VRUK team 2nd at Tonbridge Half Marathon, 23 Sep

VRUK team 2nd at Tonbridge Half Marathon, 23 Sep
VRUK team with Kelly, drama to follow for Paul especially

Confirmation that Paul did complete the course

Peter Simpson reports on VRUK’s south-east England autumn target event, originally suggested by local member Christopher Shoebridge or known on Facebook as Chromis. Many of our competitive men came together for the Tonbridge event including Simon Dally from Bolton. The intention of advertising it as a south-east target was to encourage members within a reasonable distance of the venue to meet-up. Other targets were also being selected for other regions after some members had already entered.

The host club, Tonbridge AC is by chance the home club of Double Olympic Champion, Kelly Holmes who planned to be involved publicly on the day whilst not running herself. Kelly would be giving medals to most runners as they finished and presenting the prizes later at the presentation. The local venue was the K College also on the edge of the countryside and a short walk from the railway station.

Originally the weather for the event was looking promising but closer to the event, there was heavy rain and wind on the way that members further afield would know about in the subsequent hours and days, a once in 30-year storm affecting some areas.

The Tonbridge event was limited to about 1300 entrants and on the day would be less than that figures due to dropouts, making it potentially easier for members to meet-up without precise arrangements. I managed to get there relatively early just after 9am and was immediately impressed by the modern college, its facilities, the organisation and slick team of volunteers. The changing area was in fact classrooms rather than proper changing rooms but still good enough for its purpose.

The canteen facilities were open before the start for a quick drink if needed so could not resist a quick tea with my own supply of soya. I am not a regular sports drinker or gel consumer. It was a while before I saw the first member, Christopher but had seen others and as I got moving around, many of our vests were in evidence outside in the car parks, also close to the start. I had soon met everyone apart from Dave Arnold. There was a pre-start line-up inside the college grounds where we went through the obligatory speeches before being herded onto the road. With about a minute to go, Dave makes his normal appearance, leaping over the barrier and onwards to an advanced start position. Christopher and myself were aiming for a similar time of around 1.40. It was assumed that Paul Loader, John Bateson and Simon Dally were close to the start line whereas Keith Gilbert and Linda Faulkner were together in the 2 hours zone.

After the event, the local TV station Meridan reported on the event in the news and prior to the start, news clips showed Paul and John on the start-line although later as the event started they were further back. The first signs of the storm had started on time for the start of the event but it was slow to develop. Although we had a potentially strong team, Simon had an injury and was overcoming a recent cold, John had not done much racing this year, focusing on completing a 100-mile event in August and similarly, Paul has been taking it relatively easy since the London Marathon in April. Our 2nd team of runners were generally the more active at present.

The start for me and Christopher appeared to be smooth but it wasn’t long before we were climbing, it was quite undulating until the 2nd third or middle of the course. I did not notice any traffic on the course, there weren’t any pavement to mount and the surface was quite good. The wind was also generally light and in our direction as we headed in a westerly direction but it was only going to deteriorate as the race progressed and as we turned back easterly. The 2nd third of the course on the flat made us feel comfortable and passing through the village of Leigh there was a significant crowd, it seemed like everyone was out supporting us.

I was however a little concerned whether my calves would hold out so was not tempted to race hard. On the return we did cover part of the same route in reverse but the steepest climbs did feel harder than on the outward section plus we were going into the wind and rain. A photographer was sitting down on one of those wet hills with no protection it seemed. No surprise that I slowed and lost some places with the rain settling on the glasses making it rather hazardous. The course did even out a bit for the last mile or two, the 13-mile marker did appear to be too early with a long run to the line but no overhead finish sign, making it a little difficult to determine when it was going to end.

Then I was being presented with my quality medal by Kelly Holmes, a goody bag that had useful energy bars if not all vegan and a separate banana. Leaving the finish area, all four of our runners were together despite the wet and windy conditions and immediately obvious still in their vegan runners vests, a welcome sight. Within a minute or two Christopher followed, if only I had a camera or we had arranged our personal photographer. I was unaware that the first three in our team had a photo taken with Kelly. I did go inside to retrieve my camera but due to feeling cold and wet, needed to dry out and put on some top clothing. It was no surprise that the team had followed as I headed back outside. Keith and Linda were still to follow as the weather continued to deteriorate. To see the results and prize winners click here and our results spreadsheet for our times [the VRUK winning team: 13th John 1.22 , 29th Simon 1.26 and 30th Paul 1.26 (unofficial until days later)]. 

John Bateson approaching the finish

Simon Dally approaching the finish

Paul Loader nearly finished

The glorious team so they thought!

The best of five of VRUK

The team met up again upstairs at the presentation with John and Simon convinced that we had one of the three men’s team prizes. We were to be disappointed but still showed a brave face and took team photos. We headed back downstairs to the cafe to continue the social and met Linda who unfortunately experienced the worst of the conditions and was suffering with the cold or mild hypothermia. She bravely joined us. Leaving later three of us needed to get the train and we were kindly offered a lift by Dave to avoid the heavy rain. Keith and myself also traveled together onto Ashford as I head onto Folkestone to the relatives for a brief visit.

It was later on receiving a text from Paul that his chip time had not been recorded and felt we had been robbed, especially at the awards presentation. We were informed on the website that the missing results would be determined in due course. We had to wait until the end of the week for it to be confirmed officially that we had won 2nd men’s team prize. Great results for club especially taking into consideration that they were not on top form. Next year maybe we will be first team with other potential winning members competing for the men’s team prize.

Left: Dave Arnold, Simon Dally, John Bateson, Peter Simpson, Keith Gilbert

Dave’s request for our legs to be displayed once more

The presentation that omitted VRUK due to chip problems