Review by Jo Toscano.
I’ve been getting back into running again and wanted to do an event which wasn’t too serious to motivate me to up my miles again. I love murder mysteries and I love running so the Secret Mission 10K sounded like the perfect event for me!
Secret London Runs have been organising fun and informative running tours since 2015, which are based around London’s landmarks and history. This race was a 10k set around the streets of Greenwich during which you collect the clues to solve a historical murder. The team ramp up the mystery by sending you the secret start location and course map just 24 hours prior to the event, in an email, on this occasion signed off by 17th century diarist, administrator – and murder suspect – Samuel Pepys. Participants get to choose their start time based on whether they intend to walk, run at a pace of more than 11min/mile or under 11min/mile.
My two team-mates, Catherine, Anneliese (team name: Run Out of Ideas) and I entered the fastest category and arrived at the location in Deptford just before midday to find a group of friendly, chatty organisers and a mixed bag of teams – couples, friends, mother and sons and a terrifyingly fit-looking crew of bowler-hat-wearing amateur sleuths. If you want a bit of fun but you also thrive on a bit of competition, this event gives you double the chance to win – you have to get the fastest time but you also have to use your ‘little grey cells’ to guess the murderer correctly.
Teams were issued with maps and booklet which contained the story of the grisly murder of a Russian – Dmitry, and his maid who survived the attack – following a raucous party in the stately home of Sayes Court and then got a chance to interview the police detective leading the case one team at a time before the stopwatch started and runners set off in search of their first suspect.
As well as the map, organisers had provided helpful arrows on the pavement to point runners in the right direction and we made our way along the banks of the Thames to find John Evelyn, owner of the stately home, holding forth to a group of four young women who had set off ahead of us. This is where it took a bit of patience – you wanted to barge in and fire questions before speeding off to the next witness but we eavesdropped a little and waited our turn before scribbling down some clues – he raced to the scene arriving at 7.15am after his pal, Grinling Gibbons gave him the news the Russians destroyed his garden. We grabbed the clue he produced from a Russian doll perched on the Peter the Great monument behind him. It was written in Russian and we were going to have to find someone to translate it!
After a quick selfie with Evelyn, we headed off again. This part of the route was pretty straightforward and we arrived in the residential streets beyond the Cutty Sark to a weeping Russian maid prone on a bench with bloody head bandage – the other victim who survived the vicious attack. She answered all our questions and strongly recommended we read her ‘medical notes’ before we went on our way. Some teams were more thorough than others with their questioning and quick a backlog of teams had formed but the atmosphere was friendly and fun and noone seemed to mind.
Next it was into Greenwich Park, battling up the hill to the observatory to find our next suspect. We found a few other teams running around, maps in hand, trying to work out where the ‘real’ Peter the Great was waiting. We suddenly saw a couple of runners point and head off towards a bench and found ‘Peter’ in regal dress, vodka at his side, holding forth about the great party he’d attended at the stately home. Apart from confirming he was a big lad, topping 6ft, he didn’t reveal much to help us so we weaved our way through the tourists back down the hill and headed back past the Cutty Sark, out of Greenwich on Creek Road and back towards Rotherhithe. There was a long stretch without any clues but that gave us a chance to chat through our theories and get in our stride.
After a couple of miles, we turned off, back towards the river bank and here we got a bit lost. If I had one criticism, the map was a bit small and didn’t have all the road names so we had to work out where we needed to go. We rounded a corner and found another team coming from a different direction so we think a few people might have fallen foul of the paper map. With the help of Googlemaps, we worked our way round to the Greenland Dock which looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine. Here we found a bread-seller who was pals with another suspect, carver Grinling Gibbons, and translated that note that Evelyn handed us – this raised a few more questions!
There wasn’t much time to deliberate as the next suspect Samuel Pepys was just a few hundred yards away. This notorious ladies man was very pleased to see us. But he seemed to have an alibi and assured us the rumours he and victim Dmitry were locked in a love triangle with his mistress Mrs Barwell was rot. That was the last clue so we set off back to the start line to deliver our verdict.
A short trot back to Sayes Court Park, we arrived to find the detective giving some final clues to a group ahead of us but she assured us as soon as we shouted our guess, she’d record our finish time. We decided on the killer but were deliberating our motive which added a minute or two to our time. We shouldn’t have tried to be too clever – they just wanted a name. So we guessed and the clock stopped at 1hr 54mins. We had to wait until the next evening for the leaderboard to be emailed through – our sleuthing was right and we came a respectable 5th. As well as the solution, we got some historical information about which of the characters were real and what they were doing around Greenwich in their day, which was a nice touch.
This event was brilliant, it was great to do something different on a Saturday afternoon and all the organisers and actors were friendly and hammed it up brilliantly. They made it an event to remember and I’m already looking forward to taking in the Christmas lights at their Yule 10k.