In short: Best race in Britain, without doubt! In full: Another stunning event from Events to Live - 10/10, 100% all round. It is not just a race, it is an event - great facilities at Denbies vineyard mean that everything beforehand is smooth (the ladies do queue a bit for the lavs though, it's true), with a rousing warm up and a smooth and on-time start. The course is stunning, through proper farmlands (with real farm smells), along rustic trails, bands playing at the water stations, and finally mounting the escarpment of Ranmore before the final excellent 1 mile downhill run to the finish, with some of the finest views in southern England. Oh, did I mention the wine? Wine is available at all the feed stations with sparkling at the last one (yes, I did avail, at the last one anyway), while the food on offer at the feed stations is superb. The finish is perfectly well organised, and the goodies on offer - tea/coffee, cake (6 kinds), four kinds of fruit, the chunky medal and nice t-shirt - make this a race finish to savour. Oh yes, and a free hog roast and another free drink at the end. Perfect. Just don't become 'over-refreshed' and drive home - it's designated driver time!
Oh, and did I mention the fancy dress? I would say that 90% of the runners turn up in fancy dress, with a lot of care taken (particularly by the ladies, I think). However, my favourite was a guy running with a little backpack with Yoda peeking out of it, while carrying a light sabre. Luke Skywalker, of course. Good effort by all of the fancy dressers. I had only my Union Jack Shorts on, alas.
The camaraderie around the course was brilliant - apart from the runners wearing headphones. DQ!
It's not flat, and every race will have a few logistical problems with this number of runners, but overall, this is still my favourite race, and it is a worthy contender, yet again, for the title of 'Best Race in Britain.' Thank you very much to all the other friendly runners, and to the organisers - good job and well done! Date of review: September 13, 2015
In short: Scenic run, sausage sarnies, beer, quiz = excellent! In full: This was the second Woodman 5 (mile) race, after last year's torrential opener (missed it, darn!). New start, new course. Entry was easy and cheap, at the Woodman Pub (plenty of parking). The course is looping, around some of the most tucked-away parts of Ashtead Common and John Baker, the organiser, seems to have found all the 'hills.' The last mile is an excellent downhill and then flat, so you can finally let loose. Very friendly atmosphere, with enthusiastic local girl guides helping at the water stations. Then, we all went back to the Woodman pub for sausage sarnies, beer and a pub quiz. Now that's what I call a race: it was a really great night out! Date of review: June 18, 2015
In short: Excellent but never gets easier! In full: The team from Events to Live/Run to Live have done it again: This is a very well-organised and characterful race with plenty of interest for runners of all abilities. The hall where we collected our numbers was satisfyingly packed with runners before the race, with the air thick with a gloriously redolent fug of excitement, anticipation, nerves and Deep Heat. Breath in deep and enjoy! The course itself is always challenging with a couple of 'little' hills to remind you of the beers you have drunk in the last week or last night's pie, but then there are the pell-mell downhills to make you feel like an Olympian again. The last kilometer has some big puddles (not so big this year but still big enough to trip-up one spectacularly muddy lady) which you can use to wash off the mud from the rest of the course. Alternatively, after the finish, you can queue up with the other hardened runners to wash off the mud with water from a freezing cold hose pipe: Alf Tupper would be proud. All-in-all, pats on the back all round! Date of review: February 1, 2015
In short: Fantastic race - country running In full: Pre-race organisation is excellent, and parking on the day is very easy. Quick registration and plenty of toilets. Nice start area and lots of atmosphere at the start. The course is mostly shady, which was very welcome today. There was a lot of banter out on the course and the marshals and water stations were notably excellent. The course marking was perfect. The finish area was great with great t-shirt, lots of fresh fruit (delicious!) and a bottle of Badger beer - how apt.
One unwelcome occurrence (not the organisers' fault - far from it) were other runners wearing MP3s/iPads and actually playing music as they ran along - not using headphones - so that everyone has to listen to it. This is just downright anti-social.
