London Landmarks Half Marathon by Michael Ingham
Race Date: Sunday 3rd April 2022
This is a half marathon I’d wanted to run for a while but Covid meant that there hadn’t been an event since 2019 so to ensure an entry I took a charity place for Blood Cancer UK. I was quite prepared to foot the bill for the minimum fund raising amount in order to give something back for the work they have continued doing throughout the pandemic, including lobbying parliament regarding the needs of those like me with blood cancer. A group with an immune suppressed system that seemed largely forgotten. This included the early requirement for the booster program and access to free testing now that the funding for the general public has been withdrawn. Good work by Blood Cancer UK.
Soapbox over, on to the race. Much water has passed down the River Thames since I last ran in London, the 1994 marathon where I reached the half marathon mark in 1:12. Many years since then and knees that need replacing are testament to a new expectation of a much different time, but “Never Give In, Never Surrender “ is my motto. I’d booked 3 nights in London and glad I did as after travelling down on Friday I felt quite tired and meant I could have an easy restful Saturday, even missing a parkrun!
The race was split into 7 waves and I was in wave 6 so meant I didn’t have to wake before the birds started their morning chorus. A short walk to Kings Cross and onto Green Park tube station close by my allotted assembly area. Everything as well signposted. Baggage onto a bus then a queue for the toilets. A quick left turn had runners in separate wave areas and soon down close to the start line where there was a warm up leader. Not something I’ve been a fan of but strangely the chap in charge high on his gantry had us going through a routine that I found both thorough & useful. Then to the line and time to abandon the extra layer of a long sleeved cotton T-shirt to where discarded clothing was being collected for charity. Despite the sunshine it was a very cold morning and in the shadow of tall buildings extremely chilly.
T-shirt removed it was down to the start line through the zigzag barriers designed to thin out the runners before crossing the timing mat and away at precisely 10:05. We went to a first mile marker that included Trafalgar Square, the 1st landmark and to the first of many out and back sections of the course, this one being Waterloo Bridge with a bit a rise and fall in elevation and with The London Eye, the 2nd landmark to the right as we first crossed the bridge. We turned & doubled back at the far end of the bridge and Mile 1 was completed but it suddenly seemed a long way to go! Next was close to Covent Garden but you wouldn’t really know it was there, then another out and back to the first of many loops to take in Somerset House at Mile 2 but you’d really have to know London well to spot this one. Nothing interesting in Mile 3 running down the Embankment but I suppose I could say that the River Thames was just over the wall. We passed St Pauls Cathedral on the way to Mile 4 and in front of the cathedral steps. Another out & back took us passed the Royal Courts of Justice at Mile 5 and then another return journey to the rear of St Pauls at Mile 6 although you wouldn’t know as it hidden behind tall buildings.
St Mary Le Bow for me the best landmark at 6.5 miles running right in front of the entrance to the church as the Bow Bells were ringing for everyone. With so many turns it was hard to know if runners on the other side of the road were in front or behind ! Mile 7 brought us to the Bank of England and better still into the second half of the race. Running any race distance always seems easier after the half way mark has passed by and it’s now a run to the finish. The Monument to the great Fire was on the way to Mile 8 and apparently we were close to the Walkie Talkie, the Cheese Grater & the Gherkin but you wouldn’t know it ! After that it was a section of zig zagging around the streets to take in The Mansion House the residence of the Lord Mayor of London to reach Mile 9. Yet another out and back took us to The Tower of London then with a view of the Shard across the River Thames at Mile 10. Miles 11 & 12 albeit on the home stretch was a drag on the Embankment though does have a few different road names along the way and a section of the London Marathon last travelled in 1994 with a nasty little climb out of the tunnel.
The finish was not too far away now as we passed Waterloo Bridge again last seen at about three quarters of a mile into the race then the final out and back took us to The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. Oddly I didn’t notice either as the concentration was on the u-turn with everyone slowing to avoid the kerb, cones & tapes. Just before the turn we had crossed the final 5km timing mat, there was one at each 5kms, so the head was quickly working out just how far it was to the finish and proving the mind was still active! It was down to a left turn off the Embankment to Northumberland Avenue, (there’d been a few Monopoly names along the route) left again into Whitehall Place then Whitehall itself where there was finally sight of the finish line just before Downing Street in 2:36:29, though Strava kindly gave me a better moving time as I did stop at drink stations but did manage to complete the race without walking!
It had been an interesting route even if some sights were actually missed while concentrating on the road ahead but they were there. It was then goody bag time and a long walk back to the baggage busses. It was a long way! Despite having more corners, out & back u-turns than a Formula 1 race my first thought was I’d definitely run this again. Let’s hope I make it 3 ballot successes out of 3 after being successful in the London Marathon & the Great North Run events. Things happen in 3’s it’s often said… yes?
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The full results can be viewed here https://results.sporthive.com/events/6908066390266940672/races/481323
Unfortunately as with mass events like this runners don’t have their club attached to their name so I can’t find if any other Steel City Striders who took part though I did troll through the clubs Strava group but couldn’t find anyone else who had taken part.
Please shout and you can get added to the results.