It wasn’t that long ago that London didn’t really have many big half marathons. There was Run to the Beat, which died an embarassing death after a few fiascos and loosing their sponsors, and there’s the Royal Parks Half who insist on a ballot only entry system which I find frustrating.
Anyway, more recently there seems to have been an explosion of high profile halfs in the city and one of them is Hackney. I entered back in November mainly because I hadn’t run it before and it’s was one of the biggies. At £52 though, it ain’t cheap and I believe that included an early bird discount.
The first fail was realising that, although I had opted to pick my race pack up rather than have it posted (because the £52 price tag isn’t enough they charged you for posting and it annoyed me) you couldn’t actually pick it up on the day of the race. The race village is a good 3 hour round trip from where I live but luckily I managed to rope a pal at work to collect it on my behalf.
I was meeting Lee with my race pack at 8:30, this meant a 5:30 alarm and I was still late. Hackney Marshes is a real trek from Stratford station but it does mean you can use the nice toilets in Westfield, I highly recommend this ’cause there ain’t enough at the race village…
The race started at 9am but I didn’t cross the start line until 9:18 despite waiting in the pen for some time. I already knew I was going to have to use one of the on-course toilets because I never would have made the start if I’d tried queuing – I don’t think I have ever had to do that before. They came up just before the 3 mile mark. I had to queue.
I was also desperately thirsty, not helped by the warm weather, but hadn’t studied the course to see where the stations were. I think it was just after 3 miles but when I got there it was a total shambles, there weren’t enough people and there were too many thirsty runners. I had to queue…and a little bit fight..for my tiny cup of water. I was still thirsty.
Surprisingly upbeat at mile 10
The course takes you around Hackney, Dalston and Victoria Park. It’s all on closed roads but it’s pretty twisty and narrows in quite a few places. It’s not flat but not exactly hilly, I guess it’s what you call undulating. There aren’t a great deal of water stations which is probably why every runner wanted water at every station, they just didn’t seem prepared for it at all.
The support and atmosphere was brilliant, as the course is on residential roads there were plenty of people who had come out of their houses to cheer and hand out bananas and sweets. It was much appreciated and, for me, these people were the only thing I loved about this race.
At around 10 miles I spotted Steve on the sidelines cheering me on which also gave me a huge lift. I was worried he’d be bored waiting around for me but the race village had plenty of bacon sarnies, coffee and entertainment and apparantly the app was tracking my progress well so they did get some things right.
The finish took you back to Hackney Marshes which was, you guessed it, a shambles. The race village is pretty awesome though, it has a mini festival feel, lots of food stalls and entertainment (although I didn’t see any of it) which is great for supporters and a post race little lie down.
What’s good about it?
- The atmosphere
- The crowd support – Hackney you were brilliant
- It’s Run Dem Crews home turf and they know just how to give you a boost
- East London is pretty cool
Ermmm, I think that’s it and, sadly, these things aren’t really anything to do with Virgin Sport’s organisation
What’s bad about it?
- The race pack collection – they either charge you extra or make you trek over to the village in the days before the event
- The water stations – not enough of them and not enough people on them. You don’t ever want to QUEUE at a water station but you had to. Every. Single. Time
- The course is undulating, not bad in itslef but does mean PB potential is slim to none
- The course also narrows quite sharply in places
- Did I mention the water situation? Yeah, I was thirsty…
- The finish area was chaos – why don’t you want your runners to have any WATER?!
- The t-shirt – it’s just too short
- The medal is chunky but I don’t love it I’m afraid
Virgin Sport – If you had put more effort into the end to end experience of your runners than who the DJ’s were going to be you may have delivered a much better event.
If you’re looking for a London Half I would give this one a swerve…