On Sunday 12 March I took part in the Vitality North London Half Marathon. This is the second time that I have ran this race having completed it last year as well.
I received my race pack a few weeks ago with my number (already hole punched – winner), specifically designed bag to use for the bag drop and letter letting me know that the race pack is virtual this year and will arrive in my inbox in a few days. All communication was pretty clear, useful and greener for being virtual.
The day came and the notable difference to last year was that ALL of the race village was inside Wembley stadium. My Dad had come with me to spectate and so I didn’t need to use the bag drop facilities. I left Dad to park the car and I headed to a quick toilet stop and then off to my pen. I was in pen E which was specified on my race number.
The event team were keeping everyone pumped up and after a quick warm up and with a buzz of anticipation in the air we were off.
Last year I ran with Dad but due to injury he couldn’t run with me this year but he was there to watch. The route goes from Wembley to Saracens stadium and back to Wembley.
So Dad decided to bring his bike along so that he could spectate from different points.
As it turned out it was actually pretty easy for him to get round and he wasn’t far away from me for most of the run, which was pretty cool.
The first 3 miles did have a few hills and you could notice quite a few people already stopping to walk. It was a challenge straight from the off.
After the hills the miles were flying by, with entertainment throughout the course and friendly volunteers handing out water often, it was enjoyable to run.
The route comes back on itself after Saracens and what I did enjoy about the road up to the first stadium was seeing the elites on their way back. It’s just insane how fast they run. It takes your mind of your own running to see them fly by.
Before long I reached the first stadium. Saracens was a great way to reach the half way point. The event team were there cheering us on, there was a video camera so you could see yourself running on the big screen. Plus, once you crossed over the half way point your name appeared on another big screen.
It was a nice boost. There were also plenty of toilets available – always good even if I didn’t need to use them. Then as you exit the stadium there was the first of two Lucozade stands on the route.
Last year the Lucozade stand had been a little later on in the race and I think it was a good choice to make it at the half way point. Now it was time to run home! Back to Wembley!
As I was running back I could see all the runners going the other way, still to reach the first stadium. At that point I saw my cousin Jon, who was also running! We had been unable to see each other at the start. So that was cool!
The race did come to an awkward stop when an ambulance needed to get by and runners were asked to stop running by the marshals and we had to wait as it went by. Of course I wouldn’t want it to not get by, but it was an inconvenience having to stop for 10 seconds and then get back into a rhythm. I wonder whether there might be a better planning on how emergency vehicles can get through for next year’s race.
After this it was a slight down hill and I was back running strong until the 10 mile mark.
Then the hills came back! I knew this was coming from running it last year but I did forget quite how many there were. From 10 – 12 there were 4 fairly steep hills and on tired legs I could feel them. People seemed to be struggling and it was at this point I felt maybe this isn’t the best beginners or PB course.
After hitting 12 miles it was down hill and I was able to push more for the last bit.
When you come from Wembley Park and up back to the stadium it can be a little deceiving thinking you’ll be able to go straight into the stadium. However there is still a little way to go and you need to run half way around the stadium before you enter it. I was aware of this from running before but I think it would be good to have a little more signage around there.
Finally Wembley calls! You can hear the tannoy and the crowds cheering and it’s great! I sprinted through the finish line at 1.57.20 but having run an extra .1 miles actually ran the half distance in 1.56.20!
A PB and I felt great. I received my medal and it was good. I preferred last year’s design but it’s good to have a different looking medal.
I’d finished and I looked around Wembley and it was super cool and for a split second I felt like a professional athlete.
Another improvement from last year was rather than leaving the stadium straight away to get your goodie bag and T-shirt, you walked around the pitch instead. This gave more time to appreciate the amazing stadium and what you had just achieved. It also let you see other people finish.
I would recommend to those who like to run half marathons however I would say there are probably easier races for beginners and I did wonder what my PB would have been had it been a flat course.
For spectators it’s a great finish line to watch, although unless your on your bike like Dad, unlikely you’ll see your runner very often – especially if you want to get back to the stadium for the finish.
Overall it was a great day, an improvement on last year too! The location is amazing and if that means running some hills then so be it because it was definitely worth it. The organisers aren’t wrong it really is the best finish line!
I ran the North London Half as part of my training for London Marathon.
To register for next year’s North London Half visit their website here.
To find out more about Headway and what they do visit their website here.