The Weekend's Races: What You Said

A round-up of your race reviews for the weekend of September 23-24


Posted: 26 September 2006

For the weekend of September 23-24


The 25th Windsor Half Marathon
The 25th Windsor Half Marathon may have been a fantastic day out in the sunshine, but this was no walk in the (Windsor Great) Park – as the legs of RW forum members can testify.

"Really enjoyed the day," said jH. "Feeling it this morning, though. First half marathon for six years; really needed to have done more hills to prepare for this one." Melanie Arbib summed it up with a self-edited anecdote: "One man shouted, 'is it me or the (swear-word) hills?', and 20 people all around me with MP3 players shouted back, 'it's the (swear-word) hills!', which made everyone laugh and inspired us all to keep on running."

E was among a sizeable minority who actually welcomed those killer undulations: "I enjoy hills. Yes, I'm crazy, but I enjoy the challenge, and Windsor didn't disappoint. Most were steady enough to put head down and roll slowly up, but this is definitely a race to train for. It seems that a LOT of people underestimated the effort. Lots of walkers, even at four miles. The scenery was stunning. Big thank you to the cadets out marshalling and doing the water, and the crowd support. Next year, though, can someone pop out with a broom in the morning and get the gravel off the steep downhill, just after the Lucozade station please! Thank you! See you all next year?"

Click here for one RW staffer's own report of the Windsor Half Marathon. Her thighs are still recovering.

The New Forest Half Marathon gave Windsor a run for its hills and harsh sunshine, judging by some of your reports. "The time flew by thanks to the scenery," said Emily Holmes. "I was disappointed not to get chased by a pony, but you can’t blame the organisers for that! In all seriousness, there was a great and supportive atmosphere, a few hardy spectators on the way round (thank you) and a good mix of abilities. I will do this again, although not sure I could face the marathon with those hills."

Daniel Bainbridge was particularly grateful for the country scenery. "My first time doing this race, and it made a real change from doing city half marathons. Glorious views across the New Forest, and managed to see a few ponies as well! First half of race tough, due to hot, still day and no shade. Second half better. I certainly made full use of the drinks and sponge stations to keep cool! Very good crowd support, given the rural setting of parts of the course." And Louise Wilkins spoke for many at both the New Forest and Windsor when she said: "The beautiful surroundings sure took my mind off the excruciating pain in my legs! An excellent race!"

Some of Sunday's notable smaller races included the Presteigne 10K in Powys, whose field of just 40 sped along at a clip, with the last finisher coming in at under an hour. "Well worth a visit," reported Dave Hurst. "Presteigne is a gem of a town, and I hope this run grow in stature." Also in Wales but on a somewhat bigger scale, the Swansea Bay 10K attracted excellent ratings, and comments such as this from Steve Pemberton: "Expected a lot from this one, having read reviews from previous years, and have to say it didn't disappoint. Lovely scenery and a flat course which helped me to a PB, but the high point was the organisation, which ran so smoothly. Nice medal and T-shirt, too. Well done Swansea – a truly cracking race, and I'll definitely be back!"

One race unlikely to bag you a PB was Sunday's Great Gorilla Run, which saw hundreds of runners doing a one-lap 7K around the City of London. "To be clear, this is a fund raising event, not a 'run' as such," explained Nick Moglia. "You can run, walk or crawl. Don't expect to do normal times, as you will be wearing a full gorilla suit which is incredibly hot, so if you are running expect to get incredibly sweaty. Having said that, there are km markers, excellent marshals and a very scenic course over four bridges, starting with a run past the Tower of London – though your field of vision is not great due to your gorilla mask. Excellent organisation at the end, plenty of free drinks on hand, and use of a large bar where the post event party was held. So if you want to support the gorillas and participate in a really fun event, this is the one."

While Wales and the south bathed in Indian summertime, poor old Fife dealt with the aftermath of a downpour, leaving Son of a Pronator Man struggling for a PB at the East Neuk 10K. "My hopes of a late-season – and hard trained for – vet 10K PB slipped away from me in the mud. Although the course is fairly flat, very heavy rain had turned the farm tracks that make up a large part of the route into deep puddles and mud. The return leg of the out-and-back course was slippy, and, where I hoped to be gaining some time as I neared the finish, I was losing time as I slithered about." TriciaW also endured some slithering, but it hasn't put her off. "I was sure I would be the one to fall," she said. "Thankfully didn't. All added to the atmosphere, definitely be back next year." That's the spirit!


