On paper, the Abingdon Marathon is no head-turner. It doesn't pack any big-city glitz, like London or New York. It's not in a tourist magnet like Windsor or the New Forest. And, unlike the Great North Run, it’s not on telly.
But this marathon, in a sleepy market town just outside Oxford, is hugely popular. Race day isn't until October 22, but the event's 1,000 places have long been snapped up – 107 of them by RW forum members, who've already filled the Abingdon Marathon thread with more than 2,300 posts.
The forum's enthusiasm for this event even surprises some RW members. As MrsMac put it: "Oh my God, I was going to ask if this race was full yet, but it looks like the forumites have taken all the places!" And this from S3oB: "Noooooo! The training I can stand, but nearly eight months of the Abingdon Marathon forum?"
Your forum threads have helped give Abingdon the kind of buzz that's normally reserved for headline-grabbing humdingers like the London Marathon.
So what’s the secret? To find out, I scoured the Abingdon threads and spoke to a few RW members.
Fast, flat and forum-tastic
At first the attraction seemed to boil down to two words: flat, and fast. Put simply, this is a marathon to bring out the personal best in everyone. "I guess that’s the main thing that comes up on the Abo forum," RW member Biastai told me. "I just have to say, this is the one. Each time I run it, I get a personal best."
"The size of the field is probably very good for first-time marathoners," adds Forest Runner, who’ll be running Abingdon for the first time this year. "The field at Bungay or New Forest is only about 200 or 300, so you can feel isolated if you don't run with someone else. Also, the flatness of the course at Abingdon is good for first-timers. New Forest was my second marathon, and I found it very tough with all the hills."
The Abingdon Marathon also obeys the three cardinal rules of event management: organisation, organisation, organisation. "The event itself is well organised, and the marshals are great," says Biastai. "Every year I’m impressed by them, especially as they’re all volunteers."
But the real secret of Abingdon’s success seems to be its army of fans. The more enthusiastic they get, and the more they share their enthusiasm on the RW forum, the more entrants it attracts. "Abingdon is such a friendly race, and a great deal of that is due to the RW members," says Biastai. "When you have a forum to discuss it on, you end up with the Abingdon thread phenomenon!"
Forest Runner agrees: "I know a lot of RW members and other runners will be running Abingdon this year as their first marathon. I'm sure this is partly because of feedback from people who have run it before, and partly because there’s such an active thread."
One potential downside of this huge buzz is that newcomers may wonder how they’ll ever fit in with this gang of Abingdon fans. Fear not, says Biastai. "People new to the Abingdon forum, or any of the RW forums, should just jump in and introduce themselves."
The thread is currently buzzing away with members comparing training notes and offering advice. Some are even suggesting venues for post-race meet-ups, more than two months ahead of race day. If it all leaves you itching to join the Abingdon action, make sure to get your entry in extra-early next year!
The Secret of Abingdon's Success: What You Said|
Run Around: "A must race for every marathoner - elite to beginner!"
Blackers: "This is an excellent event. The stadium start encourages a great feeling of cameradery which continues throughout the race. The organisation is the best I've seen in years. I will definitely be back next year. 80% down to the organisation, and 20% down to the flat, flat, flat profile of the course."
Flying Ant: "If you're thinking of doing a marathon and miss out on the FLM, then make this you next choice."
MumOnTheRun: "It's a brilliant marathon, very well organised, a flat course, lots of forumites doing it so plenty of support. Sounds perfect to me for a first marathon."
Tracey G: "It is a fast course with very supportive marshals, one even gave me a Mars Bar. I finished in 5:53:53 and there were still people in the grandstand to cheer me home."
Caramac: "It’s a good flat course with great marshalls and a supportive forum presence."
Alan Every: "The course was the first I ever did. Nice and flat, friendly bunch of people. Stadium finish. This is a real good one to select for a first."
Parrotmad: "Count me in for this one, it will be my 3rd Abingdon in a row! The course is fairly scenic and pretty flat as well. It was my first marathon course."
Little Miss Happy: "It's great for a first one. Ask Shades on the training thread for a copy of her schedule."
RichK: "Once again a great day out. The large number of Forumites made a difference of course. Abingdon Amblers have a top event here and their organisation and friendly marshalls are an example to us all."
straitjacket:: "For a first time marathon run I was definitely encouraged to do it again. A marshall at about mile 22 shouted to me, "You can do it, I can see it in your eyes". Whether he could or not, these words kept going round my head like a mantra. See you next year."
Murf: "You know you want to."