Spectating at the Tunbridge Wells half marathon back in 2013 is where it all started for me. I watched a double-amputee cross the finishing line along with a number of elderly participants, and wondered why on earth I wasn’t pushing myself too. I loved the whole atmosphere of the event and it made me realise that anyone of any age and ability can run. Was well and truly inspired! Within a matter of days I was in possession of my first ever pair of ‘proper’ running trainers (Brooks Ghost 5, £130) and had completed my first 3mile road-run. Instantly addicted, the rest as they say is history!
The thought of running the Tunbridge Wells half marathon however was not exactly appealing. Famed for a challenging route with an ascent of over 300 foot thanks to Spring Hill at Fordcombe, the one lap circuit contains numerous other hills and is definitely not the type of course you’d get a Personal Best on. I detest hills so have always avoided this event, but as I was born and bred in Tunbridge Wells and have lived here my entire life with no immediate plans to relocate, it was added to my to-do list last year, with the thought being that I would have to get it over and done with eventually.
Despite the horrendous hills, the Tunbridge Wells half marathon is actually very picturesque and takes runners through some of the finest countryside and the cutest villages in Kent. It’s one of the biggest events in the UK organised by a running club with over 1,500 participants and is very reasonably priced. The £26 entry fee (or £30 on the day) included a technical fabric running t-shirt, bespoke medal, chip timing and baggage facilities, which I didn’t actually end up using.
I’m having an incredibly indecisive/impulsive year already with regards to running events and didn’t pre-register for this one, thinking that I would just turn up on the day and pay. However the day before the event, I saw someone on Twitter giving away their place for free and immediately jumped on it.
I turned up to the Tunbridge Wells half marathon on Sunday 19th February around 8am to pick up my running number (quick and easy system) and technical t-shirt (in whichever size you wanted). I’d consumed a homemade Nutribullet berry smoothie, banana, cereal bar and a Graze box of raisins, nuts and chocolate drops. I wore my new Primark mesh-detailed leggings, Brooks sports bra and black vest, and a London Marathon ‘rejection jacket’ with black 1000 Mile trainer socks and Brooks Glycerin 14 trainers, resulting in a super comfortable outfit…at first. The weather went from chilly and breezy to quite suddenly warm and sunny around mile 7, and there was no way I was going to stop and faff around pausing my watch/music and taking my armband and jacket off, so carried on and was pretty much a boiled egg by the time I crossed the finish line! Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the run and surprisingly didn’t find the hills to be as bad as the rumours implied, managing to run up all of them without stopping/walking. I opened an energy gel and sipped it slowly during the 300+ft ascent which seemed to have the desired effect and actually tasted quite delicious. I sipped water on the way round and picked up one or two jelly babies from lovely spectators on the side-lines. There were a number of water stations situated throughout the course but I didn’t feel the need to use them.
Overall I really enjoyed the Tunbridge Wells half marathon and felt really good throughout, with no aches or pains and nothing negative to note about any element of this event. The marshals were cheerful and motivating and there were no obvious bottle-necks or frustrations. There was free water and fruit handed out at the finish line and the bespoke medal is chunky, with the option of having it engraved for a small fee right there at the end.
It’s an event I’d definitely recommend to others and I’m so glad to have taken part and crossed it off my list! 🙂