I signed up to this race quite a few months ago now as my boyfriend’s sister wanted to run her first half-marathon. Turns out she’s a quicker runner than me so I would be stepping back and enjoying the course.
With another blast of the beast from the east it was another touch-and-go weekend of races, with many being cancelled all over the country. The organisers of the Palace Half were adamant it was going ahead and, whilst I was a little cynical, I decided to prep in my usual way – unlike Cambridge. Anyway information came through in drips and drabs – I do feel the organisers could have been a little more helpful in terms of more regular updates especially via social media.
I headed down to London on the Saturday afternoon, watched the end of England v Ireland and sunk a few G&T’s (as my mum said – ‘it’s ok, you’re not running a marathon’). Stopping after my third, it was time for Saturday night TV and a big bowl of pasta. Even though at the National Running Show, Anita Bean advised you didn’t need to carb-load before a half I feel it’s the customary way to do one properly!
Bright and early on Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 6.30am -yawn! Up and dressed I demolished my bagel with jam (raspberry in case you’re wondering) and put on my woolly hat to leave the house. Stepped outside and the cold hit. -1, feels like -6 – what even is this? Running? I’m running in this? Say whaaaat?
On the bus and then the train we went for the short journey to Hampton Court, warmer on the train but a slight panic with the weather we were facing. Off at Hampton Court we were greeted by the beautiful Hampton Court Palace from across the bridge. We headed to the race village and there was plenty going on – a running store, a run-through stand, Women’s/Men’s Running Magazines and the bag drop.
We stopped for a quick selfie with King Henry himself, used the portaloos .. twice, had a banana and then braved the cold to put on our kit. Checking that we had everything I dropped my bag off, soon realising that with a hat on I’d left a hair tie in my kit bag. Made our way to the start-line. I was scheduled to be in wave 4, but with what seemed like little control (it was more runners control and to be fair, people did hold back) I ended up starting with wave 5.
We were off. Stone cold I felt robotic for the first half a mile where I began feeling a little warmer. The route took us alongside the River Thames the route was on concrete and fairly pleasant to run on. Around mile 1, it was a little congested and we ended up on a tighter tow path with plenty of puddles. Many runners dodged the puddles with caused a bit more congestion. Keen to find my pace I overtook a couple of runners. In to more congestion I splashed in to a puddle where my foot just went. The next thing I knew I was on the floor. Runners nearly missing me and a bit of knee pain I got picked up by someone wearing a black glove and a number of runners asking if I was ok. In the shock of it I got up right away and carried on running, laughing it off. My head – another matter. Not out of embarrassment more FFS I knew it would be me, FFS I slipped over on a solo run last weekend, FFS my favourite leggings are ripped, FFS, FFS, FFS!!!!!!!!!!!!
On the note of the trip – a big thanks to the hand that helped me up and an even bigger THANK YOU to the fabulous lady who spoke to me after the fall which genuinely stopped me from bursting in to tears, stopping and walking back to the start. She mentioned it was her first half marathon – I really hope she enjoyed it. A number of runners who overtook me at various points in the course also took a moment to check that I was ok to which I’m so grateful for.
1.5 miles in, I knew this race wasn’t going to go well, much to my disappointment after being fuelled up. Mile 3 I grabbed a bottle of water (330ml bottles with a sports cap – perfect) we ended up on a bridge and in to Kingston, a quick route through the town and we were back alongside the River Thames. I took a quick breather at mile 4 to check the damage (this had been worrying me over the last mile – I needed a peace of mind). Yup blood and a massive hole in my favourite leggings. What can I do! I said to myself and continued on. From here onward my run turned a little bitty. Rather than stick to my usual 9 minutes running 1 minute walking, I was 0.1 mile walking, 0.9 mile running. Similar strategy just a different format. The route continued, alongside a main road through Surbiton and towards Esher where we turned around to head back towards Hampton Court. Miles 5 through 8 were tough. It was sloshy and due to my earlier fall I was being super careful about where my foot was landing. Alongside main roads with great traffic control but cars fairly close to you, my legs felt like they’d just seized up. I took a gel at mile 6 which seemed to do very little. Pushing through I knew at mile 8 I was back alongside the Thames and would be heading towards the finish line. I skipped the water at mile 7 and pushed on. Mile 8 – Harry and his Dad were on the corner cheering me on. Shouting to them ‘look at the mud, there’s blood’ I must have sounded crazy.
The route took us back through the same three miles as the start, along the River Thames, where again I was over-cautious and didn’t want to risk the same thing happening again. I found the spot where I’d fallen an hour and 15 minutes earlier! Another gel at mile 10, my legs continued to feel heavy and stiff. My muscles were warm but my actual legs were cold. This part the wind was so high and the icy-coldness of it rushed through the river path making it difficult to run towards. I took another bottle of water around mile 11, where we went off the towpath – instead of turning right to Kingston we turned left and made our way in to Hampton Court Palace golf club. The terrain turned again, this time a trail pit of pure mud. Running where possible I stuck to the left side of the trail to avoid another slip. There was one moment where I nearly went, all I could think was ‘not again!’. The final two miles we carried on through the golf club where we finally came upon tarmac with 0.2 of a mile to go. The crowds were gathered here, Harry was cheering me on and then YES the finish line.
A case of having my medal put around my neck, taking my goody bag and a bottle of water and it was straight to collecting my bag and getting my warm coat back on. We stopped for a few post-race medal photos and made our way back to Hampton Court station, sore but satisfied that we’d completed what we’d set to achieve.
2.26.42 and done.
A few comments about the race, organisation …
UKA discount wasn’t very well publicised and I had to send a few messages via Facebook before hearing back with the discount code.
£35 entry which I thought was reasonable given the location, the AMAZING medal, t-shirt and goody bag. Bar the marathons, I have to say that this was one of the best medals I’ve ever received!
I felt that the pre-information was pretty poor, given the unprecedented weather conditions and vast amount of race cancellations in London and across the country. Whilst other races were providing daily information it made me feel quite uneasy that we didn’t hear very much from the organisers.
Course was great – although I had a fall other runners were really helpful and if I required any medial assistance it was either 1.5 miles ahead or 1.5 miles behind, I didn’t see a ‘medical bike/support bike’ until the final two miles.
There was music on the course, mainly along the River Thames which provided some great entertainment for the race.
A massive THANK YOU to all marshals, supporters, bands etc who made it out on the day. The weather was far from ideal so it was great to see people out, as well as the event not necessarily being able to take place without the marshals.
Here’s to next year where *fingers crossed* it’ll be glorious sunshine on a mild spring morning!
It was time for a big burger and a cocktail!
Next up: Run in the Woods 10k – 8th April