Hackney Half Marathon: The Lowdown
A few weeks ago I ran the Hackney Half Marathon. Not wanting to miss out on it for the fourth (I think?!) time in a row since the race was born (always having fell when I was away on my hen, had just finished a marathon the week before etc.), I grabbed a place as soon as registration opened. As things worked out, it ended up being three weeks after Berlin Half so it wasn’t the most perfect timing but hey, it’s a half not a marathon so I thought it was well within my reach.
Initially I was pleased to have another chance to hit the target I'd had in mind for Berlin that had been slightly out of my reach. However, as race day dawned, unfortunately I knew I wasn’t going to race at my best. Post Berlin I’ve had a bit of running fatigue – my IT band went during that race and I didn’t get the time I’d trained for (but still a PB so I’m not complaining!) so maybe I was a bit bummed out about it. I’ve also had some other life stuff going on and was just generally feeling really under the weather and drained in the weeks running up to Hackney. I was teetering on the edge of not racing (why unnecessarily put myself through it?) until I watched the emotional roller coaster that is BBC’s Mind Over Marathon. If it’s still available on iPlayer I implore you to watch the two parter which follows a group of adults with mental health issues training for a marathon in a bid to see if it helps them overcome said issues. So, I ended up sat in bed on Saturday morning, weeping into my coffee at 7.30am and decided to man up – I didn’t need to run well, but I did need to turn up and run, and most importantly (but often neglected) enjoy it.
I text my friend Sophie who was running her first half and asked if I could run with her. I knew she would probably be running slightly slower miles and when I think back to the only half marathon I’ve ran with someone, it’s when I ran within my remit and chatted the whole way, not worrying about pace or finishing time. I don't think Sophie thought I was serious and was going to start with her and run off, but I eventually (probably around mile 9!) managed to convince her that I was really there to run in company rather than fast. Thanks for putting up with my chat Soph, I know it can be annoying to have someone tagging along with you if you are used to running alone and at your own pace. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it and am super proud of Sophie – we were on our feet for a long time and testament to those runners just as much as those at the front of the pack.
Here’s the lowdown on the race itself if you are thinking about running next year:
- This was the first year the race was organised by the new co Virgin Sport, and I think there were a lot of regulars waiting to see if VS slipped up after Vitality running it so well the last few years. However, it was all fantastically organised and absolutely no complaints from moi.
- The ‘festival’ of running was great – I didn’t stick around a long time post-race but it was a real family affair and there was all sorts of entertainment and things to do, including getting your hair cut (?!) and I hear there was champs and croughnuts on offer.
- The support crowds were INSANE – the best I’ve seen for a half. Thank you so much to everyone who turned out – especially those RDC members towards the end, setting off confetti cannons over the bridge and screaming – that was awesome. I saw Poppy from Mind over Marathon there and ran up and gave her a massive hug and let her know I wouldn’t have been running if it wasn’t for her. It was one of those moments.
- Water along the race was PLENTIFUL. Hackney Half seems to have been plagued with heatwaves every single year and apparently one year there wasn’t enough water along the way so maybe sprinkling it every two or so miles was for that reason. However, we did go past a Lucozade graveyard towards the end of the race which had obviously been a stand that had run out by the time we got there. That kind of bummed me out as we were by no means the last people. There were also a couple of goodie bag provisions we didn’t get that my friends did, which again I’m guessing had run out.
- I didn’t take part in the 5.5km race, although I read the Runner Beans’ race report on it – seemed like an odd distance because you kinda wanna be aiming for a PB in a race, and who has a 5.5km PB to beat? I wonder if Virgin Sport will keep that distance next year rather than a 5 or 10km.
- The entry price was really steep (about £45 for early entries) which I think pissed people off given it’s a Hackney race and would have priced some people out. Given the organisation, the road closures, the goodie bag (including tee) and the free photos (amazing - not seen that before and you can see the quality of the ones in here - including my camel toe in full glory - LOL!) I can see where it went. In the future, I hope Virgin Sport doesn’t run promo codes late in the day that means people get their entry cheaper than the early bird price, as I think that really got on some people’s goats.
Go run Hackney next year for sure! Guaranteed sunshine, remember!