In short: If you run one marathon in your life, make it this one. It's an unforgettable experience. In full: This was my fourth London Marathon and it continues to be an unforgettable event, regardless of the changes in sponsor (1989: ADT; 2007 and 2008: Flora; 2010: Virgin). The atmosphere is unbelievable and the combination of the noisy and enthusiastic supporters and the interesting route which includes some of London's best bits is what gives this event its unique appeal.
I would do it again. However, I think the one conclusion that I drew from yesterday is that the sheer scale of the event means that, for ordinary mortals at least, it is probably an event to dawdle over and savour rather than an event to race. I went for a PB and missed it by some way and, as a result, feel slightly that I missed out on the party atmosphere because I was so focused on the running. I can't believe that I didn't even see the Fetchpoint on the HIghway! (Of course, if I had hit the PB, I would probably be writing a completely different review! Still, I took away a new best time for London.)
I have seen a lot of reviews posted today about poor discipline and marshalling in the pens. This sounds like something that really needs to be sorted out. I was fortunate enough to be able to start from the "Fast GFA" pens at the front of the red start and everything went like clockwork.
I won't write at length, because there will be a lot of words spread across this part of the RW website in the next day or two.
Ten random highlights: 1. The frequency of the water stations - not once did I find myself wondering how far to the next one. 2. The sheer scale of the crowds and the noise they made - even more so than in 2007 and 2008. 3. Seeing the leading men turning onto the return section of the Highway just as I was turning off the outward section. 4. Seeing Richard Branson, complete with butterfly wings, plodding along the outward side of the Highway as I was on the return journey. 5. All those spectators holding out Jelly Babies along the Embankment, just when I thought I could go no further. 6. Remembering to write my name on my running vest and receiving personalised support from dozens and dozens of strangers. 7. The cooler than predicted weather - although I found it a little humid and I don't think this helped! 8. The free travel on London Transport for runners all day. 9. The Marathon Expo. 10. Getting across the finish line!
My last three marathons were all "small town" by comparison, albeit exactly what I had planned, and I had forgotten the sheer scale and drama of London. Give it a try! Date of review: April 26, 2010
In short: Within a couple of miles of the start of this race, I realised that I had had entirely the wrong music on the car stereo on the journey to Compton. In full: Instead of Sheryl "Run Baby Run" Crow and Bruce "Born to Run" Springsteen, I really should have been listening to Paul "Slip Sliding Away" Simon. This would have been much better preparation for what was to come ...
(This is a review of the Compton 20.)
It was on a muddy woodland footpath about ten miles in that I was overtaken by a runner who spotted my lack of traction and asked very nicely "Are you wearing ordinary road shoes?". Er, yes. So what did an unprepared road runner think of this trail run?
The Compton 20 is a deservedly popular event organised by Compton Harriers, who hail from a little village in West Berkshire. There is a 20-mile run and a 40-mile run and the routes are well planned so that, at 19.5 miles, each runner can choose which course to follow. I suspect that most runners decide in advance which event they intend completing, but this is still a nice touch. As an entrant to the 20-mile event, I certainly didn't feel like a second-class citizen, so kudos to the organisers for making both fields feel welcome.
In advance of the day, the Compton Harriers website was easy to navigate and the entry procedure straightforward. Entry confirmation and race details were sent out in good time and the printed information seemed very comprehensive. In addition, the website has a wealth of files of Garmin data, elevation charts and even a Google Earth flyby. Excellent stuff!
On the day, directions to the race HQ (Compton School) were good and the parking crew very helpful. Registration was straightforward and the pre-race briefing helpful and clear. And so to the start. One lap of the school playing field, to spread the competitors out a bit, then onto the first short woodland stretch. In some places, single file running was necessary, but I suppose that those runners who were interested in a quick time were aware of this and had already got to the front.
