Maidenhead Half

Date: Sun 6th September 2015

Race capacity: 2000+ (1581 finishers)

Distance from Brighton & Hove – 75 miles. Excellent free town centre parking 100m from the start line & Race HQ

After our team victory at Lydd in March, Gary, Alan & Dan went for a reprise at the Maidenhead half marathon. Like Lydd it was targeted as a fast course with PB-potential ahead of imminent marathons (Berlin for Al & Dan, Chicago for Gary). Every story needs a fall guy. At Lydd it was Ben Scammels, who hasn’t raced since. This time – quite literally in fact – it was Alex Jago. At least that’s his excuse for a DNF.    
So, at 7am on a bright, sunny & wind-free September morning the valiant Arena quartet set off for the delights of Maidenhead. Not quite Slough’s ugly little sister, but not the prettiest either. Shortly after setting off we realised that we harbouring an illegal immigrant. Even worse, it was a Hove Hornet. This being Brighton not Calais, we let him get down from the roof, gave him a cuddle, and let Scott Crossley into the car. He then had the cheek to repay my generosity by kicking past me at 13 miles to beat me by 7 seconds. No gratitude these west hove wasps. Sign him up Arena!
An easy journey, very convenient parking and a short walk to Race HQ at Maidenhead Town Hall meant we were all ready in good time for the 9:30 start. The initial irritation of having to queue up for race packs quickly dissipated (there was no queue), and large provision of portaloos reduced pre-match anxiety (there was no queue). Even less of a queue for those of the quintet who invaded the local Wetherspoons. For a penny rather than a pint you understand. After weeks of poor weather, the talk in the starting pen switched to whether it was actually a bit too hot. And then we were off.   
The route starts and finishes at the Town Hall. It has one large loop (c.8 miles) and then a smaller loop that does some of the same roads. It’s almost entirely flat (apart from a nasty uphill last 50 metres that nearly cost me a PB). As Al and Gary will discover, not as entirely flat as Berlin or Chicago, but not far off. Dan & Scott set off at their pre-determined 6-minute mile pace (targeting sub-1:20 & hopefully sub-1:19) as Gary & Alan gradually disappeared into the distance. Alex was planning to go sub-1:30 in his first road half. His attempt was cruelly ended when an aggressive paving slab jumped up at him after 3 miles, causing him to “twist his ankle”. Having scooped up his ripped ligaments so that they could be re-attached later, he bravely limped on for another 5 miles, but then dropped out so that he could get to the finish line first and cheer on the returning heroes. Any rumours that Alex’s broken toe nail was caused by an over-keen runner veering in front of him can be discounted. We don’t believe him. Sub-1:30 will have to wait.
Last year established Maidenhead’s PB potential – Emily P, Gary & Kev Martin all smashed them, and Jim Watson & Mark O’Gara did their second-best ever times. The five of them AVERAGED sub-1:23:55. This year was even better – Alan took another 2 mins off his PB (Feb ’15, Brighton Half) to come home 6th in a scarcely-believable 1:15:00 (5’43 mile pace!!!), Gary took 3 mins off his PB from the same race in Feb to grab 12th place in 1:16:44 whilst I took A WHOLE 2 SECONDS off my PB (Feb ’14 Brighton half) to get 29th in 1:19:00. The 3 of us therefore averaged 1:16:55. Now there’s a target to beat next year. Had there been a team prize, we’d have won it. In addition, Arena-for-the-day Scott Crossley went sub-1:20 for the first time in 1:18:53 (26th). A great day all round, if we ignore the ginger whinger. As most of us do.
In the last 18 months or so Alan has now taken over 5 mins off his half marathon PB. Gary is more like 16 minutes! I’ve eked out 2 seconds. Onwards & upwards…   

What else to say? Pluses: Well organised, chip-timing, quick course, good water stations with bottles not cups. Nice medals. Bananas. Fruit Mentos! Minuses: Despite the £26 entry fee they don’t post out race packs, and are not runbritain-licensed (so times don’t appear on Power of 10 or runbritain rankings) and no team prize. Cheapskates methinks. Not the most scenic of route, although I did see the river Thames briefly. I think. Bit of a schlepp to get home with tired legs (hour to get there, 90 mins home). Alex did briefly cheer up though whilst stuck in M25 traffic at Heathrow when he spotted Jamie Redknapp driving his new S63 AMG Coupe. Exciting. Alan & Gary then reminisced for half an hour about Jamie’s missus, Louise. Who was in Eternal apparently. Or was it Mis-Teeq? Or Girls Aloud? Or All Saints? Could have been One Direction for all I knew. Happy days, I’m sure.
Well done boys – see you there next year… 

Dan Vaughan, 10/09/15