Race Review: Hampton Court Half Marathon

Around these parts (Teddington/Twickenham/Kingston – just outside of London) if you tell people that you are doing the Hampton Court Half Marathon, they will say, the February one or the March one.  Then conspiratorially with a smirk they may add, the ‘original one’?  You see there are two Hampton Court Half marathons, and each year they go into proverbial marketing battle over which one is the ‘original one’.  So I’ve ran the February one, twice, and I’ve never ran the other one.

Now to be totally honest, I didn’t think when I ran this race 2 years ago, that I would do it again. It was my first half marathon, so it was an amazing experience in that respect, but I didn’t love it.  And after doing other races, and now knowing that there are so options to choose from, I wouldn’t choose this one again.

But I guess in a way it chose me.  A friend had a bib she couldn’t use (bib: place at the event/running number), and she gave it to me.  We didn’t do the whole transfer route (naughty I know 🙊), but we are the same age category, same gender, and I of course wrote the correct info on the back of my bib/race number (in case anything were to happen).  I also didn’t think it likely that I would win the race (or any category for that matter), so my deception I was in no danger of discovery by podium🥇.

As I am training for the Brighton Marathon, this race fell perfectly on a cut back week, where my long run was dropped down to 12 miles (read more about weeks 7 & 8 marathon training here).  Yes a half marathon is 13 miles, but it was a great fit for me, and my training.  It was a nice early start, and easy enough to cycle there from my house.

Pre Race: 

The all important Flat Lay

I got lots of emails about the race through (forwarded on from my friend), and the race pack was delivered in the post (and then delivered to my front door by my friend – she’s a good friend 😚).  So information was plentiful about the start time, location of the race, and the different stalls that would be there at the event village.  To be honest, as I have done the race before, I didn’t pay too much attention to all this information, but if I was new to the race, I know I would have found comfort in knowing all this information.

I would say, I think it is really great when race organisers send out the race numbers and timing chips in advance.  For me, it just makes everything more calm being able to pin on my number and sort out my timing chip at home – and not crouched down in the corner of a field.  I like feeling prepared.

Getting there: 

The event village – what a beautiful day!

With such an early start on a Sunday morning, I didn’t want to chance the bus, and I didn’t want to shell out money for an Uber or a taxi.  So, I rode my bike, its about 5km from my house.  This is what I did the first time, and I roughly knew the route.  I also knew that getting on your bike to come home, after running a half marathon is hard, your legs are tired, the last thing they want to do is ride another 5km.  But it was my best option, so I chose it. 🚲

Now despite having done the race before, as I approached the little town centre, I had a moment of hesitation about which way to turn to get to the event village.  I stopped and asked some marshals and they sent me off in the right direction.  Except they didn’t.  I had to turn around, and ride past them again, as they were busy having an argument about which way the start was, not the way you sent me love, I uttered in my head.

Loos and other pre-race stuff: 

Big Loo Queues

Once I’d arrived and parked up my bike.  I started to organise my bag, taking out my running belt, stashing my gels, earphones, phone, and bank card. The music pumping through the speakers at the event village was a great selection of running themed 80s classics, so I was happily getting on with organising myself while bopping away.  I checked my bag, which was super easy, and went off in search of the loos.  The queues were huge, but I was happy to wait, and then a lady stopped and said to me and the lady behind me that there were shorter queues.  We abandoned our spot in the main queue, and I ended up in a fast moving queue.  Until I realised why it was fast moving, it was a urinal porta-loo 😳.  Anyways, I moved on and found another queue and got that essential pre-race wee in.

Starting funnels: 

By now the race was going to start soon, so I went off to find my corral.  I chose the sub 2 hour one.  I’d have loved to have been in the 1:50 one, but I wasn’t feeling it.  The corral was over flowing, and I was queueing outside of the corral.  As the faster runners were started, we all moved forward and there was enough room.  The announcements were very clear 📢, and I knew exactly what was happening and who was setting off.  I really like this, as at other races, I’ve not had a clue what was going on, and then all of a sudden you are off.

Note there were quite a few announcements about how you should not wear ear phones on this race (and only bone conducting ones are allowed).  But I saw loads of people with ear phones/buds in – even those big over ear ones.  So I new my decision to take my ear buds, and only wear one, and keep the volume sensible was the right one.  There was a man grumbling behind me about how everyone had ear phones and the race rules (and loud speaker announcements) said clearly not to use them.  But I knew I was being safe, I knew the course, and I made sure to listen (and thank/greet) every marshal I passed.

High Fives from this crew

The course: 

I have a bug bear about this course.  It is crowded and many of the roads aren’t shut, so you are running on minuscule pavements, just stuck in a rut of people.  I do Bushy Park Run on Saturdays, so I know what a crowded race course is like, but none the less, it is frustrating.  My second mile was my slowest (9:02/m) simply because I couldn’t run.

Happy at the finish line

But after this the course is very nice, running along the river, through Kingston, back through Hampton Court, past the palace.  The crowds were enthusiastic, and I even high fived Henry VIII!

I can’t be sure, but when I did the race 2 years ago I remember the end of the race being a windy, crowded, pavement affair, but I think maybe they changed the route as coming back into the finishing area, it was nice and straight forward.

I crossed the finish line in 1:54, and I was pretty happy with that, no PB, but a nice race.

Along the course, there were quite a lot of photographers, I tried to smile for them.  And to prove that there were so many, there are more than 100 photographs of me racing.  Insane!  Maybe they just loved me in my bright yellow Sweatshop Community Run Club t-shirt.

The goodies: 

Great t-shirt! Love the Orange

I was pleasantly surprised by the unique square orange medal, and excited by the new bright orange technical t-shirts (in previous years they have been an garish purply-pink, heavy sports-type fabric).  These were light, available in loads of sizes, and so cool.  But not only did I get a cool medal and t-shirt, the goodies kept on coming.  Banana, natural cola, water, bath salts, crisps, Tunnocks caramel wafer, nature chocolate popcorn bar.  To be honest, I haven’t actually gotten through all my goodies, there were so many.

The results and photos: 

The results were online instantly which was pretty cool (although I had to remember to look myself up by my friends name).  The photos took a few days to come online, but it was worth the wait.  I will only choose one to get (out of my 100+ there were some doozies), but mostly because they weren’t free (16.95 for all, or 6.99 for one), and I didn’t want to waste money on a bunch of photos that I would only use for sharing online.

So there you go, my race review of the Quicksilver Hampton Half Marathon – the February one!  You can find more information online about next year’s race here.

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