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Bracknell Half Marathon – SJ Members Highlights

Last weekend saw one of the local half marathons take place, with several SJ members heading over to Bracknell for what is a very popular event on the circuit. Starting and finishing at the Lexicon, heading out to Chavey Down, Whitegrove, then through Easthampstead and ultimately back to the Lexicon. Let’s see what members thought of it, shall we…

Michelle Wilson: “This was my first time running the Bracknell Half. I had heard that it was a good one! The race course was really nice. There were bits on the road, bits off the road, bits through housing estates, bits through parks…all ending in the Lexicon, with a lot of crowd support on the final push. There were plenty of water stations along the route and plenty of jelly babies on offer. BUT…my word it was up and down! Underpass crazy and definitely hard on the legs. I did enjoy the race though and would consider doing it again – after some serious hill training over the next year! Highlight? meeting Chewy.”

Harvey Young: “This was my second year running Bracknell half, and it’s probably of my favourite half marathons, a great course, nice scenery, good support and plenty of water stations. Oh, and a Wookie! I wasn’t as prepared as I perhaps should have been this year so took it easy and used it as a chatfest with other runners. Overall, definitely one I’d recommend!”

Martin Steadman: “Bracknell half isn’t going to win any scenic awards, but it’s not that bad really. Yes there are a lot of subways and London Road is a bit grim. But the sun has always shone for me and there are plenty of sections that almost feel like you are in the countryside. Plus the support is good, especially at the finish. This year I encountered the mobile supporter: our very own Phil Turner on his bike and the family of some Jim in their Mini! I didn’t feel I had done enough distance work this year, so despite some good recent parkrun times I was just hoping to get round in one piece.

At the start line I came across Steve from my office who had made a last minute entry. He soon shot off into the distance, but after the crowds thinned out a bit, I seemed to make good progress. In fact I was worried I would soon blow up, but the 5 mile water station came up in around 35 minutes and I felt OK still. The choir and Wookie at the sports centre made me smile! Some underpass wiggles and the hill up to the Hilton caused a slight dent in my pace, but then I was able to pass a few people on the long descent back to the Hungry Horse roundabout. Some more serious effort was required getting back up to the town centre, then the final dash for the line through the cheers. Wow, a PB in a shade under 1 hour 36. A great morning’s run!”

Colin Carpenter: “I always enjoy Bracknell Half (now Lexicon) for two reasons. 1 it’s nice and local and 2 because it’s very well organised and the marshals are always fantastic. I got to Bracknell town at 8.20am and because you receive your number and chip well in advance I was ready to go. The weather was warm and the sun was shining. I felt my training had gone well and I was ready to go. I was aiming for between 2hrs 10 and 2hrs 15. I met Harvey and Michelle at the start and a couple of other Sandhurst Joggers and the race began. I ran through the first half feeling strong and keeping with the 2hr 10 pacers.

When I got to 9 miles I made a decision to slow down because of the dreaded hill at 9.5 miles. By the time I got to 11 miles I started to feel it but I was still within my target time. I finished the race strong pushed along by the fantastic support from the crowd along the last 100 metres. I was happy with my time of 2hrs 10 mins and 28secs. Even though the Lexicon Half is a fantastic race and I prefer the new course. I would still prefer to start and finish at South Hill Park. Anyone thinking of running a half marathon this is definitely one for your diary next year.”

Caroline Stuart: “Wasn’t sure how the legs would feel after the last few weeks but was looking forward to a nice sunny run. That it definitely didn’t disappoint!! Was great to see Dave and Royston on the start line. I was heading nearer the back as we started lining up but Dave was definitely right about starting as high up that starting line on the hill as possible! To begin with there were a few tight corners through a few underpasses, then came the hills. The sun was beating down and I have to say the hills just felt relentless the whole way. The supporters along the route were great and the yellow sponges were a very welcome godsend. I think as well as the hills, the hardest part was the constant sharp turns to go back on yourself through and up the underpasses.

The band and dancers at the leisure centre were a great distraction, I really started to flag after 12 miles and I’d had enough by then, then realised one more underpass and that was it. A great finish (but still up hill!) and great support. Was pleased to get my second ever under the 1.50 mark, especially after having put the legs through a little more than usual recently! I’m not sure I’ll return (I may need a while to forget those small inclines!) but I thought the organisation was great, the sun was shining and it was an enjoyable day! Well done to everyone who tackles and conquered those hills in that heat!”

Royston Crandley: “When some one asks me’what’s your favourite race ?’, and I answer Bracknell, people look at me in bemusement and always mention the copious amount of underpaths that the route takes. For me it’s not just about the under paths that take you safely around the scenic sights of Bracknell. It’s more the chance to run through a town that I grew up in until I moved away to explore the world. Last year they switched the course in line with the new sponsors wishes, so instead of the grand start outside South Hill Park, it’s new home is now The Lexicon, the new shopping centre. 

