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Palace Half Marathon – George Hicks

The day started as many other race days start, meeting other Hoopsters for the drive to the race. I gave a lift to Saikat, Susan and Beth. It was great to have the company and it took my mind off the race to come.


We arrived at Hampton Court in plenty of time, and having passed on the long queue for the station car park found a spot in a residential street and were on our way to the event village with plenty of time. Walking into the grounds we got to see why this race is so popular with the grandeur of the palace and the beautiful gardens. This race was only my 2nd ever half marathon and the contrast in starting location couldn’t be starker, how can a park in Watford compete with a 16th Century Royal Palace? Local resident Henry even came out to meet us!


Saikat, Susan and George with Henry the 8th




My aim was to beat my time of 1:41:32 at Watford from 7 weeks before by targeting 1:35 which put me in wave 2 with the sub 1:40 runners. It was a very chilly day, especially for a running vest so I put off the bag drop to the last second. Fortunately, it was very efficient and I was on my way to the start along the congested garden paths as people running late to the event village came the other way.


At the start I bumped into Giles and before I knew it we were off. The first couple of kilometers along the beautiful riverside path were very congested with Giles and I both overtaking lots of other runners, it felt like no one else was running at 4:30/km pace. As people spread out the running became a bit more relaxed and I could even permit myself a glance over the river easily spotting Stefan in his hoops.

 

George and Giles running alongside the river amongst other runners

As we crossed the river I lost sight of Giles and we started heading south. After 7km we left the river and started running on the pavements which was much less enjoyable and had extra hazards to watch out for such as narrow sections, curbs and cars. I was managing to stick with my 4:30/km target, but at the expense of frequent glances at the watch, something I’ve trained myself out of at parkrun but at this new distance I’m yet to get a feel for the pace.


As we came back round past the start line after 13km, I could feel fatigue starting to kick in and I knew I still had a way to go. I managed to stick with the pace initally but despite my best efforts after 17km I started to fade slipping to 4:40/km. The last 3.5km of the race is through Home Park on a rocky uneven surface- a tough finish to the race where I lost a bit more time.


All of a sudden, the finish appeared with a winding path between the crowds which is always fun, before we came onto the wide finish straight. I convinced myself to empty the tanks here and get across the line, managing a time of 1:36:04, beating my time at Watford by 5 minutes and 28 seconds. I was surprised by the photo below, I don’t remember locking eyes on the photographer!

George crossing the finish line

After I’d collected my medal and all the other freebies and caught up with other Harriers, comparing notes on the race. It was great to see so many other hoopsters out, 17 of us in total, check out the website for the full list.

the Palace Half medal showing Henry the 8th

All in all I’m very happy with how the race went. I feel I was pretty conservative at Watford having no experience racing the half marathon distance. However to find your limit you’ve got to push yourself sometimes and aim for something faster than you can achieve as I did here. I look forward to my next half marathon when I can hopefully get down to 1:35.

 

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