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Race Report for the Cheltenham half marathon - Sunday 3 September 2023

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After a cool, damp and dismal July and August, summer finally returned to the UK on the weekend of the Cheltenham Half Marathon. Temperatures started to pick up on the Saturday, and by the Sunday there were azure blue skies to match. The conditions were to play a significant role in the club’s ‘hometown half’.

In all, 21 Striders lined up to run the 13.1 miles around the streets of Cheltenham. Starting from a new location at Cheltenham Racecourse, all lined up in their timing pens ready for the 9am start. In the end, the race didn’t set off until almost 9.25am – by which time runners were already hot and bothered, after standing, with no shade, for half an hour or more in the strong sunshine.

Once the race was finally off, Rob Green and Joe Willgoss made their way to the front of the field where they battled hard to run really well in the heat for 4th and 7th place respectively, Rob finishing in 1:15:04 (as 2nd in his MV40 category) and Joe in 1:15:40. Second claim runner Max Harrison-Tosatto was not too far behind in 1:18:23.

The next three Striders home all came in under the 90-minute mark with club debutante Claire Kennedy finishing in 1:28:30 in her first ever half marathon and as second lady overall. Club captain Will Pearce finished in 1:29:27, despite pulling a hamstring at about the 7-mile mark, and Adam Greenwood gritted his teeth to finish in 1:29:41.

Just outside the 90-minute mark were Alex Monro in 1:31:14 and Richard Tilson in 1:32:21. Making a return from injury, Sheng Peng battled for 1:37:25, with Aled Leaver not far behind and running a big PB of 1:37:55. Veterans Tim Brock and Paul Northup finished together but were given different times of 1:38:14 and 1:38:24 respectively.

Club newcomer Liam Richardson clocked 1:40:14, Nigel Bailey finished in 1:41:30, Deborah Rees was next home in 1:41:42 as 2nd in her LV45 category, Sergio Arnau Cano ran 1:42:03, and the ever-smiling Fiona Brady-Miller registered 1:47:27.

Nick Ledwold and Matt Ashman both came home in 1:54:24, but their time masked a much bigger story as they stopped to assist a collapsed runner on the final racecourse loop, staying with him for 20 minutes or so until adequate medical support had arrived. Last but not least were Anja Whelan in 1:57:24, Daniel Koschalka in 2:07:48 and Charlie Haward in 2:17:57.

Meanwhile, running the 10k distance on the day, Helen Knight finished 1st in her FV35 category and 2nd lady overall in 39:58, with Chris Driskell 3rd in his MV40 category in 40:40 and Julia Rose finishing in 53:11.

The club did itself proud and was strongly represented on the day and all the runners enjoyed the support around the streets of Cheltenham.

Despite it being the club’s ‘hometown half’ there remain real reservations about the finish (the desolation of the racecourse miles after the packed streets in town) and there were elements of the organisation that left a lot to be desired on the day (from the delayed and unexplained start through to the randomness of people’s finishing times – all at substantial variance to runners’ watches). The race organisers have been quick to acknowledge their mistakes and are promising to engage with local running clubs ahead of next year’s event. It seems that they are genuinely listening and learning and are committed to improving the experience for all runners next year.