RUNNERS will be bracing themselves for tough times this weekend, as the Marlow Half Marathon gets underway once again - notoriously one of the toughest such races on the sporting calendar.

Organised by the Marlow Striders, the event starts at 9.30am at Sir William Borlase's Grammar School's playing fields, but the race HQ will be manned from 8am.

But the usual youngsters race - the 'Magic Mile' - will not be going ahead this year.

The event, now in its 24th year, is known as such a challenge because of the hilliness of the course.

Last year's event was trickier than ever, thanks to a downpouring of rain.

Five-time ladies' winner Samantha Amend, who was victorious again last year, told the BFP it was probably the hardest half marathon she ran last year.

The route is a single lap loop, starting and finishing at the playing fields. Runners must climb gently out of Marlow to Bovingdon Green where the route flattens and heads west through Marlow Common.

A short, steep descent follows before a climb up to Lower Woodend, before the route continues north to Chrisbridge Cross then west to Parmoor - the highest point of the course - and Pheasants.

Runners will then make a long descent into the Hambleden valley, after which they head south toward Mill End. Just before that point the route shifts east and climbs back out of the valley before flattening again and passing through Rotten Row and Bockmer End.

Next comes another short descent and climb back into Marlow Common, before runners rejoin the outward route for the final mile of the course.

Temporary road closures will be in place from 9.15am to 12.15pm at Oxford Road and Chalkpit Lane.

The event supports two charities - Thames Hospicecare, which offers care for adults with cancer and other terminal illnesses, and Marlow Sports Club, which is half-way to reaching its fundraising target of £1.2m, which it needs to secure the land and club facilities for the use of Marlow residents now and in the future.

To enter the race or for more details, go to