The Royal Parks Half Marathon is a yearly road race that takes place through closed roads in central London. Being the only half marathon to have this privilege, places are fiercely sought after through a ballot-only entry system, akin to the London Marathon. There are no ‘good for age’ or ‘championship’ places, so faster runners are not going to be guaranteed a place. If one fails to get in through the lottery-ballot, they can choose to run for any of the numerous charities, where they pledge to raise a minimum sponsorship amount. This usually ranges from £200-250 for most charities.
I was a 1:45 XEMPO pacer for this event. Having missed out on pacing the 1:40 group last year due to injury (gutted!), I was very excited to have been offered a pacer place this year. It was an early start, and I was in Hyde Park just before 7:30am. I collected my race pack from the XEMPO tent where some of the other pacers were already getting kitted out. The event T-shirt in there was incredibly large, so that was a disappointment. We each picked up a lightweight backpack, Tom Tom “pacer” T-shirt and a flag pole that contained the pace we were pacing. We received from brief instructions before bing ushered by a Royal Parks representative into the start pens at around 8:25am.
Once in the starting pens, runners began to funnel in and line up for the race start at 9am. I chatted to a few runners who were asking questions about the pace I would be keeping, tips, etc. I also saw fellow ELR runner Robert Rayworth from behind the barriers and wished him luck. The first wave set-off at 9am exactly, and the wave I was in around 5 minutes after. The start was really congested! I overtook quite a few runners during the first mile. My aim was to stick to just under 8 minute miles / 5 minute kilometres. This was not easy with such large crowds (and later on, narrow passages in the parks).
In no time I was in the zone and my stride was coming along nicely. The atmosphere was incredible! I was chatting to runners where I could, motivating them to stick with the pace. I left the runners who were clearly working hard to run the race and not distract them too much. The route is absolutely incredible for Royal Parks half. We ran past Buckingham Palace, through Green Park, St. James’s Park, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and fined in Kensington Gardens. The course got quite narrow as we entered the Kensington Gardens, but crowd support here (and in all the parks) was nothing short of incredible.
I had to slightly increase my pace after 10 miles (for just under 2 miles) as I could see that the mile markers were not matching up with my Garmin GPS data. During the final stretch running up Kensington Road to the finish was an amazing experience. I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:44:49. A few runners came up to me after crossing the finish line, happy to have run the course in under 1:45, which was a great feeling.
The event medal was unique, being made out of wood. I didn’t get a post-race goody bag, as you had to queue up and be given the items individually, and the queue was loooooong! Far from ideal after having just run a half marathon. It would have been far easier to place the items in a goody bag and each runner takes one like most events do.
After the race I did some post-race stretching (not as much as I should have!), got changed and walked around with Sania for a while before we ended up in Nandos for some lunch. We then headed to Harrods for a while before going home. A great and memorable day; I’d absolutely love to be back in 2017, either racing or pacing this fantastic and scenic event 🙂