In short: Good but not memorable In full: This was my 7th marathon, but first Brighton. Overall, it's a good race - but it isn't "London-on-Sea". It's a shame that the organisers don't seem to have taken anything on board from last year's reviews and seem more interested in cutting costs than in taking the race from good to great. Let me start by saying that I didn't have a great race. I got tripped at the water station at around 14 miles and couldn't regain my pace, and from 18-22 miles really went backwards. Still managed to finish in a respectable time as I'd flown through the first half so reasonably happy, but there are a number of things that could make this race so much better.
1. I'm not sure why the race packs can't be posted out. I understand why you have to collect them in person at London - but this isn't London. It's not a big city that's easily accessible from all areas of the country and it's frankly annoying to have to either travel to Brighton twice, or incur extra expense by having to stay over for two nights.
2. I really liked that runners were able to choose their own starting corral. I think in the main most people were honest about their likely finishing time and this was a nice touch which worked well.
3. The kit bags were FAR too small. And to be sent an email the day before the race advising this was poor. We were lucky that it was a dry day because the bags could not have fitted in a spare pair of trainers - and the worst thing after a race when your feet have got wet is to be unable to change into dry shoes. My kit bag fitted (at a squeeze): jogging bottoms, long-sleeved top and thin fleece. I'm a small person so my clothes are small. Bigger people would have been able to fit in less. Poor.
4. Toilets. Every review I've read has mentioned the lack of sufficient toilets at the start. We arrived at the start with over an hour to go and the queues were already right across the park. Which left no option but to pee in bushes or behind trees - because frankly I wasn't willing to waste an hour in a queue only to need to go again 25 seconds later. Come on organisers - sort this out!
5. The start entailed walking through thick, cakey mud. Clearly previous runners of this race knew this as they had plastic bags over their trainers. The rest of us were trying to bang off 3-4cm of mud against the barriers as we moved towards the start line. Not great. Needs one of those criss-cross matting systems to stop the ground become wet and slippery.
6. Water at the water stations was in cups, despite many complaints about this last year. Having read the reviews, I took my own water bottle. It's impossible to adequately hydrate from a cup - most of it ends up all over your face or down your front, or you inhale it. Small bottles would be better - but these cost more money. Go figure.
7. The course is NOT flat. didn't pay as much attention to the profile map as I should have done - the first half has quite a lot of short, sharp climbs and some gradual long ascents, which are barely perceptible at the time but really take their toll on the legs. I realise that it's difficult to work out a route that doesn't involve massive hills, given the proximity to the South Downs, hence having to loop out both sides of Brighton and then back in again, but both the 15-18 and the 20-23 mile sections were SO dull. In particular the power station - the lack of crowds didn't bother me that much but it was hot, there was nothing to look at and the smell of rotting fish was revolting.
9. The atmosphere was great - the sunshine definitely helped, but everyone was really friendly and encouraging.
10. I liked the finish and this was generally smooth - nice having the repatriation area on the beach too.
Overall, the race was well-organised but little touches would have made it that much better for the runners. I think the entry fee is overly expensive for what you get and even on a lovely sunny day, sections of the course are pretty tedious and unimaginative. But that's the trade-off for keeping it relatively flat. I enjoyed it, but not sure I enjoyed it enough to do it again. Date of review: April 18, 2016
In short: Cold, wet - but fun. In full: Probably the wettest day I've ever had the misfortune to race on, and pretty cold too. Within 50 metres of the start there were ankle-deep puddles across the width of the road and these only got worse as the race continued. The parts on road were wet but not too bad; the sections on narrower track-type roads became muddy and riddled with deep puddles quite early on. The marshalls were absolutely amazing - unfailingly cheery and encouraging despite being soaked to the skin themselves. The course was challenging mainly in the first half of the race, although the nasty incline at 8 miles was most unwelcome! This is the type of course I like and perform best on so even despite the weather conditions I enjoyed it. It would have been nice to have had a finishers' medal - race t-shirts were available but these had to be purchased, and are always too big for me so I didn't bother. It would also have been nice to have chip timing - I had to make sure I placed myself near the front to start so as not to waste valuable seconds getting across the line. I managed to bag myself a prize so came away feeling that the drive to the race, in fairly treacherous conditions, had been worthwhile. I would like to do this on a sunny day just to appreciate the scenery: on this occasion it was all about gritting teeth and getting round! Date of review: November 24, 2014
In short: Nice friendly race In full: First time at New Ware 10. Definitely one for a dry day - I can't imagine how miserable it must have been last year (I was doing a different race on the same day and well remember the conditions!) It's a small and friendly race, and although marketed as multi-terrain I was not expecting so much of the route to be on grass (I am not a fan of grass!) Other than that, it's a very pleasant route - a couple of uphill drags which are almost unnoticeable on the first lap but really quite punishing on the second, and one very narrow uphill section just after the start (and start of the second lap) which slowed down an otherwise speedy getaway.
