In short: A race you must do at least once in your lifetime! In full: This was the first time I'd made it to Race the Train and now I know why people from the club come back year after year after year. I'm no fan generally of off-road running / cross country, but by 9 miles I was laughing out loud at the exhilarating hilarity of trying to stay on an off camber mud strip on the side of a steep hill. There was a smile on my face all the way to the finish, once I'd known I'd beaten the train, that is.
The organisation for this race is outstanding, the goody bag as generous and well thought out as I've ever seen (Why have the medal or t-shirt debate when Race the Train gives you both!). Marshals were dedicated, as was the enthusiastic crowd both on and off the train. A special mention to the Toddler Trot which the little one really enjoyed, especially the cute finishers' T-shirt just like Daddy's! Also the wife thought the train was brilliant and said she'd never enjoyed a race as much as this one. I hope very much this race continues as it is unique and superb!
In short: Well organised summer half marathon In full: Did this last year and was impressed enough to come back this year, albeit used the entry on the day facility which was very well manned. As with last year pretty much full of praise for the event. It is very well marshalled and organised, with plenty of support on hand even if some of the roads in the middle third are a little quiet. T-Shirt was very nice at the end and the market square has a great pre and post race atmosphere - even if the wasps tried to spoil the party at the start. The race is excellent value. However I wouldn't mind paying a pound or two more to enjoy chip timing (which would be a real bonus here as the start is very narrow and congested) and perhaps some electrolyte drink en route or at least bottled water, as I was struggling to get enough out of the cups - although the stations were plentiful and well manned. In the end I wound up with a hard earned PB by the smallest of margins so was happy, considering the heat. I may well be back next year! Date of review: August 9, 2009
In short: Novel point-to-point time trial race that is slower than you'd expect! In full: I've never run a time trial race before so was intrigued to see how it would turn out. Getting there was a breeze on the train from Coventry and the start venue was well signposted. The assembly area worked well, if not feeling a little odd getting ready in a night club! The start was most surreal, being ushered one by one through a hutch like door in a wall and been sent on our way along the canal. The race itself continued the slightly surreal path. With no one to race with and having no idea what position you are in, it felt hard to convince yourself it was actually a race. That though I guess is what a time trial is all about, although I'm not convinced the very small elite group was necessary or exactly fair for the reasons above. The other idiosyncratic touches such as human mile markers, canal boats for water stations and glo sticks 'illuminating' the 400m long tunnel all added to the charm. Despite the near flat nature of the course, it is definitely not one for PBs, presumably because of the numerous short sharp climbs on the bridges and more particularly the surface of most of the paths which made it more like an off-road race. All in all an excellent race and experience and one I'd definitely do again. Now for the constructive criticisms: 1. The cup drops were mostly too close to the actual drink stations. 2. The bag collection at the finish was a little disorganised. It took 15 + minutes to find my bag. 3. I'm not sure if it's possible or was provided, but it would have been nice to be able to use the canal path before the race to warm up. These though are all minor points and did not detract from a most enjoyable race. Date of review: July 6, 2009
In short: About as far removed from a flat city marathon as you can get! In full: My views are tempered somewhat by the depression of a calf pull at 16 miles, which cast a negative shadow on my experience of the race, but I will try and be as objective as possible. I arrived two hours ahead of race start and the car park arrangement then was okay, but it was pretty obvious that not soon after they were having problems getting everyone in. Registration was a doddle, and the toilet provision was ample, with plenty of room to prepare and warm up. The start was something special as we were led to the line by a band of drummers - it was hard to suppress the adrenaline! The first half of the race was close to perfection - wonderful scenery; either closed roads or those so quiet as to hardly notice the presence of cars; uplifting support from spectators; perfectly manned drinks stations and very efficient marshalling. The course, although constantly undulating, was pleasing to run, and the worst hill at 8 miles was not actually that bad. The second half of the race was a little different. Despite the best efforts of the organisers and marshals (Endless advisory speed limit signs and vehicles reminding drivers) it did get a little fraught at times with the volume of traffic on narrow roads. The course also got tough - with constant undulations from 15-19 miles proving a challenge too far for my calf muscle. I would suggest maybe a portaloo at the last few drink stations as I had to take a diversion to make an emergency pit stop at around 17 miles to use the first public convenience I'd encountered. The only real negative on a very well organised event was the car park exiting, which despite being one of the first cars to leave took over 40 minutes. At the time this was seemingly not so much caused by the weather as the same narrow track being used to allow cars in as well as out and a complicated traffic light system that was clearly not working. I wonder if you made all exiting cars turn left they could not be diverted appropriately a mile or two away from the race course? All in all a highly recommended challenging race. Date of review: May 18, 2009
In short: Great race - shame about the wind! In full: As many others have said - a well organised event at a venue that can easily cope with the numbers present and quite a few more.
