THEY seemed a pleasant enough bunch drifting in to the Iffley Road running track on Thursday night for a training run ahead of the Oxford Half-Marathon in a fortnight's time. Polite chit chat was made and a few nerves were expressed about completing the nine-mile run under the guidance of staff from Headington’s Up and Running shop.

The reality was though, as we all knew, nine miles if you are planning to be on the start line of the half-marathon should be a comfortable leg extender at this point in your training.

The training run was really a ‘sighter’ – a chance to judge various bits of the course so that in those final phases of the event, when you’re literally running on memory, the memory bank is able to plot where you are and motivate those legs to keep pumping.

Thursday night was divided into two groups, the slow group and the intermediate group.

The intermediates were guided by a fellow New Zealander Scott Greenhalgh, who set a pace for the group of just over 6mph (10km/h). That would equate, he told me, to a comfortable two hour completion of the course.

He fell back through the group, offering the advice and encouragement, and keeping us reasonably well bunched. It wouldn’t do to lose people around Cowley after all.

“Let’s just slow it down and calibrate the group,” he said trying to rein a few of us back.

We even had spectators offering “encouragement”, if it could be called that. About five local youths on their bikes hanging out around Oxford Science Park decided to ride and wheelie along all the way through to Watlington Road, popping up not unlike dolphins out the front of a boat.

Much of the run was at the 6.2mph pace, working out, my phone kept informing me, at about nine minutes to complete a mile.

The previous week a six-mile training course had been run and, because there was little chance of anyone getting lost, those of us who wanted to were able to quicken the pace for the final two miles or so. It was a significant step up in pace, bringing down that mile time to about 7.10 minutes.

A slower warm down with a lap around the Iffley Road track brought the run to a flat 10 miles in 90 minutes.

Not the fastest but the aim of completing a lengthy run was more than met. I look forward to see my new running colleagues on the start line. And the finishing line, naturally.

Oxford Half Marathon is on Sunday, October 14, and is supported by the Oxford Mail. Registration is still open and costs £33 for non UKA affiliated runner and £31 for affiliated runners. Sign up via