In short: Varied In full: Overall I enjoyed the run, though wouldn't do it again. There's a chance of some good views along the Pilgrims Way, and much of the course is through pleasant trails. Having said that, to be fair, all cross-country runs I have done have offered the same quality views or better, but didn't take you through some rather awful fly-tipping sites. There is clearly a severe problem in this area, and it made for some quite unpleasant sections toward the end. Added to that the course leads through trials used by off-roaders, so the ground is cut up and scarred - in places it was was like running through a war zone. I was stunned at the sort of damage the off-road vehicles can do. The race length is just short of nine miles, which is OK once you know that, but if you don't, and think it's just over 7 miles, then it can be disheartening to reach the halfway water station so far down on time. Thankfully the marshal there told me the truth, so I could relax. The marshals were very good, and there is a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The Mars Bar in the goodie bag is very enjoyable. And it's handy having a Sweat Shop stall at race HQ.
My favourite cross-country run near Medway is the North Downs run, and this run, though pleasant, doesn't match up to that. Date of review: August 29, 2010
In short: Awesome! In full: This is a stunning run. Great countryside, and solid, warming, reassuring organisation. It is, however, a challenge, and I made mistakes. I ran too fast at the start in a vain attempt to keep up with the others so I wouldn't get lost too soon. That left me very tired for the finish, and I came in nearly an hour slower than I could have done if I'd paced myself. The course is very challenging in places - not just the hills, but the rough ground underfoot: freshly (and deeply) ploughed fields, uneven and loose surfaces, tree roots, flints, assorted muddy patches. Add all that to a bit of map reading, the inevitable getting lost here and there, and a fairly fast field so that I was all alone for the last half, made me, um, "uncomfortable" by the finish so I did swear a bit and mutter "never again" as I fell over the finish line. However, by the time I write this, just over a week later, my legs have stopped aching, and I managed a half marathon on Sunday in world record time (well, my personal world record), so I am warming to the event and thinking back fondly to it. I have a running partner who seems keen on doing this, so if he does enter I will be assured of company, and will be able to better pace myself. So - I am seriously considering doing this again. Maybe.... Date of review: October 7, 2008
In short: Attractive flat course - appalling organisation! In full: I enjoyed the run - it's an attractive course, and very flat. And it has something of the buzz of a big race. But there are too many problems, mainly to do with the organisation by Swansea council.
In my experience the best organised races tend to be those done by runners for runners, because there is a passion and commitment, and an understanding of what a runner wants from a race.
I had heard great things about this 10K, so it was on my "must do" list, and I came from Kent to take part. I have family in Swansea so it was a great opportunity to mix a family get together with a bit of running.
The first sign that things were not right were when my race pack didn't arrive and I had to make a couple of phone calls to sort it out. Fair enough, but it appears I wasn't the only one not to get their pack.
I shrugged that off as one of those things that can happen. I'm still very positive - no reason not to be. We arrive at the race and notice huge queues for the toilets. My wife comments on this, and me, being positive and still believing this is the best 10K in the UK, shrugs it off as something that happens at big races, though it niggles me a bit as the queues really are very long and I would like to make sure my bladder is empty.
I get into the starting pens. No organisation to sort people into the right times - just a few signs. OK - this part is often poor at races, but the best organised runs I've attended do make more of an effort to get this right.
There's a really poorly done warm up routine. No music, no motivation, no enthusiasm, just a buzzing tannoy. People start doing it and gradually everyone loses interest. Dreadful! What a demotivating start to a race.
At last we set off. We start off with the whole width of the road. This is a popular run, so even with the full width (four lanes) people get in the way. Those who started too far forward are holding up those behind. I'm OK with this - it's the downside of taking part in a big event, and I'm prepared to accept that. But then, as we pass the university the four cones are coned off in a very short distance into two lanes. Ouch! Much bumping and barging and slowing down. Many runners go the wrong side of the cones in order to get past the slower runners. The problem with this, is that cars are now coming along the other way! OK - these things happen.
I'm accepting of all this, but I am starting to feel this is not the well organised race I had been expecting. Where are the nice touches - the music, the little treats, the extra water stops with jelly babies? What we get is the required minimum water station at 5K. OK - fair enough. And then I get to that water station and find that the marshalls there cannot cope with the flow of people, and are trying to open boxes as fast as they can, but are failing. That concerns me, but I manage to get a bottle and again push that concern to the back of my mind and enjoy the rest of the race.
We get to the end, and enter one of the longest filter tunnels I have yet encountered and then everything just falls apart. Who organised the handing out of the goodie bags? Appalling! I had family to meet and so decided after standing still for 10 minutes that I would give up on the bag and get to my family. I moved to the side and walked past a huge queue, only to find that the area where the bags were being given out was quite free of people. So I got my bag and met up with my family.
I enjoyed the race. I had a great day. But this is far from the best 10K in the UK. Far, far from it. All the little niggles came together at the end and amount to some really poor organisation that needs addressing.
This race could do with a race director who has an interest in running and in making the experience pleasurable for everyone.
I don't write letters of complaint, but feel I may do so on this occasion because people deserve better than the mess at the end of this race. Date of review: September 21, 2008
In short: Tough but likeable In full: Weather plays a large part in one's enjoyment of a race, and the weather conditions on Sunday were not bad, but it was a slightly damp, slightly windy sort of day that diminished the spirits somewhat, and reduced the amount of people out and about who normally give the runners a smile and a wave.
