In short: Good in general In full: Certainly good for PBs as others have said - yes it is fast and almost entirely flat (small incline at about 12 miles is about it really).
A few negatives
- Mile markers were very disappointing, I saw very few of them even when I was looking out for them. It wouldn't take much more effort to make them huge and obvious, like some other races do. It made pacing a bit difficult, particularly as when I did see the markers they were coming up slightly short against the Garmin. (For future reference for anyone interested, half way on my Garmin was 13.01 miles, total distance was 25.94 miles - I'm sure the course is correct, but it's unusual to find a course which measures 1% short on the GPS, I usually find it's the other way round)
- water pouches were indeed hard to open but I usually got something out in the end. Not unique to this race though, they seem quite popular in quite a few races now.
- parking arrangements were a bit of a fiasco, no directions to car parks in the race booklet, roads all closed on the morning.
But will I do it again? If I want to go PB hunting again and can't get into London, then probably yes. Date of review: April 9, 2014
In short: A dream race, flat course and superb atmosphere In full: I thought that this was a great race from start to finish. The pre race info was thorough and detailed. Parking was fine for me but I heard that there were some thieves that stole signs and set up a bogus car park - resourceful but not nice. Loads of loos at the start, easy to find the start. The course is something else with amazing support all the way along. This is definitely the friendliest crowd and they keep you going. loads of water and gels and an awesome medal and T-shirt. Definitely recommend Date of review: April 8, 2014
In short: the crowds make the difference In full: had to pick my number up the day before...it's Manchester and weather forecast was accurate...so XtraMile obviously decide to us the smallest tent as pickup and leave you queing in the rain for 30 minutes....obviously learnt very little from 2012's fiasco. However, the day after was excellent. Free on the tram, plenty of loo's, good buzz at the start and away with similar paced runners in my pen. Although the first 5/6 miles are fairly sparse in the support stakes, it's more than makes up for it for the rest of it. Lots of noise and encouragement from spectators and marshalls alike. Same again next year. Date of review: April 8, 2014
In short: Super fast - definitely one for PB hunters In full: Positives - Fast course – as promised, it is very flat. Smashed my PB! - Loads of crowd support, bands, choirs – so a great atmosphere - Lots of water stations – all staffed by a great bunch of guys. I liked the pouches too, although sometimes a pouch that started off really well would suddenly stop letting anything out. - Out and back parts of the course meant I could see my friends going in the other direction. Was good to see the leaders powering on in the other direction as well. - Friendly and helpful team at the finish - Organised starting pens meant plenty of room to get into rhythm v early on without having to weave around people who may have started too far forwards
Things I think could have been better - Pre race info – all done in a pdf, most of which was advertising. I’d like to have had the information, without so much advertising, supplied in hard copy. Paper saving or cost saving? - Gels: the website, and subsequent emails, implied that these would be available at regular intervals on the course. After buying some (from XtraMile, in response to one of their many promotional emails) to get used to them, it turned out that gels would only be available at 22 miles – and then at 22 miles I only found bloks. - Entry fee – why add on a 5% handling fee? Very Ryanair – here’s the entry cost - oh and here’s a compulsory extra. I’d rather have one cost quoted up front which includes that 5%. - Photos – surely the most popular one to buy is the one under the finish gantry, especially on a course that prides itself on its flatness and therefore its PB potential. The photographer was so far to the side that in the pic I’m 90% behind someone that crossed the line beside me! A lost sale there.
Overall though, well worth doing. After fluffing things big time over the last couple of years at events with hills in the last few miles, I wanted a flat course to nail that GFA, and I got that. The race itself was great – fantastic buzz out on the course, due to the crowd support and entertainment – and the other key stuff, like baggage facilities, toilets, water stations, all worked well. Thanks Manchester for a memorable day.
In short: Good race spoilt by problems getting there by car. In full: Why were the roads to the stadium car parks closed, they could have been kept open till 8:30'ish without affecting the start. As they were closed where was the signage for alternative access. Like many others I wasted time, petrol and money on prepaid Old Trafford parking because I failed to find a way in after 45 mins. Instead of having a nice relaxed 90 mins to enjoy the atmosphere and prepare for the race it left a stressful 30 mins. to get everything done. Fortunately baggage drop off was very quick and queues for urinals very small. The race itself was actually quite good, the crowds and marshals were excellent and very encouraging. Certainly lived up to claims of being flattest, friendliest marathon. I personally didn't like all the switchbacks in the first half, especially first one after less than a mile, but it does make it easier for spectators, marshaling and reducing road closures in the city. Baggage collection not as efficient as drop off, 1 tent not enough for up to 10000 bags but cadets were brilliant and did their best in the confined space. Overall would recommend for flat, friendly course, just don't try and get there by car.
In full: Fast but boring course, well supported on course. Getting there was a bit of a nightmare with poor diversion signs and 'dodgy' car park attendants trying to charge you twice. The starting pens where also disorganized. Probably worth doing once for the pb but wouldn't do it again. Date of review: April 7, 2014