Race Review: Hampton Court Half Marathon 2017

  • Date: 19 March 2017
  • Race: Hampton Court Half Marathon 2017
  • Distance:  13.1 Miles
  • Time: 1:24:46
  • Position: 24
  • View it on Strava

Last Sunday (at least it was when I first started drafting this post – my blog discipline needs to improve), I completed my first half marathon in five years. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have done very little running at all in those five years so it was always going to be a bit of a test. But one, I’m pleased to say was successful.

My last half marathon was in Plymouth in 2012 when I set my PB. In fact, every time I have run a half marathon I have improved my time and it is this, I think, which partially led to such a gap until my next half marathon.

I knew that whenever I next did a half marathon I would not be getting anywhere close to my PB and my record of continual improvement would be tarnished. My performance at Plymouth was a product of a couple of years of hard training and I was undoubtedly in the form of my life. Five years of little running plus a 10-week intense training programme was never going to stand up to the challenge.

The training went reasonably well however. Following a 10-week programme I had used before, it was great to get back into a regular running rhythm, getting out and feeling alive every day, as well as further exploring my little area of London.

My initial aim was to run sub-1:30. This would be by slowest half marathon yet but I thought that was a feasible target and would reflect the lack of running I’d done in recent years. However, things in training looked positive and suggested that 1:25 was in my grasp.

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Race start in front in the Palace.

So come race day, I pushed hard. The race started in front of the beautiful Hampton Court Palace and heads up on the Thames Path towards Kingston. The town centre is about 3 miles into the course and I was feeling good with my pace way ahead of target. I knew this would catch up on me at some stage and the next 5 mile drag down through Surbiton and Esher into a strong headwind was a good test of this. Although my pace slowed a bit, my body remained resolved and I arrived back at Hampton Court, 8 miles in with every split below my 1:25 target.

Here the crowds returned and being cheered on by my lovely wife as I headed back up the Thames Path a second time, my pace was able to continue for the next couple of miles and I was on target to smash 1:25.

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Feeling good at the 8 mile mark

But then it hit me.

The pace, my lack of speed endurance, the off-road conditions – they all hit me.

I slowed throughout mile 10 and by the time I reached Kingston Bridge at mile 11, everything started to seize. The last 2 miles were off-road, through the undulating and pitted footpaths of Hampton Court, and back into a headwind. It was tough. I was seemingly unable to summon more speed from my body. Regularly checking my watch, I knew I was running 30s or so per mile below target pace and I was desperately trying to work out if I had accrued enough time earlier in the race for it all to balance out – a hard task for the brain after 12 miles of effort!

Calculating this proved a useful distraction and finally the end was in sight. I had just a couple of turns remaining and 1 minutes within which to do it. My legs seemed to move faster then, though I’m sure they didn’t. As I entered the home straight I could see the official timer: 1:24:30, 1:24:31, 1:24:32…

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Not feeling so good crossing the line

I mustered a sprint finish, crossing the line in 1:24:46, and then collapsing in pile on the floor to throw up. I may not have set a PB but at least I was able to continue one of my half marathon traditions.

Plymouth HM
Being sick after the Plymouth Half 2012

So that was it. Hampton Court Half Marathon 2017. My return to serious training, running and racing and a return which turned out to be much more successful than I had imagined. Beyond the race, the whole event was excellent. A wonderful setting and great atmosphere, which I was able to take in properly after finishing, cheering on the rest of the runners and supporting my good friend Adam who managed to knock a massive 20+minutes off his half-marathon PB. Now that’s inspiration for my next one if ever it was needed!

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With Adam, feeling chuffed with ourselves
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