Stuart Mugridge reports: A flying visit down to Kent for the Tunbridge Wells half marathon and perfect conditions for my first race of this length. There had been a touch of frost overnight but the sky was clear and by start time the air temperature was pleasant.
The course is described as ‘hilly but fast’ so I was a bit uncertain of where to pitch myself. I know the roads from when I lived there and used to train for cycle racing – the main hill in particular I knew to take it steady on. In the end I reckoned on 1:45 and with a few split times noted I could push things or ease off depending on how I felt.
Dame Kelly Holmes started the race and after a minute or so I was over the start line. A quick wave to the family as I passed and then it was a case of finding my place and pace. I took it comfortably to start with and tried not to be dragged along too much in the first couple of miles. I soon, though, was feeling comfortable and the field had sorted itself out a bit and I was able to push on and enjoy the good downhill at about 4 miles.
I felt like I had paced well so far as others came ‘backwards’ past me. A mile or two of undulations and the drag up Saint’s Hill followed before a short, sharp descent and then the main hill of the race, Spring Hill at Fordcombe. Nothing Alpine of course, but at just under a mile long and 10% in places it needed a bit of thought.
I had been comfortably up on my target time so far so I knew that I could take the start of the climb steadily and push it as it eased further up. With that obstacle behind me the rest of the course was fairly ‘easy’.
For me though I was beginning to feel the distance and each little slope held me back, so I made sure I was taking advantage of any downhill and level sections. Heading now in to Tunbridge Wells the mile boards spurred me on and with the last mile and a bit to go I was able to up the pace.
I had kept the four minutes that I had made up on my schedule in the first few miles and managed to add a bit and with a last dash to the finish line as my family encouraged me on I clocked 1:39:56 (chip time). I was very pleased with this time and this gives me an incentive to aim at 1:30 with less hills and a bit more training. I placed 486th out of 2107 competitors on a day when both male and female course records fell.
This is a really well organised event, over an interesting and scenic course and always seems to get positive competitor feedback. I would definitely recommend it if you fancy a trip to the South-East next February.