In short: Already on my calendar for 2012 In full: Continues to be the best race I know. PLEASE don't change.
The size of the field is great, the accurate mile markers are admirable, the marshalling is enthusiastic and reliable, and the course is pure speed.
No complaints at all. Some people have moaned a little about the goodies you get at the end, but seriously, what would you rather have - a unique, technical t-shirt in a size you can select and a colour that isn't the usual flourescent yellow (plus a Mars bar, bottle of water, tea/coffee and biscuits, and the possibility of getting a 20-minute massage for a fiver), or the usual goodie bag: some carbo drink, cereal bar, dozens of leaflets advertising running products, plus *maybe* a random, cotton, one-size-fits-all t-shirt that you're never going to wear? For me it's an easy choice.
18-minute PB got me to the finish under 3:15, so I'm qualified for "Good For Age" (and, hence, two years of the London Marathon) and still a little giddy, but even if I didn't have that little bonus I'd always recommend Abingdon.
Do it at least once, for the atmosphere and to say "you did it": London Marathon. Do it once (and maybe *only* once), for the masochistic pain and foolishness of running 26.2 miles up a hill, then down a hill, up and down, up and down, until you eventually hit the finish line or the inside of an ambulance: Sussex Marathon. Do it Every Single Year: Abingdon Marathon, without a doubt.
Please don't change. Don't change a thing. Date of review: October 18, 2011
In short: When do the entries open for 2012? Count me in! In full: This was my third year in a row at Abingdon and I hope that I will be back to make it four ... and more! I have been fortunate enough to be able to take part in larger Big City marathons and in smaller events, but Abingdon is hard to beat for the excellence of its organisation and the speed of the course.
The location is excellent. The start and finish are on a 400 metre track in a stadium; as I write this, I realise for the first time that we started anti-clockwise and finished clockwise ... ! This location means good changing facilities, hot showers, a warm building to keep the early morning October chill at bay and plenty of space for speactators and for the runners to chill out afterwards. I suppose the only slight drawback is that there isn't more parking on site and that the college designated for parking is a fifteen minute walk away. However, I can understand that the organisers wouldn't want too many vehicle movements in the vicinity of the stadium given that the options for the run route seem to involve using the main road entrance and exit. The walk (before the run) is also a good loosener after a car journey and (after the run) gives an excellent chance to cheer/encourage/abuse the later finishers as much of the final mile of the run is on the walking route back to the car park.
Walking back to the car park also brought home just how many marshals there were deployed. I had decided when leaving the park to say "thank you" to every marshal I passed when walking back to the car and found this almost as exhausting as running the marathon. It may just be that someone had issued everyone in the town with a high-vis vest, but I think they were all genuine volunteers! Does anyone know how many marshals were involved? The Course Director must have called in a few favours or have promised beers to a lot of people - fantastic contribution from you all - thanks!
On a related note, I couldn't help but notice the new approach to road crossings. In previous years, marshals directed runners and drivers with great aplomb and authority and I had never felt at the slightest risk. This year, the county's manual "Stop/Go" sign operators had been drafted in to make sure the risk of runners and drivers meeting was reduced further. I hadn't perceived any weaknesses in previous years, but this new approach certainly gave runners even more confidence to step off the kerb and cross the road without further ado. Whether drivers were quite as happy with the arrangement, I would doubt. It seemed that there were several queues which might well have led to some frustration. This is one for the race organisers to weigh up - and I would not be surprised if they get some negative feedback from other quarters - and I will simply thank them for continuing to strive for improvements that make this an even better experience for runners.
The course itself is fantastic and needs no changes. There is plenty of variety, both urban and rural, and all the old highlights are there - the turkey farm, the long straight footpath sections, the glimpses of the Thames with its dinghy sailors and its rowers, the villages, the Milton commercial estate with its colony of noisy fetchies - and the only section that I dislike is the short run around the grounds of the sports centre (presumably the best way of making up the distance) before you hit the track for the final lap.
