Royal Parks Half Marathon

Race Date: Sunday 8th October 2023

Race Report by Michael Ingham

Having not run a half marathon for a some time I decided to test my increasing years, and though knees worn out after over 60 years of athletics (teacher said “keep fit, active & healthy”) it’s now resulted in declining times but I made the decision to run 2 in 4 weeks. First the GNR then the Royal Parks Half Marathon. The reason behind the decision made due to success in both ballots ! Anyway, the GNR behind me here goes with a report on the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

With just a weekly parkrun and a midweek run behind me over the past few months I set off to London with the simple rule. Run when you can, Walk if you have to, Crawl if you must. Just never give up. I knew I could & would complete this race. It’s difficult to call it a road race though as only the first 5 miles & last mile or so is are actually on road. The rest is as the title suggests, through or around the parks.

Forget the nights drawing in, mornings are just as dark in October for early race starts. First problem of the day was creeping around in the dark to get my running kit on while Mrs I slept on. I ended up putting the wrong trainers on ! The pair I’d travelled in, not the pair I took for the race with preferred insoles. By the time I realised it was too late to return and change ‘em as I was staying at Kings Cross and it was a 6 stop ride on the tube to Knightsbridge. Not to worry, they are running trainers after all, just not with the insoles I prefer when running. They were not ideal, not the best option, but it turned out OK.

With just under 16,000 finishers plus family & friends swelling the ranks of the start area it was a surprise that within a couple of minutes I spied another Steel City Strider vest. That belonged to Joel Driver and there was a quick chat before the both of us went our separate ways for a final pit stop and onto the start area. Were there any others ? See the foot of the report along side the link to the results.

The start area consisted of 3 pens and no surprise to see them marked as A, B, & C. The start consisted of thirteen (13) “waves”. All unsurprisingly went well for the early waves as 1, 2, 3 quickly moved towards the start allowing waves 4, 5, & 6 to follow. As these waves queued the approximate timing started to slip away. My wave number 12 was scheduled to start at 09:37am but it was clear the time off was moving more rapidly than the elite who were already some miles down route. Fortunately for early October there was a final burst of Indian Summer so hanging around was pleasant enough with no requirement for extra layers. Eventually wave 12 was called, to be held while 10 & 11 made their way towards the start line. The start line it turned out was about 1 mile away so lots of shuffling of feet to get there. Fear not though, the start line eventually appeared but for me, just as the announcer had started to inform everyone around that the lead runners were heading towards the finish line which was exactly where the start line was. We don’t get many of those precise start & finish lines. Fortunately, I say fortunately, I managed to cross the start line before the winner arrived ! I thought 82 minutes to start at the GNR was bad with 60,000 runners. Royal Parks took 62 minutes and there were only 16,000 runners.

It was now onto the road section of the race and very interesting too. In similar vane to the London Landmarks Half Marathon. Passing Buckingham Palace after a mile, by Green Park (not in it) then an out & back to give a view of the Big Clock thingy at the Houses of Parliament, twice. Onwards then to Trafalgar Square. Who knew it was uphill to see Nelson ! It was another out & back, of The Strand, with a little loop to return to Trafalgar Square, and yes it must have been uphill on the way out as it was a nice down hill before passing through Admiralty Arch. Then a long drag up The Mall by the side of St James Park, again not in it. Back to Buckingham Palace then another long drag up Constitution Hill. It’s not called a hill for nothing ! There’s a theme going on here ? This course certainly isn’t flat ! A quick view of Wellington Arch to the right then finally to the entrance of Hyde Park.

Who knew that you could run 5 miles around Hyde Park and get nowhere. Apart from a run up & down the side of The Serpentine, it was five miles going nowhere and very boring. Not easy either for those who know Hyde Park. Lots of sharp turns & crossroads (or cross paths) with speed bumps either side that runners have to avoid tripping over, made worse by being made out of cobblestones. Hyde Park will stay in my mind as the place I did a ‘Jurgen Klinsmann’ for those who remember ‘the Jurgen dive’ ? Just before the 8 mile marker and taking a sharp right hand turn, think Formula 1 cars, though not at their speed and the inside car being pushed by the outside car into a wall or on this occasion, gravel trap. Inside line for me with another runner by my side. Did she go the long way round to both hold our racing line ? No ! She cut across, barged me sideways and I did my Jurgen, face planting along the gravel. Ouch. Nose cut & bruised but fortunately not broken and my teeth stayed in place. Spectacles twisted & later realised I’d bruised my hip too. Did she stop to help ? No way, she pinched the shorter racing line and carried on. It was another runner behind who very kindly stopped to give assistance. While my first instinct was to get up & get on with it she was a calming influence telling me to take 5 minutes to assess the damage and in the process affecting both our finish times. I can’t say thank you enough to her but in the moment of shock never got her race number though I did thank her a few times as we kept passing each other in turn after that. Anyway, I dusted myself down and tried not to think about the 5 miles to the finish, just get on with it, trying my best to put my spectacles back straight without breaking them. I managed to run if somewhat slowly to 10.5 miles but by now my hip was giving me a little grief. It was then I decided to run/walk the remainder of the course and in good company as many others were doing the same. I received a call out from another runner who recognised my vest and a brief chat ensued. Although from Lincoln he was well aware of our club. We exchanged ages and thought he was 11 years younger than me he went on to say that this was his 443rd half marathon ! Much respect to him. After Hyde Park is was a couple more twists & turns this time around Kensington Gardens and passing Kensington Palace, which I never noticed ! We finally left the gardens and back onto the road for the final mile, the extra mile we’d walked to the start line but was now the finish run in.

Joel and Michael celebrate their achievement

On the half mile back into Hyde Park it was medal first, made of wood then a can of water, and a caffeine drink. I don’t do caffeine so that was awful. One sip to test was enough for me, Yuk ! Then a banana stall. I’ve never seen so many bananas even though 95% of the field finished ahead of me. Onto the T-Shirt line up and back into the park to meet Mrs I. Her famous first words, “you’ve fallen”. “No, I was pushed” I said but agreed the resulting damage amounted to the same thing. Did I enjoy it ? Putting aside the dive, or should I say push at 8 miles I was pleased I’d run this race but my first thought was I’d not run this one again. Give me the LLHM every time.

To finish, our race numbers had a section to fill in with a name etc as it was a blank space. I’d put “Michaels Final Half Marathon” ! Will it be my final half ? Who knows, just don’t tell Mrs I. While 10K seems to be a better race option I had made it to 10.5 miles and after the GNR bombarding me with emails regarding the Great Run series I’m thinking the Great South Run at Portsmouth at 10 miles is an option for next October. My motto, Never Give In, Never Surrender.

No club information was provided, but two Striders were among 15,983 runners who finished the Royal Parks Half. The men’s race was won by Andrea Soffientinil in a time of 1:06:21. Libby Gandhi won the women’s race in a time of 1:18:14.

Striders Results

P Name Cat Cat P Time
7975 Joel Driver M40 681 2:09:09
15226 Michael Ingham M70+ 33 3:04:15

Full results can be found on the sporthive website.
(Any Striders missing? Let us know if you were there too).

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