I took part in the London Royal Parks half marathon in 2015, after being successful in the ballot entry.
It was my first ever Half Marathon and I stated afterwards that the experience was ‘incredible’. I promised to return, but sadly didn’t make it through the 2016 and 2017 ballots. I couldn’t wait to run the course again after securing a place in the 2018 ballot.
My race pack arrived in the post a few weeks before the run, and contained just my running number and branded technical t-shirt, as this is an eco-friendly event with the information booklets hosted online. However, the t-shirt came up extremely small: I’m a size 8 and had chosen a Small-sized top at registration, but it was skin-tight and far too short – definitely not suitable to run in! I couldn’t find any information online about how to make an exchange or purchase another one, so I emailed the race organisers who replied stating that I could swap the t-shirt during the race weekend at their information tent. To cut a long story short, I ended up in a size Large; and to be honest, it was still a bit tighter than ideal. The Medium was basically the same size as the Small! I can’t quite believe that a size 8 has to wear a Large. Hardly anyone in my running wave was wearing the event t-shirt, and I would hazard a guess that it’s because of the ridiculous sizing.
Race day fell on Sunday 14th October, when South Eastern trains were randomly doing service works. Surrounding train stations had replacement bus services and the first train out of Tunbridge Wells would get me to the event with 30mins to spare. Unfortunately, my train was delayed and then held up with signal failure problems, meaning that I arrived at Hyde Park dead on 9am when the race was starting. I threw my bag at my cheerleader and legged it across the event village to my starting wave, where I arrived breathless and panicked.
There were four waves in total: orange, green, blue, yellow and maroon. I was in Blue, which was rammed.
I was wearing the technical event t-shirt with a black Primark vest/sports bra combo underneath and Ellesse leggings, with black 1000 Mile trainer socks and Brooks Ghost 10 trainers, resulting a comfortable outfit. I’d had a bowl of Special K cereal with a mug of Truestart coffee for breakfast, followed by a banana, energy ball and Cliff Bloks energy chew on the train; and I felt prepared and good to go.
The route was scenic, flat and different to other London runs; however it was far too busy and also too narrow at times. I spent the whole 13.1 miles weaving, dodging and getting frustrated. I couldn’t maintain a steady or ideal pace at any point during the event.
However, charities and crowds of supporters lined the course at the halfway point, so the atmosphere was phenomenal. There were plenty of toilets and signage, the timed waves seemed to work well, and the overall vibe of this event was a positive one.
Electrolytes weren’t handed out – just water in the form of mini bottles and paper cups – which was fine. The water stops were frequent and seemed well managed. I had two energy Torq gels (Raspberry Ripple and Black Cherry – delicious!) – one at 10K and the other at 10 miles, which seemed to do the trick.
The wooden medal is different, and I love it; and us runners were also given a banana, water and a Royal Parks branded canvas bag within the Finish Line chute. However, runners then had to queue up in 15-minute long lines (in the rain!) to collect the rest of the goody bag: brioche bun, Branston ketchup/salad cream/brown sauce, energy balls, coconut snacks, sachet of maple syrup, pineapple crisps, energy drink, live yoghurt, beetroot bar.
From a supporter’s point of view, my cheerleader said that it was the ‘worst event for spectators’ that he’s been to: There were a few coffee and food vans around but the queues were just unbearable, especially in the rain, and he couldn’t get anywhere near the Finish Line to see me come through. We didn’t explore the event village or make use of any of the facilities as it was all too busy and claustrophobic.
In my 2015 race review I raved about this event and absolutely loved it. I would have given it 10/10 and couldn’t wait to run it again. This year however, I would give it 2/10. I can’t quite believe the difference, but for me, it was just far too crowded. Plus, at £60, the registration fee was extortionate. A shame, and I won’t be entering the ballot again in the future.