The Reading Chronicle talks to Judith Manson, Reading Half Marathon Race Director.

2018 will be the 35th Reading Half. Why do you think it's still going so strong today?

The Reading Half captures everything that makes Reading a great place to be. The community really get behind it, they come out to support and cheer on the runners, they set up impromptu drink stations, hand out jelly babies, bring out their bands and DJs and of course everyone talks about the ‘beer stop’. It has an atmosphere like no other and the Madejski Stadium finish is the icing on the cake.

Reading Chronicle:

From an elite point of view, it is a fast half marathon, we believe it’s the fastest in the country with more sub 80 finishes than any other UK road half marathon race.

After 35 years, how do you make the marathon feel fresh/exciting year after year?

I’m always looking for ways to improve and start by listening to feedback from runners and partners. That’s what makes my job more interesting, it would be very easy to do the same thing year after year but where’s the fun in that? I’d get bored and I think the runners would to.

Over the past four years I’ve tweaked the route to make it even better. We introduced stilt walkers and cheerleaders a few years ago and last year a DJ truck to keep everyone motivated for the full distance.

We also look at how we can better our medals and t-shirts each year. I’m not a fan of rolling out the same medal with a different date on it each year so after introducing the lion onto our logo in 2015 we have to think of a different look for him every year. This year I think he’s very Lion King!

Most of all it’s a team effort – I have an amazing group of people who work tirelessly on this event to make it fresh and exciting for everyone!

What's the best thing about race day?

Getting up at 4am with butterflies, knowing that 12 months of hard work and planning has come down to this one day and in just a few hours thousands of people will descend on the Race Village – it’s quite a nervous but exciting feeling.

Seeing thousands waiting at the start line in Green Park, you can feel the anticipation as they wait for the start gun. Then, of course, seeing everyone enter the Madejski Stadium where the atmosphere is electric - last year we had one of the biggest crowds in the Stadium cheering everyone across the line. It’s deafening and very special.

Our charity partners are also integral to the race - knowing that hundreds of thousands of pounds will be raised for charity year on year is very special indeed!

What's the best thing about your job?

Being responsible for the Reading Half Marathon is not for the faint hearted, it’s a huge responsibility but one I am very proud and privileged to do – I pinch myself sometimes as I think I have the best job in the world. I meet and work with so many supportive and helpful people, this race couldn’t happen without them including all the emergency services, council officers, landowners and the army of volunteers who give their time to ensure the race goes without any hiccups.

It takes 12 months to plan this race, seeing the plans come to fruition is a great feeling. Taking something that’s not quite right and changing it – then seeing it work is very satisfying – for example the final mile of the race used to be a loop inside Green Park, runners could see the Stadium and knew the finish line was ahead but rather than carrying on to the finish they turned off the A33 to do a mile loop inside Green Park first, it was a killer and known by some as the ‘loop of doom’, it had to go.

The runners now complete a lovely sweeping loop at the start and have already run a mile before leaving Green Park. Another example; 5 years ago we had long queues at the kit tents - designing a new system and plan the following year has meant we’ve not had the same problem again. That’s just two examples of many changes that I’ve brought in my five years of doing this job, it’s about the runner experience which is mine and my teams top priority.

Obviously race day is really special but my favourite part is the week leading up to it. I arrive on site the Sunday before and everyday we get a little closer to being ready for the big day. I love watching the Race Village come to life, checking the route every day and seeing the Stadium and Green Park transform ready for race day. To start there is just a team of two (me and my Production Manager), then on day two we go to four people and by end the week there is a team of 38 working on site – the behind the scenes, the stuff that people don’t see is what I love.

I like the challenge, things are thrown at me all week which no one ever knows about but have to be fixed. I like the pressure!

The worst part is the day after – I’m always sad that it’s over, but that doesn’t last long as it’s straight onto planning the next year!

What sets Reading apart from other race events around the country?

· Green Park start line and beautiful loop mile to get the runners warmed and ready to take on the next 12.1 miles of the race.

· Our Madejski Stadium finish is like no other. The stadium literally roars!

· Community spirit is incredible from start to finish.

· The route – taking in our beautiful Reading University grounds, celebrating the town centre and local community.

· Proximity and time to London – our race is the perfect taper for those running the London Marathon, or alternative to fill a whole in the race diary if you’re lucky enough for ballot this year.

· It’s fast, if you’re after a PB!

· I’m a bit bias but people do say this – it’s very well organised!

What are your top tips for anyone taking on the race?

Be prepared – as well as preparing your body by following a training programme make sure you prepare your morning in advance. Race kit and warm layers for after, race number, travel arrangements, fuel and hydration pre and post race, just a few must haves!

Get your kit bag ready the night before, know where you’re going, how you’ll get there and give yourself plenty time – everything will take just a little bit longer on race day. Don’t try and bring your car to get to the closest place possible, you’ll find it’s not very close and you’ll be part of a problem you and others want to avoid – if you have to drive book parking in advance via - make sure you research the road closures to see if they will affect you and your arrival time. If in doubt call the resident hotline on our website and the team will help you plan your journey.

I want everyone to have an amazing time - it sounds so simple but getting to the Race Village early will make a world of difference to your whole experience.

Dress appropriately, as the race is in March we have seen every type of weather system over the years from snow to a heat wave. Look at the forecast in the week leading up to, I do and if necessary I change our plans for the day, like I did last year when it was looking like it was going to be a particularly warm day I ordered two mist showers for the route to cool runners down and had extra water on standby.

Make sure you start in the correct coloured start zone, depending on the colour there will be directional signage from the Race Village and marshals showing you which way to go, it’s important that you follow them as the start area is approx. 30 minutes from the Village and you don’t want to add extra time onto your journey.

Importantly - take time to enjoy it – this is your moment!

See the full interview in December Reading Magazine, out next week!

Registration is now open for this world renowned half marathon. Visit for more information and to secure your place.

Half marathon entry costs: UKA affiliated club runners £36.00 / all other runners £38.00