Back in March, an email arrived inviting me to attend The Running Awards and an event in London which was hosted by Strava. As a partner of The Running Awards, Strava invited a selection of their top bloggers and influencers to a pre-awards ceremony group run, drinks reception, Q+A session with Martin Yelling and the Strava team, and then attendance at the Running Awards themselves. Occasionally I get invited to events in London by PRs who haven’t noticed that I live 500 miles away, so I nearly deleted the email just like I do with all the others until I noticed that it was taking place on the 22nd of April and I was already going to be in London due to Kynon running the marathon. A rather fortuitous coincidence!
I was still initially a little unsure about attending as the timeline of the events seemed a little challenging – a 6k run, then 30 minutes to get ready for an awards ceremony? Not even with a full hair and makeup team on hand could I manage a turn-around that fast! However there was discussion about the event amongst members of a blogger group I am a part of and I realised that the real opportunity was to actually meet and spend an evening with many online blogger friends who I have connected with online for years, as well as to enjoy the evening as a whole.
The next challenge was to manage my hand-luggage only packing to include extra running kit and some evening attire for the awards ceremony. Thanks to my Mary Poppins-esque cabin bag I was able to squeeze everything in, and we arrived at our hotel from the airport about 30 minutes before I needed to be at the hotel where the events were being hosted. That was far too tight a margin for my control freak tendencies, but unfortunately this was not the first or the last failure of our London Marathon weekend… More on that in another post, but most importantly I was able to change and scoot out of the hotel quickly, and make it to North Greenwich tube station in time to arrive at the InterContinental Hotel at the O2 for the evening.
The first person I set eyes on as I walked on was the legendary Susie Chan, endurance runner extraordinaire and the latest world record holder of the women’s 12 hour treadmill run. I’ve been tweeting with Susie for years yet our paths have never crossed in real life, so it was lovely to finally meet her and her husband Shaun. We were given our goodie bags which contained; a gorgeous long sleeve Tracksmith top (athleisure at its finest!), a Wahoo Tickr bluetooth heart rate monitor, and a Strava drybag phone case. If we hadn’t already been spoiled enough, we were then paired up with another runner and given a key to one of the hotel rooms to use to store our belongings and wash and change for the awards. I should probably mention that the InterContinental 02 is a five star hotel, brand spanking new, and absolutely dazzling on the inside. Compared to my room for the weekend at the Ibis Styles Docklands it was somewhat of an upgrade…they were going to have to prise that room key out of my cold, dead hands!
After my roomie Bethan and I had figured out the room technology (turning on the bathroom lights took us a bit longer than it ought to!) and got over the view over London from the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, we headed back downstairs to meet the rest of the attendees and set out on the run. Unfortunately the weather really wasn’t up to much, but a group of about a dozen of us headed out in the first wave around ‘gritty’ East London in the rain.
The 6k run took us along the Docklands on the Thames Path and then through to Greenwich Park, to the top of a hill with what should have been a lovely view over London. Despite the rain it was still a pretty place to pause and Susie captured a group selfie to mark the occasion:
We arrived back at the hotel about 45 minutes later, and self-consciously squeaked our way across the beautiful marble floors of reception in our soaking wet kit. As if by magic we all reappeared back in the lobby shortly after looking far more presentable, and headed off to the Indigo venue at the 02 Arena for the drinks reception.
I had my picture taken with Bethan, Polly, and Helen, before we were whisked up to the balcony area above the main stage for some glasses of champagne before the Q+A session, which was with renowned GB athlete and coach, Martin Yelling, CEO of parkrun, Tom Williams, and the Strava team.
The session was fairly brief but some interesting points were covered. I was interested and encouraged to hear that Strava are currently working with local councils in some areas to provide heat-map data to Infrastructure design teams, in order to assist with the creation of cycle and runner friendly roads and paths.
Next up was some delicious food and some more complimentary beverages, where I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a number of other online friends and bloggers; Helen, Elle, Sarah, Loz, Laura – it was great to finally meet you all! At 10pm the award ceremony started and we were lead downstairs to the awards floor where there were a couple of spare tables; in theory we were going to be given balcony seats, but the offer of getting a little closer to the action was much appreciated.
The Running Awards have categories for just about everything you can think of, including; Best Marathon, Best Shoe, Best Sports Drink – all which were unsurprisingly awarded to the big guns such as London Marathon, Adidas, Nike and Lucazade. I was pleased to see awards for smaller more niche categories though, and am delighted that Aberdeen-born Run4It retained their title as Best Independent retailer, and also won the Best Customer Service award.
For the most part I retain a healthy degree of skepticism about online awards these days as the sector is now somewhat saturated, reducing the credibility of most of them. It seems like every brand has their own ‘best blog awards’ which essentially boil down to a marketing exercise for the brand, and retain the feeling of a playground popularity contest for the bloggers. It also goes without saying that any award where you can nominate yourself and then solicit for votes isn’t worth the energy it takes to click ‘Like’ …
However, The Running Awards are respected as the original and best, and continue to put on one hell of a show to celebrate everything to do with running in the UK each year. Attending events such as these is bread and butter for many bloggers based in the London area so I was glad to take the opportunity to partake in the fun for once, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of my weekend in London.
Thank you so much to Strava for inviting me, and for the lovely goodies to take away.