In short: Flat, but quibble-filled marathon In full: Richmond Runfest has a race for all abilities, with a 10k, half marathon and full marathon distance options all available. Having had to put off my big city marathon ambitions for 2016 due to a couple of niggling injuries, I opted for the Richmond marathon as a cheaper safe bet for 2016.
The course is fast, flat and fairly nice. The marathon starts in Kew Gardens, making the first three miles very pleasant indeed. From then on, you're onto the Thames Path all the way down to Hampton Court (where you can grab a high five from Henry VIII!) and back. Historical kings aside, crowd support is minimal for most of the course, though the marshals are fantastically vocal and you do get the odd pocket of cheering spectators around Kingston town centre and the Richmond end of the Thames Path.
The return leg from Hampton to Richmond, however, is a morale-sapper. To make up the 26.2 miles, you're confronted with several short-loop deviations off the path. The badly-signposted schlep around Ham Common was a low point, and the final mile is downright evil, bringing the marathoners up to within touching distance of the finish line in Old Deer Park, before sending you off on a twisty, taped-off meander around the lower end of the park to tick off the last few hundred yards! I'm not sure how easy it would be to make some amendments to the course for 2017 onwards, but by the looks of things the 10k/half options looked far less nasty than the slightly cobbled-together marathon option.
The loose gravel stretches of the path are a hazard (a rogue bit of gravel in my shoe managed to rub my heel raw, something I only spotted 18 miles in when I noticed my sock was more...blood-soaked than I usually like). This led to another issue. Having asked where the nearest first aid point was at the next water station, I was told that there was "probably" one just after the 18 mile mark (I'd passed the 18 mile mark five minutes before!). As a result, I failed to get myself patched up until after I'd managed to limp across the finish line.
The race is competitively priced for a marathon, and there's plenty of swag awaiting you at the finish line (bring a bag with you though, there's no actual goody bag for your goodies). The race village is also packed with food and drink stands and the like, making it a great place to recover after finishing your 26 miles.
Overall, I'm not sure I'd opt for the full marathon distance again unless the course was tweaked and the first aid points were made more clearly available, but may well be tempted by one of the shorter distances in the future as the overall 'Runfest' event is a lot of fun. Date of review: November 1, 2016
In short: Good event - need to tie up a few pieces In full: Brilliant route, lovely running round Kew and along Thames toe path, the field at the end was such a bore - I felt sorry for the half & marathon runners who had to go round even further. The Thames Path was very lumpy in parts and not conducive to quick running as you were concentrating on where you were going. Road shoes were ok as it hadn't rained too much, but it could be a mud bath if it had rained more Bag drop - very efficient, at the end it would've been nice if they'd have kept them in the trailer instead of putting it on the wet floor Goody Bag - hmmm T-shirt and medal were nice, water, lucozade and coconut water were ok, not much point in giving people e energy gals and jelly beans at the end
In short: Very little road, lots of loops In full: It's never a good start when the race director says before starting the race "not everything is quite how we wanted it to be". I did the marathon - there were nowhere near enough toilets at the start even for the 700 runners doing that race - so I dread to think what it was like when the 10k and half marathon runners started an hour later. The first three miles of the marathon went through Kew Gardens - crashing into the 8000 or so people arriving to start the 10k and half an hour later. From there it was on the Thames Towpath (mainly) to Hampton Court, and then turning round, to come back again. But, on the way back, there were several loops where you ran in the wrong direction, only to turn round and go back again. Long sections of the course had no support - a couple of the water stops weren't there at all - and then the final three miles were dreadful - a short section on a narrow pavement (single file) trying to weave past the back runners in the 10k and the half marathon (some of them literally walking.) The final mile you could see the finish - every time you got close, you got diverted off. When I finished I crossed the line around the same time as half marathon and 10k runners - would have been better to have separate finish funnels. Also, on the course the mile markers were sporadic, and placed almost randomly (according to my Garmin some were 400yds early, some half a mile late.) Instead of getting a goody bag at the finish it was 'help yourself' - but no bags available. I got the distinct impression that the Marathon was an afterthought on the day. Date of review: September 21, 2016
In short: A couple of small issues but otherwise a fantastic race In full: This is my second time running the half marathon event and, due to the inclusion of the new marathon, there were a couple of changes since last year. The races start in Kew Gardens and, due to the addition of the new marathon distance, the 10K and half marathon races now start together. There are still waves, based on projected finish times, although these didn't seem to work quite as well as last year. The Kew part of the course has also been changed to take in more of the gardens. Unfortunately, whilst the scenery is wonderful, some of the narrower paths lead to a lot of blocking during the first mile, since some of the runners were either in the wrong wave or had been over-optimistic about their ability. This made it hard to keep a rhythm and my first mile was slower than I would have liked. However, once past the first mile, it became a lot easier. The course runs from Kew up the river to Richmond before doubling back to the deer park via Ham House. It is very scenic, although the towpath is quite lumpy and bumpy so there are points where you need to watch your footing rather than admire the views. Water stations were better organised this year and have bottled water as well as sports drinks. You'll need to bring your own gels if you use them since there weren't any gels or snacks for the marathon runners. Despite the slower first mile I still managed to blitz my PB and got a sub-2 hour finish for the first time ever, so I'm very happy with the race overall. It's a mostly-flat course although the ground was rough in places and there were a few puddles from recent rains - however, road shoes should be fine. It isn't the cheapest race but you do get a bling-tastic medal and a decent T-shirt (available in male or female, if ladies want a more fitted shirt). There's also beer at the finish but I was more interested in the chilled coconut water. Other than that, there aren't really any goodies in the goody bag - I suspect the intention was to get runners to shop at the expo at the finish. I would have liked somewhere to change, other than the finish line portaloos that had a huge queue, as it was a warm day and my running vest was soaking. Not really a problem for the men who could shuck their wet shirts in public, but not good for us ladies. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the race and would definitely come back again.
