"This has to be the most picturesque race I have ever done..." Forum regular Ashley Smith falls in love with a hilly Kent Half
The Tunbridge Wells Half-Marathon paid off nicely. I travelled down with Howard and Pathfinder, friends from the RW forums, and it was great to meet Scotty, Moomoo, Gareth L, Gavo, Caz, Woony, Johnny J, Ronnie Wibbley, and a whole host of Orpington Road Runners at the beginning.
If you're a details person, you'd have appreciated Race HQ: a numbered safe baggage store area, a large hall and loos both inside and out - and a burger wagon with energy drinks.
On a chill start line, there was minor confusion. The start horn didn't work properly, and the lead pack took off. Then, in a field of 800, Gavo and I took over half a minute to cross the start line.
Still, an uphill section at the start did help to thin the field out, and also to stop us (me) from bolting at the beginning, only to pay for it further down the line.
This has to be the most picturesque race I have ever done, and I fell in love with so many houses on the route I gave up counting. From views over valleys to downward roads, the course took us through little villages with stone houses more reminiscent of those in the Cotswolds.
After the initial upward slog, you're lulled by a gradual downward course for four miles. Then you hit mile six, and the monster two-mile hill.
This was all helped by the banter of Gavo, Pathfinder and Woony, as well as the spectators who cheered us on at the fake summit.
At the top of the hill, Gavo showed us his stuff and took the lead; Woony agreed to pace me for the rest of the race, and Pathfinder, despite starting the hill with us, fell a little behind.
Woony and I passed mile 10 in 1:20: on target for eight-minute miles and bang on target for the planned 1:45 I was hoping for.
I held back a little - after all, who knew whether another hill would appear? Completely lost, it was not until the final 400 yards that I realised where we were. Crowd-pleasers to the last, and with Woony's encouragement, we put in a sprint finish and then collapsed.
Moomoo, Caz and Johnny J - and Chris from Orpington Road Runners - were stars for giving us support. Caz was our ace photographer - many thanks. And the URWFC leaderboard looked like this:
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