Normally, when I write a blog, it tends to be about a race I’ve just previously completed and what my thought are of the race. However, summer is being its usual typical self for me and British 10k aside, I have absolutely nothing scheduled in until I hit the trails and paths of the New Forest Marathon. With that in mind and feeling myself itching to write something, I thought I would make a list of some of the best races, bling, goody bags and moments I have had since I began running. With that in mind, please allow me to welcome you to part one of the non-egotistically named Avery Awards!
I thought I’d get a shorter distance out of the way and this was a tough one to choose for me. I have ran some great 10k races and could easily have chosen one of the fantastic Mo Runs at Greenwich, the Bupa 10,000 from 2015 or (RunnersKnees look away now) one of the British 10ks from the previous two years, but the winner for this year is somewhere a bit closer to home and not too denting on the wallet!
The Avery Award winner for Best 10k goes to:
Petts Wood 10k 2014
What a race this was. Not my best 10k result and also not the first trail 10k I’ve completed but what a race. I remember for months seeing this in magazines as one of the top 10 UK trail races and as it was only 20 minutes from my house I was a fool not to do this.
I arrived to an unbelievably friendly and helpful Petts Wood Runners who gave us a quick race briefing. After the briefing, my family sat back and enjoyed the live band playing some classic rock songs and later participated in the wonderful and entertaining group warm up. The race started and we headed into the glorious surrounding woodland area. The scenery was magic and for only £17 entry this race was already proving to be an absolute bargain. The Petts Wood locals were out to cheer everyone and even the moments back on road had the residents coming out of their houses, high fiving us all. The last 2km had a wonderful surprise with the live band from earlier in the woods with us playing some more classic hits and many other supporters were in the trees enjoying the atmosphere. I crossed the finish line to a smart medal, lots of praise and the highlight of the race, the world famous trays and trays of samosas. “Would you like another one?” “Don’t mind if I do!”
Best Half Marathon
On to our next award and the distance has increased by just over double to a half marathon. Now anyone who knows me knows that there is one half marathon that I have been screaming the praises of now for years and years. This wasn’t just my favourite half marathon but also my favourite race. However, a race arrived out of the blue in 2016 that caused the Ealing Half Marathon to be shaking and quivering in it’s boots. Could Ealing hold its mantle and win the award for the best Half Marathon at this years Avery Awards? Here comes the envelope….
The Avery Award for Best Half Marathon goes to:
Ealing Half Marathon 2015
The New Forest Half Marathon came incredibly close to winning this award and a recount was needed, however Ealing just managed to hold on to the title. This race has won the Runners Awards Best Half Marathon for a number of years but I think they will change their Twitter bio to include the Avery awards now.
This was the year of two half marathons on the same day and at 9:00 I rocked into Ealing for the second year in a row to take part in the epic Ealing Half Marathon. The organisation is second only to the juggernaut that is the World Major of the London Marathon and there were plenty of signs showing where people were meant to be starting depending on their finish times, wonderful marshals who showed you everywhere you needed to go and where to drop off our bags and more importantly: miles upon miles of portakabins.
The start line had a brilliant MC on the microphone who was walking along the starters asking them how they were feeling, had they been to Ealing before and getting the rest of the race starters and fans to cheer them along.
The course may not be as scenic as Windsor or the New Forest, but it is a magic race nevertheless; with signs along the route wishing people from other countries good luck and also some interesting trivia like “did you know by mile 9, 10 million cagillion zillion litres of water will have been drank?”
A wonderful race that you have to do to take in the magic of it. The atmosphere is phenomenal, the crowd support and steel drums in 2015 were great and the final lap of the park with people urging you round is fantastic.
Not just the Best Half Marathon, but still my favourite race. Looking forward to taking part in 2017.
Now on to the big distance: The Marathon.
At time of writing I have done 8 marathons: Brighton four times, London twice, Dublin and Milton Keynes once each. All have been great races and all totally, totally unique but there can unfortunately be no joint winners in the prestigious Avery Awards. Be it the carnival atmosphere of Brighton, the prestige and spectre that is London, the stadium finish in Milton Keynes or the calm and collected Dublin marathon, only one can be victorious.
