In short: Great scenery but tough course In full: Reading reviews from 2012, looks like this race has certainly improved it's organisation. All seemed to be fine and I had no problems.
Course was far more challenging than expected. The 20 mile race was 2 identical laps. Not really a road race at all - most was on track with some road and there was about 3-4 miles per lap through mud, boggy marsh and scrub. If it had been dry it probably would have been fine (just hilly) but there had been a lot of rain the week before. It was very tough going here and most people just walked/squelched through these parts. It was also alongside the dual-carriage way so noisy from the cars. I was hoping for a 4 hour time but despite feeling strong I finished in 4.15 as the mud really slowed everyone down! A rather hilly run – both long, shallow uphill climbs and short, steep hills. Not a PB course! Mind you a lot of people were training for a marathon and we all agreed that it was excellent training and hopefully the roads of London/Brighton etc. would seem easy after this!
The race was small, about 150 runners for both the 50K and 20 mile race which took place at the same time. (The half started later, at 2.30pm).This was a surprise as the website gave this impression it was going to be a lot bigger – a whole weekend festival of running. It did feel more like club run though. There was a brief before each distance/race and then we made our way to the start line. They did wait until everyone was on the start line before mentioning iPods though – which were allowed but keep them low-volume and be careful on the roads (if they had banned them at the last minute, I’m not sure what the runners (myself included) would have done with them as there was no time to go back to baggage!!). All the runners were a very friendly bunch, and everyone said hello as they passed, or chatted, and helped each other round. But there were times when I was the only runner in sight and if there was not a marshal for a while I was running completely alone. With the freezing weather, strong biting winds and the open landscape it could at times feel a bit on the lonely side! Marshalls were friendly and supportive and there were a new on bikes as well. Well done to them as they were out there pretty much all day in the cold, in the middle of nowhere! They were pretty much the only spectators though. As there were 2 runs going on in the morning (50K and 20Miles) with the possibility of some runners not finishing when the Half started in the afternoon, they did not put out distance markers. I’m sure they could have managed this though perhaps with different colour boards for each race. I did not find this too much of a problem though but did ask a few people wearing GPS what our distance was. You could roughly work it out from the water stations and the fact that there were 2 laps of 10 miles each. However the marshals didn’t seem to know how far we had left, so with over a mile to go I was told by one guy the finish line was “just around the corner!”, well that and a bit more!!!
Seemed fine at the water/feed stations. 3 stations per lap, with plenty of water. One of them also had snacks – Clif Shot blocks, jelly babies, jelly beans, Clif bars and Macvities Chedders. They always asked how we were feeling and if we were warm enough.
Received a medal, cups of water and jelly babies at the end. The goody bag was basic but you got quite a nice tee-shirt, also a Clif bar (always good to get food) and a £5 Sweatshop voucher which was a nice bonus.
The site was a camping ground, which was very difficult to find. Not really any public transport so car is really the only feasibly way to get there. But there was onsite parking (although muddy) and showers, and a pub! One guy did seem a bit stressed out trying to sort the car park out though! Considering it was meant to be a festival, there wasn’t a lot at the runner’s village – the registration desk, a small Sweatshop tent, cafe marquee and massage. As it was so cold many people sat in their cars with the heater on. I would have gone to the pub afterwards – bet it was lovely after the cold run – but I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me. Chatted to the half marathon runners who were just about to start, had a lot of fun warning them about the mud and hills! Mentioned they might want to wear trail shoes if they had them!
Overall a tough but good weekend, glad I did it! Might do this one again but it was a long drive for me (100 miles so very early start!) and difficult to get to so probably would only do it if I was in the area. Date of review: March 11, 2013
In short: Excellent race, brilliant atmosphere but expensive In full: Really enjoyed this race, mostly due to the huge crowd support. Really made my day - spectators along nearly all of the course and 3-4 deep in some areas. The two laps were fine and it was exciting to watch the elites come past on the other side of the road. Organisation seemed fine, I did not have to queue long for anything such as baggage drop or chip removal. Only thing was that the little information booklet mentioned a Sunday Church service in the runner's village yet no'one seemed to know where this was help so i missed this. Great course, mostly in the city but some quieter areas out of the main roads. Only issue which probably slowed a lot of faster runners was the orange start line was huge and did not have any "sub-pens". Those nearest the start were simply the people who got there first, not the faster orange runners. Probably a lot of later arrivers getting slowed down by people in front! Plenty of drinks (lucozade sport orange 350ml bottles and water, 330ml bottles) although it was a bit frustrating that if you were running the first lap, you were not allowed a drink from the station on the other side of the road where the 2nd lap runners came through. Can see why they did this, but saw a lot of thirsty runners get refused a drink because it was "2nd lap runners only!". Goody bag was nice, the tee-shirt was a large one-size cotton. Medal is a nice smart one. Also got a space blanket, lucozade and water.
