The Serpentine Handicap

* The Serpentine Handicap returned on Saturday 7th August 2021. Barring any unforeseen cancellations we intend to have the full 12 races during 2022 and the normal rules for the Hogshead Trophy and Stratford Cup competitions. *

Temporary changes to the Hogshead Trophy, Stratford Cup, and scratch runner rules for 2020-2021
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we were unable to hold handicap races April 2020 to July 2021 inclusive. We held 5 races during 2021, giving a total of 8 races across 2020 and 2021. Because of this we made the following temporary changes:

Hogshead Trophy: A combined 2020-2021 Hogshead trophy was awarded to the person with the highest number of points from their best 6 races (instead of 8) during 2020 and 2021.

Stratford Cup: A combined 2020-2021 Stratford Cup was awarded to the person with the highest average age grading from their best 4 races (instead of 6) during 2020 and 2021.

Scratch rules: Any runner who would not have been scratch at a race in April 2020 had three races (August, September and October 2021) where they could restart without being scratch. Anyone who did not run in 2021 will now be scratch and, as usual, have to complete one scratch race (or two if new runners) before they can win the race and earn place points.

Registration: We encourage you to wear a face mask on the day at registration, and (unless you are a new runner without a number) to make your race number clearly visible to the registration team.

The Serpentine Handicap is a race of 6,975 metres (4.334 miles) which is a course of twice round the Serpentine and Long Water, starting and finishing near the boathouse. Occasionally, work and events in the Royal Parks cause the route to be modified; if so this will be clearly signalled by the marshals.Handicap 7th October 2017

Unlike other road races you may have taken part in, the start of the Handicap is staggered according to individuals' past performances, so that all runners finish the race at about the same time. This is the brilliance of the Handicap race – both fast and slow runners have a chance of winning. If all goes well, there is an exciting finish down the final straight. The race rewards not the fastest runner but the runner who performs best relative to their previous performance.

The history of the Handicap and explanation of the handicap system make interesting reading. The Tom Hogshead Trophy is awarded at the end of the year (you can see past winners using the links on the right of this page). The Stratford Cup is presented to the handicap runner who achieves the highest average age-grading in the Handicap over six races in each calendar year, beginning in 2015. The results of the Handicap are published on the Serpentine website. You can also see the Handicap course records.

Registration and race timings

The Handicap is held on the first Saturday of each month. Registration takes place from 8:30am at the bench near the Boathouse, as shown on the map below, and is strictly limited to the first 100 entries. No entries will be accepted after 8:55am. New runners should arrive by 8:30am and get a race number (please bring £2) and a Scratch Runner ‘X’. If you have run before but forget to bring your number, you keep the same number but will need to pay £2 for a replacement or £1 for a temporary handwritten number. Please come wearing your running kit: note that you are not allowed to change in the toilets at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen Café. You may leave a bag in the registration area and it will be looked after by a marshal during the race. The nearest tube stations are Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner.

Map of the start area 
"Digital Data © Bartholemew (2008)"

The Handicap Team

Blanche Armstrong
Tom Bartlett
Dorothy Boggs
Nicola Kerr
Kirsty Mansfield
Luke Parker
Georgie Shanahan
Diana Valk


Margaret Sills July 2015 handicapThe Handicap is for members of the Serpentine Running Club only. If you are not a member you can join online, but note that you must have joined by the Friday morning preceding a race. Following the race, medals are presented for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. Race times are recorded on the website and if your mobile number is on Serpiebase you will receive a text after the race confirming your time and race points.

The organisers at their discretion may change a competitor's start time if they believe it does not accurately reflect the runner's ability. Any runner suspected of intentionally performing below their ability in order to skew results may be disqualified from the Handicap competition.

Unless it is your first race, you must wear club colours to take part (tri tops, red/gold Serpie t-shirts, and Serpie running tops are all valid). Finally, please note that runners are not allowed to wear headphones while competing in the race, as runners need to be able to hear marshals' instructions and other competitors and vehicles approaching from behind. Anyone who fails to comply with race rules risks being disqualified.