Running on the road again – #NorthLondonHalf

It’s been a while since I last stepped on the road – my last ‘normal’ road race was the Great South Run followed by a road marathon in my all-time-favourite city, Rome (whoa haven’t realised it’s been that long). I stopped enjoying the usual big mass road running events, I guess too many people at one place scared me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed running alongside the beach in Portsmouth, around the iconic Colosseum or crossing the London bridge, and many more.

However I somehow lost the plot and started to dislike all the buzz that running with thousands of people brings (please don’t judge me). (Un)fortunately, the bag drops and loos with the queues like if there were giving away free iPhones were no more on top of my weekend’s to-do list. Nor were the early mornings and all the travelling to and from the races. Yes, I totally lost it BUT I haven’t stopped running. I’ve just swapped the road and cobbles for mud, I turned to trail running. Running on the trails in the mountains or London parks has seduced me in every single way and I like it….a lot!

Less people, more freedom, no queues, no buildings, a lot of trees and green, more hills and fresh air – I was sold from the first second I saw the Mont Blanc and I’ve never looked back since.

View at Mont Blanc from our balcony - Chamonix 2014

 

I continue to enter races but these are much smaller plus they are located far away from roads and the city smog. I’ve quickly realised that the less runners the race had, the more camaraderie I could expect – roger that! The love for trails, loneliness (to some extent), hills made to signed up for my biggest race to date – Stefanik Trail where only 2 women (out of 4!) were able to finish last year.

So nowadays the trails of Alexandra Palace, Highgate Woods and Hampstead Heath are my best friends and I try to avoid roads as much as I can.

#NorthLondonHalf and Wembley Stadium

However when the opportunity of running the Vitality North London Half came up I simply couldn’t say no. Firstly, because it’s in North London exactly where I live! The second reason were my fellow bloggers and friends Jen, Becs, Elle and Mollie who signed up too. Thirdly, I’ve never been to Wembley Stadium!

So here comes Sunday 15 March and the first thing I did was turning up very early – a massive school boy error! I ended up having to shuffle around hundreds of people. Not a good start which definitely didn’t help my mood. However Jen arrived just a couple of minutes later so my ‘fear of thousands of running people’ disappeared quite quickly.

After the usual routine of undressing, bag dropping and loo-going we made it to the start. Mollie and I were running the whole 13.1miles together which was great and really helped. Our conversational pace was spot on and enabled me to do a bit of sightseeing along the way. The highlight of the day was definitely the Wembley Stadium (I thought it’s much bigger tho), we even stopped in the middle of the pitch and Mollie asked one of the marshalls to take a cheeky photo of us. He laughed a lot.

Vitality North London Half - Entering the Wembley Stadium

Vitality North London Half - Wembley Stadium

Thumbs up to the organisers as the race itself was very well managed – plenty of water stations, mile markers, spectators, music bands, pacers and marshalls. The course was an out and back look (stadium to stadium) with the Wembley experience at 7mile and some hills on the way which I really enjoyed. The goodie bag was full of food which fuelled me for my run back home as I had scheduled 20miler for Sunday.

All in all not a bad comeback to road running! I would definitely recommend this race to anyone who fancies running her/his first half marathon or who wants to simply enjoy the iconic North London route and Wembley, especially if you’re a football fan. You can already pre-register for 2016 here

 

 Thank you to Vitality North London for the opportunity and my entry. 

 

Lenka Istvanova

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