For the weekend of September 16-17


Bristol Half Marathon
The sun shone (and shone, and shone) on 15,000 runners at Sunday's Bristol Half Marathon, but not everyone was happy. "Very crowded for first six miles," noted Celine, touching on a topic that came up time and again in your reviews of this headline-grabbing event. Local lass Sally Spencer didn't hold back: "I thought the start only 200 metres from my front door would be a big bonus, but it was chaotic." And Mark Strickland said: "I think that the arrival of 15,000 runners took Bristol by surprise. Good job the start was delayed, otherwise a lot of people would have missed it due to queuing for Portaloos."

Andrew Booth, another local, offered some usefully detailed criticisms. "The new start/finish area was the biggest let-down. A big area with plenty of potential. Just needs big visible signage. You are tired... you should finish, de-chip, get a drink, get food (where was it?), get a foil, get a goody bag and be channelled to the meeting/baggage area. They have done this every other year at this event, so why get it wrong this year? TV said 15,000 runners (therefore 15,000 entry fees); results show fewer than 10,000 finishers. Where are the missing 5,000? Did they run off with all the food?" The goody bag itself also got short shrift, with Benjamin Haines calling it "shocking" and Nevis Bear commenting: "Goody bag. Ha ha."

But the UK's second-biggest half marathon (behind GNR) must be doing something right. At the time of writing, you've given it an overall score of 77 per cent, and a 'would do it again' rating of 86 per cent – not exactly bottom of the league. Part of its success, it seems, is down to a new route and a great atmosphere.

"Fantastic atmosphere all around the course, not just at the finish as one reviewer mentioned," said Trevor Watson. Crowd-critic Celine "loved the oggy oggy oggy under the bridge", and first-timer Lucy Grannell welcomed the "fantastic" marshalls: "Very uplifting, especially on Portway." Ben Smith spoke for many with his comment: "I was disappointed with the T-shirt and the goody bag, my expectations having been built up by Bath maybe. The atmosphere was great though, and the marshalls did a great job, even though there didn't seem to be that many of them."

Sunday's other big half marathon wound its way through the undulating woods of Hampshire's gorgeous New Forest. Lynn Bravey summed it up well as "hot and hilly with fantastic atmosphere and scenery," and TS didn't mince her compliments: "Top Dog race, excellent organisation, fab marshalls and spectators. Very good overall." Poor old TS had a spot of domestic bother on the way, though: "Just wish I hadn't lost my car and house keys en route!" (Yikes!) "The atmosphere and local support was really good," said Rebecca Thomlinson. (If you work for the government or a water company, please look away now.) "Especially the lady with the hosepipe - thank you!"

There were more hot hills at the Cransley 10K and Half Marathon. "This year and last were particularly hot, and it's an exposed course, but that isn't the organisers' fault," reasoned Spitz. "I always forget just how much of it is uphill, but none of the hills are particularly steep."

Any Cransley and New Forest runners nursing sore calves after all those undulations might gaze in envy at the reviews of the Hove Prom 5, summed up by bob page as "PBPBPBPB" and by DUNC1 as "You won't find a flatter five-miler." Another small race gaining big plaudits was The Ryedale Run. "Really enjoyed this one," said stoxy. "Like the idea of a mug at the end! A great one as a last long run before the Great North Run."

Then there was the Woodstock 12, where everyone fell in love with the Blenheim Palace scenery. Mark Clay seemed to speak for many with his review: "Not an easy route, this, but a very rewarding race with a special atmosphere. The sort of race you could get hooked on. Friendly and smooth organisation from Woodstock Harriers, with great marshalls helping you through the rough spots. The finish was a little hard to spot - I nearly ran past it - and a starter pistol would have been nice, but no complaints from me. A great event, this, which deserves more participants. Don't let the hilly bits put you off!"


For the bank holiday weekend, August 26-28


Arundel Castle 10K
Amazing who you meet in races. Who'd have known that forum member Cicero's parentage would come out in a chirpy review of the Arundel Castle 10K? "The hills are alive with the sound of... people running up hills and down hills, rather steep ones, and then back up another smaller but just as steep one and, finally, finishing. (Julie Andrews is my mum)," he said.

