It’s not easy to get a spot in the Royal Parks Half-Marathon due to an oversubscribed ballot entry system. Back in 2014, I was lucky enough to get a place through the ballot, but had to pull out due to a knee injury. Feeling like I had unfinished business with this race, I jumped at the chance to run when I was offered a corporate place this year.
I’ve not run a (stand-alone) half-marathon since Brighton in 2015, as I’ve been focused on triathlon. I could comfortably run 10km after a summer of Sprint and Standard distance races, so I started increasing the length of my weekly long-run. I got up to 19km a week before the Royal Parks, so I felt confident that I would be able to complete the distance although I knew I’d be slower than my 2014/2015 times.
The race village was buzzing when Glen and I arrived and met our with our friends Richard and Amy. With 16000 people running in the 10th Anniversary edition of the Royal Parks Half-Marathon, there was a great atmosphere and plenty of stalls to look at. I tend to just rock up and race, so I didn’t use the toilets or bag drop, but I hear there were long queues for both. I positioned myself between the 2:10 and 2:15 pacers in the starting pens and debated over whether to run with music or not.
There was quite a wait to start, due to the numbers of runners being released in waves onto the course. I crossed the start line at 9.26am and began my 13.1 mile run. The first part of the course takes runners outside of the park and past landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. As I set out, the faster runners were already heading back into the park along Constitution Hill, I noticed the 1:30 pacer and tried to spot Glen in the crowds.
Much of the route reminded me of the London Winter Run, although the weather was much nicer than in February. It was surprisingly bright and warm, I soon regretted leaving my sunglasses at home. The kilometres were flying past and I noticed I was running faster than my intended pace. I tried to slow myself down as I knew I’d struggle later on unless I paced myself.
After around 9.5km, the route brings you back into Hyde Park. The crowd support is pretty intense from this point onwards, with hundreds of people lining the paths cheering and encouraging the runners. I switched off my music and tried to absorb the atmosphere. Dave from my triathlon club spotted me here, our vests are quite distinctive and stand out in crowds which is always helpful for spectators.
I slowed to a walk at the water station around kilometre 11 and took a gel. I’d woken up with a tight muscle in my shoulder, despite trying to stretch it out it was getting more and more painful. I only intended to walk for 30 seconds, but once I slowed down I’d lost momentum and struggled to get moving again.
Running past the Serpentine brought back memories of previous races. I’ve swam there in the ITU London Triathlon, the Silverfit Sunset Aquathlon and Swim Serpentine. I started to wish I was swimming today, rather than running!
At around 16km, the 2:15 pacers caught up with me so I decided to stay with them as long as possible. Unfortunately that didn’t last too long and I found myself dropping further and further back. This race was becoming a real slog and reminded me why I decided to stop running half-marathons two years ago! I drank a full bottle of Lucozade, which is something I NEVER do- I was just desperate for some energy.
The park was beautiful in the October sunshine, especially the golden roof of the Albert Memorial glistening in the light. The mile markers all had motivation slogans on like “you are the tree’s knees” and “have you kicked a conker yet?”. I tried to focus on my surroundings to distract myself and just plod on towards the finish line. I could see that the other runners around me were also struggling, so I was not in this alone. The final 800m seemed to go on forever, I reminded myself it’s only two laps of the track.
I finished in 2:20:53 which is my slowest (stand alone) half-marathon. I was relieved to be done but had mixed feelings on my finishing time. I know I’m capable of running 15-20 minutes faster than that. However, this was not my A race and I’d always planned to run just for the experience, so my finishing time should be irrelevant. Somehow, I find it easier to run 13.1 miles after a 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim!
I felt pretty disorientated and confused after finishing, I ended up wandering off in the wrong direction. I called Glen who had been waiting for me in the race village for around an hour and figured out how to get back. I felt very sick and wanted to get some proper food- that Lucozade had been a mistake!
The medal is amazing- a wooden leaf. Goodies were collected from a stand in the race village- there was quite a queue but plenty available.
Have you ever run the Royal Parks Half-Marathon?