Race Review: Royal Parks Half Marathon

The Royal Parks Half Marathon or…

 
The 20th of 20 Races in 6 Months for Pancreatic Cancer UK

 

Let me just mention that first. When I started on the journey of choosing a charity, a cause, to run for and zeroed in on the one disease that affected more of my family and friends than any, I did not know how this would change anything in my running. It did though, and all for the better.
In 2012 I took up running in May and ended the year with 10 medals and did not cancel on any races. There were no No Shows. There was a period of sickness that took two huge chunks out of the year, but this was the start of something.
In 2013 I over subscribed myself and ran 21 races but ended up DNSing 12 races. 12!!! It would have been 13 if I had bailed on the Gut Buster run on my birthday but decided NO! Taking a stand against my laziness, and unwillingness to push myself through with the discomfort of getting up and getting a train or tube to the event. In 2014 I vowed that I would never bail on 12 races again.

Note: (In the end I did bail on two this year, the Run The River 10 for Teach First. It was a 10k on a Tuesday after work, 2 days after the Reigate half marathon, and I was NOT! really able to run and the City Mile right after the Hackney Half I couldn’t get to in time)

And so this year, starting late at the Longleat 10, I decided to find a cause, and I found one in Pancreatic Cancer UK.
I wanted to do something more than run a race for them. In times of austerity you cannot expect people to dip their hands into their pocket for every run. I know so many people who raise money it would bankrupt you if you donated to all of them, so I was very aware that I could not tap people up for money for each race. I ran BUPA London 10K for Diabetes UK in 2012, and it was nigh on impossible to get sponsorship for the Help For Heroes run I did at the Sheffield 10K and the MS Society at the Royal Parks, my first ever half. And so I chose to run in bulk, 20 races in 6 months. Sounds a challenge right? And it was.
Target raised twice and I still beat it
The girls at Pancreatic Cancer UK, Hannah and Sara Jane have been brilliant throughout. Emails of encouragement always appear when needed, as well as emails of congratulation after. Tweets are retweeted and FB status and photo updates are liked. The Pancreatic Cancer UK team really did make me think I was part of something, as I started back at the Hastings Half and Finished with the Royal Parks half today.
Here is the final list:

 

March:
1 Hastings Half Marathon (DONE)
April:
2 Be a Gunner. Be a Runner 8K (DONE)
3 Regent’s Park Easter 10K (DONE)
May:
4 Watford Half (DONE)
5 Regents Park Summer 10K (DONE)
6 Missing People Clapham 10K (DONE)
7 BUPA London 10K (DONE)
8 Luxembourg Night Half Marathon (DONE)
June:
9 St Albans Half (DONE)
10 Hackney Half (DONE) 
July:
11 City 5K (DONE)
12 National Lottery Anniversary Run Newham (DONE)
August:
13 Dublin half (DONE)
14 Dublin Post race 3k (DONE)
15 Pride 10 (DONE)
September
16 London Zoo Stampede (DONE)
17 Reigate Half (DONE)
18 Shine Half (DONE)
October:
19th Bournemouth Half (DONE)
20th Royal Parks Half (DONE)
And this is how I did bling-wise.
20 Races, 22 Medals, a great journey
So today I high fived in the Charity tent and am now resting up for a month before running the rest of the year for me, well the Bexhill Poppy Half is really for the military, the November Movember Battersea run is really for Movember and the Santa Run and Virtual Santa runs in December both have charities attached.
I will say this,  finishing the 20 race journey, was more fulfilling than any of the races I had done in the past year, with the exclusion of the Gut Buster, when I forced myself out of bed to go do it.
Running for a cause gives you purpose, and I did not cancel on any of the races booked for the 20. I would have if they were just for me. So thank you to #teampancanuk for giving me the kick up the ass I needed.

And so onto the Royal Parks Half….

The plan was not to be there. I did not have a place, and was planning to run the Wimbledon Half instead and be resplendent in my Womble medal. But, last minute, I was sent an email from the Pancreatic Cancer team saying someone had dropped out and would I like the place? Would I like a place at my FAVE half, to finish my 20 in 6 months, the half that was my first ever? Hells Yes!