Therefore without further hesitation, the winner of the Avery Award for Best Marathon is:
Dublin Marathon 2016
A great race and a great weekend. Straight off the plane with our cases my family and I made our way to the Dublin Marathon Expo to pick up my race number and soak in some atmosphere. When we walked into the exhibition centre we were blown away. A huge Dublin Marathon medal was on display for everyone to get their photo taken with, clowns making ballooon animals and doing face paints for all the children who were dragged along by their parents, loads of stalls with excellent merchandise and helpful experts who were telling you the best way to pace your race while you gulped down plates and plates of pasta. The Irish people were as exciting and bubbly as their reputation suggests and you could not ask for a more cheerful and helpful bunch of people.
Race day arrived and the famous rain that had haunted previous years was nowhere to be seen. I met a lovely couple before the race who kindly let me hang around with them before we made our way into our pens at the start line.
The start of the race was a bit crowded but after a couple of miles it opened up and the live bands along the route were really adding life to this already rocking marathon. “We’re still building and burning down love. Burning down love!…” belted out the U2 tribute band and I could have easily stopped there at around 16-17 miles to stop and listen to more.
There was an absolute pig of a hill at the last 5k but once up and over I made my way along the blue carpet along the finish line. I missed out on a PB by about 50 seconds but I didn’t mind. It wasn’t just an amazing race but a great experience running in another country and I could not wait until what was to follow, the litres and litres of Guinness…
Most Memorable Race Moment
The final award of the first part of the Avery Awards is the Most Memorable Race Moment.
Now, there are the obvious sentimental ones of completing the London Marathon down The Mall for the first time, achieving the seemingly impossible sub-40 10k finish at the Mo Run 2015 or a top 10 finish at the Maidstone Half Marathon in 2016 but for me it isn’t about sentiment. My Most Memorable Race Moment was something that made me nearly stop in my tracks to appreciate the sheer beauty of the race I was doing and absorb this magical moment.
So trying my hardest to do justice to what I had experienced, My Most Memorable Race Moment was:
The Galloping Wild New Forest Ponies of the New Forest Half Marathon 2016
I had won a competition only 36 hours before informing me I had won a place in the 2016 New Forest Half Marathon.
After arranging 11th Hour babysitting and telling my wife that I had to leave our house at 5:30 in the morning to drive down to the New Forest from South East London, I was ready.
The car was parked in the field by the race HQ, I picked up my number from the delightful race organisers and volunteers and made my way to the start pen to take part in what would be the most magic race I had ever participated in.
The nature and tranquility of the area was straight out of a novel and unless you have experienced running through the New Forest, no words can describe how beautiful this part of the country is. The smell of all the trees and streams was glorious and I knew within the first 5k that I would be back in 2017 to take part in the full marathon (note: as mentioned above, this is my next race booked)
I was running really well and the sights and sounds were distracting me from my heavy breathing and faster than average minutes per miles. Then the magic happened.
We all entered an open part of the race and all around us were the gorgeous New Forest ponies. I reigned in my pace slightly just in case one of the ponies decided to walk on the course and was relieved when I ran past without incident.
We ran back into the woods and that’s when it happened. Out of the corner of my eye I could see something moving at speed. This brown blur was joined by another, then another, then another and within a flash, only a few feet away from us were a dozen full sized wild ponies running alongside us. It felt like we were racing each other and neither wanted to give in. These wild beasts were galloping next to us and it was like something from a Hollywood movie that you would have to experience to believe. I felt myself slowing down in total awe of this moment and would happily have sacrificed hours off of my time to keep watching these animals in their natural habitat showing us mere humans how to run. They galloped off out of sight into the woods and inspired by these magnificent creatures I finished the last few miles strong and enjoyed all the post race entertainment with my Dad and two sons. A magical moment which I will never forget.
So that is it for part one of the Avery Awards, join us soon for part 2 where some of the awards include: Best Bling, Best Goody Bag, Most Competitive, Most Scenic and many more.