The race instructions state that "the organisers have made no effort to avoid difficult sections" and the route presented an ever-changing mix of woodland paths and trails, open farmland including fields and tracks, occasional short sections of country lane to link the off-road bits and plenty of ups and downs. There was never time to get bored, because there was rarely more than half a mile of any particular terrain before the next change. This was an excellent introduction to trail running. I particularly enjoyed the open stretch on Lardon Chase, overlooking the Thames at Goring, and some of the open rural routes after this. The elevation chart stated that the 20-mile course included 2,200 feet of ascent. I am surprised that there was this much, as it certainly didnâ€™t seem like it, but there were a couple of "walking" hills, notably one just after the CP2 checkpoint at 10 miles.
Special thanks must go to the marshals, who were cheerfully present at all the road junctions, and to the drinks station teams. Drinks stations were nicely spaced out at around five mile intervals. The third one, designated CP3, in Bower Farmyard, was more like a sweet shop than a drinks station. Thanks for the Jelly Babies!
The finish was low key, but there was a smattering of applause from the onlookers, which was nice. Drinks were available right at the line and it was then a question of collecting a creme egg (well, it was Easter Saturday) and a very nice technical T-shirt â€“ undoubtedly my favourite this year!
Post-race facilities were very good â€“ changing facilities, hot showers and even a plate of sausages and chips which was included in the cost of the entry fee. In summary, this was a really well organised event and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who fancies trying trail running. The organisers seem to have thought of everything. It was only me who hadn't! Just remember, if it has rained heavily in the week before the event, do consider investing in a pair of trail shoes!
In short: A competently organised race on a relatively challenging course with very good hospitality from the organisers In full: The San Domenico 20 is a popular pre-London Marathon training run and I was keen to round off the March training with a good result, possibly even a PB. There wasn't much advance chatter about this one, but the contour graph that was posted on the fetcheveryone website by "The Saint" didn't look too scary, so I had high hopes as I set out for the Valleys.
Advance information on the San Domenico Road Runners' website was good and there is also a dedicated website at www.sd20.org.uk which I overlooked at first. I had expected the Valleys to be dark, grey and scarred by their industrial past, but the photos and the youtube clip posted suggested country lanes and a rural character. Good directions and the college was easy to find from the A470.
The Race HQ was excellent. There were acres of car parking and some good facilities based in the college's cafeteria, including kit supplier and refreshment stand. A five-minute walk to the start and we were off. The first mile was a bit of a circuit, presumably to get the distance right, and then we were onto the Taff Trail, an amenity footpath/cycle track leading south from the town. There were quite a few minor road crossings, but all were well-marshalled. I looked out for the first mile marker, and the second, and soon realised that there were none! That was a surprise, but it became clear by mile 3 that the miles were neatly painted onto the road surface. Once I knew this, I think I probably saw about two-thirds of the remainder. They were not always easy to see, but I will say in favour of this event that they were the most accurately positioned markers I have ever encountered. Man with Garmin, he say "Yes"! This meant that it was not too much of a problem, but little flags/signs would still have been nice. By the way, the white direction arrows were very well done indeed â€“ props to someone for a lot of hard work there!
The big climb came during mile 8 and it was good to get it out of the way. I found the course quite hard to read in terms of gradients and there were stretches on the side of the valley when it was hard to tell whether you were climbing or descending. Where I really knew I was climbing was coming away from the river in mile 14 to rejoin the outward course. There was a climb up some steps leading through a little underpass. Running up these reminded me of the hallucinatory Star Gate sequence near the end of "2001: A Space Odyssey". The white strips on the steps seemed like white flashing lights and the atmosphere in the underpass made noises sound very odd â€“ it was a relief to be through it and up the remaining steps!
There was an interesting section alongside the river in a beech wood, which was not to everyone's taste as it was effectively "off-road", but I enjoyed it. What I enjoyed less was some of the backstreet, backyard sections through Abercynon (the town at the turn point). Even with the game support of the marshals, who were invariably helpful, there were quite a few sharp turns and direction changes required. In particular, there was one point where I took a left turn along a pavement and had to weave my way onto the road between parked cars in order to take the next right turn and avoid reaching a dead-end.
Thanks to the marshals and to the drinks station teams â€“ fine work as always. The finish was well positioned right next to the Race HQ, so top marks there. Results were posted promptly on the wall and also very quickly on the website, so good work by the results team. Excellent changing and shower facilities too.
