In short: Shambolic organisation this year, please improve quick! In full: I will try to avoid ranting. Before I start my review of the 2014 race, I want to be clear that OHM charge £32 for (affiliated) entry putting it at mid-high price bracket. It has also been running for 4 years, therefore teething problems should be sorted by now.
Entering through the website was very straight forward, although if you are affiliate athlete make sure you know your number. Entry pack arrive in good time with everything you’d expect. So start day arrived, an early start I arrive in Oxford outside the Kassam Stadium at 7:50. There is an option to park at the stadium for a prior charge. I had not paid the charge, but stupidly put the wrong postcode from the pre-race leaflet in my sat-nav. I re-checked the leaflet, and followed the new directions the 2 miles or so to the Park & Ride. This journey (according to the nav should take no more than 10 minutes). (Not a complaint at this point, my own silly mistake). I got to the ring road and with in ¾ mile of the turning with in about 5 minutes. The rest of the journey took 1 hour 10 minutes. With only one Park & Ride, the majority of runners appeared to be heading for it from 3 different directions converging on one entrance. The obvious result was a huge tail back in all directions. I then joined a massive queue for a bus. I would seem that the buses had to come in the same way of the cars! Thus they were sporadic at best. Hundreds (I am not exaggerating) of runners were still queuing for buses as I finally boarded mine and we set off for the start. We were dropped, not at the advertised drop off but, at a housing estate a short walk away. The time now being 9:35 (scheduled start was 9:30). Rumors spread that the race had been put back, this was confirmed as we arrived at the ‘Runners Village’ by some of the marshalls. We were told until 10am. So I went to find a cubical to relieve myself. However, the one toilet had only one (male) cubical, which had run out of paper! I later saw some porta-potties, but by then it was too late. So I went put my bag into the secure tent, the attendant was very helpful, taking my bag and pointing out where to pick it up. I, along with many others, were then hurried to the start. I arrived at 10am, however, the vast majority had already been sent on their way (over 10 minutes before, I later found out). For those that have not raced Oxford before, it is not the most picturesque . The majority is on roads around the more industrial areas, there is very little (if any) of the more inviting sights of the city centre. I was prepared for this, but I think the flat course and good spectator along with a lovely few miles along the river Thames, help make up for that. (Although passing is difficult along the side of the river). Oh and not to forget the Bannister mile, though not a wonder to behold, there is something very uplifting and nostalgic about treading the hallowed ground. The website claims it is a ‘traffic free’ race. Well, I would dispute this comment; there is traffic along long stretches of the route. I do concede, however, that there is a section of road coned off for runners so the is a safety gap. Marshalls are enthusiastic and do a grand job, although they are a little sporadic at some points. Water stations could be more regular too. This is only a minor issue though. So to the finish, which is at the Kassam stadium. It’s a great place to end because it means friends and family can cheer you in on the (plentiful) covered seating. As I walked to the through to the goody bags I realised it was the same organisers as at Bath half. The medal was fine, but the T-shirt, what can I say, very basic white cotton with an awful design. Why can’t they do a technical T-shirt (like 2 years ago) or at least put some effort into it. Perhaps do something different, like a towel, pullover, mug or something. The goody bag, as well, was nearly empty save some leaflets and toothpaste?! I had got a PB, by chip-time although nowhere near by the gun! I wandered through the runners village, a total of around 5 marquees and ventured to the line waiting for the buses. Things hadn’t improved! The line was so long, once again no buses, I decided to walk back to the car (roughly two miles). I left Oxford feeling thoroughly disappointed, despite the PB. For an event that is in it’s 4th year, at the price they charge, it really has a long way to go in the organizational stakes. But, the one thing it has to sort is the Park & Ride. That can’t happened again. My suggestion would be to have two locations (at least), it would certainly relive the traffic, which would enable the buses to run more efficiently. There is nothing more frustrating than not being there for the start of the race. I know some people didn’t even make it across the start line. I do want to love and recommend this event, but I can’t.
