Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon

Today I ran my ninth half marathon at the inaugural Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon

The race might have been a half marathon but the journey was definitely a marathon! 

Situated in and around the grounds of Hampton Court Palace a previous residence of Henry VIII the race enters the racing calendar to join the other events that currently use Royal Parks and Palaces as there setting. 

I was really looking forward to taking part in this event and seeing what the location and race had to offer. However by the time today had swung around I had gone off the idea for a variety of reasons. Firstly health and injuries concerns of not feeling in a great shape after struggling to train well with my ongoing calve issues and also not fully managing to shake off a recent cold and cough. Also the logistics of getting to Hampton Court looked like being a nightmare adding in the clocks going forward and it wasn't an ideal scenario. 

With no trains operating from my local station at Harold Wood my travel plans consisted off leaving at 5.30am (essentially 4.30 with the time change) biking the 3 or so miles to Upminster and hoping on the first tube into Central London as there were no trains running early enough. Getting off at Embankment and walking over the Thames to Waterloo before catching the first train go Hampton Court at 7.27 in order to get there for soon after 8.00. 

By the time I had made my way to the runners village, queued for an essential pre run toilet break and dropped off my bag it was time to head off to the start.

The race really felt like an inaugural event as it lacked the polished event management and direction of an established event. The start was somewhat chaotic and slowing down for the gates and bollards only a few hundred metres into the race was not ideal.

Overall though the course was pleasant, starting off with a nice run along the Thames towards Kingston before meandering our way through the park towards the palace befor zig zagging around the Palace grounds. 

The course was made up of two laps, the first slightly smaller and the second longer with a demoralising circuit of the large lake behind the Palce on miles 11 and 12. The finish did feel like the race organisers were desperate to make up the required distance by taking you away from the finish before doubling back on yourself. 

It was a shame the weather wasn't more conducive to showing off the Palace in its finest glory nor the scenic route along the river and through the park but it was enjoyable none the less. 

So how did I do? My official time clocked in at 1.48.42, 3 minutes faster than my recent attempt at a hilly Tunbridge Wells and my third fastest time of the nine half marathons I have ran. Overall I think it was a fair reflection of my fitness at the moment and I was happy as I know I pushed hard for the best time possible.

My tactic was to go off pretty easy and then to maintain around 8 minute miles and then push for a faster pace between miles 7 and 10. Come the last three miles I was then stronger enough to maintain a good pace and push for home, I was chasing my second best PB of 1.46 but it was not to be.

In summary a tough race were I worked hard after a tough journey to get to the start line both in terms of my training to be fit enough to run as well as the difficulties in the logistics of getting across London today. With a medal like this though it's all worth it!