Sunday 13th October 6.30am the alarm buzzed me into life, half marathon race prep had begun. Large glass of water and two Weetabix (other breakfast cereals are available) and then a strategic application of Vaseline.
The weather forecast had promised rain all day, but on leaving our accommodation the rain had stopped and the temperature was a nice 12 degrees C. A short walk to the tube station, spotting other people dressed in running gear as we went, wondering if they too were off to the Royal Parks Half.
The last leg of the tube saw the carriages packed with people at 7.45am on a Sunday morning, and smelling like a gym changing room. Smelly feet and deep heat being the pervasive odour, and lots of nervous excitement etched on faces. As we left Knightsbridge tube station the streets around were filled with runners and spectators, 16,000 competitors all on their way to race.
The race start was on the Knightsbridge Road side of Hyde Park and was a large compound housing charity courtesy marquees, food stalls, a large festival stage, a food court, more loos than you could shake a stick at and lots of sponsors stalls. Unfortunately due to the rain over the previous days the ground was a bit muddy underfoot.
We meet up with Becky at our arranged meeting point and prepared for the off. A public address system called out groups of runners by the colour on their number bar.
We joined through our designated start gate and at 9am were ready to go. Two groups set off ahead of us and we passed under the start gate at 9.17am. We were positioned just behind the 2 hour pacemakers.
The route set out along the Knightsbridge Road passing the Wellington Arch before winding onto Constitution Hill and round in front of Buckingham Palace. Bird Cage Walk, skirting St James Park, took us down towards the houses of Parliament. Two miles in and a right turn into Parliament Street and on up to Whitehall, for a first glimpse of Trafalgar Square before turning right onto The Strand. At mile 3 we passed Somerset House and looped back on ourselves heading back down The Strand to Trafalgar Square. Here we were greeted by the Extinction Rebellion camp and loads of cheers and shouts of support from the protesters and a chap running backwards and forwards behind the barriers in Flippers and cheering at the top of his voice. Mile 4 and we passed under Admiralty Arch and down The Mall for a second sight of Buckingham Palace and back the other way along Constitution Hill, passing the Wellington Arch for a second time and heading into Hyde Park.
The Royal Parks Half Marathon sets itself up as a sustainable event and the water station either offered paper cups made from recycled paper or water bubbles, water in biodegradable vegetable based plastic bags. I found these much better to use than cups, biting off one corner and sucking the water out as required.
Six miles behind us, at this point Becky started to pull away and disappeared into the crowd. For the next four miles we looped through Hyde Park cheered on by large crowds. At mile 10 my lack of distance in the legs started to take effect and I slowed down a little, breaking the 2 hour mark would have to take a back seat to getting to the finish line without walking. The race organiser had created an App that spectators can download which tracks a person’s progress. The App shows exactly where they are at any given time and gives an estimated finish time. This allows family members and supporters to zig zag across the course and be in the right place to cheer as the runners pass. I allegedly was cheered on just after Mile 10, but I assume my levels of concentration were that high that I missed them as I passed (or was completely done in and cut-off from the outside world).
Crossing over into Kensington Gardens the race approached 11 miles at Kensington Palace, at this point I knew I would finish without walking, just a case of knuckling down and getting on with it. Breathing was all fine, head was in the right place, just very tired leg muscles. The last landmark on the race came into view, the Royal Albert Hall, 800m to go and I could see the finish gate, it seemed an age to reach the 400m mark and remarkably at this point I sped up a little. Over the line and finished, 13.1 Miles in 2 hours 12 mins, almost exactly the same as last year in the Stroud Half.
At the finish, vowing to myself never to run a half marathon again I collected my Wooden Eco friendly Medal, and there were also energy bars, cans of water, cans of natural energy drinks and even a cloth carrier bag (Made from recycled plastic bags) to put them in. Filtering back towards the “Festival Area” I collected a rather nice T- shirt made from bamboo fibre and took part in an organised warm down routine.
Thanks to Andy Proudman for his race report. You can find out more about the Royal Parks Half Marathon