In short: Yet another iconic event from White Star Running; inspired, brilliant in every way, eleven out of ten! In full: This was a truly exceptional event; flawless, seemingly effortless organisation, and full of the typical White Star Running touches which make their events so special - the start/finish arch made out of straw bales decorated with flags; the hilarious signs on the route - “Blessed Are The Cheesemakers”, “Hurry Up, FFS”, in a section of woodland, “Danger, Angry Badgers”, “You Are Paying For This, LOL”, “Cakes Ahead” and a couple of my favourites, “Please Don't Sweat Over The Flora & Fauna” and at the Start Line, “At My Signal, Unleash Hell”; … happy, friendly runners; encouraging volunteers; the excellent race start (see below); glorious & varied countryside on the route; I could go on & on, … OK I will; … the huge & magnificent medal; cider at the Lovestation; Roman baths at the finish; hog roast; a jar of East Farm’s strawberry jam as part of the goody bag; the Roman fancy-dress (see below); a sense of history; lots of pre-race info in social media; a more than reasonable entry fee and a great atmosphere throughout ….
This event had a Roman theme due to the Roman Second Legion, under the command of Vespasian, setting up their camp in the area in 44AD. A good number of runners turned up in Roman fancy dress, as did a lot of the volunteers; centurions, soldiers, Roman goddesses, there were togas a-plenty & RD, Andy Palmer was resplendent, dressed as a Roman Emperor (Andy, you looked lovely!!). All these costumes kept me thoroughly entertained throughout the race as I tried to catch up with some Roman soldiers as we ran through fields of barley and I did in the end get a couple of great Gladiator pictures of them as they obligingly ran their fingers through the crop!
The start of the race was utterly brilliant; we walked up to the top of the hill to the start line and after the gun went, were led down the hill by an armoured Roman gladiator, on horseback. I think Hell was triumphantly unleashed :- the horse with gladiator galloped down the hill & all the runners charged down after him – it must have been an amazing sight for the spectators.
For this event, the Lovestation was renamed “Aphrodite's Temple” managed by the Goddess Aphrodite herself, in full costume and all the other Lovestation volunteers were also in Roman costume. It had all the usual White Star Running fare; from strawberries & watermelon to cakes, biscuits, scotch eggs, jelly beans, crisps and, of course, water, squash, coke and cider. This time, the marathoners visited this twice, once quite early on, at about Mile 7, then again at Mile 21 and what a welcome sight it was the second time around! Nearly at Mile 26, we ran around a field of barley & could hear the cheering at the finish line, the end of this superb race was nearly upon us. I caught back up with the Isle Of Wight Road Runner at the top of the last hill, then it was through some woodland and past a man nearly at the end of the half marathon wearing authentic Roman costume, armour and carrying a huge shield. A volunteer rang a bell to signal our approach to the finish line, then it was a great downhill finish towards the straw bale arch where I received the biggest marathon medal, ever. Marathon running surely can't get any better than this ?!!!! Date of review: July 24, 2015
In short: A celebration of marathon running …. no wonder this event was voted Best Marathon in the UK for 2014! In full: This year was my second Giant's Head Marathon and I had just as much fun at this event as I did the previous year. The race was started by the farmer's wife again, this time she was on horseback and at the sound of her hunting horn, we were off! We were soon out of the village of Sydling St Nicholas and after about two miles, and in the middle of nowhere, we could hear a bell ringing. And, there he was again, the naked farmer in his bathtub, drinking beer! There are about ten large ascents on the route, but therefore ten exhilarating descents & this is partly what makes the GHM so excellent, as well as the stunning views over the Dorset countryside from the tops and the friendliness of the other runners. The descent around the Mile 17 mark is one of the longest, about two miles and seems to go on forever. This year there were swathes of foxgloves in full flower and I spotted at least two different species of orchid. Excellent support again from the marshals, tables at the aid stations groaning with all kinds of different food and drink; watermelon, cakes, biscuits, peanuts, crisps, etc., then at the Lovestation at Mile 21 there was cider and, as the race briefing included a proposal of marriage by one of the runners, pink champagne! I knocked back a cup of cider and a shot of the champagne, then it was time to get a move on to the finish line as I had stopped to take over 100 photos on my way around the route this time. Luckily, the previously untried consumption of alcohol mid-race did not have an adverse effect on me, quite the opposite in fact as I found myself almost skipping down the last descent to the finish line on the village green where I was greeted by the iconic GHM medal, t-shirt and cheers from the faster finishers and spectators, who didn't seem to want to leave!
