Just five short months ago, our Events Fundraiser Henry was a bona fide running novice. Here, he recounts what it’s really like to conquer the Royal Parks Half Marathon – from the build-up and the buzz through to catching sight of that beautiful, beautiful finish line…
With a mere nine weeks of training under my belt, race day for the 2016 Royal Parks Half Marathon was almost upon me.
The night before the race, I binged on pizza then got to bed early. I’d already got my kit ready so all I had to do in the morning was get up and out.
It was an early start for a Sunday but straight away I was up and raring to go – high on the adrenaline of the day. A quick journey on the Victoria Line later and I made my only mistake of the day: choosing to change to the Piccadilly Line at Green Park. Next time I’ll be walking that last bit!
After arriving at the festival area, I met up with friends and family in the charity tent before heading to the start line.
Ten nervous minutes later, the klaxon sounded and race began… Well, for those at the front of the pack; it was 20 more minutes before I ran anywhere. I shuffled along bit by bit until it was time for my wave to get going. Another klaxon sounded and we were off!
Support that was as stunning as the scenery
As I slowly started to settle into the race, I began to take in some of the gorgeous scenery that was on offer throughout Green Park and around St James’s Park. What a lovely start to my first ever race! After a loop of central London, we headed back towards the greenery.
The roar of charity support on the first leg in Hyde Park was incredible, and passing the Sue Ryder cheer point gave me a massive much-needed boost as we reached the halfway point.
The second half of the route takes place in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, making its way round the footpaths that criss-cross the parks.
As we approached Marble Arch, I could see every single runner was spurred on by the cheering, which lasted for a solid kilometre – all the way down to Lancaster Gate!
The home stretch
After winding down to Kensington Palace, the sharp U-turn at 20km was a welcome sight. As the course sloped downwards and I passed the Royal Albert Hall, it hit me that I really was on the final straight: the finish line was in sight!
With the 21km marker behind me, the finish was so close I could almost taste it. The buzz of the crowd built and the commentators were still going strong…
I don’t for the life of me know how, but somehow I managed a quick 20m sprint over the line, nearly smacking right into someone who had stopped to catch their breath straight away!
A few metres further down, a team of volunteers spanned the course with armfuls of medals. The moment that medal hit my chest, I knew I’d achieved something incredible: something that I never would have thought I’d be doing this time a year ago.
As I walked back to the charity tent, my legs were aching and my heart was pounding, but that early start was so worth it – and I’d do it all again. In fact, in March, I will be…
If Henry can do it, you can too!
Henry will be running the Reading Half with the rest of Sue Ryder’s Team Incredible, but there are plenty of half marathons to choose from if you want to test yourself for a great cause…
National Events Fundraiser
I've been at Sue Ryder since June 2013, and my role is to make sure that you have the best experience possible as a member of Team Incredible. I started running at the beginning of 2016 to improve my fitness, and now regularly take part in races, often alongside #TeamIncredible runners!
Follow me on Twitter @HenryFEvents or email firstname.lastname@example.org.