Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2015 race report

The half marathon is probably my favourite racing distance. It is long enough to feel like a challenge, yet short enough to do without the immense preparation demanded from the marathon distance. There is a also a significant sense of achievement after running 13.1 miles at a hard pace. Checking over my Strava record, I can see that a half marathon took me 1hr 45 minutes last year this time. Fast forward to October of last year, I achieved my currently held PB of 1:23:39; a feat I am most content with.

I raced a half marathon 2 weeks ago at the adidas Silverstone event, falling short of a PB by one minute. Given the conditions on the day, I was not disheartened by my performance. Yesterday, I took part in the inaugural Hampton Court Palace half marathon. The race started in the Hampton Court Palace grounds, and took runners through scenic views and a mixed combination of grass, towpath, gravel walkways and road. The course was generally flat, with some very mild undulations, and may have carried PB potential. I was planning to race fairly hard, but not too concerned with breaking a PB (although was not ruling the possibility out!).

With the clocks going forward by one hour and reverting to British Summer Time (BST), I was technically on-board a train from Woodford station at 5:57am! (although 6:57 adjusted). I travelled up to Waterloo, before boarding a train to Hampton Court, arriving at the palace grounds just after 8:30am. This left me with just enough time for a quick toilet break, change and warm-up. By 8:55, I was ready to race and in the starting pen. There were some 3000 runners signed up for this event, with probably just under this amount here today (as some had inevitably dropped out or were injured).

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I went off at a fairly solid pace, and felt quite good. Running along a towpath with the River Thames on my right hand side was a delight. There were not many runners up near the front, and after we had spread out, I was running most of the route alone, on occasions with a 50 metre gap between me and runners both infront and behind me. Marshalls along the route were mostly encouraging and supportive, providing clear directions.

The course was definitely varied, with the vast majority taking place on towpath and fields. It was a very windy day, with some rainy patches, meaning harsh conditions to contend with. At specific parts of the run the wind was blowing hard in my direction, sapping my energy and reducing my pace from a desired sub 4:00/km to 4:10-15/km. The course covered 2 similar laps, and at the half-way point, we got to run through the palace grounds. Crowds here were very encouraging and I really enjoyed running through the palace gardens. A special thanks to the crowds and marshals who braved the cold to support us! Coming out of the grounds meant running up a stoney patch, which I personally found a little tricky, as I have never run on stones before.

It was again very windy during the second lap, again with some drizzle from above. I continued to run through this, although again my pace took a battering. I continued to battle through, eventually winding up near the palace grounds again. Seeing the mile markers was great, although some of them were up to 400m out, notably at miles 11 and 12. I particularly enjoyed running on the grass along and back the Long Water lake in the grounds of Hampton Court Park at mile 12.

During the final 500m, I began to pick up my pace, eventually finishing strong in 1:25:47 and 17th position overall. The finish was along a bend, which was a little odd, but not a particular issue for me. It was nice to hear the announcer mention my name as I crossed the finish line, too. I collected my medal and T-shirt, before making my way back to meet my family who had braved the cold to watch me run today.

All-in-all, a very scenic run with a great route. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side today. I am running the Brighton marathon on the 12th of April, and have been advised that running along the sea front may also be windy, so perhaps todays run will provide a taste of things to come!?

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HCP analysis

HCP race

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3 thoughts on “Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2015 race report

  1. Hi Andy, hope you are well? Great review of the event and well done. I also ran in this as my first half marathon (only been running since November). I totally agree with you about the windy conditions, second time over the golf course section really hurt me!!! Glad to hear it wasn’t just me finding it tough. I was hoping to break 1 hr 40 but came in just over at 1:40:42, finishing in 232nd which really pleased me considering it was first time I’ve ever run that far! My legs have taken a few days to recover but at 45 I was expecting that!

    I was wondering if you had any tips as interested to see you dropped so well from 1:45 last year to consistent 1:20’s range, really impressive! Did you make any particular changes or just train more? I must admit I’ve got the bug now so will have to try again and hopefully PB!

    Thanks for any advice you can give
    Good luck this year,
    Jim

  2. Hi Jim. Many thanks for your kind words and taking the time to read my race report ๐Ÿ™‚ Great job on finishing your first half in a great time! Impressive stuff on 4 months training.

    I started running ‘properly’ after finishing the London Marathon last year in a disappointing 4:52. All was going well and I was at the half-way point at 1:56. It all went downhill after my legs cramped up at 28km. The longest run I did in preparation was 25km. My legs cramped so severely that even walking was a difficult feat. I hobbled the last 15km, and was very disappointed by my time. I think that was a turning point for me, and really boosted my determination.

    I began to increase my mileage after this, over the summer averaging around 40 miles/week. I did this gradually, so as not to injure myself. Another thing I did was to start eating lots of fresh fruit and veg. Over the summer, my routine would typically be to do up to a 10 mile run in the morning, followed by a fresh smoothie (banana and berries mixed in a blender). Long story short, I think a gradual increase in weekly miles, and the addition of a varied training plan (tempo runs, speed interval training, etc) eventually paid off.

    It is also much easier to train with others to keep motivation up, so joining a running club may be an option, too. Oh, and I also record my runs with Strava. This allows you to follow top runners and gain an insight to their runs and the type of training they do. It also allows you to join groups and there are weekly leaderboards which brings a competitive edge to training ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Hopefully this helps somewhat. Let me know how you get on!

    Andy

  3. Thanks Andy, that’s a really good insight. I’m definitely going to sign up for some more events over the next few months and will keep the training going strong. Something really pleasing is my 8 year old son is now wanting to run so we’ve been out for a couple of mile runs together and he’s in a local 2k fun run in couple weeks!

    I’ll let you know how my runs pan out.

    Speak soon
    Jim

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