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Wokingham Half Marathon Race Report

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Sunday 26th Feb 2023, Wokingham, Berkshire.

 

Well organised race with flat course perfect for a first half or a PB attempt”


I’d signed up to this as a “warm up” race for a marathon later in the spring, but it had turned into a small goal race in its own right. I’d heard rumours that it was THE half to do this spring and previous years’ winning times seemed to confirm that.


Organisation was great right from sign up - mind you, for the price, I’d blooming well hope so! The race number arrived a couple of weeks in advance and came with a little booklet showing the course, the race village, and parking options. It also came with safety pins, which you can never have enough of.


On the day, it took just less than an hour to get to one of Wokingham’s free-on-Sunday car parks. There was a steady stream of runners, clad in warm layers on this clear and frosty February morning, making their way from the town centre out to Cantley Park where the race is based.


The first sight that greeted us was a large bank of port-a-loos, seemingly plenty to service the 3000-strong field of runners plus their supporters. With plenty of time in hand, I took the chance to get into race kit in a nice warm changing room and have a short browse of the usual trade stands. Then it was time for a warm up - for which the roads near the start were already closed to traffic and full of runners - before getting into position for the start.

I like to warm up fairly late, so by the time I was back at the start, the pen had already filled a long way back meaning I had to hop the fence to get in at the right spot, the pacer holding a sign up nice and visibly.


After the usual few words from the Mayor and the MC we were away. It was the usual, hectic start, many starting too fast and others jostling for position around a fairly twisty, turny and certainly uphill first kilometre. Things settled as we made our way through the town centre and turned northwards for the outward leg, a couple of gently downhill kms perfect for finding the rhythm and the tempo. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I decided to sit just behind the pacer for the time I was aiming for. This proved to be a brilliant call, as there were cross-headwinds on the outward section. With a good 15-20 runners choosing the same tactic, it felt like a Tour de France peloton as we all provided shelter for one another. The other great part was not having to think about pace at all. After a few km it was clear that the pacer was running an even pace, accurate down to the second, which meant I could completely switch off and enjoy the run.


The course is mostly B-roads and country lanes. It’s “flat”, but it’s not _really_ flat. Each and every turn in the road seems to reveal a very slight incline or decline, but there’s nothing to really slow you down for too long. There are water stations every 5km, and this is where the organisers could improve. Despite the best efforts of the wonderful volunteers, it is quite difficult to take a small flimsy plastic cup running at 10 mph and not spill its contents over the other volunteers! I took water at the second station, managing 3 sips, and a further single sip at the third station. I know it’s difficult to find a perfect solution, but throwing a barely-used plastic cup into a bin bag does not feel good in 2023.


For many, a half really gets going at 10 km and for me that’s where I have to start to concentrate. Those next 3-4 km seem to drag, before you make it to 16 km/10 M and have “just another 5K left”. The Wokingham course helps you out here, with a slight net downhill from the halfway point to the 16 km mark, through quiet lanes and quaint villages. I felt great, like I could start to push on from the pacer and kick for home. This is where checking the course profile out before helped. I knew that we had two motorway bridges to cross plus a couple of other little climbs - “hold back now, save enough to get over those bumps”.


I can’t say I remember much of the last 5 km. It was “just run” mode. No looking at the watch, no checking where the pacer was. Just go. Each turn on the housing estate felt like it should be the last. The penultimate straight seemed to last forever. The 400m to go sign definitely seemed more like double that. The photographer was there, catching our pained faces. The sound of the finish like PA grew so painstakingly closer. Eventually, after a cruel little uphill 100m to finish, the line did come. I was greeted with a welcome bottle of water, a medal, and a couple of protein bars.


All-in-all, it was a very well organised event, great for a PB attempt and a warm up for a flat marathon which I really enjoyed, although at the price they charge I probably won’t be going back year after year!


- Phil.

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