Leith Hill Half Marathon 2017 by Andrea Hendy

Setting off yesterday (Sun 5th) morning at 08:30 from “the green” with the lovely Jenny Baker andMartin Bower heading down to Dorking, which was going to be – at least that’s what we expected – a very wet race indeed.  All of us had done this race at least once before and absolutely loved it. Even the desperate weather yesterday didn’t manage to dampen our enthusiasm for this race.  You gotta love hills and certainly not be bothered by a bit of mud, to thoroughly enjoy this race.  As we were driving through Dorking we noticed with great delight, that the weather seemed a lot brighter and drier down there then it was back in West London.  By the time we pulled into the car park of the Priory School (race HQ) the sun had come out.   

If you like a low key race that has not yet been spoiled by greed and over commercialism, then this is the race for you.  It’s always brilliantly organised.  You get a Tech T-shirt at the end - with all participants names printed on the back -, a full English breakfast (if you can stomach it after your race), a memento and of course the all important medal.  All the marshals and other volunteers are extremely friendly and encouraging.  The friendliest marshal of them all yesterday was of course Ealing Eagles Tom Irving who assisted at the finish line.  Thank you for volunteering Tom and hope you are back running very soon.  Tom and Harriet Betteridge had yet again signed up to compete in the renowned “Wife carrying race” which takes place just before the main race.  Its brilliant fun to watch and the kids love throwing buckets of water over the contestants as they struggle up and down the hill.  You don’t have to be married to the person you carry either, which in some cases is probably not a bad thing.  Tom and Hattie had put in plenty of practice – at least 20 seconds – and were feeling strong.  To give you a little taster here is a short clip of what it looked like.  Would be interesting to see what Hattie’s experience was like. Maybe next year Hattie you could fix a “go pro” to your helmet. Take a good look at the last person, carrying the heaviest wife.  I believe they hand out a prize for “heaviest wife” as well.  You gotta hand it to them....great sports.


With the wife carrying out the way and Olivia having made it back from her 5 mile pre race run in time for the Half Marathon it was time to line up.  Martin Bower, Jenny Baker, Olivia Parker-Scott, Harriet Betteridge and I were race ready.  However there was still one important “ritual” to complete pre race.  This was of course the singing of the National Anthem. I must admit, I had forgotten about this bit.  Yes, you did read correctly, singing the national anthem pre race is very much part of the whole experience.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the words. Mumbling is allowed and you will not incur any penalties by having time added to your finish time by doing so.  The race organiser, as always wearing his patriotic running shorts, will have you all sing your little hearts out before the start of the race.  By the way, when I say shorts I mean shorts.  This guy wears the shortest shorts I have ever seen.  Not sure how much shorter they could be, before they become a thong. Having a bit of a sing along is all just a bit of fun and is taken very light heartedly indeed.  It just gives this race a special note (no pun intended) and something a little different. 

And we are off......up the hill. 

The route is an out and back, with the “out” being tougher than the back bit.  After the recent rain there was certainly no shortage of mud along the way.  I figured that there were about 4 different techniques of how best to get through the mud.  There was the “ever so cautious runner” who moved through the mud almost in slow motion, resulting in every step they took to sink deeper and deeper into the mud.  Then you have the “slightly more daring runner” who will manoeuvre in and around the mud puddle, with more confidence and speed and look a bit more gracious compared to the “ever so cautious runner”.  Then you have the “quick step runner” who will take short and quick steps across the mud, landing each time with the toes first thus ensuring that you don’t have time to sink into the mud.  Last but not least, you have the “don’t give a shit about mud runner”.  Running straight through the mud full steam ahead is their motto, sending blobs of mud flying through the air.  I was a “quick step runner” on the way up, having converted into the “don’t give a shit about mud” on the way back.  Great fun!!

I had ran about 4.7 miles which had taken me 55 min, when the fastest runner came flying passed me heading in the opposite direction for a glory finish.  There was little me, struggling up the path, not even anywhere near half way, when this guy passed heading back already.  Awesome running!   The first Eagles passed me after about another mile.  It was Martin and Hattie, shortly followed by Olivia all still looking very fresh.  As I was reaching the last and very steep hill before the half way point I had Jenny coming down the hill giving me an encouraging “well done, keep going”. 

Finally reaching the top and with that the half way point, I was happy to find that the weather had not turned and the sky was still remarkably bright and sunny giving you a spectacular view over the lovely British countryside. You could stop and stare all you wanted, but after all you had race to run. 

Heading back and passing the food/water station again, I continued to make the most of the Jaffa cakes on offer.  I mean it would be rude not too, right?! I really like them as energy boosters during a race.  They also had jelly babies and other sugary jellies as well as water. 

After several more miles I had finally reached the steep steps, which are the last test of your endurance.  Everybody ahead of me was walking, well crawling up it and this of course included me. The heavy breathing that was going on scared the poor wildlife for several days I am sure.  And of course to top it all.......by the time you dragged yourself up this very last hill there was the photographer ready and waiting for you and your “race face”.  I wondered how much it would cost me to bribe this guy to make my photo look like I was running up hill, rather than being on my last leg.  Surely with today’s modern photo technology there is a way. Oh well....maybe not.  I am sure nothing tops my worst race face ever, which was crossing the finish line at the Reading Half Marathon in 2013.  Warning!! Do not try and find this picture.  It’ll leave you traumatised and in need of therapy for the rest of your life.

So from now on it was only downhill.......yippee.  I crossed the finish line, with a high five from Tom and a big grin on my face, as well as a massive sense of achievement.  I think it’s safe to say we all had a bloody good race and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves yet again at Leith Hill.

After a quick change we all had a lovely breakfast before heading back.

I’m looking forward to next year, with hopefully an even bigger flock of Eagles.