White Star Running have made this a “must-do” event for every serial marathoner and long may it continue. Date of review: July 24, 2015
In short: Another great event by White Star Running through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside In full: I ran the Ox Marathon in 2014 so this year, in order to obtain the rather excellent medal picturing the Ox with the turned-down horns, I threw caution to the wind & registered for the Ox Ultramarathon, at least 35 miles; if not nearer to 37. Conditions were very good this year, sunny for the first half of the race & dry underfoot; unlike last year where the going was much slower, lots of mud & big puddles … none of that this time, as we ran through glorious woodland for the first ten miles, carpeted with strong-smelling wild garlic and even the bluebells were still in flower. The Shaftesbury Drove was almost completely dry! The route is an anticlockwise loop to the east of the magnificent Rushmore Estate, with an extra inner loop near Broadchalke and gets as far as Bishopstone before heading west and homeward bound. The route overall is not too hilly; a few big climbs, but these make for some great descents which really make up for the hills. One of these was turning off the Shaftesbury Drove and running down to Berwick St John after which was the steepest climb of the day, the very beautiful wooded footpath up to the top of Winklebury Hill, deeply cut and full of wild garlic. Shortly after this, I at last reached the Lovestation and was informed by manager, Karen, that there might be “a small undulation” before getting to the finish which was now only three miles away. I took this comment with a very large pinch of salt and good job I did, as after, shall we say, an interesting descent into the Rotherley Valley on legs which were starting to distinctly feel like gateposts (by now I had run three miles further than I ever had before) there it was in front of me, that grassy wall of a hill which I had encountered twice before (both WSR events) resplendent with marshal standing at the top! My shriek of “You have got to be ****** joking!!!” reverberated several times around the quiet valley, and as most of the local birdlife launched themselves, as one, into the air in fright after my shrieking, I carefully inched my way up the hill on increasingly rickety legs. After seven hours & forty-two minutes of running and run/walking 37 miles I at last reached the finish line to receive a great t-shirt in a glorious shade of brilliant tangerine and the coveted Ox with the turned-down horns medal, was mine! Yet another superb event by White Star Running; huge thanks to the organisers and all the volunteers. Date of review: June 28, 2015
In short: Had a wonderful time at WSR's inaugural Larmer Tree Marathon - long may it continue! In full: They've done it again; White Star Running delivered another first class event today in the form of the Larmer Tree Marathon. Even though the sun failed to make an appearance, the scenery was still very beautiful; the route mainly off-road with winding trails through tracts of woodland, quite a lot of mud and lots of hills; a couple of which seemed to go on forever! We were more than rewarded though, with the exhilarating descents and the views from the tops. Aid stations appeared very regularly and it didn't seem long at all before we reached the excellent Lovestation at Mile 21 .... stocked with all manner of food, crisps, cake, jelly beans, energy gels, etc., AND Cider and Blackberry Vodka! These last two beverages went down a treat & after a hug from the Lovestation Manager, Kevin Day, I ran up the hill from the village (Tollard Royal) with renewed energy! After the final woodland path, we crossed the road and started on the finishing straight; the Larmer Tree drive, and I shrieked with delight as I crossed the finish line in 4:40 (I had expected a time of around 5 hours!) The Larmer Tree makes a very good venue and we were given a food voucher after finishing (I tucked into some garlic bread and carrot & coriander soup). What else can I say apart from the whole was Just Brilliant!! Book early for next year though (there is also a Half & a 20 Mile), it's bound to sell out quickly! P.S. The course signage was informative and also amusing - typical WSR humour to keep us runners entertained! Date of review: March 15, 2015
