Vitality North London Half Marathon – 20.03.16

Race Report – by Cathy McKeown

Geoff Sanders & Cathy McKeown took part in this Half Marathon taking in the iconic Wembley Stadium as the backdrop to the finish and the Allianz Park Stadium at the halfway mark.

The day started off with huge queues at the baggage check-in desks – well some were quicker than others – I just happened to get in one that took for ever.  They seemed to be checking everyone’s bags quite thoroughly, understandably due to recent terror attacks in other countries I guess.  It left 15 minutes or so to get to the starting pens.  I, for one, like to be a little ahead of myself and was worrying we wouldn’t have enough time.

We plonked ourselves in the 1:45 – 2:00 hour pens which were outside the stadium and it didn’t take long until we were shuffling to the start … and we were off heading out on Olympic Way.  A nice gentle pace to start and it wasn’t long until we came across our first slight elevation – there were quite a few on the route – but nothing really dramatic.  The route went through Fryent Country Park at mile 1 but to be honest I didn’t really notice any ‘park type features’ – it all looked like road to me.  The route was an out and back route but omitting Fryent Park on the return leg with the roads split by traffic cones for the out/back legs.

There were plenty of water and Lucozade stations and toilets at each water station although even before we had reached the first toilet stop there were runners heading off to the side of the road to do their ‘business’!

Around about the 5 mile mark the lead car was coming along the other side of the road showing 40 minutes and the first runner was coming back at a cracking pace, with the 2nd runner a couple of minutes behind before the main pack passed by about 5 minutes later. (The leader eventually came in at 1:02:41).

Just after 6 miles we headed into Allianz Park Stadium and ran around the track, there was a bit of support here and a big screen just as you exited the stadium so you could see yourself on the way out. My knee had been playing up for a few days and I had forgotten to put my knee brace on before starting the run and it was just inside the stadium that I felt it wasn’t in good shape – as if it would give way under me – but I carried on regardless as we were now on the home leg.

Around the 9.5 mile mark there was a slight incline which took us to mile 10 and the Wembley arch could be seen in the distance.  A runner passed me by and said ‘it’s all downhill from here’ – he was lying!  There was another incline at mile 11 and again at mile 12.5 but we were nearly there heading towards Wembley for the finish.  They took us round the back which seemed to go on forever and then under the stadium itself and then ….. we were on an artificial grass surface heading towards the finish line.  There was plenty of support here in the stadium with runners in the spectators seats and another huge screen so you could see yourself running in.

You received your medal and a bottle of water inside the stadium but were then ushered out under the stadium where runners were stretching their legs and generally resting up.  On the way out you received your goody bag of Lucozade sports drink, popcorn, banana, healthy snacks (would have preferred a Mars bar or something instead) and technical t.shirt.  Then off out to reclaim your baggage but once again there were some long queues here as a few of the volunteers just hadn’t got a clue where to look and runners were being asked to find their own bags.

Would I do this run again?  Most probably not as it felt a bit of an anti-climax for me once inside Wembley at the finish but it was one to tick off the list!

Marks out of 10

Location – 10/10

Organisation – 9/10 – generally good apart from the baggage queues

Support along the route – 5/10 – not much support along the route apart from the stadiums/drinks stations

Goody Bag – 8/10 – lots of items but some thrown away


Cathy McKeown

1:47:46 (Overall position 2038 out of 6784) (Women 329 out of 2636) (F55 3rd  out of 48)

Geoff Sanders

2:06:59 (Overall position 4021 out of 6784) (Men 2959 out of 4148) (M60+ 37th out of 76)