race the neighbours

My family friend emailed me about the inaugural Race the Neighbours North London 10k a few months ago. I had a quick look at it and realized the route went along my favourite the Parkland Walk, up and down (and up again) Alexandra Palace, and then through the lovely Highgate Woods. Pretty much the perfect run I would do on a Sunday anyway. So I signed up.

Luckily I did as it sold out quite quickly and there was a huge wait list leading up to the event.

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The morning of the race was a warm one. I cycled to the start line and they had a great set up in the Cherry Wood Park with bag & bike drop, free bananas and water before or after the run, and good music setting the tone. Bib pickup was easy and handled competently by a few happy kids no older than 12 (take note large races).  There were loads of portaloos and very nice actual toilets in the park with no line ups. Plus there was a crate of toilet roll at one of the tents. Love a race that thinks of everything.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a race alone but sitting in the sun waiting for the race to start I chatted with some other runners and met a girl doing almost all the same races as me this summer.

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After a quick briefing (it’s warm, there are 3 water stations (!!), take it easy, no road closures, obey the traffic laws, don’t jump over fences, etc) we were off and after a small single file squeeze through the first gate we were off on the roads of North London.

After 1km we met up with the Parkland Walk and ran along it’s wonderful shady paths towards Alexandra Palace. The normal dog walkers were a bit surprised with us, but there was lots of room for everyone on the path. Up to Ally Pally and around the Palace we then hit a long (600m?) downhill that I decided to let loose on. With all the trail running I’ve been doing lately I am constantly getting passed  by other runners flying downhill. On the relatively safe grassy shoulder of Ally Pally I tired to let my legs go free and with arms wide just flew down trying not to use any extra energy stopping myself.  I passed about 7 other runners who may have thought I was crazy, but oh well. The route then followed along the field that we run in the Met League XC race.  With a lot less mud this was a nice path and then we hit the hill. The organisers warned us about this hill (which in hindsight considering the route had a lot of hills I should have paid more attention to the one they singled out). I have run up and down it twice during cross country races so knew I just had to keep running.  Up and up at a steady pace I made it to the second water stop (welcome on such a hot day) and had a quick stop for water. I passed a guy who had passed me on the first big hill of the day and spent the rest of the race playing chicken with him always passing him on the uphills and he’d sneak by me on the flats.

The route then took us back through Muswell Hill and into Highgate woods. Being on open roads and with a lot of turns the volunteer marshalls on this route were spectacular. Always paying attention and with big smiles on their faces. I couldn’t thank them enough for their help. Into Highgate woods we ran for about 3km on the (again) welcome shady trails.

Feeling strong I just tried to keep ahead of the guy who kept passing me. A few more uphills and a slightly demoralizing out and back along a street to a zebra crossing and we were on our way back to the finish. The announcer personally cheered everyone on as they came into the park for a final 300m lap to the finish.

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I haven’t been feeling great leading up to this run and been working through some general physical issues in the past 6 weeks post-marathon, but this race I felt strong and happy throughout and was super happy with the results on a tough hilly and hot course.

Almost everyone stuck around in the park having ice creams and watching everyone finish. I caught the youngest competitor on his sprint finish showing us all how it’s done.

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I cannot recommend enough Race to the Neighbours and if you are local to get involved next year. If it’s a bit of a trek for you keep an eye out for local races near you. There really is nothing better than a local race with minimal fuss and maximum smiles.

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