In short: A great race. THe weather last year involved hail, sun rain and the wind. Oh the wind. Great marshalls. Really Enjoyed it In full: I just wish I had raced it rather than running to marathon pace Date of review: March 10, 2005
In short: So near, yet so far. In full: We were nearly halfway round when I overheard a woman in front of me wearily ask her running partner: "How many miles *are* there in this race?"
"Thirteen", he panted.
"Thirteen! Oh bloody hell!"
This struck me as a curious exchange.
Come on. You get up early one Sunday morning, pin your race number to your top and put your running gear on. You check the map to find the best way to Reading, and to the start line. Meet up with your running mate and stand in a frozen field for an hour, waiting for the last possible moment to take off your fleece and dump your baggage onto the truck. You queue for another half hour at the start, manufacturing yet more small talk before setting off. You then run six miles.
And then, and only then, does the question cross your mind... How long is this race I am running in today...? She was no first-timer either, on the evidence of her well-used Asics and pleasingly Lycra-ed bottom.
Reading does attract a lot of them. Lycra-ed bottoms? Yes, but I really meant first-timers. Numbers pinned to the back of hooded fleeces (with just two safety pins). Khaki shorts. Tennis shoes. Coarse walking socks. A duffel bag. Balaclava. Two litre bottle of Pepsi. All exhibits for the prosecution case. Not that it's of any concern to me really. I just find it odd that some people find it hard to distinguish between strolling in the countryside and running an urban half marathon.
I was a first-timer at Reading too, in 2002. Today was my third visit in four years, and I'm delighted that the organisers have decided to retain some of the race's most celebrated traditions, like delaying the start by half an hour to ensure that any odd toes escaping frost damage in the long wait in the playing field can be properly finished off. This makes sure that any trace of pre-race high spirits can be thoroughly subdued, greatly reducing the danger of releasing glee onto the streets of Reading.
But if you survive the annual, terrible start, you're in for quite a treat. Reading is surely the most frustrating of the big races on the calendar. Every year, the organisers so nearly get it right. Every year there are Everest-like, man-made organisational obstacles to overcome. Every year, emotional runners line up to denounce the race on the RW forum, declaring that they will never run this race again. Unsuccessful social gatherings in breweries are referred to. And yet. And yet...
And yet so much else about the Reading Half is good. For an urban race, the course is good. If you subtract the opening stretch through Whitley, and the final mile or two round the featureless business park behind the Madejski, it's an attractive course that takes you through the university, a variety of tree-lined residential areas and the town centre - all to the accompaniment of the best crowd support I've come across outside the big city marathons. One or two inclines aside, it's a flat course. Ten thousand-ish good humoured runners, many rehearsing their London Marathon fancy dress performances.
Delays notwithstanding, I enjoyed this race a lot. The first two numb-toed miles were challenging, but after that it just slipped by, without me really noticing it. My preparation for the race was poor, but at least I knew how many miles I had to run.
And I ran them.
www.runningcommentary.co.uk Date of review: March 10, 2005
In short: Terible weather but great fun - the hail was challenging but added to the buzz! In full: My first race so I was a bit unsure what to expect - and suprised it wasn't cancelled, although I was pleased it went ahead after I put in a lot of preparation. Seemed very well organised and everyone was friendly. I used to wonder why pepople enjoy running around in the cold, wind, hail and snow but now I think I get it - it was a real buzz - I must be turning into a real runner. Date of review: March 9, 2005
In short: Good organisation as usual In full: Very smooth organisation. Enjoyed it this year. Only improvement would be more water stations and bigger cups - I lost most of mine picking it up so was v thirsty during the 2nd lap.
In short: Poor organisation at start spoils race again In full: Every year the start is delayed and this year was worse than ever. The tannoy repeatedly told us to get our bags (and warm clothes) on the vans by 9:55 or take them with us and then the race was delayed by 25 min til 10:30 leaving everyone to freeze for over half an hour. Normally the support on the course is good but this year it seemed poor to me. The goody bag was a joke - a malt loaf, bottle of water and a leaflet advertising special offers at the local Macro, a shop most of the runners would have no access to! If I didn't live in Reading, I would not continue to run it! Date of review: March 9, 2005
In short: The poor organisation ruins what would otherwise be a great race In full: Having been caught up in the carpark for an hour longer than it took me to run the race last year, this year I opted for the drop off option. Note to organisers - if you say there will be sign posting from J10 to the drop off point - put them up! Then for the start to be delayed yet again in freezing weather because the shuttle service was so inadequate was equally as frustrating. Sadly after 2 bad experiences, I wont be putting my £18 towards this race again next year. Date of review: March 9, 2005
In short: Not as difficult as is made out to be but still challenging. In full: A great event very well organised with interesting terrain. After everyone going on about the legendary river crossing I was expecting a bit more than ankle deep water. The strat is tricy as the canal path is narrow and almost impossible to pass slower runners which is frustrating. Although it's not a course for pb's you might want to better last year's time, so starts ordered by potential finishing time would be better. Overall though, brill! Date of review: March 9, 2005
In short: Well organised. Interesting course, great value. In full: Easy to park. Changing & toilets (no showers). No check in for bags but village hall was manned at all times. Great course. Very well organised and great value including a quality T shirt. Refreshments - I had tea, ham roll and fruit cake all for £1.30, fantastic!!! Great event would def do it again. Was very sore after but that's not their fault! ;-) Date of review: March 9, 2005