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Half marathon makes a splash Pictures by Sussex Sport About 450 runners set off at Grovewood Drive South, Grove Green

DOWNS Mail editor Stephen Eighteen made the best of ap- palling conditions by finishing fourth in the Maidstone Half Marathon. Despite a cold wind and per- sistent heavy rain putting parts of the 13.1-mile course under water shin deep, the Maidstone Harriers-organised event, now in its 28th year, attracted around 450 runners. Stephen’s personal best of 1.21:39 left him trailing behind race winner Tom Collins, of Medway and Maidstone Athlet- ics Club, who posted 1.13:42. Nicola Susans, of Larkfield Athletics Club, was the leading woman in a time of 1.33:38, adding her victory to a record that includes a number of long distance records for her club. Some of the original 500 run-

ners who were expected had withdrawn with injuries and a

few others failed to appear. The biggest impact the weather pre- sented was a notable decline in walk-up entrants on the day. Al- most 90 people turned up in 2012 but the number this year was nearer to 20. The race was run over the course used in recent years: starting in Grove Green, divert- ing through Bearsted and down to the Ashford Road before turn- ing up to Hollingbourne and then returning to Grovewood Drive South via Pilgrims Way, Thurnham Lane, Ware Street andWeavering Street. Stephen (33) said: “The route highlighted just how close urban Maidstone is to the beau- tiful open countryside of the Kent Downs. The real heroes of the morning were the marshals who braved the conditions to give each and every one of us inspiration to run as fast as we

TomCollins reigned supreme while Stephen Eighteen came fourth

could. They deserve all of our thanks.” Despite the weather the event was a notable success. Race director David Pearce said: “There was a real camaraderie among the runners this year and a number of people achieved notable personal best times and good performances. “One innovation that worked

well involved having pace run- ners in fluorescent bibs who went off to run particular times; allowing others to keep them in sight and aim for a particular level of performance. “The flat Coca Cola and Jaffa

Cakes offered at the final feed- ing station also went down re-

ally well. A lot of runners com- pleted the course with a smile on their faces and there was a good feeling about the whole event.”

Maidstone Harriers plan an-

other half marathon next year but safety issues around the junction of Thurnham Lane and Ware Street may necessitate a move to another course. The hilly and challenging Pilgrims Way route has been an attrac- tion for runners wishing to pit themselves against a demanding challenge and the scenery has also proved to be an attraction. So the course for next year is still to be decided.

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