Race Review: Vitality Hackney 5K or…. A poorly organised afternoon parkrun with a medal

I am not going to write much about this as am trying to focus on the positives. The positives being summer is now officially here and my ankle held up after a fortnight or more of concern and hobbling.

This is why I ran this race…


Last year the 5K medal (on the left) was a copy of the pretty awesome half marathon medal on the right. I like this idea and, as I am saving myself for Copenhagen Marathon, and ran the inaugural Hackney half a few years ago I thought I’d just go for the 5K this year. Bam! Awesome medal, easy run, easy journey. Or so I thought…

First it was at 3pm. WTF!?!

Second the race number did not get sent out. That or it got lost. Or they only sent them to people who were doing both days. Regardless of the reason I did not get my bib, so I had to get there early.

Leaving with plenty of time to spare I headed to the tube to find the turnstiles were not accepting the tapping of debit cards. This set me back as I didn’t have an Oyster card and had to join the queue to get one. Only to find that the ticket machines were not taking debit cards. #WINNING Luckily I had cash and purchased an Oyster to find a crowd on the platform. Not a good sign.

But, I know a lot of people dislike TFL, but I do not and sooner or later a train arrived that took me all the way to Stratford where from then I had a map to navigate with and a postcode to navigate to. I am fucking Copernicus here. Ah, now this is a problem. Stratford is bisected by train lines. It has underground, overground (wombling free) and international services coming into it and, if you find yourself on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, you are in a world of hurt.

Google maps on my phone was not helping. It was doing that thing where you are walking in one direction along a road and the little arrow is facing a different direction and moving slowly through a building. So this, coupled with a lot of construction and new roads that were not even on the map, I ended up walking for 10 minutes in completely the wrong direction.  But looking at the map I had printed I managed to get back on track, joined a crowd heading to what I thought was the family fun day and run (as it was going on from 3 to 6pm) but it turns out they were all going to the Copperbox Arena for something else.


I did manage to make it to Hackney marshes with 10 mins to spare. But, without a bib I needed to queue at the race HQ. Not sure it was really a race HQ. It was manned by three people. One was looking up people’s names on a piece of paper, looking confused and then handing the paper to another “helper”. This person would look confused and then look something up on a laptop (whilst looking confused) and then take the paper to a table where a second piece of paper was to check something, write something down and then you got your race bib (if you were lucky).

Would you like your bub, Sir? Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!
Would you like your bib, Sir? Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!

In the crowd/queue of about 20 were a few people who were there to collect their bibs for the half the next day but no one was given priority. Not even the 5K runners needing him? No, not with less than 10 mins to go to the start of the race. And the “helpers” were chatty. With the two paper shufflers getting through the queue at the rate of one person every 5 mins the third person, a “coordinator”  of such, was chatting to some woman who they had already given a race pack. MOVE THE FUCK ALONG! We don’t care.

Okay, so this was the timing. I went from person one, giving my printout, who then handed it to person two to check against piece of paper one, piece of paper two, look up and then assign me a new bib, painstakingly slowly writing this new number next to the old one I was assigned on the sheet. I then had to run to the baggage drop, dealing with a wisecracking idiot there who looked at my race bag and decided to spark up a conversation with 2 mins before the race:

HIM – You have a lot of tags.

ME – Yes, I run a lot.

HIM – Would you like me to take them off?

ME – (confused) Depends on how long you want to live.

Suffice to say he let someone else give me my bag back after, but I digress. I dropped off the bag and somehow needed to run across the field, did I mention this was on a field? Anyway, I needed to run across the field a hundred yards whilst pinning my new bib to my vest as the countdown started. Now this is one of those #youknowyourearunnerwhen tweets. “You know you’re a runner when, you can pin your race number evenly onto your race vest as you run across a field to the starting pens.”

10-9-8-7… I joined right at the end of the wave, a mass not unlike the piss poorly organised first come first served Vitality British 10K 6-5-4… Garmin turned on GPS searching. 3-2… Music on but a song I don’t know… 1! And we are off. No warmup. No stretching. No hydration. Nothing. What a clusterfuck.

The Route

This was fugly. Hackney Marshes is a small grassy park with a couple of football pitches on it and poorly maintained paths winding out into woodland. The route wasn’t even going to explore. You ran across some of the field, then along one long path when you realised about 10% of people were walking from the off. Once you came off the path you were onto the football pitches. You zigzagged these. How exciting is that? Not! Back onto a path the other side and back to the start. As I ran across the football pitches and saw people heading the other way between the goalposts it felt very much like cross country at school. Urgh!


How I did

As I stated earlier this was a tester for my ankle after two weeks out. And what a test? I was not expecting to be running up and down a churned up football pitch baked hard in the sun. I was not expecting to start from the back without warm up or water either. But whatever. It was what it was.

I bimbled around in the crowd at a slow but steady 9 minute mile pace and finished feeling like my ankle worries are behind me. And refreshed enough for a very long slow run the next day in prep for the marathon.

The bling

Disappointing given the prior years.

Bling #104 Disappointing

In Summary

This was effectively a piss-poorly organised afternoon Parkrun with a medal. It was in the arse end of London. They were not prepared enough to send out the bibs, and the HQ was not very good at all. The route was dreadful. And the medal was nasty.

Would I run the Vitality Hackney 5K again? No.

Would I recommend the Vitality Hackney 5K? No. Not unless you live in Hackney and this is basically your local parkrun territory.

The only saving grace was that it was FREE. And, given the ballache experienced to get there, get the bib etc and the poor quality of the route, I would say that is a fair price.



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