- 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.
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.
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…
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.
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!