Simon Goldsworthy set the pace for nearly 1,500 runners in the 35th Hendy Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning (18 February). Simon (1:11:21) was only 18 seconds outside his PB, set at Woking last year, as Maria Heslop (Tonbridge, 1:22:25) recorded her fourth victory on this notoriously hilly course.
Simon Goldsworthy quickly established a lead from the start outside Fusion Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre and headed for the hills that are such a feature of this challenging course. After an opening mile on the A26 through busy Southborough the route passes pretty villages like Bidborough and Penshurst before the 300 foot ascent of Spring Hill to Fordcombe.
From here the runners visit Langton Green and Rusthall, with views from Mount Ephraim across High Rocks, before the welcome descent to the finish. Tunbridge Wells Harriers (TWH) have honed the event organisation over the years and provide pacers from 1:30 to 2:20 as well as free massage and a technical long sleeve top for all finishers.
Although the temperature stayed in low single figures the sun shone and there was very little wind, so conditions were just about perfect. With the winner setting a brisk pace there were impressive times behind as local favourites Billy Hobbs (TWH, 1:12:44 PB) and former winner Julian Rendall (Tonbridge, 1:13:16) completed the podium.
Maria Heslop completed a hat trick of consecutive wins, having also won in 2014. The W50 master was two seconds faster than last year and her time is among the top 10 UK all time in her new age group. Heslop was followed home by team mate and fellow W50 Tina Oldershaw (1:25:03), who is the most successful athlete at this event with five victories this century. Georgina Frost (Orpington RR, 1:27:11 PB) was third, improving her 2010 best at Hastings by an astonishing 10 minutes!
More than 100 athletes broke 90 minutes and Graham Brooks of the host club had the honour of closing the race in 3:30:38 to head his category as the sole M80 finisher.
Full results and race information are available at runABC South race listings
Image courtesy Tunbridge Wells Harriers/X-Cell Aerial Surveys