Mishkadog gave us a bit more to go on: "Really beautiful setting, well organised. Because of the steady climb for the first half of the race, it's really difficult to pace yourself. And just when you thought it would start to get easier at the top, the path becomes uneven, then when you are getting used to the uneven track and heading downwards they throw in another punishing climb which just about finished me off! Nice atmosphere and a great crowd cheering you on at the end. Might take me a bit longer to convince myself I enjoyed it and to try again next year."

More hills, this time in the Jurassic Coast 10K, which sent a record number of runners this year around its Devon coasts, cliffs, river and rural paths. "First 5km hurt," said Ed Walters. "Second 5km you get to enjoy it. More scenery than you could shake a big stick at." Debra Thomas added helpfully: "The first three miles had quite steep cliff paths which, for plodders like me, can be quite challenging. Excellently marshalled and very well organised. Stunning scenery. A lovely race."

"Ouch!" said Trixabelle of the Leek Half Marathon. "Yes the hills were a killer and the down hills were as bad as the climbs, but it was definitely worth it. Great changing facilities, no toilet queues, a fab T-shirt and enough pain the next day to really feel like you've worked hard! Will definitely be back next year." And chucklebunny enthused: "Fantastic - best half in the country. Done this before and I'm sure the scenery gets better each time. It's also very well supported for such a rural race. I even managed to take 10 minutes off my usual time for this one, possibly due to the perfect weather conditions. I think everybody needs to try this one at some point, and you too will probably get hooked on the wonderfulness of it."

The Foxtrot 5 brought out more compliments, with Wrinty showing us where his priorities lay: "A good course, which is just undulating enough to defy a PB but still enables some good times to be run. Very well marshalled and lively atmosphere in the Fox beer garden afterwards."

A very minor drawback was pointed out by Richt, who still loved it: "Will definitely be back again next year, nice course. Well sign posted and plenty of marshals. Not my quickest time over five miles, but still enjoyed it. I think the only drawback to the event was the perceived lack of changing facilities. But all in all a fantastic event - thanks, Avon Valley."

And "a special race for those tired of big city corporate events" was how Denis Murphy described the Machen Mountain Run in South Wales. Kev Joyce described the scenery as superb and the mountain as "mental". "More competitors than previous years; proves we're gluttons for punishment. The chances of a 10K PB are zero, but the effort is worth it. The route up to the Trig Point gives some of the most stunning views, if you aren't too preoccupied with little things like breathing. Value for money is superb, great T-shirt, and a buffet, all for £7.50! Organisers and Machen Welfare personnel welcoming and cheerful. Thanks to the Air Training Corps Marshals too."


For the weekend of August 19-20


Tywyn Race the Train
So many of the races we cover have been around for years, sometimes decades – so it's nice to feature a first-time event. The 1st Sunsetsurf Run Women's Race in Cornwall looks set to become a regular fixture, if the reports from RW members are anything to go by. Schnecke said: "Very testing terrain, but worth the effort! I'd definitely do it again if I didn't have to drive 300 miles to get there – even if it was a killer at the time!" The race involves sand dunes, so tarmac-hardened legs might find it something of a challenge.

The Clash of the Tritons Aquathlon offered something a little different, with the 5K run preceded by a 500m swim – 20 lengths of a 25m pool. With multisport becoming increasingly popular among runners of all abilities, we can look forward to more and more races like this. First-timer SteveX said: "This was my first effort at anything like this, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was well organised, well marshalled and the goody bag and T-shirt were worthwhile. A friendly event for all levels. Would definitely do again." Can’t say fairer than that.

Occasionally a race brings a flurry of reviews within hours of its finish. The ever-popular Mbrace Runners' Quest Half-Marathon, run on Hackney Marshes in East London, earned a bagful of comments such as "fabulous", "brilliant", "one of the best races of the year", "awesome" and "fantastic". Most eager reviewer, in that she was first to the keyboard, was Paulette Graham, who enthused: "This has to be the friendliest race that I have ever done; the marshals had a list with all runners names on and they used it! It was well needed support particularly on the 5th and 6th laps. I loved the food goodie bag at the end – made a change from the usual solitary banana. Well done, I will definitely do this one again."

