Folkestone Half Marathon race report
Folkestone Half Marathon is always a good, well organised race and today’s race lived up to that reputation, great work from Folkestone Rotary Club for organising and marshaling their annual event which raises a lot of money for charity every year in addition to it being a great race for us runners.
The 2023 race was a tricky one in the race calendar, sandwiched between KCAA Grand Prix races last week and next week which perhaps reduced some of the entries from some of the Kent running clubs. However, it was the British Masters Athletic Federation’s Half Marathon Championship, which was sure to draw some quick runners from all over the country.
With the 10:00 start it meant a fairly sociable set off time for the drive over to the race but being a bit early did mean we had plenty of time to pick up race numbers and get a decent warm up done, also we had the added bonus of premium parking near the Race HQ on the Leas.
It was pretty clear that the weather conditions might mean we had to adapt our race plans for the day, indeed at the race start it was already 17°C and the wind was blowing pretty strongly at 20 MPH from the SSW meaning that for the first half of the race out towards Hythe we would be working against it.
There were only three TRAC runners (Andy Stevens, Richard Allan and Vitas Faux-Bowyer) out there today, so it felt a bit unusual not to have the usual TRAC blue vests out there before the race but with 418 runners out there it was pretty busy at the start.
The first part of the race takes the pack up the Leas on the cliff top with a small loop before heading back down the Leas and a short detour through Folkestone town centre before a fast descent of the steep Road of Remembrance (just over 0.2 miles distance with a ~6% gradient), definitely a hill to make the most of gravity down… Then after a little run through the Lower Leas Country Park it’s onto the promenade for the next 3.5 miles out to Hythe, into the wind followed by a small loop around Hythe, getting out of the wind felt great although could feel the heat of the day without the cooling wind, then after a bit of a wind tunnel road it was back out onto the promenade for the run back towards Folkestone. Now was time to pick the pace up a bit more as the wind wasn’t completely in our faces but I’m sure the tail wind wasn’t helping quite as much as the head wind hindered on the way out! The return route takes us back on the promenade and back through the Lower Leas Country Park with a little uphill which did sap the strength a little as tired legs started to kick in. Then of course it was onto the “highlight” of the Folkestone Half, at just over Mile 12, have to go back up the Road of Remembrance (~6% gradient but up this time!), yes that fast descent near the start turns into a tough slog back up near the end, time to shorten the steps and grit teeth. Then with about 0.5 miles to go it’s back onto the Leas and a push to the finish, and yes everyone struggles to get the sprint finish in after a tough hill climb but it is worth it…
Even with the tough wind conditions today the overall winner of the race (Charlie Brisley) was close to the Course Record (1:08:00) with a 1:08:41, phenomenally quick!
As I mentioned earlier, the race also incorporated the BMAF Half Marathon Championships so for Veteran runners this was an opportunity to race for the title of British Champion. Our very own Men’s Club Captain Andy Stevens rose to the challenge and smashed out a phenomenal race, taking the V50 Championship in a brilliant time of 1:21:32, finishing 10th overall. This has been an incredible race season for Andy and to pick up the British Masters Championship for his age group is a massive achievement.
After only entering the race last weekend (I can blame Andy’s bad influence) I wanted to use it as a fast training run for a race later this year, mixing up target race pace and steadier splits and was delighted with a 1:31:51 and 46th overall.
Vitas came home in a very good time of 1:41:31, finishing with a strong sprint to the line.
Overall, a great race today and a big thanks to Folkestone Rotary Club for hosting another very successful race.
Thanks to Richard Allan for the race report. If anyone else has been out racing this weekend, send us a race report and we’ll publish it !