In short: Still like this one but the start seems to be getting more chaotic In full: Despite the moan below there are many good things about this race. The course is scenic and has good crowd support in many places. It has enough hills to keep it challenging. Well marshaled. I really enjoy the finish (although the right-angle turn before the last 50 metres was a bit hazardous because of the mud). Great hot dogs from the Scouts! The weather was kind.
I've done this race a few times despite the cluttered start down Leawood Road but the fact is it just isn't wide enough there for this many runners. One footpath from the park spilled runners out just 15 metres from start line (as it had been moved back). This, combined with no signs up indicating anticipated finish times (or I didnâ€™t see them), meant that this year's race was even more chaotic than usual. People zig-zagging, elbowing, clipping heals and running along grass verges (with spectators in the way). Add to this 6 right-angled turns in the first 2 miles and you have a mess. For me, this issue now needs addressing - I chose Fleet over Reading to avoid the start problems you normally get with larger participant events. As things stand, if there is a calendar clash again next year, I would chose Reading. Couldnâ€™t it start in Fitzroy Road â€“ still quiet but long and wide enough for this many people?
In short: Spitfire 20 - excellent race, great venue In full: Dunsfold Aerodrome had plenty of parking and the vast tarmac allowed for the least crowded start I've made on a race with this many participants. They needed more toilets so the start was briefly delayed (the openness of an aerodrome leaves little alternatives - especially for the girls). The Spitfire ran at the same time as the Tempest (a 10 miler, one lap) but things weren't that congested even on the busier roads. After the first 3 or so miles, it packed off down quiet country lanes (with a couple of challenging climbs) and through Dunsfold village. Two laps was fine because this was beautiful undulating countryside on a lovely sunny day. Enough water stations for me and the girls 'manning' them were so supportive, shouting and yelling for all. Avoid the energy drinks - they tasted like mouth rinse at the dentist's. Marshalling was top notch. Miles 8-10, 18-20 were round the top gear circuit (I think we may have done Gambon just before the final sprint). Driving out after the 20 was a breeze for me. All in all an excellent well-organised event. I wouldn't normally choose a two-lapper for will power reasons. In fact had I read the details of this race properly, I would not have entered - and then I would have missed on a great race. Date of review: March 15, 2010
In short: Excellent race all round - venue, course and finish In full: What a brilliant race. Excellent parking by the fire station near the Leisure Centre HQ. Good facilties there. Well organised start. Scenic route following the river Avon most of the time. Surprisingly quick course, a few hills but nothing to taxing. PBer for sure. Then a finish around the athletic track with some good crowd support. A really, really good road race that I would recommend. Will return next year. Date of review: March 8, 2010
In short: Still a great race...but let down by the start this year In full: It tipped down for the preceding 2 hours so everyone delayed getting to the park. This meant a massive queue to the kit tent 10 mins before the race. I thought, this is bound to be a delayed start but, no, it kicked off promptly at 10am - and that was the problem. This race has a very narrow start and this year the expected time spots had moved back. So the path from the kit tent led to the sub-1:10 start. Result: all latecomers at 10am poured in with the faster runners. So the first narrow mile was a ruck, people zig-zagging, slower runners 3-a-breast blocking the path of others. It would help here if both sides of the road were closed off at the start. Thankfully when it moved on to the two-lane sections it was fine.
