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See the sights of London by running the Royal Parks Half

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 13th October 2016
When you think of London and road running you would be forgiven for thinking of the Virgin Money London Marathon due to its iconic status as one of the World’s Marathon Majors. However, to do so would be a real injustice as London is also home to one of the most beautiful half marathons in our race calendar, the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon. 
Set across four of London’s eight stunning Royal Parks, along with a trip past Buckingham Palace and round / through Trafalgar Square, 16,000 individuals took part in a closed roads race through Hyde Park, St James Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens to the finish. The event was created 9 years ago to not only provide an income for charities but also to provide sustainable funds for all 8 parks to survive within the current climate, and has won numerous awards. 

Royal Parks 2

In a climate where there are a number of fantastic, well-organised half marathons the Royal Parks Foundation half marathon has its work cut out. However, within minutes of starting the race in Hyde Park and finding yourself passing Buckingham Palace, cheered by tourists and spectators alike, your heart is taken with this race. You cannot help but be mesmerised by passing the historic Cenotaph or in or around Trafalgar Square and this is without the beauty of the Royal Parks that you get to experience from the start. 
Be it St James Park, Green Park, Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens - all offer something special and on a sunny day, which apparently is a standard feature in this race, you have to wonder if you are actually in one of the busiest cities in the world, as you feel so taken away. Couple this with the deafening crowd support throughout the course, bands / DJs and fantastic volunteers - you really feel you are racing somewhere special. 

Royal Parks 3

I have never had the chance to run the London Marathon, so I am unable to compare it, however, compared to nearly every race I have done (the exception being Ironman Wales) I have never been to a race where the support, enthusiasm and passion is emphatic and endless. The energy of this race was epitomised in the volunteer with a microphone 400 metres out from the finishing line, I am not sure if it was planned or a stroke of luck, but as he cheered everyone in, pushing them to do well and congratulating each person tirelessly – you cannot help but get caught up in the emotion of this race. 
The experience does not end at the finish line though. The festival village houses one of the best post-race experiences I have ever seen. From a dedicated warm down area (with around 50 yoga mats and foam rollers with an instructor) to free coffee from Pret A Manger you may never want to do another race. 
The Royal Parks Foundation half marathon is accepting applications for the 2017 ballot here and on this performance, you may well just have the Sunday morning run of your life. 
This article is dedicated to William who died taking part in this race and donations to his just giving page can be made here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/William-Man2

ll photos copyright Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon/rbcreate

About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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