In short: Enjoyable marathon and did everything that I would expect from a well organised event. In full: No complaints from me. Apart from the lack of pre-race information, everything was spot on. The promised email mentioned when entering never materialised, but was available on website.
Plenty of parking either at the hotel or the adjoining streets. Good facilities at the hotel - smooth number/chip collection, cheap cups of tea/coffee (50p), and plenty of space to get ready.
Good signage and communication to get you to the start line, and chip timing for speedy results.
Weather was perfect for running - mild, dry and negligible wind - with a mainly flat course offered good opportunities of quick times.
The Marathon was two laps with some out and back sections and a scenic loop along the promenade offering coast views to take you mind off the tiredness and the impact of the flat profile on your legs. The two way sections allowed you the privilege of seeing the race leaders, and encourage others coming the other way.
The organisers did everything right today. In the main, the marshals were brilliant only with the odd one or two too busy sending messages on their I-phones rather than concentrating on their duties spoiling it in my mind. I don't agree with the comments about the lack of energy drinks as water-only was detailed on the website information, and the grumbles from one runner about forgetting their i-pod - get used to it as all races will rightly ban them (okay in training, but a menace and danger in a crowded race).
Finally, Blackpool as a town could do more to support their home marathon. Most of the local population seemed disinterested, but the minority that offered support was very much appreciated.
In short: A runner's event In full: The inaugaral Battle of Northamption Marathon Challenge didn't disappoint. Although a charity fundraising event, alot of attention to detail was put in by the organisers to construct this event with the runners in mind.
Good facilities at the gym HQ including refreshments, changing/showers and pre/post race sports massage (donations discretionary).
A group photo-shoot at the start and a nice speech from the mayor got us away. Being a challenge, we were armed with clear written instructions (my only observation is the print-size was too small for me to read without my glasses!).
The route consisted of a short dog-leg book-ending a 5 lap loop (including another short dog-leg within the loop to the checkpoint/drinks station which you did 4 times). Being near the back for the first few miles allowed me to follow the route instructions until I was familiar with the main loop section - this stopped me merely following the runners in front and going off route within the first mile.
The weather was cold but dry - perfect for running once you warmed up. The terrain was multi-terrain, with road, pavement, gravel, tarmac, grass and some soft and muddy sections - testing in some bits even though the profile was almost entirely flat. Being out in the open, the wind did freshen things up and add to the challenge.
Marshals were posted at key junctions and were without exception friendly and encouraging. They would have felt the cold being out for 5 hours plus. The drinks station was brilliant - well stocked with a variety of drinks and stacks, and doubled up as a checkpoint to record the runners after each lap with your race number being marked - simple. The two people manning the station were great, and especially encouraging after the fourth and final visit to give you a boost for the final few miles.
Generous post race refreshments and a free raffle including (in my opinion) a top prize of a 24-pack of lager which this said runner won! There was no shortage of needy runners happy to relieve me of most of these as I don't drink the stuff!
A really enjoyable event and a nice change to see when the marathon calendar is becoming increasingly filled with corporate events companies charging high entry fees purely for profit.
In short: Good job Liverpool. A big undertaking and after the delayed start a pass with flying colours! In full: I was looking forward to this event for some time and I wasn't disappointed.
Although the 45 mins delayed start was irritating and worrying, and the communication was non-existent, we soon got going on our point to point journey from Birkenhead Park to the city centre to conquer the 26.2 miles distance.
Good facilities at Birkenhead Park after the efficient shuttle bus service from the city, with plenty of space and plenty of toilets. The starting pens were well signed and again plenty of room to spread out.
A large field of over 5,000 gave a great atmosphere as we go going through Birkenhead with good support and entertainment. The approach to the tunnel gave great views of Liverpool's skyline, and the motivation of watch was ahead once we saw daylight again.
The tunnel seemed to coax me into running faster than planned as it was easy going for the first 2/3rds and with no wind to worry about. As we progressed towards the exit, we faced the uphill grind back to see level, but were pulled through by the amazing drumming which reverberated down the tunnel from the exit, and the cheering of the marvellous crowds.
It got a little tough in the second half as the wind picked up, tiredness set in, and Liverpool isn't a flat city! A numberv of out & backs/dog-legs motivated/demotivated depending on whether the faster runners or back-markers were coming the other way. Sefton Park did drag a bit, but you could smell the finish at that stage.
The last couple of miles were uplifting with the crowds and city sights, and the long home-straight brought out the unwise sprint finish as my legs resisted.
Lovely medal, nice t-shirt, and efficient baggage to allow a quick change into warm clothes. Thanks to the policeman who offered to give me a lift back to the car park as I was walking like a person 30 years older!