The marshalls did an excellent job and must be some of the friendliest I've experienced at any race, offering lots of encouragement all the way round the course.
My only negative would be that I wish when offering a technical t-shirt as the only 'takeaway' race organisers would consider supplying them in women's sizes as well as men's. Many female runners are petite and are swamped by even the smallest men's t-shirt. All of mine end up being given to my husband who does not even run. Having worked for my t-shirt, I would very much like to be able to wear it! Date of review: October 13, 2014
In short: Very enjoyable In full: My first time at this race and I would definitely do it again. Extremely well organised with good and very informal facilities - participants were happy to just leave their baggage in the village hall (no supervised baggage storage) or in the car since parking was so close to the venue.
Nice course with pleasant scenery, although possibly a little more undulating than I was expecting. Nothing steep but enough uphill drags to keep things interesting - and the last climb up to the finish was just cruel! First race after the summer so no PB for me but pleased overall with my performance. A dry and sunny day although quite breezy in places.
Good technical t-shirt - but I will say what I always say about these: PLEASE consider offering them in women's S, M & L sizes as well as in men's sizes. Many female runners are petite and I would like to be able to wear the t-shirt I've worked hard for! As it is I always end up giving race t-shirts to my husband who isn't even a runner! Date of review: October 13, 2014
In short: Superb atmosphere and organisation In full: There aren't many races of this length around at this time of year and despite the heat I thoroughly enjoyed this. Extremely well-organised, with everything at Race HQ well-signposted and lots of friendly volunteers to answer any questions. Ample parking too at the actual event rather than half a mile away as seems to be the case with many races. Any course was going to be challenging in today's conditions and while there were no steep ascents it was certainly undulating but with a good variety of terrain. Given the location the course could have been dull but taking it out of the town along local country lanes kept it interesting and more scenic. The water stations were well-placed and well-manned and it was greatly appreciated being given water in bottles with a sport top rather than plastic cups. The sponge station was a nice touch but could have done with being at the midpoint rather than towards the end of the race. All road crossings were extremely well-marshalled. A track finish is always nice and gives the event that little extra. I knew a PB was out of the question in the heat so I was delighted to finish first in my age category and bag a nice trophy as well as my race medal. I was very happy with a bottle of Lucozade Sport and a banana at the end; goody bags are usually rubbish. A 25th anniversary t-shirt would have been a nice touch but not necessary. I would definitely do this race again - it really is a shining example of how good a well-organised race can be. Date of review: July 21, 2014
In short: Excellent inaugural half to accompany the already-established full marathon. In full: A thoroughly enjoyable race - helped enormously by the favourable weather which pulled out many spectators around the course. The route was mostly flat, although there were a few prolonged uphill drags which although not steep, were energy-sapping especially as it was warm. There was a welcome breeze particularly on the long, straight stretches. Excellent organisation - the stadium finish was a definite highlight! - and despite the numbers there was no queue for baggage at either the start or at the finish (and due to traffic queuing into Milton Keynes I wasn't as early as I'd have liked). No toilet queues at all - the beauty of such a sizeable venue. In fact, despite numbers the only time this race felt crowded was at the start, and it would have been helpful to have some pace zones to assist with the lining up. I just tried to get as far forward as I could given the marathon and half-marathon starters were all mixed together. Superb encouragement from both spectators and marshalls and a surprisingly pleasant route made this a top-notch race - that and placing 6th lady and 2nd in age category taking over two minutes off my PB! Date of review: May 6, 2014
In short: Great potential, but room for improvement In full: I arrived about an hour before the start. Race HQ (in the netball hall) was fine - spacious, warm, plenty of baggage storage space - but could have done with more toilets (and it wasn't that busy when I arrived). The start wasn't particularly well-organised: just a free-for-all with no time zones. I ended up too far forward but at least I wasn't held back (in fact I set off too fast for the first few miles). The course was as one would expect from a suburban race route: not particularly inspiring in terms of scenery but not unpleasant either: at least it didn't involve running through any industrial estates. The marshalls did a good job by and large, given there were no road closures in place, but I felt more were needed as at some junctions it wasn't always clear which way to go. The public support along the route was unexpected and most