Royal Parks Half Marathon goes virtual: Celebrating green spaces across the country


the royal parks hyde park flowers

At a time when outdoor spaces have been an integral part of survival, a ground-breaking virtual experience saw more than six thousand runners from 42 countries tie their laces for struggling charities.

Working with a customised app, the iconic Royal Parks Half, presented by Royal Bank of Canada, rolled out a unique race-day experience using digital integrations. Through the app, runners across the country were able to celebrate green spaces whilst experiencing the atmosphere of race day in the comfort of their local surroundings.

To recreate the event day experience, race incorporated an online warm-up led by professional dancer and fitness trainer, Karen Hauer, followed by Eddie Izzard getting the race underway at 9 a.m. Audio cues were played to runners at each mile of the course by celebrity names such as Ore Oduba, Victoria Pendleton, Jenni Falconer, Andi Peters, Sophie Raworth, Selasi Gbormittah, Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering.

Inspiring runners share their personal stories

Through the adversity witnessed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, race organisers put out a call for inspiring stories from individuals, communities, and organisations rising to the challenges they've faced. As a result, the inaugural Inspire charity runners were announced.

People who lost loved ones, struggling youth and cancer survivors shared their reasons for hitting the pavement and fundraising for charities close to their hearts.

“By the time the organisers decided to postpone the race from October 2020 to April 2021, I had been made aware that my dad would be unlikely to live long enough to see me run the rescheduled race,” writes Rainbow Murray, from Loughton in Essex. Murray was announced as one of the first Inspire runners, and to date, has raised over £4,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.

Amongst the thousands of runners, 125 RBC employees joined those who crossed the line in support of charities close to their own hearts. As presenting partner for the race since 2017, RBC has helped raise thousands of pounds for charities in the UK.

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Neil McClements was the fasted registered runner with a time of 01:13:12

Shreeraj Laturia, from Canary Wharf, has raised over £5,000 for Royal London Hospital, in honour of his wife and baby daughter who both died in a tragic accident. Laturia, an employee at RBC Capital Markets, told race organisers: “Running helps me reach a meditative state. I have kept up with running three to four times a week throughout the lockdown and I think it has helped me escape depression.”

Raising money for important charities

An interactive leaderboard kept the competition fire alive, with race data registered on the Royal Parks Half app.

“Supporting charities in need during this time is more important than ever before,” says Persephone Deacon-Cole, project lead at The Royal Parks. This event was created in 2008 to raise sustainable funds for The Royal Parks and enable charities of all sizes to be involved in a major challenge event.”

“The impact of COVID on the mass participation sports industry has had significant repercussions for ourselves and our charity partners,” she explains.

Dave Thomas, CEO, RBC Europe, adds: “As someone who's enjoyed running the half marathon several times, it's been incredible to see how the Royal Parks has transformed this into a virtual event and captured the essence of what makes this run so amazing. The Royal Parks Half has a special place in the hearts of its participants and we at the Royal Bank of Canada are particularly proud of our association. These past months have demonstrated not only how crucial supporting our charity partners is to our communities, but also the vital role physical activity and being out in nature has on our mental wellbeing.”

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