On Sunday 14th October I took part in my sixth half marathon, at the Royal Parks. For many years I have entered the ballot in the hope that I would be able to take part in one of the most sought after runs in the racing calendar. Every year I failed, with this year being no exception. So I opted for a charity place. I was already raising money for Mind, so I used this as an opportunity to keep the fundraising going.
In the lead up to the event, I picked up a cold and did not get in the distance I would have liked. So I knew ahead of the race I would have to accept the fact that there wouldn’t be any PB’s. With my recent news of a place in the London Marathon ballot I simply decided to use this as a training run to work out where I am right now and give me a goal to work towards the next half marathon.
The day started early, getting to Epping Station long before the trains had started running. It was dark, it was cooler than recent days and the forecasted wet weather was definitely starting to show its face.
Heavens opened as soon as I arrived at the event village. Before I had the opportunity to sort myself out and drop off my bag, I was soaked to the bone. With wet feet, clothing and hair frizzing with the humidity I simply resembled a drowned rat. And we had not even started. It was safe to say I was keen to get the race over and done with before I had a chance to catch a chill.
There was not much of a wait. In the yellow wave, I was rather close to the back, but did not have to wait too long before crossing the start line.
At 9:30am I was on my way.
The first 2 miles proved to be rather crowded. A total of 16,000 runners took part in the event, meaning that despite with the even waves, trying to get around the slower runners and form any kind of steady pace was impossible.
So I spent the first few miles just trying to get into the run, to warm up the legs and soak up the crowd – which in true London style came in their thousands to cheer everyone on. These miles saw us run out of Hyde Park, through the Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill to the front of Buckingham Palace before working our way down Birdcage Walk and round St James Park before doubling back on Whitehall.
The route then follows many races I have taken part in before: the London Winter Run and London Landmarks Half Marathon, to name a few. As they were roads I was accustomed to running you would have thought I would have found the route a breeze. It was simply not the case. Between mile 3 and 4, as I double backed along the Strand, I found my pace slowing, feeling rather sluggish. By mile 5, as we headed along The Mall I was in desperate need for the bathroom – I had obviously over hydrated in the lead up to the event.
Toilet break taken, I plowed on. Back up Constitution Hill (yes it is actually a hill. Something you don’t realise until running it), towards Hyde Park and the screaming crowds yet again. The spectators and the cheer stations gave me the momentum I needed at this point. I had written my name on my bib and had random strangers screaming words of encouragement – I could not stop with so many eyes on me.
On I went zig zagging along the route through Hyde Park, finding the inclines somewhat of a struggle between mile 7 and 8, feeling my legs tighten between miles 9 and 10 and then feeling rather grumpy by the time I reached mile 11, when the heavens decided to open yet again.
I was stomping along, reminding myself I had just over two miles to get through, mostly down hill, but finding it rather difficult to keep myself motivated.
With the heavy rain unrelenting I simply had to get through as quickly as humanly possible – dry clothes and a hot tub session was calling.
It was then I passed the Mind cheering station. Wearing the charity vest with pride, I was spotted quickly and received the most almighty cheers from the volunteers. Giving me just what I needed to get through to the finish.
A few more turns in the course and the 800 metre marker was in sight (on an incline mind you), followed shortly after the 400 metre and then finally the finish line was in clear view, so I picked up the pace. No slowing down now, the end was near. I had made it yet again.
Not the best, yet not the worst timing for a half marathon. In fact the time of 2:33 ranked third in the six halves I had completed.
Although I had not fully prepared for the distance in the lead up, it showed that my training with Harlow Running Club was paying off. It was a significant improvement to my timing at the London Landmarks Half earlier this year, despite walking some of the route.
It was not the result I wanted – I always secretly want to see an improvement. But It gives me a benchmark for training, It gives me an idea as to the work I need to do for the London Marathon and a new goal for the two half marathons I have booked for the Spring.
Despite being one hell of a grump throughout this race, it is a beautiful route in our city, and one that I would love to run again.
So I eagerly await the ballot entry email to sign up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2019, in the hope that I can experience it again perhaps without the rain.