Desert Island Races

The Author at The Lakesman.

Coralie Frost puts a running, swimming, and cycling twist on the Radio 4 classic.

The long-running BBC Radio 4 programme “Desert Island Discs” asks guests to choose the eight pieces of music they would take if they were stranded on a desert island. What if it were races instead? Which races would you want on your desert island?

Following on from James Edgar’s Desert Island Races, I’ve chosen my personal favourites. In keeping with the radio programme, I’ve also selected a running-related book and luxury.

1.     The Norseman

When I put my name down to write my Desert Island Races, Diana said there would be some different ones in the mix. She was right and the final seven are my favourites from my years of swim, bike, run. However, I’ve added a dream race into the mix too. It’s something I hope to complete in the future but I will need to pace myself before entering The Norseman.

Long before I had even entered my first triathlon I read an article in the Telegraph about the ‘World’s Toughest Triathlon’ and it captured my imagination. It’s an iron-distance triathlon but the brutality of the course, temperatures and terrain is bonkers. Only the first 160 athletes are allowed to finish at the top of the mountain, for the rest of the athletes they must turn back 5km from the summit. It’s psychologically as well as physically exhausting in that respect. The popularity of The Norseman has increased over the years and it now has a ballot entry system. The draw is broadcast live on their YouTube channel with athletes chosen one by one, adding to the intensity before you’ve even got into the race! Maybe one day…

2. The Lakesman

Back to reality… The Lakesman is an iron-distance triathlon based in beautiful Keswick. I entered The Lakesman after my fiancé, Tom, went open water swimming for the first time and claimed he was going to enter an ironman, despite the fact he hates swimming! I fell in love with the training prior to The Lakesman so the event was the cherry on top of the cake. The swim is in Lake Derwentwater, the cycle goes through the Lake District (and is actually just a bit hilly!) before the marathon takes you on five laps of Keswick. While it’s still a baby, only in its third year, it’s now a firm favourite with many Northern triathletes. I was one of the only racers from a Southern running club out on the course, according to the British Triathlon referee! I hope to see at least one other Serpie there next year.

The Florence Marathon.

3. Florence Marathon

My third desert island race is the Florence Marathon. To get the full ‘Serpie experience’ I stayed at Hotel Silla, next to the river, where fellow Serpie Claudio works. The marathon is flat and fast and winds through the Florence countryside before going over numerous bridges, and even through a stadium. The finish line is at the iconic Piazza Duomo. The Italians are also known for their carbs and loading up my plate with pasta the days before was an absolute treat! The best way to sightsee in any city is to run a marathon and Florence was a spectacular marathon for culture, views and support.

Dock2Dock Swim.

4. Dock2Dock Swim

Serpentine are very lucky to live in a city with so many places to visit for open water swimming. While I live in West London the Victoria Docks are always a pleasure, even with the airplanes overhead. The Dock2Dock swim takes place every July. The swim starts in the Victoria Docks and is an out and back to Albert Docks, near City Airport. There are lots of distance options and this year I opted for a 5km swim, a month after the ironman. There’s also the 10km option. All the swims are great value, well organised and close to home. Don’t be put off by the lack of rubber in my photo! Wetsuits are allowed and most people wear them to swim.

5. Flitch Way Marathon(s)

The Flitch Way Marathon(s) take place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can take part in both if you want! My fiancé, Tom, has the course record and after getting a DNF at Abingdon thanks to a virus, I decided to squeeze a marathon in on the final day of the year. The positive of taking part in this marathon is you end the year with an epic runner’s high. The negative is that you start the New Year with massive DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s a straight out and back trail race along an old railway line. That’s right, it’s out and back and somehow I managed to get lost for a mile! My navigation is not suited to trail marathons. In the year I ran the Flitch Way Marathon it had rained for days and the 26.2 miles were more suited to cross country spikes than trail shoes. It’s cheap to enter, laid back and good fun.



6. Parkrun

I don’t think I need to do a big explainer on why I love parkrun. It’s something which I know a lot of other Serpies take part in every Saturday, or Sunday with their children. I’ve met so many brilliant new friends from both volunteering and running. The fact that parkrun happens all over the UK, and in many other countries, means there’s always a new place to visit and run. My home parkrun is Gunnersbury in West London but my favourite parkrun is Kesgrave in Suffolk. It’s near my parents’ house and I always bump into old friends or family members.

The Cabbage Patch 10 Miler.

7. Cabbage Patch 10 Miler

The Cabbage Patch is one of Serpentine’s grand prix races and a firm favourite for many runners. It starts in Twickenham before heading towards Kingston and through Richmond. It finishes within walking distance of The Cabbage Patch pub. It ticks off my usual race type of flat, fast and near my flat. My parents have taken part in The Cabbage Patch twice and travel from Suffolk to enjoy the race. This year I paced my Mum and enjoyed a swig of beer at mile 9. Sadly, this made her miss out on a new PB!

8. Tokyo Friendship Run

While this technically is more of a ‘fun run’ than a race, the Tokyo Friendship Run has to be one of the happiest races I’ve ever done. It takes place the day before the Tokyo Marathon and is about £4 to enter. Every runner has their home flag temporarily tattooed on their face so you see the variety of cultures. The 4km run even had chocolate and sweet handouts during the run, as if we needed an energy fix! I don’t think I’ve smiled so much on a run. If anyone is heading to watch the sport in 2020 I can already tell it’s going to be the happiest Olympics the world has ever seen.

And finally

At the end of “Desert Island Discs”, guests (or “castaways”) are also asked to choose just one of their eight discs, as well as one luxury and one book. For “Desert Island Races” we replace the luxury with one piece of kit.

My overall favourite race: The Lakesman. Completing an ironman was something I didn’t think was in my remit a couple of years ago. I smiled the entire way round the 140.6 miles and couldn’t wait to sign up again. It made me fall in love with the sport all over again. The race organisers (Phil and Marie) are also incredibly supportive and shake the hands of all the athletes as they enter the water, and cheer throughout the day. I’m heading back again in 2019.

My luxury: My Garmin 920XT. It’s a staple for any outfit in my opinion as I wear it all the time. However, the large watch ruins family photos according to my Mother. It’s never let me down (so far) and is now entwined with many happy races. It’s also a conversation starter at work as triathletes warm to you if they see a Garmin!

My running book: ‘Life without Limits’ by Chrissie Wellington. It can make you believe that anything is possible, challenges can be overcome and you are stronger than you think.

Coralie Frost started running in 2014 and has since fallen in love with marathons and triathlon. She’s one of Serpentine’s Mental Health Champions, supporting any club members who are experiencing mental health problems.