The inaugural Jane Tomlinson 10K took place in June 2007 and so there was an air of expectation that this year’s 5th Anniversary event was going to be a big one. Happily, that turned out to be the case, despite torrential rain, with around 9000 runners, walkers, wheelchair racers and various assorted fancy-dress wearers, from giant chickens and people with dayglo green afros, to Fred Flintstone carrying his car around the 10K course with him. Of course, this mass participation event was devised to be a huge charity fundraising event, aimed at raising money for children’s and cancer charities, so it truly continues to be a ‘Run For All.’ As such, these races always draw in the crowds of spectators and friends and families of runners, which makes the atmosphere at them such a fantastic buzz.
The background to the event was the inspirational Jane Tomlinson, who was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2000, and went on to prove that, in her words, “Death doesn’t arrive with the prognosis.”
Despite being given six months, she went on to complete a series of huge challenges over the seven following years, including Ironman triathlons, London and New York marathons, and a series of intense long-distance bike rides, the longest being the 3800 mile ride across America. She retired at the end of 2006 and set about creating a legacy event open to everybody, starting with the Leeds 10K which bears her name, before sadly losing her fight with cancer three months later. Find out more about her and the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.
Leeds 10K 2011 Review
Moving on to the review itself, I had travelled to Leeds to stay overnight with my running partner, as the start time for the race was 9am and I didn’t fancy all the rigmarole of getting up too early and rushing around to get there on time. I didn’t sleep much the night before due to a mixture of excitement – as I knew this was going to be a big event – and the pouring rain I could hear outside. Then it was up and into my kit at 7am and it was still chucking down. At this point it was beginning to feel like one of those days trudging through the streets and getting a soaking.
Apparently at 8:15am there was a mass warm-up in Millennium Square, but we missed it as we rolled up into Leeds City Centre and got stuck in a huge queue trying to get into the carpark. Then it was the shivvering walk to the Square to drop off bags, etc, attach race numbers and timing chips, and then, almost as if by design, the rain stopped and we all began our procession to the Start line.
As I had expected, this is one hell of a race – a seriously large number of people turned up, the organisers giving no more detail than ‘around 9000’, and of course, there was a lot of jostling as people tried to squeeze through the crowds to get closer to the front. I wish I had done that myself, but instead just loitered and stretched and warmed my muscles. Then, at around 9am, I heard the klaxon signalling the start. It took about five minutes to get from where my friend and I were standing to the Start line, but we were already getting into running stride before that.
As we ran down the Start/Finish straight on the Headrow, there were some very large cheering crowds, and lots of Press with cameras, so this is definitely a race to get involved in if you like to have support from the sidelines! It was really awesome seeing so many people out there and along the course, given what the weather had been like.
The first two kilometers of the course were a lap around the city center streets, warming up and soaking up the atmosphere, while trying to avoid gigantic puddles of water which appeared at the last second, signalled generally only by loud splashing from the runners in front. I managed to fight my way through clusters of slower runners, and people who were obviously there to walk or because they had had the misfortune of being touched by cancer. I salute them all, but was nevertheless looking for a good time (targetting under an hour for this one). It was great to pass Fred Flintstone, as I’d never have lived that one down if he beat me! After a very narrow section, where I very nearly tripped somebody over by accidentally clipping his leg, we eventually got onto Meanwood Road (at just under 4K) and then it was a case of trying to get past people.
Personally, I found the route pretty cramped, and could have done with a vicious uphill segment at about 3K to spread out the field and separate the runners from the walkers. Unfortunately for me, I tend to be an ‘aspirational’ runner, meaning I didn’t qualify for a green race number, which would have put me closer to the front and out of the congestion of the fun-runners. But even so, it was a great run, and at just over 6K into the race, it is time for the hairpin bend, and back down Meanwood Road in the opposite direction, and back into town for the finish.
At one point, I heard a marshal from the side shout out that there was just three kilometers to go, and as I had lost my running partner a little further back during the melee that was the hairpin turn, I decided to up the pace, although it was looking unlikely I would beat my Humber Bridge 10K time of 55:50. I was a little disappointed with that because I knew I was running faster and more smoothly but kept getting held up by gangs of people who had resorted to walking the last couple of kilometers. Once back in the city center, I notched up the pace again, and then realised the second to last corner provided a new uphill segment I hadn’t been expecting! I nearly gave up walked, but managed to persevere, and get onto the finishing straight encouraged by the screaming crowds lining the main street.
Again I got caught behind a group holding hands stretched across the street, but we had to run past the Start line and continue to the Finish line some twenty yards further on. The hand-holders thought they had finished when they reached the Start line, and stopped to hug each other. And that’s probably why I had a big grin on my face as I crossed the ‘real’ finishing line.
So the Run For All Leeds 10K is a wonderful event to take part in, just to get all that atmosphere, and run in the pack with literally thousands of other people. Whether I’d do it again, I really haven’t decided yet. My chip time was 58:19 for this one. If I do it again next year, I’m going to blatantly lie about my expected time to get a green ticket and get set up near the front. Or maybe the organisers will have three categories next time: one for elite runners (the winner on Sunday came home in 32:41); then people who want to run; and then the fun-runners, walkers and costumed people positioned further back.
And despite the numbers of people with cameras I ran past, apparently there is not a single scrap of photographic evidence that I even entered this race! My running partner got captured on film about 14 times, and he hated all his photos. So for this blog post, unfortunately I can’t offer any images of myself trundling my way through the streets of Leeds, or shaking my fist (Homer Simpson style) at other runners slowing me down.
For fun and charity fundraising, I think this race is probably a 9/10. For running I’ll give it a 5/10.