Sunday, 15 June 2014

RACE RUNDOWN: Reading Half Marathon

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to races and rightly so. Some prefer woodland trial paths and miles of greenery ahead of them. Others enjoy the roads but often try to seek country scenic views for clear headspace and enjoyment. Then, there are those who just don’t care where they run. It is these runners that will like Reading Half Marathon.

I have participated in this event two years running with it being my debut half marathon in 2013. I picked Reading as it’s local to my hometown, meaning my parents could ferry me there. I also selected it as it was a big organised event with lots of spectators and a relatively diverse course. My first time round this route was a mixture of emotion and self-achievement. I was so gobsmacked at the time that I was running a half marathon my mind wasn’t fully focussed on the ‘race’ part of it. Also, the torrential rain (border line hail) also meant a part of me just wanted to get it over with so I could be back in the car with my soggy bum on a heated car seat.

The second time I ran at Reading (March 2014) was a totally different story. I returned as I had friends from my former club, Newbury AC, running and I knew I wanted to get a spring half marathon in so why not try and beat my time at Reading?

Being a returning entry makes you notice a lot more things. Firstly, the amount of people that participate. Something around the 15,000 mark, which is fantastic, but for me this time, a bit too crowded. I spent the first 5k weaving in and out of runners who had positioned themselves in a faster pen than needed. This in a way is no biggie but if you are gunning for a PB, it puts added pressure on the race. I also found the course much harder to handle. At the one-mile mark you are greeted by a long upward slope, which at the early stages of the race you eagerly hitch yourself up. Then after this, its endless amount of running around housing estates (which do bring out fantastic crowds) before you reach the town centre at mile six. There was a brilliant band playing under a bridge near here which spurred me on and again the town centre brought in the masses of cheers and support. But it is at the same time slightly dull, smoggy and grey.

After the town centre, you are faced with another hill. This time, it’s steep and you can feel your legs begin to buckle. Depending on your race strategy there is a pub at the bottom dishing out free beer as an incentive to boost you up the hill – this might help some of you? If it had been gin, I might have opted but beer wasn’t really on the cards for my race. Anyway, back to this hill. Yes the hill is steep and when you reach the top you are PRAYING for something other than long roads and housing estates but sadly, no point. There is in fact another bulk of these for a good two miles before you reach a main road alongside a park (this is the ‘scenic view’ in the race). Again, loads of spectators and support so thumbs up there!

As you are getting close to 11 miles and you are itching to dig deep you hit the worst running wall ever. A dual carriageway. Here, there are no spectators (other than a first aid van and a couple of people on a water station) and all that is ahead of you is the long, LONG road to the Madejski Stadium where the finish is. I guess this is where your mental strength comes into play. I lack this so I fell to pieces along this final stretch and my biggest blow was having the 1.45 pacer pass me (my target time).

Once this awful, dull, dreary part is over you turn a corner down yet another long road away from the stadium. However you know you are in the last mile here so all is forgiven for the past 12 and you just put your foot down and go down the flat straight, over the round-a-bout and then back up the finishing streak. Now, this was the plan for me but when I turned into this last section, I was quite close to the curb and a huge husky jumped up at me and I mean its feet on my shoulders! I lost balance but luckily didn’t tumble down but it did shake me up and I lost my running rhythm.

Finally, the stadium is there and you are running through the entrance into a wall of noise and cheers and you head down the final 20m and through the finish line. I have to say, you do feel like a champion no matter how bad you feel and it is great spotting your friends and family in the stands. 

Overall, would I recommend this race? Yes and no. It is a great day out and it does bring in the crowds but at the same time, the course is very built up and the large scale of runners means there is a lot of hustle and bustle. But, you get a great medal and there are plenty of facilities in the racing village. So, if you are a first timer looking for a big organised event, then go for it. If you are someone looking for a PB, I’d say seriously think twice about it.


Course: 3/5
Scenery: 1/5
Facilities: 5/5
Water Stations: 5/5
Medal & goody bag: 5/5

My time: 1.45.30 (Mar 2014 - so close to my target!)


Find out more about Reading Half Marathon HERE.

Lipstick Runner

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