Race 12 Hampton Court Half Marathon, Sunday February 21 2016

Fortyby40 is a challenge I set myself to race 40 different races by the time I turn 40. To me running half marathons are a big part of this challenge. 21km distances are tough yet doable and once completed and the finish line is crossed it gives you a feeling of total accomplishment. So far I’ve completed 8 half marathons and hopefully there will be a lot more to come. To keep my challenge fresh and interesting I’m also trying to ensure that I don’t repeat a race. It may not always be possible but as far as I can, I want to run new races and have new experiences. London is such an active city and it’s not too tough to find different races.

Yesterday I ran the Hampton Court Half Marathon. My good friend used to live in Thames Ditton so when I found this race, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for it instantly. When my friend lived there, I used to visit her a fair bit and I remember it being really beautiful. I assumed that the course will be great. The only problem was that it was out of London, which meant I had to get an early morning train out to get there on time for the start.

Every race brings with it a new experience and so did this one. This was the first time I was going for a half marathon all on my own. Most times J and M come with me and drop me off at the start. This time it was just me off on my own to run such a long distance. Having run races in the past has given me an understanding of how it works so it was ok. I felt a bit nervous but also very excited that I was now strong enough to go and do this on my own. I set my race stuff the previous night and was all set to go.

Race prep — previous night

I got to Waterloo station around 6:30am as my train was leaving at 6:57 to Thames Ditton. Once I was at the station I was so relieved to see a number of runners getting on the same train for this race. Atleast now I knew I had company and there was very little chance of getting lost! I bought myself a coffee from Costa and relaxed through the train ride. The train got to Thames Ditton on time and I followed the massive crowds to the race HQ, which was Esher college. I got there in about 5 minutes and was so pleased to see that they had set up enough toilets. This is the first time in all the races I’ve been to that I actually got to use the loo without waiting for ages. I got the job done and quickly went to drop off my bag.

Race HQ — Esher College

This was around 8:00 am and we had to get into our pens. My Garmin was acting up that morning and wouldn’t catch a GPS signal. I was so worried that I wouldn’t have a pace so I decided to run with a 2:10 pacer. We were all set and then the organiser announced that the race would have a delayed started as runners were stuck in the park and ride. The next almost 1 hour was excruciating just waiting for the race to start. I finally got to the start at around 9:10. The good news for me was that my Garmin kicked in so I didn’t have to run with the pacer.

The race overall was good. The route was beautiful and we ran mostly by the water covering Thames Ditton, Kingston and Hampton Court. It was also quite a warm day so I didn’t have to battle major winds or the cold. The race was well marshalled and there were enough water stations along the way. The best part for me was running by the river.

That being said these are some of the things I didn’t like about the race — lots of narrow parts, running on the pavement as this was not a traffic-free route and not actually running in Hampton Court Palace grounds!

I finished in 2:10 and was so pleased to get a lovely chunky medal and a really cool finishers bag. The overall experience was good and I’m glad this race was a part of my Fortyby40 challenge.