Just a side note, as this is really an illustration of how karma works out. I always planned to run a marathon, the original idea was to run the Berlin Marathon last year. It would have been 18 months from the time I started running. I went, but I was injured and couldn’t take part. It is a huge disappointment for me, more than any other racing… well, that and the photos of Me, Lilo and Stitch at the Disney Wine and Dine half not coming out. So, lo and behold, this week Pancreatic Cancer UK asked if I would like a spot on the, yes, you’ve guessed it, Berlin Marathon. AWE-SOME! Awesome to the MAX!

And so onto the Royal Parks Half..

The Royal Parks Half Marathon is a wonderful race. Everything about it is great. You run through the heart of London, Hyde Park, through Marble Arch, St James Park, by Buckingham Palace, along the Mall, through Admiralty Arch, across Westminster Bridge by Parliament and Big Ben, along the Embankment across from the London Eye, and back again. How awesome is that? I have run through Disney World, around a NASCAR arena, through the French Quarter of New Orleans, the arse end of Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Dublin, but this race is awesome. Here is the route.
Which Part of Awesome Didn’t you get?
And here is how I did
Now this is four minutes slower than I did it two years ago. I know, I know, I should have blitzed it, but you have to remember that in 2012 the Royal Parks was my 5th race of the year and I was running at the gym 5 days a week. In 2014 the Royal Parks was my 28th race of the year and fourth half in three weeks. NUFF SAID.
The good and the bad
 
There is so much good about this race, I rave about it. Tom, a workmate back at the drudgery of my 9-5 was a keen runner, is a keen runner, but didn’t race. We had a chat about that and now he is a racing fiend. He ran BUPA London, Reigate and now the Royal Parks with me.
The medal is made from sustainable wood and changes each year. In 2012 it was this…
Maple?

And this year…

Oak?

There is amazing support, water and lucozade at regular stations, toilets aplenty, and a tonne of support from the public as well as all the charities.

Half the race is out in the sights of London and the rest is in the park looping around and back on yourself. So you always have runners to your right who are going the other way and are a couple of miles ahead of yourself.

There is a great race village, although I would prefer the parts runners need to be to be just for runners. And you get a great t-shirt. Last time I ran it this was a foul yellow colour you couldn’t wear in public. This year it was blue. Tick!

Downsides: The race village at the end was overly full of burger munching families and not runners. So I wasn’t too happy to have to limp my way around codgers and stroller pushers stuffing their faces when all I wanted was to get to my bag.
And this was the biggest bone of contention. Normally you get your race number (tick) with baggage tags or tag with the number on it, or a blank one you can write your number on. You then go to the bag drop for your number range. E.g. You are number 11181 go to the area for 11000-12999. For some reason they decided to forgo with the tried and tested method and everyone had to queue up together, which took ages, and they then assigned you a second number. This number is worn around your wrist and bares no relevance to the number on your chest. It meant people missed the start. And I missed my warm up.
Would I run it again? Of course.
Would I recommend it? Hells yeah! I would try to get my overseas contingent to run it. But with most places going to charity runners now, it makes it hard to get a spot.

Obligatory Race Photo to follow…

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One Comment Add yours

  1. We raced yesterday as well… I enjoyed it but thought they should have run it the other way. Park THEN sights… the sights lift me waaaaaaay more than seeing runners closer to the finish than me! Also was annoyed it took 30 minutes to get across the start line – even VLM doesn't take that long and that's over double the amount of runners. I personally had no problems with the bag drop, maybe just need more people? Was very efficient when I dropped mine off.
    Totally agree with you about the race village though. My big complaint was the fact there was no changing area. I asked when I picked up my bag and she waved to the side of the tent and said “people are just changing here” when I said I wanted to do more than change my top (we were off out for lunch!) she suggested a portaloo… Even my local half at £12 to enter has somewhere to change at the end that doesn't involve me taking my undies off in front of 16000 runners and their families!
    Had a cracking day though! And yes – the leaf is Oak 🙂

    Like

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