Lee Valley VeloPark Races 2017
The Lee Valley VeloPark Races give runners a chance to follow the 1-mile route around the Olympic Velodrome park and follow in the footsteps of Olympic athletes. Set with the background of the Olympic torch sculpture with Canary Wharf and The City skyline in the distance, this is a great venue for a running race. Usually used for cycling, the 1-mile loop is a Moto GP style and is full paved and mildly undulating but mostly flat making it perfect for a PB. There are several different distances on offer meaning there's something for everyone, from a 5k to 10k, 10-mile and a half marathon with a 1-mile fun run for kids too. All the races have staggered starts but most people will be running round at the same time. Organised by Run Through, this is one of many London-based runs available in the city.
The venue for this race is truly unique as it takes place in the grounds of the Olympic velodrome which was used for races at London 2012. Before your race, you can head inside to grab a snack from the cafe and watch cyclists as they blast round the indoor track. The facilities are fantastic with plenty of toilets (not a portaloo in sight!) and you can pass the time (and calm your nerves if necessary) before you start by watching the cyclists. The atmosphere at the start is fantastic as there's music playing and lots of people milling around getting ready for later starts. There's also free parking which is a huge benefit in London and Stratford station is nearby if you're travelling in by public transport.
I was a little apprehensive about the route as it is a 1-mile loop and I had signed up for the 10-mile race, which meant I would have to run 10 laps. I thought this would be boring and annoying, but it was actually great! Running 1-mile laps means you can focus on improving your mile splits each lap and it mentally helps you to keep an even split throughout the entire race. It also means there are no sneaky hills as once you've done one lap you know what to expect for the rest. It also means there are no times when you're running on your own and feeling a bit stranded. The support is great and your friends and family can see you at several points round the lap as it loops round. It's a very gently undulating course with a couple of very small climbs as you run on a bridge over a road, but other than that it's pancake flat making for very fast times. The final benefit of a lapped course is that you can pick up water every mile and not have to hold on to it, knowing there'll be more as you start the next lap.
Run Through organise a handful of races around London and their energy and spark really shines through. For all their races, they offer plenty of water and a banana, energy bar, and flapjack at the end. They also offer free race photos afterwards and I was extremely impressed by how quickly the races photos were uploaded (by the next day!) Your family and friends can watch your splits in real time as they're uploaded every time you pass the lap marker. There's free sports massage on offer at the end and there are plenty of marshals around the route cheering you on and generally being very enthusiastic and encouraging. It's a great atmosphere and a really fun race. If you're looking for a PB or just to run in an encouraging environment, this is the race for you.