In short: Rather dull and low key In full: Sometimes the weather makes all the difference. This was a cold and mostly grey day, so that brings down the spirits. Even so, I found the course to be largely uninspired and dreary, with some pleasant bits, that never quite opened up into anything really enjoyable. Once out of the park there's some suburban streets, then there's some narrow country roads where the view is either the hedges or trees either side. It's actually a bit better than I'm painting it - certainly it's not ugly, but the views are not worth talking about, and are not what is going to bring you back.
The course is fairly challenging. It's a series of small hills, combined with a gradual slope upwards, so if you're not running down a hill, you're doing some form of climb up. This does become wearying after a time, but eventually the slope does come down until you're in the flat of the park for the finish.
The race and the organisation is rather low key. It feels like a very modest local run, but does manage to attract a decent crowd, and it has pace runners, which is impressive. There is little in the way of frills or actual organisation. There's a tent in the park, which is useful, and there are marshals, and you get a running top as a souvenir, but other than that, it's not what you'd expect for the money or the amount of runners. Everything feels a little too minimal and modest. And this is summed up by the lack of food at the finish. After a hilly half marathon in cold weather the least one can expect is some form of nutrition at the end - a sports drink, a cereal bar, even a banana. The only food on offer was some greasy meat you had to pay for. Veggie's like me had to walk into town.
The support of the other runners as I finished in the park was very moving, and it brought home that while there had been some support from the marshals, on the whole, it had been modest. And it would be helpful if organisers advised marshals not to say "Not far now", unless the runner is within 400 yards of the finish. It's not helpful. Really. Especially if you still have another hour left to run. And, the last few miles are NOT "The easy bit" - that is so demoralising. The last few miles are bloody well the hardest bit, and you need to dig deep, and to get the right support from the marshals, not to have your efforts dismissed as "easy". I would rather marshals kept shut than to tell me it's "not far" and that I've done the "difficult part", and that this is "the easy part now". Run a mile in my shoes and tell me that!
The combination of the hills, and the cold meant this was a stiff and painful run for me. But I kept at it, and did it in 2.40. Not a great time, but given the circumstances I shouldn't be too hard on myself. Date of review: February 15, 2013
In short: Those hills hurt!! In full: It was a tough race, with some nasty hills. The organisation went well and there seemed to be plenty of loos, as I never had to wait! This is a great training run for a spring marathon. The Pacers were a great touch, thanks 1hr58min man. Date of review: February 13, 2013
In short: Disappointing organisation In full: Quite hilly but nice course. Tough being 1st half of the year so a bit slower than my usual race times but still enjoyable. Very disappointed with the water stations. Ended up missing the first due to no advance warning and the bad situation of it. The lack of any food in the goody bag was also not on. The only thing in it was old ASICS merchandise presumably from the cancelled 2012 half as ASICS pulled out of sponsoring it this year. That said ASICS must have been pleased as punch as the organisers still bizarelly used ASICS mile markers and marshalls were wearing ASICS jackets. Date of review: February 7, 2013
In short: Great race, only let down by the goodybag In full: I've run this before and it's a great course with some decent hills and varying scenery. The crowd, marshals and bag tent were great. The only real let down, as others have already stated, is the complete lack of any food in the goodybag. I'd much rather trade the tshirt for a banana or two. I'd also prefer another water station instead of the sponges which are of little use in February. Date of review: February 6, 2013
In short: Good to have it back In full: I have done this a few times and enjoy it a lot. I was disappointed about the cancellation last year, but it was good to have it back this time. The hills are not as bad as Berko's but they are certainly testing, especially as they disturb the chance to get some rhythm. I do think it is well-organised and the baggage system works much better in the park than it used to in The Colosseum. I agree it needs a fourth water station, but I couldn't fault anything else. The car next to mine got a ticket. Could the organisers have a go at persuading Watford's parking powers-that-be to ease off with the rules on a February Sunday? That doesn't do Watford much good on the PR front. Date of review: February 5, 2013