The Sage Reading Half has long been a favourite among runners, particularly as a pre-London tune-up. Unfortunately it was one of the races affected by the ‘beast from the East’ last year. Despite some pretty wild and windy conditions leading up to the race it was blue skies all the way this year as more than 12,000 runners turned out.
From start to finish, you can tell that the organisers know what they are doing. The pre-race communications were brilliant, answering any questions you might have about the event. There was plenty of parking, free buses from the station to the start, and a huge and a well-signed runners’ village outside the impressive Madejski stadium, where the run finishes.
Starting at 10.15 gave runners time to arrive, get settled and use the facilities – of which there were many! The start line was 5 minutes walk from the village, but there was plenty of space to get everyone there and organised ahead of time. The start pens were big enough to allow everyone easy access – none of the elbows and pushing to the front required – the organisers had It well laid out so you could easily walk to your designated pen, then find a spot near the finish time pacer you were interested in, or just hang out in plenty of space for pre-race stretching (this was certainly the case in the red pen, I’m not sure about the others). Quite a few toilets here too, which was a welcome relief for many.
Once we started, the course itself is quite scenic and very runnable – it’s fast and wide, so there was little congestion or frustration with other runners in the way. There were 15 pacers on the course, running to all the ‘milestone’ times, and plenty of water stations. Here they were using water bags or pouches this year to cut down on plastic waste, which I thought worked really well. All drinks stations were well marked so runners have time to adjust their road position accordingly.
I was surprised at the lack of obvious uphill – there were one or two big-ish hills, but the downhill seemed to outweigh the up, which was rather nice. As were the crowd , who were amazing! There was not one section of the course that was quiet – lots of very enthusiastic people, music and cheering around the whole route. Even one couple sat drinking champagne on the verge, which was impressive at that time of morning. I was super impressed with the atmosphere and the support all the way around the course.
The last 2 miles take you down a dual carriageway back to the stadium finish – with a headwind today this was a bit painful but coming up the hill and into the stadium was a real treat at the end of a thoroughly pleasant run! Who doesn’t like a stadium finish?
In the men’s race, Scott Overall flew over the finish line in a time of 1:03:50. Matt Clows took second position in 1:04:03 and Paulos Surafel, crossed the line seconds later in third place, 1:04:12. In the women’s race, Stephanie Twell took the top spot, completing the course in 1:11:37. She was followed by Louise Small, with a race time of 1:12:46 and Stephanie Davis, in third place 1:14:05.
Men’s champion, Scott Overall said: “We had a good field out there this year, so it was a tactical event for me. The support out in the town was fantastic, as always, and it pushed me through to a strong finish. I wanted to cross the line sub 64 minutes and I got it! All great race preparation for Boston just round the corner.”
Stephanie Twell, winner of the women’s race, added: “The atmosphere was electric. Today was my first time at Reading and I loved it, even more so taking a new PB home today! I will definitely be back next year.”
I was very impressed with the whole event – you can tell the organisers have done this before! The race itself was brilliantly organised and marshalled, and the pre and post race care was of a very high standard. I even got a text message with my time 10 minutes after finishing, which I really appreciated as I was struggling to work out the chip time compared to the clock time.
Now, as the weather was good and I got a PB, I am probably a little biased, but I’d give this 10 out of 10, and despite ‘hating’ road races, I would definitely do this one again.
Goldline Events, the event organiser, has confirmed the date of the 2020 race, Sunday 5th April. Entries are open now, guarantee your spot today and take advantage of the Early Bird offer. For further details visit www.readinghalfmarathon.com
For full results of the 2019 Reading Half go to www.readinghalfmarathon.com/race-info/2019-results.htm
Header image copyright Reading Half Marathon/Leigh Quinnell