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Hackney Half 2018: Record 20,000 take on annual 13-mile run around borough in baking heat

PUBLISHED: 23:08 20 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:49 22 May 2018

Runners for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, including the Gazette, exhausted but happy after completing the half-marathon. Picture: Ben Adams/Hackney Winter Night Shelter

Runners for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, including the Gazette, exhausted but happy after completing the half-marathon. Picture: Ben Adams/Hackney Winter Night Shelter

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Twenty thousand people defied baking sunshine to race 13 miles around the borough in this morning’s Hackney Half.

Runners in the Hackney Half 2018 pass the Hackney Empire between miles 4 and 5. Picture: Virgin Sport Runners in the Hackney Half 2018 pass the Hackney Empire between miles 4 and 5. Picture: Virgin Sport

Neighbours and supporters lined the route, which begins and ends on Hackney Marshes, to cheer on the runners – many of whom were raising money for local charities including St Joseph’s Hospice, Mind in Hackney, St Mungo’s, Hackney Quest and the Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

Joe Morwood and Stephanie Davis took the year’s male and female titles with times of 1.08 and 1.16 respectively. The men’s champion couldn’t quite match Paul Whittaker’s 1.06 from 2017, but the female frontrunner beat Isabel Clark’s time from that year by two minutes.

After passing through Homerton and Lower Clapton, the route – which stays the same each year – wound through Dalston and Haggerston, down Mare Street and along Victoria Park, skimming the Olympic Park via two brutal hills and returning to its start point.

The Gazette was among the groups fielding runners, with four staff raising cash for the night shelter – expected to reopen at the beginning of November having shut for the season on April 1.

Hackney Half 2018 winner Joe Morwood. Picture: Virgin Sport Hackney Half 2018 winner Joe Morwood. Picture: Virgin Sport

All in, £16,000 has been raised for the shelter this year, including the Gazette’s own (growing) total of £1,025.

Chair of trustees Andrew Hudson told the Gazette: “Every penny that we raise means we can do more for our guests.

“It might be a move-on pack to help someone settle into a new flat. It might be help with the bus fares to get to meetings and perhaps job interviews. It might be a bit better equipment to afford a bit better meals in the evenings.

“Every penny goes to help our homeless guests – members of the Hackney community going through a tough time.”

Runners at the start line for Sunday's Hackney Half on the marshes. Picture: Virgin Sport Runners at the start line for Sunday's Hackney Half on the marshes. Picture: Virgin Sport

Andrew ran the course himself this year after sitting 2017 out.

“I enjoyed it as I went round,” he said. “I enjoyed the fact that complete strangers were calling out my name.

“I had a good run today and I hope that everybody else enjoyed it as well.”

The year’s overall race champion Joe had, incredibly, run a 10km race just hours before taking on the half-marathon.

“I ran the Virgin Sport Oxford Half Marathon back in October 2017 for the first time and won,” he said. “It was such a great experience with an amazing atmosphere.

“I’m so excited to follow that by winning the Hackney Half Marathon, despite running a 10km race the night before.”

Women’s champion Stephanie said: “Good cause, good weather, great atmosphere! And I secured my personal best today.”

Some 30,000 people on top of the runners are believed to have visited the free fitness festival on the marshes, which included classes and demos, DJs, and food and drink.

It’s an increase of 21,000 on last year’s total, which may come as a relief to Virgin Sport, now in its second year as the race operator after buying out Vitality. The number of runners has also shot up from 11,000 in 2017.

Other highlights of the festival leading up to the half-marathon included a “schools challenge” that saw children across the borough run 13 miles in 13 instalments and, to continue the slightly confusing mix of imperial and metric distances, a free 5km fun run yesterday.

Virgin Sport general manager Jessica Frey said: “It was such a wonderful day. The sun was out, our runners were amazing and the support from the crowd was electric at our biggest event to date.

“We are looking forward to working in the community throughout the coming year to inspire movement.”

Team Gazette preparing to run the Hackney Half. From left to right, Matt Smith, Peter Bailie, Patrick Dunne, a nervous Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel and James Morris. Picture: Carline Cheng Team Gazette preparing to run the Hackney Half. From left to right, Matt Smith, Peter Bailie, Patrick Dunne, a nervous Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel and James Morris. Picture: Carline Cheng

How did you get on in the race? Send us your stories and pictures and the best could feature in Thursday’s paper.

If you’d like to sponsor the Gazette runners you can still do so here.

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