In short: Highly enjoyable race. In full: This was my first go at the Marlborough Downs Challenge and I found it to be a well organised and scenic event.
There was plenty of parking at the start and the toilets facilties at the nearby leisure centre where registration took place seemed more than adequate.
The route was extremely scenic and for the most part very runnable. The checkpoints were extremely efficiently manned by very helpful and friendly volunteers and had a choice of water or squash and a variety of biscuits and sweets. They seemed sensibly thought out too. I think the biggest gap between them was 10k though the marshalls gave m eplenty of warning about this at the stop before. Most gaps seemed to be about 4 miles which felt just right.
Marshalling was low-key as you might expect on a 33 mile race, but the marshalls who were on route were extremely supportive and did an excellent job. Navigation was made easy by a combination of comprehensive pre-race directions (which I would heartily recommend runners take with them) and signposts at critical points.
The finish was slick, with a nice earthenware mug for all finishers. The post-race meal was the nicest I have ever eaten. The veggie option was a cheese and pasta bake with side salad and it went down an absolute treat!
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable race and one I would very much recommend particularly if you are new to ultra-running or even if you are a more experienced runner looking for a quicker time or an enjoyable day out in the Wiltshire countryside. Date of review: May 16, 2011
In short: Lovely race, perfect all round. Challenging first half but nice few miles to finish. In full: Awesome views, plenty of direction arrows all round, easy to navigate (directions spot on to garmin distances). Friendly race, marshalls great. Biccies, jelly babies, water & juice at checkpoints. Choice of colour of nice pottery mug at end. 3 diff pasta dishes + salad at the end. Will be there for the 33 next year - there, now I've said it!!! Couldn't be improved. Magic race, thanks guys. Date of review: May 15, 2011
In short: Superb views, marshalls, atmosphere and supporters. In full: Breathtaking views - great written instructions, together with OS map, means little chance of getting majorly lost!! Very friendly runners and marshalls - all added up to a fantastic day out! Many thanks everyone. Date of review: May 15, 2011
In short: As Always, Brilliant! In full: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again I have to say this is a superb event. My eighth, consecutive year now, the first six on the 20 mile course, and for 2010 and '11, on the 33.
As usual, the atmosphere was terrific, with a real shared spirit amongst the runners. I must thank the woman who offered to take my photo with my camera, with the superb view as a backdrop after the hefty climb from Roundway, north of Devizes - a superb keepsake, thanks for disrupting your own run!
Definitely take a map - or the provided instructions - on this one! There were generally lots of markers and several marshals out on the route, but a sudden dearth of both around the slightly tricky section around Calstone Wellington.
It was good to see the very young female marshal at the checkpoint before the Cherhill Monument making a second appearance – having appeared ‘in utero’ for the first time last year.
If you haven’t tried an ‘ultra’ (which this most definitely is, surpassing the required 50km) I’d say have a go. Just slow down from your usual pace a bit, treat the event as a day out rather than a race, and enjoy. Also, forget all the nonsense you read in the running press trying to sell you exorbitantly priced ‘hydration’ and ‘nutrition’ products – here there are plenty of checkpoints allowing you to DRINK water and squash, and EAT jellies and Jaffa cakes. These work perfectly for me anyway, without the pretentious and ludicrous terminology.
Another classic day out – please don’t spoil the event by increasing numbers! See you in 2012, I hope!
In short: Fantastic race, beautiful scenery, great weather and really well organised. In full: Thank you to everyone at Marlborough Running Club and leisure centre for all your help and support. Will be back next year and one year will tackle the 33!! Date of review: May 14, 2011