In short: It's Hard To Fault This Race! In full: My third London Marathon in a row, and despite the heat making life a whole lot harder than last year, I was delighted to just come in under 3 hours (Just!!!). As always the organisation for such a huge race is unbelievable, there seems to be no detail that hasn't been thought about and catered for. The crowd as usual was awesome and really pushed me on when the mind wanted me to stop 'for just a little walk'. Improvements on last year include the improved post race goody bag, with nice technical-ish t-Shirt, and plenty of liquid and food stuffs that could actually be consumed immediately after the race rather than when you got home. They also catered somewhat for the extra heat with extra showers and water stations, and a load of people at the end ready to catch the collapsing or just to ask about your welfare. As with last year I'll offer some constructive criticisms on the chance of an organiser reading these comments: 1. The green start, although the smallest of the three, really needed a urinal trough thing to alleviate the demand on the portaloos. The queues at 09:15 were ridiculous (Basically circling the entire area and what seemed like beyond) especially as the majority of the men queuing were just wanting to pass liquid. At the end many men and women resorted to going behind the portaloos, which cannot have been a pleasant site for residents. I think on such a hot day the old fashioned sponges and a vat of water every other mile would be preferable to 3 or four showers, as if someone is really struggling with the heat they can stop and replenish their sponge. I think it would have been a nice touch to put one of those shower things immediately after the finish, to help alleviate the 'heat soak' that everyone will suffer as they finish running and stop. Finally although not a direct fault of the organisers, someone at London Underground / Network Rail etc should be ashamed at closing so many lines and stations on this weekend, when I imagine that this Sunday has more demand than any other. It made my supporting spectators life very unpleasant and very difficult to get to the places they wanted to. All in all though by far the best organised race in the country and probably the world, and for the quicker runner, a pleasure to race at an event where there are swarms of runners around you as far as the eye can see! Date of review: April 23, 2007
In short: Once excellent race lets itself down badly with shoddy organisation. In full: I've had over a week away to reflect on this race and a chance to read all the comments - most of which tally with my impression of the race. I could opt not to bother adding my perspective, but the more the organizers get to see the overall dissatisfaction from committed runners, then maybe they will take the opportunity to get their act together. 1. The pack was not received until less than a week before the race, yet they had all the entries for months. There is no justification for this and ultimately it bit them. To blame a postal strike is not on - if they had sent them out a month earlier everyone would have got their pack. Also if I had run Bristol at the end of my holiday rather than the beginning I would not have received my pack as I was away from home... 2. Maybe I should have used the park and ride but having had bad experiences before (Reading), opted to use the NCP car park. When paying £30 for an entry a deal should have been done to get reduced fee or free parking - 65p per 15 minutes is a joke and made for an even more expensive overall race fee. 3. The pre race area was inferior to years previous - a bit of a concrete jungle which actually saw me get lost when trying to find the baggage area at the end of the race. There were plenty of toilets to give them credit - having said that the massive queue only seemed to be for the front 5 or six toilets.... 4. The start was a shambles - why go to the trouble of asking for predicted times, giving coloured race numbers only to not enforce the pens in the slightest? I had to climb a fence to get to my allocated position (Under 1:29) and was bemused to find 10 minute plus mile runners standing alongside the race winning Kenyans, causing the inevitable congestion. Plus the unexplained 10 minute delay in the heat added to the woes I think there was a Tannoy but it was inaudible. 5. As for the new course - well if you were near the front - the twists and turns in the first few miles were not too bad and made for a better finishing section. However the extended section on the drag on the dual carriageway I believe cost me a PB ultimately as the rise between around 5-7 miles is deceptive and dull - causing me to wander off my target pace. 6. Mile markers were a joke - I was expecting to go through 10 miles in around 60 minutes, my dismay at going through in 61:40 after a 7:10 mile and then a 7:40 mile 11 really discouraged me, only for me to find Keninisa Bekele speed with a 4:20 mile 12! Really for a race of this size and prestige this is not acceptable. 