In short: Excellent as always In full: The wind seemed a little stronger than I've experienced in previous years during this race, and for some reason I noticed the odd few "slopes" (they're not hills by any stretch of the imagination ...but they're there!) that there are on an otherwise flat course ...but the marshals were first class, the organisation faultless, the mugs a perfect memento, the t-shirts a very reasonably-priced souvenir - full marks. Date of review: April 7, 2014
In short: A distance for everyone on Mother's Day! In full: Good points:
Flat course, if a little gravelly; loads of parking right at the start, with parking charges highlighted in relation to race entry fees; well-signposted (both the venue and the course); plenty to keep spectators amused at the visitors' centre; a choice of distances (5k, 10k, HM); a VERY pretty route around the lakes and, for the HM, along a disused railway line and over the river several times; clearly-marked finish line (which could be seen from a little way off, making the sprint for the line quite tough!); attentive marshals at the 2 minor road-crossings; a good atmosphere from the crowd at the finish area.
No-so good points:
They seemed a bit overwhelmed at the number-collection, and it wasn't entirely clear which queue was for which distance, but simple signage would sort this out for next year. The outdoor loos were a bit manky and one was missing a lock!! (But there were better ones indoors!) HM route was less than 13.1 miles according to my Garmin. Big queue for refreshments after the race ...but this is hardly the fault of the organisers! It just meant that we went elsewhere for our Mother's Day get-together!
I'd read mixed reviews of other races held at this venue, so went there with an open mind, and overall came away with a positive impression. Date of review: April 1, 2014
In short: "Is no fire, is only drill"! (It's not the start of the race, just the starting gun...!) In full: I'm surprised by the negative comments about this race as I was impressed with the set-up, pre-race info on the website, on-the-day organisation, and the location ... I'd read the race blurb beforehand so knew pretty much what to expect, and, apart from the "missing" starting/timing pens (and the false start, which, for all but those at the very front, was amusing/confusing rather than anything else!), I think I found everything else to be as described, so no nasty surprises. I actually really like the medal too - on a purple ribbon with pink writing! And the goody bag was decent, especially the bluff/buff (?!) - neither the best nor the worst I've had. The course was very pretty, though there were some tight turns and challenging little hills; but again I wasn't disappointed with this as no-one had promised a flat, straight, tarmac road race in the first place! The mile-markers that I saw came in accordance with the beeps on my Garmin, so no complaints there. Yes there were queues for the loos beforehand ...as there are at most races! Baggage drop/collection seemed flawless. The chap on the PA system at the start seemed to have been involved in the race on a very personal level and sounded pleased to see such a good turn-out. Good catering facilities for runners and supporters, right at race HQ. Marshals on the course were friendly and encouraging ...and the pre-race info had made it clear that they cannot actually stop traffic for runners. Chip time and position were available instantly by tapping your number into a computer. Plenty of water and bananas (both chunks and whole!) available at the end. Shame about the pavilion not being open but perhaps this wouldn't have been the case in more severe weather. A good effort for the first year of this race! Date of review: December 16, 2013
In short: If *only* it were *only* 13.1m... In full: ...then it'd be perfect! All the ingredients are there - flat course, room for spectators, the venue feels like something from a 1970s Burt Reynolds movie!, unique medal, a distance for everyone, helpful organisers & marshals, loads of on-site parking, plenty of loos - the only thing left is that the distance has to be right! I've no complaints about this year's - I'd read comments from previous years' events so wasn't surprised to find myself running further than I might have liked! - but it does seem to be a common theme, and the organisers do appear to be interested in what participants have to say, so my guess is that this race will only improve :-) If so, their marathon in the spring will be a damn good PB target! Date of review: December 3, 2013
In short: Consistently good :-) In full: Friendly, efficient, flat, track finish, nice prize (drawstring bag), good value, fruit available afterwards, good facilities, great marshals (including some Gamesmakers proudly displaying their kit - always nice to see), amusing chap doing the prize-giving! Keep up the good work! Date of review: December 2, 2013
In short: Full marks all round! In full: Despite the scary warnings about collection of race numbers (do it the day before, or by 09.30 on race-day or you don't get to run!!) I made it to the town centre in plenty of time and was "fast-tracked" onto a minibus, rather than having to wait for the main coach, to go and get my number. It's a shame if the increase to the number of runners meant that there was no parking at the venue, but great for the race that it's obviously building on its success; and I'm sure that the dire warnings meant that everything ran like clockwork!
