Wimbledon Common Half Marathon 2016

I’m sure you’re thinking, hang on, didn’t I read a report of the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon last year? The answer’s yes, you did, because I ran this race in March 2015 and also in October 2014. I really like the races that the organiser (Run Through) put on and Wimbledon Common is a nice part of the world, so I signed up yet again.

It was foggy on the way over to Wimbledon, and quite chilly too. 20160313_074855

I cycled from Putney to the rugby grounds where the race starts, and locked my bike up by the pavilion. Normally the toilets at the pavilion are open but they were padlocked shut, and I could see a line of people stretching across an entire rugby pitch queuing for portaloos, so was pleased I’d arrived in good time. I then noticed that there was a disabled portaloo right next to the bike stands and tried the door – it was open. I went in. It was pristine – spotless floor, plenty of loo roll, hand sanitiser dispenser full. What a treat!

As I now didn’t have to queue, I had loads of time to get really cold at the start line and faff around pinning my number on. Music was blaring from the loudspeakers and I tried to surreptitiously position myself near the family with a Dalmatian puppy.

There was a staggered start and I joined the 2hr+ group. We were sent on our way by a womble and then we were off!


The ground was slippery right from the start, with the first few hundred metres on grass. I’m so unused to running on grass, particularly wet, muddy grass. We soon headed onto the trail and some real mud! The back of Putney Vale Cemetery heads steadily upwards but isn’t that bad and there’s then a steeper hill on the other side of the cemetery, but it wasn’t as hard as I remembered. Much muddier than I’d done before though!

There weren’t that many runners (579 total) but it was definitely hard to do my own thing when there was often only a narrow route through the mud. I was wearing my brand new trail shoes (£8.99 from Decathlon, bargain!) but I had no idea how much grip they really had and I’m a naturally cautious person so find it hard to pelt through ground that I’m unsure of. Plus sometimes people in front stopped completely to pick through the muddiest bits, so I had to respond to that and not go running into them.

I didn’t look at my watch very much and just ran along steadily. My calves were hurting a bit, presumably from my shoes – I normally run in stability shoes and these are fairly minimalist with a 6mm drop (my adidas have about 10mm drop), so it felt quite different underfoot.

At the end of the first lap there’s a long downhill section and a right turn along the river. This was the muddiest bit of the course and I got stuck behind a load of people tiptoeing through the mud very gingerly. Every time I tried to get past there was a tree or something in my way – and there was no womble waiting at the normal spot 😦 I headed out onto the second lap, my calves on fire and a definite blister forming on one of my toes.

There’s a charity walk that takes place each year that goes through the Common, and the half marathon overlaps with it twice each lap. On the first lap it was fine as only the faster walkers had made it this far, but by the second lap there were loads of walkers out. A lot of them have balloons tied to them and some were walking four or five abreast, and it does make it quite tricky to get past.

At 15km I decided to put my headphones in and listen to music as my motivation was waning a little bit, and I didn’t really get my mojo back again. After walking for a minute at 15km, I then took a couple more walking breaks at 17.5km, 19km and (inexplicably) 20km.

The final bit of the course turns back onto the grass and I tried to sprint this but turns out I still can’t run on grass very well and my sprint was just a slightly faster jog. As I neared the finish line I heard one runner behind me encourage his friend to take me on the line. Not a chance, I thought, and I won that race. Ha. Shallow victory.


I stumbled off to get a flapjack and a banana, having to walk a bit like a pony as my big toe hurt a lot. I also finally drank some water – during the Cambridge Half Marathon I drank quite a bit of water, probably three 250ml bottles, and I feel like this was too much. So I didn’t drink any at all during this one, and I definitely didn’t feel like I needed it, though it was nice to down some water at the end!

Got myself a nice medal:


I got my bike and cycled towards Wimbledon town centre, probably the least scenic route (along a dual carriageway) but not muddy. When I was nearly there I spotted a Waitrose and before I knew it I was off the bike and in the cafe enjoying a cherry danish and a cappuccino. How does that happen?!

As I left Waitrose I saw more of the walkers, and heard a man cheering them – this was their halfway point. I had no idea how long the entire route was but assumed it was a very very long way as I could see a queue out the door of the nearby branch of Greggs. Turns out it was a 14 mile walk, so I feel somewhat cheered that I managed to run 13.1 miles without stopping for a steak bake.

  • Total time: 2:16:27
  • This is 90 seconds slower than Cambridge, despite having mud and hills
  • This is 3 mins faster than last year, in the dry, and 10 mins faster than the year before.

Wombling free at the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon

Another outing for the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon. I signed up for this in the aftermath of October’s edition, suckered in by discounted entry.

The alarm went off early and I opened one eye, thinking I might have been burgled until I remembered I’d emptied out all the cupboards looking for the shorts I wanted to wear. No sign. Who stole my shorts??

I didn’t want to cycle to Wimbledon so decided to take the train from Streatham Common to Barnes, and cycle the remaining 15 minutes. But I went to Streatham station, not Streatham Common, meaning I had to cycle almost the entire way there. It was a beautiful day and I was wearing a hat I’d crocheted the day before.

Hats wearing a hat

Hats wearing a hat

Milling about in the sun at the start line, I tweeted to help quash the nerves then queued for the loos, getting angry at the girl who pushed in front of me but saying nothing.

