Renowned for being one of the fastest races of that distance in the south, the Wokingham Half Marathon provides a great opportunity for talented athletes to showcase what they can do.
It’s a race that Sanjai Sharma has been taking part in on a regular basis for years. In fact, he’s ran it 10 times since 2010 so he was vastly experienced in it. He had produced some exceptional times over the years as well, including 1:21:11, 1:21:13 and 1:21:08 times in 2016, 2017 and 2018, demonstrating remarkable consistency.
Over the last few years though he’s found it a lot tougher to get consistent blocks of training in due to injuries and a lack of time to dedicate to it. His times have dropped a bit as a result which has been tough for him. But he hasn’t thrown the towel in and has shown great character and determination to keep up the training and keep chasing his goals.
The last time he ran the Wokingham Half Marathon was in 2020 when he recorded a time of 1:28:19, which is still a terrific time by most peoples’ standards. Last year he ran the Maidenhead Half Marathon, getting round in a time of 1:40:13, so that was certainly a benchmark he would have been hoping to beat at Wokingham. Since he still wasn’t injury free though he wasn’t really sure what to expect or aim for.
Originally intending on heading to Parliament Hill for the National Cross Country Championships, a lack of transport options left Rob McTaggart looking for a contingency plan, and that was where the Wokingham Half Marathon came in.
After recently eclipsing a longstanding 5K PB at Friday Night Under the Lights in Battersea Park, Tag knew he was in very good shape and that if the conditions were right at Wokingham he could be on for a quick time.
In November he’d recorded a time of 1:10:48 at Reading Half Marathon on a course that perhaps wasn’t one of the quickest out there so that gave him a good benchmark to aim for. His quickest half marathon time to date had come in the Vitality Big Half in 2020 and that was an incredible 1:08:29.
When the day of the Wokingham Half Marathon arrived, it was quite windy, which would turn out to have quite an impact on the athletes in the last few miles, particularly as they also contained a few inclines. The start had changed as well, with much of the first mile uphill.
Looking to start conservatively and then see how he felt as he graduated into the race, Sanjai held himself back for the first half. Then he decided to pick up the pace a bit before pushing on well in the last four miles, despite the headwind and the hills.
Crossing the line in a time of 1:30:45, Sanjai was placed 607th in a field of 2,693. Although it was his slowest time for that particular race, he was still quite pleased with it, given the difficulties he’d been having.
Usually used to placing very high in his age category, Sanjai wasn’t happy about only coming 16th out of the 96 in the M60 category. That will serve as a good motivation though for him to work harder going forwards to try and improve his fitness further.
Tag certainly doesn’t tend to hold back at the start of races, especially ones that he’s really going for, and he went through the first mile in 5:09, despite the fact that most of the first kilometre was uphill.
The second mile was a gradual downhill so that enabled him to up the pace even further, getting through that one in 4:57. For the next seven miles he settled into a rhythm that felt comfortable for him, even though he was going at between 5:10 and 5:15 pace for all of them.
His legs went a bit in the 10th mile though and his pace dropped a touch but he still came in at just over 52 minutes for 10 miles. The hill on the 11th mile and the headwind made it tough for him over the last 5K but he was still gaining time on the group ahead.
Getting to the line in 1:09:11, it was a tremendous time from Tag and put him in a very impressive 13th place. In a race with a pretty high standard field at the front end, that was a fantastic result for Tag, especially when you consider that he hadn’t even tapered for it. In fact it brought his weekly mileage total up to 85 miles so he should really have been feeling quite fatigued.
Joshua Grace of Aldershot Farnham & District picked up the win, recording a ferociously fast time of 1:06:06. Tom Merson of Exmouth Harriers was 2nd in 1:07:05, with Nicholas Torry of Serpentine taking 3rd in 1:07:23.
There were five runners in in under 1:08 and a further five finishing in under 1:09, giving a good indication of the quality of the field.
The top female was Naomi Mitchell of Reading AC who finished in 1:11:52, putting her 37th overall. Then it was Becky Briggs of City of Hull who came in at 1:13:51, putting her 64th overall. Kirsteen Welch of Sidmouth was 3rd female, crossing the line in 1:14:42 which put her 76th in the overall standings.
Both Tag and Sanjai are currently building up for their Spring marathons, with Sanjai set to take part in the Manchester Marathon on 3rd April. Tag has opted for the elite class at the Wrexham Marathon which takes place on 24th April where he’ll almost certainly be aiming for his quickest marathon yet.