In short: Awesome - The run of a lifetime! In full: If you want to run a race, run a marathon. If you want to achieve something awesome and inspiring, complete the Beachy Head Marathon. The run is faultless - but very hard-core. No charity runners or gorilla suits in evidence. Very few onlookers - and those members of the public that you do pass look at you in astonishment: you're running on these hills?! The camaraderie of the other runners is uplifting. This is a mad, mad marathon - it's big and it's bad. But I felt exhilarated all the way round. There was always something new and amazing. A descent through an autumnal wood alive with colours. A heart-breaking climb up an endless flight of steps to reach the top and get a stunning view of the Cuckmere Meander. The check point at Litlington with tea, sticky bun, a nice sit down and a trad jazz band. The endless ups and downs of beachy head itself. And the reckless whizz of dashing downhill for the last mile to the finish. And - at the end of all that - to be treated to jacket potato and baked beans with rice pudding to finish. A hard, challenging run - but one to feel proud to have completed. A brilliant day. And one I shall certainly do again. Excellent value for money. An event for real walkers and runners. Date of review: October 29, 2006
In short: Attractive Scenery. Poor Organisation In full: I enjoyed that. I finally cracked sub-2.20, so I'm well chuffed - especially as I got a nasty stitch at the top of the hill which never left me and was quite draining.
I thought the route was very attractive and very enjoyable.
It was a mixed day though. We were approaching Henley just after nine o clock when we hit a traffic jam. Hardly any movement. A number of runners who had driving partners left their cars and ran to the start. My partner doesn't drive, so I had to endure the long crawl into town. I parked in the first car park I saw signposted, which ended up being a mile from the start. I then had to run to the start. I kept thinking they would delay the start because clearly there were a number of runners held up by the traffic. But no. So I had to run against the flow of runners to get to the start. I got to the tail end just as they were passing under the start.
The water stations were poor for a half-marathon. Cups are OK for runs up to 10k, but longer runs need bottles so people can take on a lot of fluid without having to stop to sip. The water stations were also quite slow - there didn't seem to be too many volunteers.
I think I prefer races organised by running clubs - or at least in conjunction with running clubs, so there are more experienced volunteers, and better facilities.
At the finish there was a lot of confusion because the water station couldn't be found. I don't know about anyone else, but I tend to be quite distracted at the end of a long run. I'm tired, thirsty and unable to think clearly. I need a clearly indicated water station. And water that is served quickly so people don't have to queue up to get one small cup.
Also, these days bananas are common after a long run.
It seemed with this race that the Rotary Club were so keen to raise the maximum amount for their charities that they didn't want to spend any more money than they had to.
Personally I would prefer to pay a quid or two more and be better looked after.
Anyway - rant over.
I met some great people on the run. And Chrissie and I enjoyed spending the rest of the day doing a mini pub crawl of Henley.
Overall a good day due to the attractive route and the pleasantness of the town. It's such a shame the organisation was so meagre. Date of review: October 8, 2006
In short: A day at the seaside - but no picnic! In full: Having had a full day's drinking on the Saturday, and getting to bed quite late, I wasn't in the best state to achieve my target of a sub 2.20 - and, sure enough, as I saw my time slipping, I relaxed into a recovery walk near the end with a sigh of relief. Despite my slow time of 2.28, I really enjoyed this run. The route is very pleasant - up and down a very undulating, but never too severe, path along the attractive Thanet coast. My favourite part was coming down past Bleak House into Ramsgate and running past holiday-makers enjoying cups of tea in the tea shop on the harbour front. The gel at half-way, and the flapjack and sports drink at the end were very nice touches.
Support was thin, though a family clapping, cheering and whooping from their balcony near Ramsgate did raise a smile.