The race started and I felt a sense of antipathy and vague misanthropy towards my fellow runners. Antipathy as I could tell it wasn’t going to be a great race (illness, under-training) and misanthropy as people refused to run in a straight line, made annoying sounds or stopped in front of me on the hill at the back of Putney Vale Cemetary (my only strength is that I have trained myself to be able to run up hills at the same speed I can run on the flat – not fast, but no slower than normal).

My back started hurting around 5km in and I was faced with a choice: carry on and do a dismal time or quit at the end of the first lap and slope off home feeling annoyed. A quote I think about a lot, and feel ashamed for doing so as it’s a fucking Lance Armstrong quote is “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever” So while my back felt like it was being mangled, I couldn’t bring myself to quit. I can’t keep quitting. I’ve quit several things this year (the Tadworth 10 with a twisted ankle and a Parkrun with a twisted ego) and every time it chips away at me.

So I trudged round, feeling lonely, feeling a bit sad, thinking a lot. I had my ipod with me (I’d foreseen the loneliness) but didn’t put it in as I felt it would be making a statement I didn’t quite understand the implications of.

When I’m feeling like this, my ultra-British nature comes to the fore and I pretend to be super chipper. Smiling at marshalls, waving at spectators, going out of my way to help other runners (one woman face planted on the downhill section so I stopped to pick her up and kept insisting she check her palms for gravel) and, of course, hamming it up for the womble at the halfway point.

harriet lamb wimbledon common half marathon

Getting a hug from a womble lifted my mood for about 3 minutes and then I was thrown back into the 21.1km journey into the dark bits of my mind, with accompanying backache.

At one point I went for a wee behind a tree, to break the monotony. I lost the timing chip attached to my shoe and had to go back into the bushes to retrieve it.

I finally crossed the finish line 7 minutes faster than last time but more than 12 minutes slower than Wokingham last month. I bought a coffee and took a free orange, which took me 10 minutes to get into. I couldn’t face cycling home, or going anywhere, or doing anything, so I turned down the offer of lunch with a friend in Richmond and dragged my broken body and battered ego to the toilets at the nearby Asda and lay on the floor for a while, waiting for the coffee to undo the effects of immodium and for some sense of purpose, or achievement, or contentment.

Oh, and my shorts? They were at the back of the section of my cupboard designated for, erm, running shorts.

Wimbledon Common Half

I always struggle, in the aftermath of running events, to find the positives. However, even armed with this awareness, as I lay in the bath (in my bathroom that looks like a crime scene, thanks to my housemate’s experiments with red hairdye) and thought about today’s performance, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmingly disappointed.

This morning I felt quietly optimistic. I’m not sure what this was based on – since my last half marathon I’ve done precisely one long run, which included a break to clarify whether I had indeed dropped my debit card. I suppose I felt that my running was, overall, moving in a positive direction, with an increase in mileage and slight improvements in speed and stamina.

Pre-race, I had the usual nerves but had good company – my friend Bernie had given me a lift and we were hanging out. We didn’t intend to run together but it was nice to have someone to chat to, as well as the luxury of arriving at a race in a car.

There were around 700 runners and we set off onto the trails. I’d underestimated what it’s like running on trails – there were a couple of places where the mud was very deep. After the first mile or so the numbers around me thinned out a little and I tried to find my rhythm, which I found, very briefly, at around mile 3.

When I run my thoughts wander and I thought of last night. I was working (a mistake, the night before a race) at Science Night, a sleepover at the Science Museum for kids. One workshop tracked the journey of food through the digestive system and ended with my colleague Sam pretending to be a rectum talking to a brain, saying in a silly voice, “brain, I’m full, help!”

I grinned to myself, then thought OH GOD. It was like Sam’s voice was inside my body. Last night’s dinner had a heavy emphasis on pringles, fondant fancies and milky way stars. My body told me, quite forcefully (and quite rightly), that this was rubbish race nutrition and that it would rather be without it.

But (surprise!) if you run on a common there are few public toilets. I spent a couple of uncomfortable miles looking forward to the loos at the halfway point (the two lap course passed the start/finish line), only to be told the wrong way by a marshal and accidentally continued with the race, forcing me, eventually, into the woods.

Too much information? Maybe. Oh well.

I did a Sean Kelly and made some calculations. I wasn’t going to be taking any sort of significant chunk out of my previous time but I figured if I could run at a steady pace for the second 10k then I might *just* sneak in under my (admittedly extremely slow) current PB.

What to say here. I mentally crumbled. Momentarily cheered by a husky trying to join in the race (“Get back here!” shouted its owner. “You’ve got too many legs!”) I struggled to keep momentum or positivity.

The final mile headed uphill away from the sounds of the finish. A man on a horse stood by the path and as I passed by the horse gave me a scornful shake of its mane. Yeah, that’s about right. I turned towards the finish and tried to pick up the pace. My leaden legs responded sluggishly and I ignored the voice in my head saying “fuck it, you suck at running anyway”.

Womble medal, hug from a womble, hug from Bernie, free fruit, drive home, coffee and croissant on the way, home, bath with a book, sudocrem on the friction burns on my back, compression socks, a great sense of emptiness.

Bernie, womble, me