The Royal Parks Half
Monday, 8 October, 2012
Ah, London in the autumn. Conkers on the ground, golden leaves on the trees, crisp sunshine slicing through the fresh morning air, and engineering works on every conceivable train line that meant a panicked dash to Hyde Park for
the start of yesterday’s Royal Parks Half Marathon.
The fear was palpable when I arrived at my local station on Sunday morning to be greeted by nothing more than a barricaded ticket hall and a row of replacement buses that would take longer to get us into town than an Olympic torch relay. Thankfully my friend Georgina,who was also running, had urged her husband Paul out of bed to come with us and we jumped in his car to get us as far as Stratford. Paul is a black cab driver and he took us down roads I never knew existed at speeds I never knew could be achieved without a jet engine. It
meant we were in the park and safely cosseted in the VIP tent – as you do – with a good 30 minutes to spare. Time enough to queue for the loo and spot a galaxy of celebs limbering up to tackle one of the most scenic 13.1-milers
in the UK.
Chester Danny the Squirrel
This time last year, I took on this race in the Royal Parks Foundation’s mascot suit, a 7ft squirrel
. It was some other unlucky bugger’s turn this year, although I noticed he had jettisoned the bronze tights and bushy tail. The cheating git. With numbers up around the 12,500 mark the most pleasing thing as you set off is how quickly the race decongests after the start. Very little bobbing and weaving was required and I settled into my target pace easily. I couldn’t help but notice how quiet large stretches of the route felt, but then I had 2011 to compare it to, when running in a ginger body suit drew shouts from every spectator and many runners. Running in civvies was a bit of a blow to the ego after that. Having passed Big Ben, Buck House and gone the wrong way down the Mall (the opposite way to finishing the London Marathon), it was back into the greenery of the park where the crowds thickened and the criss-crossing of the open park spaces commenced.Having forgotten my Vaseline I reached the ten-mile marker with a right inner thigh starting to look like tenderized sirloin.
There was no one to be seen at the St John Ambulance station, but they had left a lone tub on a chair that I gratefully dug a paw into to see me through the last three miles without any further trouble. The Albert Memorial marks the last few hundred metres of this race and resisted the urge to put my foot down. As the longest distance I’ve run since returning from injury I was happy to have cruised round comfortably in a little over 1:51.
Not so, our photographer Eddie Macdonald, who I found back in the tent grinning from ear to ear having demolished his PB with a 1:46 finish. A flat, well-thought out course makes this perfect for a tilt at a decent time and he had taken full advantage. My turn next year, perhaps.