And, as always at this time midsummer, there was the world-renowned Tywyn Race the Train. It's a unique event, which this year celebrated its 23rd anniversary, and is generally regarded as a box to tick for all multi-terrain runners. Forum regular Marshallini had a go and said it was a "nice course and good target. Weather was terrible, course was good – not overly hard, but with the train to beat I had to work. Beat the train, so no need to ever do it again." Yeah, right. The organisers say: "Many competitors return regularly to try and better their performance or just beat THAT train, while others have run nearly every year since the races started." A couple of first-timers wished (along with seasoned regulars) that the weather hadn't been so foul, but still Boycie said: "An amazing experience, and my first ever Race the Train. Despite nearly collapsing at the finish line, it won't be my last! The hardest race I have ever run – 50+ miles on the road can not prepare you for this event – particularly with the weather conditions we experienced! A great race!"

Back to summer loveliness, the Torbay Royal Regatta 10K earned brickbats and bouquets. "Fast course – plenty of support, but start and finish arrangements could be improved (and a clock!)," said Ploddosaurus. And: "Best 10K I've run this year. Inclines not as much of a challenge as you might exepct. Quite a fast race, in fact. Good crowd and lovely location," said wheezyboy. Double-act Trin and RichK loved it: "Really enjoyed this one... seems quicker than you'd expect, given that there are some gradients. Friendly marshalls and good support on most of the course."

Finally, previous years' "could do better" comments were heeded, and this year's Sandwich Festival Half Marathon was a hit. As Stackers said: "Pretty good overall, definite improvement on previous years. I'd do it again."


For the weekend of August 5-6


Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog
There are some weird and wonderful names for races throughout the year, but a top contender for Silliest Title award has to go to the annually popular Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog, a five-miler through Thetford Forest in Suffolk. With 100 per cent of reviewers saying they’d do it again, it must be one for your list next year. ‘Great value this year with a t-shirt AND a mug for finishing,’ said Fenrunner. ‘Race director shook everyone’s hand at the finish. It's little touches like this that make a race so special.’ Miles of smiles, according to burdock, who said: ‘A race to relax and enjoy... and take in the wonderful atmosphere created by nice warm smiley marshals... every runner should do this one! It's what running is about.’

Durham Dawdler was one of several reviewers impressed by the Auckland Castle 10k. ‘The organisation of this race is excellent, all the marshals were cheerful and encouraging, even the police were egging the runners on, which I thought was great. Race started dead on time and everything went like clockwork.’

‘A good course with great scenery,’ said BFJ of the Helensburgh Bicentennial Half Marathon. And Sam Goldie pronounced it: ‘Well organised, nice atmosphere, interesting route & good PB potential.’ As with several of the popular races, there is a thread on the Events forum.

The Harlow 10 takes runners through town and country, and throws in a few undulations along the way. These were ‘deceptively challenging,’ said Cookie! ‘They didn't look like much but my calves didn't like them.’ Floatingvan agreed, saying: ‘great route except for the hill up to eight, really didn't know if I was actually moving or not!!’ All in all a well-received race, but the goody bags were a disappointment to some.

Fancy playing hooky? There were plenty of positive reviews for the Hook Norton Hooky 6, including feet don’t fail me now, who said: ‘Great atmosphere and very pleasant setting, well marshalled and plenty of water stations. Earlier start would have suited in the hot weather. Excellent refreshments and the kids races afterwards made it a good family day.’ Several racers agreed with the ‘earlier start’ comment, but the goody bag was ‘spot on’!

And a tough one to finish with – the Milland Valley Trail Race was 21k of ‘hills, hills and more hills!’ said Bree-babe. ‘I hurt in places I didn't even know existed! This was a truly hard and exhausting run, but one I will do again next year without a second thought! (brave words...!) Amazing scenery, friendly marshals, great organisation, I'm telling all my friends about this one!’ And Tim Muir will have a warning for his: ‘Tough Race, great scenery. Will ache like hell tomorrow.’


For the weekend of July 29-30


One of Sri Chinmoy's many life-affirming races

Multi-terrain, out and back, town and rural, flat and undulating – the Wedding Day 7K has it all, with a 26-year pedigree to boot. Always popular, this year it didn’t disappoint. ‘Enjoyed this race immensely. Great run through parkland on a mix of grass, rough tracks and tarmac. Marshals encouraging and friendly,’ enthused reviewer Longshanks. ‘A lovely race and I’ll be back next year,’ added Happychap. Oh, and it’s called the Wedding Day 7K because it was first run on the day HRH Prince Charles married Diana Spencer.