In short: Nice course but bit shambolic! In full: First time at Oxford - we managed the parking & park & ride fine but clearly loads didn't - the start was put back to 10am, but then all of a sudden we were off at 9.50 with no warning - luckily we were lined up but I'm sure many weren't! Not sure about the green start thing as there were LOTS of slower runners at the start - we had lined up in the right start zone but spent the first mile dodging much slower runners who had been lined up ahead. Very annoying especially as loads had iPods on so no special awareness! Next gripe (and my main one) was the mile markers were AWFUL!! The first one came after 6.15 ( we were running a 7.30 all the way round), & then they were literally all over the place - 4 mins between 6-7 (!) then 10 between 9-10! If they're going to be that inaccurate you may as well not bother! I dont wear a garmin so found it hard to know if i wss on track had i not asked a man running near us! The course itself was lovely in the main (bit boring at the start & end) and the bands and support were FAB - really good touch. The staff at the stadium were fab, nice medal and tshirt and no problems getting back to the park and ride at all. Date of review: October 12, 2014
In short: Nice Flat course, car park was a nightmare In full: There was a general feeling of surprise that so many people chose to arrive at the same time on a Sunday morning to go for a run. Problems with car parking led to the start time being delayed by 30 minutes. This was essential for people like me who spent nearly two hours trying to get into the car park and then waiting for the shuttle bus. I phoned the help line to tell them everyone was being hugely delayed and was told that this was because too many people were trying to arrive at once..... I am not sure what was expected? It must have been very tough for runners who had got there in time and had to wait getting cold. The route was poorly thought through, with badly placed bollards constantly getting in the way and at one point some stray cars driving through runners, which was pretty dangerous. The first few miles were quite congested but it got better later on. The mileage markers seemed to have been placed at random by a small child. At least 3 were half a mile out. The bands were a nice touch and going through the Bannister mile and the Iffley Road Stadium was really special. I enjoyed the race and beat my PB by 9 minutes which I am chuffed to bits about, and ran with my sister, so on a personal front had a memorable day. The organisation just let it all down a bit. Date of review: October 12, 2014
In full: My friend and I ran this year's Oxford Half Marathon. She lives in Oxford and told me of the problems that the organisers were having with the Council and the local AA group - taking this on board I think we should all be lucky that the race ever got going! Yes they had some problems with traffic getting into the Stadium, but I think that was mainly because people left it too late; we arrived at 8:30am for a 9:30am start and parked no problem!
I have read some comments where people have tried to compare the Oxford Half to others such as Reading, Bristol and Bath - how many years have they been going for?!!! this was the first time for Oxford and they did a great job; my brother ran the Bristol Half several times in the 90's and the race was always a fiasco with late starting and lack of times, and Reading was not much better up until recent years! I have also raced at Bath before and experienced far worse problems.
I think the Oxford course could have been better and I understand this will change for next year, having read on this forum that the race did not get the go-ahead until 3-4 months before the date it was excellent. The Stadium finish was superb and we found everyone to be friendly and supportive, the medal we received at the end was brilliant and unique; it was also great to see Liz Yelling on the Start line who also spoke to us afterwards and seems very nice. Yes, the route could have been flatter and more scenic, but this is Oxford and you're not going to see galloping Wildebeast and Water Buffalo in Oxford!! Full credit to the event, and if a couple of minor teething troubles are overcome next year this has the making of being a truly great event - we will be back for 2012 certainly. Date of review: November 20, 2011
In short: Needs to be a change of route for next year or I will give it a miss In full: Getting into the car parks was a joke when you have to sit in traffic for 45mins passing lots of closed off car parks to find a dummy with a vest on using his phone???? shouldnt he be directing cars. The first few miles of this event are the most dull I have ever done, up hill next to a by-pass? Good medal and Race Time Systems high quality results but not the best event. Date of review: November 10, 2011
In short: first year race, loved the stadium finish, will be back! In full: It was my 4th Half Marathon and had family in Oxford to support me all the way. Looked at previous comments and my sister did say that the event was only launched in June of the same year so I think the organisers did well to stage the event in the first place, as she said they did have a lot of hurdles to overcome.
