In short: A staple in my calendar In full: I have now run this race for the past 5 years and love it, though I never know why! I don't find the route inspiring, it has always been a bogey course for me where I can't get anywhere near my PB, yet I keep coming back! I love the atmosphere, the organisation is top rate, the spectators are fantastic, and the finish in the Stadium is quite simply the best. But that all changed this year! Suddenly I found my pace, I thoroughly enjoyed the race, and I missed a PB by a matter of seconds. The bogey is broken! I can't wait until next year! Date of review: May 13, 2013
In short: Massive race, good for a beginner In full: Weather was a major feature, freezing cold rain with a touch of wet snow could not have made it worse conditions. This did affect supporter numbers, can't blame them. Nice finishing in the stadium and did give a boost. Would do again next year and any improvement on the weather should bring your time down. Date of review: May 1, 2013
In short: Home town race. In full: I had previously ran this race in 2010 with a time of 1:32:03 and having just ran the Silverstone Half Marathon only two weeks previously I wanted to knuckle down and at least aim for sub 1:30.
I was meeting my friend Dan who I met at the 2010 Great North Run and have since planned to meet up at last years Great Birmingham Half and always motivating each other via twitter. The weather was atrocious and did not look like settling. Luckily the Madjeski stadium that hosted the race had plenty of seats under cover whilst we waited for the race to start.
Half hour to go and the heavens opened, Dan and I went to our respectful starting places and I warmed up in the sub 1:30 group.
When the race started I kept a steady pace and noticed similar runners throughout the 13.1 miles. I had issues with my laces and that slowed me down twice. The sun did come out then disappeared again. Luckily I knew the race route and what to expect so when I did see the stadium in the distance I knew I had an extra bit to do that doubled on itself.
At the very end I crossed the line and when trying to slow down I slipped, tripped and badly bruised myself. The Red Cross and St Johns were helpful and kept me warm and ensured I was ok to leave.
Overall the event was great despite the weather but having lived in the surrounding areas for my childhood I will run here again and again. Date of review: April 28, 2013
In short: Quick course with amazing support In full: Very well organised. Shame the weather was tragic this year, but the support was still great and the crew working the event were amazing. Some great live music on the course, but the course is pretty boring. Free bus service to and from Reading central was also well organised. Date of review: April 26, 2013
In short: Better if you are faster In full: I loved doing the race (we had a family reason for being so far from home). I met lots of very friendly people and was humbled by the friendliness of the locals who were determined to stay and shout everyone through in appalling conditions, particularly one lovely young lady who shouted for us on one side of the town dog-leg and then met us again on the other and remembered our names! Thanks also to Kate for being such good company all the way round. Never particularly fast, I fell into the "triumph I got here category" due to winter-long bugs interfering with training. At that part of the start (the bridge to the orange start was effectively under water as we returned to the stadium) it was cold, wet and no clue of how far up to go/stand. I did work it out eventually but by then it was almost too cold. I did have extra layers and a bin bag and had sheltered for as long as possible before venturing out in a bid to stay as warm as possible.
The general start was late anyway meaning that in orange zone we set off 20 mins late. A failure to adjust the reopening times of the roads meant that if you run a 3 hour half as I do (slow, but not ridiculously so in the context of the "beginner friendly status" of the race) you were, at around 11 miles, being chivvied back onto pavements. I am sure that seemed sensible on one hand as it allowed for road reopening but was completely frustrating (and probably dangerous) as it meant that a large number of runners still out in terrible conditions effectively spent their time battling not only against the rain but against thousands of spectators and those who had already finished who were coming back along the same pavements. This included the Jamaican 4 man bob team who had to stop at one point and put it down before they speared someone. They were doing so well it was a joy to see their good humour and the vast majority of those coming towards us were brilliantly cheery and helpful. Unfortunately the marshals were, at this stage, intent mostly on taking bits of the course down and on 2 occasions at important parts of the course it was finishers who directed us to the correct route. I am not a Reading local but I do know that road relatively well and I had studied the course properly from the map, looked at the elevations etc. All that is of no use at all if the course effectively disappears because someone decided to remove it in front of you. If you expect to welcome beginners then you should expect 3 hour-plus people, particularly when the conditions were so awful. I might have been a little faster over the last two miles if I had not been forced to dive through so many people at each intersection. It was completely crazy, dangerous to those of us who were tired, wet and trying to see. Conditions were awful but I cannot think that it was the intention of the organisers to make it so hard for the slow ones. I had looked carefully (before the race) for the sweep bus times and knew when it was due. I did not see it so presume I stayed ahead of it. It seemed that the road reopening times were not moved back even though the race started late. I have never had this sort of trouble before in a race (last year at the GNR everyone was late due to all trying to high 5 a medallist but there is never a chance that you will be sharing roads with cars or pedestrians and all the road closures are flexible in my regular experience). This really took the shine off a race that was a fun day out for family. I arrived back so cold it would have been handy to be directed to a space blanket (not, as I had found in other races, kept in the goody bag but apparently loose to one side). A family member got me one in the end to assist once I had changed my clothing.
Once changed we did appreciate the closeness of the red car park. My drivers seemed to get all their information about that on time (even the replacement parking pass). The atmosphere was brilliant before the race under the stadium, especially as all the runners came in from the Green Park Challenge. I would do it again with pleasure, if nothing else to see if I can beat the road closures.
In short: wet wet wet mud! In full: Had a great day, shame about the rain but could not be helped. I thought it was well organised considering, it was not nice to stand in the cold wet and mud when collecting kit bags but I could not see any other way they could have organised it. Thanks to all the marshalls and spectators standing in the cold for us, handing out water, space blankets and medals. Goody bag was adequate though I would have preferred fruit (banana) to chocolate since that is what I crave after a race. I managed a PB by 6 minutes so I was very pleased, think I was running as fast as I could cos of the rain! Stadium finish was great. Is a shame the car parks are so far from the start, was not fun walking back, but again that's mainly because of the weather. Despite the rain, I did have a great day and would do it again. Thank you Date of review: April 5, 2013
In short: I’d certainly recommend anybody try this event at least once. In full: It's a good if you're after a big/busy event. The scenery might not be the best but the atmosphere pretty much all-round the course is really very good (I'm sure even better in normal weather conditions) and there are only a couple of hills to climb. Finishing into the stadium really gave me (& my spectating wife) a real buzz to leave the event with. On the negative side, at £31 entry I'd expect a T-shirt or memento along with the average medal awarded. Would also be good if the final 3 miles could be reviewed somehow, running two miles on duel carriageway up to the stadium door, then taking a dog-leg right for half a mile, u-turn back to where you were a mile ago is a bit of a shame (though obviously soon forgotten as you enter the stadium to mass applause).
In short: Thanks to the camel In full: Taking part for the 6th time and got a PB! 5 seconds faster than my previous half PB and due to the camel. As I approached the stadium I heard crowds start cheering the camel. I always seem to be beaten by this beast in one form or another so did my best to hang on to it. Failed to stop camel passing me but effort in trying undoubtedly speeded up my last 500m! Great race as usual, thanks to the marshalls and of course the camel :} Date of review: March 26, 2013