The Leafield 10 was an evening start, which made it popular with many because it justified a post-race pint. Some racers thought the ‘undulating’ description was something of an inaccuracy – like Colin Woodward, who said: ‘If that is undulating I am not running hilly.’ John Compton’s review is a glowing advertisement for the race: ‘The setting is lovely - lanes through the Oxfordshire countryside... The hill at 7.5 - 9 miles is the hard one, but you know this because you come down it at the start! Several challenging smaller hills during the race. Good water stops, great facilities (showers, changing rooms), plenty of parking and enthusiastic organisers. A small field, lots of club vests, so I guess this is not (yet) a course for a real beginner. All in all a lovely race.’

On to Sri Chinmoy AC's Self Transcendence 10K, a ‘fantastic race for all levels,’ according to Thabie. ‘It was so nice to run a race with runners who just enjoy running and where runners who love the sport organised (it). I would like to thank the organisers for being so friendly before, during and after the event. You have inspired me to keep on running.’

Who knows what a race called the Chernobyl Challenge will hold! ‘Well organised, well marshalled, scenic run mostly off roads, not the easiest but very good nonetheless,’ apparently, according to DoctorK. And finally, the Exmoor Seaview 17 was succinctly described by forumite Welsh Alex. ‘Hard as nails, but spectacular. 20 miles and with one mother of a hill 2/3 of the way through. A tough challenge with some beautiful views and varied terrain. A superb day out.’

Doesn’t all that just make you reach for our Event Selector and plan your next few races?


For the weekend of July 15-16


50 Mile Challenge
A nice way to start the weekend – the Great Bentley Friday Night 5 had many fans, meeting as it did some of the basic requirements of life. ‘Lovely evening - plenty of oxygen in the air!’ said reviewer jd.

Another popular five-miler was the Buxton Carnival 5, a hot and hilly event that promised and delivered a wonderful carnival crowd. ‘The really special thing … was the crowd in town, don't know whether it was the beer or the fact it was carnival or because my name was on my vest but it was like the FLM crowd - what more could you want?’ said forumite Fat Man Runs. And despite just one or two organisational gripes, ‘the public support at the end was fantastic with hundreds, nay, thousands of carnival going public cheering runners in,’ concluded APC.

We’re very fond of our rhinos at RW, and the Port Lympne Rhino Challenge 10K came up trumps. All profits from this event go to the work carried out by the John Aspinal Foundation in breeding and releasing endangered species, and specifically rhino, back into the wild. The race entry fee includes free entry for one person into the Wild Animal Park on the day. ‘The entry to the animal park and SIS freebies made this great value. The race would be better off main roads but the marshalls were great,’ said Andrew Gwyther.

From rhinos to hippos, and one of the forum’s best-loved ultra runners, Plodding Hippo, was among those that took on the 50 Mile Challenge through some of the more scenic parts of Kent. ‘Words cannot do this justice. Everyone is a winner at this event, whatever their eventual distance,’ said Hippo. And her fellow 50-miler, Corridore, was one of the weekend’s most descriptive reviewers, with this: ‘I ordered clouds last year but they still had not arrived. I grew to respect and appreciate the event more this year.

The support crew were excellent and supportive to all levels of participants; the food and drink available was apposite for our needs. What made it special was that everyone, from the race director downwards, seemed to be aware of, and sympathetic to, all the unfolding stories of each runner as they passed. It was reassuring to feel that they were interested in what we were doing.’

Whatever the distance, that kind of appreciation is a worthy target for organisers and marshals everywhere.


For the weekend of July 8-9


18th BIFFA Roddlesworth Roller 6
‘Even the flat bits went up,’ said forumite Daveboycool of the Charmouth Challenge 8, a rural, hilly cross country race organised by Charmouth Primary School. An ‘excellent tough course’, according to Celtus, and one which was enjoyed by our reviewers.

Understatement of the weekend must go to 99%Chimp, who said: ‘Running 42 miles across the North Yorks moors is not an easy experience.’ But the Lyke Wake 42 is a well known ultra event among our forumites, and there’s an active thread too.

The Biffa Roddlesworth Roller was worth looking at for its name alone (particularly as it was run alongside the floral fun that was the Daffodil Doddle, for juniors), but in fact this hilly but friendly race brought in two very different reviews. ‘Took my mountaineering skills to new heights!’ said Mark Ferns, while Christopher Day presented his own athletic priorities with: ‘Best selection of fruit cakes I have ever seen at a post race tea.’

