It was tipping it down as your runABC South reporter Alan Newman woke on Sunday (6 October). Volunteering to marshal the local half marathon suddenly seemed a less appetising prospect. Still, without volunteers none of us can race, so it was off to Judd School, Tonbridge at 8:00am with partner Sue James, waterproofs, several layers and plenty of trepidation.
We were allocated a point 1500m from the finish, within walking distance of the excellent Cafe In The Park, beside Barden Lake in Haysden Country Park. This unpretentious establishment does away with the accent in its name and serves superb coffee and hot breakfast rolls – an essential diversion between watching the race start and taking up our marshalling duties.
This being England the weather soon switched from winter to summer and we sweltered in our extra layers. We were looked after by local residents, who all seemed to have someone running in the ninth annual Tonbridge Half Marathon. Traffic was well-managed around closed roads and in truth we had little to do but support the precisely 800 finishers (in 3:18:02) as they negotiated the few remaining puddles on the previously partly flooded course.
The race was won by a Lonely Goat. Anthony Bradley (1:15:51) represents the online running community that can be joined via Instagram, Facebook or Strava. Runner-up Daniel Bradley (Tonbridge AC, 1:17:22) is a club stalwart whose family is woven into the fabric of the local athletics community. He was met by his mum Diane, who was in charge of the start and finish. Also under 1:20 was first master Bryn Jones (M45 Fulham, 1:19:42) as 34 runners completed the undulating, rural circuit in 90 minutes.
In the women's race there was a third Kent victory in five weeks for W40 Helen Gaunt (Tonbridge, 1:27:01) under pressure throughout from Serpentine W35 Becky Phillips (1:27:21). W50 Tina Oldershaw (Tonbridge, 1:31:09) was third. Helen Gaunt has made an impressive comeback after taking five years off to start a family – winning the Eridge Park Trail 10 and Larkfield 10K last month in her first races since 2014.
After a couple of hours had flown by we were stood down by the tail vehicle and we walked back to the Race Village to be debriefed by our Sector Leader. We were going to enquire about the salary but in truth we had already been paid handsomely in shouted 'thank you marshals' and sweaty hugs and kisses from grateful runners.
Image of Helen Gaunt courtesy Henry Andrews