7. The drinks bottles were excellent when the volunteers were actually able to open them. When they didn't (And they didn't for me on two of them) They were impossible to do whilst trying to run and instead acted as missiles and ankle breakers. 8. The lady who took my chip from my shoe was delightful - kudos to her. However the manner in which the medals were presented was lamentable. I was actually offered 3! The goody bag was a sham with nothing but leaflets, a lucozade and cordial. I was actually desperate for some food at the end and again for a race of this size and price to not offer any is unacceptable. Overall I fear this race has become another Reading, in which it has become too big for its own good and suffered from major organizational problems. Reading managed to turn it round this year, I won't be back to Bristol until they demonstrate they have done the same. Date of review: September 25, 2006
In short: Wonderful scenery, hills like few other places in the country make it very tough. In full: As I was ending my holiday on the day of the race I opted to do the half marathon. I knew it wild be difficult after a few walks in the hills but nothing prepared me for the severity of the hills - the final one at 10-12 miles at 25% saw me literally grind to a halt - and I finished 11th! How people could do a second lap is beyond me! Still don't let the severity put you off this race - the organisation was wonderfully informal and the support from those in houses cars, walkers and cyclists along the way most uplifting. The scenery is stunning although to be honest I was too shattered to give it that much attention. I would also not recommend this as a first time race and certainly not one for a PB attempt. But to push yourself to the edge it is thoroughly recommended. Date of review: September 25, 2006
In short: Good race as always at the British home of Formula One In full: Having done this race three times now and the half marathon here, the novelty of Racing around Silverstone has worn a little, but in terms of a running race it has plenty going for it: ample parking, wide running space making for a quick start, flattish course and good support for a 10k race down the pit straight. The head wind from Copse down to the Hangar straight was a real pain making for slipstreaming not seen since Monza 1971.... An area of slight criticism was the slightly chaotic finish with the positions, but I believe the organizers have acknowledged there was a problem. In summary not the greatest circuit to run on (That for me would be Suzuka (awesome)) but a great place to race. Date of review: May 3, 2006
In short: The usual brilliance of surely the best marathon in the world. In full: I can't add too much to what has already been written, suffice to say it was once again the best organized, most well supported, most uplifting race I have ever run, which seems each year to surpass the highest standards it set itself the previous year. The crowd deserve a special mention. It is one thing to turn out when the weather is warm and sunny, but to turn out in such numbers in the wet and cool and offer such enthusiasm was unbelievable and very welcome. For those who believe it is too crowded to set a fast time, well if you are near the sharper end of the field it is a super-fast course and pure PB potential, unless you prefer to run in races with a handful of fellow runners around you and the odd ripple of applause along the way. Thanks to them and the course I managed my first sub 3-hour marathon. Oh finally, well done to the organizers on sorting out the baggage crush on Blackheath with the solution provided. It worked very well. I will offer some constructive criticism, they are very trivial: 1. The changing tent(s) is/are too small and there are too few of them, especially when it is wet. It was extremely congested by 8:30 to the point where it was impossible to move. Blackheath has plenty of room for some more tents to allow people to change and relax under cover should they wish. 2. I still think the post race goody-bag is devoid of proper recovery food for a marathon and is some way behind many other races I run. I was craving a banana or a sandwich or an energy bar (Carbs and protein). I missed the cereal bar (which was sealed inside the foil bag), but was disappointed to find pretzels (the low calorie snack that won't ruin your appetite), an apple (40 cals?) and a wagon wheel (Not suitable for vegetarians). Ice tea is very much a love/hate drink as is Lucozade sport. In the end I had to find a supermarket nearby. Still these are minor quibbles which in now way dampened the best sporting day of my life! Date of review: April 24, 2006