In short: Richmond Race - feed stations had only water and lucozade drinks In full: Positives first 1. loved the route generally to follow the thames and sights north to south and back again (not sure about the housing estate divert at 21 and the endless field lap on mile 25 ) all in all - very scenic and great to see the sights of the famous bridges , kew gardens and sion house and areas. 2. marshals were very friendly and encouraging - although I might add there was more inspiration that came from two 11 year old guides at mile 10 than from most of the other millions of marshals - some hired in on the day wearing all over yellow suits - too hot for that ! 3. the finish area was lovely and seamless - great touches from the photos and props so everyone thought they were winners - all round nice feeling when I finished .
Negatives 1. No food at the feed stations at all - only water and lucozade . Some gels or bananas or sweets or cake or anything would have been so welcome especially for the marathon runners .PLease fix this for next year - its inexpensive and can be a great asset and help for runners for future feedback. 2. Toilets - or lack of them at the start . More portaloos required and signs - a large number of marathon runners missed the start because of the severe lack of toilets on site . 3. Directions and parking this year. Given the 8am start - a lot of runners would have struggled to get there for 8am - there were a few car parking spaces around the restricted roads - may a suggest you open the field next to ponds in the park and get runners to park and walk from there - its the finish area and would solve the major issue a lot of people had - easy access to the start = mission impossible !!
despite that minor moan - I think these can all be corrected and fixed for 2017 , I hope the organisers take some of these valid points into consideration . Thank you to all the wonderful friendly runners on the route and the st johns ambulance man past kingston bridge on a bike who gave me half his packet of jelly babies - lifesaver !! Date of review: September 18, 2016
In short: Overall brilliant event, final mile could improve In full: Richmond Running Festival is a definite highlight in the London racing calendar. My third time, but first doing the 10k. Perhaps that's why I really noticed and struggled with the final 3/4s of a mile or so winding pointlessly around Old Deer Park. After the stunning start in Kew Gardens, and beautiful stretch on the tow path, it really hit my motivation to end up pointlessly following tape around a big flat field to make up the final distance. Support at the finish line was great so I did get a final burst of energy as I approached the clock and realised a PB was still within reach. My only niggle is that final stretch being so uninspired... Marshalls, bag drop, water stations, medal, beer, t-shirt, and finishing festival stalls are all superb and will keep me coming back year after year. Date of review: September 8, 2015
In short: Almost Perfect In full: Having done many races now it is easy to compare this 10k and it comes out extremely well. The start and finish are as good as you will find anywhere. The first 2 miles in Kew is the best scenery and surface anywhere. The only two things that stop it being 100% perfect is the course is clearly short and the towpath part of the route isn't great. But for a great day out this race is tough to beat. Up there with BUPA 10k. Better in many respects. Date of review: September 8, 2015
In short: It just gets better In full: Absolutely lovely race, Starting in Kew and wending it's way around the gardens, then onto the river path, a little residential area and then into the end-field. 4 water stations, which is so very over generous for a half marathon, a spangly medal, tech T and goodie bag (with even a beer) at the end - what more could you ask...oh yes...a music festival! This was number 56 and I can honestly say this is one of the best HM races out there...well done to the organisers and all the marshals - you are stars! Date of review: September 7, 2015