Excellent work from the marshals and the drinks station teams. I think the latter had all received training in handing out cups. At the first station, I reached out for a cup and the chap seemed to be pulling it away just as my hand got near! I soon got the hang of it! As for the beakers, I wrote about these last year and don't have an issue with them. As it is October, I really think that water bottles would largely go to waste. In fact I felt quite guilty discarding my Lucozade bottle after taking only a few sips. I would rate the mix of drinks/sponge stations as just right.
As for my run, I enjoyed it immensely. I had run the Berlin Marathon only three weeks previously and running another marathon so soon was a new experience. I was prepared for the worst, but managed to churn out 7:30-minute miles for the first 22 miles. Thanks to two runners for their company from about mile 14 to mile 22 (one from Woodstock who was doing his 100th marathon and one with a shaved head who seemed well on the way to beating his 3:21 PB). I ran out of steam at that point and they sped off into the sunset. I realised afterwards that I had been running at my theoretical maximum HR for the whole of miles 21 and 22, so my slowdown was probably inevitable, but I'll admit to being pleased to keep the pace going for that long! My finish time was still my 2011 SB!
And so to the finish. Excellent finishing "funnel" again - nice T-shirt (and good to have another "new" colour) and the free hot drink is a good touch. Yes, the goody bag was a bit light, but it had all the essentials. Many thanks to all involved in making this one of the top events of the running year. Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Fantastic event and hope to return next year In full: My first marathon and delighted I chose this one. Organisation was very good and marshals and supporters superb. Thanks everyone! Finished slightly ahead of target time and should be in for VLM 2013 :-) Only way this could be improved for me is if the field were bigger but I guess the limit is due to traffic restrictions. Got slightly lonely at times in the second half but others were never too far away. Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Good local event and very well Marshalled - they spurred me on to the bitter end. In full: This was my first and possibly last marathon. I did this because it was local, flat and recommended by competent runners. It is a small event (1000) but this was a strength as encouragement seemed more personal. I liked this event and would consider it again in the future once my wife gives me another training pass in a year or twos time:) Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Agree with others that good race In full: Agree about organisation being good, but having done Chester week before could find faults with this!, long walk to/from car park. Good marshalls but needed them as alot of road crossings and had to be aware of traffic running on some narrow open roads. Goody bag here 1 mars and bottle of 29p water -Chester had loads, sports drink and water, big bag sweets, sweets, and more, long sleeved tech shirt. Finish at Chester like clockwork, here steps to cup of tea, get through crowds to bag/showers. Don't want to moan about this race as it was ok, but not quite as good as everyone's raving! Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Superbly organised with fantastic support In full: I thoroughly enjoyed this race despite walking around like John Wayne afterwards. The course was superbly marshalled and the water and feed stations were spot on. The local residents were out in force giving this race a very friendly feel which is always welcome.
PB potential is high and I acheived a time 41 minutes quicker then my previous time over this distance but despite being flat it is still tough and seeing the mile markers for the second lap of the double loop when still on the first can be a bit disheartening when it hits you that you have to go round a second time before heading home.
All in all a cracking day out and the steaming hot shower after the race was pure heaven. Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: The template on how to organise a good marathon In full: Same as everyone else really. Can't find any fault and wouldn't wish to.
This is the real difference between a race organised by runners and those organised by events companies (eg Edinburgh Marathon). All the main things were like clockwork, but also all the small things as well.
A clock at the 26 mile marker so you know what you need to do if you're close to a target. Baggage that was ready to pick up as you got to within sight of the tent Accurate mile markers Loads of "caution runners" signs to help with traffic issues Good announcer standing in the right place to keep the crowd informed
Only bad thing is that this race is understandably getting more popular and harder to get into, so you need to commit in January!! Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: View from a supporter! In full: I came along to cheer on my friend who was runnng and got to witness this fab race. The location was nice, starting/finishing venue again good but what impressed me and made the race stand out was the organisation and in particular the tricky marshalling spots that ran like clockwork due to the hard work of the marshalls which I know can be a tough job. Water & feed stations also ran like a dream and everyones support to the runners was fantastic. I will definately be recommending this as a club trip for any of my running club who want a PB as I think this is the place for that - so watch out for the Dartford Road Runners next year as I'm sure we will be there on mass! Date of review: October 17, 2011