Something a little different in Scotland – the Aberdeen City and Shire , the first part of the VisitScotland Great Trail Run series, took racers up and over steep sand dunes. As Stuart Legge said: ‘never thought that running north of Aberdeen could be so much like running in a desert.’ And Superveterana enthused: ‘beats the sox off your average road race!’

Unsurprisingly, sand was also a feature at the Northumberland Coastal Run 14, but rather cruelly, this time the soft, strength-sapping stuff was right at the end. Paul Bowerbank said: ‘Three types of sand - wet, very wet and the dry stuff reserved for the last mile.’ And Running Trumps summed up other racers’ enjoyment of the event: ‘This really is a highlight of the calendar. Even with a head wind all the way and the tide coming in - the last mile was really tough on soft sand - it is just glorious. To get 700 people turning up in quite a remote location year after year tells you how much it keeps people coming back.’



Feelfine British 10K - 48% would do it again...

For the weekend of July 1-2

Oops. A few black marks this week, starting with the London Breakfast 5K for Women, which prompted forumite h_c_b to rant: ‘the T shirt was tiny, bad directions (only to 10k), no warm up or stretching, only markers for the 10K which meant you reached '3K' at about 1K. No water stations and no promised sports drink and above all NO MEDALS!’

Then it was the turn of the Feelfine British 10K to dodge the brickbats. Sadly, the organisation of this event has been criticised before on our forums, and reviews from this weekend included ‘woeful’, ‘terrible’, ‘abysmally organised’, and many complaints that those nearer the back were without water on a stiflingly hot day. But we’re nothing if not balanced at RW, and there were also lots of people who enjoyed the day, including Red Stripe, who said: ‘I must have been in a different race to others. If you got there early, read the instructions and reports. Enjoyed the scenery. I encountered no problems in organisation or congestion and [there were] plenty of drinks stations for the day.’

A ‘nice way to spend a summer evening running in the country’ was how tupper described the Stratford Summer Six. And flanker concurred, saying: ‘This is a really good evening 'no frills' race: turn up, run, go for a pint! The marshalling was excellent and very supportive, runners very friendly and the route nice and scenic with very little traffic.’

The heat was an issue at the Prince’s Risborough Festival 10K Road Race, where apparently even the 9k marker board collapsed! It was a challenging race, said Ronnie Irani Fan Club, everyone agreed that it was well organised, with the five water stations particularly welcome.

‘Flamin' hot but worth it for the scenery,’ said Snailgirl of the Cranleigh 10k. Well organised, well marshalled and well watered, said others. And finally, a long one that pleased lots of you. The Bewl 15 was ‘Trail running at its best,’ enthused Tony Gates. And Graham “legs in threads" used exactly the same words!



Alistair Petrie (of 'Holby City') holds off pursuers in the Chiquita Bananaman Chase

For the weekend of June 24-25

What is the point of a race, do you think? For some it’s to get to the finish line first, for many more it’s simply to get to the finish line. But in the Chiquita Bananaman Chase the main aim is to beat as many bananas as you can. Celebrity bananas at that! More than 1200 runners took up the challenge and judged themselves not so much by minutes and seconds as by the numbers of bananas they passed. Andrea B commented: ‘Like a few others, I also think the banana pacing was not quite right - I should've beaten 8, but I only beat 7. Still - how many races can you assess with a sentence like that? Great race overall.’

Another 10k, but this time banana-free and in Wales, the Llanelli Millennium Coast 10k was a popular event, with high scores in every category. ‘Ideal first race for the novice,’ said Lisa Phillips, while BoK99 asked: ‘Who would want to sit at home when they can take part in an event as excellent as the Llanelli 10k?’

Last year we had something of a forum victory at the North Downs 30K when forumite Pantman WON it! So this year we were delighted to have another active thread, and plenty of ratings. ‘Superb race in every way,’ said Tinx, while Dai Jones reckons it’s: ‘Simply unmissable - there's nothing else like it.’ The race organisation rates a very high score from everyone, and 40% Badger summarised it thus: ‘It is gloriously beautiful - almost entirely off road, through forests, fields and orchards - and unbelievably hard. Some of the uphills, especially in the last 10k, are brutal!’

