When I first saw an advert for the Energizer Night Run in Battersea Park I was intrigued. A 10k at night sounded a bit different, maybe even fun? Was I intrigued enough to take an 136 mile round trip just to run 6 and a bit? Damn right I was!
It wasn’t a cheap race, at £30, but as the evening progressed it was easy to see why. Everyone was kitted out with a bright orange t-shirt and head torch before the race. The vast Battersea Evolution had been hired to stage registration, changing areas, bag drop, warm up and the post race after party. There were lots of marshals too, each with their own red head lamps, some with loudhailers, and the bandstand was turned into a DJ booth to compliment the “Emoti-gantry” to spur the runners on at 3.5 and 8.5 km.
As seems to be the fashion for the bigger races nowadays there was a communal warm up session in the already very warm Evolution. Having already limbered up I chose to watch the warm up which was fantastic in itself with hundreds of little head lights bobbing up and down. Unusually for the start of a race, especially one about to be run in the rain, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face and I was feeling nice and relaxed alongside my mate Rich who’d been equally intrigued to come back to his old stomping ground.
The perennial problem with popular mass participation events was evident as it took us about 9 minutes to cross the start line – luckily we had the once-luxury but now almost standard feature of chip timing so it really wasn’t too much of a problem.
My personal focus is on running the Newbury 10k at the end of May with a view of scoring a new PB so the Night Run was always going to be a training run for me – an opportunity to do something different, with no added pressure and just enjoy a run. Also, with the course not being UKA licensed my time wouldn’t count towards my RunBritain handicap that I’m beginning to use to measure my progress.
I’d read a few articles recently about running with or without GPS, suggesting that you might actually run quicker without the constant feedback. I wasn’t convinced that I would run quicker without a nudge or too from my adidas miCoach but it was the perfect opportunity to experiment. I would be running in the dark, in the dark: after starting the workout as I crossed the start line, with the volume muted, I needed to resist temptation to look for feedback until I crossed the finish line.
After the initial delay crossing the start, the course widened as we came parallel to Prince of Wales Drive and there was a good amount of space to move though those who’d started to quick or were taking a more leisurely pace. The course as a whole is nice and flat and in good weather it has the potential to be quick, especially if you get to start near the front. In the dark, with the large puddles to dodge, it was a bit more of a challenge especially as the course narrowed in places and there are a few tight turns and a couple of hairpins to negotiate.
It was great to see a trail of lights, bobbing around the park and in the places where the course doubled back on itself you got the full effect of everyone’s head torches. The bandstand was one of those places, with the added atmosphere of music and the innovation that was the “Emoti-gantry”: essentially a choice to run one side of the road or the other to trigger one of two social media messages to encourage your supporters to interact with you during the race.
As a keen social media user I had activated my Facebook and Twitter accounts so that as I passed through the gantry messages would be posted on my behalf. Unfortunately, it would appear that the innovation hadn’t quite worked as planned with no sign of any messages until gone midnight, nearly 3 hours after completing the race. Perhaps there was a technical hitch, ultimately it would have been a nice touch but didn’t impact on the overall experience too much. [A side note to anyone involved in organising the event though – I might be wrong but the messages said the gantry was at 3.5/8.5k but isn’t the bandstand at 2.5/7.5k?]
The second lap was slightly less congested due to the 5k runners peeling off to finish and the rain had eased. I was really relaxed (Captain Hindsight reliably informs me that I was probably a little too relaxed!) and enjoying the experience. Running along the river gave us the chance to see the beautifully lit Albert and Chelsea bridges. It would have been a great night to be out with my camera to capture some interesting night scenes.
After the final hairpin at around 9.5k I upped my pace, although I was conscious of the final tight right-hander just under 100 metres from the finish line so perhaps went a little cautiously.
Post race goodies included the traditional medal and water and the slightly less traditional carrots (See what they’ve done there? They help you see in the dark!) and flavoured coconut water. The goody bag had a pack of 4xAA batteries but not much else which was a little disappointing.
Whilst waiting to be reunited with Rich and The Wife, who’d braved the elements to cheer us on, I took the opportunity to look at my race pace captured by the unusually silent miCoach. I was fairly impressed with the result (51m55 with feeling so comfortable is encouraging) and more impressed with my k-by-k consistency through the race, although you can see how the dodging and weaving was continually impacting from the pace chart:
For some reason I thought I was pushing too hard along the river and eased off; hence the two slower kilometres at 4 and 5!
It was a refreshing change to run without constant feedback but I think, for me at least, that feedback is the cracking whip I need to keep me pushing for a faster time.
Rich came in just about a minute behind me which is no mean feat given his lack of running recently and we were soon joined by The Wife and headed into the after party. A free beverage for runners is a nice touch and the tunes were spot on for the party atmosphere. It was just a shame we had to head back to Oxfordshire.
I’d definitely look at running next year, maybe with a few more people and perhaps getting a hotel to really enjoy the after party. All in all, a really enjoyable race.
Power Boosts : Things that were good
- Great atmosphere – everyone seemed to have a smile on their face
- Flat course – a good course, despite a couple of pinch points
- After party! – there aren’t many races followed up with drinks and some banging tunes (although some people can’t have given the race their all with some of those dance moves on show afterwards!)
Power Drains : Things that could have been better
- Crowded – unfortunately a victim of it’s own success and it won’t put me off running it again but not for a PB effort
- Cotton t-shirt – due to the rain I chose not to wear it, opting instead for my own Ronhill tech t-shirt that doesn’t act like a sponge
- Signage – the day-glo kilometre markers didn’t shine in the darkness; shame that Energizer didn’t come up with some signs using LED lights