Please comment (agree/disagree?) over on the Forum thread at http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/general-running/anti-social-music-broadcasting-runners/278192.html
Other than that unwelcome development (again, not the organisers' fault), the Surrey Badger is one of the best races in the UK - no doubt about it! Another triumph from Alan, Nicky and the excellent helpers and marshals from Events to Live. Roll on the Bacchus! Date of review: July 13, 2014
In short: Great race - hillier than you expect! In full: The Vale Gallop takes in tracks and field margins on private land and affords nice views of the North Downs. Organisation is excellent and course marking very good. It was a dry one this year - trainers would have sufficed, but trail shoes were okay. Add 10-15% to your road 10k time - it is that hilly. A very good local-ish race, with some fast runners at the front (the winner did it in around 38:30 - not too shabby on this course). Recommended! Date of review: March 9, 2014
In short: Britain's best race? Definitely In full: Everything about the race is perfect: Loads of parking, easy registration, great atmosphere at the start, chip timing, the most wonderfully scenic, spectacular, interesting, and challenging course, loads of well-stocked water stations with water, squash, food and wine (champagne at the last one!), 160 course marshals (!), accurate mile markers and good course marking, great cameraderie from other runners, funny fancy-dressers (good effort you guys and gals!), a handshake from the race director at the end, a great medal and tech t-shirt, loads of delicious fresh fruit and then a free hog-roast and glass of wine or bottle of beer. The results were up before I left, and will be up on t'Internet as well, along with photos. Perfect all round. Definitely Britain's best race (and would have been last year as well, but for the lack of a single vote!). I was well chuffed with 11th place in 1:35:40 (11 minutes quicker than last years 30°C edition). This year's winner did it in 1:21 - Gary Best, Dorking and Mole Valley AC - yay! I did hear people saying that they had got a PB on the course, so it's definitely possible. Sell your granny to get a place next year! Date of review: September 8, 2013
In short: Too hot for heroics, but still excellent In full: Great race in hot conditions. Too hot to worry about the time - just nice to finish. Great pineapple, oranges and melon at the end - bliss. Thanks to all the marshals and to Alan and Nicky at run to Live. My niece took 1:10 off her half marathon PB! Date of review: July 14, 2013
In short: Great chance to see new vantage points on challenging run In full: All very well-organised, compact and effective starting area, with gloriously basic-but-adequate facilities. The 10k went off on time - to the second, which is how it should be. Plenty of hills and mud out on the course, proper cross-country. Perfectly obvious signage (the small number that went off-course should pay more attention!) and marshals where required. It was great to work out where you where in relation to the footpaths and byways that you can normally go on - this race takes you well off-road and on to fields that you can't normally go on, with great vantage points to match. Good finish gantry with big digital clock and nice area for drinks/banana/post race chat. The tea/bacon butty stand was a good idea too. Saw a few familiar faces and some new ones. Everyone very friendly. I did 46 minutes and would normally do 40 or so on a flattish course, giving you some idea of the number of hills/amount of mud. Great race - thanks to the organisers and all the marshals! Date of review: March 10, 2013
In short: Great race - always a pleasure! In full: I have my PB on this course, so it's a PB course for me. Supportive marshals this year. Couldn't hear the starter (as usual) although I was fourth row back. Great facilities at the HQ. Good race! Date of review: January 6, 2013
In short: Britain's best race? Probably In full: This is a local race with big race facilities: loads of marshals, great parking, bag drop, chip timing, cracking goodies, a smorgasbord of cakes and fruit (and tea!) at the end, wine and very many goodies at the feed stations (not just water stations, Feed stations), chunky medal and fine t-shirt, hog roast, DJ and cold beer. The course is sublime - making sensible use of the terrain to inexorably climb from the depths of the valley of the Tillingborne stream to the top of the North Downs at Ranmore (what an appropriate name) at around mile 11, ready for a thunderous flight back down to Denbies Winery and the welcome finish line (and a handshake from the race director, Allan). I ran on a lot of new trails - and I thought I knew this part of the world. A classic course - yes, very fine indeed. Yes it was a bit warm today, but we runners cannot complain about that - we have to take the rough with the smooth and the hot with the cold. I'll bet you someone does complain about the heat (just as they would have done if it had been raining or cold) - but remember, the weather is the one thing that is outside the remit of the race organisers! At least there was plenty of shade in parts. Is this Britain's best race? Well, it's certainly the most spectacular and best-organised half I've ever done. It's got to be up there with the very best of them - there can't be many (any?) half marathons that are better than the totally awesome Bacchus Half! Well done to Events to Live and all your cheery helpers and marshals - I give you thanks and full respect. Date of review: September 9, 2012