In short: Very tough, but rewarding... In full: This is a review of the 2013 race (for some reason the options only go up to 2012).
Race the Train (Rotary Challenge) is a definite 'must do' for any serious club runner, or just a fun runner who likes to push themselves.
There are three main things to be aware of though:
1) It is incredibly tough. Very, very tough. I have run marathons, half-marathons, Tough Mudder and a stack of x-country races. This is the toughest of the lot. Do not go into it 'hoping for the best.' If you think you may be under-prepared, the likelihood is, you will be found out.
2) The terrain is extremely challenging. This is what makes it so difficult. In many places it is actually pretty dangerous. The day I did it saw heavy rainfall and the grass became very slippery. I fell over twice - one fall saw me do a complete somersault as I tried to negotiate a particularly steep descent.
3) The course sees you complete a rough loop. You head out towards the station before looping back. The trip out to the station is pretty easy. A mixture of road initially, and then even footing grass. You need to be well ahead of the train at this point as it will make up ground on you on the return trip. Pretty much as soon as you loop back though, it gets immeasurably more difficult. You climb up very steep mudtracks that see you have to use your hands at times. You then hit a very narrow track (about 300mm wide) that runs along the edge of a hill. This is the toughest part of the race, and probably lasts for about 1.5 - 2 miles. The issue is that if you get caught behind someone, there is limited opportunity for over-taking. In addition, you effectively run with your left foot 20cm or so higher up the hill than your right. This puts considerable strain on your legs, and saps your energy.
The event is not what I would call 'fun,' but I was really keen on beating the train (I lost by 2 minutes!), and also, the weather was horrendous. That said, it is definitely enjoyable - in a kind of sadomasochistic way.
It is very well organised, and very well supported by the locals who were out in force despite the terrible weather. You cannot fail to be inspired by the wonderful scenery you run through, and the occasional 'toot' from the train in the distance gives welcome encouragement.
The only change I would suggest is more information on what the course is like. Maybe testimonials from previous runners, on the website itself. I had to do an awful lot of searching to find out decent information. Speaking to people on the day, the general consensus seemed to be 'unless you are a seriously good runner, don't expect to beat the train at your first attempt.'
Further discussion suggests that to beat the train, you need to be in 1h25m 1/2 marathon shape. I reckon this is about right. The train beat me by 2 minutes, and I recently ran a half in 1h28m - so the maths are there or there abouts.
Having said that, that's where the similarity with a half marathon ends. It feels more like an 18m race.
The above maybe focuses too much on the negatives. That may be unfair, but what I have tried to do is set down the information wanted to know before I ran it, but couldn't find.
I will definitely be there next year - and you can't say much more than that! Date of review: August 29, 2013
In short: Wow this was tough!! In full: This is a review for the 2010 race (only seems to go up to 2009 for some reason on the options).
I can safely say I am so chuffed to have done this race but it was so, so tough!! I had trainers which were useless for the conditions.
It seemed that there were a lot of club runners but beginners were welcome. The support from the town was great with marshalls appearing on even the toughest parts of the course. Seeing the train was fun but I was a tad over it the 4th time I saw it and was never going to beat it!!
Shame the showers weren't working at the end, great goody bag and definitely a race to do once in your lifetime. Date of review: September 3, 2010
In short: back for more next year In full: well, the heatwave certainly didn't arrive, and that meant great fun sloshing around in the mud instead of sunburn for a change. great race as usual, marshalls were incredibly cheerful when considering that they were standing in the rain for hours. a couple of minor grumbles though - all on the pre race admin sides 1. no acknowledgement of entry recieved - an e mail to say "you're in, you mad fool" would suffice to ensure it wasn't a wasted journey. 2. spectators train tickets - it wasn't made clear that you had to pick up tickets from tent, and this meant rushing back from station to get them - previous years tickets were included in race pack. 3. no marshalls for parking area - had to drive round town looking for side streets
race itself can't be faulted - everyone should try it Date of review: August 28, 2006