The idea of participating started during the weekly club runs, where some LRC members who participated in this race in previous years shared their experiences and encouraged us to experience the London Royal Parks Half Marathon.
We all applied hoping to secure a place through the ballots and in February we knew that Doreen and Audrey had both been lucky. Mariella and Catrin were not but decided to secure their places by choosing to run for a charity instead. Mariella ran for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children Charity and Catrin for Save the Children.
We had to train for the event during the summer battling heat and humidity. We decided to do our long runs together to make them more enjoyable. To overcome the summer challenges, we started all the long runs at 5:00 am (luckily we are all early birds) and one of us took care of placing cold water bottles along the route prior to the start. Here we want to give special mention to our 3 fellow LRC runners who joined us on all the long runs and made sure we covered the distance – Maria, Karelle and Sue – thanks for all your support, great company and encouragement. You were with us in spirit through every km in London. We have also enjoyed the company of Graziella and Margaret – always great to have additional LRC runners come along.
The day before the race we went to Hyde Park to pick up 2 bibs which had not yet arrived in the post and exchanged race T-shirt sizes which was no problem at all. We also walked part of the route getting both excited and nervous about the big day ahead. This was followed by a delicious carb-loading lunch (which contained both pizza and pasta – why choose when you can do both?) and of course some great London shopping. We ended the day with a light evening meal, prepared all our running gear and made sure we got an early night.
The race started at 9:00 but the organizers encouraged everyone to be there early so we got to Hyde Park by 7:30. Mariella and Catrin stopped by their charities tents to say hello. Running for a charity is a great option if you cannot secure a place in the ballots – besides contributing to a good cause you also get a nice running top and the charities have tents for ‘their’ runners with a lot of goodies, water and in some cases even massages.
We dropped off our bags with warm post-race clothes in the baggage area where they store your bag for you until you’re done with the race. This, along with all other things in this event were so well organized and manned by fantastic friendly volunteers. To keep warm until the race starts, you wear a top which you discard and it’s then collected and given to charity. Great way to clear out your wardrobe!
Of course with so many runners there were also a huge amount of toilets placed in long rows – which we managed to visit twice (prerace jitters).
We were so lucky with the weather – a beautiful sunny day in Hyde Park and all the trees just about to change colour, absolutely stunning. Before the race there was a lot of activity, food stalls and charity tents and 16,000 runners, family, friends and volunteers. We decided on a meeting point after the race as it would have been impossible to stay together as a group.
Due to the number of runners, the start is staggered based on your estimated finishing time. This way the elite runners take off first. We were split between the second and third group and we started between 5 – 20 minutes from the official start time. This is not a problem as your results will be displayed based on your chip time which are recorded from the time you pass the start line only. Waiting for the start you’re surrounded by runners from all over the world, running for numerous different charities and causes and everyone is excited, nervous and really friendly.
And then we were off! Wow it was just so exciting – imagine the sound 16,000 pair of shoes make! The crowd is cheering for you – it’s almost unreal. What made this race incredible was the crowd support throughout pretty much the entire race. It felt like all London came out on the streets to cheer us on. And if you run for a charity their volunteers are out in the streets calling your name and giving you encouragement. So cool also to run past landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square where the traffic had been blocked off for the race.
There were plenty of water and sports drinks stations along the way and also toilets for ‘desperate’ runners.
The route started in Hyde Park and about 16 km of the 21 km route was inside different London Parks so it was a very green route even though we were in the heart of London. The route was very flat and the only challenge, at times, was the number of runners all round you but it never really stopped us from running at the pace we wanted – in fact 3 of us got new PBs. But it was still extremely challenging at times and some of us really struggled in the last few kilometres.
Crossing the finish line and getting our medals was very emotional – tears of joy, exhaustion and that bittersweet feeling that it was now behind us.
The rest of the day after the race was also great fun – we enjoyed some amazing post-race beers in a pub close to the park which was packed with runners all proudly wearing their medals. Then on to a delicious meal where we continued swopping race stories and impressions of the day. And already talking about doing another race overseas.