Well Done to the organisers and the city of Liverpool! Date of review: October 27, 2011
In short: Not as tough as the Picnic!! In full: A very memorable day for this runner after insanely doubling up this event with Beachy Head on the previously day. This made the 70 mins cut-off to Leith Hill an even bigger challenge, and I had to battle a lot harder than planned to reach the 6.55 miles with only 4 mins to spare. My sympathies to those runners that were outside the cut-off and were turned back to complete the half-marathon distance.
Once you made Leith Hill, you could then ease up the pace and enjoy the undulating trail without any further time pressures. I was given good advice by many who had run the event in previous year - not to get carried away on the next 10km to the halfway point after the euphoria of making the cut-off. It did leave a little bit in the tank to hang on for the return at Leith Tower around 20 miles, and allowed me to run the bulk of the final 6 miles downhill (apart from that final hill!)
This is a tough marathon. Although it is possible to get a decent time (I didn't) with plenty of hill work in training, sensible tactics, and good eye-sight to handle the technical parts of the course - I could have done with a carrot or two which may have helped me avoid getting a foot tangled up in some exposed roots, and then clipping a rock resulting in a heavy fall (bruised ribs and painful shoulder) but was able to carry on.
The course was fantastically marshaled, well stocked feed stations, good signage and friendly runners. There was a lack of course signs on the final downhill stretch, but I had teamed up with another runner at this point who was confident that we were on track.
Great cheer at the finish, lovely medal, t-shirt, and breakfast/showers to bring me back to like.
In short: Enjoyable and worth the long trip In full: Perfect weather, a course that kept you interested, and well signed and marshalled.
These smaller events seem to suit me better. Friendly organising team, a good trickle of supporters sprinkled around the course, sociable runners, and a two lapped course where the runners were able to run there own races without being hindered by large numbers of others.
Once the half marathoners split around 11 miles, you were suddenly on your own, so I would suggest that some marathon experience is required to give you the confidence to complete the distance. However, some hill-work would be of benefit as the course is undulating in parts with a tricky hill at 6 miles and 18 miles and a nasty bump when you take that left turn at 11 miles and 24 miles. You will also have the nice manageable downhills to undo the damage.
A little off the beaten track, but one I would certainly do again.
Thanks to everyone behind this event. Date of review: October 16, 2011
In short: Brilliant 50 miler - great organisation and support from Mike and the team In full: Wishing to dip my toe into the 50 mile distance, this event came highly recommended by a number of friends that done this in the past.
Friendly and supportive organisation, great marshaling, and clear signage on the 6.55 mile circuit.
I was worried and nervous at the start, but I soon felt at ease with the relaxed feel to this 'challenge' rather than race. Stepping up to the 50 mile distance needs to be treated with respect, and running your own pace and strategy is crucial.
I was happy to start at the back of the field, get through the first lap, and then deal with the challenge on a mile by mile basis. I think the multi-lap course really helped to digest the distance in manageable chunks, and the circuit offered a good variety of terrain and surroundings to maintain your interest. With the profile being almost completely flat (apart from the concrete path leading up to the road about 2.75 miles in), the course has nothing to fear and does provide the opportunity of quick times if the conditions are good. Mental strength and bloody-mindedness is required to push you through the start/finish for the laps 5, 6 and 7, but the final lap can be 'enjoyed' as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
The weather wasn't too warm (ideal temperature-wise), but the wind picked up in parts to wear you down and there were some heavy showers in the afternoon (just as we were all getting tired).
I was elated to complete the 52.4 miles, got rousing support, and was looked after by the team (as I must have looked pretty awful at the finish). Cups of tea were lined up, hot food offered, and medal and personalised certificate handed to me.
Thanks to Mike and the team in staging a great event, and giving me the support to get me to the finish. Highly recommended by this runner. Date of review: July 19, 2011
In short: The description of "trail marathon" doesn't do it justice! In full: Firstly, thanks to the organisers on laying on a beast of a race that exceeded expectation. Superbly marked course, and marshaled expertly and enthusiastically. Drinks stations as advertised, and I was pleased to have followed tge advice of carrying a hydro-pack (as you needed to be semi-self sufficient today.
Gloriously sunny weather, stunning Lake District scenery, and a route that threw up enough challenges to keep all the competitors engrossed to the finish.
Beginner-friendliness is rated to reflect the technically demanding nature of the course although I've adjusted this with the earlier Challenge being available to those requiring more time to meet the cut-offs.
I love trail events, and although parts of this route did verge on fell (especially the downhills), you had to maintain concentration throughout to prevent breaking your neck - I had many close calls.
