In short: Some real highlights but some serious organisational shortcomings In full: At the time of posting this review the overall mark is 70% and that's about right. There is lots to be positive about but ultimately some serious shortcomings and failings on the part of the organiser.
To get to Hackney for an 0900 start on a Sunday is a tough ask. Countless tweets, facebook statuses and even a text message telling me to plan my journey doesn't alter the fact that for many people getting to Startford before 0800 is a tough if not impossible ask. And the organisers were very ambitious suggesting it was just a 20 minute walk to the start. That said the bag drop was fast and efficient (and also was at the end of the event too) meaning that although I arrived late it wasn't a rush.
Start pens were an utter joke. 9500 people funneling in from the back made it difficult if not impossible to get to the front if you needed to be. Why there was no side access and why it wasn't regulated is beyond me.
Why have some Z list celebrity start the event when all he does is plug his CD and make dismissive comments about running? The deathly silence was both cringe-worthy and unintentionally hilarious.
Mile markers. Some were way out 1/4 or 1/2 a mile - how does that even happen?
The course, as an ex resident of hackney I loved the first 9 or 10 miles. And the atmosphere and support was really special. Last few miles in the Olympic Park, well most of is was up and down access roads. I thought it would be special . It wasn't.
I don't race for goody bags but it's a bit of a piss take to harp on pre-event about a 'premium goody bag' when it is nothing of the sort.
And finally water. I echo all other comments. Inexcusable to run out. I reckon there were 3500+ people behind me at the first water station and no more than a couple of hundred pouches left. Inexcusable. I don't enjoy seeing dozens of collapsed people including people that are unconscious and others receiving IV fluids. Oh and running out is bad enough but encouraging people not to drink in that heat was downright irresponsible and I can't help but suspect linked to the shorages on course Date of review: June 23, 2014
In short: I loved this event In full: My second year doing this and the fact that I rarely do the same event twice speaks volumes. It's not the cheapest, the goody bag is poor and the medal is the same as last years with just a different ribbon to differentiate the year. But despite that, it's a cracking event and I love it.
The price is undeniably steep but includes admission to the zoo and with a cheap admission for supporters the event's actual cost, when compared to the cost of 2 us both attending the zoo for the day was in effect minimal.
Not convinced that it's a PB course, but others seem to disagree. It's certainly not that hard though. 3 laps mean it's good for supporters who can enjoy a walk around the zoo before it's open and also see plenty of the race.
But it's the scenery that makes this race, it really is a quite surreal setting and for the second year running I witnessed the rhino's charge across their paddock as I ran past - a truly unique experience.
Atmosphere is great, a mix of club and fun runners, some in fancy dress - and even a hen do this year! And then the rest of the day in the zoo spotting others wearing medals and looking increasingly weary!
In short: One of the best kept secrets on the running calender In full: This event must be one of the best kept secrets on the running calender with less than 70 starters. I feel lucky to have friends on the rock and to be one of the few non locals running it. A glorious course primarily on cliff paths around the island and this year glorious weather to highlight just how beautiful Portland's coastline is. The course is brutally hard, I was 40 minutes outside my PB, the winner took over 90 minutes and only a handful of runners inside 1hr 45 - I doubt many races suit the "suicidal - hard as nails" rating as much as this one. Support is limited as you would expect on such a lowkey event but marshalls were all friendly and supportive. And all for a tenner with a great medal too! Date of review: May 20, 2014
In short: Everything a low cost and low key event should be. In full: To be honest I don't expect much for £14, so chip timing, actual toilets (rather than porta-cabins), generous parking, free tee-sheet, free photo (posted on facebook within 24 hours of the event) and a sweat shop voucher made this event a total bargain.
Organisation was faultless and course was a lovely picturesque run around Wimbledon Common. The route was well marshalled and well signposted and although I did have a couple of issues with walkers that was purely down to them being dicks and nothing the organisers could have prevented and they were outweighed by the many locals who did offer vocal support.
While undeniably a no frills affair, this event was everything a lowkey event should be. Good course, faultless organisation, exceptional value - what's not to like? Date of review: March 17, 2014
In short: Great race - despite the wind! In full: Loved this event, organisers did a great job in ensuring it went ahead after the storms and the loss of the use of the Pyrmaid Centre. Great course and without the wind has the potential to be quick. Well marshalled, well supported, well packed goody bag and an excellent medal - what's not to like?
As a slight aside my non-running g/f who came to watch said that this was the friendliest race she'd ever seen me at.
I really can't fault this event Date of review: February 24, 2014
In short: Poor organisation, crap facilities. Great course In full: Never been at an event that had a false start before - how did it even happen? The promised markers were not in place so plenty of slow runners at the front as no one knew where to line up.