Silverstone is always susceptible to the wind, but that was the worst I've ever faced there, which was a shame but made for some fun tactical battles sheltering in packs and deciding when to make a brave bid to catch the next group.
A memento at the end would be a nice touch, but other than that no complaints. Date of review: May 6, 2009
In short: Fine Nearer The Front! In full: As often happens, I find my opinions of a race very much different from the majority here! I think as a disclaimer it has a lot to do with reviewing it as a top 50 finisher (this is not elitist, just that a lot of the problems with crowding, drinks stations etc. just aren't applicable).
No problems with the parking on way in (TomTom with the postcode fortunately guided me to the car park by the start line coming south from the A5). I was a little surprised to see nothing in the way of a 'race parking' sign though.
Pre race was fine, to whomever moaned about there being only 2 men's cubicles in the cafe area - that was adequately covered by the 30 or so portaloos near the start line. Yes there were queues but no more than you'd expect at a race of this size.
No need for the baggage area as car was parked around 30 seconds from the start line which was ideal. Agree that there should have been finish time pens to segregate runners, but near the front there were no more over optimistics than there usually are at races like this.
As for the race and the course. For a city race it's certainly different, making full use of footpaths, underpasses and quiet roads, belying MK's reputation as the concrete city. Nearer the front of the field it made for a pleasant race; pretty flat, good for PBs (Wind notwithstanding) if you don't mind it getting a little twisty in places (Plenty of 90 degree turns and little undulations). I can see how it would get pretty congested further down the field though. Marshalling was about 90% okay. There were a few spots where I was a little unsure of where to go and agree that runners could take inadvertent short cuts in places.
Drinks stations were adequate at the front, although the positioning of the 9 mile one coupled with lack of forewarning was not so good. They all looked fairly sparsely manned to cope with large groups later on. Bottles were great; tops on (albeit loosened in my case) not so good. Having said that, Bristol a few years ago had bottles with tops on that were nearly impossible to open, so this is not a new thing.
Had no problem with the finish (again it was empty when I finished), a good medal and opportunity to have it engraved is always a nice touch. No problems getting out, but there again I left at 12:20 when there were still plenty running.
All in all not a bad race and as I got a PB I will tend to look back on it favourably. For £14 I thought it wasn't bad value; I get the impression that some are comparing it to city races which can cost up to double what MK did. Date of review: March 9, 2009
In short: Coventey Does Itself Proud With A First Rate City Centre Half Marathon In full: Congratulations to the organisers and volunteers for a superb race. For £13/17 (with t-shirt) the race is exceptional value for money when it incorporates a city centre start and finish, with nearly all the roads used completely closed to traffic; chip timing with the ingenious sending of an SMS minutes after the race with gun time, race time, and finishing position.
