Royal Parks Half Marathon – Sunday 8th October 2017


Having heard good things about this mass participation event from many people, I decided to enter the ballot for this half marathon which takes in 4 of the Royal Parks in London (Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens). I didn’t expect to gain an entry to the race, however, to my surprise I received an e-mail in February to congratulate me on securing a place. I now had to decide whether I wanted to part with £58 (£3 P&P for the race pack) of my hard-earned money for a place in the half marathon, but I decided that it would be a good experience and so went for it!

Eight months later and race day had arrived. In between my successful ballot entry and race day I had a very busy schedule as I was in the process of a career change from an office job to studying & qualifying to become a personal trainer. This didn’t have too much of an effect on my training until I started my full-time PT course on 21st August which ran for 5 weeks.

Mileage between February & October 2017:

February – 117
March – 46 (3 weeks in California)
April – 129 (included 6 days on a training camp in the Algarve)
May – 123
June – 84
July – 89
August – 83
September – 20
October – 39 (#RunEveryDay)

As you can see, my running mileage took a significant hit in September due to the fact that I was travelling up to London every day up until Friday 22nd September. However, I was still getting in a good amount of exercise as I was cycling to and from Tonbridge station (6 mile round trip, including climbing Quarry Hill each evening) each day and there was a fair amount of practical involved on the course and I believe that this certainly helped to maintain my fitness. With regards to my preparation for the half marathon my last long run (10 miles) was on 20th August and I didn’t get another in until the Sunday before the race (11 miles). I have however, signed up to a challenge set by RonHillUK which is to run every day in October (#RunEveryDay) and so far, so good!

Race day:
I had worked out that due to rail engineering works I would need to travel from Tonbridge as the earliest train from High Brooms (which is the closest station to me) would not have got me into London in time. Fortunately, the trains were going straight into London Victoria which meant only a 1 mile walk to the race start area. I made the decision to cycle to & from Tonbridge as it is only 3 miles from my house and would act as a good warm-up (let me tell you though, cycling back up Quarry Hill after a Half Marathon is a challenge in itself). The train was to depart at 7:08am and I left my house at 6:40am which got me to the station in plenty of time in order to get my ticket and lock my bike up. Unfortunately, I compeletely forgot to use my Network Railcard and ended up paying £5 more than I should! Still, £14 for a return to London isn’t bad.

I arrived into London Victoria before 8am, knowing that the race start was at 9am and so this didn’t leave me with a huge amount of time to play with and so I followed the crowds to Hyde Park where the race start & bag drop area was. I arrived at about 8.20am and spent the next 15-20 mins in a queue for the toilet. I then located the bag drop area which was at the other end of the park and away from my start area – the queues for this were insain and I missed my start wave by almost 5 minutes, therefore having to forgo a warm-up and join the masses who had started in the waves behind.

To be honest, I was in a bit of a panic whilst in the queue for the bag drop, but then remembered that the race was chip timed and therefore the fact that I was late to the start wasn’t too much of a problem although the downside was that I had to gradually make my way through hundreds of other runners (there were around 16,000 people participating in this event).

The fact that I was in amongst so many other runners at the start meant that my first mile was slower than I had intended although it did act as a good warm-up for the race ahead! I didn’t really get into my stride until after mile 3 but my mile splits for miles 2 and 3 were pretty consistent and on target for the pace that I had wanted. The main advantage to starting late was that throughout the race there were always people ahead of me to chase and I kept up with my pace, not letting myself slip into the pace of other runners. The support around the course was very good and certain sections were particularly better than others which definitely helped to pick up the pace when you feel like your flagging!

5km Splits:
5km – 21:21 (4:16/km)
10km – 42:11 (4:13/km)
15km – 1:02:44 (4:10/km)
20km – 1:23:17 (4:09/km)

I certainly found the final few miles challenging, but I knew that I was on for a PB having looked at my watch at each mile up until that point. I was delighted to cross the line in a new personal best time for the Half Marathon, more than 90 seconds quicker than my previous best time from the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon a year earlier. It was also a relief, given the disappointment that I had experienced at Britain’s Ocean City Half Marathon in April of this year.

Result:
Chip time: 1:27:42
Chip position: 235
Position (gun): 391 overall (366th male)
Start time: 09:04
Finish time: 10:32

Overall, the experience was a positive one. The organisation, volunteers, support and the event village were all very good. Would I do it again? Possibly not. The reason being is that there was such a short amount of time between arriving in London and getting to the start line. I wasn’t able to relax and get in a decent warm-up beforehand and that side of the event was not a good experience for me – of course that is not a reflection on the organisation of the event. I think that if you were to stay in London and had time to get to the event for 7.30am then it wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but where you have to travel up on the day, it is a bit of a rush. In addition, the entry price of almost £60 is pretty steep and I wouldn’t pay that much to run 13.1 miles again, though as a one-off I think that it is okay.

I have two more races coming up this month, both cross-country over 10km of which the first is in 6 days time. As for my next Half Marathon, that will be in May 2018 where I tackle Britain’s Ocean City Half Marathon once again. This will be my 5th Half Marathon in the space of 2 years. I quite like doing 2 per year as it allows enough time to properly prepare for the distance especially where my main race season runs between October and February for the cross-country season.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog and I hope to get back to some more regular blogging in the not too distant future!

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