After the last day of the Anniversary Games, the IPC competition on the Sunday, the Olympic Stadium was set to hold one final event before it was converted into a football stadium for West Ham. This event was a very simple, yet brilliant concept of 5 x 5km around the Olympic Park.
The event was set up as one targeted at large companies, with a £500 entry fee, you gained a spot on the start line for a five member team, along with a winners medal and honour of running on the very track which Usain Bolt and Mo Farah had run on only a few nights beforehand at the Anniversary Games.
The event was brilliantly organised as all of these relay races are (it was very similar to what you would find at the National Road Relays for example). Before arriving, the teams were all sent wristbands which would gain entry on the day; these would also be included for those who were just spectating, as well for the runners. Everyone was admitted through the lower tiers around the far side (from the Stratford International entrance) which led you into the rows directly in front of the start line, the best seats in the stadium.
This area by the start was fully packed, with there being 230 teams competing, each with five members and extra support, made a total of a well over 2000 people. Along with the wristbands, everyone was also sent their numbers, just as you would get for a 10K or marathon, chip timing included. This would be my third visit to the Olympic stadium in four days, and the atmosphere and excitement was just the same as it had been for the elite athletics, just on a much smaller scale this time. Actually, it had a very similar feeling to that of any other road relay event despite being very corporate.
With this being an event set up and sponsored by British Athletics, it had many of their best representatives present, making it feel like the real elite experience. Firstly, Geoff Wightman, ex-Olympian and rebound stadium announcer was once more on the microphone, keeping the crowd entertained and duly informed of the proceedings. Along with this well known name was Lynsey Sharp, Britain’s top 800m runner who had strongly competed only two days previously on the very same track.
Sharp was charged with the job of the warm up, however, instead of it just being for herself or a small group, she acted as the leader to all of the 230 first leg runners on the far side of the track. As she explained, this is something which she had never done before, warming up a large group, she made it something very enjoyable and different – even incorporating many of the same routines she uses in her own warm up.
We did a whole range of dynamic stretches and warm up drill to the music being played around the stadium, making it feel somewhat like a dance class! This was something different but really fun, made even better by it being filmed form multiple angles and displayed on the big screens at either end of the stadium, giving yourself that very rare chance to make it onto the big screen. After this, we were personally handed by Lynsey Sharp our great souvenir from the event, a golden baton for us to keep and pass over for each leg of the relay.
Running the course
Obviously, the course which we were running was 5km course. It started right in the heart of the stadium on the actual start line and then weaved us around the Olympic park. After winding through the tunnels under the stadium itself, you circumnavigated around the back of the park, running past a variety of venues from the Copper Box down the Aquatics Centre then back to the back end of the stadium, running the home straight and passing over the baton.
After what was a fairly hilarious false start from everyone on the first leg, we were pulled back and started over, our time for the 5km course starting when exciting the tunnel off the track. The day itself was fairly warm, yet very breezy with strong winds over sections of the course. Adding to this, the course was deceptively hilly, crushing the possibility of running fast times, although to wasn’t necessarily the goal of the event. Your time once more doesn’t stop when you pass over the baton, but about 100m earlier as you re-enter the stadium through the tunnels underneath.
Whilst out running it was great to see the whole of the well kept Olympic park; running with multiple different people throughout after the field quickly spread out with whole varieties of abilities running.
The overall winners on the day could have been predicted from the off. They were a team put together of London Marathon sponsored athletes, including the likes of Olympic marathon runner Scott Overall who ran the second leg.
Overall was not handed the lead by the team’s first leg runner, but was still able to make up the deficit of over 100m to come back into the stadium with a considerable lead. This all happened due to his fastest split of the day, running a time of 15:12 for the 5km course. For me, this definitely demonstrated the fact that this wasn’t a very fast course as Overall is capable of much faster; however he is in the middle of heavy training for the September Berlin Marathon so it was more of a training run.
Each member of the London Marathon team ran under 17:00 minutes for the course and they came away the clear leaders by what was an extremely dominant win.
The whole event was an outstanding success. Everyone from the 230 teams seemed to love the experience, with large organisations like RBS having 28 teams entered alone. All of this added to the great atmosphere, with many of the large corporate companies coming away with a great experience.
I think that the event will only grow and grow with it being set to return in 2017 after the London World Championships. With the success that it was this year, more and more teams will want to get involved, being able to be part of such a great event that I hope to run at again next time!