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SJ Members Race Reports – Fleet, Reading and Richmond

Another busy weekend of running for the SJs culminated in a trio of events on Saturday and Sunday. We start with Sarah Jones, who took part in the Richmond Riverside 10k on Saturday, as she recalls….

Richmond Riverside 10k – Sarah Jones: “The course was a small, local event along the Thames Riverside which was well ran and organised (with supportive marshals!) The run itself was on both woodland track and tarmac going down one side towards Kingston and then back towards Richmond and then finally the finish. Overall, the course was nice and scenic, a good flat 10k to do and a smart medal afterwards!”

There were a couple of big half marathon events on Sunday, which attracted a lot of SJs looking for marathon training, a PB, or just an excuse to miss Sunday Brunch on Channel 4. We start with Fleet, with various members reviewing the event….

Charley Bryant – “Fleet is my favourite half marathon. The support and marshals are always amazing, it’s well organised, local and a very civilised 1030 start! I wasn’t chasing a time as I’d done my first full marathon in four years just 8 days before, so I just soaked up the atmosphere and remembered all the things I love about running – a brilliant day!”

Mark Pattrick “I had been given my place at Fleet half by an injured friend at the end of January. Due to injuries that have lasted over a year, I cycled over to Fleet with no expectations, little training and no thought for the course. The start was very busy, a few thousand people and I’d started about 6 rows behind the 1:40 pacer. Surprisingly this was one of the most pleasant, friendly and well run half marathons in which I have participated. Good crowds, excellent marshaling from Fleet and Church Crookham, well drilled water stations, and once you leave the town some idyllic spots interspersed with bridges over the M3.

Other than a congested start I cannot fault it. From mile 2 onwards, providing you hadn’t started too far behind where you thought you might finish there was plenty of overtaking space. ONE NOTE: whilst this isn’t a steep course it isn’t exactly pan flat and can be very deceptive. Many of the country lanes are undulating and whilst you shouldn’t rule out a PB Half here, it would be a big ask. Great running village set up at the start and finish if you have time to go afterwards. The Asics stand looked interesting and the smell of bacon from the breakfast tent was something else entirely.”

Jim Haffey – “Unlike last years unfortunate situation with the weather, this time around as we waited in Calthorpe Park the wind had dropped off a bit and the sun was making a great attempt to stay out for us so the weather gods were on our side. There were plenty of facilities in the park and the organisation was Fleet’s usual smooth self so off we went to the start. Pacers with large flags made it easy to place yourself within the starting groups and was nicer than some of the pens I have been in, it did not take long to get the runners sorted out and off we went. The route went in and around the main town centre with plenty of miles through more rural roads and lanes which was my preference as I do prefer woodlands to the town centres; there were some undulating sections but nothing to really bother us hill wise.

Lots of water stations and jelly baby/sweets handouts on the way around but what was really lovely was the amount and level of enthusiasm of the marshals and the people of Fleet who were on the roadsides, in their gardens or leaning out of windows cheering people on. There were also plenty of kids after high-fives as well and they could not be left hanging so there was a great community feel to it as the parents with them made sure you got a good shout-out.

I had tried to trade my place the week before as a combination of man-flu and a couple of silly injuries had limited me to a longest run of 4 miles for the 8 weeks prior to this so I was fairly under-prepared and just went to enjoy it. Eventually finished 20 mins slower than the Wokingham Half from 2018 although I even managed what was for me a sprint over the last 100 metres or so spurred on by hearing the run commentator calling out my name. There were a healthy contingent of SJs there judging by the results sheet I saw and I highly recommend it to those that have not tried!”

Meanwhile, at 10:30, one of the bigger half marathons around was about to get started. Reading is also a popular pre-London training race, a reasonably flat course with plenty of support all the way round. Let’s see what the SJs who ran it felt….

Natalie Pollard – “With my Sandhurst Joggers top on, and my trusty trainers what more did I need to complete my first half marathon? Well, I had 12 weeks of training under my belt, my amazing friend and running partner by my side and great ‘unpredictable’ weather. So, after a last minute ‘comfort break’ Kate and I literally found ourselves at the very back of 15,000 runners. We sprinted to the start line and we were off! Slowly picking off a shark, a unicorn and other friendly runners, we settled into our pace and started chatting about who our fantasy date would be, best restaurant, favourite holiday etc. This distraction was great and got us to 6 miles or so with not too many worries.

The course was lovely with lots of support and well-wishers calling our names. We weaved through the university, listening to gospel choirs, bands and singers. Drinks stations were plentiful, and I loved the new water packets…well until I almost choked on one at mile 10!!! (those of you that have used them will know what I mean). Being offered a beer and a cup of tea whilst running was also quite a novelty, but I reluctantly declined both. On the last stretch I started to fatigue… I became quiet and really had to dig deep to find the energy for the last mile. My back was aching, but I generally still felt good, just exhausted.