And while some bollards are an inevitability on a course of this nature but 2 or 3 unmarked low height bollards within the first half mile in the middle of a path not much more than a metre wide and 800 runners was an accident waiting to happen, amazed if no one tripped on them.
When I finished there was no water available and no goodybags (and I was far from last), though I did subsequently get one of the buffs which in fairness was a pretty impressive freebie.
Lack of toilets is a common but nontheless valid gripe but 5 portaloos for 800 runners is no where near adequate. I also think the fact that they wouldn't let you in the pavilion unless you paid for a massage was a joke. I travelled on public transport so no car to change in and was forced to change in a stairwell (where I shouldn't have been) or get my kit off outside. Bearing in mind the time of year, the lack of any usable headquarters could have been a real issue had it not been exceptinally mild or had the rain not fortuinately held off until after the finish.
having said all that, the course did, to a degree make up for it. Not what I was expecting at all and only gripe is that it was possibly a little too narrow for the volume of runners. I never thought that I would say how scenic a route in Milton Keynes was! It was a pleasure to run and we even saw the concrete cows! A lot tougher than I expected, with lots of twists and turns and gradual inclines but that's not a negative unless you are PB chasing. Very well marshalled and pretty much all were vocal and supportive as were the limkited pockets of support.
In short: I loved this race In full: Was disappointed to miss out on this event last year, but was well worth the wait. Easy to see why it gets such consistently good reviews and there is little that can be added. Great race, great atmosphere, great organisation and a fantastic course. A real must do event. Date of review: November 16, 2013
In short: Not just bad but dangerous due to the amount of cars on the course In full: Positives - well informed with regular emails from the organisers in the lead up to the event. Free massages pre and post race. What support there was out on the course tended to be vocal
And that was it. This event was an absolute joke.
No signage at the HQ as to where to go. No signage from the HQ to the start. Nothing to indicate where you should start in relation to time.
Headphones. The last email (Thursday) said strongly advised not to use them. Nothing at the HQ suggesting this had changed. Announcer at the start stating that anyone using them would be disqualified. Not surprisingly many people ignored this.
It was supposed to be closed roads yet there were literally dozens of cars on the course. Some respected the runners others didn't. I saw motorists ignore marshalls instructions and forcing their way on to the course. Other marshalls appeared to give up and let the motorists do what they wanted. It was dangerous and I was mid field so can only suspect that it got worse.
The finish weaved through the main square in Luton Town Centre. It was poorly roped off and shoppers were oblivious to the runners. there were bollards to weave around and no obvious finish line - just timing mats. People were stopping immediately after and there was no finish funnel and I couldn't find the goody bags and drinks as they were obscured by people milling around.
Coach back to the finish. No signs to find it. Unbelievably it went along a narrow section of course amongst runners. pre race notes said runners would get priority yet the one I was on had friends and family while runners were left at the road side.
I'm led to believe there was a post race presentation at the HQ but didn't go as no one knew where it was!
This race was shockingly organised and while some could be see as glitches I will never go back simply because the road closures were so badly enforced, Date of review: October 27, 2013
In short: Great event In full: First time doing this event and I was looking forward to it. Having completed the GreenWay Challenge (another event the NHRR promote) last year I knew that everything about the organisation would be faultless and it was. The part closed roads were well marshaled and driving to the event the signage on the A507 warning motorists of the event was welcome and reassuring. The majority of marshals were keen to encourage runners which is always appreciated.
Only negatives were a fairly uninspiring course scenery-wise (granted I may have been spoilt by my expectations from the afore mentioned Greenway challenge), and having finished pretty much exactly midfield I found the course quite congested for the entire race. Date of review: October 6, 2013
In short: Something different In full: As other reviews state, there are quite a few negatives to the race and it would be easy to focus on them. The diversion this year added 0.5 miles and there was no obvious reason why the start or finish weren't adjusted to compensate for this. The start was an absolute farce, allocated start times were ignored and it was just a case of turn up and join the queue. And personally having booked a hotel as I was travelling a fair distance and the organisers never bothered to reply to email/forum posts requesting a rough start time it's not great to then see that the start times are irrelevant anyway...
So based on that it would be easy to slate this event, but I loved it. The long course was not ideal but the nature of the course means PB's are very unlikely anyway. Everyone was friendly, the event was well marshaled and the marshalls full of support , the course is definitely something different and the 4 water stations were well staffed and well stocked.
Quality medal, quality goodybag, and despite the moans I can;t imagine not coming back next year.