Harrow Half – Harrow on the Hill – Sun 16 Sep 2018

Michael Charles, Mark Kencroft, Martin Daoud & Sean Hanrahan show off their medals

Five ESM members tackled this year’s edition of the recently revived Harrow Half, writes Fiona Kennedy, and fine sunny conditions greeted the field of almost 600.

Santosh eventually got the better of Tom Dixon of Chiltern Harriers (photo courtesy of Harrow AC)

First home for the club was Santosh Rai, running as part of his build-up to the Chicago Marathon in three weeks’ time. Knowing it was a hilly course, his plan was to run c.83 minutes, so he took the first uphill cautiously and picked up the pace on the downhill. Thereafter, he maintained a steady 6:12 pace, overtaking three runners in the last two miles to finish seventh in 80:55. This was actually a small PB, as he ran 80:57 in the River Thames Half last year, when preparing for the Berlin Marathon. No time to celebrate though – he had to keep going afterwards, as his training plan needed 18-20 miles that day… and he also had to get to work by 12 o’clock!

Mark Kencroft (photo courtesy of Harrow AC)

Mark Kencroft was next across the line for ESM. One of his aims had been to improve his time from last year and this he did with honours, his 89:11 being two and a half minutes quicker. He’d also hoped to get top spot in the M50 age group, having finished second in that category last year. It was his birthday on Sunday too, but sadly no birthday gifts at the presentation. He did beat last year’s top M50 time, but started to fade from about mile 11, and was overtaken by a few runners, including eventual M50 winner Francesco Cirianni of Hillingdon AC. He was also denied the re-match he’d been looking forward to with clubmate Steve Plummer; sadly, Steve had another commitment at the last minute and couldn’t take up his place.

Martin Daoud (photo courtesy of Harrow AC)

M55 Martin Daoud only took up running a year ago and it’s been a pleasure watching him progress. He tackled his first half marathon in the Spring, and has already chopped six minutes from his debut time. He felt the complimentary pre-race massage helped loosen up his leg muscles, but there was no escaping the hilly course: “the first hill sorted out the field of runners and gave us a taste of what we had let ourselves in for”. However, there was good support out on the course, especially in the closing stages, and he was delighted with his new PB of 95:40. Next challenge for him is the Ealing Half.

Sean Hanrahan is another relative novice. With nothing more than a handful of parkruns under his belt, he entered the race three days beforehand: “I hadn’t done too many long runs leading up to it, but as I had started to feel a lot fitter recently I thought I’d give it a go, especially as it’s on the doorstep”. (Oh, the confidence of youth!) It’s worth quoting what he said about his race, as we have probably all been there at some point in our own running careers:

“The majority of the race was uneventful for me except for the very steep hill right at the beginning and the rather calamitous water stage exchanges.  However at the ten mile mark my legs began to feel very fatigued and I could feel blisters forming on my feet.  I was able to keep going thanks to the motivational words from Martin whom I was following. As we were running through Harrow town centre I started to feel light headed and began to slow down and by the time I tried to climb the final (very steep) hill, my calf muscles said ‘no’ and I slowed to almost a walking pace for about 200 meters. Once I had almost reached the top I was able run quite quickly down hill for the next few hundred meters to the finish. I was a bit disappointed that I lost a few minutes right at the end of the race, but I feel that if I were to run again (on a flatter course) in the future with better preparation, training and experience I might be able reduce that time significantly.  I can say for sure that running with others from a club made a huge difference both in terms of initially entering the race and completing it”.

Michael Charles (photo courtesy of Harrow AC)

I was interested to hear how people fared with the pioneering new biodegradable water sachets which were introduced in place of bottled water, in order to cut down on plastic waste. It seemed they worked well on the whole, though – as you might have guessed from Sean’s reference above to “calamitous” water stations – they take a bit of getting used to. If you think your next race might include these water sachets, read and remember the experiences below!

“On my first try I grabbed the sachet and it split apart in the marshal’s hands. Once I realised how delicate they were, I didn’t have any issues. They were more than sufficient water  and very easy to open and use.” (Mark)

“Whilst I did appreciate the concern for the environmental impact of discarded water bottles, I found the bags to be very impractical.  Because of their size (can fit in the palm of a hand) and texture they were very slippery and difficult to grab. This led to a number being dropped on the floor like water balloons.  I missed water from a couple of stations because of this as I didn’t want to have to stop to pick them up.  It was also a strange sensation biting the bag to release the water as it is quite difficult to control the amount of water you take in.  I almost choked on the first one and Martin said his went over his shoulder! It was all quite comical except for the last water station which was in the seemingly never ending laps of a small park in the final 5k.  I was too tired to make the effort to grab the water which was when I probably needed it most.  Fortunately one of the staff from Metro Bank handed me a cup of water in the high street as I was passing so thanks to him!” (Sean)

Generally, our runners seemed pleased with the race organisation, apart from the repeated laps of Harrow rec, as Mark recalls: “they made sure they used every single bit of path to use up some miles: up, down, back and around, left, right – there were arrows everywhere. I felt like I had run five miles in there, and was glad to get out and back on a road but then we returned later on the way back… I know the rec well now!” Conversely, the doubling-back on parts of the course gave runners the chance to cheer their clubmates coming the other way.

Well done to all our runners. I have not done this race but I know Harrow Hill, and I can’t think there’s any easy way to get up and down that!

ESM results summary (chip times):
7 Santosh Rai 80:55; 32 Mark Kencroft (M50-54) 89:11; 60 Martin Daoud (M55-59) 95:40; 70 Sean Hanrahan 97:13; 91 Michael Charles (M45-49) 1:40:09

Full results on runbritain