On Sunday 14th October 2018 I took part in the Royal Parks Half. I believe this is a fantastic event, and I have a lot of history here. In 2009 I entered this event, this is back in the days before it was a ballot, and it was straight forward to get an entry. It was a wake up call for me, as I struggled, and realised I wasnt in the shape I thought I was. I couldn’t walk right for a week, and it was here I started my journey into running.
In 2013 I was offered a place to pace with Xempo. This was the first time I had ever paced, and I paced 1:40. I have paced 1:40 every year since, and this is the 6th time I’ve paced the 1:40 #funbus at the #royalparkshalf. It is the 61st official event I have paced, and the 24th time pacing with Xempo.
As always I got my kit ready the day before to make sure I would have everything I needed. I knew I would be wearing my event top this year for the event, which I usually wear after, so I packed my #chicagomarathon top from last weekend to wear after (I’m still on a high from Chicago and you can read about it HERE).
This was a busy weekend of running for everyone, and I was offered places at numerous events. It is just unfortunate when I have so much history with this event, and it’s so close for me. I really wanted to do Goodwood with all the #ukrunchat community and I’m sure I missed a great day. It would have also been nice to do the Manchester Half, but it costs so much for me to get up there and stay, I cant justify it all the time. I hope everyone had a great race wherever you were running.
It was an early start on race morning because the organisers wanted us in pens early. I got myself to the race village for 07:15 to meet Dan and the rest of the Pacers. It was a bit of a miserable morning with lots of rain, this is always a shame, and usually Royal Parks is sunny (take a look at last years blog HERE).
I always like to get to the toilets and get prepared nice and early to miss the rush, so before and after the race I did not have to queue at all for the toilet. We then got together for a team photo, and went to the start pens at 08:15.
For me this part was the only negative of the race experience. It is really good to get pacers in the start pens early to help organise runners. However the warm up starts at 08:30 then runners come to the start, so it is too early to have us stood by ourselves for 20 minutes. What this meant was we were stood getting cold before we started, and this was made worse as it was raining. I’m disappointed by this, and this is the first time we have been moved to the start area so early.
We huddled under a tree to try and get some shelter from the rain, as there was no one around. As soon as the warm up finished people started to flood into the pens, so we went ahead to get in place first. It filled up really quickly, and it was great to be surrounded by a large group of runners aiming for 1:40.
I gave my usual pep talk at the start trying to calm nerves and provide some confidence to those around me. I answered the usual questions about pace strategy, and told everyone that the markets on this course are usually sporadic, and that I try at keep a steady pace and adjust speed to match markers. For some reason this course is always measured accurately but the markers are put out too far, then mile 12-13 is a short mile and evens itself out, it’s the same every year (and it was this year too). Its important that I tell people this at the start, and it stops people worrying that we are a) going slightly fast and b) at times are slightly behind the mile markers.
After lots of chatter, and getting to know those around me, we were off. It felt slightly more crowded at the start than normal, but not to the extent that slowed us down. We immediately hit our desired pace. We had so many runners around us, Nick, who was pacing with me, went slightly ahead about 100 metres within the first mile, and maintained this gap. This spread out the 1:40 runners between us giving us more room to manoeuvre.
One of the things that makes this event great is the support that you get in London. Despite the bad weather, the streets were still lined with spectators. Thank you to everyone who comes out to cheer, it makes a huge difference. It was great to see lots of people supporting and running who I knew, and was we got to mile 5 the Ealing team had taken over the water station and gave us a great big cheer as we passed (see Ealing half blog HERE).
As expected when I got to mile 1 my watch said 1.09. Most of the markers were out, except for mile 5 which happened to be in the right place. The half way point marker was at 6.28, definitely early, and these sort of things make a difference to people’s races. As I go along I tell people how we are doing, each mile marker I told them that we were ahead of schedule, and I told them when we really had reached half way. We had a good group of runners with us, and as each mile passed more picked up the pace. Once you hit the park in the second half the crowd support gets even more intense as runners pass a few times, meaning spectators can see people multiple times throughout the race with ease.
I had great fun running this race, and as we hit mile 12 I encouraged those who hadn’t already passed me to get in front of me. By the final 1k most were ahead of me, and I maintained pace picking up people along the way. Regardless of the markers during the course I know the final markers are accurate, and there is a countdown every 200 metres from 1k. This helps me to be able to accurately tell everyone around how long there is left, and how long they have to get sub 1:40. So many runners passed me in the final stretch, and I cheered the final runners over the line coming in at 1:39:50.
It was lovely to get lots of hot and sweaty hugs at the end with everyone telling me how they had hit their PB. Some had come in with me or just around me, and there were a few waiting who had pushed on for low 1:39 or even a sub 1:39.
I couldn’t be happier pacing the Royal Parks for the 6th time, and hitting my target again. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it, I’m always so nervous, as it means so much to me to get it right. At the end you get a nice wooden medal and a bag to fill with goodies. The queue wasnt bad for me, but I imagine it would be later on, and I still dont understand why they dont pre pack the bags to mitigate this.
Next up for me is the Amsterdam Marathon next week, who is joining the sub4 #funbus? Also, I’ve been nominated for the best personal blog in the running awards. The decision is made based on your votes so please help me out by sharing with friends and voting via the link HERE. Go to Blog, personal, pickupthepace paul. Thanks.