On Sunday 19th May I took part in the Hackney Half Marathon. This is a Virgin Sport event, this year sponsored by Nike. They really try and put on a great event, bringing in the community with a fitness festival, and lots of London clubs representing, such as: RunDemCrew, Rep Runners, Backpackers, Hackney Rats and more. Although this was the second time taking part in this event it felt like a first for me out on the course, as I was a little visually impaired in 2017.
This was the 2nd time I have paced Hackney Half Marathon, and the 43rd Half Marathon I have paced. It is the 73rd event I have taken part in as an official pacer (4th time pacing for Virgin Sport). Check out my blog for Hackney Half 2017 HERE.
As always I laid my kit out the day before race day, I do this to organise myself, and ensure I remember everything. I’ve pulled together a blog about “Things to remember on Race Day” HERE. I set up my kit for race day, but I knew I would be getting a tee for pacing and Nike were providing me with a pair of trainers. Really loved giving the Nike Reacts a try.
I went to meet the rest of the Pacers at the start, after getting up really early to arrive before our deadline of 07:45. There wasn’t any group photo, or any reason to be there that early, so I could have relaxed a little more. I got myself changed and noted the bacon rolls for volunteers. Not the best pre race food, but I couldn’t resist.
Finally it was time to get in the start zone and meet the passengers for the sub 1:40 #funbus. It was nice to have a big group, and I discussed pacing strategy with everyone. After trying to calm some nerves and making everyone smile a little, we were moving towards the start. Before we knew it we were off, and the fun began.
Having ran this event two years ago I knew the festival was huge and fun. But I really couldn’t see more than a couple of feet ahead of me in the morph suit. We run through Hackney, and the course is well supported. There are pockets of supporters regularly who really generate a lot of noise and support.
I am not sure how many runners took part in the half, but it felt big, and it was busy the whole time. I am always nervous about mile marker placement, and was really pleased that the markers were spot on from start to finish. This really adds to the experience for all runners.
With perfect mile markers, and great support, there isn’t much wrong with this event. There were some points that got a little congested, but you get this at almost all events. The only real negative was the water stations. There was a good attempt to reduce plastic and use paper cups. The cups were good quality paper, but there are always negatives. The aid stations were not long enough, so it was really difficult to get water over a short window. Cups are harder for volunteers to give out quickly, runners stop, causing congestion, and often there is not enough water in the cups. At one point a runner stopped, turned around and ran right into me running the wrong way, it was ridiculous. I tried to ease the situation by alerting runners early enough, and when I got water I aimed for the last table. I missed a couple though. This would have been better if the aid station was longer. But to be honest there are many elements of a race that could be targeted to support the environment. I would not start with the thing that runners rely on most, hydration.
Apart from some issues at the water stations, I had a great race. We kept a nice even pace, and had a 10 – 15 second cushion throughout most of the race. The course is mostly flat with a few hills to take into consideration, nothing of any significance to alter the pace more than a few seconds. If we lost pace at all I was sure to shout out #pickupthepace to everyone.
It was great to keep looking over my shoulder to see a strong group with me, and at the end I had many of the #funbus still with me. There were so absolutely fantastic sections, in particular where RunDemCrew and Rep Runners were based. I think I ate half a confetti cannon as I went passed.
The markers remained good, and with a clear view of the finish (and the fact we follow the course for start and finish) it was easy to maintain a steady pace with confidence. For the final mile I was calling for runners to get ahead of me, but there were still plenty chasing me at the end.
The medal at the finish was awesome, I love it when it is a little different to the norm. With 1:39:49 on my watch, which matches the official finish time, I am pleased for another successful #funbus.
I stayed around the festival for a couple of hours and had a great time. The atmosphere was great, it’s just so busy it can be hard to navigate. The goody bag and race tee is on point.
Who was running today? How did you get on? Next up for me is the Rock and Roll Liverpool Marathon.