rganisers expect the “power of sport to bind communities” to be on full display this weekend as the biggest-ever edition of the Hackney Half Marathon takes place in east London.
A field of 24,000 runners are set to take to the 13.1-mile course, which starts and finishes on Hackney Marshes, 2,000 more than did so when the previous record was set back in 2019.
The return of field sizes to pre-pandemic levels has been a welcome boost for events across the industry over the last 12 months, but has brought significant logistical hurdles for organisers.
“The biggest new challenge this year has been having the confidence to predict what’s going to happen,” James Hogben, managing director of LimeLight Sports Club, who own and run the event, tells Standard Sport.
“You have to pre-order things like medals and T-shirts and there’s a lot we have to get right in our forecasting. We’ve got a history of being able to rely on data but with unpredictable numbers over the last few years and unreliable data, it’s been really hard for us to know exactly the scale we’re building for.
“We won’t be alone in that and there will be some event organisers that have overshot the mark thinking they’re going to get a bigger field than they’ve got.”
The sell-out field is made up entirely of club and amateur runners: last year’s men’s renewal was won in a rapid time of 69 minutes, but organisers do not offer prize money, nor recruit and pay professional athletes to race.
“We have an ethos that sport is for all,” Hogben explains. “We attract very fast runners but it isn’t a No1 priority for us to attract an elite field.
“We genuinely believe in the power of sport to bind communities together. To help people achieve both health and wellbeing objectives, whether they’re there on the day to participate, whether they’re focusing their whole lifestyle on the journey in the build-up, whether they’re raising money for a good cause, whether they’re fighting their own personal battles in order to get to the start line.”
Sunday’s race is the highlight of the weekend-long Hackney Moves festival, which features a range of live music and food events, as well as a 5km fun run, a schools’ running challenge and various other mental and physical wellbeing activities, all of which are put on free of charge.
“We genuinely believe the more people we can invite into this world and this space the more people will want to continue to participate in the future,” Hogben adds.
“We come into Hackney and we disrupt people’s lives for a bit, we close roads, we bring thousands of runners into their front gardens almost. It feels like if the community are prepared to give us something, then we’re prepared to give them something.”