The Down Tow Up Flow Half Marathon is organised by Purple Patch Running and is a multi-terrain point-point race run along the Thames towpath between Windsor and Marlow. The direction of the run alternates each year, so next year it will begin in Marlow and end in Windsor.
Purple Patch had the logistics of a point-point event sorted though, we were able to park at the finish at Marlow Rugby Club and take the coach provided to the start (coaches were prebookable for £8 on top of the entry price). This made for perhaps a slightly earlier start than would have usually been needed as coaches were running between 8am and 8:45am, but after a nice quiet Sunday morning drive to Marlow, I found car parking easy and three coaches waiting to transport the runners over to Windsor.
The coaches took us straight to Alexandra Gardens in Windsor, where the race was starting from. I was there before 9am so had a good hour to wait before the race started. On arrival, I headed to the registration tent to pick up my number and then just took some time to chill out before the race. There were refreshments here to buy if you so wanted, and toilet facilities plus being there early ensured I could miss out on the usual queues.
Whilst it was a nice morning, at this time it perhaps wasn’t quite as warm as we had been used to, so with a bit of a nip in the air, I put on my SJ hoodie. It was a good job I did – as I was spotted by the lovely Alison Jones. We had not met before, and Alison came over to say Hi and it was nice to have a bit of company before the start of the race. Neither of us were aware that the other was running (note to self for future – post on the SJ Facebook group before an event) and if we had realised, we could have shared the car journey over as Alison had also taken the coach down from Marlow.
I dropped my bag off at the bag drop – nice and easy, straight in the back of the van to transport the bags over to Marlow.
The race was starting at 10am, and to spread the runners out a bit along the narrow riverside paths, it was a waved start. Both Alison and I were in Wave 2, starting at 10.05am. So as soon as the first wave had left, we made our way to the start and only had to wait a couple of minutes before we were off.
The course heads out past the Windsor Leisure Centre and under the Windsor relief road, after which we had a short steep hill to take us up onto the bridge to cross the river to pick up the tow path on the other side. Having run the path a few weeks earlier between Windsor and Maidenhead in a works event, I knew that this section of the route wouldn’t be easy as it is quite tight in places with often no place to pass other runners. Plus the tow path remains open to the public, so we had to face walkers and cyclists who were in the main supportive of us running but I’m sure I heard a few moaning about us getting in their way. However, I was running well, and after a few miles I had broken away from the rest of the group and found myself pretty much running alone – I was pleased to come across a water station as I had begun to think that I was going the wrong way! Altogether there were 5 water stations en route, with the last couple also giving out Haribo.
At Maidenhead, you cross the river again over the A4 bridge and follow the pavement for a while before picking up the tow path again. I was glad to feel the tarmac for a while as the tow paths had been very dry and dusty due to the dry weather. There was a lot of support along this stretch from people out enjoying walks along the river.
By this time though, it was starting to warm up quite a bit so it was nice to head back by the river and under the shade of the trees. At Cliveden, the route turns inland to head towards Cookham village so there is a stretch on road, including a road to cross, but traffic was minimal. After Cookham, it was back on the towpath but from here on in the terrain changed to more running over fields instead of paths. This made for some uneven terrain, especially where the river had worn the banks down.
At Bourne End, we made the last crossing of the river, which included going up and down some steps across a footbridge. But then we were on the home straight, however, this last stretch wasn’t easy – across fields with a head wind, not much shade, through a herd of cows……..
The race finishes at Marlow rugby club and as we came into the finish, there were lots of spectators cheering us on to give us that last push to the finish line. I knew this wasn’t to be a PB course, but I was very pleased with my time – 1:48:07 – 9th female to finish and 2nd in my age category.
At the end, you receive much needed water and haribo plus of course a medal. And then its straight in the car and head home, nice and easy!
This is a very well organised event by Purple Patch, one I would run again and I would recommend to anyone looking to run a summer half marathon.