The UK’s most popular half marathon, now celebrating its fifth year, hosted the biggest turn out to date with over 12,500 runners participating.
Fundraisers dusted off their running shoes and took to London’s autumnal parks on Sunday morning to partake in the scenic Royal Parks Foundation half marathon.
The UK’s most popular half marathon, now celebrating its fifth year, hosted the biggest turn out to date with over 12,500 runners raising vital funds for charities.
More than 40,000 spectators and supporters lined the leafy 13.1 mile course, winding through four of the eight Royal Parks (Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park and Green Park) and showcasing some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks.
Among the runners gracing the Hyde Park start-line was Gordon Ramsey, Nell McAndrew and Katherine Jenkins.
Since its 2008 launch, the event has raised an estimated £11million for over 365 different partner charities.
Sarah Harrison, project officer for the Royal Parks Foundation, said: “We are here to raise funds to help keep the parks open, free, and beautiful for Londoners to enjoy all year round.”
Sarah also heads “team squirrel”, the foundation’s group of 200 runners, targeting £40,000 to help aid the charities work which spans over 5,000 acres of central London parkland.
Among the hordes of exhausted yet elated fundraisers crossing the finish line was Londoner and father, Neil Bleasdale, 40, clocking a respectful 2hr run for still and premature birth charity, Tommy’s.
He said: “Coming into Hyde Park from Park Lane where the crowd was at its loudest was simply incredible. It’s like the Tour de France with walls of people cheering you on all the way, without them I don’t think I would have made it round.”
Megan Smith, 24, running her first half-marathon raised over £400 for the charity Right to Play.
She said: “Running down The Mall and past Parliament was very special, especially after watching athletics on the TV run the same course during the Olympics.”
Martyn Bean claimed the men’s title crossing the line at an impressive 1hr 12mins with Carey Lynn clocking 1hr 25mins to take the women’s crown.
The event hosted a number of charities on site, with tents providing information and advice as well as refuge for runners to hydrate and reflect on their race.
Lizzie Lleshi, Deputy Head of National Community Participation for Save the Children, said this is the fourth year the charity has participated with 55 runners tackling the course, aspiring to raise £38,000.
She said: “It’s a fantastic event, runners really enjoy taking in the sights of London while experiencing the beauty and seclusion of the Royal Parks.
“Every year it gets bigger and better and we encourage our runners to take this opportunity to run a unique race.”
A new addition to the 2012 line-up was an event designed for 250 experienced distance runners, starting in Hyde Park and finishing in Henry VIII’s old hunting ground Bushy Park, raising £120,000 for the charity Scope.
Sara Lom, Chief Executive of the foundation, said: “In this momentous year of sport, we’re particularly pleased to offer the “Ultra 50km run”, a new challenge for athletes looking to take their running to the next level.”
The “Pulse3K” junior race encouraged over 350 youths aged 11-16 to “get fit for sport” and compete in a 3km run passing through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, taking in the sights of the magnificent Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial.
The event embodied a green message throughout, from bamboo and recycled race shirts to certified sustainable wooden medals for all competitors.
To register for 2013’s event visit www.royaparkshalf.com/www.royalparksultra.com
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