Sunday January 6th, 2019
The Victoria Park half marathon is part of a series of races organised by a company called Runthrough. They organise races with the aim that anyone can take part and the majority of their races is in and around London. They also have their own running club which anyone is free to join with club runs at Clapham.
Victoria Park is located near to the Olympic Park, Stratford London. You could probably drive down on the morning, probably take a couple of hours. I chose to stay nearby overnight so that I didn’t have to get up quite so early. The park itself was very easy to get to, just one train stop from Stratford (about 5 minutes) and then a short 10 minute walk.
The event organisers had set-up a bag drop, refreshment stands and some porta-loos. The park itself did also have toilet blocks which were much nicer and warmer than the porta-loos!! Not much else in the park though and finding shelter from the really bitter wind was impossible. No changing facilities either (unless you used the park loos) so am glad I had travelled in my running gear.
On the day there were 3 races being held; half marathon, 10k and 5k with the marathon kicking off first at 9.30. The organisers had requested that half marathon entries turn up from 8.30 to collect their numbers. The park is the largest in Tower Hamlets at 86.18 hectares and has one of the highest visitor numbers of all the London parks with around 9 million visits per year. A wide range of formal and informal sports, sponsored activities, events and festivals take place throughout the year. The footpaths weren’t closed off, but most people stayed out of the way of the runners so wasn’t too bad.
The race was broken into approx. 2 mile laps around the north east end of the park with the half marathon needing 6.5 laps to complete. I have to admit when I realised this my heart sank as I am not normally a great fan of running lapped races. However, I don’t know if it was because it was actually quite a relaxed event but I quite enjoyed it. It even worked to my favour nearer the end as I used the start/finish of each lap as a target to keep me going.
One other nice thing about this event was that the 10k and the 5k joined the laps later in the morning so whilst running around you didn’t know (apart from looking at the colour of their bib) who was running what race. This took away the need for me to chase down the person in front and made me focus purely on my run and my speed, again just taking that pressure off and making it a much more relaxed race for me.
Start/finish of each lap was at a water station and once passed that signs were displayed confirming which lap you were on dependant on the distance you had gone, which was great when using your GPS watch to keep track of where you were. Once all the full laps were completed and you passed the water station for the 7th time, runners were diverted off to do a shorter loop to complete the full 13.1 miles. The 10k and 5k runners had different points to divert off also very well signposted.
I don’t think I’ve seen so many marshals out on a course and so enthusiastic. Even though they saw most of us a number of times on our laps they still shouted, clapped, cheered and in some cases had tambourines. At the half way point was a musician with steel drums playing all sorts of songs to keep us going. Hats off to all of them as it was a bitterly cold morning to be standing around. A photographer was also out on course and then at the finish line with the photos being included as part as your entrance fee which made a nice change.
Once finished, you received a medal and then there was a bottle of water, banana, peanut butter shot and homemade flapjacks. No changing facilities so it was put all my warm stuff on top of my running gear to make my way home. Again, short walk and then 1 train stop back to Stratford.
Not so good Points
Other than the distance to travel and no changing facilities I enjoyed this race much more than I thought I would. I noticed quite a few friends going down with some doing the half and then others doing the 10 or 5k options. I’d definitely do it again or one of the other events organised by the Runthrough group.