In short: Lovely! In full: I'd been wanting to do this race for some time, but always seemed to be doing something else on the same day. It's a very pretty route, though not as flat as I had expected. I liked the downhill finish, and the friendly atmosphere. My wife found enough to occupy here for the hour or so I was running. My time - 1.05.35 Date of review: April 10, 2011
In short: Awesome! In full: This low key training event is an example to many others on just how to set up a running event. The marshals are amongst the most supportive I've encountered (running club events do tend to have the best marshals), and the whole event is run with a confidence and good humour that is all too rare.
Stunning value - only £5, and that includes tea and cake afterwards. The signposting was very good - I don't recall any points where a runner could get confused (and I'm someone who has got lost several times on long runs).
Scenery very attractive.
It was a fair deal harder than I expected. There are few flat sections. After the first three miles along the canal, the route goes up, down, up and down, with one flat section which is along a busy unpavemented road where the cars come fast and close, before finishing the last two miles along the flat.
The support of the marshals is excellent - there's a real warmth and confidence among the team.
It took me 4 hours 52. I was among the very last before the sweeper came in, yet I was greeted warmly and given a cake and a cup of tea. Lovely! That was so supportive.
In short: Pain In full: This marked a turning point in my running, and I'm surprised I didn't leave a comment at the time. The big hill at the start, combined with the cold, and perhaps running too fast and hard at the start, and maybe doing too much during 2008 meant my knees gave up on me, and I was walking almost as much as running. Marshalling was thin at one point and I went off track. A local noticed and pointed me toward the coast. I cut back to the course which at that point was doing an out and back section and found myself on the return section, having walked over the out section. At that point my resolve gave out, and I couldn't face going back to find the out course and my knees by now made running too painful, so I hobbled along the cold, windy shingle beach to the finish. Marshals noticed I was cold and gave me space blankets to keep me warm, and checked that I was OK to carry on. This happened four times, so I was wrapped in four blankets and hobbling along until I saw the finish line - I then removed all the blankets, straightened up, put a grin on my face, and ran over the finish line. I was proud of myself for having finished (albeit a couple of miles short of a marathon), but the memory of the pain kept me away from long distance runs until this year. Date of review: March 20, 2011
In short: Worms on the road... In full: There is a miserable cheap feel about the event. Poor consideration given to how people are to park, and where to route the runners, so at the end of the race there was a dangerous mix of tired runners attempting to use the same pot-holed track as impatient drivers trying to get out and go home.
The marshals were largely indifferent, some were grumpy, and a blessed handful were supportive.
The start was delayed. There wasn't any tannoy system that I could hear. There were few facilities. It was people standing in a damp field unsure what was happening.
If the money was going to a charity I wouldn't mind, but privately organised events such as these need to be better. People have paid for a decently organised event. It's not the same as a local club putting on an event, or a charity putting on an event. There are different attitudes toward a purely commercial operation.
Negatives aside, I enjoyed the course. Being flat it meant I did a PB of 2.15.10 - my previous fastest half was Henley back in Oct 2006 when I did 2.19.47. The scenery was pleasant - it was all peaceful rural, with lambs and swans and daffodils just emerging. The weather on the day was better than expected. A little chilly to start, then settled down into a steel-grey March morning. The dreaded wind was little more than a breeze - and mostly wasn't noticed; there was a bit late on during the return, but it didn't hamper running and it wasn't cold.
There's a decent pub, The Dolphin, for drinks afterwards, with free nibbles on the bar. A chap gave me a standing ovation as I left because he could see my medal. I was pleased with that. Date of review: March 13, 2011
In short: Too tough.... In full: I hadn't expected the course to be this tough. Nobody did. Everyone I spoke to found it harder than expected. I had to drop out after 14 miles and getting on for four hours. The start of the course was very hilly. After a pleasant ramble across country, the course begins a long steady climb which was quite demanding, but I expected that at the top we'd be on the downs, and - apart from some ups and downs - that would be it. But no, the course then goes back down, and then up, and then steeply down, and then a long, long climb up loads of steps. I have done the North Downs Run, Beachy Head Marathon and the Dunstable Challenge, so am quite OK with hills and cross country running. I enjoyed those three races - but the very steep and relentless nature of the start of this took too much out of me. I wanted to do a 20 mile run, but the first three miles consisted of fairly consistent steep hills that I couldn't run, so I was starting to get frustrated. When the course did eventually "level out" (read: hilly, but manageable), I started to enjoy myself, and was considering that if I did this next year I would skip the start. But then the mud and the stones started to make the going heavy, the temperature dropped and the wind got up, so I was getting more and more tired, and colder and colder. A series of very demanding styles then starting to take their toll, and when I worked out that I still had about six miles to go, and I had taken nearly 4 hours, and I was very weak, with an aching knee that was slowing me down, I spoke with a marshal about a short cut to the finish, and he advised me getting a lift back, so I agreed and gave up. This is the first race I have abandoned. The lift came quickly and they checked me out on the spot and again back at HQ.
