Sanjai Sharma at Wokingham Half Marathon

BAC trio work their magic at Wokingham Half Marathon

Sanjai Sharma at Wokingham Half Marathon
Sanjai Sharma was one of the three Bournemouth AC members in action at the Wokingham Half Marathon, along with Graeme Miller and Simon Way

Following a relatively successful outing at the Bramley 20 on the previous weekend, Sanjai Sharma and Graeme Miller entered the next phase of their London Marathon training by participating in the Wokingham Half Marathon on Sunday 18th February. They were joined by Simon Way, who was racing it as part of a longer 20 mile training run as he also has his sights set on the London Marathon in April.

Selected to host the Berkshire County AA Half Marathon Championships for 2018, the Wokingham Half Marathon is the biggest sporting event the town has to offer, attracting a very high quality field, as well as a huge number of other runners of all ages and abilities. This year’s race featured a total of 1,867 who made it to the finish, giving an idea of the popularity of the race.

The course is renowned for being very fast and flat and for a runner at the peak of their powers, it is certainly PB material. In fact, it was in this very race that Graeme Miller secured his half marathon PB back in 2015, posting a phenomenal time of 1:15:38.

For this year’s race, Graeme was initially aiming for a sub 80 minute finish but after his recent afflictions at the Bramley 20 where his glute and hamstring tightened 8 miles in, he was unsure whether his legs would hold up. There was only one way to find out though and that was to give it a go.

Graeme Miller at Wokingham Half Marathon
Graeme Miller set his half marathon PB of 1:15:38 at Wokingham back in 2015 so he knew it was a course the suited him well

The plan was to run at between 6:00 and 6:05 minute miling. He was well on course for that up till the end of the 9th mile. In fact, at that stage he was a fair bit faster than his projected time. It was on the 10th mile when he could feel his legs begin to tighten a bit.

He went through the 10 mile point in 60:05 so was still on track to meet his target time. He really had to dig deep over the last 3 miles and lost a bit of time. Despite that though, he still managed to cross the line in 1:19:20, hence cracking the sub 80 minute target he was hoping for.

That put Graeme in 101st place overall, which underlines the high standard of some of the runners he was up against. He was 8th in the Vet Men 45-49 category, which is a pretty impressive result out of 207 people.

Graeme Miller at Wokingham Half Marathon
Graeme finished just outside the top 100 in a time of 1:19:20, putting him 8th in the Vet Men 45-49 category

Although he felt afterwards that he perhaps should have got in under 79 minutes, looking back at the run, Graeme was happy that he gave it his best shot.

Having competed in the Wokingham Half Marathon on no less than 5 previous occasions, Sanjai Sharma knows the course very well and understands what it takes to put in a good performance there.

Last time he did the race, back in 2016, Sanjai posted his best time so far finishing in 1:21:11. Therefore, that was the target to beat for this year’s edition.

Sanjai Sharma at Wokingham Half Marathon
It was Sanjai Sharma’s 6th time of entering the Wokingham Half Marathon so he knew exactly what he was in for in terms of the route

In truth though, Sanjai had no idea how he would do. He had in his mind to try and stay below 6:15 as an average pace. Although the last couple of miles proved a real challenge, with some tough inclines and a headwind to contend with, Sanjai managed to fulfil his objective, completing the course in a time of 1:21:08.

This eclipsed his previous best time for the course by 3 seconds and put him in 122nd position overall. In the Vet Men 50-59 category, Sanjai was 4th out of 255. His average pace for the distance came out as 6:13, so from all perspectives really, it was mission accomplished for Sanjai.

Sanjai Sharma at Wokingham Half Marathon
Sanjai completed the course in his quickest time yet, clocking a time of 1:21:08 and rendering him 4th in the Vet Men 50-59 category

As for Simon Way, he wasn’t planning to enter the race initially as he hadn’t really done any proper speed work lately. However, since his marathon schedule had him down for 20 miles, with 12 of them being at marathon pace, he thought he may as well do the half marathon as part of his session.

Before the race began, Simon had already done 5.5 miles. He was then hoping to slip into his target pace of 6:10 to 6:12 for the duration of the race. Whilst he did manage it for the first 6 miles, his pace then began to drop slightly.

Simon Way at Wokingham Half Marathon
Simon Way was doing the race as part of a 20 mile training run as he builds up towards his primary focus of the London Marathon

Finishing in a still very creditable time of 1:23:11, Simon took 159th place on the leader-board. That put him 9th in the Vet Men 50-59 category.

With an average pace of 6:22, it wasn’t quite what Simon was hoping for but was still not a bad training exercise, all things considered. He’s now turning his attention to the Bath Half Marathon, in a week on Sunday.

He’s been putting in some hard training this week and with a mini taper next week, he is hoping for a much improved performance at Bath. The Bath Half Marathon is in fact Simon’s PB course, after he clocked a time of 1:17:17 there in 2014.

Simon Way at Wokingham Half Marathon
Simon crossed the line in a time of 1:23:11, putting him in 159th place overall and 9th in the Vet Men 50-59 category

Another man in action at the Wokingham Half Marathon who the Bournemouth AC fraternity will be familiar with was Craig Palmer. Craig competed for BAC in the Hampshire Cross Country League fixtures this season and did extremely well, finishing the season in 4th place overall.

Representing his first claim club of Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers in the Wokingham Half Marathon, Craig ran superbly, finishing in 7th place overall, scoring himself a stunning new PB of 1:10:59.

The race was won by Scott Overall of Blackheath and Bromley AC, who left everyone else trailing in his wake, completing the course in an incredible 1:05:11. Rob Corney of Reading Roadrunners took 2nd place in a time of 1:09:20, with Jonathon Roberts of Southampton AC in 3rd with a time of 1:09:40.

The first lady over the line was Naomi Mitchell of Reading AC who finished in a very impressive 1:17:52. Claire Grima of Hercules Wimbledon was 2nd in 1:18:26, with Marta Bagnati of Serpentine in 3rd, finishing in a time of 1:19:35.