Recently I had the pleasure of running the Royal Park Half Marathon. The course takes runners past some of the city's most iconic landmarks and through Royal Parks.

I first ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2014. I enjoyed the course and the blend of city and park running so much. I was fortunate to run with Team TomTom the following year and earned my second sustainable medal. This year my friend from the Los Angeles said they wanted to run The Royal Parks Half so hustled and came up with a couple of places and added it to my RunFit Tour 2023 schedule.

About 2 weeks prior to the event my race number arrived in the post. To keep a lid on my excitement I didn’t open the envelope until the Friday before race weekend when I attached it to bib holder. The pre race communication was clear and easy to follow. The evening before the race I laid out my race day kit which included a race belt, vest, compression socks, light shorts and a solitary gel. The weather was forecasted to be unseasonably warm at around 23°C so I was more concerned with keep cool than keeping fuelled.

Race morning I woke up feeling quite unwell which delayed the time I left my house. I checked everything and being at home rather than abroad I had the luxury of choosing which trainers to wear for the day. Instead of taking the Tube and walking for around 20 minutes I decided to take a cab. I made the right decision and felt a bit better when I got dropped off by Prince Charles Gate on the South side of Hyde Park. From there is was a short walk to the VIP tent where I could catch up with the rest of the team and maybe drink something to help me feel better. To my pleasant surprise I saw Gerard, Running Mayor, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and he directed me to the tent.

On arrival at the tent I stated my name, got my wristband, went inside, said good morning to the crew and apologise for my lateness. We caught up, discussed our race strategies and took some photos. It was good to see some familiar faces and just chill in a relaxed and comfortable environment ahead of the race. I decided to take a risk and opted to drink a Tenzing and the gamble played off as it soothed my stomach and I felt a lot better. The speedy ones among our crew Claude and Solomon headed off to join the earlier waves. Beresford, Aster, Paul, Kia and myself casually strolled to join the race.

As we made our way to the start I made sure I set my watches and my camera to capture that essential video of me crossing the start line. We entered the wave of runners which was like a sea of colours. The time arrived, the vibe was alive and we were off crossing the start line. I ran for a few metres with Paul and then told him to go on as I wanted to check on Kia. I ran with her telling the spectators that she had come all the way from LA which generated cheers. I was her personal hype man for about 50 metres and then pushed on to try to catch up with Paul who by now had quite a head start.

I caught up with him by Park Lane and we equalised our strides as we ran Hyde Park Corner and then through Wellington Arch. We then headed along Constitution Hill with Green Park to our left and Buckingham Palace to our right. We turned right passing Bucking Palace on our right then up Birdcage Walk with St James’s Park to our left and the Houses of Parliament ahead of us. There were spectators lining the course cheering us on and at times by name which was great. After a short down and back on Victoria Street we passed Parliament Square on our left and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben on our right.

We then headed north on Parliament Street passing The Cenotaph, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and then headed along The Strand. The number of people cheering us on increased along this section of the course. We looped back to Trafalgar Square, passing Nelson’s Column on our Right before passing through Admiralty Arch and heading along The Mall which is the finish line for the epic London Marathon. The scenery evoked memories of my three London Marathons bringing a smile to my face. We approached Buckingham Palace and passed again but this time to our left. With Green Park to our right and a slight incline we pushed on.

We crossed the 5 mile marker and a DJ truck, which helped bring vibes, just before we reached Wellington Arch. We then headed north on Hyde Park and then ran into Hyde Park for the remaining miles of the race. The entertainment continued with another DJ truck about 5.5 miles and drummers before mile marker 6. That stretch was pretty cool and the course felt like a funnel as we ran alongside the Serpentine River shimmering in the sunshine. At this point it was getting warm but I was ensuring that I took a cup of water at every water station. As the route looped around the park the vibes were good really good and I felt fresh.

Shortly after 10 miles I stopped to retie my laces as one of my shoes was loose and I had simply had enough of the rubbing. I urged Paul to push on and deep inside I knew I wouldn’t be catching him up. I got to my feet jogged on and soaked up both the sun and the atmosphere. Around 12.5 miles I passed The Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial which felt great visually and knowing that I had almost finished. The Cheerleaders were absolutely brilliant and whoever decided their location deserves a medal. As I approached the finish line I which had been the start line I increased my strides and felt a sense of pride and joy deep inside as I crossed the finish line.

I walked to collect my wooden medal, bagless goodies which included a can of Tenzing, a banana and a cool finishers’ tee. I walked slowly to the VIP tent to rest, recover and be reunited with the team. We caught up, traded race stories, refuelled and took our post-race celebratory photos wearing our medals. I really enjoyed the race and how the course blended running past iconic landmarks and running through such a beautiful Royal Park. The sustainable wooden medal is a great touch.

Race day trainers:


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written by

Rey Smart

Personal Trainer from London

Strength Training Dance 10k half marathon marathon Fitness
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