In short: Stunning location, but organisers need a reality check In full: First of all, Guernsey is a stunning location for a marathon. Lovely waterfront start and finish, gorgeous scenery, awesome coastline on the west side - seriously fantasic stuff.
Unfortunately, the organisation of the marathon really needs a good rattle. They attract a very good standard of runner at the top end, but there's plenty going on to badly put off the casual race runner.
First grumbles begin the previous day, on which all runners need to register. Bit strange as it's a fairly small field, but we were handy so no problem. But upon being given our runners' pack (race number, baggage label), I notice there's no timing chip as advertised on both Facebook and the event website. It seems the previous year's info hasn't been adequately edited to suit this year - they've gone gun time only, which immediately has me wondering whether or not the entry fee (£46) suddenly looks a tad excessive.
Onwards to Saturday evening, and the Pasta Party. Advertised: £11 for as much of four different pasta dishes (all listed on the ticket) and salad as you wanted, plus free water.
So I and others were a bit perplexed to find three dishes, all but one completely different from those listed, and all luke warm if you were lucky enough to get to the front of the queue when the serving dishes were fresh from the truck out back.
Worse still though, the caterers were initially charging people for water, until about an hour later when people's persistent queries suddenly resulted in them realising a mistake had been made. A number of people had arrived with no cash, assuming all they'd want/need was included in the money paid up front, and went without a drink of any kind for most of their evening. Shoddy at best, not least because the race director was present.
Speaking of whom, his welcome address might have rubbed some up the wrong way as he basically told all present who was getting the top 4 places. Fair enough, there were some seriously good athletes signed up, but I think it was a fairly insensitively delivered bit of bubble bursting, when some present might have wondered if a top 3 finish was within them. Personally I found it funny and a bit Alan Partridge, but hey ho.
On to raceday itself, and the reasons for the requests for volunteers to marshal were apparent throughout. It was a spartan marshal presence to put it extremely mildly.
For the most part, signs were useful and helped mark the route, but in other sections it was simply worrying and could have been pretty nasty. Roads off the waterfront were generally open, and in some sections there was heavy traffic. I counted at least four very dangerous parts of the course that needed a presence to aid road crossings. Worst of all was a crossover straight where a marshal was busy litter picking on the left verge, looked over his shoulder at me, said "cross over to the other side mate," and then carried on what he was doing. If I'd done as he said, I wouldn't be here typing this, as I'd be recovering from being hit by a van and/or the Harley Davidson that was in the process of overtaking it. Thankfully the long stream of traffic coming the other way made me think twice anyway, so instead I just pointed out how unwise that was and waited for a safe gap. By this point (18 miles+) there were some badly fatigued runners on the course, so it really was a genuine concern that people would just blindly amble into the road assuming all was well.
There were also some right turns where you needed to cross four lanes of traffic to get to the left side of the road. At least two were unmanned, and given how busy the roads were, that's just irresponsible. Yes there's inherent risk to running on open roads, but given that some junctions early on had a police presence, it's baffling to me how other areas weren't identified as being potentially hazardous or problematic.
Speaking of hazardous, many runners were absolutely desperate to find that advertised Maxfuel sports drinks and gels weren't available at water stations. I later found that those manning the water stations were told first thing that stocks hadn't emerged. I didn't hear a peep mentioned to the runners, which is just insanely complacent. I had gels and bottles on me, but the overwhelming majority almost certainly went the entire race without either, assuming they'd be provided. Some runners even turned to foraging wild berries for nutrition, as they'd otherwise have had absolutely nothing else along the entire route. A query about this was later responded to on Twitter, long after the race had concluded. Why no announcement? I had about 30 spare gels and two tubes of sports drink tabs in my hotel room that I'd have gladly shared had I known they were needed, and I don't doubt other runners would have done the same. As it happened, all I could offer any of the several increasingly desperate runners around me was the one spare gel I had on me. I noted that TV cameras and reporters were present, but I sincerely hope that a footnote of baddish publicity for a failed delivery wasn't the reason for what was a hugely significant absence. Imagine the adverse publicity from a fataility caused by a delirious runner, short on nutrition, staggering into the path of a car.
There were further quibbles, from undermanned water stations, a paucity of bins, no marshal presence ushering pedestrians from blocking the width of the closed section of roads on the waterfront, to the bizarrely low-key finish line which was almost invisible when on the course (the 10 runners finishing behind me all stopped their running and their watches short of it, assuming their race was run).
Ultimately, it's got the ingredients for a gem of a marathon but it needs to pull its finger out. I had a good day and got a big PB, but god almighty I hope the race debrief isn't a big exercise in backslapping, as some of what went on today was utterly shambolic. I'm just glad I can shake my head and laugh about it as opposed to lamenting something altogether more harrowing.
