Hampton Court Half Marathon review - Women's Running

Hampton Court Half Marathon review

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  March 4, 2015

The Hampton Court Half is perfectly timed for spring marathon training and was billed as a fast, flat course. Ideal for a hill-dodging runner like me!

The event started at 8.30am on a Sunday morning. I hadn’t slept well and I didn’t want to get up at 6am knowing it was going to be freezing cold outside. My husband Eddie, who was running with me, literally had to kick me out of bed.

We arrived early and found a free parking space in Esher College, where the race was based. The baggage drop was in the college hall, which meant that runners could stay inside and keep warm until the very last minute. A welcome bonus!

Smooth organisation

The organisation in advance of this race had been superb, with regular email updates on how to get to the venue. The race pack had also arrived promptly.

The race started on time on the sports field inside Esher College, before heading out onto the local roads. It was indeed a flat course, but not fast, because it wasn’t a closed road race. This meant the earlier stages of the race were very busy, with runners jostling for every bit of pavement. It would have been easy to fall down a kerb and twist an ankle so I held back and stayed behind slower runners rather than risk injury.

Eventually, the race began to thin out and we ran through Kingston town centre and along the river. The riverbank was fairly muddy but the runners had thinned out a bit. We ran past Hampton Court but not through it – which was a bit disappointing as, for some, this would have been a significant part of the appeal.

We ran over the bridge and then back along the streets. I wasn’t having a good day. My energy levels were low and my thighs were extremely heavy. Crowd support was sparse, yet I really needed it.

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Girl power

I noticed a female runner who kept stopping to walk. We were at the ten-mile mark. Without even thinking, I patted her on the shoulder. ‘Come on, you can do it. Let’s run together.’

I often think that people who stop to walk may not want someone pushing them to keep going. They may have planned to walk/run the race. The intrusion could be just what they don’t need. On this occasion it was a good thing. Without saying a word, the girl fell into a steady stride beside me. We ran together, saying nothing, just keeping a good rhythm going. My energy levels went up. We kept on running.

Further on, I spotted another female walking. I gave her a tap on the shoulder and offered the same encouragement. She joined us. And she wanted to chat, which was a welcome distraction. She talked, I listened. I forgot how heavy my legs felt.

Tapering off

At mile 12, I was feeling good, until I noticed that the marshals were leading us onto a very muddy field. My shoes sank into thick, slimy mud and I cursed as I tried not to fall over. The last half a mile of the race led us back into Esher College and I ran over the finish line, my trainers caked in mud.

The race day medal was suitably chunky and marshals offered free water, bananas and oranges at the end, as well as a goody bag with two chocolate bars.

Despite this being my 11th half marathon, it was my hardest to date. I’ve never struggled so much in a race and I can only put it down to a bad run. But if you can draw energy from others, it can make all the difference on race day. So I’ll bear that in mind when marathon day arrives.

My verdict on Hampton Court Half? Great organisation, generous goody bag, but closed roads and more crowd support would have made all the difference.

Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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