Leprechauns and Donkeys - The Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon 2015

On Sunday the 11th of October myself and two of my club-mates from Gravesend Road Runners ran the Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon. The last time I ran this half marathon was in 2010 when I stumbled round the course in a time of 1:57:58. I really enjoyed it despite a slow time for me and pledged to run it again in future.
Finished and very happy!
Fast forward 5 years and this time around I was confident I was going to beat my time from 2010 for 3 reasons. Firstly and mostly significantly was because I believe I am a much better runner than I was 5 years ago. Secondly I had had the benefit of undertaking some speed sessions so I knew I was running relatively quickly and finally because the route had changed because of the cycle superhighway works. The latter reason might seem small, but the route no longer took runners over the bridge at Westminster and as anybody knows, bridges go up and then down and then up again when you have to turn around and that counts as a hill in my mind!
Before I get to the race report I think it's worth mentioning the hellishly early start for this event. I was up at 5.30am and in a taxi at 5.55 to get a train from Dartford to London Victoria at 6.38 with a number of other runners including one runner who thought they were running a marathon. I had a slight moment of panic at the though of having to run 26.2 miles not 13.1. I was also joined on the train by a significant number of Irish Rugby fans who were travelling to the Ireland vs France game in Cardiff. These fans included two who were dressed as Leprechauns, their banter certainly woke me from my slumber as the train inched its way towards London Victoria.
At Victoria station I met up with one of my club-mates and we slowly made our way to Hyde Park where the race started. It was at this point we parted company as I went off to meet some of the team from the Brooke Animal Hospital who I was running for. After a quick photo opportunity (photos from the day are on the Brooke Facebook page) and good wishes I dropped my bag off and made my way to the Green start funnel.
For anyone who hasn't run the Royal Parks 1/2 marathon before this is one of the biggest 1/2 marathons that takes place in London with approximately 16k runners taking part. As a result they have to have a phased start with the elite runners starting approximately 2 and 1/2 minutes before the rest of the field. As I was in the green funnel I crossed the start/finish line at about 9.05, which wasn't bad considering the number of runners both in front and behind me!
The course itself is unsurprisingly chocked full of London landmarks from the 3 Royal Parks you run through to the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Aldwych and many many others. Unfortunately I was too busy trying to keep to my target pace to notice them all, but they were definitely there! After 5k I was just about on target for a 1.40 finish (which is what I was initially aiming for) but I needed a boost, which is why after 6 miles, having run around Aldwych and the Mall you re-enter the parks and the crowds really swell! After 10k I was still on target for a 1.40 finish and was looking forward to see Team Brooke at Mile 7 and Mile 10.
It's hard to describe the feeling when you hear people cheering your name and encouraging you to run, but it's definitely an emotional experience and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

At mile 7 I spotted Team Brooke and went in for high fives all round, which was fantastic. Then things went a little bit wrong, whilst the course went down hill at this point I noticed that  Mile 9 - 10 was up-hill and my brain flipped out a bit, to the extent that I ran a 9 minute mile between 9 and 10. Fortunately I crossed the 10 mile mark in 1.16 which meant I was still on target for a 1.40 finish. From there it's just a Parkrun to the finish so I gave it all I had (probably) and crossed the line in 1:39:44. I was absolutely delighted with this time, which is only 40 seconds slower than my HM PB so a new PB should soon be on the cards!
This is a really well organised event that takes in some of London's most iconic landmarks. If you get the chance to run it then I would definitely recommend you do so!
As you will have read I ran for a charity and really enjoyed both raising money for them and being able to spend some time with them on the day, including having a post run massage!