This event was quite a big deal for me, it’s an event that I have tried to enter previously but had never been lucky in the ballot. This year I had resolved to focus on raising money for Parkinson’s Uk in memory of my friend Ron who had passed away at the end of 2017 a short time after being diagnosed. I decided this would be the event to have as the centre piece of those fund-raising efforts and applied to Parkinson’s for a place and was successful. I was thrilled to make up part of the 90 strong team for this event.
After an earlier attempt at the half marathon distance at the Hackney Half in May I had firmly set my sights on running a sub 2 hour time at this event. I had dutifully trained hard and was confident that I could match the required pace needed to come in on target. I had also become more attuned to what my ideal prep for the day would look like; a bowl of granola for breakfast with a banana, some water (but not too much), tape on the nipples and one SIS gel to be consumed after 6 miles. Get these elements right and I was sure I could delivered the required run.
But what would the event itself have in store? Well luckily for me the central London location was easily travelled to on the tube (Northern line from Morden…). However it seemed all 16000 runners had had a similar plan though and the congestion at the tube stations was chronic but manageable so long as you don’t suffer from bad claustrophobia. The weather wasn’t playing ball and the forecast for heavy rain was spot on. The event village was buzzing with people. I headed over to the Charity tent and checked in with the very friendly Parkinson’s team. Jo and the team were very encouraging and gave me a Banana, which I risked eating. The atmosphere was building nicely as I headed over towards the baggage drop. I’m not sure if the wet weather had encouraged more runners to bring bags or whether it’s always so popular at this event but the queues were horrendous. I have no idea why they organise things this way but it was sooo slow! It took way in excess of 30 minutes to get my bag dropped and the race start was upon us as I rushed off to find my wave. I like to be well organised and calm on the start and this was freaking me out a touch!
I was in the blue wave and could see that the fastest pacers in the wave were 1hr 55mins so I knew I had to get away fairly swiftly with in the wave to get anywhere near a 1hr 50min run, which had become my aspirational target for the race. As we went away the rain slowed and things started to look up, weather wise. The pace of the group started well and got into a fairly comfortable 5min 8sec per kilometre, way ahead of pace. The start of the race takes in some great sights of central London, with Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade and Trafalgar Square all en route. However the run does truly reflect its name and you spend a significant amount of time in the parks but most significantly in Hyde Park. From mile six the course is based in the Park as it winds its way around the full extent of this magnificent park. The support as you pass the cheer stations in nothing short of deafening and provides a massive lift. As I approached mile 10 I could feel myself starting to slow slightly and my average time was lengthening towards 5min 13secs per kilometre, the magic 1hr 50min required pace. As I dug deep I knew it was going to be a real struggle in the last few miles. With 3 miles to go its easy to say, just a parkrun to go, but with 10 miles in the legs the reality is somewhat more difficult than it sounds.
As I came into the final mile I was struggling and was giving it my absolute all but my breathing was heavy and I lost a bit of rhythm. Some encouraging words from a fellow runner helped to spur me on and I pulled myself together to finish strongly with a sprint into the finish line. I cam in to a final time of 1hr 50mins 58secs, a massive PB for me, knocking off 15 minutes from Hackney back in May. I was elated, though exhausted, I had done what I set out to do. I had made a solid plan and executed it well.
At the end of the race you get your medal, a nice wooden number, and a tote bag before making your way back into the race village to the freebie give away. Again there is quite a queue but worth it for the goodies, including a bottle of salad cream! I’m sure there must be a way to get this done more efficiently as I have experienced at other races, perhaps pre-packed bags?
Post race the village had a great atmosphere again, though the rains returned and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t detract a little from the festival atmosphere. That said I caught up with a few friends I know from the insta-running community and I love a natter so was in my element catching up with others and they’re race experiences.
All in all, this is really decent event, with a great central London course. It does need to have a look at a few elements like the bag drop and the length of the t-shirt (mine is too short to wear really, which is a shame as it a cool design) but on the whole I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a go. Great route with great support cement it as one of the iconic half marathons on the UK circuit.
P.S. The fund-raising has been going really well and it looks like I will come in with at least £1000 raised for Parkinson’s UK, a milestone that I am absolutely delighted with.