Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon Sunday 19th March 2017
I entered this race in late December. Having put on some weight over Christmas and then catching a bad flu/cough in January, training didn't start well! The last few weeks were good though. I concentrated more on speedwork than usual and it was working. I decided to set the usual aim of sub-1:25, and if I missed it hopefully I'd break my three-year old PB (1:27:10).
I woke up on Sunday at 4am, after five hours sleep, more than any previous race (except for parkruns). I got to the Event Village about 8:15am, so in plenty of time. Portaloo queues were fairly short, although the toilets themselves were a few minutes walk from the village. The palace gardens had toilets a few minutes walk away as well. There were no changing tents, but I was mostly kitted out already. Bag drop-off was quick.
The finish was at the event village, but the start was not. Although I knew this, with the start looming I found myself having to jog to get there on time, with lots of other runners in the way! Starts were staggered over seven waves. The first wave began at 9am, and the last at 9:18am. I was in the first wave, and managed to hop over the barrier with about two minutes to go! I had some friends running the race too, in a later wave, so I phoned and managed just to see them before the gun went off. It was nice to get their encouragement at the start :-)
My aim was to hold a pace between 6:25 - 6:30 for about ten miles, then increase the pace toward the finish. Weather was cloudy with some wind, but temperature was good (about 10 deg Celsius) with no rain. Instead of a number on the race bib, they had your (first) name, and it does help when people call your name out.
Most of the course was along paths following the Thames, which were quite pleasant to run along. Some of it was next to a main road (A307) though. Marshals were present at junctions where side roads met the main road, but it was unnerving to have to cross these roads at pace, and I had to make a quick diversion around the back of a car at one point in fear of being run over! Earlier on I had to make a similar manoeuvre to avoid running into a man walking his dogs. Apart from these two incidents the course was pretty clear.
There were three water stations along the course, which gave out 250ml bottles. Cups would be less wasteful, although they are harder to grab. I'd like to have seen an energy drink or gel station, especially considering the £36 entry fee. A section of the course next to the river repeated itself. On this section the race organisers had set up a choir for entertainment, however they were taking a break both times I went past!
The first ten miles my splits were 6:28, 6:25, 6:27, 6:30, 6:29, 6:33, 6:26, 6:26, 6:33, 6:27. The Garmin mile distances were recorded a few seconds before I hit the official mile indicators (as is usually the case). I was anxious at this pace the whole time, worried of burning out or getting injured. However I overtook a lot of other runners who had gone off too quickly, which is always a confidence booster. During mile 11 though I was breathing more heavily and the pace slowed to 6:39. The course terrain then changed to grass and grassy paths as well, which felt more difficult to run on. I realised sub-1:25 was out, but I was determined not to let the PB slip.
During mile 12 I went over 7:00 pace but managed to just dip under at the end in 6:53. I was focusing on a guy in front who had overtaken me earlier, trying to catch up to him. The next mile was the hardest. I was pushing hard and breathing was difficult. I couldn't see the mile 13 marker anywhere. I stopped looking at my watch for fear of seeing a disappointing pace. However I soon realised I was near the event village, and that perhaps they hadn't added a mile 13 marker.
In the last few hundred metres I summoned up some sprint energy from somewhere. I got onto the finishing straight and saw the gun time, 1 hour, 26 minutes... 20 seconds. A few seconds later I was over the line. I knew I had got the PB, finally!! :-) Later at home I checked the chip time - 1:26:23, a PB by 47 seconds! My Garmin put mile 13 at 6:52, and the last 0.22 miles (as recorded by the Garmin) at 5:59.
The finish medal was large with Henry VIII and his six wives. Goody bag had a coconut water drink, flapjack, cherry + almond protein ball snacks and a sweet. Nothing special food or drinkwise, however it did contain a Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon running top which fits very nicely thank you! (there were different sizes available)
Overall the race was quite well organised, the atmosphere was good, the scenery was excellent, the course decent and I would do this race again.
After seeing other members get PBs recently (Lyndipops, RunSpoonRun), it's feels good to gatecrash the PB party lol!