Over 1000 local school children made the Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon a race for all ages, as glorious sunshine greeted its second instalment last Sunday.
Thirteen thousand runners completed the 13.1 mile-event across east London with youngsters running their own tailored half marathon up the final straight as part of the Schools Challenge.
An idyllic flat circuit took racers past the famous Hackney Empire, through Broadway Market and on a winding trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Local athlete and double European indoor 400m-hurdle champion Perri Shakes-Drayton, who fired the start gun in Hackney Marshes, saluted the many local businesses that were out in force waving banners of support.
“I love the enthusiasm and vibe here today and the weather also helps,” Shakes-Drayton said. “I really like the way the distance was broken down into weekly runs to give children a nice introduction to track and field.
“Getting children started and giving them an opportunity is something I’m passionate about and the Schools Challenge is a great idea.”
Elite runner Matthew Kimutai won the men’s category and Katy Webster took first place in the women’s field, while the wheelchair race was won by Doug Stone.
Kimutai was first past the finish line in a time of one hour three minutes and 21 seconds, with his Team Run-Fast compatriot Sammy Nyokaye five seconds behind him after his first Hackney run.
“I didn’t have a set time in which I wanted to complete the race, but I’m happy with the result,” Nyokaye told me. “I expected 62 minutes, but this is OK for today. The toughest part was around eight-mile mark. I will plan to race in the London Marathon next year.”
Next up for the pair will be pace-making the Highgate 10,000m this Saturday and the team’s manager Tom Payne added: “We’re delighted to have the top two in the men’s. Ideally, we’d have liked to have brought a few for the women’s, but we had one or two injuries.
“The guys we bring to the UK are young generally and they haven’t raced outside of Kenya. Here they can run good times, and once they’ve done that they can hopefully graduate to fast races in Europe.”
In the women’s event, Katy Webster finished first in a time of 01:17:38. Nene Valley Harriers’ Philippa Taylor, who finished second in 01:21:08 spoke warmly of the uniqueness to the Hackney circuit.
“While I was warming up, I bumped into a friend whose kids were doing the mile event, and it made me realise what a great community atmosphere there is here.
“What I loved the most was the support. I kept on getting messages like ‘Go Sister!’ all the way around, and you’d only get that in Hackney! It was great going through the Olympic Park at the end, as that was at a moment when you’re quite tired, so it really lifts you.”
Rebekah Gardiner finished third in 01:22:25. While the Shaftesbury Barney Harriers athlete admitted it was far from her fastest time, she was happy with her podium finish.
“I managed to do this distance in 80.45 at the Reading half, but it was pretty hot out there today so I’m happy,” said Gardiner. “It’s a long distance, so once you feel you’re not quite on track for a certain time, it’s hard to make it up at the end.
“I haven’t done too many half marathons so I’m a work in progress. I was feeling strong from the eighth mile, and that’s when you need to push on to try to get the best time possible.
“I was in third for most of the race, trying to keep the leader in view, but hopefully next time I’ll get first. It was really enjoyable out there, it wasn’t too hilly, and the support was amazing.”
The idea for Vitality Run Hackney came from Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Cllr Jonathan McShane, who took part in the inaugural race last year and ran again this year.
“I would like to say congratulations to every runner and thanks to all our supporters for another huge success for Hackney,” he said. “The borough gave the runners a very warm welcome and the atmosphere was as much a carnival and celebration as it was a race.
“I’m delighted to see this year’s event so well supported with a record turnout of runners and huge local support: it has been a fantastic day.”
Jamie Warren, Head of Marketing and Commercial at race organizer GO2, added:
“The event continues to inspire the next generation of runners, with over 1000 local primary school children completing the Vitality Run Hackney Schools’ Challenge. It has been another success for Hackney and we look forward to doing it all again next year.”
Pre-registration for 2016 is now open at www.runhackney.com