Race Review – The Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon

The Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon – the first goddamn race of the year…

It should have been so different. I had planned to start 2013 on a high, after the final successes of 2012 left me feeling buoyant about my running. I had, after all, taken over 10 mins off my 10K time and was hitting sub hours every time I raced. I was easily capable of running a half. The future was rosy. And then it turned to shit.
Just after the #virtualhalfmary or, actually, 3 days before the #virtualhalfmary I started feeling a little unwell. I had the sniffles and only boozy evenings at the Planet of the Grapes would fix it and it did, albeit temporarily. Within a week I had a case of the flu that would take out Christmas, my birthday, New Years, and the first race of 2013, the Bromley 10K.
Fear not, I thought, I have the Les Whitton 10 Miler in Dartford a week later. Wrong! The snow put paid to that.
But it would be ok. I had the Hadleigh 10K to come, on the mountain bike course from the Olympics, around a castle in Essex. Nope! Weather caused uncertainty, and, in the end, I gave up and stayed in bed.
So to the next race, another 10, this time at Eton Dorney, the lake where the Olympic rowing took place. Surely I would make it there. Nope! Travel restrictions meant a walk, 2 underground trains, 2 overground trains, and a costly taxi each way would get me there. So a round trip of 6 hours, and a £30 taxi bill for the sake of a 10K? Didn’t seem worth it to me, so instead I ran around the city.
So, with all this, the 30th running of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon became my first race of the year, with only three small training runs, 7 weeks off sick, literally no sleep due to the crappy hotel being on the road between all TWs nightclubs and the bus and train station, no breakfast and in the height of a cold snap that would mean, with wind chill, it would be -10. Not ideal from my part, whereas everything the race director and team did was perfect.

(Not very) Royal Tunbridge Wells

The town in Kent is about an hour away from London, so a train was taken to get there. The high street, upon which the station opens out, looked nice enough with decent shops, gastropubs and the like. The Barn was spied but then forgotten as the town was wandered around before the need for a pint drove us into The Guinea Butt. How can I describe this place?
This cesspool of a bar was filled with louts already steaming at noon. Really noisy, really drunk, really scary. Barely stayed for a pint (expecting a glass to be flung my way) before escaping and scuttling to The Barn, a much quieter and lovely gastro effort by the station. Food was enjoyed and then a good nights sleep was needed.


The Bates Motel (Bratislava circa 1976)

A good nights sleep was needed but not received. When I arrived at the Russell Hotel (£89 a night) I was not greeted by anyone and an ambulance man was waiting to be summoned to a room where an elderly guest could not be woken.
The place looked like Fawlty Towers, to the point that the side bar looked exactly the same and was only missing the Major bellowing ‘Fawlty!’ and demanding a drink. The restaurant, if it can be called that, was green. The staff, when they appeared Eastern European and pleasant enough. The room…. well, let me tell you about the room.
The room was orange! It was a nasty dysentery colour with a  feature wall that could cause epilepsy in the young. The TV was tiny, the UHT was actually off. How the HELL can UHT be off? The bathroom door wouldn’t close, not that I mind that being a boy, but there were no curtains at the windows. The room was very warm, which was good as it was freezing, and the beds and pillows were soft but somewhat small. I am not Robert Pershing Wadlow  but my feet and half my shins were off the bed as I slept.
And I use slept in the loosest sense of the word,because I didn’t.
The hotel is on the road where all the bloody nightclubs are. They vomit out the drunkard young at ungodly o’clock and the reprobates stumble down the hill toward the station, screaming and shouting at each other. Being on the first floor at the front of the hotel I had ringside seats for the animal circus that is the Tunbridge Wells club scene.
When they had gone, and I had a few hours of kip left, a bloody dog was let out by the next building and barked its little fluffy brains out for the rest of the morning until I got up, made the worst cup of tea ever and squeezed myself into a long sleeved and short sleeved under armour top, long sleeves leggings, shorts, singlet, new socks and sneaks.
I was still cold though and, upon arriving at the Expo, ignored calls to go to the start and get my More Miles tech tshirt at the end, got the tshirt and put that sucker on too.

The Route

The race took us through the mid Kent countryside, through tiny villages, each with its unique Norman stone church, thatched pub, tiny post office, and upper class locals.
I saw a dead badger frozen in death at 8K shortly before I slowed to a walk for the first time, and wanted to swap places.
I raced hills with a guy dressed as a panda, another with a hefty looking Bagpuss costume as big as an armchair.
Spring Hill was a sonofabitch
 There were ups and down, many of each, and it was cold. Wind chill was supposed to go down to -10, and with barely no cover from trees or hedges at times, I could well believe it. Still I persevered, and climbed and climbed, then controlled the run down ever aware that this was my first race of the year and circumstances were always against me.
But still, I did make it, and 10 mins slower than Amsterdam I finished proud, happy and starving.
And yes I did beat the guy dressed as Bagpuss, the guy dressed as a Panda and was back at the hotel from Hell and showered and dressed as people still ran.
Low point – the frozen badger corpse at 8K. No! Scratch that. The low point was another technological let down.

Nike Bloody Plus

Nike Plus always seems to let me down one way or another (See any post where I bitch about the website not updating, or the phone app not synching, or lack of connectivity.
 Well on this occasion at 14:31KM the bastard Nike Plus GPS watch stopped being a GPS watch and just became a watch. It was stuck on 14:31 due to lack of signal for about a kilometre, when I stopped the run and started anew.

The Obligatory Race Photo

It was so cold most of the run shots had me grimacing and shrinking my neck into my chest. Here at least I am smiling.
Note: Both feet off the ground means I am running.
Note 2: This was actually downhill at the time.

The Bling

I am a big fan of bling that isn’t a round disc of bleugh! And the TW Half did not disappoint with their 30th running medal designed for the occasion.


The Royal Tunbridge Wells half marathon was very well organised, with an army of helpers, nice medal, great coverage, bands on the run, thousands of spectators braving the cold, a great group of runners and I wouldn’t fault it at all. The weather, however, was a bastard and I ended the race blue. I looked like a fricking smurf.
Would I run it again? Absolutely! If the weather was better! If it was late Spring, early Summer it would be perfect.
I do recommend it highly, just not after 7 weeks off, no sleep, no breakfast, no training, and in sub zero temperatures.

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