In short: Too many vehicles en route. In full: Not an overly cheap entry fee but a lovely stadium finish and excellent post race facilities for the runners. In places, the scenery and views were just fantastic-with enthusiastic crowd support too. My only gripe really was thought a lot of the run was in the close company of traffic (in particular the last few miles) and although the drivers were considerate it is not ideal. Well done to everyone involved but adding up the entry fee, cost of flights and the hotel bill it was not a cheap weekend away. Date of review: August 31, 2012
In short: Loved this race! In full: The organisation was great and everyone involved was so so friendly. Thanks to you all. The scenery was fantastic - narrow wooded roads, rolling open fields, coastline, hills, picturesque villages, it had it all. After all of the, ahem, 'undulations' in the first half of the race, a victory (well nearly - definitely top 200 anyway!) lap of the track at the Foote's Lane stadium to finish topped it off nicely. As it was quite a small field, I ran much of the race alone and really enjoyed the experience, but the support from locals and tourists alike when you arrived in the more populated areas felt really personal and was truly uplifting. Nice medal, great technical t-shirt, decent goody bag and a pub practically on the finishing line. What more could you want? Date of review: August 29, 2012
In short: The kind of race I like... In full: Would now consider this my 'local' marathon, despite a lengthy journey away. Despite the foreboding hills at the start and building weather (heat + wind) it is an out-and-back course so natural PB potential. Pure beginners would be spooked a bit by the lack of wall-to-wall crowd and there were some points where I felt "do I just head straight on?" but great race, the locals and tourists alike were very supportive. Oh, and I broke my Edinburgh PB by more than 2.5 minutes! Peter deserves many congratulations! Date of review: August 27, 2012
In short: Amazing coastal scenery - In full: It was too hot for me. The wind was very kind. Met some amazing runners, everyone was very friendly and welcoming, many thanks to Peter the race director and his teams they all went that extra mile to put on a great show for all the runners. The marathon is a great way to tour the island.
The medal, post race massage, pasta party, spectators, marshals, other runners, food & bar, goody bag, stadium finish, personable race director, helpers - all put a great big smile on my face. I'm really clutching at straws to find a negative - no ground cover for baggage storage area as grass was wet. Date of review: August 27, 2012
In short: Very good event, beautiful views, some hills and stadium finish! In full: I really enjoyed this one. Not many runners (160 or so I guess). Well organised. Great medal and t-shirt. Loads of fruit and drink at finish. Pub at finish line. Sprint finish around a 400 metre track at a (small) stadium.
First 6 or so miles are inland, picturesque and pretty lumpy. Then once you get to the western beaches you get some wonderful coastline, really nice. All this is pretty flat so you can get some speed going (wind was kind). Quite a few water stations (could have been more). Downside was the congested roads near the end (this event is too small for road closures) so you had to weave around often unsympathetic motorists.
Crowd support was excellent in the more built-up places but there was a lot of solitary running - but no issues with crowding ruining your pacing.
I would definitely recommend this one. Guernsey is beautiful and this is a well-organised event. Finish at the stadium was excellent. So was the pint. Date of review: September 5, 2011
In short: Magnificent race! In full: I decided to run this race at very short notice (i.e. abotu 10 days beforehand!) which may explain the steep entry fee. Otherwise, this was a very well organised very well routed run. Start/finish from a well-supported track stadium with chip & pin timing, cheerful local crowds along much of the route which was generally well marshalled. Bit sparse of marshalls and water in the later reaches (didn't see anyone from about 18 to 22 miles and missed a water station completely!) but nothing to worry about. Very good t-shirt and medal, nice goody bag and a pub at the finish line was well-suited too! Particulart thanks to Peter whom I woke at 10pm the night before with a registration query - and he still let me run, wahoo! BTW. 24 minutes better than last year's PB at Palma, so those rolling hills didn't count for anything! Date of review: August 30, 2011
In short: Great scenery In full: The scenery was fantastic. The first few miles were very undulating, later on it was still undulating but less so. The costal breeze was nice, but there were times when it was hard work running into strong gusts. The mile markers went 'backwards' (i.e. started from '26 miles to go' and went down) which threw me a bit.
Well organised event.
As it was a small field, it did feel like a training run at times. The support from the locals, marshalls and police was great. :) Date of review: September 4, 2010
In short: Wonderful scenery to make the time fly by and lovely people cheering you on. Easy for spectators to watch you at several points in the race. In full: We had perfect weather in 2010 - dry, but overcast. The sun came out about 3hours in to the race, but wasn't too hot.
The majority of the race was run along the coastal roads, which were stunningly beautiful. They were also a little windy, making for more effort required. There were a few hills, but nothing too horrendous if you've done some hill training.
All in all a really enjoyable and great race. Date of review: September 1, 2010