Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon – 22/02/2015

Within 2 hours of a new parkrun PB I was sitting on a train en route to the Kent and the town of Tunbridge Wells. This weekend was Sarah’s birthday (Katie’s friend from university), and a few of us would be running the local half marathon the following day. We spent the Saturday relaxing and had lunch in a great pub out in the countryside.

The morning of the race dawned and I followed a routine that has become extremely common over the last few weeks, waking up at around 6 to load myself with some porridge and start getting myself ready for the day. There were 5 of us running; Harry, myself, Sarah, Katie and Ed (known as Bodes, or ‘Boats’ as I was mistakenly calling him all weekend).

pre-race snap
Pre-race snap

Race HQ was based in a secondary school sports hall which allowed everything to run very smoothly. More importantly it gave us an opportunity to try and keep warm with the mercury outside barely rising above 0 degrees – and muggins here had opted to wear a vest. We all got hold of some excellent technical t-shirts (which along with a medal and an awesome goody-bag made the £25 or so we paid for entry an absolute steal), and I purchased some new running gloves as I’d managed to leave my only pair in Edinburgh the previous weekend.

After dropping the bags we made the 5 minute journey from the sports hall to the start line, ready to be set on our way by Dame Kelly Holmes – another nice feature of the race. A less welcome address was from the owner of the Kia garage in Tunbridge Wells, the race’s title sponsor – get on with it mate, no one wants to buy a Kia, and it’s freezing.

The plan was broadly the same as yesterdays parkrun; have a bit of fun, don’t push to maximum effort and just get some more valuable training miles under my belt. We’d already heard about how hilly the route was and so it was unlikely that a personal best was on the cards, so I put thoughts of that aside and just concentrated on the bigger picture – that being London in April.

For once in my running career I actually followed my plan for the first 5 or so miles. I settled into a decent rhythm and ran at a comfortable pace, chatting to a few others around me (I bumped into some fellow club-mates). There were a few up’s but a lot more downs (geographically, not emotionally) in the opening miles so that’s probably why it felt slightly easier…

Feelin' good
Feelin’ good

However, the good times were about to come to abrupt end with the arrival of Spring Hill. It loomed like a wall in the distance – around a mile and a half of constant climbing up and out of the valley we were in. Fortunately, unlike most others, I actually quite enjoy the hills and pushed on up and found myself passing loads of people on the way up. I knew at the top I’d had another 6 miles to go so I didn’t push too hard but just enough to feel my work-rate increase, and heart rate rise up a few beats.

Once I was over the summit I tried to get my breathing under control and settle back into the comfortable rhythm I’d been enjoying. To be honest, I felt pretty great and continued to move forward through the field. It was around 11 miles when I found myself passing the lady running in 2nd place that I realised I was having another great day out, and couldn’t resist the temptation of getting into a race with some of those around me.

Making our way back into the town (the route had followed a loop of the surrounding countryside before arriving back in Tunbridge Wells from a different direction), I found myself in a battle during the final mile with ‘Matt’. The only reason I knew the chaps name was Matt, was because he ran for the local running club, the Tunbridge Wells Harriers, and absolutely everyone was urging him to get past me and run off into the distance. Typical shouts were ‘Come on Matt, he’s looking absolutely knackered’, and ‘You can’t let this little kid beat you Matt’.

Me and my mate Matt
Me and my mate Matt

He managed to get past me with around half a mile to go. However, I wasn’t feeling too bad and I decided I’d just sit behind him until we came into the 200m finishing straight and then try and kick past and hold him off. We rounded the final bend and I managed to move away from him and also pass the guy ahead of us both just before the line. My body definitely knew I’d just run a half marathon, but I felt like I hadn’t given it absolutely everything, which I was happy about because I’d never planned to treat this as a flat out race.

Sprint finish
Sprint finish

I finished in 1.24.25, so only a minute or so off my PB set two weeks ago in Wokingham; a really decent time for me considering the hilly nature of the course. That time put me 38th out of the 1565 runners, and I was surprised to find myself that far up the field. After getting hold of the excellent goody-bag (see above) and demolishing a few cereal bars, I found a spot on the course with around 400m to go and shouted at the other guys as they made their way to the finish.

Done
Done

Harry ran 1.32.22, narrowly missing out on his sub 1.30 target, although with any kind of structured training in the future I’d back him to run so much faster than that. Sarah ran 1.40.21, Bodes 1.44.46 and Katie 1.50.27 – well on track for that sub 4 hours in Brighton in 6 and a half weeks time! We had a wander around Tunbridge Wells in the afternoon and got a lovely bit of brunch from one of the tea-rooms in town, before jumping on the train back to London and an early night after a couple of well earned beers.

That’s racing pretty much done until the April marathons now; I’ll be a pacer in the Surrey half in 2 weeks time but I’m not really counting that as a race as I’ll be running at a much slower pace and therefore it should be a fairly comfortable morning. For now it’s just back to those early morning sessions around the streets of South London – I’ll be focussing absolutely everything on running 3.04.59 in just over 2 months time..

3 thoughts on “Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon – 22/02/2015

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