Two blog posts on London in a row and both on sporting events too! This is a new record for the blog. 🙂
I ran the North London Half Marathon last week. The route starts next to and ends inside the Wembley Stadium, one of the UK’s most famous football stadiums. Whilst it is known primarily as the home for the English national football team, the stadium is flexible in its configuration and has been the venue of many music events and concerts, weddings, conferences and other sports events such as rugby, athletics and American football.
Despite being the host of a multitude of past events, I have never stepped foot in the stadium, or even been to its surrounding area. I was therefore pretty excited to have this chance to actually run through Wembley. With the tagline for the race being “The Greatest Finish Line…In The World“, it was a hard one to resist, so I signed up for the experience, fun and excuse to visit Wembley and its stadium for the first time.
I started the morning with a typical runner’s breakfast of oats and fruit.
The most convenient underground station for me to get to the race start from Central London was the Wembley Park underground station, located on the Jubilee and Metropolitan tube lines. The very first thing you see upon exiting the tube station is the distinctive 134-metre-high arch of Wembley Stadium, the archway of which is apparently the world’s longest unsupported roof structure.
It was about a 7 minute walk from there to the stadium, and I was soon in the midst of it, not exactly sure where to go. I tried going up the steps, into the stadium, but then glanced down and noticed the baggage drop area which is where I needed to be.
The lines for the bag drop seemed fairly long, though it might only have felt that way because it was freezing and overcast that morning. A thin runner’s jacket was definitely not sufficient for standing still in this weather!
There was another long line for the porta-loos (fairly clean!) before I finally legged it to my section for the start. Turns out I needn’t have rushed as there was actually quite a long walk to the start line. All was well when we crossed the start line though, and things finally got underway.
One rather nice aspect of the route was the run round Allianz Park about halfway through the race. It made for a nice break after pounding the tarmac for an hour, and before embarking on the next hour.
Surprisingly, despite the cold weather and my lack of any real goals for this race, I finished the second half of the race a good bit stronger than the first half. The next 10-ish kilometres therefore went by fairly quickly as I negative-splitted my way through the mile markers, and I was soon back in Wembley Stadium, crossing the finish line to scores of cheering fans. All of them there for me, obviously!
There wasn’t a whole lot of space on the track with the scores of runners streaming into the stadium, so I made my way quickly though the tunnel under the spectator stands where the goody bags, finishers’ t-shirts, space blankets and bananas were being distributed to the runners.
The tunnel led back out to the baggage drop area where there was not much else for me to do but to pick up my things and stretch it out in a nearby grassy spot. Another half marathon in London completed, but my first in a while running through a new part of London. 🙂
Final time: 01:53:27