A message from the Ealing Half Marathon Founder:
Where it all began
The concept of Ealing hosting its own half marathon was first dreamed of over a decade ago. In 2011, inspired by the fast-approaching London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Ealing Half Marathon founder Kelvin Walker spotted a gap in the market – for a large-scale, closed road, community event.
At the time, the majority of the capital’s major mass participation events were central London-based and owned by large organisations. Why couldn’t Ealing host its own, major event? The vision was to fill the streets of the Borough with runners, using the roads actively to replicate the experience of a big race day such as the London Marathon, combined with the friendliness of a local parkrun.
Kelvin had observed the fantastic development of parkrun locally. The nearby Gunnersbury parkrun had launched in 2011, and as a volunteer, Kelvin had seen the positive impact that volunteering could have on the community.
Bringing people together through volunteering is still to this day, as much a driver in the Ealing Half Marathon as the number of participants crossing the finish line.
The idea was born and with the support of his local running club, the Ealing Eagles, Kelvin crossed the start line. Kelvin risked everything to create the dream. Giving up his well-paid job and re-mortgaging his house meant that the Ealing Half Marathon became his full-time job for the next 7 years. By his own admission, not the best financial decision he has ever made! But he was now in charge of his own destiny and had a clear vision.
Kelvin and the Ealing Half team were confronted with some significant hurdles with most discussions directing him to focus on an event within a park, rather than the streets of a busy London Borough. He was told it would be “too difficult to get permissions”, “the impact in Zone 3 in London is too great”, “You’ll never close the Uxbridge Road”. The aspirations for the event were also ambitious. Many thought the event could attract 1,500 participants at best, few believed that it would be possible to recruit 4,000 runners in year one. Launched in January 2012, it wasn’t until June 2012 that it was clear that the event could work and there was demand for a major, local, community half marathon.
The Ealing Half Marathon 2012 event was timed perfectly, being planned for the first day after the London 2012 Olympics curfew for events in the capital ended. It was one of the largest London 2012 legacy events and the event filled fast with runners and volunteers. Year one was a great success and has since raised over £2.5m for its partner charities.
Year two (2013) would probably not have happened if it wasn’t for the team’s determination to pay off their losses in year one. They wanted to ensure all suppliers were paid in full and one of the only ways of doing that was to immediately launch the next year’s event. The route was improved and capacity increased. The event became a point of local pride. People who no longer lived in the area came back to the Borough for the event. It was a great excuse to meet up with old friends and now is a regular diary date for many connected with the Borough. The event went from success to success, picking up a string of national awards along the way, including the Best Half Marathon at the Running Awards 3 years in a row.
The event is now owned by Ealing Half Marathon Legacy CIC (Community Interest Company) a not-for-profit organisation which was founded with the goal of ploughing any surplus back into community projects. The vision for the social enterprise is to be able to support sustainable innovation for the community good.
Kelvin’s advice for others wishing to create community impact? “Don’t accept NO for an answer, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with a clear vision and some amazing support.
Now faced by the uncertainty of the impacts of Covid, and following a cancelled event in 2020, we need more runners to enter the 2021 event. Summoning up that London 2012 spirit, we have recruited an amazing team of Ealing Half Marathon volunteer Ambassadors (link to the story on our website and they have been given the challenge of recruiting 1,000 more entries to help make the event a reality. The Ambassadors have been doing a great job and currently we need a further 849 entrants to hit our target. So please help us continue our legacy and enter today.
London’s Olympic legacy half marathon continues, and we look forward to welcoming you to our next event – entries available here: Ealing Half Marathon Sunday 26 September 2021.
Let’s keep the #EalingFeeling going.