Race Re-Cap: Hampton Court Half Marathon

Yesterday, I ran my first half-marathon, the Hampton Court Half. 

Firstly, I will start by saying the the course came up 400 yards short of 13.1 miles. The organisers have admitted the mistake is down to runners being misdirected by the marshalls in the first few miles of the race. I know a lot of people are upset, disappointed and angry by the short course, but I personally am not too bothered. I really enjoyed the race, and I’m super pleased with my time- 1:58:52. According to the finish time calculator on Runner’s World , I would have come in around 2:02:42 if I had continued at the same pace for the extra 0.4 miles, so still a fantastic result, considering I was aiming for 2.10 to 2.15.

Anyway onto the race report…

Myself and Glen decided to make a weekend of it and stay over in a nearby hotel, as 8.30am start time would mean a mad rush on the morning of the race. We arrived the day before the half-marathon and spent the day visiting Hampton Court Palace itself, finding the start point for the race, and scoping out the running route for the following day. We got an early night (in bed by 8pm!) after having pasta at a nearby Italian restaurant. 

I had barely any sleep that night, my mind was in overdrive thinking about the possibilities for the next day… would I get injured? would I make it around the whole course? what sort of time would I finish in? would I poo myself? The more I worried, the more stressed I got that I wasn’t getting enough sleep and wouldn’t have the energy to run…

Morning finally came, and we quickly got dressed, ate some of my home-made banana bread with peanut butter and headed down to race HQ at Esher College. The sports hall was overcrowded with people dropping off bags, and I looked around for the Team Naturally Run girls but didn’t manage to spot anyone in the crowds. We headed outside to wait for the start of the race- I always find this the worst part of race day- hanging around waiting and trying to decide whether it is worth queuing for the portaloo. The weather was overcast and a little chilly, but thankfully no rain. 

When it was time to get into position at the start line, I decided to stand close to the 2:10 pacer. I wished Glen good luck and he headed off to the 1:40 pacer. The race started on time and we were soon heading out of the college onto the surrounding residential streets. I settled into my pace and the first few miles flew past, I realised that something was wrong with the distance markers when I reached 3 miles at about 23 minutes- I’ve never run a 5k that quickly before!

King Henry VIII was positioned on the bridge leading to Hampton Court Palace and he high-fived the runners as we passed! The course then turned on to the Thames path and we had beautiful views of the river as we ran alongside. I was glad that the water had drained from the path, as it has been flooded earlier in the week and there was talk of the organisers having to alter the route. 

Around mile 4 I broke into a huge smile as I realised this was it, I was finally running the half-marathon I had spent the past 5 months preparing for. I felt good, my legs felt strong and I was running right next to the 2:00 pacers. 

After mile 6 we crossed the bridge into Kingston-upon-Thames, and ran a few loops around the town centre and parks. I took a Shot Blok at around 7 miles and did struggle to chew whilst running, I’ve usually stopped to take fuel on my training runs.

The route headed back along the other side of the Thames, and here the wind started to really pick up and it was a difficult to keep my pace being blown backwards. I passed by our hotel just before the 10 mile marker and realised that it was not too much further back to the finish line. The 2:00 pacers were still in my sight and I pushed on to try and keep my pace for the final few miles. I took more Shot Bloks around miles 9 and 11, which made me feel slightly sick- they are too sweet for me! 

I saw Leah at mile 13 cheering on the runners, it was lovely to get that little extra boost just before the end of the race. I intended to attempt a sprint finish but I felt quite drained of energy and was happy to cross the line at my usual pace. I checked my Tom Tom and realised that the course was definitely short at 12.71 miles, but was proud of my time nevertheless. 

It took a while to get back to the meeting point I’d arranged with Glen, as hoards of people were queuing to receive their medals, bananas, apples and goody bags. I was dying to find out my official time and catch up with Glen’s experience of the race. 

Glen had already collected our bag which apparently had been laid out on the floor in a bit of a free-for-all. We waited for what felt like hours for our official times to be released. Marshalls would print off a list of times in a ridiculously small font and pin them to the wall in a painfully slow time, then runners would crowd around desperate to spot their name in the tiny lettering. I’m sure there could have been a better system as this was really not very efficient. Glen had finished in an amazing 1.32.06! 

I’ve seen some criticism of the course marshalls on Facebook/Twitter, but personally I think they did a sterling job of directing traffic, guiding runners and cheering us on. I didn’t see anyone in danger of being hit by a car as I was running, but obviously I didn’t see everything. 

I got my medal engraved with my time and got a quick photo with King Henry, before we headed back to the hotel for a shower and spent the rest of the day celebrating our first half-marathon! 

I can’t wait to do it all again- I already have a list of half-marathons I want to sign up for this year!

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