There is much to commend in this race. And you can feel save that you are looked after - your number is taken by every marshal, so they know exactly where you will be if you go missing. But be aware that it will be tough if you go for the full distance, and that March can be very, very cold. Date of review: March 8, 2011
In short: Hello church. Hello church. Hello church... In full: Overall this is a decent enough race. No frills, no extras - no goodie bag or fruit or bottled water or t-shirt, and a very cheap medal - but it does the job.
The school building provides decent facilities with changing rooms, a little cafe, and tables and chairs to sit around and chat in the warm before the race.
There's a good mix of runners of all abilities, and a warm, relaxed atmosphere, with people happy to chat, or offer a word of support when passing or being passed.
The scenery is OK - it's not exciting or beautiful, but it's not ugly. It's the pleasant suburban streets of Sidcup on a lazy Sunday morning, and it passes quietly by. The laps are big enough to not be monotonous, though there are few landmarks to look forward to. The highlight is the church and a few shops clustered around a closed cinema. You get to look forward to that....
The marshals are solid, friendly and supportive - giving encouragement to runners, and keeping control of the traffic with few incidents. There was a hot-headed youngster in some cheap small car near the start who got impatient and was revving and then drove madly and dangerously on the wrong side of the road to overtake the runners, and pulled in to the crowd of runners with a lack of care that could have resulted in injuries or deaths. The marshal near that incident was told off by another marshal for allowing the idiot to keep on driving, but there was nothing he could do, and marshals are not empowered to stop cars. But that incident did reveal that the organisers should rethink allowing runners to use the road at the start. If they want to use the road they should get the police to block off the road for the first 10 minutes. I accept this might increase the cost, but runners do get hit by cars, and it's best avoided if possible.
There were useful and fairly accurate markers along the route, though the mile 2 marker was too soon.
The route is not completely flat. It does incline in places, and has a couple of slopes. The Thames Towpath Ten is flatter. However, it was flat enough for me to get a PB of 1.35.48, so I'm pleased. Date of review: February 13, 2011
In short: Four laps of a municipal park In full: £10 was rather expensive for what they offered. And while it might have made some economic sense to give out the left over t-shirts advertising last year's runs, it created a very poor impression.
Losing the medals was also a poor do. And then when they found them, it was a generic company medal, with no date on it.
I wasn't impressed. There wasn't the pride of local club do, or the normal charm of a low key local event, or the feel good factor of a charity event, or the excitement of a big run. This was the sort of run you do yourself each week for training. Well, to be honest, I select better routes than this - I wouldn't normally chose to run four laps around a dull playing field.
However, as my running partner said in the pub afterwards. We did enjoy it. It fitted in with our running schedule, and if there's nothing else around on this date next year, we might well do it again.
In short: Winter Wonderland! In full: It's a low key, local event with a good mix of runners, and quite a few slow ones, so a nice, relaxed, amateur atmosphere. Running alongside the Serpentine on New Years Day is great fun, though the course also goes through boring parks of the park, and does do a dull loop, but the main fun is that it starts and finishes right next to Winter Wonderland! Having a mug as a souvenir is a nice touch. Definitely do it next year! Date of review: January 2, 2011
In short: Potential to be better In full: Poor organisation at start and finish. Traffic problems. Wet, cold, miserable conditions. Less crowd support than expected, held this back from being a special race, though I did enjoy it and will do it again. I liked the noisy supporter at around the two mile mark who then turned up at around the file mile mark.
I like the course. I like big events. And this is London, and it's local for me, so I'd be keen to do this again. Date of review: October 1, 2010
In short: I love it! In full: I like big running events, especially London ones, and there are not that many so this is a welcome addition to the calendar. The route covers some interesting ground, including Greenwich Park, Royal Artillery Barracks and the Royal Arsenal, and quite a chunk of London is blocked off for most of the day, so the entry fee is good value, especially when even an event doing laps in the local municipal park costs £15 these days. Energy drinks and packs are given out, though as sometimes happens in running events, these ran out so the tail enders got nothing. This has occurred even in IAAF Gold Label events, so is not unusual - I think it may be because some runners take more than one drink or energy pack.
I ran this in 2008 when it was wet and cold and there was hardly any crowd support. It was much better this time. There was decent support for most of the course, and at times it was really uplifting, with crowds screaming and cheering. The end was particularly good - a real wall of noise.
The organisation at the start/finish was much better than in 2008, and it is encouraging that the organisers are making improvements, but could be improved further. Clear and obvious signage to direct people along a single route to the pens, and at the end to the exit, would be really helpful. The idea that tired and confused people wandering aimlessly in a crowd would be able to sort out their own goodie bags was a mistake, and the organisers should take responsibility for assembling the contents themselves, and ensuring that every competitor gets a bag (and only one bag! Some races put a line through your number when you've been given your bag). I think part of the goodie bag problem was that the start was delayed, so some people starting handing out foil blankets and cereal bars at the start in order to keep those waiting warm and happy.
I take part in this because I like big events in big cities, and I like the course (both for the location, and that it goes up and then down - a profile that suits me), so I'm not fussed about the music, but it does seem ironic that an event that is promoted as a music and running event has fewer live bands than at a number of half marathons and marathons I've done.
Overall I really enjoyed this and will be back. And I expect that it will be better organised next year. Yes, it's not perfect, but the majority of running events are not. Date of review: October 1, 2010