In short: Excellent pre London warm up with excellent organization and exuberant marshalls! In full: First time I had done this event - was very well organized and a super training preparation for London Marathon in that the course profile was near identical (i.e. No hills worth the name). The parking looked a little chaotic at one point but I lucked in with a wrong turning somewhere near Reading that saw me get into the MOD car park ahead of a lot of others just before it closed. The portaloo there was a superb idea as it allowed me to prepare near the car - a good thing as the start was very crowded and the baggage tents looked overworked until seconds before the off. The 10 mile inclusion worked well, and the organization in this respect worked well. As I decided to start near the back it was a little crowded to begin with on the narrower roads, but this just added to the simulation of London. The marshals and drink stations volunteers were excellent, all offering encouragement as I passed on a day that made standing around unpleasant. I chuckled many times as I passed the mile markers as the e.g. 14 / 4 mile markers were literally yards apart, most mere organizers would have sufficed with one marker in the middle - but these guys are slick! A note for the orgainsers is that I am sure the 7 / 17 mile marker was a little out of place as I ran consistent pace according to my Garmin but I had a 50 second difference between mile 6-7 and 7-8 and 16-17 17-18 on the stop watch splits. Regarding goody bag, the hat is a nice touch if a little curious in design, but I am one of those who prefers a medal - as they last for ever whereas clothes wear out and get thrown away. All in all the best 20 mile race I have yet done. Date of review: February 20, 2006
In short: Challenging Race on world famous racing circuit, good first effort by organizers, but room for improvement In full: There are certain indisputable advantages for holding a running race at a motor racing circuit - the roads will be wide and closed, parking will be more than ample when the largest circuits are designed to take over 50,000, you can hold the race virtually when you want (Hence the most unusual start time of 11:30 on a Saturday), toilets will be aplenty and spectators will have the chance to see runners numerous times. This meant that the start process was a joy, the start was less than 2 minutes from the parking with a choice of toilets all in close proximity to the car park. There were only 500 starters but it could have comfortably handled many more. Compared to the other big half marathon on a motor racing circuit - Silverstone - Brands is a far bigger challenge. The sudden drops and rises and severe camber (Some of it adverse) of the straights and corners make it not one for the PB chasers, but it does offer an interesting alternative to running on roads. The off circuit section had a different feel to Silverstone too - mostly on gravel, very twisty in places and more akin to a cross country course. This though was no bad thing as it broke the monotony and kept your body and mind constantly occupied. This was the first time the race had been held and although the organizers did a good job there was room for improvement: the youngsters on the drinks stations were a little naïve in how to actually give out drinks and the positioning of these could have been better. Some of the non-circuit was reliant a little on guess work in terms of where to go as marshal positioning was a littled mismanaged in places, and the announcer should be aware, that Brands, like all circuits, has its tannoys facing the crowd rather than the circuit, making it impossible for runners to hear what he is saying when they are standing on the start/finish straight. Overall a most enjoyable race and excellent value for money - a traffic free circuit, a medal and a goody-bag packed with more (useful) goodies than the LLondon Marathon, all for an attached fee of £10! Date of review: February 16, 2006
In short: Great Start of Year Race Held Over Unusual Distance In full: The last time I raced this (2004) they nearly had to cancel it as it was too cold. This year it was the fog that almost called off the race - but thankfully the collective breaths of 700 or so runners appeared to clear the worst of the mist just before the start of the race. The 12k course packs in plenty of challenges - mostly in the first half, with a seemingly never ending hill between 2-4 km swiftly followed by an even nastier little climb, and then some sweeping decents and a particularly tricky little hairpin which had me struggling to stay on the correct side of the road. Thankfully the latter stages of the race are much flatter and allow some recovery before the finish. As with the other times I have run the race, the marshals are plentiful and excellent - each one offered encouragement - and the crowd was surprisingly abundant and enthusiastic for a race mostly on country lanes. Oh and I like the coaster as a race memento, I have one already in my bedroom and this one will take pride of place at work to be used with the mug they handed out in 2003! It is certainly unusual to be handed a race prize which has a practical use! Date of review: January 22, 2006
