On Sunday 17th February 2019 I took part in the Hampton Court Half Marathon. This event has been a regular fixture in my diary, and last year I paced 1:40 (read last years blog HERE). I had originally planned to use the Hampton Court Half for a training run this year, looking to push sub 1:30. However, I got a request the evening before to pace 1:45 as someone had dropped out last minute. Naturally I agreed to help out, as I would rather help others achieve their goals than smash my own. I have Benidorm half in a couple of weeks so I will push there.
The Hampton Court Half was my 3rd event of the year, and 2nd paced in 2019. It is the 65th event I have paced, 39 of which have been half marathons and 25 of these have been for Xempo.
I had arranged to travel to the start with Austin (@thisdadcanrun) and he had already booked on to the park and ride, which is a great idea. I however recalled some areas close by with free parking and much closer than the park and ride, so I gave him a detour and we were able to park on a side street out of the way of the run and only a couple of minutes walk from the start.
I was pleasantly surprised with the weather this morning. With events cancelled just two weeks ago because of snow, and last year being freezing, I did not expect it to be so sunny. Good opportunity to wear sunglasses.
It was fresh and cool to start, but absolutely perfect running weather. I met with the rest of the Pacers whilst we received our race brief. For a 08:30 start we aimed to be in the start pens for just after 08:00. As there are a number of narrow sections to the course they do waved starts, but these aren’t that delayed so it’s hardly noticeable.
I was pacing with Jimmy, and it was his first time pacing. He did a fantastic job today. At the start I gave my usual race brief to try and motivate and help confidence before the start. As I’ve ran this event a few times I talked about what to expect on the course and advised how I would be pacing. As I was pacing the 1:45 #funbus the perfect pace is 8 min miles. I explained I would be aiming for around 07:55 to 8 min miles, which would allow for course variations. It would also allow for congestion, as I knew some sections were likely to be slower.
Great to have so many with us at the start, especially as most stuck with us until the end.
We got going and the first few miles are on roads. These are fine until you get to about mile 2-3 where you run on pavement alongside open roads. I remember criticising this last year because of safety, so I was pleased this year to see the cycle lane incorporated with tape and cones for safety. This gave us a bit more room to run, and improved safety. It still got congested for about a mile, which is far from ideal. I encouraged my group to just run steady and not worry about the delay, as it would be made up easily throughout the course. This is my least favourite part of the event, but this is a lovely event with so many different sections.
I had a large group running with me, and dropping down alongside the Thames is a really good point. We then move into the centre of Kingston Town Centre which provides a bit of a different backdrop briefly. There were water stations every 5k I believe but these were not the best. I am never a fan of plastic cups, and it is worse when smaller aid stations can’t handle the demand. It didnt bother me as I was running within comfort and could manage without water, but this would have caused potential delay for those pushing.
After a bit of a loop around Kingston we cross over the bridge and have a long section along the Thames path. This is my favourite section as it is so peaceful, there is plenty of room and it really is such a nice place to run. It was good talking to runners around me, as they were working hard to stay with me. The mile markers were really well placed for the first 8 or so miles, and matched perfectly with my watch. After about 9 miles they started being a little early, so I kept a balance between this and my watch, wanting to ensure I delivered under at the end.
I was really pleased to see so many runners stay with me all the way through. Once we approached mile 10 we passed Hampton Court Palace, and crossed back over to the other side. With just 5k to go it’s the perfect time to push on, and I encouraged everyone around me to start to #pickupthepace so they could dip under 1:45.
The final section brings us back to the start with the busy, congested roads. But on the last water station we were given small water bottles which were welcomed. Mile 12 is the same as mile 2, so we were looking forward to running back on the same route, knowing we were approaching the finish. Over the last mile I looked around and could see we still had a good group around us, I spent the last mile trying to get people ahead of me.
The mile markers didnt align again so I was left coming to the finish a little early. It wasn’t the end of the world, as I would rather do this than come in over the time. It also means I could offer a bit more encouragement at the end, getting lots of people who had just fallen off the back of the bus to catch back up and still hit their desired finish time.
I was really pleased to finish in 1:44:38 which is perfect for the 1:45 #funbus. And to top things off I had dozens of people waiting for a hug or handshake at the end. It’s so great hearing from those that have either gone off ahead, or stuck with me for just under 1:45, and those that just fell off but still hit a PB. Overall a fantastic day.
The Hampton Court Half Marathon has it all. Closed roads, busy open roads, Town centre, tow path, scenic sections, a bit of everything. It is a good event with a nice medal, goody bag and tee at the end. Certainly an event I will be coming back to do again.
Next up I have Benidorm Half where I will be pushing a little harder, before the spring marathon season kicks off properly. Where will I see you out there this Spring?