Baggage drop was inside a barn and quite a few runners were huddled in there too out of the wind, but if you wanted to warm up and stretch outside there was plenty of room to do so.
The muddy bit of the course was MUDDY (especially second time around!) but the parts that were on road were a great opportunity to get back some lost time. Enough of the course was on the road that I was glad I'd come in road trainers and left the trail shoes behind. After one lap, you know exactly what to expect and know that the worst part is in those first couple of miles, then you're back on the roads where the ups and downs fairly balance each other out.
The marshals were on the ball and very encouraging, as were all the crew at race HQ, including those giving out the medals, bananas, water etc; and bus/minibus drivers.
I was expecting a REEEally tough race but was very pleasantly surprised and pleased by this one. Well worth doing :-) Date of review: November 25, 2013
In short: I always seem to forget how hilly this one really is ...! In full: Around each corner seemed to be another hill - always going UP! Until mile 9, then it's a beautiful downhill coast all the way to the motorway bridge, a sprint for the line, and a first-rate goody bag and mug. The band rockin' their socks off at the start sends you off in good spirit! As enjoyable as ever. Date of review: October 28, 2013
In short: Worth the trip, despite the mud! In full: The rain and mud were horrible, but the organisation and support made up for it, as did the t-shirt and medal. Parking a km+ away, and a slow get-away because of roadworks outside the station, weren't ideal on a cold damp day, but in better weather the course and location would have been perfect. Easy to see why this race is popular (2,000+ runners, and a sell-out before the day). Date of review: October 14, 2013
In short: Ran like clockwork ... the race, not me!! In full: Well-organised number collection available the day before so that there's not a scrum on the day; plenty of parking, loos, facilities and distraction at the start; well-marked start funnel and course; friendly marshals and supporters; closed roads; plentiful mile and km markers (once you twigged that they weren't just ads for the sponsor!); nice scenery around the river and Cookham; ... if there was some way to make the last 100 meters or so NOT uphill, it'd be perfect!! And the wait for the chip times was a bit agonising, but worth it to see that I got a PB :-) Date of review: September 13, 2013
In short: Race organisers & marshals are human too! In full: OK, no secret about the fact that *something* went wrong with the course directions. I was no less disheartened than anyone else to see two packs of runners joining a part of the course from different directions, meaning that I ran about 90% of the race knowing that I wasn't going to do the full distance.
HOWEVER: I would like to think that anyone who had a grumble or a real issue with this, AND who had stayed to hear the race director's and referee's report and heartfelt apologies, would have given them the benefit of the doubt. They were obviously incredibly embarrassed and saddened by the error (however it came about), and probably aware of how much a decent race can be affected by a few bad RW reviews! It was obvious that the race team, crew, and marshals had all worked very hard on producing a good event and were disappointed not to have been able to deliver their goal.
Surely the test with a new race is not necessarily whether everything goes 100% smoothly first time but rather how any mistakes are dealt with and how lessons are learned for future events. I am sure that anyone who runs the 2014 Headington 5 will be in for a treat, and I would like to think that for this year’s there will be very few who were truly unhappy enough to actually ask for a refund. I certainly won’t be asking for one.
Biggest plusses: excellent goody bag and friendly and encouraging marshals.
Biggest minus: the “pinch-point” at the corner of a field near the start – it was too early on for runners to be spread out, and perhaps tweaks could be made to ensure that there isn’t the same bunching up at that point another year. Date of review: September 2, 2013