Reviews

Back to the stadium: National Lottery Anniversary Run race review

10-10-2013

A year on from the London 2012 Olympics, runners were invited ‘back to the stadium’ for a 5 mile race around the Olympic Park finishing on the athletics track. Such was the demand, the website crashed when entries first opened and then sold out within a day. The event was first held in spring 2012 before the London Olympics as a sneak peek at the venue but its success means it’s likely to carry on as an annual event.

How do you enter?
Entries were made via www.nationallotteryrun.com in April on a first come, first served basis. It cost £27.50 to enter which included a technical T-shirt and two wrists bands for friends and family to join you in the Olympic Park.

Following in the footsteps of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah over the famous finishing line

The Course
Runners weave around a narrow and undulating route predominately on road with occasional patches of gravel and wood chip. The first mile passes tightly round the outside of the Velodrome then past the Copper Box, and out and back to the Aquatics Centre before doing a loop of a tunnel within the Athletics Stadium before emerging onto the track. In the final 300m runners, are cheered on by the stadium crowd to cross the finish line where the likes of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis achieved Olympic glory

What a feeling! Finishing in the London Olympic Stadium

The Facilities
Runners are given access to the Olympic Park with their race entry. There are plenty of toilets that can be used around the athletics stadium so - refreshingly for a race of this scale - there were no long queues. A baggage drop off was available and numerous stalls and vans selling hot and cold food and drinks. Spectators with wristbands were guaranteed a seat in the athletics stadium to watch the runners finish. There was also a big screen track side broadcasting the start of the race and entertainment on the stage from bands including Little Mix.

What's good about it?
There are not many occasions when mere mortals can feel like Olympic athletes and this race gives runners of all ages and abilities the chance to tread in the footsteps of the greats. Running around the Olympic track filled with cheering spectators gives those taking part a taste of what it must be like to compete in the Olympic Games. And it’s an amazing feeling. Olympians were also on hand to support the event with Sir Chris Hoy starting the race and Paula Radcliffe and Victoria Pendleton taking part, so it all added up to a wonderful atmosphere. The sheer numbers of those running – both experienced athletes and beginners – shows that London 2012 has created a lasting legacy of inspiring old and young when it comes to running.

The last 300m are run cheered on by friends and family in the Stadium

What's bad about it?
A year on from the Olympic Games, the park is being redeveloped to open to the public again in 2014. This meant the Anniversary Run was effectively around a building site – and it showed. Passing diggers, scaffolding and running on dug up road surfaces didn’t make for a scenic run. There was also a slight lack of atmosphere on the bulk of the course due to spectators not being allowed anywhere except the stadium and a couple of bands en route didn’t make much difference to enhance the mood. However, the pay off of having a packed stadium to finish in did more than compensate for this. Efforts were made to help people run at the pace they wanted with participants setting off in waves based on their predicted finishing time. However, the start of the red wave was still very congested with people dodging and weaving and jostling for space in the first mile. Another gripe I had was with the T-shirts provided to all participants. While it was a well-made technical shirt, the sizes were ridiculous. I ordered a ‘small’ size but it would only have fit a small bear it was that big. Others seemed to have had the same problem and had adapted their T-shirts to fit by cutting off the sleeves or tying up the bottom. A minority (including myself) forwent wearing the shirt to feel more comfortable in their own club vest or charity T-shirt. I did wear a top in the same blue shade as the provided T-shirts though as the organisers said they thought it would be an ‘awesome sight’ to see everyone running into the stadium in the same colour. The only problem with this is that it made it difficult for friends and family to spot their loved ones in the sea of blue!

What do you get for finishing?
A drawstring shoe bag containing a medal, a bottle of water, cracked heel gel, a bag of pistachio nuts, a bag of crisps and Bevita biscuits.

My Dad and I with our medals

In a nutshell
In a nutshell: If you’re looking to run a fast time then this race isn’t the place to do it due to the congested start, twists and turns and undulating route. Instead, I would consider this event less of a race and more of a running experience that isn’t to be missed. Finishing in the Olympic Stadium was a wonderful opportunity and an unforgettable final 300m.


Race reviewed: : Sunday, 21 July 2013 by Lucy Waterlow, finishing time 33.24