Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Sunday, 2 October 2016

20th March: Hampton Court Half

I forgot… I’d forgotten that at the last minute I’d agreed to run the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon. In mitigation, I had never intended to run this, in fact I have (believe it or not) never run a half marathon before in my life, but due to work issues, one of our old neighbours who had been due to run this with his wife, had to drop-out and in knowing that LSS was running the race, offered his spot to me.

Gathering for the start round the front of the palace.
Driving the 30 miles towards London to the palace and parking in the field next to it on the edge of Bushy Park (at a £5 extra on-the-day charge to the organisers) we met with our neighbour’s wife who was still running and collected his details off of her and I prepared to accompany LSS around the course for her second ever half marathon - and my first… Yep LSS has run more of them than I have!

I did not want to let LSS down by bailing after my gammy hammy episode the previous day in Sussex, but (and I mean this with no offence) I felt I would be unlikely to strain myself further with the combination of the pancake flat course and acting as a pacer for LSS.

Hampton Court Palace is a stunning building built for Henry VIII (although Cardinal Wolsey began the work) as his official residence and since then it has remained one of the ‘Royal Palaces’ and one of the major tourist attractions in London.

Off downriver along the Thames Path.
The runner’s village and the finish line was situated on the green opposite the rear of the palace. Here there was the longest line of portaloos I have ever seen at an event, which meant the unusual experience of no real queuing for a trip to the trotter - a rare luxury!

As the time for our starting wave approached we made our way across the road and in to the palace grounds for the start and before long we were all corralled together and sent on our merry way.

The field was quite compact as we managed to shuffle our way along straight out of the palace grounds on to the Thames Path. As we slowly picked our way through the crowd I counted around a dozen unopened gels that had been unwittingly shed by runners before us, but with all us runners so tightly packed together I could not stoop to grab any to save the littering - and benefit myself & LSS!

Crossing the river.
Along the riverside path for just under 3 miles downriver it was a bit of a metronomic slog, punctuated by a water-stop just towards the end where we immediately climbed up on to the bridge and crossed over the Thames. From here we followed a couple of miles more along the riverside path upriver, before leaving this and heading off into the suburban streets of Thames Ditton - with another water-stop at the furthest south part of the course.

Taking it at LSS’s pace we hit the 8 mile marker and the bridge that took us back over the Thames to the Thames Path in front of the palace and a repetition of the first three miles… Rather than crossing the bridge at the end of this stretch we turned left and headed along the edge of Bushy Park and the final 1.5 of the 2 miles… The final half mile being saved as an extra special treat for LSS.

Looking at the palace from the 'tradesman's entrance'.
Running with me, LSS had pushed herself continually at a pace marginally faster than she would have herself and combined with not as much training as she would have liked, she was really suffering and bordering on a sense of humour failure as we closed-in on what we thought was the finish line: The course leads you straight towards the finish gantry, but just short of it as you reach the green you find you are shepherded away and have to do a lap around the outside of the green in which it rests, before being allowed through the barrier on to the green to re-trace your way back on the other side before finally crossing the finish line… And not a moment too soon from the effing and jeffing of LSS at this evil final half mile! - needless to say she refused my entreaties for a sprint finish ;)

Crossing the line we walked-over to the marquee where they were handing out bananas, water and the bag of finisher’s bling. The finishers tee was an amusing caricature of Henry VIII doing the ‘mobot’ and the medal was big golden effort - something you could inflict serious damage with on someone!

Considering this race is billed as the ‘Hampton Court Palace’ half marathon, you spend about 0.1% of your time there. Instead you are pounding the Thames Path and the local suburban streets, so outside of the physical start line and first 100m you spend no time in the palace grounds, although you do view it twice more as you run past on the Thames Path and the building is a gorgeous spectacle.

Approaching the palace again.
The course is flat and fast, so if you are looking for a PB or for an easy introductory half marathon then this could be a good one for you. The course whilst almost entirely tarmacced - even on the Thames Path, it only has 5 miles on roads over its length, so it is a safe one that allows you to not have to worry about the traffic too much… Would I do it again?.. In short: No. It offers nothing to me over a jog along the canal on my doorstep. If the route were to change to take-in more of the grounds rather than the streets of Thames Ditton then maybe I would soften my stance and come back for a second helping.

What I did enjoy was supporting LSS in her endeavour and successful completion of her second ever half marathon, although her face was almost the same colour as her top by the end of it!

A cheerful LSS resplendent with her medal and bag o' bling!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

No comments:

Post a Comment