I think perhaps get there early as I did as, as it did appear to get very busy later on.
Expensive but well worth it. It was nice to have 2 nights in Bath and I recommend going to the thermal spa afterwards!! Date of review: March 8, 2013
In short: Electric race! Do it at least once! In full: LOVE this race. Big crowds, celebs, the Red Arrows, televised live on the BBC, fantastic fun whether you're going for a PB or just wanting to do your first half. It's a big race, very big - about 45,000 runners, but it copes well (you start on the motorway), plenty of space, facilities (not too long to wait for the loos, no queue for bag drop). A long wait before you actually get over the line, though, but there's plenty of anticipation.
The route has some great parts, such as over the Tyne Bridge (early on - after a few miles) and through some of the nicer residential areas, but a lot is on motorways and dual carriage ways, and through industrial areas. Somewhat undulating, but nothing major.
Best bit is mile 10 onwards when the crowds really come out and depending on your time the Red Arrows are doing (another) display which you can see a long way off. The final mile is amazing, a nice downhill and then flat along the seafront in front of huge crowds.
Finish area is very well organised, with spacious areas for collecting drinks, goodie bags, tag removal etc before entering the Charity and Runner's village. Only drawback was some of the baggage buses were unable to get through to the finish due to the emergency services needing the road so some of the bags were late (I had a bit of a wait for mine).
If you are travelling and staying over, make the most of the Saturday to watch the City Games and enjoy the kid's race, expo and pasta party - the city is practically taken over by the Great North Run! If you get a hotel in the city centre, most hotels will lay on minibuses to the start, or get a taxi if you don't want to walk there about 2-3 miles. The walk from the finish to South Shields is easy and takes about 20 minutes, but beware the very long queues for the metro, and don't expect to be able to sit down on the rammed-full train back to the city centre!
I think everyone should do this once, and if you love crowds, try and go for it more than once, it's a lot of fun! Date of review: February 3, 2013
In short: Fun end-of-year race In full: Enjoyed this one, it was 2 laps of the course. A killer hill halfway through each lap - you knew it was coming the second time round! Small race, about 120 or so runners but friendly. Scenic route, particularly through the villages. Good for a PB if you can pace yourself up the hill (you can make up for it on the way back of each lap!). Date of review: February 3, 2013
In short: Tough but very well organised In full: Very well run race, organised like clockwork, pacers, traffic free, nice scenic course. The hills were a lot tougher than I expected! Fun finish in the park in front of the crowds. Be nice to have a medal, you get a nice tee-shirt but being unisex they rarely fit us ladies! Date of review: February 3, 2013
In short: Well organised, fun race for Boxing Day In full: Good race - 2 laps round the town centre. Well organised and nice atmosphere. Flattish for most of the route however there was a short but steep hill - run mostly on cobbed pavement! A bit of a shock the first time but at least you know it's coming on the second lap. There's a bit of a delay with some of the results coming out, but hopefully they'll be out soon and this was the only minor hiccup. Decent santa medal and water at the finish, plus a £2 voucher for the pub. I travelled about 30 miles each way for this and glad I did - I expect I'll be back next year too. Date of review: December 27, 2012
In short: Great off road race, quite hilly In full: Enjoyable race mostly on towpaths, cycle tracks and trails. Certainly more cross country than road - so muddy and a fair few hills. Friendly and helpful marshals. Banana, snack and drinks at the end, also food and drinks available to buy too. Good location although we did have trouble finding the right car park as couldn't see any marshals in the car park. Good value local race, will do this again. Date of review: November 30, 2012
In short: Great fast route and excellent venue - but that wind!! In full: Really enjoyed this race, firts time I'd done this. Normally wouldn't travel this far (100 miles) but I have family in Norwich so combined it with a visit.
Great venue with good facilities - large covered areas to shelter from the wind, baggage, large changing areas, food, showers.
The route is 2 laps from the showground, through countryside and neighbourhoods and small villages. Doesn't go into the city at all and is about 6 or 7 miles out of the city.
