Run Hackney 2015 - race report

12 May 2015, 11:54

I ran the inaugural Run Hackney half marathon last year, and, despite the extreme heat and a few organisational issues, I really enjoyed it. Instead of chasing a PB, I helped a friend through her first ultra-distance training run (having run 30km prior to the start line that morning).

This year, the race was moved to mid-May instead of June (presumably to reduce the chance of a swelteringly hot day again), but this also meant the race was only two weeks after myself and a lot of others had just run London marathon, which wasn’t exactly ideal. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t erred on the side of rest and not run this at all were I not offered a place, but since it was one I enjoyed so much last year, I couldn’t really say no.

So I found myself on race morning having run only 6km since London marathon and not really knowing what I wanted to achieve in the race. I grabbed the very first Jubilee line train to Stratford, and ran into a friend on the walk across the Olympic Park to the race village. My first order of business at any race is to drop off my bag, and I was pleased to see that they’d broken up the bag drop significantly further this year, so that I walked straight up to the tent instead of the 15-20min wait I remember last year. Toilet queues were the usual “Is that the queue???” pre-race length, but appeared to be moving briskly. I caught up with the hundred-or-so other Run dem Crew members for a group photo, and then went off to join the 1:30-1:45 pen, figuring I’d let my legs decide what they wanted to do.

The start pens were super disorganised last year, with nowhere near enough space for people to join, resulting in a massive scrum for the first few miles. I’m pleased to report that the organisers clearly took feedback on board for this year (a common theme for this race!), and the start pens were clearly labelled, with only the 1:30-1:45 one not being quite big enough to get everyone inside (I’m guessing they looked at last year’s finish times, which would’ve been far slower than normal due to the heat). Happily, I saw my coach/trainer/physio/guru/shaman, Barbara, inside the pen so I jumped to barrier to join her. She was pacing an old friend to 1:45, and asked if I wanted to join them – working out that this was 5:00min/km pace (or, exactly my London marathon pace!) I jumped at the chance to both have some company and some direction to my race.

We started off at a comfortable pace, and chatted away happily. The forecast was for cloudy and cool weather, but it ended up being sunny again, and I was really glad I opted for shorts, though I didn’t think to apply sunscreen at all, boo. The crowds throughout the town section of the route were great – lots of ordinary people out cheering on the runners, and I even got to see my friend Rosie hanging out her front window, cheering her head off for me when I ran past! In fact, the only portion of the route which was lacking in crowd support was the Olympic Park section at the end, which was pretty much devoid of anyone but runners…

During Run Hackney
Photo credit: Claire McGonegle

The organisers had clearly listened to feedback from last year, and the experimental, eco-friendly, but prone-to-exploding water pouches were replaced by bottles at the water stations, supplemented by at least one corner shop handing out their own bottles from their own supply. It’s community involvement like this that really gives a race personality, and for most of the course, Run Hackney really feels more like a local race rather than a “Big City London race”.

During Run Hackney
Photo credit: Claire McGonegle

The course was largely the same as last year – starting in Hackney Marshes and winding through Hackney, hitting a lot of little parks and local landmarks along the way – not places you’d necessarily see on postcards (hello there, back of the Weatherspoons!), but more places you’ve seen on the bus, or been to on a night out, or round a friend’s place and haven’t necessarily pieced together as being right next to each other. The big change for this year was the last portion through the Olympic Park, which was baking hot last year, with zero shade and runners dropping like flies. This year the course went through the park and out the other side, rather than a circular route back out the way you entered. This meant we only got the Cheer Dem Crew treatment once, but felt a lot better on the run. I’m still not sure they’ve totally nailed this portion of the route – I love that we run past all the stadiums, but the lack of crowds and shade this late in the race make it a hard slog – perhaps it’d be better if the route was reversed and you ran through the Olympic Park first?

Run Hackney finish selfie
Photo credit: Barbara Brunner

In any case, once you’re through the Park, there’s really only a mile to go, and unlike Cambridge Half, the finishing chute really is a short and straight 100m dash! I met up with Stephen (cursing me again as this is now the second race in two weeks where he’s apparently been chasing my back but unable to catch me up!) and then Barbara and her friends, who I’d unknowingly left behind at around Mile 11 or so as they’d slowed down a bit.

Run Hackney race medal
Nice of them to match the medal to my Duathlon Shorts!

We got a quick selfie, then collected our medals (great design, and nice of them to coordinate with my shorts!!), goodie bags (absolutely bursting with stuff I actually want!), and technical teeshirts (in a variety of sizes, and again, a nice design). Some might balk at paying £40-odd for a half marathon, but the swag alone was totally worth it. Seriously top notch, and I couldn’t really fault the organisation, marshalling, or general atmosphere of this race, either. With other London half marathons practically as impossible to get into as London marathon, Run Hackney is a great opportunity to run a half marathon without having to splurge on a hotel room (which would cost far more than the entry fee here anyway!).

After Run Hackney
Photo credit: Barbara Brunner

I’m not sure how they quite managed to get another warm and sunny day two years running – they might start to get a reputation for being the running carnival! Plenty of steel bands, a nice laze in the park with friends after the race – a girl could get used to this (if only she remembered her sun screen!!). And if you’re into a bit of forward planning, you can even pre-register for 2016’s race now.

Run Hackney (half marathon). 10 May 2015. 1:45:06

Full disclosure – I was given a complimentary media spot at this race but all views are my own. I didn’t use the media starting pen, because I don’t really agree with that – better to be in with the paying punters!

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Comments:

  1. I love reading your race reviews! Glad you enjoyed it again and of course the matching medal to amazing shorts is a total win!!


    Scruffy badger    14 May 2015, 08:19    #

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