Hackney Half Marathon 2024

Big smile before the race but very insecure inside…

Hackney Half Marathon is a very popular and fun Half Marathon to run. A sold out race every year in Hackney, a trendy upcoming area in London.

Event date: 19.05.24
Location:     Hackney, London
Distance:     21 km
Route:         mainly flat, city race

Question: “6 weeks to train for Hackney Half Marathon, is that enouth time?” A question I asked myself when I received the lucky message: YOU’ve won!

It started with a simple Instagram competition, you know the drill. Then I completely forgot about it and received the DM on Instagram that I’ve won. Not only the entry for Hackney Half Marathon, I also received an entry to Venice Marathon end October with Wizz Air flight vouchers to get me to the start line. AMAZING! But there are only 6 weeks to train. This is not enough time to train for a Half Marathon, I knew it, but would there be any chance to still manage?

I haven’t been running much this year as I faced a very personal challenge with my family and decided to move from London back to Germany. That’s why my training started from scratch. I wasn’t ready but I took on this challenge to motivate myself getting back into fitness and running.

Looking at the calendar I roughly planned a run 3x a week, increasing the kilometres on each long run (weekend) to see how high I can build up to the race of 21km. I realised that I can only build up to the longest run of 15km at the end of week 6. There was no possibility to taper down, that means after the longest run you usually plan at least 1-2 weeks to decrease the running frequency and km for the optimal recovery and strength on race day. A general recommendation is 12 weeks to train for a Half. If you are reading what I’ve done, please keep in mind I can’t recommend. If you are a beginner, when it comes to running, please don’t repeat my story as you have a risk to injure yourself.

I knew it was a risk and I do love a challenge but from week 1 to moments before the start on race day, I questioned myself. Shall I do it? Can I really finish? Is this too tough for my body? What if I injure myself? No that won’t happen because I’m mastering listening to my body. In this case it does matter that I’ve finished several Half and Marathons before. Knowing what to expect and also having a lot of respect before a race was key. Further below I will share my motivational thoughts, the little voice in my head during the race that kept me running until the finish.

Actual running schedule I’ve managed.

DONE! Target achieved of running 3x a week and my longest run was 15km. During my training I was mainly running by myself, especially the long runs, here I need to stick to my slow and constant pace. But I was excited to join Adidas Runners Frankfurt on their weekly community runs, that helped me to push myself and get out the house for a training run. Ideally, I’d have loved to join the group more often as I enjoyed it so much and felt the benefit. Few gym sessions were possible as well.

Am I ready? I felt very insecure answering this question, but I’m a positive thinker so I said, as ready as I can be!

The Week Before Race

The week of the race I decided to take it easy to get a good recovery in. I thought a gym class on Monday with a bit strengthening would be good for me. I misread and ended up in a high intensity class with total body training. It began with step cardio routine to start with as a warm up. OMG. More intensity was added with a band around my legs during exercise repetition… basically the toughest class I’ve ever been to. A killer for my legs but I couldn’t leave respecting the trainer, so I only slowed down and finished. That was the 1st stupid mistake and the 2nd followed just after I arrived in London.

If you know me, you know I love live music and artistic shows. So, I’ve been to the Burlesque and live music show on Thursday. Loved it! But I’d say now: “Never wear high heels before a race!” Stupid idea as my legs tightened up and I had 2 more days to sort that out. I was losing it, I was getting so emotional and doubting myself. Shall I really start on Sunday? Am I able to finish? I was so weepy and emotional when I met up with old friends. Only few days later I realised that was PMS. Great, another challenge to deal with. Anyway, I thought I go with the flow. Live in the moment and take everything when it comes. Deal with it as and when it happens.

The Day Before The Race

From Friday afternoon or on Saturday you can pick up your race pack. I went on Saturday and there was already lots on. On stage was a fitness class happening, brands with giveaway games and products to try. Also, lots of kids’ stuff to do. A festival of running and fitness. I loved it.

Why is this Half Marathon so popular? A sell out every year in a record time?

Because YOU … “Experience an unforgettable weekend of sport, entertainment and celebration in vibrant East London. Offering the hugely popular Wizz Air Hackney Half Marathon, Hackney 5k, Schools’ Challenge, fitness festival and a vibrant event village in Hackney Marshes – this is the highlight of London’s running calendar.” As it was written on their website and this really says it all.

Hackney Marshes

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long to collect my race pack. It was midday. Different to previous years was they handed out the finisher T-shirt with the start number together. When signing up you can opt in for the T-shirt and select your size. Great idea to get it before the race. Why not!

Last but not least I ran an easy 15 min to keep my legs active and prep for the next day. Now it’s time for PIZZA carb loading.

Hackney Half Marathon Race Day

It wasn’t me! 🙂

London is big! Early morning traveling to the start line meant for me all the way from SW19 to N16. Basically over an hour door to door. While many runners chose the bike. I took a bus and overground to get there.