The Humber Bridge is a famous landmark, and the half-marathon that goes over it is a well-known running challenge. Despite some issues with water provision it proved a popular race. ‘A good race for those wanting to improve thier performance on hills. Definitely worth running over the bridge just to take in the views of the wide Humber estuary. On the way out the bridge provided a cooling breeze but this seemed to disappear on the way back’ said Les Cantlay.

And just to finish on a non-standard race distance, the Arden 9 is scoring highly with those of you that are rating it, with 100 per cent saying they’ll do it again. ‘Mostly pretty scenery, no killer hills and good marshalling but it is the people in the village (especially the families) who turn out with water and hoses to help in the heat who make it really special. Well worth turning out to this one,’ said Slow Worm. What more could you ask?

Don’t forget to keep them coming!


For the weekend of June 17-18

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Well – it beats the bunnies and badgers that some of our country forumites see on their runs. The Whipsnade Wild Animal Park 10K was an understandably popular venue, and the organisers were even praised by RW reader 'Roni Irani Fan Club' for organising a bit of cloud cover on an otherwise very warm morning. ‘When was the last time you did a race where you see flamingos, rhinos, wallabies and so on?’ enthused Mark Sleight, who described it as ‘a unique day out’. And Ed1234 loved it too, although he echoed a couple of other racers’ view on the start time: ‘Great value at £12.50 including park entry, car parking, medal and goody bag. It was also nice to see the horses enjoying the event - each time we passed the enclosure one of them was chasing the runners along the fence! I will definitely be back next year if it happens again, though I agree with the other reviewers that a slightly earlier start would have helped avoid the traffic dodging.’

Most of us gear up for a single race at the weekend, but the Colworth Marathon Challenge is for those who REALLY want to earn their Sunday night beer! Three races, from Friday to Sunday, make this an endurance event for the middle-distance runner. Three-day eventing for humans, in a way. It starts with the Colworth 5 on Friday as a warm-up, followed by the Colworth Trail Race 8 and then the Colworth Half Marathon on the Sunday. Kate Nankivell said it was ‘challenging but doable’. She summed up most people’s opinions, too: ‘Fantastic weekend for all the family, children’s races as well on the Friday evening, hog roast, pizza and pasta. Camping, good after-race facilities. Fantastic friendly atmosphere. Well marked and marshalled courses.’

What else? There was the Brading 10K, described by many as friendly, well-organised, tough, lovely and relaxed. But poor old Midbat obviously didn’t have a good time: ‘Too hot and too hilly! Made me want to cry.’ And the Killerton Kanter 6, which had all-round applause for the marshals. And the oldest half marathon in the country, the 42nd Classic Freckleton Half-Marathon, described by Michael Christopher as ‘the best organised race I have been to’.

But to tie up the zoological theme, in an ornithological sort of way, runners who took part in the Sialens y Barcud Coch-Red Kite Challenge had a challenging race with a picturesque finish. Let Tony Wenlock sum it up: ‘Great venue, beautiful course, variety of challenges, fantastic weather, plenty of water stations, helpful spectators (there were people way out on the course who'd actually come to watch!!) super finishing stretch with everyone being cheered in, lovely piece of cake for the finishers - and to top it off the stunning spectacle of the Red Kites swooping in to be fed at the end.



Two Castles Run 10K

For the weekend of June 10-11

The past weekend was the second hot and sunny one in a row. And it showed. "By heck it was hard work in that heat! Phew!" said Stuart Mann 2 of one of the most popular marathons of the year, the Edinburgh Marathon, which has already attracted 78 reviews. One of them, by forumite A Princess, reflected a common theme: "The crowds were excellent (but it hurt in places where there was no support). The people of Edinburgh are lovely and the city is stunning. Writing my name on my top was a good idea: I felt famous! Well attended by forumites and I even got to meet a few...what great support they have given in the past few months." And there was an intriguing comment from Chris Gill 3: "a space blanket would have been more useful then the toy parachutist".

Water stations are always an issue, but doubly so in the heat. The Southend Half Marathon had reviewers competing for temperature recordings (won, we think, by Graham Pearson, who reckoned it was 35 degrees!), and they all had something to say about the water provision. There was quite an even split between the satisfied and the dissatisfied, but it seems the cold sponges were unanimously welcomed.

Ahead in the race for daftest race name this weekend was the Afford Rent -A-Car Potters Arf-Marathon. Phil Fortun’s review will have lots of people wanting to do this hilly half next year, with his summary: "Some of the best support you'll find anywhere...well done the Stokies, and the organisation was really good. A real challenge with a medal, plate and t-shirt at the finish!"