All in all, a successful day, especially as I achieved the PB. Would I run it again? Yes. It is a great warm-up for London and the variable gradients and elevations would be less of an issue a second time round. Well done, San Domenico! Excellent race T-shirt too â€“ thanks!
In short: Utterly fantastic event! In full: The Rhayader "Round the Lakes" 20 was the second of three "20s" in my training diary for March and by a considerable margin the hilliest of the three. It seemed like a good idea back in the Autumn to set an ambitious training programme for the London Marathon, but how would it work out in practice? Was it worth the long haul to remote mid-Wales to put myself through this ordeal?
Well, I will say at the outset that this has to be one of my favourite races ever! In the words of Wallace and Gromit, this was undoubtedly "A Grand Day Out". It was well worth the two-hour drive from Bristol to participate in this event and Rhayader Running Club - and the town - can be proud of a job well done. I definitely hope to return in the future, whether or not there's a Spring marathon in the diary.
Advance publicity was good - the website was helpful and the race instruction booklet that was mailed out contained plenty of useful information. I was fortunate to find a parking space in the main leisure centre car park just before it filled up, but there seemed to be plenty of parking nearby, so no worries there. The leisure centre made a great race HQ and registration was straightforward. The local outdoor supplier had a stand in the hall for last-minute purchases and refreshments were available too. Everything you could want before a race.
And so to the course. The start was only about 100 yards from the leisure centre which was obviously well planned. Two gently undulating laps of the town to start off with and two miles were done (although I think the second mile marker was positioned a little generously). Red kites were circling overhead and someone suggested that they were in fact vultures waiting for the first casualties! As soon as we left the town, the road began its gentle but inexorable incline. This continued for about four miles as the route climbed steadily to the head of the Elan Valley, until, somewhere in mile 7 and after a couple of false summits, we reached the highest point of the circuit. Thanks to Jim for his company during the ascent. Before the race, the prospect of climbing 1,000 feet was not a good one, but in fact the gradient was pretty constant and it was possible to settle into a steady pace for the climb.
The next couple of miles provided a real contrast with a steep descent of several hundred feet. From then on, the course alternated between gentle downhill and flat sections, as it passed along the side of the Elan Valley reservoirs. There were a couple of hills still to come, notably one in mile 19, but these were mild by comparison with what miles 3 to 6 had thrown at us.
The scenery cannot go without a mention. It was absolutely spectacular from start to finish. The high cloud base and absence of rain were a huge bonus, as I had been expecting to have to run in the wet, and the perfect conditions made this course even more special.
Support was understandably sparse out in the country, so special thanks to the team with the Jelly Babies, the team with the car stereo blasting out "Don't Stop Me Now" and the little girl proudly standing next to the 10-mile marker pointing at it (as if we might miss it!). Also to the lady from Aberystwyth whose company helped those last five miles to pass reasonably painlessly. And finally, of course, to the residents of Rhayader who turned out in good numbers for the start and finish. Rhayader Running Club did a really good job - the drinks stations were excellent and the finish was well managed. I might have wished for a banana or a Mars Bar at the end, but the leisure centre was close by and tea and cake soon procured. Good showers and facilities too. Thanks for the T-shirt! Finally, congrats to the result team, not only for swift posting of results on the wall in the registration hall, but also for getting them on the website so fast.
Closing thoughts: the long climb sounds very forbidding, but the gradient is steady enough to make it quite accessible at a steady pace. Once you reach the top, this run has the potential to offer a very quick half marathon to finish as the 1,000 feet of altitude gained is gradually lost again. This is probably not a PB course for most runners, but perhaps surprisingly it is only likely to be a few minutes off. Fantastic!
In short: An excellent opportunity for a long pre-Spring marathon training run. Some elements were better than in 2009 and some not so good â€¦ In full: The 2009 Gloucester 20 was my first ever 20-mile run and proved to be a very positive event, so the 2010 event went into the diary as a "must do" as soon as the date was published. It soon turned out that the 2010 event was to be held on a new course, so how did it compare?