Good crowd support in the villages and excellent when you went through the showground for the 2nd lap and big crowds at the finish. Roads were fairly quiet though with few spectators in some areas. Really helpful and encouraging marshals.
The route is quite flat so good for a PB, but this year there was very strong wind so made for quite slow progress! Running into wind for several miles (and again on the second lap) does sap energy! No headphones allowed for safety.
Awesome medal, very unusual, and great goodie bag (in a real canvas bag) with plenty of post-race food and snacks.
If my brother is still in Norwich next year I'll be back for 2013. Date of review: November 26, 2012
In short: Brilliantly organised race In full: Really enjoyed this race even though it was the worst conditions I've raced in! Very wet and cold, but hey, it's November in the UK. A mostly flat course with just the underpasses to mix things up a bit so good for a PB. You do 2 laps of the course through Fairlands Valley park twice which is a nice scenic area to run in. Great organisation and the marshals were very encouraging. Good facilities with changing rooms and showers and I did not have to wait at all for loos or baggage. Only slight gripe was the long wait for a coach with enough spaces on it to take us from the car park to the start - it was very cold and wet waiting around and meant my feet were wet before I'd even started the race! I really love the medal too. Thanks FVS running club!
In short: Great route but disorganised and expensive In full: This is for the 2012 race on 28/10/2012
Pros: The route it great - interesting and the crowds are fantastic. Of course they gathered most at the music stations but there were a plenty along the streets too. The music was OK - it was live this year and there were some ethnic drummers (sorry, don't know how to describe them more than this!), not just hip hop and dance this year - although you only hear them for a minute or so! Mind you I took my iPod as the distance between music stations was a good mile or so. Good, friendly marshals along the course. I take my hats off to the team and marshals for putting up with such a difficult job and trying to be as helpful as possible given the chaotic situation! Sorry to the one I accidently threw my cup of water at!! The course is undulating with some hills but I got a PB on this so there is potential! No tube/transport issues this time and good weather – not planned by RTTB but a bonus compared to the last few year’s reviews! Getting too/from the O2 was fine – no worse than any other busy period. I liked my race tee-shirt a lot – very comfy and fine for autumn running – it will get plenty of use in the future. Sadly I could not wear my charity vest though as the number is printed on the race shirt – I saved the charity top for the journey home instead and will wear it on training runs. If you really wanted to wear your own or charity top you could queue for a traditional number bib instead on the day, but the queue for that was far too long.
Cons: Hmm where to start...! Way too overcrowded - just a sea of people before the start, signage was useless, no'one seems to know where to go. Queues were horrendous - if you want to do anything other than go to the loo and run to your pen then get there a good 2 hours early! I always felt either in a rush or lost. They seemed to have everything you’d expect from a big race in place (numbered pens, covered, secure baggage drop organised by race number, pacers, changing areas, but somehow it all seemed to be in vain. As above – if you wanted to wear your own top instead of the supplied t-shirt with the number, you needed to queue for a bib. I wouldn’t recommend that due to the long wait! If you really want to wear your own top, get there even earlier, or try to pin your charity top in a way to the race number is still visible. The race started at 9.45am and marshals kept yelling to people still in the baggage queue that they were going to be late! I was in such a rush I almost considered running with my backpack! Bottlenecks everywhere. With people from all finishing time-groups/pens getting to the pens late, I was starting the race 30 minutes after the official start with people from all finishing-time groups. Of course, it took ages to actually cross the line, so there was actually no point in rushing to drop the bags off! I missed getting anywhere near the pacer I hoped to follow (but got my target time anyway). For a price tag of £46 you would expect something decent at the end. I don’t do races just for the freebies, but after 13.1 miles you need something to eat and to keep warm and recover. I got a Powerade bottle , water and a medal at the end (nice medal by the way). But no food or goodie bag. Saved one year’s problem of people taking too many snacks I suppose. And there were no foil space blankets – which were vital on such a cold day. We were also given a silly design of timing chip which needed to be laced into the shoes (not the ones you fix with cable wire that can be easily snapped/pulled off after the race) creating more faffing at the end for runners who were too achy to bend down easily. The queue to retrieve baggage was chaos - there were about 10 queues for the different sections all muddled up and no tape/barriers to guide people into orderly lines. Plus we were very cold and shivering waiting all that time! Overall it was worth doing once for the good course, and the chance to do a big London race in front of massive crowds, but I’ll be giving it a miss next year to do the Great South Run instead. Date of review: October 29, 2012