Race Map 2024

As I mentioned before I had a very emotional week due to my leg tightness and stupid decisions, I felt insecure. Only when I arrived at the marshes I felt a release inside. It was finally race day and I felt the buzz. Just when I arrived the first wave has started and that was already an adrenaline kick. Music and so many runners getting ready was very motivating, too.

Great DJ music was playing at the stretch area, so I decided to warm up for the race by shaking out my legs, squat up and down to fire up my gluts, lunges and stretching. Amazing vibes and I felt better and better. I thought I could stay just here for the whole day. Felt like dancing!

Little Sabine was one of over 20.000 runners starting Hackney Half 2024.

Happy face! Here is my race summary:

  • Km 1- 7 : Warm up phase: I am a slow runner but this is especially important in the beginning. It usually takes me around 5-6km to feel that my breathing has a good rhythm and my legs feel ok. Oh, I have a fun fact to share with you. As I didn’t go to the loo before the start I felt an urge just after I started to run. I debated about 1km what to do. Jump on a provided toilet or behind a bush? I felt like a little girl, but yes I did it! 🙂 My first gel I decided to take around 6km. My legs felt ok and I enjoyed the run. The cheering was amazing and especially when people were calling out my name. SABINE YOU CAN DO IT!
  • Km 8-14: The joyful phase: It was so hot running in the sun as I started 10:30am. At the water station I decided to pour cold water over my head, it helped. So refreshing! There were bands playing, DJ music, kids “high 5s” and people handing out refreshment. An absolute fun run. Like a little London Marathon. I forgot all about my anxiety until my legs felt tired around the 15km. I remembered that this is the maximum I’ve done in the training and when I also started to struggle. Another gel was taken in slowly. I got a bit nervous therefore I started to focus on my technique. My running style is front to mid food as much as I can, then changing and swapping to full feet landing.
  • Km 15-18: The hang in there phase: I looked at mile 10 and thought, oh great only 3 more miles to go. But it felt forever once I started feeling this tightness around my right knee. Those 3 miles are around 5 km and I started to calculate how much longer I might have to run. Calculating potential minutes in my mind was not a good idea. My right leg really eased up. I felt challenged. But I don’t want to walk. It always helps me analysing my body while running. Here is my little voice in my head that kept me motivating. “Relax, you can do it. Change your running style. Feel it. Where is the niggle? Relax your shoulders. Enjoy the surrounding. It’s party time! Look around. Enjoy. Checking in again, how is the leg? Change your running stile again. Check again. Nope, the other landing of my feet was better. Activate your core. Good. Keep it up. Relax and focus.” With this constant checking of my body and at the same time enjoying as much as I can, it really helped me running. In fact changing the running style improved the niggle for a while. But then it got very challenging again.
  • Km 19 -21: The Struggle: I felt it is not a serious pain, it’s nothing to worry, but I was challenged due to this constant tightness. I decided to slow down but still in the jogging motion. Really didn’t want to walk. My mind said “You are struggling”. The last 1.5 km were tough. I felt very emotional, had tears in my eyes. I looked at the crowd, people screaming my name. Over and over again I heard “Sabine! Well done! Sabine! You did so well. Sabine! You are nearly there. Sabine! YOU can do it!” My thumbs go up, I waved to those lovely people.” “YES I can.”, I said to myself. Another tear in my eye, stupid hormones! But this is it, push in a save way! Checking my body again. Still running and the last bit of the race has another incline. No! “Sabine, keep on running! Sabine! YOU are doing amazing!” The crowd was lifting my chin up, was lifting my mind in a positive direction, the people were amazing. I needed this so much. A motivation I can’t explain. A struggle you feel and the crowd was carrying me with their motivational words to the end. ONLY 500 meters left! I was still running, slow but I ran all the way. The finish line was again emotional once I ran and hearing my name! I was smiling and so, so happy.
Proud finisher! Behind me on the wall are all start names listed. Cool idea.

Look at the stunning medal and finisher T-shirt.

Long waiting time to take the overground. Cancelations due to overcrowding that didn’t surprise me.

Best reward: Pub food and a pint with my old friend. Yummy traditional Sunday roast. What a great treat to finish. How do you celebrate after a big challenge?

If YOU are still reading…THANKS! I’ve made it! 21km, 13 miles, a challenge me against me and I won as it was always about finishing, never about a time. Btw. I finishe in 2:41h.

What a great experience. Luckily I’ve won this race and took on the challenge. It motivated me to get back into my running mojo. Not only I will take home a medal, I also keep the motivation for the training as my next challenge will be Venice Half Marathon end of October.

Keep on running and follow me on IG if you like to know about my training and fun events I’m going to challenge myself with…

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