Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Running
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Got the T-Shirt and the medal

I like this race. It was the first half marathon I ever did and it’s the course where I ran my personal best. It’s a lovely route though countryside. It is one big loop and apart from the one big hill the course is mainly flat or downhill. All these things combine with the excellent organization to make this an excellent event.

I met up with Mike, Keith and Jane in the sports hall-cum-race HQ.and the pre race banter started. All the usual stuff about what times we expected and how the training was going. Jane and Keith were going to run together. Mike was planning on following nice looking bottoms around the course and I was just hoping that the recent marathon training that I’d been doing hadn’t left me too tired. This week was meant to be a rest week but that wasn’t going to stop me doing the race.

The start pens were marked by expected finish times. I didn’t want to be too optimistic but even though I’d said to everyone that I’d be happy with anything under two hours I was very unspecific on just how much under two how I’d be really happy with. My recent run of halves hasn’t been that encouraging. I found a space in the 1:50 pen. That would do, there were some pace makers ahead as well which should make life easy. After the usual clapping and cheering the start gun went and maybe a minute or two later we were off.

The start had too be slow, there were lots of people. The pace felt right to me and apart from having to navigate round groups of people who seemed insistent an running together life was good. Groups probably annoy me as I mainly run alone, it’s only in races that I have the added feature of trying to get round people.

I could see the pace makers up ahead, they were carrying little banners with the expected finishing time. They were surrounded by runners, like a swarm of bees chasing a queen. I had no desire to get tangled up in melee but I was slowly catching up with them. I had a choice, stick with the group or overtake. The overtaking had risks, risk of ego deflation. What if I couldn’t hold the pace and the pacemakers pass me near the end. That would really be a large needle in the balloon of my ego. In the end I edged my way slow past the group and freed myself from the tyranny of the pace maker. I’m sure my ego could take the potential deflation, it has many times before.

The field started to thin out, there were still people running in groups but the groups were now smaller. Some insisted on running on the other side of the road, the open side with on coming traffic. I couldn’t understand why they looked so amazed when a car appeared. It wasn’t the car’s fault that they were on the wrong side of the road. Some people are just a little too oblivious for their own good.

I checked my watch at the half way point and was pleasantly surprised. If I kept up at this pace I would be finishing well under two hours. It was a big “If”. I’ve been at the halfway point feeling good before only to totally capitulate in the second half. Doubling the time at half way is never necessarily going to be an accurate predictor of finish time.

The hill was coming up. I’ve suffered on this hill before and ended up walking. Before the hill is another little hill. Some people think that this is the hill and are disappointed. I was determined not to make that mistake. The road started upwards and the pace slowed. A few runners had taken to walking. I kept telling my self that this was only the little hill. It did seem to be going on a bit though. I kept running, the road kept going up. At the top two things dawned on me, This was THE hill and I had just run all the way up and was feeling fine. It was such a boost that I decided to up the pace ever so slightly. At one point I imagined I could see the 1:40 pace makers in the distance but that was just a hallucination.

With nine miles gone and all the major climbing behind me I was motoring. At ten miles I took a look at my watch. A little bit of maths told me that a 1:50 was not only possible but well within my capabilities. It was also possible to better that. I lifted the pace a little more. I’m not used to passing people at this end of the race. They are usually passing me. It was a strange sensation. I lifted the pace again, other runners were going backwards and I felt exhilarated. Those last three miles streaked by. I have never, ever felt like this before, finishing strong has never been in my repertoire but now here I was with a big grin on my face crossing the line with a finishing time that I thought would be impossible at the beginning.

I ran a good race, I was happy.


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