In short: Happiness is ... running the Purbeck Marathon ... In full: WOW !!! What a great event; the scenery is absolutely stunning the whole way round and more than distracts the brain from the 3,000 feet of climbing. There is so much to see on the route; the ruined village of Tyneham at Mile 14, Corfe Castle at Mile 20 with a level crossing to negotiate, we all tiptoed past a massive bull half way up the long drag to Kingston (he didn't seem to mind lots of runners on his territory!), and passed through a beautiful herd of Devonshire Ruby Red cattle at Mile 22. I loved all the hills because of the spectacular views from the top - I saw the Isle of Portland at one point!! The longest ascent starts at around Mile 21, just outside Corfe and continues up the Purbeck Ridge for about three miles; more than worth the effort for the view of Poole Bay, Brownsea Island and Swanage. The last couple of miles are downhill or flat & it seemed that drinking in all that beautiful scenery had done it's job - before I knew it I was doing an exhilarating 8:30 min/mile along the seafront at Swanage to the finish line! I found the organisation to be first-class and the friendly marshals & volunteers deserve a special mention with all their kind words of encouragement - they do a great job for us runners! What really stood out on this marathon was the support from the general public. On some races you only get a sprinkling of support, but on this one they were lining the streets through Kingston, Corfe and Swanage. It felt like the whole local community was getting involved and I lost count how many times I had to say "thank you" to those offering words of encouragement. This not only happened in the villages, but also with walkers along the tops in the middle of nowhere! I took my phone with me & took photos the whole way round (I've posted them to the Purbeck Marathon fb page). The pot of ice cream at the Finish Line was a touch of genius and a Big Thank You to the organisers for making this such a memorable day. Date of review: September 19, 2014
In short: The 50K is really great for those going above marathon distance for the first time. In full: I loved running the 50K; a mix of road and trail and the hills weren't too challenging, so perfect for my first go at running more than marathon distance. There were eleven well-stocked aid stations and I found the signage was fine on the 50K. There are a number of highlights on the route - running around the outer ramparts of Old Sarum, the magnificent Longford Castle, the beautiful chalet house, the yew forest, the Racecourse and the Cathedral Close. I've worked my way up the distances over the last four years starting with the 20K in 2011 & love the fact that all the different distances, as well as walkers, are all mixed in together - it makes a really interesting event! The only slight downside I have is that the general public in the city seem to have no idea there is a race on & look at us as if we are out of our minds as we run past them. I have to shout "Make way!!" to get them to move - it would just be nice if Salisbury itself recognised the 54321 event as something to be celebrated, as it is a brilliant day for the participants and supporters. A Big Thank You to all the marshals, volunteers and Salisbury Firestation for organising this excellent event! Date of review: August 15, 2014
In short: Wonderful views from the tops, slick organisation, super-friendly marshals. In full: What a truly great event the GHM is! White Star Running certainly know how to look after us runners, with plentiful water & food stations and the excellent Love Station at Mile 21, complete with cider, water melon, all kinds of food & even vodka and hugs for the slightly more stressed marathoner! I loved all the extras that White Star are so good at providing - the naked farmer in bathtub, the shotgun start, the massive ice-creams at the finish. And, never have I been more entertained during a marathon, courtesy of a man & his small dog on a lead (who I later found out were called Kevin & Max), who I said "hello" to about seven times on the route and again at the finish line - I don't know how they did it, but it was brilliant! Sometimes I saw them at the water stations & at other times in the middle of absolute nowhere - hilarious! It's imperative that you take your phone with you to take pictures along this beautiful route and, of course, the legendary medal, t-shirt & pint glass make this event excellent value for money. Date of review: June 30, 2014