Royal Parks Half Marathon, 8th October 2023

Cate Walker sends a fantastic report from the capital:

For any distance, I guess the first course you complete will have a special place in your (runner’s) heart. The Royal Parks Half Marathon was my first half in 2021 (put back one year from 2020) and it has since become a highlight of my year and one I intend to keep up, despite also being keen to experience the challenges and joys of more North East races.

The major appeal of the course is the mix of road running replete with landmarks (it encompasses most of the London icons, some twice) and shady park running. Of course, both iconic landmarks and autumn trees look even better with blue sky behind them and so despite the challenge of warmer temperatures, this year was particularly enjoyable. It also draws big crowds and I distracted myself in the tougher stretches with the great signs people had brought (‘You’re running better than the Government’, ‘On a scale of 1-10, you’re a 13.1’ and my personal favourite, ‘Pain is just the French word for bread ‘, complete with baguette drawing).

In terms of pace, I was trying to beat my PB of 1:58:02 and thought I should probably be a bit more specific than my usual strategy of trying to remain under 9 minute miles to get under 2 hours. This time, I had decided to be led by what felt comfortable but try to keep as close as I could to 8:30 miles for the road running (roughly 5.5 miles) and then 8:45 for the parks part.

I was still feeling strong as I got to the park and so decided to keep at the faster pace until 10k…and then until the halfway point. I eased off for the second half, and continued to feel comfortable until about 9.5 miles in, when there was a sustained uphill. A short water and (medjool!) date stop at 10.5 miles gave me a boost for the end. I always find the last mile feels like slow motion, but was aware that I had a bit of leeway to beat my PB (appropriately my running playlist had shuffled onto a song called Time on Her Side by Future Islands at this point!).

In the end I was delighted to finish with 1:55:50. A great run overall, followed by meeting up with friends who had run it or come to cheer and going to the Serpentine Cafe for a well deserved pizza!

Laurie Johnson -