In short: Every bit as good as the 2009 event. In full: I took part in the Abingdon Marathon for the first time in 2009 and duly spent the winter waiting for entries for the 2010 event to open. This is a deservedly popular race and it fills up pretty quickly. The number 42 may or may not be the answer to life, the universe and everything, but it was certainly the answer to my race entry.
Once again, I decided to get up early and face the 80 mile drive from Bristol via the M4 and the A34 rather than stay in Abingdon overnight. There is plenty of parking at Abingdon College at 7.00am and marshals were already on hand. There is a fifteen minute walk to the sports centre in Tilsley Park and already there is a sense of occasion with "Road Closed" signs and marshals all over the place.
Having mentioned marshals twice already, I'll say here what a fantastic team they are at this event. The road closures are partial and so some of the run is on open roads. In a couple of places, this involves crossing two-way traffic or negotiating T-junctions with cars all around. The marshals do a spectacular job, both controlling the runners ("Don't cross yet, stay on THIS side!", "Cross HERE!") and stopping the traffic. This means that I felt safe and secure running into the road and across the traffic when instructed to do so. No hesitation or change in pace required. This is a well-drilled team! Thanks to all of you!
Back to the start. This is a good location and everything seems to be on hand. There are refreshment stands, vending machines in the Sports Centre, clothing lockers and plenty of warm spaces indoors. I failed to check my gel supply until after the shops closed on the Saturday, so if there are any running shop managers in Abingdon who are wondering whether it is worth putting up a stall next year, well, you would have had one customer (who would have spent a pound or two!).
The course was the same as in 2009 - a five mile outward run, two nine-mile loops and three miles back to base. It is flat and, again, it was the ramp up from the underpass in the town centre that seemed to provide the steepest challenge. I like the course. The commercial estate (twice) isn't to everyone's taste, but it's only a mile or two each time and it's certainly traffic free. It's also the adopted home of fetchpoint! I use the fetch website and I’m not sure whether that makes me a fetchie (I wasn't wearing any distinguishing logos), but the fetchpoint is definitely worth a visit. On the first lap, I ran through without being noticed, but they had warmed up by the second lap and were making a huge amount of noise for all the runners, fetchies or not. Great stuff!
The scenery is mixed, but there is enough variety to keep it interesting. From the turkey farm (did that solitary escapee that seemed to be running down the drive to the road ever complete the marathon?) to the river and the rowers, from the bells of St Helen's Church to the footpath section that may be an old railway line, it kept on changing.
There are a couple of comments below about the water cups. I am in two minds about this. Having campaigned successfully for a switch to bottles at the Chippenham Half, I don't feel the same need to do so here. Firstly, the event is over a month later and the temperature lower, so you don't need to take on so much liquid. Secondly, the water supplies are supplemented by two lucozade stops and two sponge stops, so you are not totally dependent on having a good drinking-from-open-beakers-while-running technique. I'm really not sure about this one.
The stadium finish is very good. It's a tough run in, with the winding route around Tilsley Park and then a lap of the track, but the good thing is that there's no sense of anti-climax. Finishing arrangements and the "funnel" work really well and the goodies are appreciated - water, goodie bag, medal, a great T-shirt (top marks for the colour and the techie material) and a free hot drink. Good changing facilities and showers too.
Many thanks to the organisers for another excellent event.
In short: Superb race. Must do it again. In full: The organisation is tremendous, as is the support around the course. It is a PB race and at a good time of the year for decent weather (ie not too hot or cold). Good mixture of standards - not a lonely race, even though it's not got the vast numbers of London! Date of review: October 31, 2010
In short: Great PB potential Friendly marshalls and sport and first class organisation LOVED IT In full: Thank you marshalls and race director - you should be very proud of this race Date of review: October 28, 2010
In short: Extremely well organised and friendly race with great PB potential In full: This was my first non-London marathon and I was immensely impressed by the sheer effort that had gone into the race organisation. The course, although partly 2 lap, was scenic and interesting. There were plenty of toilets, changing rooms, lockers, and warm places to hide before the start. The only negative point I have is that the Lucazade stops were actually at 14 and 23 miles rather than the advertised 12 and 21. The event for me was characterised by an abundance of really friendly marshalls offering support (and sweets) all the way round. A first class event. Date of review: October 26, 2010
In short: Flat and fast In full: Pros: Very flat and fast, massive PB potential and I clocked my first sub 3 hour marathon. Lovely Oxfordshire countryside, very nice for a weekend away. Cons: Water in plastic cups didn't cut it for me, I was very dehydrated by the end of the race. Small bottles from mile 14 onwards? Date of review: October 22, 2010