I was fortunate to get a place in this years Royal Parks Half Marathon (its a balloted entry), which starts and finishes in Hyde Park, I first ran the event 2 years ago in 2014, and had enjoyed it then. Its a flat scenic route, taking in many of London’s landmarks.
With nothing else in the race calendar for the year, I’d targeted the race as a potential PB, hoping to dip under the 90 min barrier which I’ve only achieved once (last year at the Richmond Half Marathon). Unusually, I’d actually followed a training plan over the summer (Hal Higdon), and despite a few weeks off for holidays, felt strong going into the race. I’d clocked up 1:36 at the Disneyland Paris Half a few weeks ago, but had struggled to settle at the start; a strong finish had left me confident I could run better.
Roughly 16,000 run the Royal Parks, on a glorious but slightly chilly sunny Sunday morning I found myself in the front pen. My initial plan of running with a 1:30 pacer was scuppered by both of the pacers being in the Green start behind me. Assessing my options I decided to stay where I was, which was slightly less crowded, and try and pace myself.
As the race begin I quickly settled into a sub 7.00min mile pace and felt good. The first 6 miles of the race, take you out of Hyde Park, through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace, turning onto Birdcage Walk, Horse Guards Parade and then down the Mall as you loop St James’s Park. As I mentioned its a great scenic course of London. I was enjoying the route, the support and more importantly my running, consistently ticking off the miles; going through 5k at 21:22 and 10k at 42.59 with a nice steady pace.
The final 7 miles are run round Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, with great support from the crowds along the route. Ruth and the kids had made the journey up with me, and cheered me on as a passed by. I ran through the marked half way mark at 45mins, and knew the sub-90 was going to be close; even so I pushed on. 15km and 20k markers arrived at 1:04 and 1:26, my pace had remained high, but it looked like it wasn’t quite going to be enough. As the signs loomed for the last 800m, I knew a sub-90 was out of reach, but gave it all I had to the finish; stopping the clock at 1:30:31.
Slightly disappointed to miss out on a PB (by 49secs), and to miss that sub-90 by just 31 secs, I knew I’d given all I had, and was pleased with how I’d run and paced the race. Would I have gone quicker with a pacer? Perhaps, but judging on my 5k splits, my pace was pretty consistent throughout, and just about on the 90min mark.
Overall impressions. The Royal Half is a great race, and you can understand why its often difficult to get a place. A stunning route, well organised with great support, I’ll certainly be back for another shot at a PB. The medal and goody bag is pretty good as well…