welcome. This was advertised as a flat race and it definitely wasn't. There was a really nasty uphill drag of about a mile around 6 miles (and again in the second lap) and the finish was uphill too. This was tough in a cold and blustery wind. Agree with other comments that finishing through the parking area was not ideal - I am a faster runner so not an issue for me but as I was driving out afterwards there were plenty of runners still coming through which must have been really tough for them, trying to compete with the traffic when exhausted. I managed a PB by nearly two minutes even after taking a tumble at 10.5 miles (luckily I was able to get up and carry on as there seemed to be no-one around to help). Adequate goody bag; technical tee which as usual came only in mens' sizes (when will people realise that lots of women runners are tiny? - I'd like to be able to wear my t-shirt, not camp in it) Overall a reasonable race - the start and finish need to be improved but I would do it again. Date of review: March 24, 2014
In short: Good race despite the unexpected 'water features'!! In full: First time I've done this race which is marketed as one of the tougher races in the south-east half marathon calendar. I understand why the organisers have opted for the marquee-style race headquarters (proximity to the start/finish lines) but on a less pleasant day this would have been absolutely grim. Very muddy in the marquee even before it started to get busy; a positive swamp after the race. Some sort of groundsheet floor covering would have been a good idea. Baggage storage was a bit of a bunfight and it would have been better to stick the number ranges up high rather than having them flat on the tables so that people could join the appropriate baggage queue rather than (like me) being redirected to a different queue three times! The race itself was good - the first couple of miles are a bit dull around residential streets but the scenery picks up once out on the country lanes. The hills - two in particular - were tough but there was a pleasant amount of downhill to compensate. I don't think anyone was expecting the massive flooding just before mile 8 (and immediately before a left turn straight up a long, steep hill) - no choice but to run through and tackle the hill with cold, wet, leaden feet! Just as the memory of that was starting to fade, mile 10 hit us with an even bigger flood, this one over the ankles and freezing cold. Last three miles were very squelchy! The last section back in Cassiobury Park seems eternal - about 500m slightly uphill, before a left turn and 400m down to the finish line (which seemed miles away). Despite the tough course and conditions underfoot I managed my first half PB since 2005 so very happy! Would have been nice to have a banana or something at the finish, and I would also urge race organisers to consider offering technical t-shirts in both men's and women's sizes. The one I got from Fred Hughes 10 a couple of weeks ago was great and fit perfectly; I'm afraid a men's XS is still huge on many women and when you've paid £25 to enter the race ... Overall, though, a good race and the marshalls were fantastic. Would do it again. Date of review: February 3, 2014
In short: Well organised, friendly race and a great way to start the year. In full: My first Fred Hughes 10 but definitely not my last. Very impressed with all aspects of this race - even the weather was kind, but top marks to the St Albans Striders for having a back-up route to avoid the flooded areas so the race could go ahead. An undulating but fairly scenic route and I took over two minutes off my PB, so the potential is definitely there. Unfortunately missed out on the t-shirt - didn't notice them being given out at the finish and once I'd walked back to Race HQ I couldn't be bothered to walk the 500m or so back to the finish to get one. I did pick up one of the free 2013 t-shirts that were being given away in the hall prior to the race though! Good facilities at the start, arrived early so plenty of parking, and the marshalls really were fantastic. Date of review: January 21, 2014
In short: Friendly, well-organised race and enthusiastic marshalls despite the awful weather. In full: Was running rather than racing this as a pre-London long Sunday race, but was so enthused by the support of the marshalls and friendliness of fellow runners that I ended up running it a lot faster than planned. Part of that was also the desire to get out of the driving cold rain which really picked up in the second half.
Good facilities - first race I've ever been to where there was no queue for the ladies' - and the transition from the 10 to 20 mile race was handled well. I thought a two-loop course would be demoralising in the second half but it wasn't a problem at all. The course was nice and flat - a couple of minor inclines - without too many twists and turns so a definite PB course for those racing.
I too would have preferred a medal - the hats were a great idea but did not take account of the smallest amongst us: mine looks like a tea cosy and slips down over my eyes, so sadly I won't be able to wear it out running. Runners treasure their medals, even if they do end up at the back of a drawer, so a longer-lasting memento would have been a bonus.
All in all, an excellent race and I would definitely do it again. Date of review: February 21, 2006