The Royal Parks Half Marathon is one of the most iconic races in the capital and as such it’s notoriously hard to get a place in the ballot. I’d tried for the last few years with no success, so when I got an offer from a friend and employee of the organisers for their ‘friends and family ballot’ I jumped at the chance. Seriously, if you want to run the race and you know someone who works at Limelight Sports, drop them a line!
10 weeks or so later, and I was lining up in the starting pens on an unfortunately wet, windy, and grey October day in Hyde Park. As I always seem to do with these things, I had great intentions when registering to train hard and do the event justice (given the likelihood that I probably wouldn’t run it again) but that didn’t really happen! Nevertheless as it was pretty miserable weather, I was determined to keep smiling and enjoy the experience as much as possible. My feet were soaked through and caked in mud before I’d even made it to bag drop as the race village was pretty much underwater, so a positive mental attitude was a necessity!
The Royal Parks Half route is split into two sections, with the first loop mainly along the routes outside Hyde Park, passing Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Trafalgar Square. All the monuments were good points of interest to tick off as I ran past!
I was also lucky enough to have my support crew, James and E, waiting for me at Mile 7 so I knew if I got through the first half, I’d be able to stop for a moment to see them. This helped those miles fly by to be honest! Coming into Hyde Park and seeing the flags over the path and hearing the deafening cheers from the charity support stations I had such a smile on my face.
After entering Hyde Park the route then winds back and forth along the paths through the park, into Kensington Gardens and back down to the finish. The doubling back works well for spectators. James and E crossed over to catch me again at Mile 9 where I stopped again for a (rather soggy) hug, and they could then easily reach the finish line to cheer along the final stretch.
The last few miles were tough, I wanted to be done and the weather really wasn’t improving. I walked quite a LOT but I was determined to keep positive so I revelled in all the comments I was getting from people about my ninja avocado leggings (a Lucy Locket Loves lucky dip but worn so that James and E could spot me easily!) – apparently they were making a few other people smile too which was nice.
I sprinted (or felt like I did) down the finishing straight chased by a guy dressed as Olaf – I wasn’t going to be beaten by someone in a snowman costume which definitely made for some hilarious race photos!
From there I collected my medal, a can of water (the event really made an effort this year to be more environmentally conscious), a banana, race t-shirt and went to meet James and E. We just waded through the mud to the bag drop and got out there as quickly as possible for a Five Guys burger! It was a shame as there were a few good stands, a Lululemon stretching area and merchandise tent but it was still raining and so hard to stand up, never mind walk, in the slippery boggy grass.
The medal is pretty cool as it’s a wooden design, which is different to most races, and I really like the t-shirt – it’s one I would absolutely wear again for training runs although I ended up selecting a Women’s Large, so they’re not on the generous side.
The Royal Parks Half is a great race to tick off the bucket list if you manage to get a spot. I probably wouldn’t do it again, but I’m more of a ‘run somewhere new’ type of person. It was a shame the weather spoiled the experience a little but with a race in October it’s going to be unpredictable!
Have you run the Royal Parks Half Marathon?