I like this race - I never do well here, and the start is always a bit haphazard, but the marshalls are friendly, the course is attractive, and the race is good value. The change in the course was good - I heard it was because of water works in th estate, but whatever the reason, it would be worth keeping the course change in for future years as it's better to run along the coast than through a housing estate.
If possible, more directions and firm guidance at the start would be helpful. The new start location had similar problems to the previous location in that people were walking up to the start only to find they had to turn around! The tannoy van was parked on the start path so people spilled out around it - partly to hear what was being said, and partly to avoid running into it!
The crisps were a good idea - salt is needed to help stabilise blood pressure. More long distance run organisers are giving out salty snacks these days, which is very positive.
In short: Attractive race In full: Very nice race through attractive countryside. The hills near the end are quite stiff, but what goes up must come down, and the long downhill to the finish is great fun.
There's a relaxed, low key feel to the whole event, a very small field, and encouraging and friendly marshals.
The entry fee includes access to the Mount Ephriam grounds for the whole family, so that's a big bonus. The maze is worth trying!
Be aware that there is little in the way of goodies and no medal. I got a bag printed with the name of the sponsor - but the printing had mostly worn off by the time we got home.
The Red Lion nearby - which you pass near the start - is a decent pub on a chocolate box village green!
Normally I do Cliffe Woods 10K on this date, but will switch to Mount Ephraim from now on. Date of review: August 22, 2008
In short: Poor organisation In full: The weather conditions were a challenge, however, the lack of road signs, the decisions on the day (putting out mile markers - changing 3k to 5K), and the poor commentary were inexcusable. An organisation is measured by how they cope with problems, and this one didn't do well. I have listened to the organiser's explanations on the forum, but felt that some of the criticisms were not properly addressed. Date of review: July 21, 2008
In short: It's a bit gorgeous this one In full: Wow! What an experience!
Stunning countryside - what a gloriously chosen course. And the organisation was first class. Excellent value for money. Puts lots of bigger events to shame.
Lots of jelly babies and gels and isotonic drinks on offer. The most amazingly helpful, friendly and good looking marshals I've yet experienced.
And beer offered at two drinks stations! Above and beyond! Totally awesome!
The scenery is amazing - and the time of year for this event means that the countryside around the North Downs is seen at its fragrant best. The marshals are proud of the course - especially the legendary poppy field. Passing comments to the marshals - "This is a beautiful course" are returned with - "Wait till you see the poppy field!" And when you get there you have to pause as the marshal there announces: "You are about to see one of the seven wonders of the world!" O yes - and it is!
It's a tough run that's for sure, but as it demands you walk up the slopes, it's actually not a bad course for a fit beginner - allowing the body to rest. I would say that you need to be fit to cover the distance, the terrain, and the time barrier. This is at the limits of my personal ability - however, I am a plodding hippo who does marathons at around the 6 hour mark. Everyone is friendly and supportive, so as long as a beginner is fit and has done some training then I would say, go for it. Make your first run a special one!
It was a PB for me as I had never done a 30k before. It's not a common distance, after all!
With all the drinks, treats, marshals, police, first aid, swimming pool, showers, beer, cake and t-shirt this has to be one of the best value runs in the country.
I should imagine everyone involved in this is proud of this run, and justifiably so.
This is something very, very special indeed.
Thank you all so much! Date of review: June 17, 2008
In short: Great location for an average race In full: There's nothing much to mark this out as being a particularly bad or good race. It was a fairly typical local club run - though oddly enough organised by a club a good few turfs away from their home patch!
It was modest in its refreshments - a splash of water in a cup during the run, and a bottle at the end. No bananas, and no extras. However, a fairly decent quality medal for the size of the event, and engraved with the date was a bonus.
The course worked, and Chrissie was happy because she saw me several times without having to move much from one spot, but it did seem to lack imagination, going round in circles and not making the most of the potential views. There was the potential for a mix up at the top of the hill, and marshals had to stay alert for who was going where - a review of the course before hand was useful, and either an online map or a copy of the course sent out with the race number would have been appreciated.
The marshals did a good job, but I would have liked a bit more encouragement from the majority - enthusiastic marshals can really lift a race and make it very special. The woman on the corner by the playground was the most supportive - always smiling and urging on the runners. Well done to her - but no points to the marshal who asked me to tell two women pushing prams to move to the side of the path - I did it, but I thought that was the job of the marshals themselves! Add that incident to the two marshals by the Queens House who turned a blind eye to two young lads cycling among the runners in a dangerous fashion, and there is a general feeling of apathy about the marshaling which is a shame, as in many races the marshals appear to really enjoy themselves!
I notice other people making comments about the finish not being clearly marked. Neither was the start. Those of us in the main pack set our watches from the moment we pass the start line and stop them the moment we pass the finish line - as such it is very helpful to have these points clearly indicated! This race does, I suppose, have the distinction of having the most poorly marked start and finish points of any race I have attended!
On the whole though, the minus points are not significant - every race has minor points, and this has less than most - but then the plus points are not great either. Apart from the location!
Having a properly organised run in Greenwich Park is a treat. It's a wonderful location. Very attractive and uplifting. The undulations, the twists and turns and the hills make for an interesting course. Being able to wander around the park and feed the squirrels afterwards is a big bonus. And then having Greenwich itself to explore is great fun.
It's the location that makes this race special. And I'll be back next year for more of the same please! But next year I won't stop for a pee break on the way round and so hopefully will do better than this year's 1 hour 17 seconds! Date of review: March 3, 2008