Let’s Call it a VERY Long Cross Country

Henley Half Marathon

by David Killick


So I am not up with the running terminology so in my mind, trail running is between nice tarmac and mudswamp cross country.  The course at Henley meanders its way from the park at Henley, with the rowers being shouted at by rather large blokes on bikes with megaphones to a place called Hurley where you turn (more about that later) to head back towards Henley where you turn again and then back to the park and finish.  Tarmac, grass, paths, gravel, mud, undulating hills etc etc.


I have to say before I write my autobiography of the race that this is a professional company that organise this and in comparison we run the Leighton 10 so much better.  I think we should have a side arm and do race events and take over some of these things.  It would make running so much more popular (by the way I know the guys that run the company and I will be feeding back about the mess up at 9km see below)


I was doing this event as I wanted to break a long standing 1/2 marathon PB set in 2008 at Windsor of 1.43.00 and Mrs K managed to get me a race discount.  Foolishly I booked the race then forgot it was the brewery open day on the Saturday and also England v Wales in the rugby.  Well, as I like science, I still did the brewery as a carb loading experiment with a nice couple of pints during the game.  Mo Farah needs to learn from this I am sure and its definitely legal and it works for me.


The weather on Sunday couldn’t have been better, chilly start but sun came out and it was awesome.  Now for the quality of athletes, this isn’t an elite running event (although Glen Turner did win it in the first year and vowed never to return again because they didn’t open the kissing gates for him).  I figured this out quite quickly when at the start and for the first 3 km of the actual race I found myself behind the lead bike and acting pace maker for the group behind me.  Gradually the field sorted itself out and I think they worked out that wearing a club vest didn’t mean that I am an elite athlete and therefore should be in the lead.  So gradually I settled into 6th gradually running at 4.30km pace (sorry for you milers out there but you can do the maths!).


At 9k, there is meant to be a turning point with cones and you would hope a marshal.  I ran past thinking on the map that is where I am meant to turn but seeing as the lead bike and leaders had gone through I carried on.  200 metres on I was met by the lead bike coming back saying turn around followed by the leaders etc.  Basically someone had decided to bin the cones and without a marshal it caused a bit of a “what the heck?” moment. I think I threw my dummy out the pram and said few shocking words.  For the next KM I don’t think I wasn’t mentally right (if ever I am), so 2 people overtook me but gradually I settled back down to race pace and what I had targeted as 1.35 (gladly this mess up didn’t impact the overall race result as we discussed afterwards although I did dispute I would have been into negative split mode had it not been for this)


Not much happened for the next load of trundling KMs as we passed the start point again and headed towards Henley.  The guy who was about 300metres in front at the Henley turning point was dying on his feet so caught up with him and then turned the last 2km into a sadomasochistic speed session running up and down the gears as he kept with me (I think he liked it also).  Finish wise I crossed the line with him as he insisted my games in the last 2km had kept him going and a not to shabby 1.34.25 according to chip timing. 6th overall and 2nd in age group just missing out on a shiny trophy.


Not as classic an event as the efforts in Berlin and Loch Ness but hey you still gotta be in it to win it.  Came away with a PB for 1/2 marathon which is even more impressive as this was trail, gearing towards that 3.30 marathon time and a nice way to start the cross country season.