The 32nd running of the Tunbridge Well Half Marathon took place on the 22nd February. It was a cold morning and the hard overnight frost had left some very icy patches on the course which the Harrier volunteers treated with salt prior to the race start. By the time of the race start at 09:00 the temperatures had risen slightly and the sun came out to shine on the 1660 buoyant runners as they set off to the sounds of Bloco Fogo drummers on the circular half marathon route of 13.1 miles from St. John’s through Southborough to Bidborough, Penshurst, up Spring hill to Fordcombe before returning via Langton Green, Langton, Rusthall then along Mt. Ephraim and St. John’s again to the finish at the Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar School.
The race was started by our very own Dame Kelly Holmes representing her charity the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and her recently opened Cafe 1809. Kelly wished the runners well and offered a special discount to the runners at her cafe after the race. Kelly was also supported by Hamish McGowan of Kia UK representing Lifestyle Kia the event main sponsor. Unfortunately Kelly was unable to stay and present the finishing medals but Hamish and David Coleman Olympian representing the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust stayed and stood in the cold for hours giving out the medals.
The first runner home Daniel Bradley from Tonbridge AC finishing in 1hr 12mins and 59secs which was 3 seconds faster than his time the year previously. Daniel was followed by his team mate Daniel Watt in second place in 1:15:07. Dan had run the National Cross Country the previous day at Parliament Fields otherwise it might have been a tighter finish. The third runner home was Martin Proctor in 1:15:23. Julian Rendall was the third Tonbridge AC runner in 1:15:45 making Tonbridge AC the winning men’s team.
After the event it was discovered that Daniel Bradley’s father Cain Bradley won the race in 1985 exactly 30 years previously. It would have been exactly to the day but in 1985 the race was held on the 12th May.
The first lady to finish was Alice Heather-Hayes of the Tunbridge Wells Harriers and this is only the second time in the race history that a Harrier has won the race outright. Alice finished in 26th place overall in a time of 1:22:33.
Tina Oldershaw from Paddock Wood coming back from injury and supporting a cold was second lady 41st overall in 1:24:51. Maria Heslop also of Paddock Wood and last year’s winner, running for the Bridge Trust plus carrying a slight injury was 3rd lady to finish in 1:25:00 in 43rd place overall.
The oldest competitor in this year’s race was Graham Brooks 82 of the Tunbridge Wells Harriers and he completed the course in 3:10:37.
For the 2015 race there were 2015 online entries and in total there were 1565 finishers of the race. Entries for the race were managed by Race Nation and the timing of the race was managed by HS Sports. Full race results can be found at www.chiptiming.co.uk/
The Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon is organised by Tunbridge Wells Harriers and its organising team who are all volunteers. It is understood this is probably still the largest event held organised by runners for runners on a voluntary basis. Without the many volunteers from the club, member’s family and friends, local organisations, village residents and many others who give up a great deal of their time, the event would not have taken place.
This year was the second year for Race Director Mark Taylor who took over from Sarah Russell who had managed the event for six years previously. Due to a clash with the Brighton Half Marathon entry numbers were slightly reduced this year the race was once again another terrific success though with 2,015 runners entering the event.
For the fifth year Lifestyle sponsored the event, this year under the Kia name. In addition to providing invaluable support leading up to the event Lifestyle also supplied all the transport requirements which are invaluable in managing the event. Lifestyle also had 18 employees running the race and supporting the Pickering Centre in Tunbridge Wells. This year they have again raised a large amount of money for the Centre and in the past 5 years this takes the total to well over £40,000.
This is the last year that Lifestyle will sponsor the event and so the Tunbridge Wells Harriers are now looking for a new sponsor for the 2016 event. If you know of a business or organisation that would like to partner the Harriers next year please ask them to contact the Harriers via email twhalfmarathon @gmail.com or by calling 01732 832948.
This year the half marathon main charity partners were Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, The Counselling Centre, The Bridge Trust. The race also supported Tunbridge Wells Citizens advice Bureau, The Pickering Centre, Hospice in the Weald, Compaid and Cardiomyopathy Association. Some of these charities had stands at the race HQ the Fusion Sports Centre. From the surplus funds, which are at present unknown the Tunbridge Wells Harriers will donate to these charities plus the many others organisations and schools which help with the event. This year via the Race Nation entry system we were able to manage Charity donations given by the runners and at the close of entries the runners alone donated £3040 in excess of their entry fee with a further £498 pledged via sponsorship.
This year as last year was an earlier start time of 09:00 to try and overcome some of the traffic issues associated with previous years. Unfortunately whatever time the race is run it will inconvenience many people around the course so thanks to everyone who may have been inconvenienced on the day and who happily tolerated the situation. You all played your part in making it a successful event and which will hopefully allow the event to continue. This in turn will allow the Harriers not only to carry on providing a now renowned Half Marathon for the runners but will also enable all the local charities to continue to benefit from any surplus the event makes.
Special recognition must go to the many sponsors and contributors to the event, Lifestyle Kia, Custom Fit suppliers of the winner category prizes, Strathmore Water for supplying all the bottled water, Compagnie Frutiere Paddock Wood for the bananas, Jordans, Kent and Sussex Courier, Freeway Exhausts and Freight Transport Association for parking, Mitchells Printing Ltd, Girl Friday Graphics, Running Hub, k4sportsrehab who organised the massages, AXA PPP Healthcare, Velo House and the Leicester Arms, Penshurst.
This event would not be possible without the help and assistance of Tunbridge Borough Council, Kent Highways, Kent Police, Fusion Sports Centre & staff, Tunbridge Boys Grammar School allowing the use of their entrance car parks, St. Gregory’s School for the use of their school grounds for parking. Skinners Grammar School for allowing parking at the school and manning water stations. St. John’s Church of England Primary School for parking. The Masonic Lodge and Tunbridge Wells Tennis Club for parking. Lastly people not mentioned who contributed in many ways but particularly the many marshals who stood out in the cold seeing the 1560 plus runners safely round the course.
Planning for next year’s event is underway already with the intention of holding the event around the same time next year.