I’m sure that you’ve all been desperate to know whether or not I ran in the North London Half Marathon. Well, despite having a bad bug last week and not being very sensible, I took the decision on Saturday night to run it anyway. Mostly because I knew loads of other people doing it, I missed it last year and I didn’t want to feel left out. Plus Urban Massage had provided me with my place.
Luckily, transport was playing ball and getting to the start at Wembley was fairly quick and painless. The route of the North London Half Marathon had changed slightly this year and it followed an out and back route from Wembley to Allianz Stadium and back again. The race is held entirely on tarmac roads and is hilly. It wasn’t as tough as the Truro Half Marathon, but it was definitely a hard course.
The race started near Wembley Stadium at 9.00am. Runners weren’t allocated started pens in the style of the Royal Parks, but were given the opportunity to move to the clearly sign posted start pen of their choice, marked with estimated finishing time. This worked really well as it seemed to be that most people were responsible enough to gauge their finish time and choose their estimated pen accordingly. Allocated start pens are great as well, but sometimes people don’t know what they’re capable off and may estimate a 2:30 finish time at entry point when actually, they’re in sub-2 shape. The North London approach meant that people could make their decision on current fitness levels. Pacers were also available and clearly identified by the flags they were carrying. Bag drop was very quick and I was able to meet up with Corey beforehand.
The event started on time – it took about 15 minutes for me to cross the start line. Music was playing so no one was bored when waiting, although it was a little chilly.
Top tip: Racing on a cold day? Take a black bin bag to wear in the starting pen!
Somewhat cruelly, the race started uphill and this set the scene for the rest of the event. I couldn’t help laughing though – most people ran to the start line. Why would you run uphill before you have to? I walked to the start line and broke into a gentle jog just a few metres before I started the race properly. I don’t believe in puffing myself out before I have to!
The crowd support at the start was good.
They said it was hilly. Having taken part in Run to the Beat 10k a few times, I should have been prepared for this, but there were some really tough hills. The course started uphill, then flattened out before a tough up. There was a nice downhill stretch and then the course remained reasonably flat with a few minor bumps out to Allianz Stadium. This was the halfway point of the race and this was awesome – we ran into the stadium and ran around the track. As runners went over a timing map, our names were displayed on the big screen. Coming round to exit, we could watch ourselves on a second screen. A really fantastic halfway point – it was just a shame that there was so little crowd support, but that would be due to location. We then followed the route back again. The hill at 10 miles was the real killer. When I got there, most people were walking up it and I was no exception. Typically, this was also the moment the sun came out and it got really hot. One marshal shouted at us for walking – I think he was trying to have a joke, but I think a few of us could have happily punched him! I was certainly relieved to reach the top of this hill. The 11 mile hill was also a bit nasty, due to fatigue but luckily after this, it was flat or downhill to the finish. From 12 miles, the course was downhill to the stadium, which was great for some recovery and a strong finish. unfortunately, I managed to wrench my ankle, but I waved off the medic who came to see if I was ok and got on my way. Thanks to the runners who stopped – it was appreciated!
Water and fuel stations were plentiful – I don’t think I’ve ever come across so many in one event and the teams looking after these were great, really cheerful and in the spirit of the event.
The finish had some great support as we ran towards the stadium, spectators lining both sides of the course. I had visions of running straight through into the stadium and finishing, but we were sent running round the stadium and then through a service area which was not how I envisioned it. However, when we ran out into the stadium – wow! This was awesome! Despite feeling rough, I geared up for my traditional sprint finish and got a mention over the speaker. Best finish to a race ever and definitely made up a bit for the rest of the course, which was unfortunately quite dull. “The Greatest Finish Line in the World?” I don’t know about that, I imagine winning the Olympics 100m to be pretty damn awesome, but it was certainly pretty epic.
It was a shame we were rushed out of the finish area so quickly as it was a special place to be and take photos. On moving through, we were given a technical t-shirt – which was actually really nice, a cool medal and a goody bag with some snacks in it. Water and bananas were also available and plentiful.
Changing facilities were available and plenty of toilets. Runners could also queue for a free massage from Urban Massage to soothe away some of the aches. Results were chip timed, and these were added to the website very quickly – they were available when I got on the tube home! The PR team also did a great job with updates on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my text message with my time until the day after. These systems aren’t perfect, but it was a shame to receive it so late, but that’s a minor detail. Wembley is a great location for a race as it is fairly accessible on public transport, and Wembley Designer Outlet was the perfect place to go for a coffee, cookie and catch up with Mollie and Elle.
I haven’t really spoken much about my own race – but I didn’t set out to race this as I’d been ill during the week. I decided to walk the hills and take it easy – right tactic considering that by 4/5 miles, I was feeling empty and depleted of energy. I completed the run in 2:34, which I’ll take happily. It was a shame there wasn’t more support out on what was a fairly dull route, but I expected this as it was the same at Run to the Beat. A very well organised race, friendly, decent goody bag and medal with a great halfway point and epic finish – but it would be great to see some more crowd support on what is a tough route.
Thank you to Urban Massage for providing me with my place in this event. If you missed out on a post-race massage, you can book one through their website to enjoy one in the comfort of your home.
Did you take part? Leave your race reports in the link up!