The Runner’s Guide To The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2023: Route, Start Time And More

Runners in the Royal Parks Half Marathon on the Mall approaching Buckingham Palace
Runners in the Royal Parks Half Marathon on the Mall approaching Buckingham Palace (Image credit: Courtesy Royal Parks)

London is not lacking in great running events, so for one to stand out from the crowd it has to offer something special. The Royal Parks Half Marathon does that with the most scenic course you’re likely to find at a city-center event, its route taking in four of London’s eight Royal Parks.

We have an in-depth guide to that route below, gleaned from our experience of running the event. Before we get to that, however, you’ll need to know when the race is, and how to enter and train for it.

When is the Royal Parks Half Marathon 2023?

The 2023 race will take place on Sunday October 8th. The field sets off in the morning, with five waves of runners. The first wave sets off at 9am.

How To Enter The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2023/24

Owing to its popularity, you have to enter a ballot to get a place in the race. The ballot for the 2023 event is long gone, having run between January 31st and February 9th. 

We expect the ballot for the next event to open for entries early in 2024, with the results sent out shortly after the ballot shuts, so you can plan your training. It cost £59 to enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon 2023, with prices for next year’s race yet to be announced.

Everyone who enters has the same chance of getting a place in the ballot, but you can increase your odds of getting a spot in the race by paying for your entry up front. If you do this and are unsuccessful in the main ballot, you gain automatic entry into a second-chance ballot. Strike out in both and you lose that money—but it’s going to a charity, so you may as well, right?

Speaking of charity, you can also run on behalf of one and bypass the ballot altogether. There’s a list of charities that have race places on the Royal Parks Half Marathon website, so you can find a cause that’s important to you.

Where Does The Race Start And Finish?

After a small change to the route in 2021, when the race started on The Mall, the event returned to its normal start and finish point on South Carriage Drive in 2022 and this remains the case in 2023. This is the road that runs along the south side of Hyde Park.

Participants in the Royal Parks Half Marathon run down South Carriage Drive

Participants in the Royal Parks Half Marathon run down South Carriage Drive (Image credit: Courtesy Royal Parks)

How To Get To The Start

All runners have been given a suggested arrival time at the race village in Hyde Park, which is within walking distance of four Tube stations – Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly line, and Marble Arch and Lancaster Gate on the Central line.

How Many People Run The Royal Parks Half Marathon?

The Royal Parks Half Marathon has a field of 16,000 runners, which makes it similar in size to other central London half-marathon events, like The Big Half and London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Is There A Bag Drop At The Race?

You can drop your bag in the race village from 7.30am on the day of the event. You’ll get two bands with matching numbers, one for you and one for your bag. Note that these numbers are not the same as your race number, so don’t lose the band because you can’t use your bib to retrieve your bag.

There are no changing areas at the start of the race, so you should arrive ready to run or just needing to take off outer layers to leave with your bag.

Is There Water On The Route?

Runners are encouraged to carry their own hydration using a belt or backpack, but there are four water stations with cups and places to refill bottles on the course. These are at miles three, six, nine and 11.

Is There A Royal Parks Half Marathon App?

There is a free Royal Parks Half Marathon app (App Store and Google Play) that you can use to track runners as they make their way around the course.

Royal Parks Half Marathon Route Guide

While the course is flat enough to be PR-friendly, it has a lot of twists and turns, especially during the second half, so you need to watch your footing when sprinting around the bends in pursuit of a new record. You may also benefit from reading these tips for pacing the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

The race is now divided into two distinct sections: the first five miles takes you around Westminster and back to Hyde Park through St James’s Park and Green Park, and the remaining eight miles of the race is run within Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. 

From the start on South Carriage Drive, you run past landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament as you make your way to Trafalgar Square. Then, there’s an out-and-back along the Strand before you return to Hyde Park via The Mall. There are long straight sections in this part of the race, which give you the chance to find clear space to run in. This will prove useful in the second half of the race when the large field and twisting course can lead to congestion.

Just after the five-mile mark you re-enter Hyde Park and the route winds its way around the eastern half of the park for five miles before you head into Kensington Gardens for the final three miles of the race.

Runners in the Royal Parks Half Marathon, in Kensington Gardens around mile 12

Runners in the Royal Parks Half Marathon, in Kensington Gardens around mile 12 (Image credit: Courtesy Royal Parks)

The support becomes more sporadic by the latter stages, but even in 2018 when it rained most of the morning, there were still plenty of people out cheering. Be wary of running in a pack in this section, however, because the paths are narrow at times and you may be forced onto the grass at some corners.

Finally, the Royal Parks Half Marathon has perhaps the most disheartening home straight in existence because it’s more than a kilometer long; so make sure you pace yourself and don’t start sprinting as soon as you spy the finish line. Actually, don’t even look at the finish line because it will seem like it’s not getting closer. Instead, keep an eye on the signs saying 800m/400m/200m to go to reassure yourself that you’re making progress towards the end.

More London Half Marathon Event Guides

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.