Last Sunday, the 6:57 train from Waterloo was filled with two kinds of people: runners and late night revelers. Those returning home from a long night out were obviously very confused as to why their peaceful slumber was suddenly interrupted by loads of chipper people in lycra!
We were off to Thames Ditton for the start of the Hampton Court Half at a rather uncivilized 8:30 am. Most races in the UK start around 10 am (9 am if the organizers are feeling keen) so this was a particular struggle for a few of us!
Upon arrival at the start, we were greeted by our massive new club flag and fantastic cheer squad, who somehow managed to get there even earlier than us. After some quick hellos, Ivana and I went off for what should have been a quick trip to the port-a-loos but turned into a half an hour queue and almost made us miss the start of the race! At least 30 minutes of chatting helped eliminate any nerves I might have had before the start.
It was relatively balmy for a February morning so we shunned our gloves and quickly dashed to join our pace groups who luckily hadn’t crossed the start line yet.
Leo, Alex, and Farid dashing past
The course is super flat, so it’s great for PB potential but makes it so tempting to go out with guns blazing. I fell victim to that last year and really paid the price in the latter half of the race! This year, I decided I would try and run more conservatively in the first half, and if I felt good, I could pick it up later on. Especially as I had had a nasty bout of the flu a few short weeks before the race, I wasn’t expecting much timewise and just wanted to use it as a consistent pacing exercise.
The first and last few miles of the race are the same – and they aren’t particularly nice. They’re run alongside an unclosed road, so during the congested first mile, runners can spill quite far into the road. Luckily all the drivers that passed seemed to be slow and respectful of the race going on.
Two for one: Selena and Ivana sparing time for a wave
It’s a relief to finally get onto the path alongside the Thames and away from the cars around mile 3. The sun started to make a full appearance as we went along and it was easy to enjoy the miles ticking past.
The best part of the course is without a doubt miles 7 to 10.5. You finally get onto the hard-pack dirt Thames path away from cars and the town, and can almost pretend that you’re running in the countryside! The sun was properly shining by this point and the silence was only broken by birdsong and the sound of runners’ feet. It was the first taste of spring that we’ve had and gave me some hope that maybe the English winter isn’t eternal after all!
In those miles, I had such an immense feeling of happiness that it is almost impossible to put into words. I felt incredible – I was running for the pure joy of running, in a gorgeous place, on a gorgeous day and honestly, didn’t want it to end! I don’t often get that feeling during a run, and I’ve certainly never felt that way in a race!
I’ve never felt so happy to be running a race!
Even though the race is called the Hampton Court Half, the palace doesn’t actually make an appearance until just around mile 10. It’s lovely to look at, and it’s a bit of a shame to only pass it once! King Henry VIII graced the runners with his presence just outside the palace and after a quick high five (and managing to keep my head), it was off to power through the last 3 miles back on the roads.
The highlight was definitely our awesome cheer squad in place around mile 11! Having a group of people screaming your name at the top of their lungs is certainly the boost we all needed to carry ourselves over the finish line!
Louise and Lydia excited to see our cheer squad!
I was feeling good, so I picked it up in the last few miles – it was satisfying to pass everyone who had dashed past me in the beginning and were obviously now paying the price (AKA, me last year). A quick sprint across the finish line resulted in a time of 1:51:57, which I was really pleased with. I had no expectations going in, but a strategy of just trying to run strong and consistent resulted in a time only 3 minutes off my PB. I will definitely remember that lesson for the future!
Loads of our amazing members did get PBs and certainly earned their celebratory meal in the pub afterwards! Congratulations to:
Molly – 1:45:24
Ivana – 1:54:53 (even after taking a tumble around mile 6!)
Louise – 2:04:55
Tom – 1:46:59
Will – 1:23:16
Alex G. – 1:21:59
Major thanks to our fantastic cheer squad who helped spur everyone to their best!
King Henry serving looks in the LCR bobble hat.
Quick photo op with the Tudors before dashing off to the pub for our roast!