The 10th anniversary of the Maidenhead Half Marathon was commemorated by giving the race a unique twist. And that twist was that it wasn’t actually in Maidenhead!!
For one the venue was switched to Dorney Lake, which meant that, in keeping with tradition, it was still going to be a scenic, fast and flat course which could lend itself to some very quick times.
The reason for the change of venue was that the number of runners who signed up for it were quite low, meaning it was below the required threshold to justify closing roads.
On this occasion though Dorney Lake saved the day, enabling the race to go ahead in a safe and straight forward way.
There were a couple of Bournemouth AC members in the line up for the relocated Maidenhead Half Marathon, namely Anthony Clark and Sanjai Sharma.
It would probably be fair to say that both Ant and Sanjai had already become accustomed to running at Dorney Lake, since they’d both completed a marathon there.
Ant did his in Easter and it was pretty much the first big race that went ahead after the long winter lockdown. Despite having so much time without any racing on the agenda, Ant still managed to pull an excellent performance out of the bag to run it in 2 hours 33 minutes.
That was enough to see him take the crown for 1st M40 and come in in 9th position overall. It was a very impressive run. Could he follow that up with a top quality half marathon though?
As for Sanjai, he ran the Virtual London Marathon at Dorney Lake in October last year and despite some absolutely horrific conditions, he did much better than he thought he was going to, crossing the in 3:19:32.
That was quick enough to earn him Good for Age time for the next London Marathon as well but unfortunately there was a mix up with his entry which prevented him from doing his 20th consecutive London Marathon.
The day before the Maidenhead Half Marathon at Dorney Lake, Ant had recorded his fastest ever parkrun, coming in as first finisher at Poole with a time of 16:07.
That showed he’s in terrific form at the present time and his top end speed is very much there, despite the high mileage and big sessions he’s been putting in during the week.
Setting off very quickly, Ant opened his account with a 5:24 first mile and a 5:28 second mile. He was cooking on gas at that point but before turning into a headwind.
Even that couldn’t slow him down much though and his next six miles were all between 5:30 and 5:35 pace. Ant is usually pretty consistent with his splits and he was still operating at an impressive speed over the back five miles.
In fact, the 13th mile was the only one he went over 5:40 pace on so it was a very strong effort throughout, culminating in a finishing time of 1:13:19. That gave him an average pace of 5:34.
The only time he’s ever gone quicker than that was at Fleet in 2019 when he ran 1:12:31 so it showed that Ant is in terrific form. It was good enough to see him take 6th position overall in a field of 346 and he was also 2nd in the MV40 category, just behind Richard Price of Reading who got round in 1:12:59.
Ant does some of his training runs with Chris Wood of Wimborne AC and he paid the price a bit for his exuberant start but toughed it out well to record a time of 1:14:48. That put him in 10th place and 3rd MV40.
At the peak of his powers Sanjai would usually run his half marathons in around 1 hour 21 minutes. At the moment he’s some way off that though, having suffered with injury problems and a busy summer limiting his training time.
In truth, he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to complete the distance without stopping so he was actually quite pleased when he managed to get round in a time of 1:40:13.
It may have been his slowest ever half marathon time but he actually ran each of the four laps quicker than the previous so it turned out to be a good progressive activity.
Finishing in 113th place in the standings, Sanjai was 4th quickest in the MV60 category so still not a bad result, all things considered.
The race win went to Neil Kevern of Bracknell AC who completed the course in a lightening quick 1:09:23. That was enough to give him a winning margin of a minute over Pete Robinson who was 2nd in 1:10:25.
Aran Davidson of Chiltern Harriers continued his fantastic form of late to come in in 3rd place with a time of 1:11:26. The hard training paid off for Max Costley of Southampton and he took 4th in 1:12:15.
Naomi Mitchell of Reading was the fastest female, registering a phenomenal time of 1:16:44. That put her in 16th place overall and gave a huge margin of victory.
The next lady in was Tamsin Anderson of Winchester & District and she took 38th place in a time of 1:23:28. Nicole Swaffeld was 3rd female, crossing the line in 1:26:28, which put her in 51st place overall.
The only bad thing about running it at Dorney Lake is the repetitive nature of the course when you have to do four laps. Ant would have much preferred it to have been on the usual Maidenhead route, which renowned for being fast, flat and fun.
Saying that though, Ant usually tends to do quite well in repetitive type races. Who can forget his staggering performance in the 2018 World 100k Championships in Croatia? He finished 8th in that and 1st M40 and that was on a course of 7.5 km laps.
As the Autumn draws in, Sanjai is hoping he’ll be able to find more regularity with his training and will be able to perform better in cooler conditions.
With entries lined up for both the London Marathon and the Manchester Marathon it’s going to be a busy October for him. The way he’s running though, he’s certainly on course to do well in both races.