Vitality Reading Half Marathon

by Stuart Obbard.
Photos by Stuart Obbard and Adam Nash
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Wow!! What a great race and one I would definitely do again. Reading. you have certainly excelled yourself with this race!

A race starts several months before when you have to go on-line and sign up. For this race the process was painless and then the regular emails started. These emails included updating runners on parking, what to expect on race day and what to tell our supporters. I like this, I find this information helps make my race day stress free. Then about a month before the race Keith my local postman dropped a letter through the door for me, this was the all important race number. In this letter was more than just the race number though, it included a little booklet with a map of the course and also a map of the start and finish area, another touch that I liked. If you have a mum like mine coming to watch you I bet this would have come in useful for her too. Some races could learn from this; posting the race numbers out to the runners in advance does make life so much easier for us all.

The day of the race came and my number was securely pinned on my race vest. I had checked the forecast in advance and figured I best pack my gloves and thermals as it was meant to be chilly and cloudy. Even though the race started at 10:15am I left home early as my parking was on a road that would close by 8am. At least I would be there and could do the final preparations when I was there, like have a nap in the car or just go and have a nosey around the area.

I did the nosey bit and as it was chilly out I was wearing every layer I had on me. I checked out the race village where there was plenty going on, pop up shops selling running gear, plenty of toilets, a huge area for both runners and their spectators and also the bag drop area. This area was massive and well organized. I then went for a walk to the stadium next door and could see the hotel with plenty of runners who had stayed there going down for their breakfast. What a great idea should you plan on doing this race, stay at the stadium hotel the night before and make a real big event of it.

As the race start approached the weather started to turn and the sun started coming through. I was convinced by our photographer Adam to wear my vest without the thermals and gloves. He said I should man up as it wasn’t that cold out, but this was coming from the guy who wasn’t even running and was kitted up in all his winter gear.

At 9:45am I made my way to the start area and even though it was a five minute walk it was an ideal way to start warming up. I was filtered into my pen in a well organised process but then I nearly fainted as the 1 hour 45 minute pacer positioned himself next to me. I will be honest, I didn’t fancy my chances in this race and planned to take it easy to start and aim for 1 hour 55 minutes. I decided to take a step back and when I was a few meters behind him I stopped and thought why not give this a go and see what happens, after all I am a person who tends to set off quickly.

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At 10:15am the race started by Sir John Madejski, whose name is given to the Reading football stadium due to his huge involvement there. As each wave started a minute or so apart it was 10:20 when I set off over the start line but this wasn’t a problem as I was still just behind the 1 hour 45 pacer. Now I have to give Adam credit as after about 500 meters of running I was sweating, it was slowly getting warmer and the sun was out. What a cracking day it was turning out to be.

The running surface was road throughout and due to the delayed starts it wasn’t cramped and you could be in your stride pretty quickly. The race is sold as being fast and PB’s are nearly guaranteed; however, in the first three miles I had been met by a hill which I saw the pacer speed up and I was left to pace myself. This wasn’t going to be a problem as the crowd were cheering us all on, the crowds at this half are like none other, the streets are lined with people cheering, using their cow bells, musicians, cheerleaders and music being played by DJ’s. All the way around you were cheered on and when I was approaching mile 7 I was hit by a really loud noise, the cheering seemed to increase in volume tenfold and there was dance music being played out by the DJ. I have to thank the people from the Reading Family Church as you excelled in the art of cheering and I managed to pull a sub 8 minute mile without realising it.

During the course there were 4 water stops scheduled and two energy drinks stations, I would say that this would be enough for a half and wouldn’t expect more than this as I knew we were being given water bottles instead of cups.  However I was surprised to see at least 3 more water stations than expected, for a hot day this makes a huge difference. A really nice touch.

The race took us around various sites including the town centre and the course had the odd up and downhill sections, which did make me wonder where the PB’s were coming from. But at mile 10 I looked at my watch and I was looking to be on course for a PB, all I needed was to finish and not blow up!

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As I approached mile 12 I could see the stadium in the distance but I was suffering with a stitch and needed a water, but yup there was a station just at mile 12, this helped and I raced on. As I was entering the road to the stadium I moved over to the left so when I was inside I would have the crowd directly to my left, the roar of the crowd was amazing and this spurred me on towards the finish line. I crossed the line in a time of 1 hours 47 minutes and 25 seconds, I knew this instantly due to receiving a text from the race organizers. This was a new PB for me by several minutes!

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I was then funnelled out of the stadium to collect my medal, t-shirt and goodies. The medal is one anyone would be proud to have around their neck.

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Eventually I was in the event village, reunited with my kit bag, changed and back at the car park in no time. Then it was time to drive home. There was a little queue to get out but this was well managed and before I knew it I was out onto the M4 on my way home.

I cannot express how impressed I was with the whole day, every little detail had been taken into account, the marshals, the volunteers at all the water stations, bag drops and first aid tents. The crowds cheering us round and then the finish in the stadium was a great experience.

Reading I will be back, and thank you.

To discover more about this event, please see http://www.readinghalfmarathon.com/

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