For the third instalment of the Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon on Sunday 8th May, I joined 11,899 runners in Hackney Marshes for a 13.1-mile race around the streets of East London.
Fast making a name for itself on the event circuit, the race route takes in the sights of the leafy borough, passing through green spaces, urban landscapes, canal ways and even a little skip round the Olympic village before returning to the start line.
The sun already high in the sky, at 8.30am on Sunday morning I shuffled to the park and joined the sea of eager runners in the race village. Situated in the heartland of Hackney, the event attracts a hip crowd. As I queued for the toilets I looked around me at the throng of runners and wished I’d remembered to put my lipstick on. Even at that early hour Run Hackney was the best looking running field I have ever had the privilege of sweating in and I could easily have stumbled into a music festival.
Shepherded by a slightly autocratic loudspeaker we made our way towards the start line, where we were left hanging around for 20 minutes after the official start. But once we set off spirits were high, urged on by the excellent spectators.
As we hit the streets it was evident the residents of Hackney were going to give it some welly. Despite the increasing heat, crowds cheered, sang and cajoled us round the course every step of the way, maintaining a festival-like atmosphere that kept me smiling even when it felt like my feet were on fire.
A fairly flat route, were it not for the searing heat it would make a great PB course. With temperatures tipping 27 degrees it was bound to be a tough day, but the reassuringly frequent water and energy drink stations kept us well catered for. Paramedics also provided an excellent service attending to weary runners struggling in the heat and the jelly baby stand was an oasis of joy in the desert.
After we shuffled across the finish line into the arms of the crowd, the festival-vibes continued and runners were treated to complimentary massage and post-race yoga in the sunshine. It was a shame the finisher's t-shirts were unisex as the smallest one was still baggy on me, but the medal shaped like a sheriff's badge and goody bag packed with snacks more than made up for this.
An exceptionally well-organised event, my main criticism of the day was beyond the event's control. Hackney was hotter than the sun and with my pale skin and freckles I would have dropped out from exhaustion had it not been for my amazing friend Emma who marched me round and refused to let me quit.
Run Hackney may share a city with the London Marathon and attract an equally zealous crowd, but the similarities end there. Despite sharing a postcode, Sunday was an entirely different ballgame, showcasing the sights and sounds of East London in all its glory and demonstrating how vastly unique and colourful each borough of the capital can be. From flags made of Prince's Purple Rain to shrieking grannies and passersby helping strangers in need, the crowd support was on point and made me proud to call this patch of the world my home.