Scott Overall and Steph Twell were the Olympic pedigree athletes at the front of a 12,000 field in the Sage Reading Half Marathon, back on Sunday (17 March) after a weather enforced absence of one year.
The magnificent Madejski Stadium, home of Reading FC, hosted the finish in front of an estimated 15,000 spectators, while the start and race village was in Green Park, just across Foudry Brook – a few hundred metres away as the crow flies!
The first Reading Half Marathon started and finished at Reading University in White Knights Park and there were 5,000 runners led by local student Mark Curzons (1:07:45). Since those early days Sweatshop played a large part for 15 years and developed the current course, which still passes through the beautiful grounds of the University campus, and features the spectacular finish.
Goldline Events took the helm for 2018 but the race was cancelled due to snow and ice on the course, so this was the first chance for the new race management to shine, along with new title sponsors Sage. Judging by the social media posts they succeeded, with this message from Kelly Doe (5,392nd in 2:13:03) being representative: “Forget us runners...everyone supporting out there did Reading proud and deserves a medal too! From the cheering, shouting your name, jelly baby handouts, bands, kids high fiving. All of it makes our run so much easier and enjoyable”!
At the business end of proceedings, after Sir John Madejski and Paul Woodward, Deputy Mayor of Reading had signalled the start, London 2012 Olympian Scott Overall (Blackheath, 1:03:50) took the race win as he finalises his preparations for the Boston Marathon. Matt Clowes (Cardiff, 1:04:03) was a close runner-up and Paulos Surafel (Thames Valley Harriers, 1:04:12 PB) third.
An Olympian in 2008 and 2016, Steph Twell (Aldershot, 1:11:37) narrowly missed her recent PB in the Big Half as she continued her purple patch of form to finish 69 seconds ahead of her Aldershot club mate Louise Small (1:12:46), who ran a huge PB by a minute in the women's category. Stephanie Davis (Clapham Chasers, 1:14:04 PB) was third with another whopping best.
The date for 2020 is Sunday 5 April and early bird entries are available now - and that gets a big thumbs up from Louise Small and Steph Twell!