Friday, 15 October 2010

Royal Parks Half Marathon race report

Well it has been quite an interesting 6 weeks since the Ridgeway run to bring me to the start line of the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday. Back then I would never of thought that I could be challenging for a PB over this distance. But the body is amazing and can adapt very quickly to change. Hence the long runs were out and the short fast efforts were in.

Training for this race went well but then I was hit with flu in the final week. This meant I didnt run for 5 days before the race but perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

Sunday was a glorious day for racing with clear skies and a warmth for mid October previously unknown. This race attracted 12,500 runners and resembled a mini london marathon at the start as we squeezed into our pens like livestock with heads as far as the eye could see.

We were soon set on our way as we passed landmark after landmark. I tried to soak up the atmosphere and the occassion but in reality most of my energies were focused on keeping pace with little else to spare to outwardly enjoy the occassion but I did have a beaming smile on my face as I went about my business. My first mile was a quick 6.43 but not so quick that I could afford to let up the pace as I would need to continue this similar pace for another 12 miles. Eeek.

Unlike the wednesday training runs which felt effortless this was a different story. On the perceived effort scale I was already up at 7-8 in the early miles but it still remained enjoyable. We passed Big Ben and onto victoria bridge before doing a U-turn at the end and down the other side of the road onto victoria embankment and along the River Thames. At this point I had banana man in my sights! (I'd already passed a carrot and two peas in a pod in mile 1! ). There really is nothing that makes you feel slower than someone in fancy dress running at the same speed as you. I had to get pass him and quick before I slipped up! ;-)

The elites were already flying back down the opposite side of the road towards Green Park running 2 minutes per mile quicker than I was. I dont know how they do it! Next in my sights was celebrity runner Ben Fogal. That probably does him a slight disservice as he and James Cracknal have done some awesome things. I wasnt taking any prisoners however and I was soon past him whilst overhearing him tell a runner that his knee wasnt too good so he was taking it easy.

Approaching 3 miles by this point (splits: 6:38, 6:45, 6:42) needed fluids and if by magic the first water station appeared in the distance. Not just any water either... It was M&S water :-) but actually it had a funny taste to it so I had half with the rest over my head to cool me down. I could see ahead to see hundreds of runners still streaming over victoria bridge. Always nice to know there are plenty of people behind you feeling way worst than you do. The next 3 miles took us along Horse Guards Avenue and up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square before going left through the Old Admiralty Arch and down The Mall alongside St James Park. Then it was a right at Buckingham Palace (a quick wave to Queeny) and up Constitution Hill on to Park Lane and back into Hyde Park (Any tourist would love this course!) Splits for miles 4 to 6 were 6:38, 6:49, 6:43. So I was keeping a good pace but still wasnt even half way so couldnt get too excited but I had settled down and was feeling good.

The entry back into Hyde Park was lined with cheering crowds which continued as we wound around the Park circling the Serpentine. It was at this point that I caught up with the official 1:30 pace maker holding the flag aloft which was fixed to his back. I had spotted the pace maker at the start and knew he had crossed the start a minute before I did so if I could stick with this guy he would comfortably bring me in within my goal pace. There was a pack of runners together at this point all it seems with the same goal in mind. It didnt make the pace any easier as it was still fast and the effort level now up at a solid 8 or 9 to keep on track.

This was a flat race no question but because of this every slight incline was even more noticeable with all of them coming in the Park. I used these however to accelerate past those that laboured ever so slightly getting ever closer to my goal. The miles ticked by as we continued to circle the park. Splits for miles 7 to 9 were: 6:49, 6:44, 6:51.

Then at mile 9 the pace maker simply stopped and desserted us! His parting words being I brought you this far on exactly 1:30 pace with an inferrance that we were now on our own. It was make or break time now. I turned to one of the others in the pack and half jokingly said he was only holding us up anyway! It took a mile to regroup my thoughts and hang on to the pace and then from mile 10 I decided to push on to the end with a concerted effort with everthing I could muster. Effort levels by this point had reached 10. I was giving it everything I had and for my rewards I continued to pass more runners as I had been throughout the race.

And soon I could see the home straight with the finish line off in the far distance. This alone must have been over half mile easily. I pushed to the finish with one last big effort. The clock read 1h29m... And my watch (and chip time) read 1h27m51s.

I was hugely excited to crack the 1h30 mark and so pleased with how my race had gone and the effort I put in from start to finish. My splits for the final 4 miles were: 7:00, 6:36, 6:24, 6:12. (also later found out that finished 154th out of 12,500 finishers).

The medal was put around my neck and photos taken. I was particularly taken with the medal which was made from 100% sustainble wood and in the shape of a leaf with 10.10.10 engraved in it. I found my wife and daughter amongst the crowds enjoying the post race festival and we took in the great atmosphere and laid on the grass by the Serpentine. A lovely day which I would happily repeat next year. I would recommend it to anyone interesting in running a big city race without the need to train for the full marathon!
I have also raised £920 for the PACE Centre so a big thank you to everyone that has supported me. It's not too late to give something -


  1. Huge congratulations on clocking sub 1hr30mins Stu. Just shows that quality miles are far more valuable than quantity.

    Got a 10k in 3 weeks time. Haven't raced over such a short distance before but have adjusted my running accordingly focusing on faster sessions. Strange how I feel excited about going fast instead of long.

  2. what it boils down to Richard is that its neither running long, short, fast or slow that gets us runners excited, but purely the very act of running itself! :-D Good luck with 10km. great distance which requires total speed from the off!

  3. Great running Stu, sounds like a good event for next year's diary!

  4. Brilliant effort, Stu. Your commitment paid off again.