In short: Monster! In full: I'd sum it up with this: the real problem with most large road marathons is the finish; they mollycoddle you and ply you with drinks before and during the race, but at the end there are so many people that they really must get you away from the finish as fast as they can, unless you've actually collapsed. Trouble is this is really the only time where you really need a bit of care.
The Loch Ness Marathon, on the other hand, is just the right size to be able to lay on a big tent with hot soup, hot food, chairs, tables and drinks where you can warm up and savour the moment with other runners. Brilliant.
The whole thing feels like it's been organised by someone who actually knows just what it's like running a marathon, and that's quite unusual. Will most certainly be back.
In short: Wonderful day out and hard to imagine a more gloriously scenic route In full: Quite a tough course which is perhaps 25-30 minutes slower (for leading runners) than a flat road race. I don't really see why that should bring down the overall score though - life would be sad if all we had were flat road races for mile split obsessives.
Despite that, I do think this is a good beginner's race; the phasing of starts (slower runners start first) means there's plenty of company, and there looked to me to be lots of relative beginners.
Really good organisation at the start, with good value refreshments. Same at the finish, with an unusually nice medal and a t-shirt which seems to have disappointed the regulars but doesn't really bother me. Good thorough job on the marshalling too, and plentiful water and gels en route.
But the key feature is that wonderful course - forests, dramatic high hills, views to the sea. Just glorious.
In short: A real favourite In full: Organisationally, this is great - parking right by the start/finish, toilets, showers and drinks, and a couple of delightful pubs nearby for afterwards. The course was scrupulously well marked throughout with arrows, chalk markers and a few descriptions on signs. Excellent marshalling too - marshals on all the main turns and road crossings, and drinks stations frequently.
My only comment would be that the web site is a bit terse about it and the results are a bit slow to get posted - I like to see these same day.
The course is fairly tough if you're a flat road runner but not excessively so. It's a tough narrow start with a couple of stiles to negotiate followed by a hill, then some long gentle downhill stretches where you can really fly. A couple of short sharp climbs, and a tougher long climb up to the summit at 9 miles; there's then a shallow but long climb towards 12 before hurtling down to the finish. The surface is nice too - fairly firm, with just a few sections of loose stone; managed it fine in race flats and certainly no real need for trail shoes.
In short: Best race of the year In full: My fourth GBR and another real cracker, helped by cool but largely dry weather as well as the usual clockwork organisation, nice country pubs and wonderful camaraderie between teams.
It's a tough race as ever, with a few challenges in marking races in dense woodland peopled by stroppy locals, but we also had a complete beginner on our team this year and he loved it too.
Never quite sure why "PB potential" is one of the criteria of a good race, but aside from that this gets full marks.
In short: OK, but give me a small club-organised race any day. In full: If you like the idea of waving your hands in unison in a mass warmup, you'll love this.
Expensive entry - most club 10Ks are under £10, without all that sponsorship and free advertising on the BBC.
Organisation was OK but saw a few people being impeded by pedestrians on the final straight. Still, the start pens were good, and well done to the first-aiders who were straight on the scene with a casualty near the finish before I'd even had time to get help - hope he's OK.
OK course - some narrow points and tight turns which were awkward even without big crowds around me.
And they're a bit slow getting the results up on the site.
Fundamentally, if you like this kind of thing is fun, you really need to join a club.
In short: Good venue, great course and setting In full: Very good venue, with parking, showers etc. Fairly quick course, although with a few hills and a fairly congested start - maybe a minute or two off a pb. Slightly shambolic prizegiving at the end with confused results, which was a little surprising for a Surrey Championship race. Some idyllic pubs for afterwards.
In short: Fast, big, well organised, scenic - your only worry is early Feb weather In full: My second time doing this one. Well organised big race (2,500 or so) through traffic-free flat country roads.
Only caveats are: 1. It's a fair walk from the town centre, so don't leave it too late 2. The start in past years has been congested, and it isn't helped by the fact that a lot of latecomers enter the start area from the front so have to just stand in the sub-1:25 area.
These are minor points though, and all in all an excellent race.
In short: Unforgettable experience In full: In a team of 10, you run 20 stages all the way around the outside of greater London over a weekend starting and finishing in Kingston. This passes through some surprisingly glorious scenery, a few tough hills, and a lot of delightful pubs.
This essentially amounts to 20 consecutive races (each from 8 miles to half marathons) starting 90 minutes apart from 20 different starting points, which sounds like a logistical impossibility. Nevertheless, aided by good marking, excellent maps, the enthusiasm and experience of the organisers, and a convoy of cars and minibuses, it all works like clockwork.
An amazing race, with the added bonus of seeing Sonia O'Sullivan taking the final stage in some style. Get a team together, or join an existing one, and don't miss out.
In short: A new concept in running - orienteering without the map In full: This is a glorious (although extremely tough) race over staggering scenery, with easy access, good parking, changing, excellent drinks/biscuits, a nice medal and a good t-shirt.
However, all of this was negated by the almost complete lack of course indicators, and the A4 map provided was nowhere near detailed enough. I and the rest of the front runners took a huge (2-3 mile) detour and then struggled through the field to make up the lost time. Another 3 turns were complete guesswork, and at 2 I simply stopped to let people behind me catch up to debate about which way was next.
Added to this were marshalls 3 or 4 miles off in their estimates of remaining distance, and not much help crossing roads. In poorer weather conditions this could have been a real nightmare.
I don't like to criticise the volunteers who organise these events too much, but they need a marker at every turn - relying on local runners to figure it out is just not good enough.