The Main Event
With its no-nonsense approach, the Fleet Half Marathon is all about the running, finds Kerry Mccarthy
The Fleet Half Marathon
THE PHRASE ‘BY RUNNERS, for runners’ has been a source of curious amusement in the RW office. Our inboxes receive a steady trickle of press releases using the expression to show that whatever race, product or service is being plugged is more genuine, more authentic and somehow more connected to the runner on the street than that of any competitors. For the most part it’s tosh, but when it comes to the Fleet Half Marathon (whose organisers are not averse to busting out the slogan themselves on occasion), it’s a claim that is easily justified.
The expertise and in-depth knowledge of the organising team is evident everywhere: the ample space afforded to the Calthorpe Park
race HQ so runners don’t feel on top of each other; the itab timing strips on the back of your number so you don’t have to wrestle with timing chips in your laces; the thoughtfully plotted course that gives you just enough variety in profile but never at the expense of fast running; the water pouches that you rip open with your teeth so you don’t have to slow down and fiddle with a bottle top; the well-marshalled marshals; the quality medal; there are even – whisper it – enough toilets.
It should be no surprise, really. When the race launched in 1982 Fleet & Crookham AC stated its mission: ‘The primary aim is to provide a well-organised race that places the runners’ needs and enjoyment above all else. By aiming for a perfect race, rather than maximum profits, the whole event becomes a “spectacular” for participants and spectators.’
It was this outlook that persuaded London Marathon co-founder Chris Brasher to allow them to officially call the race the ‘Pre-london Fleet Half Marathon’ and market it as the perfect event to tune up for the big day in April. It’s testament to the success of the formula that, in the 35 years since that first race – when Gurkhas entertained the crowds with pipes and drums, and the Red Devils dropped in to run the race before departing immediately for the Falklands – that the essential DNA of the event has remained the same. Sure, the route is not particularly memorable – we ran on a mix of suburban and country roads, with a couple of crossings of the M3 motorway thrown in – but sometimes the fact that you get to the end of a race and can’t really remember any landmarks of note is irrelevant if you’ve been given the chance to run your backside off and have crossed the line with your running lust thoroughly sated. The evidence shows that I’m not the only one who appreciates the quiet professionalism of events like this: almost all the 3,500 available places are snapped up before Christmas each year so if this sounds like your bag it’s one to stick in the diary well in advance. Now if only there was a slogan to show what the race stands for… Hampshire, March 19. fleethalfmarathon.com
SERIOUS BUSINESS That’s the ‘ PreLondon Fleet Half Marathon’ to you.
FLAT OUT But there were a few hills to tackle, too
WHAT BLINGS YOU HERE? One more medal for the collection