Race Report: Royals Parks Foundation Half | Eclectic Cake: Race Report: Royals Parks Foundation Half

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Race Report: Royals Parks Foundation Half

WHAT: Half marathon
WHERE: Hyde Park, London
WHEN: 11th October

"Look behind you."

I checked the road ahead, so there was slightly less danger of me tripping up whilst I did as I was instructed. As it had been for the past few miles, the course was pretty clear. Then I looked back and realised why there were so few runners in front – there was a sea of them behind me, fixated on my RacePacing flag I'd so far avoided getting stuck in Hyde Park's trees.

Another wave of nerves hit me. The herd of runners I seemed to have collected at the Royal Parks Foundation Half were relying on me to get them home in two hours 14 minutes and 59 seconds. Not much less and certainly not more. If I failed, I would be the reason for missed hard-trained-for, much-dreamt-of, previously-unthought-of PBs. 

If I slowed down they would slow down, if I went too fast they would, too. It felt like a long game of follow the leader, where I could do a badly executed Macarena and they'd copy me exactly. Having just been reminded I wasn't just there for fun, though, I decided to keep the dance moves for celebrating at the finish line – providing I did my job correctly, of course.

Armed with a very technical paper bracelet with times scrawled next to miles, my running watch and absolutely no experience of running for a specific time, not even for myself, I crossed the start line with trepidation. As soon as my watch hit the magic 10:17 minute mile mark, though, I settled into the pace without feeling the need to push faster and I could begin to enjoy the occasion.

It seemed our tribe of 2h15-ers settled too, talking to me about the charities they were running for, the family members they were trying to beat, the training they'd done (or not done in some cases), the weight they'd lost to be able to move for one mile let alone 13, 'slowing down' at 77 years old by choosing half marathons instead of the full, previous failed PB attempts... I'd never been so proud to be a runner and to be a part of their stories.

Due to building work, this year's route was a variation on the usual but we were still lucky enough to be gifted some of London's most iconic roads to run on without traffic. And just as I would do for myself, I reminded my pacees to look up and take in the views.

We were blessed with the perfect running conditions – cool and crisp air, gently warmed by Autumnal sun – also the perfect weather for supporters, who were scattered along the course. It wasn't until we re-entered Hyde park around the half-way point, where we saw just how many people had sacrificed their Sunday lie-in to cheer us on. The noise of drums, brass instruments, whooping, clapping, whistles and "you can do it"s was incredible! It also explains the slightly quicker mile that we sneakily adjusted later on. It was hard to not get carried away.

Not content with the simple job of pacer, I was keen to make sure everyone running with us was having as much as I was. After all, running the distance for the first time or at the edge of their limit, this wasn't easy for most of them. I took on the role of cheesy motivational speaker, spouting clich├ęs all over the place or giving encouraging shoulder taps to anyone whose head had dropped or feet had given up to a walk.

I was delirious on running love. I'd become attached to these complete strangers. We'd been on a journey together and I was sad it was almost over. At mile 12, like a proud mama bird, I encouraged anyone who looked fresh-faced to flee the nest. They would grab massive PBs and I was so proud, but selfishly a little disappointed I wouldn't get to see them soak up the finish line glory. Their spaces quickly filled, though, by those who were struggling on their own, who had stumbled upon mid-race injuries or had misjudged their pacing and found support in our group to get to the end.

I delayed crossing that finish line. Not just because I still had a few seconds to spare. It was such a joy to watch the people I'd been running with, running for even, see that finish line and speed towards it with a smile.

You can register for news on how to become a pacer for RacePacing here and register your interest for the Royal Parks Foundation Half here.


  1. Ahhhh Jen this is epic, you're epic. I'd love to pace a race but not sure I could be consistent enough for others to rely on me!

    1. Aww, thanks, Tess! You should absolutely give it a go, it's tricky to begin with but you soon settle into a rhythm.

  2. This is awesome Jen! I am in awe of you! You're a beautiful person and those people are SO lucky to have had you for support :) I'm sure everyone in a race hopes to have someone like you by their side to encourage them on, I know I would!

    Keep doing what you're doing, you're a wonderful person! x

    1. That's so kind of you to say, Laura! It was such an amazing experience, I recommend it to anyone!