After looking at the weather forecast to see that race day was going to be a complete scorcher, it was with slight trepidation that I ventured East to take part in the Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon. Slathered in suncream, I joined the other 14,000 runners at the start line, ready to to take part in the third Hackney Half, an event already ranked as one of the top ten half marathons in the UK.
The start was delayed by about 20 minutes, during which time I could feel the heat creeping up and I began hoping that a breeze might waft overhead. Unfortunately it didn’t, so off I ran into the London furnace. The first 5 miles went by relatively quickly, as I was concerned that my cheerers, Jess and Mark, wouldn’t know that the start had been delayed and would either think they’d missed me or that I was seriously suffering. Luckily, they were exactly where they said they’d be, and seeing them spurred me on to keep running at a good pace until I saw them again at mile 8. Jess and I pride ourselves on being ridiculously loud cheerers, and she didn’t let me down, screaming at the top of her voice when she saw me coming in the distance. At eight miles the temperature was really picking up, but I was now luckily running next to a man wearing a chicken costume, who seemed to be cheered by every member of the crowd. Although the cheers weren’t for me (note to self – buy chicken costume) the energy of the supporters kept me going and I was determined not to leave the side of my new rooster friend. However, by mile 10 I was beginning to flag: my shoes were rubbing, shorts chaffing and the Lucozade I’d drunk a couple of miles ago was making an unwelcome comeback in my throat. However, I was determined to maintain my pace as I knew it would only get hotter and the quicker I got to the finish line, the quicker I could retreat into the shade. Seeing Jess and Mark just after the 12 mile marker gave me the boost I needed to complete the last agonising mile and drag myself across the finish line. I managed to complete the course in 1hr58 which I was pretty pleased with, especially considering the heat and the fact that I haven’t done any long distance running for a while now. All in all, I was very happy when the medal was placed around my neck and I could replace my trainers with a pair of flip-flops!
As always, Vitality pulled out all the stops to make the race as runner friendly as possible: a smooth bag drop at the beginning; pumping music along the course; regular water and Lucozade stations; and a flat, fast route meant that it was an ideal race for first timers and experienced runners alike. I’m not sure if the water sprinklers were a last minute addition, but the whoops and cheers from the runners showed that they were definitely appreciated! Some of the locals even came out with their hose pipes to help cool us down, which about sums up the amazing community support throughout the race. After seeing the hordes of supporters lining the streets of Hackney, it came as no surprise to learn that 80% or the runners were from Hackney itself or the surrounding boroughs. The incredible community support really made this race unique.
Although I fared ok in the heat, I must just give a shout out to my sister, amazing Dr Jess, who came to the aid of many collapsed runners, one of whom was in a life-threatening condition. She managed to get him rushed to hospital (after battling with the police that, yes, it really was necessary), which left her feeling pretty shaken up. The number of runners collapsed by the side of the road was a harsh reminder of the need to listen to your body when the weather’s hot. As we were all told at the beginning of the race – it wasn’t the day to be chasing PBs!
All in all, I loved the whole occasion and the Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon is definitely a race I’d do again. The great organisation, crowd support and surprisingly flat and pretty route through Hackney makes it an event I’d recommend for those thinking of signing up for a half next spring.