The marshals were plentiful and supportive, the bottled drinks stations well manned, the crowd was loud (and the cheerleaders at 11 miles were even louder!) And the goody bag at the end was well thought out, with no superfluous bits of paper or freebies I don't need. I think the course is very similar in nature to Reading - which makes it hilly and challenging - but surprisingly quick. I think that this race is easily on a par to that event and weighs in at more than £15 cheaper. This event is highly recommended. It's a shame that there are so many local half marathons in October, but none in March. I'd encourage the organisers to make this race a pre-London warm up half marathon - I think it would attract far greater numbers which it truly deserves. Date of review: October 20, 2008
In short: A race with big PB potential - if the weather goes your way! In full: The market square provided a charming backdrop for the start finish area. The start was a little too chaotic to be acceptable - there was no real idea of where we were meant to start from until 5 minutes before the start and with latecomers running towards the imaginary start line after the designated start time. From there on the race had no real problems. Definitely a quick course,it is nearly all flat / slightly undulating until a rise up to mile 10 (Which would not even merit the title of a hill on a lot of other courses.) The hardest part of the race was the long drag up from mile 11-12 which this year featured a big head wind which unfortunately blew my PB bid apart by 30 seconds. I think had without the blustery wind I would have PB'd for sure - the course was very quick. I had no problems with marshals or lack of - indeed I found them all encouraging me on - as were the police. Plentiful drinks stations too and welcome sponges - although the cups were a little flimsy and I found myself losing 80% of the water on the grab. I'd definitely consider this race again. If it were a Spring / Autumn half rather than mid summer I would make it a priority as it is one of the quickest courses I've raced on. Date of review: August 11, 2008
In short: The Best, as usual, but Green start GFA / Celebrity conflict must be addressed In full: As always with the FLM, I find it hard to pick fault with what must be the best race in the world with the best crowd support. It's one thing for them to turn out in the hundreds of thousands when the weather is barmy (2007), but when they are still 5-6 deep on pretty much the entire course cheering hysterically when the weather is dreadful, is truly a wondrous thing to run through. I give the organisation a 5, but with a caveat. Whilst 99% of it is impeccable, it must be noted that the decision to place Good For Age runners (Most of whom will be aiming to run below 3:15 and sub-3, some aiming for sub 2:45,) directly behind so called 'celebrities' is bordering on the negligent in terms of safety. It was bad last year. This year it was worse. I have never, not even in a cross country race, faced such a tough first mile, with barging, pushing, shouting, weaving, dodging, avoiding fallers, all because GFA runners were encountering, bar a couple, celebrities whose running / walking merits deserved a place at the back of the field.
It was more by fortune that someone did not get injured and I cannot see who it benefits, apart from the BBC who like celebrities close-by for their pre-race interviews. GFA's don't enjoy having to get medieval in an attempt to begin running and so-called celebrities cannot enjoy being barged from pillar to post. I must also add that pen security was not up to scratch either, with many non 1 runners placing themselves in the front pen, adding to the carnage at the start. The pens were also not big enough with no usual gap between the holding pen and the start line to help ease the congestion. The Green Start had the impression of the organisers running out of space and trying desperately to squeeze us all in.
Having said that I am delighted with my new PB, especially considering the rain, and will hopefully be back next year. Date of review: April 16, 2008
In short: Great Race for the Quicker Runner In full: I'll rate this from the perspective of a quicker finisher (1:21). This was the town of my first ever half marathon (1996) and I last visited at the infamous 2003? race when it was delayed by 40 or so minutes. It's the first one I've run based at the stadium, so was keen to see how it faired. The organisation was on the whole top notch. I walked to and from the start to the town centre (It's only a couple of miles, loosened the legs), so didn't use the free buses. There were plenty of toilets, agree that the baggage tents could have been better signposted (Although again I didn't make use of them). The start procedure was very smooth considering the volume of people - the coloured race numbers was a good first step towards ensuring people are in the right place, I guess the organisers cannot stop those who are insane enough to stand just behind an elite Kenyan with an MP3 player on oblivious to the hundreds of runners trying to get past them. As for the race and the course, it was pleasing to see that the route was as quick as it always has been: the organisers did a great job of closing all the roads, it was well marshaled - with great crowd support, and I loved the live bands. The town centre section was particularly rousing (Agree with the drop off the kerb on the underpass - I wonder if we were taking a slight shortcut?) and the organisers tried their best to make the final mile loop more palatable by putting on at least two bands and the Rocky theme piping out of the speakers on the dual carriageway. Like London, I like being in a race where I am surrounded by fellow runners, it helps spur me on, and I think this is the worst position I have ever finished in with a time of 1:21, which says something of the quality of the race. The finish in the stadium is simply awesome - inspired me to an effortless sprint finish. I love race medals and so was particularly pleased to be able to get mine engraved, just as I did back in 1996. I ignored the Lucozade stops (Literally cannot stomach it) and the jelly babies (Ditto) - the jelly babies was a nice idea but I think a little more thought needs to be put into how to hand them out. There were definitely mile markers (I took splits at every one of them) but some were hard to see because of the wind direction and a couple had been a bit battered by the strong winds on Saturday. When I entered I was a bit put off by the price - which is at the high end. All in all though, with the closed roads, stadium finish, a generous and well thought out goody bag, chip timing and extras such as Lucozade, toilets en route, live bands, shuttle bus service and so on, the race justified the entry fee. Date of review: March 3, 2008