On Sunday 30th April I took part in the Hackney Half Marathon for the fourth consecutive year. With only two weeks having passed since the Boston Marathon (https://www.iffleyroad.com/blogs/journal/what-its-like-to-run-the-boston-marathon) initially I wasn’t planning on running. However, as my legs were feeling relatively well recovered I decided it would be good to get them ticking over. I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with some friends and I always enjoy the crowds around the course. I was also really lucky to get a free media place thanks to Virgin Sport and Marcus (@themarathonmarcus). As this was the first year that Virgin Sport were organising the Hackney Half I was interested in seeing what their “festival of fitness” would look like.
I woke up around 6am to get my running kit together and head across the city. I was really looking forward to the event, as my legs were still carrying the Boston miles I was nice and relaxed and wasn’t going to worry about my finishing time. My plan was to set out at around 4min/km pace and go from there.
I walked from Stratford to Hackney Marshes and arrived at the event village in plenty of time to pick up my race number from the media tent and chat to other runners. It was good to catch up with some of the Advent Running (and Adidas Runners) gang, Sarah, Melanie, Emma and Reka had also got media places. After pinning on race bibs we were called to another tent where Richard Branson and his son-in-law, the man with the idea of the festivals, gave speeches. The festivals have been created to get more people moving, whether that’s through running, jogging, walking, yoga, climbing etc. It’s an interesting concept and one that is taking off when you think about the creation of “The Big Half” from London Marathon events recently. Another key aspect to the events is working with the local community and groups, in Hackney they worked closely with Charlie Dark (Run Dem Crew founder), Chevy (Chasing Lights Collective), Fat Buddha Yoga and the Hackney Council to show what East London is all about.
After the speeches we did a few warm up exercises and then we were led to the start corrals (still in Boston mode). I made my way to near the front and had a quick chat with friends Enrique (VPH runner) and Laurent (Nike run clubber). We all had similar race plans, Enrique was taking it easy having completed the London Marathon the previous Sunday and Laurent wanted to enjoy it and take in the atmosphere. I crossed the start line and began working my way into some space, it is a little narrow so I took it easy but got into my stride going up the first slight climb. The weather was quite good, there was just a little bit of wind but I couldn’t complain as the last three years it has been a scorcher of a day in Hackney. Having ticked off a few kilometres my legs were feeling heavy but they seemed to be happy enough at closer to 3:50min/km pace so I went with it. I passed Rory (Advent Running) had a quick chat about our Boston Marathon experiences and then ran ahead saying I was going to stick around 4min/km pace. Thing is whilst saying it I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold myself back.
Iffley Road X vivobarefoot Cambrian Chevron t-shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Gravel Black shorts, Stance Run socks & Adidas Adios Boost
Every couple of kilometres there was music on the streets and the crowds were great. Another couple of kilometres went by, I bumped into Tony that runs at track on Tuesday nights and we had a quick chat. It was nice to see familiar faces, normally you only really see friends/family cheering around the course but due to the way I was pacing my run I got to spend some kilometres with them which was cool. It was good to be in a race where you knew you’d see people; Boston was obviously never going to be like that. My legs were still feeling good after completing 11k, I then thought of the last 10k as two 5k chunks. I knew it was around 5k to the Run Dem Crew cheer point near Crate Brewery and then the second 5k included a few hills and the crowds would grow around the Olympic Village. I was really enjoying the run; it felt so much better to be moving through the field as opposed to crawling/shuffling towards the finish as in the Boston Marathon. The Run Dem Crew cheer point/bridge was great to run through, they make a lot of noise for everyone which I appreciated as in some races you find it really quiet, supporters normally only look out for their family members or friends. The only downside to the RDC cheer point is that the following few miles in around the Olympic Park are quiet when you are starting to get tired and need all the help you can get. Basically they need to expand the cheer point from mile 10 to the finish. Having said that, once I had made it to the top of the steepest hill on the course I was cheered on by Jonny (KenYan Corner mastermind) and there were quite a few people near the big “RUN” sign. I knew at this point I had around 2k left to go.
Last year I ran the Hackney Half with Jon from The Running Works Run Club. We had a great day and achieved a good time but I vividly remember him wobbling to the line from 500m or so out so I reminded myself to take it steady and only to push with 800m or less to go. At the end of the day I wasn’t anywhere near my PB so it was just fun to up the pace over the final 400m and cross the line with energy to spare.
I was pleased to cross the line in 1:22:20 and relieved that my legs cooperated with me and got me round, it could have backfired.
After crossing the line I bumped into Richard (NRC pacer) he had a great run doing 1:19 the week after London. I then picked up my bag and crossed paths with another Richard.
Overall the Virgin Sport Hackney Half Marathon was a really well organised event. I personally think it is a great thing they are encouraging more people to get involved and be active. It will be interesting to see how the festivals develop over time as I can imagine it is a hard task to get the balance of a well run race and provide facilities for other sports/activities. This was highlighted by the fact Richard Branson said “we will probably move it one month later next year so it is a bit hotter”. That would be good for supporters/the public but it could be a hot race again next year, interesting!
If you want to take part in any of the other Virgin Sport events they are:
British 10k – 9th July
Oxford – 8th October
San Francisco – 14th-15th October
If you were there I’d be interested to hear how you found the day, drop me a tweet, or comment on Instagram @SteveRunSkinner
I was back on track on Tuesday and my next race is the Bideford 10k in just over a weeks time, really looking forward to that one!
See a lot of you soon.