London played host to The Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon today (Sunday 11 October) which saw 16,000 runners complete a scenic 13.1 mile race through four of London’s eight Royal Parks and past the capital’s most iconic landmarks.
Former Olympic Swimming Champion Rebecca Adlington sounded the starter horn for the race, whichtakes runners past world-famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, the Royal Albert Hall, and through Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.
The race is the only half marathon to go through the streets and green spaces of central Londonmaking it one of the most iconic and scenic half marathons in any city in the world. 2015 also saw the introduction of a new route which encompasses additional renowned London locations including Whitehall, The Strand and Trafalgar Square.
The Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon annual fundraising event not only benefits the Royal Parks Foundation which funds sport, education, art, heritage restoration and wildlife conservation projects across London’s eight Royal Parks, it also supports other charities big and small. This year’s event is expected to raise £4million for the 333 charities taking part.
Royal Parks Foundation supporters and race ambassadors Charlie Webster and BBC presenter Sophie Raworth ran for Team Squirrel, the charity’s 300-strong running team which is hoping to raise £60,000 for activities in the Royal Parks, including an education programme for young people at their Education Centre in Hyde Park.
Coming in at a time of 1 hr 47 minutes 42 seconds, Sophie said: “There’s a great crowd as always; every year it gets bigger and better. The race was perfect preparation for the New York marathon later this year.”
Charlie, coming in at 2 hrs 1 minute 1 second, added: “It’s one of the most beautiful half marathons that you can do. As I’m from London and it’s on my own stomping ground, there’s a real family feel to it and the atmosphere is great. It’s the second time I’ve completed the race, so I’m delighted to complete the race again.”
Other celebrity runners included BBC Radio2 DJ Jo Whiley, BBC Presenter Emily Maitlis, Fat Boy Slim DJ Norman Cook, and TV Presenter Jenni Falconer.
The winning runner Russ Best, from North Yorkshire, made it around the course in a time of 1 hr 9 minutes 39 seconds, and said: “I wanted to have a solid run and after a mile I saw that I was slower than I wanted and capable of so I took it on from there. It’s my first time doing Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon. The course is challenging in the right areas and pretty fast. It takes in the cool London landmarks – great fun.”
The fastest female runner was Gaby Van Clarke, from London, running on behalf of Great Ormond Street, who covered the distance in 1 hr 21 minutes 53 seconds. Gaby said: “I can’t believe I won; I’ve never run a half marathon so quick in my life. I had twins last year & this is incredible.”
Commenting on today’s race, Sara Lom, chief executive of the Royal Parks Foundation, said: “It was wonderful to see so many runners coming together from all across the UK and abroad to support The Royal Parks. Urban green space is so important to our health and well-being and the money raised through this event helps to keep the magic of the Royal Parks alive – restoring monuments and playgrounds and engaging children with the natural world”.