Firstly, that new course. Yes, it is a shame that the Race HQ, the main car park and the start/finish were all in different locations, but the pre-race instructions made the arrangements clear enough. There were also split locations in 2009, so this isn't a feature of this course specifically. The Gloucester 10 and the Gloucester Marathon are organised in a similar way too. Personally, I am hugely impressed with the way that Gloucester AC keep all these road events running against all the odds. I can't imagine that they won't have looked at lots of alternatives and done the best under the circumstances (which include some pretty NIMBY-ish villagers in Longney and Epney, by all accounts, as well as a Sports Centre that is in the middle of a whole network of busy residential roads). I would just say "well done" to the organisers and congratulate them on not having given up running these events long ago.
As for the course, it was three laps instead of two, which really is not an issue. Quite similar terrain to last year, although there was of necessity a stretch with steady traffic on the B4008. There were a couple of inclines, probably similar overall to the previous course, although I found the second one (at miles 6.5, 12 and 17.5) to be increasingly nasty each time I came to it. Good compensation afterwards, though, in the form of a long fast gentle descent down to the railway bridge and beyond. Although I prefer the Longney/Epney loop, I would happily run this course again.
And what about the rest of the event? Advance information was quite late in appearing on the website, although this may have had something to do with the planning necessary for the new course. Pre-race instructions and the running number arrived in good time and the directions were perfectly adequate. It was a shame that there was nothing other than a row of portaloos at the main car park. I shouldn't think many people would have gone to the Race HQ before the event and it would have been really nice just to have a garden marquee with a tea urn in the corner of the car park. Maybe next year ...
The distance to the start was fine - a good opportunity for a warm up jog. The start itself took me completely by surprise! (Note to Results Officer: please deduct half a minute from the finishing time of every Westbury Harriers runner - we were all standing around at the back chatting when we became aware that the stampede had started!)
On course, the marshalling was excellent and the marshals were visible and clear in their instructions at every junction and blind bend. Well done! Drinks stations were well-spaced too and the helpers invariably friendly and efficient - thanks to you all too!
The finish was a little disappointing, and one or two reviewers have already commented on this. Yes, a Mars Bar or a banana would have been hugely welcome to provide some energy for the return to the car park or the Race HQ. (I did see a table set up in the car park with drinks etc - perhaps that could have been at the finish instead, unless it was a private club arrangement?) I was disappointed with the mug (I don't like commemorative mugs, but maybe others do?), but in contrast I really liked the 2009 Gloucester Old Spot T-shirt. Finally, the Race HQ is well tried and tested and the hot showers very welcome. It was well worth the short drive in order to get a shower, a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
In conclusion, a competently organised and marshalled event which is an essential part of the Spring marathon calendar. A few niggles, some of which are down to personal taste, but overall a big thank you to the organisers for another good day out!
In short: A " no frills" event with organisation that is basic but perfectly adequate. In full: This event has received mixed comments in the past and it is not difficult to see why. From my experience of the run this year, I would say that the organisers got all the essentials right. The race took place, the route was clear, the marshals were in the right spots and there were enough drinks stations. The "luxury" bits that one would hope for when paying a Â£27 entry fee weren't there, though. I would include in this category timing chips, the clarity of advance information, baggage store etc. The absence of these does not prevent the race from taking place, but they are fairly standard fare for marathons these days.
Oh well. If the absence of these factors bothers you, I would suggest that you look elsewhere for a marathon, because my impression is that the organisers are fairly unapologetic about the way they run this event. Take it or leave it!
Personally, I am extremely pleased that I decided to "take" it! Today was a fantastic day. The weather was unbelievable favourable for a January marathon. A little cold at the start, but at least it was dry. One or two fog patches early on, but these cleared to leave a day which transformed gradually from overcast to clear. Ideal conditions.
The route is an interesting one. It is based on three laps of the Epney/Longney loop which will be familiar to anyone who has run in the Gloucester 10 or the Gloucester 20. A four mile run in, three seven mile laps and a mile run out to the finish, more or less. I must say that I enjoyed this. It made a change from two-lap marathons and meant that, by the time I was on the third lap, I felt psychologically that I had broken the back of this one.
Advance information from the organisers was available as a pdf file on their website (still "under development" at least a year after I first looked at it!). The wording of the instructions suggested that something would be mailed out to competitors "Your running number __ will be issued to you on the day ...", but maybe I misunderstood the intention behind this.
