‘This is probably the coolest half marathon in the UK…look around’ So many trendy East-London runners (man buns, beards, cool piercings and pink hair).
I ran the 5.5K in 2017 with Tom (read the race recap here) and in all honesty, wasn’t that impressed. Coupled with the fact that I’d heard that the race had run out of on-course water in previous years, this race actually hasn’t been on my race bucket list,. However I’m glad they listened to feedback to move the race to a later weekend to allow people to run the London Marathon and Hackney Half (back in 2017, the races were a week apart).
We arrived around 8.15am to collect our bibs from Bumble (they kindly gave me my bib to let me run with Anna, however this post is not sponsored), meet up with Anna’s friends and go to the loo. Anna’s two friends, Emily and Hannah, had been training with Anna since a trip to Thailand in Feb. They wanted to run a sub 2, but with Anna and Emily running their first ever half, their expectation were also realistic that it might not happen.
The corrals starts were slow… I think I heard an announcement about something happening on the course that they needed to sort. However at 9.19am we crossed the start line. With a 2hour time goal, I planned to run between 8.55-9.10 pace (average of 9.09 with a little bit of a buffer).
Mile 1 and 2 were a 8.58 min mile.
Mile 3- 9.34 …and things started to slow down. We made a decision to stay together so when things didn’t go to plan, we stuck together.
The route was quite crowded and tricky for us all to run next to each other, so I ran slightly ahead and checked back regularly.
There is no other way to describe the water stations during the race than a ‘shit show’. Apparently there were supposed to be eight aid stations, however we only counted six. However the main issue was that the water stations were undermanned and underprepared. We had to queue up to get water, waiting while volunteers filled more cups. The tables were behind barriers meaning that the cups had to be physically handed over, adding to the chaos. I’ve since also heard that there were signs saying that only the cups in the bins provided would be recycled – and yet the streets were littered with them.
Mile 4 -9.41, Mile 5 – 10.17. It was harder to stick together, and Hannah wanted us to go ahead so Emily, Anna and I pressed onwards.
Mile 6 -10.11. Mile 7 – 9.30. Mile 8 – 10.10. Mile 9- 10.36. At this point Emily was struggling and needed the bathroom, so Anna and I ran on just the two of us. Although our pace had slowed, we managed a 10.04 for mile 10 and I hoped we might be able to squeak under 2.10, however Anna said she didn’t think she could up the pace.
Mile 11- 10.39. Mile 12 – 10.38.
Around mile 12.5 I bumped into my Godmother’s daughter on the course, running her first half marathon. She text me later to say that she’d just started to walk and so it was a friendly kick up the bum to keep running again.
With 100m to go, I told Anna ‘balls to the wall’ and we sprinted it in to the finish. 2.13.50.
Race Day FAQ:
Packet pickup – you can pay extra to have your bib delivered, or collect it from the race village on the Friday/Saturday before the race. Unfortunately I heard that the queues were about 45mins long for bib pick up on Saturday afternoon.
Bag drop – easy bag drop and pick up in the clear plastic bags provided.
Aid Stations – there were water stations at 2.5, 5, 7, 8.25, 10.25, and 12.25 giving out a mixture of water and Nuun hydration, all served in paper cups (note: the info about the race said there would be 8 water stations, however this doesn’t seem to be the case). HOWEVER, they were a ‘shit show’, with queues backing up on runners waiting for water even at the early water stations. They simply weren’t ready
Loos/Bathrooms – there were long queues for loos at the start (although we found a second set of secret loos). On the course they were at every water station.
Course: the course is all road, and well signposted when it narrowed, had speed bumps or sharp turns. It looks like the route it pretty flat, but it felt hilly while running it (including one right at the start and one at the end!)
Cut off time – 3.5 hours
How much is entry? Half Marathon is £54. This includes free race photos, a technical t-shirt and a goodie bag that you’ll actually want to eat!
Post-Race – there was an amazing post-race festival. Probably the best bit of the race if I’m honest. We took advantage of the free beer from sponsor Michelob Ultra, free massages, plus plenty of food stands.
Spectators – the course had pretty decent support, and impressively had a spectator walking guide that showed the crowd where they could see their runners in multiple spots. However, as it was the first time they’d set this up (as far as I’m aware) they didn’t have any print outs, or a well signposted route. Furthermore, none of the volunteers seemed to know what the route was, let alone how to direct my Mum and step-dad. (My Mum also added a complaint about the lack of open coffee shops near the route, and zero porta loos for spectators!)
PS I’m having some issues uploading photos to WordPress (very annoying!) which is why there aren’t as many in this blog as I’d like, and why there are duplicates. Working on it over here – and thinking of getting some technical help to redesign my blog/logo etc!