Vitality Reading Half Marathon on Sunday (19 March) was the highest standard road race in Britain thus far in 2017 as almost 10,000 finished in magnificent Madejski Stadium, home of Reading FC. The first three men were under 64 minutes and Aldershot athletes Andy Vernon (1:03:08) and Charlotte Purdue (1:12:15) were the big race winners.
Vernon, fresh from his victory in the National Inter-Counties cross country, did not have it all his own way as Dewi Griffiths (Swansea) towed the leading trio through the initial 5k (14:44) and 10k (29:27) with some aggressive front-running before Chris Thompson (Aldershot) led by a second at the 15k split (45:07).
However, there was only one man through 20k inside the hour and that was Vernon (59:56) as he finally prised a precious gap with a brutal fourth 5k split (14:48) before striding to victory by 31 seconds from Thompson (1:03:39) and the courageous Griffiths (1:03:54), who was rewarded with a PB.
The quality continued as a second group of three finished inside 66 minutes: Richard Horton (Shaftesbury, 1:05:37), Kevin Seaward (Cardiff, 1:05:38) and Alex Teuten (Southampton, 1:05:54).
Purdue's progress was more serene as the IAAF World Half Marathon representative cruised to the women's title by 82 seconds from Gemma Steel (Charnwood, 1:13:37) and Katrina Wootton (Coventry, 1:14:18).
There were 100 finishers inside 75 minutes; 600 inside 90 minutes and the final finisher was cheered over the finish line in less than four hours.
Vitality Reading Half has come a long way since 1983, when the first race attracted 5,000 runners and was won by 21-year-old Reading University student Mark Curzons (1:07:45).
Full information, results and entry details for the 2018 race on Sunday, 18 March are at the Reading Half Marathon