The lead runners in the Wokingham Half Marathon

The 2023 Wokingham Half Marathon featured Bournemouth AC trio Rob McTaggart, Ryan Pegoraro and Sanjai Sharma

With a reputation for being a fast course, the Wokingham Half Marathon is an option regularly taken up by runners training for the London Marathon or some other spring marathon. Rob McTaggart did it last year in 1:09:11 so he knew it was a course he could get a good time on and doing the same races ahead of a spring marathon helps you gage where you are in comparison to previous marathon blocks.

The signs were looking good so far as he’d run two minutes faster at the Chichester 10k, two-and-a-half minutes quicker in the Lytchett 10 and 10 seconds quicker in the Friday Night Under the Lights 5k in Battersea Park. He didn’t even feel like he had a good run that day and still got round in 15:14. Could he improve on his previous effort at Wokingham as well?

The Wokingham Half Marathon is a regular stop for Sanjai Sharma on the road to the London Marathon. In fact, he’d done it at least 11 times before. For quite a few years he was doing it in around 1 hour 21 minutes but he hadn’t been in that form over recent years. In last year’s race he got round in 1:30:45.

He was tempted to go for a sub 1:30 this time round but didn’t want to risk blowing up and wanted to start at a steadier sort of pace again and finish strongly, like he did in the Bramley 20 two weeks earlier.

Sanjai Sharma in the Wokingham Half Marathon

Sanjai Sharma ran well in the Bramley 20 two weeks prior

Currently in training for the North Dorset Village Marathon in May, Ryan Pegoraro hadn’t had an ideal build up to the Wokingham Half Marathon as he’d had to take the week before the race off due to a personal issue so couldn’t afford to lower the intensity in the week leading up to the race. That meant he was going into it on tired legs, although in a way that was good as it would simulate marathon fatigue.

His plan was to run the race at his intended marathon pace which he’s estimating will be something in the region of 5:50 to 6 minutes per mile.

The course had been changed a bit and now featured an uphill start. The incline went on for about two thirds of the first mile and that turned out to be Sanjai’s slowest mile split. Tag still managed to get through it at 5:16 pace before knocking out a 5 minute mile for his second split on the way back down. Then there were a couple more inclines in the third mile which put him back to 5:17 for the split.

Ryan made a good solid start, getting through the first mile in 5:53, then posting a 5:35 for his second mile and a 5:46 for mile three. For the next few miles, Tag went at around 5:10 sort of pace but by that point he was feeling tired. Then all of a sudden he got a second lease of life and started motoring again, completing his next three miles in 5:06, 5:09 and 5:12.

Posting a 5:35 for his fourth mile, Ryan was going a fair bit quicker than his target pace. For the next five miles he was around 5:45 pace. Completing the 10th mile in 5:52, it was then time to tackle some more inclines. He wasn’t expecting so many undulations so it kind of threw him a bit. Plus there was a strong headwind at times which made it difficult to maintain pace.

Ryan Pegoraro in the Wokingham Half Marathon

Ryan Pegoraro was looking to run it at roughly his intended marathon pace

Tag went through the 10 mile point in 51:46 according to his Strava activity which would have made it his fastest 10 mile effort to date. The 11th mile wasn’t an easy one though and contained some more tricky inclines, knocking him down to 5:28 for that split. Although he was suffering a bit, Tag knew he just needed to close it out with a strong last couple of miles.

The 11th mile was the only one Ryan went over 6 minutes per mile on, registering a 6:05 for that split. Now he just needed to get back on pace for the last couple of miles or so to round of a very good training run from his perspective.

Putting in a 5:14 and a 5 minute mile split for his last couple of miles, Tag had finished really strongly, crossing the line in 7th place in an outstanding time of 1:08:22. He ended up just three seconds behind M40 legend Paul Martelletti.

Rob McTaggart in the Wokingham Half Marathon

Rare footage of Rob McTaggart in a Bournemouth AC vest as he passes through Hurst village

Crucially, it was 49 seconds quicker than Tag had gone in the Wokingham Half Marathon so once again, the stats showed he’s quicker now than he was then. And he went on to complete the Wrexham Elite Marathon in 2:25:40 that Spring.

In fact, it was also 7 seconds faster than his best ever half marathon time which was set at the Vitality Big Half in 2020. His average pace for the run was 5:12 minutes per mile so that was pretty much bang on what he was targeting. In fact, it was slightly quicker.

Ryan Pegoraro tackling the Wokingham Half Marathon

Ryan was running quicker than his target pace despite the unexpected undulations

Closing his race out strongly as well, Ryan registered a 5:41 and a 5:36 for his 12th and 13th miles and then had to negotiate the final short incline before crossing the line. His time was 1:15:59 which put him in 90th place. The fact a time like that positioned him that far down shows what an incredibly high standard race the Wokingham Half Marathon is.

Sanjai Sharma gives a wave in the Wokingham Half Marathon

Sanjai employed his usual tactic of starting of steady and gradually upping the ante

Managing to execute pretty much what he’d planned, Sanjai got stronger as the race progressed and had a decent run in the end to finish in 1:31:23. That put him in 591st place out of 2,500 runners. In the M60 category he finished 8th out of 128. That put Sanjai’s average pace for the run at 6:59 minutes per mile.

Sanjai will most likely look for a sub 1:30 attempt at the end of the year, with the target for him at the moment being just to run consistently and stay injury free.

Sanjai Sharma in action at the Wokingham Half Marathon

It was a decent performance from Sanjai, clocking a time of 1:31:23

The race was won by Scott Cousins of Springfield Striders in a time of 1:05:10 which was enough to see off Matt Sharp of Ryde Harriers who got round in 1:05:43. Matt won the Ryde 10 recently and also topped the standings in the Gosport Half Marathon before that.

Poole AC man Tom Austin took 3rd place, crossing the line in 1:07:11, with Chris Powner of Winchester & District taking 4th in 1:07:50. George Gurney of London Heathside was 5th in 1:08:07.

Lauren Reed of Havering AC was first female, completing the course in 1:14:11 which put her in 60th place overall. Tess McCormick of Vale Royal was the second woman in, crossing the line in 1:14:53, putting her in 70th place overall. Then Isabelle Pickett of Best Athletics arrived to take the third female spot in 1:15:36, putting her in 84th position in the overall standings.

Sanjai breezes past in the Wokingham Half Marathon

As far as the marathon training is concerned, the show must go on

There is no time to dwell on the results of a stepping stone race when you’re marathon training though, no matter how well you’ve done. You have to put it behind you and get straight back to training. You have to keep the juggernaut rolling until its taper time.

That’s something Tag is very good at. He does these races to gage where he’s at but even if the result shows that he’s in a good place, he won’t relax his training or take his foot off the gas. He wants to do the fastest possible marathon time that he can do so he will keep driving towards that and putting absolutely everything into it.

Both Tag and Ryan will both be in action at the next Hampshire Road Race League event which is the Salisbury 10, giving the Bournemouth AC team a huge boost as they continue their promotion charge.