Mum and I took part in the London Winter Walk 20K for the first time in 2018, and it’s now become an annual must-do event.
The £59 registration fee is a bit steep, however it’s nice to start the New Year with some fresh air and a bit of exercise, and mum very kindly offered to sign us both up for the 2020 event, along with my older sister Jo.
The London Winter Walk took place on Sunday 19 January and participants could choose a time to start between 9-11am. As per last year, the entry fee included a bespoke medal, neck buff, bobble hat, snacks, drinks and a hot meal at the end. There was also the promise of a warm-up, marshals and a fully-signed 20K route.
As per last year, travel wasn’t made easy with the addition of bus replacement services! I picked mum and Jo up around 7:30am and drove us all the way to Sevenoaks to avoid the buses, where we caught a train to London Bride and then a tube to The Oval cricket ground – the new location for the 2020 event. The Oval is less than a minutes’ walk from the underground, and there was clear signage on where to go, which was helpful!
Directly inside The Oval was the registration desks ordered by surname, where we had to show e-tickets in order to pick up our walker number & safety pins, map, barcode lanyard, neck buff and bobble hat. It also housed a hot drinks station where participants could help themselves to free teas, coffees etc; and there was the option to buy a cheap hot breakfast (sausages in rolls, with vegan options available), which we took advantage of! There were also toilets available.
Back outside, our barcode lanyards were scanned as we entered a cornered-off starting pen, which included a selfie backdrop area. We were supposed to be in the 10:20 starting wave but managed to sneak into the 10am slot! We enjoyed an energetic warm-up followed by a safety briefing, before setting off through the Start line as a machine covered us with fake snow. So far, so good! It had been a really quick, simple, enthusiastic start.
The weather was dry and pretty much perfect. I wore Adidas Climate running leggings, black trainer socks, Brooks Ravenna 8 trainers, Primark sports bra, Runr vest, and London Marathon ‘rejection’ waterproof jacket, which made for the ideal outfit. The free neck buff and bobble hat were a fab addition and super comfortable! My bumbag contained the usual essentials: lip-balm, tissues, plasters, debit card, keys, phone, mints and route map!
We set off, following arrows on lampposts etc which led the way. The arrows were quite large, pink and outlined with fluorescent yellow, so were hard to miss! There were plenty of them so we didn’t get lost or go off course; and the marshals that we saw were super friendly and enthusiastic. Throughout the whole 20K route we were surrounded by other walkers who were easy to spot, thanks to the bobble hats!
However, less than two hours in, we realised that we had accidentally passed the halfway marquee. Fellow walkers pointed us in the right direction and we retraced our steps back – it turned out that there was been just one arrow pointing down some steps towards the rest stop, and someone must have been standing in front of it, as all three of us missed the sign!
The marquee housed seating and a large variety of breakfast pastries, chocolate bars, pick’n’mix sweets, fruit and breakfast bars; plus a hot drinks station which again provided free teas, coffees etc. Mum is vegan and was super happy (and surprised!) to see vegan options and soya milk. The staff were lovely and supportive. Outside there was another selfie area backdrop and portaloos.
Our barcode lanyards were scanned again as we set off for the second half of the walk. The route was clearly signposted around London and we had no issues finding the way. It was basically a loop back towards the Start line, across the other side of the river.
We had a great time and the atmosphere was lovely. It wasn’t long until we arrived back at The Oval and crossed through the Start/Finish Line around four hours after we set off. There was a crowd of supporters and everyone cheered, which was nice, and the MC commented on mum’s bright leggings, which made her day! Staff handed out bespoke medals, congratulated us and scanned our barcode lanyards for the final time. We were directed upstairs which housed seating and a hot food area. There was one main queue for hot food, with servers who dished out portions. There was a sausage and mash or lasagne (vegan option available for both) plus salad, bread rolls and butter. Wooden cutlery was provided; and again mum was chuffed that the organisers had thought of vegans. We ate our food, had another free beverage from the hot drinks station with a branded cupcake, and then made our way back to the tube, returning to our homes by early evening.
On a personal note, I struggled a bit with this event – I’m now six months pregnant and have lost so much fitness! I used to be able to complete half marathons without any trouble at all. My legs ached a lot towards the end, and I was definitely glad to stop and rest!
However, once again, we absolutely loved this event – it was great fun, well organised, well managed and had a super atmosphere. The £59 event fee was worth it and we’ll definitely take part again!