The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday the 9th of October I took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I decided to enter the ballot earlier this year because I ran the event in 2014 and really enjoyed it. Back then I wasn’t in great shape so I thought it would be good to take part again and try and achieve a better time. When I signed up I didn’t know I was going to be doing the Cologne Marathon the weekend before so my approach to the race changed slightly.
During the week between Cologne Marathon and the Royal Parks Half I rested quite a lot. The only real running I did was for The Running Works Run Club and even then I did less sessions than normal. Thanks Nikki for looking out for me and telling me to rest. As the race was approaching my legs were feeling more normal as the days were passing. I knew they wouldn’t be completely fresh but I was hoping they’d feel good enough for me to give it a good crack.

With the race starting at 9am I got an early night on Saturday. Lorna and I woke up a bit before 7am to give us time to get stuff together. She would be cheering me on from the sidelines as she had chosen not to enter due to other races and the entry fee being expensive. For the second week running (pun intended) Lorna looked after all my stuff so I didn’t need to use the bag drop and gave me lots of loud cheers. It definitely helps having someone alongside you at races to take away some of those little stresses. We got the bus to Hyde Park Corner and met up with Tom at the entrance to the park and Ash, Julian, Laurent & Mark in the race village.

The race start time came around really quickly. As I had put in an estimated finish time of around 1:20-1:25 (I think) I was in the orange start pen, which was good as it meant I didn’t have many people in front of me. Mark Foster and Ben Fogle did short speeches about the Royal Parks and the race and before we knew it we were off. I’d decided to aim for around 1:20 so set off at 3:45min/km pace. I wasn’t really sure whether my legs would have it in them after Cologne Marathon but I was willing to find out. I think its good every now and then to push it on tired legs, as I mentioned in my last blog post I am trying to use races to pick up fitness and get back into the shape I was in when I ran Cardiff Half.

I started the race with a 3:43 minute kilometre, which is testament to getting in one of the front start pens and the width of the roads in that section. After 1km you are running through Green Park and shortly after you head past Buckingham Palace and along Birdcage Walk. Running in that area of London always gives me flashbacks to finishing races like the London Marathon, London 10,000 and the Westminster Mile. I’ve got some great memories of racing near Buckingham Palace, I feel incredibly lucky to run in London day in day out around such epic landmarks. The next few kilometres were less scenic as you are running along a few main roads, you run east to near Somerset House before doing a U-turn to head back along the strand and onto The Mall. At this point I was feeling strong and maintaining my goal pace. That said it was early days as when you are running along The Mall you have covered 5 miles.

The crowds were out in force as it was such a nice day. It was particularly busy around Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill, which was good, as when trying to hold a quick pace, that straight seems to go on for a while. As mentioned by Ben Fogle on the start line you don’t want to be struggling as you enter Hyde Park, there is still 7 miles to go. I still felt good at this point but knew that at any moment my legs could tighten reminding me I’d run a marathon the weekend before.

 I covered a few kilometres within Hyde Park but then unfortunately came a first for me in a race; I needed to nip to the loo. I was around the 8 mile point and had to ease up. I ran at around 4min/km pace for a while before getting to the toilets near the bandstand on Serpentine Road. After a quick stop I was back on my way, I knew that 1:20 would definitely be out of reach but I aimed to claim a few seconds back over the next few kilometres. Despite my best efforts my stride had been broken and I could only manage around 4 minute/kms until the finish.

 I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t run quicker and get closer to 1:20 but on the other hand I was happy to be able to run a nice half marathon the week after a marathon and enjoy it. My legs were tightening as the final kilometres were passing and I was entering cruise/damage limitation mode. I got massive cheers from the Advent Running crew at mile 12 and from Lorna and Nat as I was running down the long home straight of Kensington Road. Thanks for the shouts everyone, really appreciate it! 

 I crossed the line in 1:23:11 finishing in 86th position, pretty happy with that considering the circumstances. One day I’d like to race the Royal Parks Half fully rested and see what I could do. 

  

I collected my medal and then joined Lorna and Nat in cheering other runners through the line. We didn’t quite have the same effect on runners as the guy with the megaphone 800m or so before the finish line shouting “push, push, push, push!!” but we tried. A big shout has to go to Ash, Tom, Laurent, Mark, Julian etc for all running great times.

Overall the race was great fun, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I’d kind of class it as a mini London Marathon so if you want to run a flat, fast route and be cheered on by great crowds then enter the ballot. After all everyone loves a ballot right! Ha

Hope those of you in the ballot for London got in and to those of you who didn’t there are plenty of other great marathons out there so start doing some research.

Next up for me is some cross-country on Saturday with Advent Running. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

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