Hackney Half Marathon

We’ve run a few hot races in our time. One was a 10k in Cyprus in the Summer, one was the Madrid marathon and one was the Hackney half marathon two years ago. That last one took place in June so we were kind of expecting it to be hot. This year’s seemed about ten times worse. Seriously, the whole thing was just a blur of sun, sweat and pain. We’re really not very good at running in the heat.

This is the third year of the Hackney half now and it’s becoming a bit of a big deal in the capital. In 2014 it took place in June and the heat was equally as ridiculous, so much so that they moved it to the start of May the year after to avoid it. The original route had a number of issues, with a strange final few miles snaking back and forth around the Olympic Park. Mentally and physically it was exhausting, as panting runners watched each other go back and forth, desperate to reach the end.

In 2015 it was a much nicer affair. The May weather was nice and bearable, a new route took out the torturous final stretch, and issues with the water stations were resolved. We loved it in fact, almost got a PB.

Now, we’re not arguing with a nice heat wave in early May. A lovely surprise in fact. But when you’re trying to run thirteen miles in one of London’s busiest races, the sun is not an ally. Sure, it means there are a hell of a lot more spectators lining the street, which is nice, it keeps them happy, but for a runner, Jeez sweet Louise it was hot.

Luckily Vitality were more than prepared for it this year. There were water stations pretty much everywhere, sprinklers were positioned at a few opportune locations and St John’s Ambulance were all over the place. They issued warnings constantly before the race and even made anyone out on the course walk later on to avoid any undue risks. So yeah, bravo Vitality and St John’s Ambulance, you did a great job ensuring safety in some very tricky circumstances. With less preparation things could have been pretty hairy.

Ignoring the weather (something that was impossible on the day), the route was a lovely little jaunt around the areas surrounding Hackney. There was Broadway Market, Hackney Downs, Haggertson, and obviously a fair whack of the Olympic Park. It’s like a nice tour of the area; equally enjoyable for both the proud East London dwellers as well as those that have hardly any knowledge of the district save for a few of the more prominent landmarks (and pubs).

With almost twelve thousand runners it was a fairly heavy event. The race village was rammed full of excited runners in the lead up to the 9am start. And yeah, it was pretty busy, frustratingly so in fact. But hey, if you’re going to sign up to a race with that many people you’re going to end up queuing a fair bit. The race village itself had a load of stuff going on, including a full day of free workouts from our buddies over at Gymbox. We didn’t actually give that a go though, it was just too darn hot. We ran away to an air-conditioned coffee shop for a couple of hours.

It’s a nice event. Vitality are really getting to grips with the location now and you can see the changes every time they put the race on. There’s a sort of localised London Marathon feel about it that makes it a great opportunity for people who want the grandiose event vibe without the additional 13 miles and almost impossible ballot entry. You can see the pride in people’s faces when the event commentators shout about Hackney over the speaker system. It’s nice. Something that you don’t often see in races.

Oh, there’s also a free 5k they put on the day before that takes place in the park where the event village is located. Both a nice little precursor to the main event or an alternative for people wanting to get involved but not ready for the full 13 miles. You get a medal as well, which, as you’re probably aware, is pretty much are modus operandi these days.

The quick review:

Hills: 2/5
Terrain: Road
Laps: One
Supporters: A few thousand dotted around the course.
Organisation: 8/10
Goody Bag: Medal, Water, Snacks, Banana, T-shirt, Trek bars
Medal: 7/10

The Hackney Half Marathon is now the Virgin Sport Hackney Half Marathon. Details of the 2017 event can be found here and the new 5.5k event here.

Picture Credits: Vitality