Once at the Sports Centre, registration was straightforward. The briefing was affected by the decision of the chap with the megaphone not to use his megaphone. Huh? A short walk to the start and, suddenly we were off. No fancy countdowns or "ready, steady, go" - we just went! All in line with the basic approach taken to this event.
Out on the course, marshals were excellent, drinks station crews were excellent and there was a good smattering of support. Thanks, all! (At this point, Iâ€™ll break off to say "hello" to John's friend and John's friend's friend. Thanks for your support!)
I should mention that the course includes a few noticeable slopes and inclines, but none of them is too challenging - even third time round - and there always seemed to be an equal and opposite downhill stretch within the next mile somewhere. What I will say, though, is that the mile lengths were extremely suspect. One mile, just before 20, I think, which I ran at sub 7'30" pace took me over 8'30" and another, at about mile 25, took me only 5'40" even though I was running at 8 minute mile pace at this stage. Overall, it pretty much fell back into place, but those signs are not to be relied on.
And so to the finish. I was using this as a long training run, as it is a bit early on in my Spring programme to be going flat out. I had intended to run 8 minute miles at best, but soon settled into around 7'40" to 7'50" pace. I managed to keep this going throughout and finished in 3-23, which is a great start to the year. All set for those March 20-milers!
Finally, mention must be made of the excellent tea and cake stand in the Sports Hall - thanks, ladies. Oh, and the hot showers. An excellent day out! Date of review: January 24, 2010
In short: Another excellent running of this fine 10k - and a prize to boot! In full: This review refers to the November 2009 event. I seem to have used my solitary 2009 review allowance when reporting on the August 2009 race, so this one may appear to be written in the year 2000!! I did email the RW support crew, but received no acknowledgement or help whatsoever. So I'm sorry, but it's not me breaking the system, it's a system that can't cope with an event that happens more than once a year.
Rant over. Race over too. I had been hoping since the summer for a windless day and a good PB opportunity, but the week leading up to this race was probably the windiest of the year. I think this put me into a negative frame of mind about the likelihood of a headwind on the back straight and I ran well below my best. Quite a few people got PBs, though, so I am prepared to put this down to experience rather than blame the conditions!
One glitch this year was the number of locked loos around the site. Props to Will Whitmore for coming out with an explanation and an apology so fast. I am confident that this was a one-off and it should not deter anyone from signing up for this one in the future.
I think I have said everything else in previous reviews. This is a well-run and friendly event. No messing about, just a good down-to-earth fun outing. If there was a pull-down box for "Best use of a loudhailer for giving a briefing as you walk 200 people to the start line", Will would get 100% without hesitation!
There was a switch to medals instead of resin statuettes for finishers, which I think is a good move. The goody bag was a bit lightweight and personally I would rather do without it. It's generous for a 10k, but understandably not worth writing home about. I don't think many runners would miss it.
I must add that I was delighted to be a member of the prize-winning Westbury Harriers team - woohoo! Well done to fellow runners Karl, Geraint and Sandra! My first ever "prize" and a nice touch - thanks Will!
I have bookmarked the 2010 dates already and look forward to being back ... Date of review: November 26, 2009
In short: A very welcoming and friendly “small town” event on a flat and fast course. In full: I had been looking forward to this marathon ever since I put in my application back in the Spring. The entry list was closed in May, over four months before the actual race, so it is obviously an extremely popular event. On Sunday, it became quite clear why this is the case.
After a very early start from Bristol (with the ice warning light coming on a couple of times on the A34!), I arrived at Abingdon College at 7.00am and parked the car. There was a ten minute walk to the sports centre in Tilsley Park, which was a nice loosener after the journey, but I wondered whether I would have done better in one of the residential side roads opposite the Park in order to reduce the walk back to the car at the end. (In fact, it wasn’t a problem, because the return walk was on the route of the final mile of the run and so it gave a good opportunity to cheer on the runners who were coming up towards the finish.)
