Race Review: North London Half 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lots of people arriving
Last year was the inaugural North London Half. (You can read my review here.) It was perfect for me at the time as I lived 2 miles from the start in Mill Hill and had 17 miles to run in prep for Prague marathon. My husband and dog were at mile 11 to cheer me on too, which gave me a boost at the end.

I think most people found the start line in 2015 challenging to get to because this year the race started and ended in Wembley Stadium. I have moved house since, so it took me ages to get to the stadium (between disruptions and a super early start). Once I got there, I saw a few friendly faces (Miss Wheezy and Lauren) and dropped my stuff off in the media area. It was a pain to get to the room as it was deep in the stadium but it was interesting to walk through central command where all the organizer's and safety services were monitoring the race.

The race started on time but was uphill for at least a mile (this came in handy at the end though). My goal was to finish in 2 hours so I started off pacing with a woman, Catherine, who I met in the press area and aiming to keep to 9 minute miles.  Overall, the route was very similar to last year's.  There were some fans cheering at the stadium and near the Tube stations, as well as a few bands along the way, but most of the route was quiet.  It was nice to have large roads to run on so it wasn't too congested with runners. The route featured plenty of (heavily staffed with volunteers) water stations, loos, and Lucazade.

View of the start line as I exited the Tube station
At the halfway point, I stopped on the Allianz Park track for some photos so I finished up the race on my own.  I just couldn't catch up with Catherine!  It was cool that at the track side there was a huge video screen that put your name up as you crossed over the timing mat.  I missed my name, unfortunately, but love the idea!  

Entering Allianz Park, the midway point

Names up on the big screen
Everyone who ran the race will agree the hill at mile 9.5-10.1 was the worst thing ever which I am naming Heartbreak Hill after the one in Boston Marathon. The next few miles were unremarkable as I was simply trying to keep on track with 9 minute miles.  The last mile was downhill and I was cutting it close to my cut-off so I kicked it up a notch.  I felt like I was close as I passed the Tube station and thought the end would be at the end of the Olympic Way.  In doing this and not seeing an end in sight, I had to have a gel in the car park, less than 0.2 miles to the finish because I was about to hit the wall.  We entered the stadium on the east end and finished on the turf in the stadium.  Fans were allowed into the stadium to watch for free, so it was cool to see some folks sitting and watching (but I wish they were cheering more loudly).  And I hit my goal with a finish time of 1:58:47!

Boom! Me and my new bling
After crossing the finish line and getting a million selfies inside the stadium, runners were corralled out and received a navy blue technical shirt, a great goody bag (last year's had more chocolate) and a foil blankets. This was amazing as it was a bit cold, windy and a little rainy on the day.  These blankets would have been a great idea last year! 

I went back to media area where I met the 1st & 2nd place men's winners who are on the Run Fast team and from Kenya. I asked them about the weather and the hills, they said the hills were similar to Kenya. They were really nice and I wish them the best with their running careers.

Trying to get a quick photo but we are too fast.  Ha!
Ronnie and the winners, not blurry
The North London Half is what I would call hilly (elevation of 534 feet).  If you live in west or north London, it is an easy race to get to and will take you through some familar sites.  It is also early enough in the year that it fits nicely into spring marathon training.  Pre-registration for 2017 is now open if you want to get an email notification when registration opens up.

Not often you can be in an empty stadium :)
Thanks to the North London Half for complimentary entry to this race in exchange for a review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

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