After the river crossing (which I absolutely adored), I teamed up with a copy of lady runners from Yorkshire and Shropshire and this really helped in being able to handle the intricate sections (especially the miles of tree roots!) and the humour when another close call to a serious fall was somehow averted by one of us! We crossed the finish line together which brought the day to a special conclusion.
The concern that I had of the potential under-distance has long since been forgotten after a special day in a frighteningly beautiful part of the country.
Many thanks from someone who is definately anthing but a mountain goat! Date of review: July 5, 2011
In short: Please don't change a thing - the perfect trail marathon! In full: Agree with Chair's rating to leave the marathon as it is. I voiced this sentiment to one of the organising team before the start, and repeated it even more passionately afterwards.
The day was gloriously sunny but also very warm despite a refreshing breeze. However, having learnt from running last year and adopting a conservative strategy due to the heat and course difficulty, I was able to enjoy the wonderful course. The terrain was testing but with plenty of variety including sandy beach, steps, hills, grass and firm trails, muddy stretches and with some road thrown in.
This fantastic marathon is brilliantly supported by countless marshals, plenty of water stations (more than sufficient despite the conditions) and expertly marked.
Once you cross the start/finish at halfway, you do need to be mentally strong to continue, and you were rewarded with the scenery, and the care and attention of the marshals, fellow runners and medical team. Two laps of the half marathon course wouldn't have given me that same feeling of achievement and satisfaction.
At the finish, a marathon medal and rousing support was given. I was helped to a seat, and was brought a cup of tea and something to eat - I must have looked a mess!
Well Done to everyone involved. An unforgettable day, and a marathon that has elevated itself to becoming my firm favourite.
In short: Having now finished, I can say that this marathon is the craziest and most monumentally brilliant out there! In full: 3rd time that I've completed the Picnic so I must be completely insane. Struggled more this time around possibly due to knowing what we were in for!
The torential downpour was almost biblical, and it felt like we were being warned of what we had let ourselves in for.
The steep and long hill from the start has to be treated with respect, and with a fair amount of walking when you tackle it again on the second lap.
The toughest part of the course though for me is the first set of steps which are 2 miles in on the outward half of each lap, and 2 miles towards the end of each lap on the way back to the start/finish. Its difficult to get in any sort of rhythm when descending and the ascent forced me into a painful and slow walk. The 4th and final set is a relief as you can smell the finish from there.
There are plenty of other challenges which you have to confront including the other set of steps (The Eiger Steps) which you ascend/descend twice - these are more runnable on the descent and the rousing support from the marshals at the foot was a massive boost. You also had to cross the river on submerged stepping stones (very carefully), an out and back up and down the cowfield (no cows this year to stare you out) four times - again with fantastically enthusiatic marshalling, and that treacherouslt slippery and muddy decent to the marshal point at the mid-way point of each lap. In between there are some nice runnable sections but you have to hold back a bit for all the murderously tough sections.
The exhaustion, pain and difficulty were more than offset by the scenery, great camaraderie amongst all the runners (munroers as well as picnicers), the best marshaling that I've experienced, and the glory of completing the marathon. I was seroiusly questioning myself when I hit the many dark moments, but I can only see myself coming back again for more in 2013!
Great bright t-shirt and chunky medal to be worn with pride. The only slight grumble was that the picnic promised at the end was gone by the time I had finished, but otherwise everything else was of the highest order.
Many thanks to Dr Rob and his great team. Date of review: June 19, 2011
In short: Once you have been bitten by the Dartmoor Discovery you'll keep coming back for more! In full: Firstly, my thanks to the Teignbridge Trotter for taking on the race from Phil Hampton, and having organised a superb event this year. They have retained the integrity and spirit of the race but with an increased but manageable numbers of competitors.
It was revealing that there were over 90 debutants that finished this gruelling run, although there were the usual high proportion of returnees (like myself) turning up for more pain (we had obviously suppressed the memory from previous years!).
If in doubt, then I say give the DD a crack. Don't go into it half-heartedly though as it will batter you into submission. However, with a few marathons under your belt, and a generous helping of hill work (descents as well as ascents) will make the undertaking less torturous and more rewarding.
This is an epic event, the sole surviving road ultra race in the UK, and it is important that it remains on the racing calendar. The four major hills are majestic as well as intimidating - I love hills but had to walk the Dartmeet and post-Ashburton ones just to reserve some energy for the many tough miles still awaiting to wage war against me and my fellow runners. However, the glorious (if warm) weather, the breath-taking scenery, the wildlife (the mini-stampede of donkeys (unless my eyes were deceiving me) was a magical sight and took my mind off the pain)), and all the enthusiastic people from organisers, marshals, supporters and competitors added key ingredients to an unfortgettable day.
A very happy though sore runner. Thanks to all. Date of review: June 8, 2011