The location and organisation for the start was excellent – refreshment stands were setting up, there were the usual sports centre vending machines, plenty of space to stay warm in the cold air and an opportunity to study the course map. The course consisted of a five mile outward run, two nine-mile loops and three miles back to base. It was very flat indeed. There must have been one or two gentle inclines in there somewhere, but I must say that I didn’t notice them. So much so, that when the route went through a pedestrian underpass in the town centre with about two miles to go, the ramp back to the surface (which must have involved an ascent of all of five metres) came as a real surprise.
The scenery was very mixed – dull suburbs and commercial estates mixed with farmland, bits of old railway line, some pretty parts of the town centre and glimpses of the Thames. Overall, lots of variety to hold the interest.
Race organisation was really good. Plenty of drinks stations (including a Lucozade stop on each lap of the loop section), cheerful dispensing teams and even a bonus sponge station. The marshals were fabulous. On open roads, they needed to be decisive and certain about their instructions and directions and they did this superbly. There was no room for doubt about car movements at any junction or road crossing and so you could run on with confidence. Thanks, guys and girls, for a job professionally done!
I ran 20 miles according to plan and it all drifted away a bit in the last six, with the legs feeling very heavy and the PB slipping inexorably out of reach. There was a smattering of support in the last couple of miles, but the killer was what felt like an interminable fenced run around the grounds of Tilsley Park. It was probably only 400 yards, but it felt like one of those nightmares where you aren’t going anywhere – I could see one of the floodlights in the stadium, but it never seemed to get any closer as the route wound round bushes and shrubs!!
The stadium start and finish was a great feature. The commentators were slightly quieter than they might have been, particularly at the finish. The finishing funnel was well planned – medal, goody bag, drink and T-shirt. Top marks for the nice shiny medal and also for a good technical T-shirt. Excellent hot showers and changing facilities too.
All in all, a great day out. Thanks to all those involved in organising it and long may it continue to feature in the calendar. Note to self: get entry in early again next year!
In short: An event designed by runners for runners. Nice one, Chippers! In full: Having run the Bristol Half last weekend, and not quite being fully recovered, I knew that any failings in the organisation of the Chippenham Half would most likely make me wish I had not turned up. Everything would have to go really well for me to take away a positive experience from the day. So, how did it turn out?
Pre-race organisation was very good indeed. The website was very professionally maintained, with regularly updated lists of entrants, fresh announcements as relevant and even a countdown timer to the start of the race a la London Marathon. The race pack came in good time (local industrial action by the Post Office caused problems for some runners, but the organisers devised a sensible contingency plan for this). The A4 information sheet seemed to have everything one could possibly need, from directions to Chippenham right down to a map of the course. Everything looked promising ahead of the event itself …
And so to the day itself. Signage from the edge of Chippenham was excellent and marshals were present in abundance from the car park entrance onwards. This event benefits from an excellent location, with acres of car parking close to the race HQ and start/finish. It was a nice early Autumn morning – some sunshine, enough cloud to prevent it from being too hot, and a cool light breeze – and there was a great atmosphere at the Sports Club ground where the run would start and finish. Good race “village” complete with sports shop, refreshments, baggage drop, changing area and plenty of portaloos. (In fact there were more portaloos here than there had been at College Green the previous week – perhaps Chippenham got their booking in first!)
And so to the start. This included the *best* pen divisions I have ever seen, with estimated finish times *and* minutes per mile figures posted. What a good idea! And it worked, because I found that I pretty much held my position throughout the race. Kudos to the organisers for getting the town council (?) on side and closing the roads, because the first couple of miles through the centre of Chippenham were very enjoyable. Then out onto country roads for most of the run. As the course unrolled, it was pretty level, with a few gentle undulations up to about mile 3, then level roads all the way through to the end of mile 10. It was looking like a PB day.
On course, there were thousands and thousands of marshals, universally cheerful and friendly. Nice job, guys and girls!! Water stops were well spaced. My one serious recommendation for improvement would be a move away from open beakers to “sports” bottles – it is almost impossible to take on enough water from beakers while on the run.
