First race of the year and my second run out at the Wokingham Half Marathon, which according to the commentator is ‘the best Half Marathons in the UK at this time of year’. Did it live up to such a claim?
For me and a lot of other runners its a good early test of the winter training – I said last year I wanted to be run a sub 1:40 Half Marathon this year, would Wokingham be that event?
The race hosts around 2,500 runners aiming to taking on the rural, road based course around the Borough. Being largely flat, the course does see some fast times and attracts a lot of club runners in search of a PB.
Runners Village / Start
The runners village and start is in Cantley Park, which is a 10 or so minute walk from the main parking areas in the town centre, or slightly longer is you come by train. It’s a fairly modest set up – with baggage tents and massages initially and then around the actual start / finish straight they have plenty of toilets and food / drink facilities.
The start line sees you line up in timed ‘pens’ along a footpath at the edge of Cantley Park, this creates quite a narrow funnel for runners and means the race can unfortunately get off to quite a slow start. This year seemed better though, as I placed myself in the sub 1:45 pen – following the gun there was a little walking but by the time we crossed over the start line and timing mat I was nearly up to pace.
The weather was kind – overcast but with a sprinkling of sunshine throughout the morning, more importantly there was no real wind to speak of. All of which boded well for a good race.
The course is fast and generally flat, the only hills you encounter are as part of the motorway bridges taking you over the A329(M) and M4. From the start your straight in to closed country roads and within a couple of miles the pack of runners gets a bit more spaced out and less congested – as with every race there are those runners who seem to place themselves in the wrong pen and you end up weaving around a lot as everyone gets in to their own pacing.
The plan was to set out running 8:30 m/m for the first 4 but that went out the window and I ended up running the first 6 at around 8:10 m/m. There are water stations at regular intervals, but I only grabbed a glass – I find it incredibly difficult to drink from a plastic cup while running without either choking or drenching myself.
One of the things I like about Wokingham is that the first 2.5 miles and repeated on the way back, as you return to Cantley Park for the finish. So running off from the start I was already thinking about when and where I was going to kick on for the finish.
The second half of the course is subtly uphill and the only real change in the roads comes at miles 8 and 9 where you come off the main road on to a more single track lane. You rejoin the aptly named Straight Mile, crossing back over both motorways and on to the final mile. Despite knowing where the finish was it still felt it came up early, there’s a sharp right as you turn back in to Cantley Park on to the finish straight – as always I gave it all I had left for a sprint finish.
My Garmin said 1:41, which if right is 22 minutes faster than last years race – this was my 4th half marathon since taking up running last year and as such that feels like really good progress to me and a real confidence boost going on to Reading in 4 weeks.
With only a few thousand runners Wokingham is a good sized ‘local’ race, which attracts a good mix of runners and clubs and at £22 (affiliated) and £24 (unaffiliated) is a good value event. It’s not a major event in a big city, so don’t go expecting a goody bag or a course lined with spectators (although the every junction seemed to have a good number of people all of whom were every vocal!), but again for me doesn’t detract from what is a good event and well worth attending it in my opinion.
- Early season race
- Flat, closed road course
- Good value
- Chip timed
With the first race of the season down, the next two events will come in quick succession with Vertical Rush, in aid of Shelter, on the 15 March and then Reading Half on the 18 March.
In April I’ll be taking on my first of 4 Miles for Wishes challenges…more to follow on that shortly.