|Reading Half-Marathon 2009|
|Position = 7626 out of ~17,000?|
The day didn't get off to too good a start: 6am on Sunday morning doesn't tend to happen for me, and the DST change was just an extra kick in the teeth, making it feel like 5am. Obstacle the first: the tubes aren't running at that time. Fortunately, I now live in civilisation and could just get a 24-hour bus into town and connect to Paddington fairly easily. Once there, it became clear how popular Reading is with London residents: every incoming tube train seemed to disgorge another wave into the foyer. True to form, the expected 7:57 was delayed coming in, so those who could jumped onto the later one that was actually present. After a while, enough of us had made it onto the train to match a packed 6pm weekday: but the air was tinged with excitement and anticipation rather than the commuters' resignation and despair.
The comparison didn't even quite stop there as we queued up for the shuttle buses for the stadium. Apparently, Reading is the third biggest race in the UK in terms of number of participants: and it's not a big place with lots of transport infrastructure! In fact I didn't realise Reading *had* this many buses!
The start was well organised, in direct contrast to the RTTB in October, although with everyone packed into the long avenue, it took a while for the crowd to thin out enough to feel comfortable. The race passed through Whitley and up the infamous Whitley Wood Road hill- eliciting a collective groan from some runners who thought that the shallow rise up to then had been all they were required to do! The highlight of the race this far was the ice cream van that started loudly playing The Entertainer just as I passed :)
Once up the hill, it was down past Reading University and Kendrick Road towards the centre. A dogleg left to pass under the IDR flyover, with a crowd of manic drummers invoking a rather Ravenholm ambience. Then a trek up through the town centre to the old Abbey site, twisting around to the soulless Friar Street, and off out to Oxford Road.
On reflection, I think it was somewhere around here and as we went uphill again along Tilehurst Road that I fell off the pace a bit- I certainly remember seeing an army guy running along with full pack and heavy boots, that somehow got ahead of me by the time we got to the top of Prospect Park. At this point it should have been a bit quicker on to the finish, since it was all downhill (a bit); but in fact, looking at the graph, I never seemed to take advantage of the downhills at all. In fact, by the time we came down onto Berkeley Avenue, the downhill slope was more of a grind, as my knees and fact were taking the brunt. It's almost definitely long past time I replace those running shoes, though: they will be two years old this June!
So along to Rose Kiln Lane: looking to my left I could see my old kitchen window... the area hadn't changed! and then a not-so-thrilling run down the dual carriageway back to GreenPark and the stadium. We had to do a loop down to the start point and back down the avenue: I saw the 2-hour pace group on their way back as I was going out and realised then that I was too far behind target, with just over a mile to go. Although I had my Forerunner with me, I hadn't been checking my pace all that often: and in this end stretch I realised that when I thought I was going at a disciplined 5:40-or-so pace, I was actually going at more like 6:05... Failure! Woe!
Still, I managed to find enough in the tank for a decent finish: and finishing the race with a half-lap of the stadium works really well. Lots of people cheering who also have somewhere to sit... probably works out for them, too! Then out the other side to be wrapped in Bacofoil and de-chipped.
After the race, the shuttle bus system had its last laugh... the queue for the buses was a good half-mile long. I walked back into town. I think less than ten buses went past me the whole time-- the other side of the dual carriageway was chock-a-block.
All in all, it was a good race: my final time of 2:03:39 was inside my previous time by four minutes or so--- but still outside my target of 2 hours. Well, that just indicates a need to train better for next time! :)