I'm starting to think that Hackney might be one of London's nicest boroughs. The more time I spend there (and it's been a lot lately), the more I like it. There's a good atmosphere. Interesting things happen. You can feel a community around you. It's a bit creative. It's diverse. It's hard working.
Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon feels like the ultimate manifestation of all those good things, and I think it could be my favourite London half marathon (I'm starting to realise I have a lot of favourite half marathons...need to break it down by city).
Starting and finishing at a well organised race village on Hackney Marshes, the route took us on a tour of the very best of the borough, through urban streets and beautiful parks. Past the houses of normal people and the home of the Olympics in London. The mixture of iconic sights and the everyday was something quite special - it's that eclectic mix that makes me fall in love with this city a little bit more every day.
I spent the first half of Run Hackney running with, who else, the one and only Ms Elle Linton. Elle and I have run too many half marathons together. It's an unbreakable habit, I just really like running with that woman, she's funny and it's always nice to catch up and have a chat.
My plan for Run Hackney had always been to run it slowly and have some fun, four weeks after your first marathon probably isn't the time to be chasing PBs, so pottering along with Elle felt like a good idea. However, as we hit the half way mark Elle felt the need to slow and my legs started to feel a little frisky so we parted ways and I powered ahead.
It was a bit of a shock to find I had any power in my legs if I'm honest, from the outset hey'd been aching and curing me for making them work (we have some differences at the moment when it comes to running). Obviously being a little weirdo I kept going, bombing along the course clocking up some pretty speedy miles. Endurance is a masochists game.
Trotting along I ached but I didn't hurt, at least not until mile 10. At mile 10 I felt a sharp isolated pain in the middle of my quad. It was scary. Any isolated paid is scary for a runner, you wonder what you've done, if your nine lives have run out, whether this will be the one that stops you finishing a race, that sidelines your ambitions. I panicked for 30 seconds, slowed and shoved my thumb in the spot that hurt, kneading through a knot as I kept running. I made the decision that once this was over I'd be taking things easy for a few weeks, but that the fastest way for it to be over was to keep running. It was a calculated risk, but somehow I knew my body was up to it (listening to my body was something I really refined during marathon training, it's fair to say we have each other's number these days).
Gingerly I scurried on towards Queen Elizabeth Park. The sun bore down and I regretted not putting on more sunblock, salt crusted my face and I could see the medics starting to get busier. I might get excommunicated for this, but I'm not a huge fan of running in the park. I find it dull. It's very exposed and pretty bland. It might pick up as it becomes more established, but for the time being it's not a regular spot for me, at least not when the canals are so close by. Saying that, it's a good race venue and there is something special about running in a pack past all those iconic venues. Maybe I have mixed emotions. I should work through that.
What I don't have mixed emotions about is rudeness. There is no need to be rude to other runners during a race. I'm looking at you grey t-shirt gym bunny man! As we moved through the park there was a slight narrowing as we were forced to run through a gate, it was a pretty wide gate and while people slowed no one stopped and no one was walking. However, this gentleman felt the need to make some pretty nasty comments about the runners in front of him. It was totally unnecessary, uncalled for and frankly mean. Races like Run Hackney are community events, they attract runners of all levels and experience, the organisers work hard to create a great atmosphere, there's no need to ruin someone else's day by complaining. If you want to belt it round start in a faster wave or seek out smaller club races. Running is supposed to be fun, I want more people to get involved, we don't need jerks putting people off. Of course I called him on his actions and then beasted past him. RANT OVER.
Out of the park and running towards the finish line there was a lovely surge of crowd support. One thing I noticed on the course what that it seemed really easy for supporters to move from point to point, the same faces came up over and over again. I reckon this is something that's overlooked in a lot of race design, but it made a real difference and must have been great for the people who were out supporting friends. Even though they weren't there for me those people carried me through the last mile. That and the little down hill just before the finish line. I loved that little down hill. Of course in honour of Elle I sprinted to the finish line clocking a time of 2:08:05 - not bad on tired legs.
Vitality Run Hackney is one of the best halves I've had the pleasure of taking part in. It's definitely a race I'd do again and I'd encourage all of you to pre-register for next year so you can get in on the action as well!
*I was kindly provided with a place for Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon, but all opinions are of course my own. If I say I like something I mean it*