East London Half Marathon 2019

This post is in two halves: my personal race and then a review of the race itself. Skip to that if you’re here to find out if you should sign up.

Back in October I ran the Royal Parks Half with a goal of running sub 1:45. It had been my goal for the year since starting running again post baby. I knew I was fit enough to do it, but after being ill the week of the race, it didn’t happen.

The East London Half popped up as a new race this year, and it was the perfect fit for marathon training: far enough in to benefit from the training but far enough out from marathon day that you can have a real go at racing. I was offered a free place from the organisers, so I signed up hoping to make that goal from last year happen.

I felt good the week before the race. I ran 8:00/mile at the Winter Run 10k to see how it felt, and decided I could go a little faster for the half. The race got underway and immediately something twanged around my left hip flexor. It’s not somewhere I’ve had issues before, so I thought that, as it was a cold morning, it might loosen off as I got warmer.

I had some great races last year not looking at my watch too much and just running on feel. I’d seen a map of the course and knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on my GPS so I let my legs settle into a happy pace. Without a 1:45 pacer I just made sure the 1:40 flag moved slowly away from me and the 1:50 didn’t get closer on the out and backs.

I knew I was running under my goal pace, tried not to get too carried away and hoped I could keep it up. At 6 miles I took a gel and a few sips of water and then my hip, which had been ok but not great since the start, started to complain more loudly.

There were a lot of twists and turns in the course, which made my hip complain. I’d feel really strong on a straight then have to slow right down to turn. The small hills became a problem too, I was driving up with my right leg and almost limping on the left. I just wanted to hold it together until the finish. I knew I had a good time in me.

As we headed into the final two miles, the adrenaline stopped it from hurting quite so much and I ran hard. I looked at my watch and knew that, even with a mile two minutes slower than goal pace, I’d run under 1:45. But that hadn’t been the goal that morning, today I’d wanted to run 1:43:xx.

I finished in 1:42:20, very happy with my time and almost a bit emotional at having finished. To put that into perspective, my PB from 2016 is 1:41:48. I’m close enough to start believing that I could run myself to a new PB this year.

Race review

Looking at the course map, you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit dizzy. “It looks like it was drawn by a child” said a guy next to me at the start. But actually running it, it was fine. The loops and turns kept us within the Olympic Park without having to encounter traffic. And there weren’t so many runners around me that you couldn’t take the racing line round the corners.

I was in the first start pen and we got away on time, an important point when it’s cold. And it didn’t feel too busy in the first mile.

The mile markers were my big complaint though. From mile 2 they were reading as 0.15 mile early consistently. I know, before you say anything, that GPS isn’t accurate, especially on a course with lots of bends. But it was consistent which made me worry about a short course. I’ve been there before at Hampton Court Half and Manchester Marathon.

Thankfully, the 12 mile marker seemed to be where it should be and, as we were running away from the finish at that point, I was confident we’d be doing the whole 13.1. And we did. Phew.

There was minimal queuing for the loos before the race and I got my bag back quickly. The bag drop was near mile 12, so I could watch Laura S (above) go past then nip back to see her finish. It would be a great race for having your spectators at (min were at home with a cold) because of the route going past points several times.

Some runners hate out-and-back sections, but I enjoy them: seeing the leaders fly past and looking out for friends ahead and behind you.

There was water on the course (I spotted it twice but I think they said three times). I grabbed a bottle no problem though someone in the pub complained one water stop had run out.

Great T-shirt, great medal and free race photos uploaded the same evening.

I was given a free place in the race, so believe what you like about my opinions.