In short: Good quality race with real PB potential, but understanably lacks polish of big city races In full: Back for a second attempt at this race. The weather was ideal, cloudy, cool, with hardly a breath of wind. Pre-race build up was a mixed bag - the signed directions from the motorway were spot on and ample parking for those who turned up early, but again the lack of toilets is a problem and the start, whilst not as shambolic as last year, was problematic as I had to crawl under the fence to get to my timed position (Lots of people lined up in wrong place as usual) and many seemed not to get to the start in time. As for the race and course itself - well I'd say it is well marshalled by enthusiasts of the sport, plenty of support for what is mainly a rural race (especially at top of hill on A38) and has plenty of PB potential if you allow for the hill at 8 and the final undulations in the last mile. Kudos too for having the mile markers (According to my Garmin) nearly spot on - even if white on a black background they are a little hard to see sometimes. Niggles: same as last year really: 1. the traffic on the final 3 mile stretch is worrying (A transporter came up very close to me and drove alongside emitting stenching fumes) and should really, if possible, be coned (even if little more than single file) like it is on the A38 section. 2 The T-shirt is nice, but personally I would still prefer a medal. 3. The finish procedure was a little odd with the onus on the runner to remove the chip (which had to be put through laces - no Tyvek) and find a bin to put it in. Fine - but what about some seats to allow tired runners to actually reach their feet! Bending over for 2 minutes after a half marathon grappling with cold hands trying to pull the laces from your trainers is not fun!!! Overall a great race for someone looking for a PB and some good competition near the front. If you are making a debut or like the big city race atmosphere and all that goes with it, maybe look elsewhere. Date of review: October 24, 2005
In short: Well organised race held nowhere near London but worthy of its association with the FLM nevertheless In full: Silverstone, a circuit so unfairly lambasted by Bernie Ecclestone (I have been to 16 of the current F1 circuits and it is nowhere near the worst), has a reputation for poor facilities for holding an F1 race, yet get it to host a medium to large running race there and instantly you have access to an ideal venue for a seamlessly organised event.
I aimed to be at Silverstone for 10:30 (12pm start). I was a little disconcerted to see the traffic backed up on the A43 bypass, but thankfully the well organised marshalling ensured that I was in my parking spot by 11:05 (Although next year I will allow at least two hours to spare).
Once there everything was well laid out - toilets relatively plentiful for a running race, plenty of space to warm up with a jog, the baggage storage looked efficient (Although I didn't actually use it), and the wide start/finish straight on the circuit made it easy to line up in a position relevant to your predicted finishing time.
I've run the 10K race here before so I knew roughly what to expect - ultra smooth tarmac on the circuit itself - hugging the corners, taking the racing line, desperately trying to shelter from the wind on one of the numerous occasions when it was full on into your face.
If the entire race was run on the F1 circuit, this would be the surest bet for a PB circuit in the country. This is not possible due to the numbers running and issues with lapping backmarkers, and so it is necessary to go on a rather convoluted 6-7 mile section on the infield and then on the outer perimeter road before greatfully returning to the F1 circuit for the final 3 miles.
I found these miles tough - especially with the oft inhibiting headwind, although the marshalling was supportive and excellent and vocal crowd support better than I expected. One minor quibble - mile marker 6 was definately 45 or so seconds too early (The painted marker on the road was that far up on the course). This made for an unbelievably quick mile 6 followed by a depressingly slow mile 7.
Mention at this point must go to the radio piped out all around the circuit on the tannoys. This must be unique to the Silverstone race and made for a real morale booster - not only with the tunes being pumped out, which made it feel like a surreally large outdoor gym, but gave updates on the leaders that spurred you on.
All in all I ran 1:20.30 which is my second fastest ever time. If I had concentrated more between miles 7-11 and had not been mindful that this was a marathon preparation race, this would have been a PB for sure.
The end was well done with photographers, a goody bag with medal and t-shirt, and facilities to change and grab a bite to eat. I cannot comment on how easy it was to leave the circuit as I hot stepped it out as quickly as possible. At £14 or so this is extremely good value compared to rival city half marathons and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good PB course.