Now, this was a good sign, so I thought, it means we no longer have to run 2 miles up Harvest ride, oh this was a nice feeling. Down hill, so that old saying, what goes up must come down, well that goes the other way as well. The evil course designers added a few more hills into the new course. A sharp incline up Long Hill very early on in the race is a clue as to what will follow in the coming miles. Having run last year, I knew all to well, the hell that was to come. Once we complete the undulating section of Harvest Ride, which turns out wasn’t all up hill, its a real mix. We clear Jocks Lane and head into the industrial area of town, and yes, up hill sharply, as we enter the miriad of underpaths, it’s here that we then flatten out, slightly heading to the pond, and a good level of support to push you through. Now I know what’s around the corner. Up again, sharply, into Wildridings, this is my home, my old school, my childhood stomping ground. High fived my best mate at the water stop at the top, I grabbed a sponge and water and pushed on, feeling energised. 

The course rolls from here, I take in the scenery and enjoy taking the trip down memory lane. The route continues along my old school route, past the lamp post I walked into, the many letter boxes I used to, well, you can guess. As we passed the 10 miles mark, a Wookie, a chorus of singers, I felt the legs starting to wine but otherwise I’m feeling good. The last 3 miles start to click by, just a parkrun is pinging through my thoughts. The last stretch up towards the college, I’m competing against the mind. I drop into the last of the under paths, a short climb into town, a quick check of the watch, 1:49:12. OK, lets go, I dropped the gears, and ran hard, it was either a puke, or I go sub 1:50 for that course, sprinting hard up hill. Yes, even at the end they squeeze a hill in. Cross the line and the good news is I didn’t puke, I didn’t check the watch for a while, then I looked.

That’s why Bracknell is my favourite race, see you again next year.”

Dave Bartlett: “Arriving at Bracknell an hour before the run, I had no race plan or expectations as the course had changed somewhat since my last running of it. Talking with Royston and Jackie, apprehension began to build. “Let’s just say it’s undulating”, “Harvest Ride maybe down hill but Long Hill is a bit of a climb”. I was beginning to wish I’d kept myself in total isolation! The race detail concluded a race start of 09:00 sharp, and true to their word they stuck to it. Through the early stages I found myself accompanied by Royston, and despite a lack of plan this clearly helped.

Through the first 6.5 miles I was feeling good and hoping I could keep it going. With fellow club members popping up all over the place as supporters and the cheers of the Marshals and public I found myself becoming more and more motivated to push on. Leaving the last of many subways (who would believe one town could have so many) the noise levels began to rise as we entered the Lexicon. Wow, how can any runner not feel inspired to push on through the last 500 metres. Easily one of the best finishes I’ve ever experienced at a half marathon.”

Jackie Kent: “Being a Bracknell resident, I like to support the Bracknell half marathon if I can. In previous years it started and finished about 500m from my front door which made it even more appealing! These days however, sponsorship from the Lexicon (shopping centre) has brought a move of the start/finish venue to the town centre and despite the inconvenience to me personally, I do like it.

Having said that, Bracknell is probably my least favourite half marathon route, mainly due to the relentless hills and sharp turns in and out of the underpasses. The organisers had listened to feedback from last year (which was the first time on the current route) and roads which were not closed last year and which caused congestion issues by forcing too many runners to stay on the pavement, had been closed this year allowing runners to spread out across the road. I started with the 1:55 pacer having done Reading in 1:54, but quickly realised that the pacers were going too fast. To be fair to them, it’s a difficult course to pace due to the constant hills, you’re always either going up or down so setting a pace and sticking to it is tricky.

My race plan is my own responsibility and I should have dropped back from the pacers when I realised that they’d gone for the ‘start fast and slow down later’ option which I know from experience doesn’t suit me. However, I didn’t and so by mile six I was struggling. It was also a warm day and I had forgotten my sunscreen and that Bracknell uses cups for water – I hate cups when I’m running!! So I didn’t drink enough either as I prefer to carry a bottle for a while and drink little and often as I run for a mile or so before discarding it.

The end result was a very hot, slightly sunburnt, dehydrated and annoyed-with-myself runner crossing the line in a time that I was still happy with, but with a race that could have gone a lot more comfortably if I had just stuck to my own plan! The finish in the town centre was lovely though, with the roof amplifying the cheers of the substantial crowd. We raced through the centre of town to finish just outside Bill’s, who were giving free soft drinks and fruit to runners, which was very much appreciated!

After the race I met up with a few others in my favourite coffee shop (Brown Bag) for a mug of the best hot chocolate in town – trust me, I’ve tried them all and theirs is the best!”

Sounds like a brilliant event, and well done to all members who ran it. A good advertisement for local running events. Maybe one to consider entering next year?

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