Somewhere after mile 10, we crossed a river bridge and turned right. Er, a river bridge? We’re going to be climbing out of a valley, then? Miles 11 and 12 were tough, with a gentle but persistent uphill gradient which blew away my PB aspirations and just slowed me by about 30 seconds per mile. Nothing steep or particularly vicious, just enough to be challenging. Mile 13, by contrast, was a long downhill coast into town and to the finish. Excellent finishing area, with the route designed for maximum crowd visibility, and the supporters were, as they had been throughout the morning, noisy and encouraging.
The finishing area was fine – water, bananas and a goody bag. And by the time I got to the Sports Club, all of 50 yards away, my result was up on the notice board. Wow!
In conclusion, a really nice event. Massive congratulations and thanks to Chippenham Harriers for a job well done! Even though I missed out on the PB, I was very pleased to have taken part in this one.
In short: The Bristol Half Marathon goes from strength to strength – a most enjoyable day out! In full: This was without doubt one of the best half marathons I have taken part in. I have a few minor suggestions for improvements, but overall this was a highly successful and very well organised event. Well done to the Race Director and team!!
This is the third consecutive year that I have taken part in this event and it has improved noticeably even in that short space of time. I don’t think this is down to chance, rather it must be down to careful analysis and hard work by the organisers.
The runners’ village is in an excellent location and the choice of Millennium Square is ideal. I think the “third colour” runners in each of the wave starts could justifiably feel a little like second-class citizens though, because College Green, although a great location in itself, felt a bit marginalised. This was apparent (a) because there was a noticeable lack of atmosphere there before the start by comparison with Millennium Square and (b) because there was a serious lack of portaloos by comparison with the main site. Still, getting across the finishing straight and moving between the two locations was pretty easy, at least before 9.00am.
Despite some comments to the contrary, I found the local signage (eg colour starts, location of baggage stores etc) very helpful. The pens were clearly laid out and well segregated. I didn’t see any division notices within the pens, so simply aimed for the middle of my (white) start and this seemed to work out fine. Friends doing the 10.00am start similarly reported no problems in this respect.
As for the run itself, this *is* undoubtedly a fast course with lots of PB potential. Just look at the athleticsdata website, where about 40 of the top 100 finishers are annotated as having recorded PBs yesterday! The conditions were ideal too – a very light wind and not too much sunshine (although it warmed up a bit at about 10.30am – another reason to be thankful for the early start).
The “hill” after mile 11 really isn’t that bad – certainly not as bad as I remembered and in fact the ramps onto the Cumberland Basin swing bridge and flyover almost seemed more forbidding! I really liked the Portway section – a good opportunity to eat up some miles and get the pace sorted out, then before you know it, you’re over half way round. Overall, the course is excellent. The only niggle is all the manoeuvring in the last few miles – within sight of the finish – to fit the miles in between 10 and 13. It can be a little frustrating feeling that you are getting close and then going off in the opposite direction. Still, I suppose it’s the only way to fit the miles in without going bananas on road closures!
Course organisation was great. The marshals didn’t have a lot to do other than on the swing bridge, but they did a good job anyway. And thanks to the cheerful teams of cadets handing out drinks very efficiently, also to all the crews at the end, busy handing out space blankets, goody bags and medals, as well as dechipping everyone. Drinks stations – water and energy drinks – were well spaced too. Support was good and I enjoyed the section of road near Jury’s (Prince Street) and the lap of Queen’s Square for that “city centre” feel. One minor niggle was that some of the mile markers were poorly placed – it may just have been me, but I didn’t see “2” or “11” at all.
My only other negative comment – and I am honestly not sure how this could be addressed – is that it is difficult to get from Millennium Square across the course to the Park Street/College Green area after the race – as in previous years, we found ourselves working against the general direction of crowd movement all the way back past the Hippodrome to a crossing point (which was however being very well managed indeed). A minor point only and it did give us a chance to cheer on some of the later finishers.
What else? Well, the goody bag was excellent. Lots of tasty chocolate and cereal snack bars – just what is needed. The whole of the finishing area is well thought out and well laid out – as it should be on such a big event (there, nearly got to the end of this review without a dig at the Bath Half!).
And finally … I turned into Little Caroline Place, the side road at mile 1, almost convinced that there would be a builder’s skip in the carriageway. It was something of a shock to see a clear route ahead!!