The car parking needs to be addressed, as there was a slight delay to start the race, but going through the Mini plant was a nice touch, and it was brilliant running into Oxford city centre and passing Iffley Road, which I was told is where Roger Bannister broke the mile record.
Course was a little congested with spectators and runners, but looking at facebook they have said that it will be a new course, with more road closures next year. Mind you the spectators were brilliant on the course, somebody gave me jelly babies and what I loved about this race was the stadium finish and the noise, it was a great atmosphere at the finish.
Also,I was so pleased to have a free bra, from the Moving Comfort stand in the athletes village.
Very good standard medal, although maybe a little more could have been made of the goody bag. Big plus for me was the great changing and showering facilites.
Overall, a really good first attempt, maybe more road closures needed to keep the specatatoes off the road, but please please keep the stadium finish at this made the race.
Will definately be entering next year, if they go ahead Date of review: November 10, 2011
In short: Sad to say I was disappointed... In full: I was really looking forward to this half marathon - the website made it sound like a flat and scenic route, and having done Reading half (and loved the atmosphere at the end) I was excited at the prospect of a stadium finish again. How wrong I was.
The start was delayed significantly, I think due to problems with baggage storage and road closures,and when the race did get under way there wasn't the atmosphere and excitement I would have expected for a first time race. The route itself I found boring if I'm honest, and I hate to say that because I love Oxford and think it has some stunning scenery. A lot of it seemed to go along by-passes and through underpasses (very cramped down there!!) When we did reach a very pretty bit of Oxford runners were forced to run along the pavement along with members of the public - I felt this to be not only quite frankly annoying, but also dangerous. At other points the traffic control was chaotic to say the least and when running past the lines of cars I got countless glares from the drivers. After a particularly depressing last couple of miles the stadium finish was underwhelming, and although I got a nice medal I was extremely disappointed with the goody bag considering how much I paid to enter. It contained a few leaflets for running events, a plastic bottle and an energy gel.
I know it is a first time event and there are bound to be a few teething problems - but I really didn't enjoy the route, I wouldn't have described it as flat or scenic and the whole event lacked any atmosphere. Won't be doing again - sorry. Date of review: October 11, 2011
In short: Very poor race with far too many problems In full: I entered the Oxford half late, after not being able to run in the Bristol half two weeks earlier. I was hoping for a PB, but the course was not flat, the conditions were not favourable and the organisational failings were too distracting.
Getting into the car-park was terrible - this is a football stadium for goodness sake. How on earth can they cope on match day and not on race day? Having managed to get to the stadium I was then faced with marshals who had no idea where the changing facilities were, where the bag drop was, etc, etc and finally found the bag-drop (which was a £1 per item cloakroom) with a queue that I stood in for 20 minutes. With about 5 minutes to race time I asked the race director if there was going to be a delayed start and when he confirmed there would be, I suggested it might be a good idea if he announced that to the 100 or so people still trying to drop their bags.
The start of the race was OK but the course was disappointing. Obviously the fact it was warm and a bit windy is not the fault of the organisers, but it was billed as a flat race and it was definitely not flat. Much of the course was through desolate factories, through under-passes and along boring dual carriage ways until we hit the town, where a 30cm wide path had been created between the curb and a line of cones... which was full of pedestrians and cyclists. Really, it looked as though no one knew or cared that there was a race on and I, along with the runners I could see in front of me, ended up in the traffic because the 'path' for the runners was too narrow and presented too much of a trip hazard. This was made much worse by marshals who seemed to have no idea that those aiming for fast times need a bit of warning when a turn (another bloody turn!) is coming up.
I think that Oxford is the kind of city that should have a half marathon. But the organisers really need to up their game if they want to attract runners and grow the event. For goodness sake spend a bit of time looking at the Reading half or the Bristol half to see how it should be done. Date of review: October 4, 2011