I entered this just 4 days before the event, after the euphoria of watching marathon machine man, my son-in-law (henceforth refereed to as MMM) complete 3 marathons in 3 days, each one faster than the previous, and my daughter getting a podium finish in the Richmond Marathon and then running a PB in a 10k next day. The least I could do was accompany MMM to another marathon and do a half myself. It also would serve as useful training for myself, particularly to see how well I had recovered from 3 long runs over the previous 2 weeks.
The unusual timing, starting at 1.00pm on Saturday afternoon was very useful as it allowed me to participate in my normal Riddlesdown Parkrun before getting a lift in a car then taking a tram and 2 buses to the start. No attempted at a 4th PB in 4 weeks for the Parkrun, just a gentle plod around to add another towards my target of 50 before my next birthday, as in my New Year Resolutions. Despite the as-the-crow-flies distance from Riddlesdown to St Mary Cray, where the Orpington Half and Full Marafuns start and finish, of about 18km I didn’t arrive until after midday, just a few minutes before MMM passed the start/finish line at the beginning of his 2nd lap.
The cool, cloudy and not too windy-for-most-of-the-race conditions made it ideal for running. However we did have a very heavy downpour, lasting about 5 minutes, at around the 16k mark. It didn’t cause major running problems, but did cause me real seeing difficulties. It washed all of the salt that had accumulated on my forehead and presumably my scalp, into my eyes and that stung so much I couldn’t open them properly. Strange I have no problems when swimming in the sea, it must be so much more concentrated this way. The organisers described the course as “naturally undulating with a couple of challenging hills”. I must say I didn’t find it particularly undulating, but the 2 hills were challenging. I did know the one right at the end, I walked up it to the start of the race (and if you do this next year, it is a good idea to look at it before the start). But the other, at the 8 mile mark, was a real surprise. It was a trail off the London Road and up to over the railway near Knockholt station then through Chelsfield lakes golf course. Others around me also walked up part of it and even MMM said he had walked it on his second circuit.
I didn’t look at my GPS until well over halfway through the race when I was pleased to see I was spot on the pace I am aiming for over the next 5 months as I prepare for the Amsterdam marathon. I showed 11.2 km/h as I reached the final hill so a PB was on the cards. That hill did slow me, but the PB was achieved by almost 30s with a time of 1:53:36, very satisfying after the earlier Parkrun and the 2 hills, neither of which I had to contend with when I set my previous time in the Marseille half. When I loaded my run from my Kalenji I was surprised to find the average speed for my Parkrun and the half were exactly the same, 11.1 km/h, at last I seem to be able to run from the start at a ‘sensible’ and consistent pace.
It is a well organised and very well signed course. There were marshals at the really major crossings, and plenty of water points; at one a marshal even ran across a corner to take my cup from me to prevent me littering when I had finished with it! It is cheap, actually free to enter; voluntary donations in respect of entry fees go to Footsteps International which cares for street children and orphans in Kenya. And you still get a medal!
Even though it is a small local run, there were some very seasoned runners taking part, in both the half and the full marathon. I saw 3 runners in 100 Marathon Club running tops, signifying they were members of that elite group who have run more than 100 marathons. One I spoke to on the way round, Danny Kay, has run more than 460.
So I will say to anyone looking for a run, where your money goes to a great cause, there are lots of friendly people and starting at a time where you can have a lie in or even do your Parkrun first, DO IT. I will certainly be returning.