the race but missed him. Steve Platt (ex of the New Statesman) was running; but although we’ve spoken online, I’ve never spoken to him in the flesh. Hopefully we shall meet at another event.
As for the race itself: we were between showers, the ground was wet underfoot, and Hyde park unusually empty.
I know little about the top finishers – Jake Waldron won in 15:43 and 2nd, 3rd and 4th were all veterans coming in at in or about 16 minutes. But I was happy with my own running. After the best part of a month injured with a calf problem, and after feeling the same problem flare up again at around 800 metres, I was not at all certain I would finish. Instead, I ran my pace down until I was comfortable enough to continue and was even able to pick things up in the last 800 metres or so. And my last kilometre at 4 minutes 11 made me hopeful of better things to come in the summer.
Kilometre splits as follows: 4.46, 4.56, 4.24, 4.29, 4.11.