Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon

Mid-week, my friend Ciq asked if I’d like to do this race and as I had a long run planned for Sunday anyway, and Matt was going to be away, I said sure, why not.

There are actually two half marathons in Hampton, which made finding information about the race more challenging than it should have been. The website had a map of the course, but as a picture, so I had no idea of what it would actually be like. Oh, and there were no trains to Hampton Court station, meaning walking to/from Kingston.

Minor inconveniences aside, I arrived at Hampton Court Palace at about 8.30 in the cold, nursing a limp (my right hip had been sore all week, not helped by slamming the garden gate onto myself) and needing the loo. The finish line was on Hampton Court Green, with the start line outside the actual palace itself, so after chatting to my friend, then a trip to the portaloo and to the bag drop, I headed to the palace.

Ciq was waiting for me near the start and we decided to run together. He’s faster than me but hasn’t run much recently due to illness, and I wondered whether I’d like running with someone – the last time I ran with someone during a race was with my brother and neither of us had a good time. But this time it was great, we chatted the entire time and I really enjoyed it.

Mile 1 – 3: We started in the final wave and spent the first mile weaving around people who really should have started further back. The course turned onto the tow path almost immediately, which is not super wide and there were other people out and about. We followed the river to Kingston Bridge and crossed over, ducking past TK Maxx. Then we were back along the river – this bit was nice as it had thinned out and we were happily chatting. We saw a submerged boat and a woman out running with her whippet.

Mile 4 – 6: At the 4 mile mark we moved off the river path and ran along a busy road, crossing the border into Surrey. We ran along this road, with a detour around a green, for the next few miles, discussing portable pizza ovens and megalomaniac bosses. We went under a long bridge and in the dark, dank underground some bright spark decided to walk, almost causing a pileup. At the 6 mile mark we both had a gel, and unlike loads of other people around we didn’t throw our wrappers on the ground but waited to find a bin (spoiler alert: there aren’t many bins in Surrey, though there are a surprising number of benches).

Mile 7 – 9: As we crossed the 7 mile mark we started a gloomy conversation about how close any of us are to losing everything and becoming homeless. Ciq also got confused and thought we were running a full marathon and totally freaked me out as I definitely was not in the mood for running any more than a half. My right hip was really hurting, and the tightness in my calf had crept upwards so my whole leg was sore. We got back to Hampton Court Palace and turned onto the tow path again, where a man dressed as Henry VIII was handing out high fives. This time past the palace we were able to admire it better, as we hadn’t been able to see it at all with all the people on the first lap. I was getting grumpier as my leg hurt but Ciq was taking my grump in his stride.

Mile 10 – 13.1: At the 10 mile mark I stopped to walk to see if it helped my leg, and it did make a bit of a difference. We walked for a minute and then ran again, picking up water at the aid station at the end of the tow path, where someone ran across my path and I barrelled into them (sorrynotsorry). The course got a bit silly after this as we turned onto Hampton Court Road and had marshals stopping the traffic to let people cross. There’s another crossing at the entrance to Bushy Park that’s also busy, and there were lots of annoyed drivers (I don’t think the race/potential disruption was widely advertised). The pavement is really narrow here too thanks to cars on the pavement and this meant having to run at other people’s speeds and having to give way to people coming the other way. At both the 11 and 12 mile markers we walked for a minute, downing our water at mile 11 and I was just feeling grumpy at mile 12. We could see the finish line but knew we had a mile to go (the course doubles back), and it felt like a very long final mile! Finally the turnaround, and onto the green, and then onto the grass, and watching our step, and the 13 mile marker and a final “sprint” and over the line.

Total time: 2:15:10

My third half in four weeks, run entirely at conversational pace with three walk breaks thanks to hip pain. I don’t know whether to be pleased or not as I think this would indicate that I can run faster. I think it’s a combination of inexperience (not knowing how or when to run faster), fear (of falling apart) and misfortune (waking up with hip pain on the day of a race). I have a lot to work on with mental fortitude – could I have just run through the hip pain? After all, then the race would have been over sooner…
Afterwards we got our medals and goodie bag (tshirt, flapjack and squashed banana) and tried to find some water (not readily available at the finish). We walked all the way back to Kingston and cheered the people still out on the course, then I spent loads of money in Uniqlo and ate Hula Hoops on the bus back home.