14 November 2019

Event Review: Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

October 31, 2011

When I was offered a place to take part in this race I snapped up the opportunity immediately. Why was I so eager to run 13.1 miles? It had been a couple of years since I had done a road race, and six years since I had run a half marathon.Royal-Parks-Half-MarathonBut something about this sell-out scenic event which attracts runners from 30 different countries as well as people from all over the UK, whose places now have to be applied for via a ballot made me feel that this was an unmissable opportunity.

Once my place was confirmed I set about training – well, reminding my legs what it feels like to run for a long time!

Race day came, and I was quite surprised at just how many people were taking part. The whole of the southern side of Hyde Park was taken up by the Festival Area, the start/finish gantry and 12,500 runners with their friends and families milling around.

At this time of the morning proceedings were centred on the main stage where warm-ups were taking place. Many runners also busied themselves dropping off baggage and taking their pre-race comfort break in the many facilities.

Being lucky enough to be in the VIP area I used the opportunity to star gaze and check out which celebrities were racing. I spotted news reader Sophie Raworth, ex-Corrie and Holby City star Angela Griffin, and Royal Parks Half Marathon regular Nell McAndrew.

Looking very stylish and lean in her green forest fairy outfit, it wasn’t surprising to know she was set to run the half marathon in under 90 minutes.


The course

At 9.30am prompt we set off along South Carriage Drive, a massive crowd of 12,500 runners across five waves, making our way out of Hyde Park. The pack headed towards Embankment via Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park and Westminster under sunny Sunday skies.

I took it easy and decided to keep my pace steady and even. There is always a worry that you might be too slow to take part in the race, and end up languishing at the back. However with so many people in this race of all ages and abilities, including people dressed as furry animals, there was no danger of that happening. Around 60 per cent of the field were running for charity, while there was a core of club runners and elite athletes.

Indeed, I got my first glimpse of how far back I was from the leaders when they passed me in the opposite direction along Embankment going through mile 4 while I had only just passed mile 2!

In turn, once I passed the turnaround at Temple Tube Station I saw an even bigger parade of runners who were only just going through mile 2 while I was at mile 4. That made me feel reassured! We passed lots of cheering crowds along Whitehall, The Mall and Green Park before re-entering Hyde Park where the rest of the route would be completed.


This was a 7-mile convoluted run through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens which was a mystery tour of every corner of these two green spaces. The route twisted and turned so many times that it was hard to see where I would be running next! There was a lot of doubling back and passing other runners going in the opposite direction. A number of my running club mates were doing this race so it was a good chance to wave across at some of them!

As half marathon routes go this must be one of the most scenic, since it passes many iconic London sights such as Big Ben, The London Eye and Royal Albert Hall, as well as four of the beautiful Royal Parks. It is also deemed to be a fast flat course. Granted there are no hills, but running up the very gentle inclines on the Broad Walk or through Kensington Gardens still hurt after 10 miles at “race pace”!

The final mile was a real test of will power for me to hold my run together and not walk along South Carriage Drive. Many people were suffering from the distance and the unseasonably warm weather. I was determined to look straight ahead and keep my focus on the big timing clock at the end of the run.

Finally, I crossed the finish line relieved and with a smile on my face. I had made it! As I walked back to the Festival Area my legs began to hurt as my efforts from the last two hours began to catch up with me. I ran it in 1hour 57minutes 50seconds – a far cry from Nell McAndrew’s 1hour 25minutes 20seconds. That did not matter though. I had survived a half marathon and that made me happy enough.

Would I do it again?

The Royal Parks Half Marathon is very well organised and there is a great atmosphere during the run, in no small way helped by its 40,000 spectators cheering for you along the route! The Food and Fitness Festival and musical entertainment make this a great place to relax and socialise after the race. All this makes me definitely want to come back and run it again. I would also try and improve my time!

Good points

The pre-event build-up with training sessions and tips on how to prepare for the race

Baggage store facilities and many toilets

Scenic route

Lots of cheering spectators

Plenty of drink stations

Markers every mile

Post race entertainment

Generous goodie bag

Bad points

It’s not a completely flat 13.1 miles!

Do you want to do it?

The provisional date for next year’s Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is Sunday 7th October. The ballot for entry to this race opens on Wednesday 18th January 2012.

Further details on www.royalparkshalf.com

Maria David, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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