Running the Hackney Half: ‘It just feels like a really lovely day – I love the energy’

Lara Groves Hackney Half 2023

Photograph: Lara Groves

This Sunday, 21 May, marks Hackney’s eighth half marathon, with 24,000 entrants signed up to race. The Hackney Citizen caught up with some of this year’s intrepid half marathon runners, who are taking on the challenge of 13.1 miles and fundraising targets.

Lara Groves, 27, from southeast London, is running for her first half marathon for Refugee Action, which she said she admires for its “steadfast commitment in the face of a challenging political climate”.

She added: “It’s nice to support a smaller, grassroots charity which has a strong base and is in step with the needs of the people it serves.”

Groves said: “Lots of my friends have run Hackney Half before and it just feels like a really lovely day, I love the energy. It has always felt like a supportive crowd when I’ve spectated.”

Sophie Naftalin

Photograph: Sophie Naftalin

Sophie Naftalin, 42, a solicitor specialising in civil actions against the police and other public authorities, is running the Hackney Half, alongside 19 others, for INQUEST. Naftalin acts for families in deaths in custody cases and does a lot of work around femicides, and says that “INQUEST just does absolutely brilliant work”.

She explained “lots of the famous deaths in custody cases were based in Hackney, around Stoke Newington Police and Hackney Police Station, so the work INQUEST has done around the Met is critical in terms of the rights bereaved families have.”

Naftalin said that during the covid lockdowns she ran around four miles into work, three times a week, but that she has mostly done 10ks.

“It’s something I really believe in and it’s an organisation I work really closely with, so that’s really motivating.”

Ben Lindsay OBE

Photograph: Ben Lindsay OBE

Ben Lindsay OBE, 45, ran the first Hackney Half Marathon in 2014, and is back to do his second for his charity, Power the Fight.

Power the Fight is a charity tackling violence affecting young people, which was founded in 2019, after two young best friends were murdered in southeast London.

Lindsay described Power the Fight as an organisation “that cares and understands the complexity of violence affecting young people”.

Lindsay said: “Since it’s mental health awareness week, it’s important to get behind the headlines and really listen to and understand young people’s fears and concerns. Fears which can lead to violence.”

He added: “If you are a young person reading this, there are many great organisations out there and adults to talk to, don’t suffer in silence.”

Lisa Matthews

Photograph: Lisa Matthews

Lisa Matthews, 39, from Hackney, said she wanted to see if she could still run a half marathon “at the grand old age of 40” after running a couple of half marathons in her twenties.

Matthews is running to raise money for Right to Remain, a UK charity based in Bethnal Green, working to challenge injustice in the immigration system and supporting people to establish their right to remain via advocacy, information and training.

Matthews said: “It just feels like the government is bringing through horrible laws and policies against people seeking asylum and other migrants. I think running under the slogan of ‘No one is illegal’ is a really good way of showing that there’s lots of people who don’t agree with what’s happening.”

The race incorporates a selection of Hackney’s best nature spots, starting and finishing at Hackney Marshes, and looping around Hackney Downs, London Fields, Well Street Common, Victoria Park and Mabley Green.

The event has been organised by Limelight Sports Club and Hackney Moves. They have been challenged by a local Green councillor for choosing Wizz Air as this year’s sponsor.