For some reason I’ve never taken part in the Tonbridge Half Marathon, despite it being next door to my hometown.
Now that I’m currently living in Tonbridge, it seemed like the perfect time to sign up and try it out.
The 9th Tonbridge Half Marathon was managed under licence by Nice Work on behalf of the Tonbridge Half Marathon CIO, the Rotary Club of Tonbridge and Tonbridge Lions Club; raising money for two headline charities – the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance and West Kent Mind, together with other charities supported by the Rotary and Lions clubs. There were 1500 running places available with a further 100 reserved for charities.
Runners would receive a chunky bespoke finishers medal and finish line goodies; and a souvenir technical t-shirt could be purchased for £8. I paid £32.90 in total for Affiliated race entry and a technical t-shirt, with my running number (with embedded timing chip) and race-day instructions arriving in the post a week or so prior to the event.
So on Sunday 6th October I walked literally five minutes down the road from my flat to the race headquarters at Judd school. There were changing facilities, portaloos, secure baggage area (which I didn’t need to use) and various food and beverage stalls. I entered the race pen outside Judd school on the main road, and situated myself between the 1:50 and 2:00 hour pacers.
I was wearing a USA sports bra, Nike technical t-shirt, USA Pro lycra shorts under Nike Dry-Fit shorts, Apple AirPods, Nike gel-holder waist belt, Nike headband and black trainer socks with Brooks Launch 5 trainers. The t-shirt was slightly too big, the waist belt felt unusually uncomfortable and I became too hot during parts of the race, meaning I kept pulling the sleeves of my t-shirt up, and wishing that I’d worn a vest instead. The weather was warm and muggy, although it had been raining before the event started.
I’d eaten an Oat So Simple porridge pot and banana with a Beanies coffee, and felt good, albeit nervous – I hadn’t trained enough and didn’t feel fit enough, for the first time in a long time. I hadn’t been looking forward to running this event, although I was excited to cross the finish line and get it done.
The race started at 10.00. It was an out-and-back course on roads and lanes to the south of Tonbridge town. Most of the route had complete road closure, and there were four water stations around the course, where the 8th Tonbridge (Hildenborough) Scouts and volunteers provided motivating service. Each water station also had a portable toilet nearby, which luckily I didn’t need to use. The undulating course made for a super challenging, hilly race where we received huge support going through the village of Leigh, both on the way out and again on the way back, and an equally enthusiastic welcome on return to Tonbridge, with the finish funnel lined with supporters. A lot of residents had come out to cheer and clap, which was lovely. The crowd support around the course was brilliant, particularly in Leigh – there were endless tubs of orange segments and sweets held out for runners by friendly supporters, which I made use of! A Lemon Drizzle Torq energy gel around mile 8 gave me the extra boost I needed, as the last 5K or so was seemingly all uphill!
A runner slipped and fell over behind me during the course, and as I turned around to help, I saw that everyone approaching her had already rushed or stopped to help. Things like that make me feel super proud to be part of the running community. The atmosphere in general on the course (and at the headquarters) was a lovely one.
I stayed in front of the 2hr pacer until mile 6 or 7, and then remained behind it for the duration of the course, coming in at 2:07. My PB is 1:59 and ‘worst’ is 2:11, so I wasn’t too bothered with that. I was just thankful to complete the event, and grateful for a rest after all the challenging hill work!
A friendly volunteer hung a chunky bespoke medal around my neck, and the finish chute contained jaffa cakes, bananas and different flavours of cereal bar to be picked up by runners, as well as cups of water. I collected my pre-paid souvenir event t-shirt and exited the event headquarters, located my cheerleader and headed up the road back home.
My IT band was tender and sore for the first time ever after the run, which is probably due to not enough training and stretching beforehand, so that’s a massive lesson learned! But I felt really good, happy and proud that I’d completed the Tonbridge half marathon, and with a not-so-disastrous time, too! I’d definitely take part again and would recommend this event to others. 😊
NEXT UP: Great Ormond Street Hospital Race for the Kids 5K, Saturday 12th October 2019