The start was a bit vaque. There were no clear directions, and people milled about looking confused. The medal is nice, though it would be nice to have the date and race on the medal. Date of review: September 4, 2006
In short: Cow shit and styles In full: Low key event, but very pleasant. Mostly flat with some naughty slopes and some strength sapping styles. That and the off road surface make this an unlikely PB race, though I managed to achieve one (2.20.19)! Think of this as a very long and more scenic version of those cross-country runs you had to do at school. Registering late wasn't a problem. Water stops were cups. There was no fruit or other goodies at the finish, but there was a meat BBQ. The medal is quite acceptable. The start and finish is a long circuit and a half of a large field. The countryside is pleasant, though not stunning. There is a lot of cow shit on the river side section of the course. Date of review: August 20, 2006
In short: Great run - poor medal In full: I'd spent the Saturday at the Kent Beer Festival, so the combination of heat, hills and a hangover did not bode well for a PB. But I did this run last year as my first 1/2 and thoroughly enjoyed it - so I was in a positive frame of mind. I enjoy the scenery - attractive and peaceful. I enjoy the friendly crowd - there's usually sometime to talk to for a mile or two. And I enjoy the challenge of the undulations. I ran well for the first nine miles - but too well. I was going faster than I should. I tried to drop some speed, but at each mile check I was still too fast. Eventually the extra speed showed in my legs so when I got to The Hill, I had to walk. I thought I'd blown my chance of a PB - but pulled myself together and started to get faster and faster on the long, long downhill stretch. At 11 miles I checked my watch and knew the PB was out of reach. But, damn it, kicked in and ran even faster. At 12 miles I went for broke and ran faster than i have ever run in my life. Flying down the last hill, along the flat and into the stadium where my heart nearly gave up as I tore round round the track to slice 30 seconds off my previous best! Painful - but glorious! Shame about the measly medal/key ring after all that effort! Date of review: July 24, 2006
In short: A castle, but no woods In full: Lovely run - mostly flat with some gentle inclines. Relaxed, friendly atmosphere like a school fete. Smooth and efficient organisation with the announcer keeping supporters informed of the progress of the run as they waited. Nice countryside: the route goes past the front of Jools Holland's castle (he didn't wave), some stables, lovely wheat fields edged with brilliant red poppies, but doesn't pass through any woods. A choice of water cups as well as bottles would be nice; it seems a waste to pick up a 500ml bottle just to take a sip. I ran 58.48 which thrilled me. As this is local I will make this an annual event. Nice one! Date of review: July 10, 2006
In short: Pretty run, but ugly finish In full: The start/finish location in an industrial estate littered with broken pallets was appalling. The programmes cost a £1, but had no information or articles - just advertising and finishing times for last year. That was very poor. The local support was indifferent - some shop-keepers were not even aware a race was on, and few people came out to cheer on the runners. But once out into the country the route is very attractive; and, being flat, a good chance for a personal best. Marshalling was good, though communication between marshalls either end of roads open to cars could be better as there were times when cars were allowed to travel in opposite directions and then got stuck and had to merge with the runners - a potentially dangerous situation, especially when some drivers get impatient. Plenty of parking space, a friendly, informal atmosphere, plenty of fruit at the finish, and a large, comfortable changing area. So, overall, plenty of good points, but - for me - the lack of support on the run, and the ugly finish were off-putting. Date of review: April 2, 2006
In short: Awesome! In full: Organisation was excellent. Well supervised parking was arranged near the start. Good line of toilets. Nice souvenirs for sale and a free programme. Roads were cleared of moving and parked cars. Marshalling was firm so no drivers got in the way. I felt very safe. The Tunbridge Wells organisers could learn a lot from Hastings. The support from the locals was so heartwarming - that helped me to a PB. The church choirs out singing. The pubs cheering. The crowd at 5 miles banging saucepans, blowing whistles and making a huge racket made me grin from ear to ear and lifted my legs. The wonderful downhill section along the pretty Old Town High Street, and then the long easy flat run up to the finish. And a nice cup of sweet tea at the end. Brilliant. I loved every minute. Date of review: March 12, 2006
In short: Messy and cold In full: The organisation of this race leaves a lot to be desired. It is clearly held in the wrong place. We are asked to go to a car park from where we get a free coach to the race HQ, but there is no coach back so everyone is faced with a good 20 minute walk after the race. Race HQ is not at the start. The start is a 10 minute walk along a narrow path and up a suburban street full of cars. The cars are allowed across the start line until 5 minutes before the race start. Runners who start to gather behind the start line have to keep moving out of the way of the cars. When the race did start some cars still tried to come through causing significant problems. On the roads themselves the cars are allowed at the same time as the runners with very ineffective marshaling to try and keep people and cars apart. On narrow stretches on road I had to stop twice because of traffic jams with cars. As I am a slow runner I arrived at the finish at 12.40 to find the finish announcer had had enough and gone home and organisers had started to dismantle the finish. I hadn't been informed there was a 2 1/2 hour time limit - a little courtesy and encouragement to the back runners would be appreciated. To cap everything off, there were no bananas, the medal is cheap and nasty and the showers were cold. On the plus side, the countryside, even when the weather is grey and miserable, is very attractive. The long double hill is tough, but it comes at the right point and gives a sense of achievement. The marshals were friendly and encouraging. I much prefer the Dartford Half. Date of review: February 26, 2006
In short: Cruel Finish And No Bananas In full: Relaxed and friendly romp along the flat. But running into the wind was hard going - running uphill is easier. It decided me against doing any other coastal runs in the cold season! Worse point, however, was having to run past the finish before turning round and coming back. Is it possible to organise it differently? Best point: the medal is beautiful. Date of review: November 6, 2005