URWFRC at the 2004 Tunbridge Wells Half

"This has to be the most picturesque race I have ever done..." Forum regular Ashley Smith falls in love with a hilly Kent Half

Posted: 23 February 2004
by Ashley Smith

Flying start? Ashley and Gavo are nowhere to be seen...
With three races all on the same day in Kent, it was hard to choose which one to do.

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. 

How you doing? Gareth at 3.5 miles

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.

Pathfinder stretches his legs at 7.5 miles
Gavo had warned that when you think you are at the top, you turn a corner and it keeps going. Oh boy, was that the truth! Still, all the Wednesday night hillwork sessions at Chislehurst with other forumites certainly paid dividends. We kicked in and kept going. 

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.

Ashley and Woony sprint for the line
Struggling in the last mile, I would probably have dropped the pace a little left to my own devices. However Woony wasn't having any of it. He picked up the pace, making sure I was staying in tow. 

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.

The credits...
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:

  • Gareth L 1:28:48 - 52nd
  • Scotty 1:37:36 - 153rd
  • Gavo 1:44:47 - 309th
  • Woony 1:45:30 - 321st
  • Ashley 1:45:30 - 320th 
  • Pathfinder 1:49:38 - 407th
  • Ronnie Wibbley 1:53:05
  • There were 797 finishers

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forum report, tunbridge wells half

Discuss this article

I'm tempted by this as well! - tell me alla about it . . . .
Posted: 22/11/2003 at 21:06

Expect lots of posts about the hills.But remember,what goes up must come down.....
Posted: 23/11/2003 at 13:48

Reassuring Dunc1! - thanks
Posted: 23/11/2003 at 19:06

Fantastic - lovely scenery to run through, and one big hill - once you've knocked it on the head it's not too far to go.
Posted: 23/11/2003 at 19:53

Just entered, as I'm preparing for the Barcelona Marathon (21/3).

Posted: 24/11/2003 at 10:38

Great race, nice scenery and one real good climb..but times pretty quick...first 5m very fast.BUT why the same day as Dover 1/2M....crazy.
Posted: 24/11/2003 at 11:00

does anyone know how close the start/finish is to the train station? cheers
Posted: 24/11/2003 at 11:48

I'm trying out the Crowborough 10k this weekend - similar terrain I expect?
Posted: 24/11/2003 at 21:39

less than a mile from the station so quite close
Posted: 24/11/2003 at 23:15

I've done a couple of 10ks in less than an hour, and my plan is to finish a marathon before my 40th in June.

Is this a good race to do my first half marathon?
Posted: 10/12/2003 at 13:24

Andy, Go for it!

My recollection of this one from last year was that there seemed to be a lot of downhill in the early stages so I was anticipating some major hills in the latter stages which just didn't materialise.

Could be of course that I'm blocking out painful memories - but I honestly can't remember this one as being a toughy. It was my 4th half and I got a pb regardless.
Posted: 10/12/2003 at 13:50

You're ready Andy! - what's a run without a hill or two anyway?!? I haven't run this one but it sounds a bit like Hastings - you have to give it some respect but it is nonetheless a rewarding course and can be fast.

Scotty: did you do Crowborough - I recall on another thread you said you would. I did it for the first time - now there's a hill to make you throw up!!! (if you were to run it, that is, which I didn't . . . )
Posted: 10/12/2003 at 15:54

Hiya SlowButFar,

Yes I did Crowborough and am pleased to say that, unlike last year, I 'ran' up the "hill" on both laps, although I wasn't making much headway on the walkers. Almost said hello to my breakfast at one point - gut wrenching!

Posted: 10/12/2003 at 16:42

I've put it in the diary for next year, with a note: "run the hill (both laps) this time!".
Posted: 10/12/2003 at 21:56

one hill of note through fordingbridge,its at the end of all that lovely downhill,but virtually flat after that.mind the bus stops in the last mile.They are all plastic and without my glasses I ran almost straight into one on the last mile. it hurt!
Posted: 10/12/2003 at 23:11

I have entered this one again this year.

There is a really nasty hill, It was my first half marathon ever last year and did it in 2:06, very disappointed.

Very challenging course, but very rewarding would recommend it to anyone.
Posted: 18/12/2003 at 15:14

Hurray - just signed up for this one too!

My first time at TW and my only previous half is the rather lovely Windsor half so I think I'll be in for a bit of a shock with this one! Happy Training everyone!
Posted: 03/01/2004 at 16:25

So Dover or Tunbridge that's the question. Decision which has the most and steepest hills, not sure why but I'm opting for the toughest challenge... any suggestions?
Posted: 05/01/2004 at 00:10

Hi Ashley, I have never done Dover, butt he hills at Tunbridge are a killer if I remember right.
Posted: 05/01/2004 at 00:39

Sounding good already.
Posted: 05/01/2004 at 22:05

update 14/01/04 4.50pm

think i will be doing this rather than dover this year :)

Andrew Smith ?
Andy ?
Ashley (or will it be dover?)
bobbyc ?
clint ?
Dunc 1 (still waiting 4 his number)
Gavin P ?
Gavo ?
Longlegs (will be over 1/2 hr quicker than last year !)




Hadders ..again.. (or is he running it this year). ?

Posted: 14/01/2004 at 16:58

Thought you meant I was marshalling for a mo...
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:01

can if you like, i'm sure TWH would be keen to have you doing the water station on Fordcombe hill ! :)
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:02

Nah... I'll wait in the pub... ;)
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:03

funny you should say that, there's a pub on fordcombe hill..The Chafford Arms,

might even be close to the water station ? :)

Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:07

And don't tell me, it's half way round the course?...
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:07

funny you should say that ;)

its at about 7miles ..LOL !
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:30

Thought so... so typical, s'pose you think yer funny?

Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:31


Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:33

i try.
Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:34

Posted: 14/01/2004 at 17:34

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 13:48

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 13:51


We're looking for a few marshalls if you're interested.
Maybe a t-shirt in it for you (?).....
Posted: 15/01/2004 at 15:17

Ah-ha... I don't mind being near the finish so I can watch Gaz come in??

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 15:24

Also do I need to supply a reference from DRR after my efforts at marshalling this Sunday?

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 15:41

:) u could be the photographer aswell ! ...like me last year :)

Dunc.. btw, r u running either of the dartford or canterbury 10 ?

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 15:53

Yeah... could...
Posted: 15/01/2004 at 15:58


Maybe Hadders will pick up this post and give you a job.No references required,we'll take anybody.


No races just yet,building up the mileage for FLM.
TW Half will be my first race of the year
Posted: 15/01/2004 at 16:01

Take anybody indeed... I'm pucker...

Posted: 15/01/2004 at 16:03

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