In short: Could be a fabulous race with some improvements In full: We were lucky with the weather on this marathon, after a horrible soggy Saturday the sun came out on race day and it was fairly warm. The start was great - you could stay in the warm inside an event room in the hotel, there were plenty of loos and the baggage drop nice and efficient. Picking the event number and timing chip was nice and quick, although would have prefered to have this posted to me.
The promised catering truck did not turn up - the race director explained the poor chap had put his back out, hope is OK. However this wasn't communicated very well before hand to the runners. The pre-race email said the hotel was charging extortionate prices for food and drink - £4 for a coffee was quoted, yet I bought one from the hotel for £2.60. Not sure what is going on there. Luckily I had breakfast before I left for the race, but felt sorry for those runners who had to race 26.2 miles with an empty stomach.
The start was a short walk from the hotel across the road, where we observed a minutes silence (being remembrance Sunday). This was a very nice touch, thank you. There was also a short briefing from the race director, and around 100 runners started and crossed the timing mat.
There was a considerable amount of running on the footpath along the A20 - almost half the race I would say. Sorry to say I found this was just awful, as the vegetation had not been cut back by the council, and it was very easy to run into brambles and overhanging branches. Quite a few deep cuts and grazes, my hands and arms were pretty shredded by the end. Having the traffic thundering alongside you was not great and also lots of hidden trip hazards (kerbs etc covered by leaves). There was also a lot of leaves on the path and mud etc, which made it slippery underfood and caution required. The sections away the A20 were very nice though, although very hilly ("Hubbards Hill" in particular was very challenging!). My garmin told me there was 1,500 feet of elavation so this isn't really a PB chasers race. There were many sections of country lanes with BMWs, Range Rovers etc caning it along way too fast, forcing you to jump into the hedgerows to avoid being splatted. However there was some gorgeous scenery especially along the Pilgrims Way, and some nice villages to run through. I enjoyed those parts very much.
The marshalls out on the course were very friendly and very chatty - thank you so much to everyone who volunteered, it really lifted my spirits. I was not impressed though with the lack of food on the early checkpoints - one had run out of all food - this is not acceptable, and another said "oh, we haven't put the food out to avoid the half marathon runners nicking it". I was at the tail end of the marathon runners so they must have had a lot of food indeed left over! I don't see what the problem is, surely us runners at the back have paid the same entrance fee as the speed demons at the front, and so what if the half runners take the food - the field wasn't that big, so please just buy a bit more food! Luckily I bought some of my own food which kept me going for the first half, glad I didn't rely on the aid stations alone.
Some of the turns were not marshalled leading to a few moments of panic especially in the last six miles when going through the village - wondering if I had taken a wrong turning! I also went past an unmanned aid station at about mile 23 which was odd. I did see a couple of fast runners coming the other way complaining about having taken a wrong turn so it seems I wasn't the only one who was having navigation issues.
At the finish there was no timing clock, I though this a bit odd although I was handed a slip of paper with my time on it. And they had run out of medals, promising it would be in the post! The excuse given "more people had entered than we expected". Please order sufficient medals for everyone at the finish line. Sorry guys, I was not at all impressed at all with that, it was a massive let down after 26.2 miles. Yes it's only a medal, but it's a big deal to runners!
According to the entry list, over 100 people had entered yet less than 100 had finished. To be honest I felt let down, with what was quite a steep entry fee it seemed short cuts had been taken to save money, I didn't feel very well looked after. I appreciate all the efforts made by the organisers and hope the above feedback is taken in the spirit of improvement rather than criticism - with a few improvements this race could be made fantastic.
If the food on the aid stations could be sorted, and perhaps move the race date to a time of the year where the paths on the A20 were properly runnable, sort out the medal and catering situations, I'd consider doing this race again.
In short: Decent race in Kent - worth it as a late autumn marathon calendar spot In full: Quite enjoyed this - some nice countryside lanes to run in, in the heart of Kent.
Decent marshal support along the course, which was needed, as this can be a bit of a lonely race at times once the field spreads out from the start. If you like small scale marathons and largely having nature to yourself whilst running, this might be perfect for you, as there is some beautiful autumn scenery to behold. Although do note: does have a handful of difficult hills along the way, so probably not a personal best course if you're an experienced runner.
Other pluses: nice venue generally to start in within the Mercure Great Danes Hotel, if this continues - good changing facilities, and free shower facilities after a race are often lacking, so this was nice to see. Plus if you wanted a pint after to celebrate, or a (swanky) meal, they have this facility on site. Nice medal too.
Aspects I would want to improve on: seemed a strange absence of a basic timer clock at the finish, so not sure exactly what time I estimated I finished (I looked on the race website to see if results were posted evening of the race, but no cigar as yet). No race T shirt as part of the package, which is always nice, especially if this is one of the few marathons you ever intend to run.
Probably the biggest disappointment though was that the race advertising and past runner reviews give the impression that the hotel's pool, jacuzzi and sauna room have been part of the privileges post-race. This was not actually the case - you had to pay £10 each for the privilege.
All round, a fair experience for a run, and if you're local to this part of Kent, a fine one. Date of review: November 13, 2016
In short: Excellent, friendly and supportive marshalls. Thank you. In full: My second year of running this and I still struggled along the long A20 stretches - noisy from road traffic! Although the majority of the race was through country lanes which was peaceful. Can be quite a lonely run as the field does spread out considerably. Quite a swift course and I managed to knock 5 minute off last year's time despite running on the tail end of a cold. Use of the hotel leisure centre at the end was a welcome treat - use of pool, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room! I had a great time . Thank you organisers. Date of review: November 17, 2014
In short: back again In full: well yet again I drove down from Derbyshire for this race, and yet again I came away pleased with event. Top marks to the marshals who really do help to make a race. I do like where you collect your race number, and the nice touch of sweets on the tables, I hope to be back next year. Date of review: November 21, 2013
In short: Highly recommended In full: I really enjoyed this one. It's a very well organised, small, friendly race. Like all small marathons (this had 217 people running I think) it gets quite spread out so if you need people around you to keep you going then you might struggle at this one. There seemed to be a few ad hoc groups forming through the race though so that could help. Water stops were plentiful and well spaced. Personally, I had no problem with the A20 section it was a good contrast with the country lanes we had run along beforehand. And I think it is quite a fast course. There is only one nasty hill and that is at 3 miles where you've still got the energy to take it in your stride. The others are easier and most of the ascent is done in the first half which is helpful. The lack of crowding means definite PB potential if you don't mind a little bit of climbing. And as others have said the HQ is brilliant. Plenty of parking, loos, showers. I'd thoroughly recommend this race. Date of review: November 19, 2013