We challenged our mate Lizzie Salmon to run her first ever half, and she only bloody aced it! We’ve got a feeling this won’t be her last
So I’ll be honest with you. Before 22 March 2015, I’d never raced a half marathon before. Anything longer than 10k seemed excessive and unnecessary.
Before I accidentally ended up enlisting in the Vitality Reading Half Marathon, I couldn’t see why there was any reason a sane person would put themselves through over an hour’s worth of pounding the pavement with thousands of strangers. It’s not exactly the first thing that springs to mind when you say the word ‘fun’.
But how wrong I was!
I took the train from Paddington, ready to look like a complete loner. I was on my own, in full kit, ready to huddle in a quiet corner of the train and listen to my latest itunes download (Running Trax Gold, obviously). However, I soon realised at least 70% of the other passengers were wearing trainers, gearing up for the Reading Half. Before long I was chatting to the people around me about our hopes for the course and the free treats at the end. There’s nothing lonely about running.
From the station there’s a free shuttle bus taking you to the stadium where the race begins and finishes
From the station there’s a free shuttle bus taking you to the stadium where the race begins and finishes. It is good to bear in mind that there’s quite a large queue for this bus, so make sure you factor in this time to your journey. Having said that, the queue moves very quickly as everyone is already buzzing with excitement so there is little risk that you will actually miss the start.
Sorting out your kit and finding your staring pen was also made very easy thanks to great stewards who had sacrificed their Sunday to look after us – all with a smile.
The race starts in stages based on what time you’re aiming for. A friend of mine, who is an excellent runner, was however accidentally put in the wrong pen – but the stewards were more than happy for him to move to the correct group as soon as the admin error was seen. Great stewarding!
The course had been changed this year from quite a hilly route to one that was more flat. There were still some cheeky inclines scattered throughout but thankfully nothing too daunting.
There were even some beer stations spaced intermittently between the water stations
Reading was out in full force to cheer the 16,000 or more runners on. I don’t think I went longer than half a mile without listening to some motivational music or being offered sweets (these were a personal highlight). There were even some beer stations spaced intermittently between the water stations, if you needed some Dutch courage.
It was a sunny day and for the last couple of miles, we were running directly at the sun. Not the end of the world, but if you’ve led sheltered life, like myself, you may feel that this part of the race is on a par to crossing the Sahara desert. Tad dramatic, but I was just happy I was still able to concentrate after 11 miles.
Turning into the Madejski stadium and crossing the finish line was mind blowing. Well worth the 13 miles that had proceeded it.
One quick warning though, the plastic boards you run on can be a shock to the legs so watch out you don’t fall over (or slip if it’s wet). There are photographers at the finish line. If they snap you, you want to finish in style, not a heap on the floor.
I started the race with the hopes of a 1hr 45min time. I’m pleased to say I crossed the line in 1hr 35mins 34secs
I started the race with the hopes of a 1hr 45min time. I’m pleased to say I crossed the line in 1hr 35mins 34secs. Not quite the same as the fastest lady on the day at 1hr 10mins, but I was still very happy.
This is definitely a half marathon to do for first timers or regulars looking for a PB. It is a friendly course with an absolutely electric atmosphere. It also arrives at a brilliant time of year, just before spring and is an excellent way of shaking off the winter blues.
There’s plenty of food and drink to be had after you’ve picked up your kit. From healthy, to sugary and even boozy. This particular Vitality run of the series is sponsored by Mizuno. If you’re wearing their trainers, this gains you access to their VIP tent. Sadly my Nike’s didn’t get me in, but it looked like a lot of fun if you have the right kit!
The medal is also quite substantial, accompanied by a cracking goodie bag. This alone is a pretty good reason to go. And you can go alone! I went by myself and was surprised how many people I recognised there. Also, the atmosphere is so nice, you can pretty much talk to anyone and get into an excellent conversation.
Thankfully, the train back’s last stop was Paddington, so I had enough time to have a quick sleep before returning home to show off my swanky new medal.
Cracking Half 10/10.
Fancy entering the Vitality Reading Half next year? Keep an eye on their website for entries opening readinghalfmarathon.com