Rich Brawn at the Berkhamsted Half Marathon

Chris, Helen and Rich Brawn in Half Marathon action

Rich Brawn at the Berkhamsted Half Marathon
Rich Brawn returned to his old stomping ground to battle it out at the Berkhamsted Half Marathon, whilst Chris O’Brien and Helen Ambrosen took on the Oakhaven Hlf Marathon

As the stormy weather raged on, so did the running, as marathon season entered an excitingly busy phase for runners up and down the country. 177 participants turned out for the Oakhaven Half Marathon in the New Forest, including Chris O’Brien and Helen Ambrosen from Bournemouth AC.

On that same day, Richard Brawn had travelled back to his roots to get reacquainted with the venue of his first ever half marathon, Berkhamsted, in Hertfordshire.

Back then Rich completed the course in just under 1 hour 35 minutes. That was a fair few years ago now though and he’s seen a steady curve of improvement since then and was hoping to better his time of 1 hour 25 minutes from the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon last August.

Using Oakhaven as a marathon paced training run, Chris O’Brien knew exactly what he wanted to achieve out of the race. What he hadn’t factored in though was the lack of a marshal at one key turning point on the course near mile 11.

Chris O'Brien in the Oakhaven Half Marathon
Chris O’Brien was setting out to run the Oakhaven Half at his marathon pace

That meant a lead group of around 15 runners ended up doing an extra two miles as well as taking a bit of additional time stopping to try to figure out where to go.

Fortunately it didn’t matter too much to Chris, since he wasn’t really racing it for a position anyway – and in fact, it may have actually worked in his favour, getting an extra couple of miles in. He successfully achieved his target pace, completing the course, along with his additional detour, in a time of 1:45:39.

That put him in 10th place on the day and 3rd in the Vet 40 Male category. His average pace for the 14.88 miles he ran worked out as 7:05 per mile.

Chris O'Brien finishes the Oakhaven Half Marathon
Although he’d completed an extra two miles due to missing a turning, Chris managed to hit his target pace

As for Helen Ambrosen, she also saw Oakhaven as the perfect stage for a good training run, enjoying the scenic surroundings despite the wet and windy conditions.

Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time the race began and the route was fairly sheltered, until they got out onto the exposed airfield at least.

It was a fairly flat course across gravel and stony trails. Helen ran well, reaching the finish line in a time of 2:01:20, which put her in 83rd place overall.

Helen Ambrosen in the Oakhaven Half Marathon
Helen Ambrosen ran well to complete the Oakhaven Half Marathon in 2:01:20

She was 25th lady on the day and took 3rd place in the Vet 60 Female category. That capped off a very good week of running for Helen which saw her exceed 50 miles in total.

The race was won by Paul Russhard in a time of 1:21:24, with James Baker of Chichester Runners taking 2nd in 1:25:08. The first lady over the line was Emilia Montagu-Scott who finished two seconds ahead of Chris, taking 9th place in a time of 1:45:37.

Helen Ambrosen at the Oakhaven Half Marathon
The race marked the end of a high mileage week for Helen as she continued with her tough schedule

In the Berkhamsted Half Marathon, the conditions weren’t as bad as they had been in previous days and the wind had died down a little, providing the potential for a decent run.

Using it as a marathon training run, Rich was hoping to get some additional miles in before and after the race as well. He hadn’t actually officially entered the race yet but knew there would be entries on the day so just rocked up on the morning of the race to acquire a race number.

He managed to get four easy miles in before the start of the race and was feeling in pretty good shape despite having completed the Bramley 20 the weekend before as well a tough marathon schedule session on the Tuesday.

Knowing it was a tough, hilly course, Rich had to be careful not to overcook it in the first couple of miles. There was a massive hill on the third mile which he knew would be tricky to negotiate.

Taking it pretty steadily up the hill, Rich did get overtaken by a few runners but he knew he couldn’t afford to take too much out of himself on that hill as there were a few other ups and downs to come afterwards.

Rich Brawn in the Berkhamsted Half Marathon
Rich knew the Berkhamsted Half course well and was aware there were some tough hills to contend with

Managing to pick the pace back up again in the 5th and 6th mile it was then onto Asheridge and another testing climb on the 7th mile. Up until then, Rich had had the first lady, Rachel Doherty, right behind him.

It was at this point in the race though that Rich started to feel really strong and he began to pull away from Rachel and started to reel in and catch other runners in front of him.

Once he’d gone through 10 miles, Rich began to feel like he could really afford to put everything he had left into the last few miles. Just before the 11th mile he caught and overtook Tom Dixon, who runs for his Dad’s club, Chiltern Harriers.

Rich’s Dad had come out on his bike to watch the race and was there to support him at a number of different spots on the course which served as a great encouragement to Rich.

The final climb on the 12th mile was tough to get up and Rich really had to dig in and show some steely determination. Knowing that the last mile was all downhill though did help and Rich began to accelerate in the final stretch toward the finish, flying past several of the 5-mile fun runners as he did.

Rich Brawn taking on the Berkhamsted Half Marathon
Rich started to feel good at around the 7 mile point and began to progress through the field

Crossing the line in a time of 1:23:40, Rich was very pleased to secure a PB, improving on his previous best by one-and-a-half minutes. That put him in 21st place out of over 1,000 competitors.

After the race, Rich did another four easy miles as a warm down run, brining his total mileage for the day up to 21 miles. That was not a bad morning’s work for Rich and he was very glad to have made the trip.

It was also a good confidence booster for Rich and helped reassure him that his marathon training is going well and that he’s on track for a good tilt at a sub-3 in London at the end of April.

After the race Rich bumped into a few friendly faces from his previous club of Dacorum & Tring as well, who he ran for when he was living in Hemel Hempstead a few years back so that was another positive that came out of it as well.

Plus there was the added lure of one his mum’s home cooked roast dinners afterwards. He knew it was always important to replenish the calories after a hard training run anyway.

Rich Brawn going well in the Berkhamsted Half Marathon
It was a good confidence boosting PB for Rich as he continued his preparations for London