Monday, 10 April 2017

Event Review : Reading Half Marathon

Thanks to Vitality I was fortunate enough to win a place in the Reading Half Marathon this year. I knew a lot of people who were running, it's a very popular event for the local running club, but I must confess that I hadn't felt moved to enter myself. But I also never say no to a free race entry! I've made no secret of having paced at events and as a couple of people asked if I'd be willing to pace them round Reading I thought it would be a great use of my place. Rachel and Cathy joined me on the starting line with Dean, also playing unofficial pacer, on a "breezy" Sunday morning.
We'd turned up nice and early to our pre-paid parking spot in the pink car park and wandered over to the start village to meet fellow club runners and to pay a visit to the Vitality tent to claim a Team Vitality shirt (which will be worn on other runs) and to take advantage of their dedicated bag drop, much smaller and easier to get to than the main one, although I heard no horror stories there. Let's get the important things out of the way... there were enough loos from what I could tell, including some in the parking areas, and there were an array of food trucks, merchandise stalls and massage areas. The start was well sign posted and we found the Orange start with relative ease.
The race was due to start at 10:30am, much later than I'm used to, due to a family run taking place beforehand. It had proved popular, judging by the number of people heading away from the stadium area as we were arriving, and made for a good atmosphere. I believe the front wave was set off promptly but it took around 20 minutes for the orange wave to reach the start line. Thank heavens for the body heat of strangers! In all seriousness, the start was managed well, with everyone managing to set off at their own pace with little jostling and weaving. There are thousands of entrants to the Reading half so managing the start line is crucial.

The four of us stayed in sight of each other for the first few miles, keeping to a 2h15 finishing pace. We sought out supporters in the crowd, enjoyed the bands and DJs on the route, and generally enjoyed ourselves. Dean caused a moment of chaos, concern and hilarity when he tripped over whilst running backwards to point out the lab he used to work in at the University... I don't think he'll be doing that again... and then it was into the town centre proper.

Cathy and Dean started to break away a little bit and we let them. Rachel was running a strong first half of the race but recovering from illness meant this had always been a "suck it and see" goal of 2h15 and we took a pragmatic approach of adjusting the goal in the second half. The support along the route never wavered, there were plenty of jelly babies on offer from kindly folk, the water stations always seemed to be just where you needed them (the squeezy pouches worked well) and soon we were heading down the dual carriageway towards the finish at the Madejski Stadium. I ran Reading some years ago and remembered this being long, tedious and dreary. Maybe it was because I had company this time, that I was stronger, but it didn't seem so bad. Rachel, trouper that she is, saw the signs counting down the meters to go and kicked it up a gear, reaching the finish line just 30 seconds outside of her PB - a fantastic achievement!
Well deserved medal for Rachel
The finish line was just as well organised as the start, with runners encouraged to flow through the first aider area to collect a foil blanket, goody bag, t-shirt and refreshments. It wasn't crowded, easy to find those we were looking out for and similarly easy to get our bags back form the Vitality tent. The walk back to the car seemed to take twice as long as it should have done and he only thing that put a bit of a dampener on the event, for me anyway, was how long it took to get out of the car park... 45 minutes! But all in all a great event and a fun day out.
Proudly sporting our finishers t-shirts and medals!
For your £35 entry fee you got a sized cotton finishers t-shirt and a goody bag including a mars bar, meridian bar, bottle of lucozade and bottle of water. The medal was heavy and had space for an iTab should you have felt inclined to record your time. Vitality seem to have gotten the organisation of their events spot on and although large, I would recommend them. Thank you to everyone involved in the day and congratulations to all finishers, whether you achieved your "A" goal or not.

Have you had a friend pace you before, paced for someone or used an official pacer? What was your experience?

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