Family events are always worth supporting, and one such was the Ninesprings 9km. "A fairly small field helps make this a very friendly local race. The fun run is a real bonus for the children and adds to the 'family feel'. A little gem of an event!" said Geoff Cole. Not many reviews in yet for this – did anyone else do it?

Running between Warwick and Kenilworth castles makes for a great race, according to the vast majority of those that reviewed the Two Castles Run 10k. Scenic and enjoyable, with some welcome hosepipes wielded by various supporters. Nearly everyone said they’d be back.

Keep your reviews coming – either for the past weekend, or remember to submit one for any you might be doing this coming weekend.


For the weekend of June 3-4


Blackpool Half-Marthon
Phew! What a scorcher! Well – if you will insist on running flat out for mile after mile instead of putting your feet up in the garden with a cold beer...

As always we’ve been inundated with race reviews and helpful ratings after your weekend endeavours. Some of you loved the weather, others were clearly wearing their Mr Grumpy sunhats – particularly those who thought that 2pm was too late to start a race on a summer’s day. But it appeared that the late start – to accommodate some very popular children’s races and other family events – was the only grumble as far as the Poole Festival of Running was concerned. ‘Splendid!’ said chalky. ‘Fourth time I have run this race and possibly the hottest.’ Brian Todd 2 had a very laid-back view of it: ‘Great start time. Gave me a chance to have a sleep in after having a few beers the night before.’ AM1 was less charitable, and said: ‘Stupid time of day… If you moved the time of race to 9am or something it would have been far more enjoyable. Understand children’s races in the morning, but distances are much shorter so wouldn’t be affected so much if it’s a hot day.’ Open-minded race director Mike Towner thanked all the reviewers for their comments, and explained that: ‘there are seven other races in this running festival, most of the other participants being young athletes. Should we swap the events around there would still be the same amount of participants running in the afternoon. I would welcome your comments on how to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all participants.’

Further north but still warm was the Blackpool Fylde Coast Marathon, which Tom Jones 8 summed up as ‘great all round, medal, t-shirt, food and drink, and flat as a pancake’. Nuff said? Well – a late start left a few runners disgruntled, but overall the race was scored high, with three-quarters saying they’d do it again.

Something a little different but clearly a perfect way to spend a beautiful day (if you’re a runner who likes a challenge) was the Garburn Trail Race – with a staggering 98 per cent saying they’d do it again, those 20 testing kilometres must have been worth it. Comments such as ‘this has to be THE must-do race for next year’, ‘well worthy of “the most scenic race in Britain" ‘ and ‘what a fantastic course. Tough but brilliant!’ made it a clear weekend favourite. Award for Brevity in a Race Review goes to David Thornley.

So many races, so much sun. There was the Humber Bridge 10K, the Dartmoor Discovery 32, and the Wharfedale Off-Road Marathon. And of course there were Races for Life all over the place. To read about more, go to

Awash at the Isle of Wight Marathon. (Photo: Ryde Harriers)

Your race experiences were as variable as the weather over the bank holiday weekend, with the 50th Isle of Wight Marathon awash, hailstorms at the Brandon Forest Half-Marathon and mud, mud, not very glorious mud at the Lindfield Village 10K!

But Shaun T was certainly in a sunny mood after the Great East Anglia Run, which he described as a: “well packaged entry with chip timing and clear instructions, good parking, nice route and setting - even the Portaloos were clean and flushed. Nice to see the elite guest runners as well as the townspeople giving local support as the whole of the route was closed off just for us runners,’ he said.

True to the spirit of the bank holiday, village events like the Crowle "Gunpowder Plot" Rural 10K drew lots of praise for their family atmosphere (and sunshine, according to cluck, who got sunburnt!). There are pages of reviews , covering the long and the short and the hilly, but one that has yet to be rated for 2006 is the ultra distance Grand Union Canal Race. We think it’s because after 145 miles, its entrants might be too tired to write anything just yet. But we are more than a little proud to announce that the event was actually WON by a Runner’s World forumite, Matt the Brum, in a staggering (literally!) 29 hours and two minutes.

If you’re still recovering from your own feats of speed and endurance, don't forget to add your ratings - just find the race in our listing, and click 'add your rating' at the bottom!


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