Runners Brave Heartbreak Hill in Henley Half Marathon
Hundreds of brave runners tackled the notoriously hilly Henley Half Marathon on Sunday morning. The event saw athletes of all ages lacing up their trainers to race the 13.1 mile loop, which took competitors through the town, along the towpath, and up the infamous ‘heartbreak hill’. There were also 10K and 5K races for those that wanted a challenge with a shorter distance, and a Fun Run to for the youngest amongst the crowds. The Henley Half has been running since 1983, and was this year organised by Henley Rugby Club.
The 2022 half marathon was won by Henley local Richard Price. Richard, who came second in the half last year, finished first in a time of 01:12:03 — nearly nine minutes faster than second place. Richard said, “The last half marathon I did was in Wokingham in February which was quite a long time ago. I’ve beaten my time of last year by 1.5 minutes. It was tough today because I was out there on my own. I was hoping that there would be some competition but it was good fun, really well marshalled and the rugby club have done a really good job of putting it on.”
The fastest woman to complete the marathon was Emma Langston Davis, who came fourth overall in a time of 01:24:08. Emma has now run the Henley Half twice, and was also the fastest woman last year. She said, “It was good. The hill wasn’t as bad as last year and you know what to expect. It’s a hard course, but it was nice and there was lots of support out there, particularly through town, which was nice.”
There were more speedy finishes in the 10K race. Arturo Martinez de Murguia sprinted across the line to finish in 39:22, 3 minutes faster than second place. Arturo runs for Reading AC, and last raced the Henley 10K in 2018. He said, “I feel great. I came here to kick start the cross country season and make it a bit of a cross country race because of that hill. It was about getting a hard run in and seeing how far I could position. There you go – I managed! I ran it four years ago and something didn’t quite work out. I came third, but one second behind second. I’m very happy with this – it’s a major improvement with respect to that run. I started from gun to finish, and obviously the last few miles were a bit hard work. The car ahead of me helped me a lot to get rid of the traffic. I had to stop for 3 seconds once because I car was coming in the opposite direction, and that was a bit annoying, but it didn’t affect me majorly. I’m very happy with this.”
Mariella Lait was the fastest woman in the 10K race with a time of 50:34. The mum of four ran as part of Team Rupert House, where three of her children go to school. She said, “I’ve done the half before but not the 10k. I feel very happy. I feel like I have my niece to thank because it’s her christening today, so that’s the only reason I’m not doing the half! What a silver lining. I can’t believe it, I really wasn’t expecting it. About half way round, a lovely lady marshal said, you’re the first woman, and I thought, wow! I swear I must have run the second half quicker.”
Sophie Van Brugen was the third woman to cross the line in the 10K in a time of 53:19. Sophie, who ran the London Marathon for Sue Ryder last Sunday, entered the 10K when someone said they would give her a £100 donation. After the race, Sophie said, “No training in between, this was supposedly my warm down after the London Marathon which was hard work but I loved it. Every time I’m running I’m thinking about raising money for my beautiful mother who was supported by Sue Ryder. The weather was very similar to last week. I feel very lucky to be able to physically get up and do it and a way of saying thanks. My muscles need a well-deserved break now. No more marathons, no more long runs. I’d like to be part of the Sue Ryder befriending service and I think that would be fitting way to say thanks.”
The 5K was won by Jasper Fulford-Dobson in 22:29, followed by Pia Walsh in 23:27. Third to finish the 5K was 8 year old Lucas Robinson, who ran the course in an impressive 23:31. Afterwards, Lucas said, “The thing that was hard about it was building up speed, but nothing else was hard. I’m amazed to come third.”
The event offered something for people of all ages, with a Fun Run taking place shortly after the half, 10K and 5K had set off. Children of all ages — and some parents too — sprinted round the hill beside Borlase field. 11 year old Cotty Paulin was first in a time of 03:32, followed closely by his younger brother George in 03:39. Cotty said, “I found it interesting since I didn’t know what was around the corner. The ground was actually quite good – it wasn’t too hard to run on. I run at school but not here before. I do sports instead in Henley. I’ll do it again.”
Henley Rugby Club were responsible for the running of this year’s event, having taken over from the Henley Rotary Clubs. Chair of Henley Rugby Club, Chris Nixon, reflected, “What a glorious day, the weather is fantastic, really good turnout and the numbers really picked up towards the end. It’s been great fun seeing everyone really give a lot of effort. A lot of people contributed and volunteered today. We’re really looking forward to doing it again next year.”
To see the full results from this year’s Henley Half, click here.