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Smiles all around: Hampton Court half race report

Gabby, Stu and Charles at the end of the Hampton Court Half

The alarm goes off at 6am and it is still pitch dark outside. Do I have to rise now? Yes, as the race has an early start time, with just two and a half hours to go!

After an empty tube journey (was it the first Jubilee train of the day?) I see a few runners at Waterloo. Once on the train many others joined, and I realised this would be quite a big event. During the slow walk to race HQ there was a slight chill in the air but these would be perfect race conditions.

Arriving at Giggs Hill Green it seemed there was a large tented village in front of me, very different from when I raced the Harry Hawkes 8 here many years ago. On dumping my bag the music started playing with the song from Wings 'Band on the Run', getting us in the mood for the start in less than ten minutes. Not much time for a warm up, apart from a few stretches that we have been trying out over the last few weeks. Still no sign of any fellow Hoopsters—would I be flying the flag alone for QPH?

We started in pens given there were around 3,000 runners. For each of these it was like a race within a race, as each of the groups had its own countdown 'thirty seconds to go' then 3,2,1...Go! I had joined too close to the back of my pen, and was some way behind the 2hr pace group leaders, however I had plenty of time to catch up.

I wanted to run the first 10 miles at 'tempo' pace, so was quite happy to stay back. The course was narrow for the first short loop which brought us back to the start. I think that the second mile was one of the slowest ever for me in a half marathon.

Now we headed out to Kingston, and on going through this village I saw some of the faster runners who had nearly completed this section. I was just trying to manage the cobbles and avoid the bollards—with so many runners around you, it can be hard to see what is coming up!

It was time to leave Kingston High St and go over the bridge onto my favourite part of the course; three miles of Thames towpath stretching along the edge of Hampton Court Park, with great views looking down on the river and the rowing boats out in the water on a sunny Sunday morning.

The miles had been passing and I was running with a group just behind the two-hour pacers. The pace felt slowish, but I still held back as the Tempo part of the race was not done yet.

Towards the end of this long stretch the Palace came into view and some runners stopped for a selfie with a Henry VIII look-a-like! The pacers shouted out that they would slow a bit. At that moment, the path widened and it was time to stretch out a bit. Over Hampton Bridge, we headed away from the river onto narrow paths again. In the distance I could see a couple of Clapham Chaser vests—must catch them up!

Not long until the 12 mile mark came and went, and just one more sharp corner. After going round this, I had nearly made up all the ground between me and the Chasers, so would comfortably ease ahead of them. I felt that I was going quite fast now ... though not quite parkrun pace! And so, the pleasant sight of Giggs Hill Green came into view and it was just a few strides along the grassy finishing straight to the end!

No, I was not alone from the club as Stu and Gabby had already finished! We took a couple of pics and checked out the interesting goody bags, which included vegan crisps and green cola.

Would I recommend this event—yes, but try to be at the front of your pen if you want a good clear start going for a time. Stu smashed the 1.30 barrier with a new PB as well, while Gabby had the best finishing smile!

Results (gun position/chip time)

256 Stu Woolmer (1.29.03)

1635 Gabby Smart (1.55.34)

1723 Charles Tatham (1.57.11)

2651 Chetan Khatry (2.39.26)

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