Aside from this, the race was the usual well organised event. It's a good rural course with a few hills for the bridges over the motorways. Plenty of water stations. With a decent start, this is definitely good for a PB. Date of review: February 22, 2010
In short: The heartbreak got shorter but was still good In full: The night before the race an email was sent to say the course had to change due to dangerous icey conditions. Then in the race briefing we were told the race has dropped from 14m to 10.8 (was actually 10.4 by my garmin's reckoning). What a relief - the 14 nearly killed me last year and I was much fitter then! Still a brilliantly organised event with a killer start - a big big hill from the start line that knocks your breath away before 1 mile is done. I made the mistake of starting too far back this time so had a very slow start. Even the modified out-and-back was hills galore on a crisp and pleasant Sunday morning. Friendly bunch or runners and helpful marshalls. Great event base at the campsite (my kids had a swim whilst I ran). Just a shame that this year lots of the toilet/shower blocks were locked up. Would definitely recommend this race. Date of review: February 1, 2010
In short: Hardcore mud. This is Hellrunner x 100 In full: After a week of pouring rain, expectations of a soft-under-foot-course were high but bloody hell! Not done this one before so expected Hellrunner equivalency. First couple of miles tricked me into a false sense of a flat, not too soft course. Then we hit the sand gullies filled with cold water. Appearances can be deceptive – what looked like one foot deep turned out to be three foot in places so the swimming commenced. Then it started pouring with rain and blowing a gale. Then we had to run through a two foot stream for 50 metres. But the best was saved until the last two miles. Thick, thick bogs of mud. This is not Hellrunner “Bog of Doom” dirty water trench – this was waste deep thick mud. Runners had to help pull other runners out! Any hope of a fast run completely disappeared – it was just about finding a route that you didn’t sink more than two feet into. Much like Hellrunner but tougher course (although there did seem less hills), not over-subscribed and without the parking issues. Definitely will book this again. Muddy fun! Date of review: November 23, 2009
In short: Great organisation, dull and repetitive course In full: Race base at school was good and race was very well organised. Start was delayed by 5 mins but no worries. However start is down a fairly narrow road so if you're not at the front you have a problem (like normal take you PB minus 10 mins to get a realistic start point). Sadly the route quickly moved onto a pedestrian/cycle path that was far too narrow for all the runners. The last few days of heavy rain meant you couldn’t run around on the grass verges. This made the first couple of miles slow going. The course is flat but pretty monotonous taking you round the old and derelict HMS Daedalus base several times. Out to Stubbington and then to Lee-on-Solent before, once again, running around Daedalus. Water-flooded roads made this interesting but thankfully the weather was kind after the preceding day’s storms. The highlight of the course for me was the run along the prom at Lee.
Numerous supportive marshals around the course so thanks to them. The goody back at the end was excellent. Not the usual rubbish but a drink, bag of ready salted crisps, cake and a nut bar – makes a change not to bin the lot.
Great organisation but I wouldn’t rush back for this repetitive course.
In short: As ever a great event with beautiful views In full: You can't fault the course of this one. Through the beautiful New Forest on a sunny Sunday morning. A few hills to keep the muscles working but nothing too tough. Good crowd support in many locations given the rurual area. Good marshalling.
I would like to moan about the late start (my third year and 3 late starts). Especially irritating as I was swapping from full to half, was late, and had to run to the finish to swap race packs, run back to the start, only to then warm down for 10 mins waiting to run. Also noticed that some mile markers on the course seem to be based on last year's start location which was some yards lower down the main road in New Milton.
Still a great race. Will return next year. Thanks to the organisers.
In short: Superb race, well organised and beautiful scenery (42k) In full: I think I must have been on a different race to some of the negative comments! This is a great race. Why?:
- car park next to start - well organised chip issue at fire station - plenty of toilets (nice touch the fast moving men's stand-ups) - decent OS map in plastic wallet - beautiful day (and not too sunny which was a result) - frequent water stations (with orange/lemon squash, bananas, jelly babies) - fantastically diverse beautiful scenery. Fields, woodland, hills, valleys, rivers, dense forest, tracks, country villages, a race course, town centre with the Cathedral and also some roads (but not a much as some are describing so perhaps the shorter distances were different). - good signing across route (I can only think of 2 occasions where I was not certain but then a yellow marker appeared) in addition to the map. - good amosphere with friendly runners
You can normally spot a good race by the number of 100 club members there - they were out in force for this one.
I would recommend this race to anyone who wants a challenging trail marathon that you can run (or walk) at your own pace and lap up the West of England's scenery.
In short: A brilliant tough warm muddy run with big big hills In full: Did this last year and thought it was tough. Running it reversed this year seemed much much tougher. Nice and sunny but extremely muddy is some places. Were the hills much bigger this way around or I am now less fit? Regardless it was a top class event again. Great marshalls. Good course. Good atmosphere - I pulled up for half mile or so when I thought I might have pulled a muscle when I slipped on a muddy bridge - the number of people who checked if I was ok as they passed by was unusual and helped motivate my restart (so thanks). Only wish I had read the race details as I was expecting another mile at the end - so might have been able to run it a bit quicker. Will be back next year. Date of review: August 3, 2009