Our families had come to watch. We’d seen them in town and were hoping they’d made it to the stadium. I was worried though, that as our time was 15 minutes quicker than predicted they might not be there yet, should I slow down? No, not on your nelly! On entering the stadium, I raised my arms and took in the moment. I got a lump in my throat and misty eyes. Through the tears I spotted my family. I blew them a kiss then Kate grabbed my hand and we sprinted to the finish line together. Wow what an experience!! I’d loved it. What a day!! It was amazing, and I would thoroughly recommend it. Especially for a first half marathon. It’s got the magic.”

Stuart Holbrook – “It was a good day and well organised. As always, the people of Reading did themselves proud with a lot of support for all the runners. They had changed the course making the university part a little longer and shortening the end of the course somewhat which made it slightly better in my opinion. Great day and they seem to have learnt lesson from previous years.”

Jon Green – “A few people asked me why I wasn’t running Wokingham in February which would have made sense as I live there, however  I decided to enter Reading as my first half marathon purely due to it being a massive event with great support and it didn’t disappoint so I feel I made the right choice. My friend from Tilehurst was also keen on doing it for his 8th time so I signed up when he did in December.

After a bit of stress getting there with the bus having to take a scenic route round Lower Earley due to the road closures, we lined up on the start line. 10 minutes after the starting gun fired we crossed the timing mat and were off! My main tactic for the race was not to go off too quickly and this went well with my first mile being a little bit quick but far from stupidly so at 8:15. After that I settled into a steady 8:35-8:45 minute/mile pace. The support through Whitely with residents coming out of their houses to line the roads with portable speakers and signs was brilliant and really made the atmosphere. The bits around the university campus and town centre were equally as well supported and the bottles of Lucozade given out were gratefully received.

As I started on the dreaded hill up Russell Street at mile 8 I overtook a girl from Reading Road Runners. As a bit of amusement I shouted “Come on Reading!” to her which made her smile. Just before the 10th mile I saw her ahead of me again and caught up with her. “Just a Parkrun to go she commented”. I chatted to her for the last 3 miles which helped take my mind off the long, wide, open and boring A33 section. As we crossed the line I felt a sense of elation, first one in the bag. I finished it in 1:54:00. Not quite the 1:53 I had aimed for the night before the race but not far off and I was happy I finished comfortably and without issue.”

Jackie Brighton – “I loved Reading, it was my first time running it as it was cancelled last year because of the snow. There was so much support, pretty much all the way round the course. We were lucky with the weather. I had a good run. I was a bit tentative as I was having some knee issues. My knee started to hurt again mile 11 but I was determined to finish and I did.”

Jackie Kent – “Another year, another Reading half marathon! With Facebook reminding me that Reading was the first half I ever did six years ago, I wasn’t really sure what to expect this year. Having had a rough Wokingham half marathon three weeks previously I was feeling a little apprehensive about doing another one quite so soon. However, I’m not one to waste an entry fee so I got up, got ready and set off.

This was the first year that I relied on public transport to get there and I’ll be honest, it was really easy. The train was on time and there were no queues for the bus as I’d gone early. The bus took about 10 mins and dropped us off right outside the Madejski Stadium.

I crossed the start line 7 minutes after the gun which isn’t too bad. The route has only changed slightly over the six years that I’ve been running it. It’s a mix of residential areas, university grounds and the town centre. It is exceptionally well supported for a half with people out cheering almost all the way around. There are lots of bands and music to keep your spirits up and of course my favourite bit, the drums under the IDR. There is also even a pub handing out free beer to runners en route! There are also three big hills which I’ll just gloss over…

My race went well. I was able to keep a steady pace and finished in 1:54:14 which is a decent time for me. My second favourite bit of Reading is the stadium finish. There is just something about running into and around the stadium to the finish line that feels really special. As I headed outside I heard my name being called and turned to find Jon Green behind me. He’d had a good race too so we compared race notes for a bit and then I went to collect my bag. The bus ride back to the station took a long time due to the traffic caused by the race road closures. However we got there eventually and after a spot of lunch I headed home, feeling pleased with myself and having had another good Reading half.”

Nick Metcalfe – “I was quite nervous going into the race, as I had been nursing a knee injury for the two weeks prior to the run. Nonetheless, I was determined to just enjoy the day and soak up what I hoped would be a great atmosphere.

Sure enough, there were people watching and cheering everyone from mile 1 through to 13. I saw my boss at the start line, who said it was ‘quite a flat course’, well it certainly didn’t feel like that at points! A few hills, but nothing that the music and support couldn’t help with. Plenty of people were out watching in the town centre, and although it was quiet and a bit of a push to get to the Madjeski Stadium, finishing up there was pretty fantastic.

A great event, and definitely one I will be looking to do again. I managed 1:42.21, but this was on a pretty dodgy knee, so definitely hoping to get back and go sub 1:40 next year!

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