In short: Could be a fabulous race with some improvements In full: We were lucky with the weather on this marathon, after a horrible soggy Saturday the sun came out on race day and it was fairly warm. The start was great - you could stay in the warm inside an event room in the hotel, there were plenty of loos and the baggage drop nice and efficient. Picking the event number and timing chip was nice and quick, although would have prefered to have this posted to me.
The promised catering truck did not turn up - the race director explained the poor chap had put his back out, hope is OK. However this wasn't communicated very well before hand to the runners. The pre-race email said the hotel was charging extortionate prices for food and drink - £4 for a coffee was quoted, yet I bought one from the hotel for £2.60. Not sure what is going on there. Luckily I had breakfast before I left for the race, but felt sorry for those runners who had to race 26.2 miles with an empty stomach.
The start was a short walk from the hotel across the road, where we observed a minutes silence (being remembrance Sunday). This was a very nice touch, thank you. There was also a short briefing from the race director, and around 100 runners started and crossed the timing mat.
There was a considerable amount of running on the footpath along the A20 - almost half the race I would say. Sorry to say I found this was just awful, as the vegetation had not been cut back by the council, and it was very easy to run into brambles and overhanging branches. Quite a few deep cuts and grazes, my hands and arms were pretty shredded by the end. Having the traffic thundering alongside you was not great and also lots of hidden trip hazards (kerbs etc covered by leaves). There was also a lot of leaves on the path and mud etc, which made it slippery underfood and caution required. The sections away the A20 were very nice though, although very hilly ("Hubbards Hill" in particular was very challenging!). My garmin told me there was 1,500 feet of elavation so this isn't really a PB chasers race. There were many sections of country lanes with BMWs, Range Rovers etc caning it along way too fast, forcing you to jump into the hedgerows to avoid being splatted. However there was some gorgeous scenery especially along the Pilgrims Way, and some nice villages to run through. I enjoyed those parts very much.
The marshalls out on the course were very friendly and very chatty - thank you so much to everyone who volunteered, it really lifted my spirits. I was not impressed though with the lack of food on the early checkpoints - one had run out of all food - this is not acceptable, and another said "oh, we haven't put the food out to avoid the half marathon runners nicking it". I was at the tail end of the marathon runners so they must have had a lot of food indeed left over! I don't see what the problem is, surely us runners at the back have paid the same entrance fee as the speed demons at the front, and so what if the half runners take the food - the field wasn't that big, so please just buy a bit more food! Luckily I bought some of my own food which kept me going for the first half, glad I didn't rely on the aid stations alone.
Some of the turns were not marshalled leading to a few moments of panic especially in the last six miles when going through the village - wondering if I had taken a wrong turning! I also went past an unmanned aid station at about mile 23 which was odd. I did see a couple of fast runners coming the other way complaining about having taken a wrong turn so it seems I wasn't the only one who was having navigation issues.
At the finish there was no timing clock, I though this a bit odd although I was handed a slip of paper with my time on it. And they had run out of medals, promising it would be in the post! The excuse given "more people had entered than we expected". Please order sufficient medals for everyone at the finish line. Sorry guys, I was not at all impressed at all with that, it was a massive let down after 26.2 miles. Yes it's only a medal, but it's a big deal to runners!
According to the entry list, over 100 people had entered yet less than 100 had finished. To be honest I felt let down, with what was quite a steep entry fee it seemed short cuts had been taken to save money, I didn't feel very well looked after. I appreciate all the efforts made by the organisers and hope the above feedback is taken in the spirit of improvement rather than criticism - with a few improvements this race could be made fantastic.
If the food on the aid stations could be sorted, and perhaps move the race date to a time of the year where the paths on the A20 were properly runnable, sort out the medal and catering situations, I'd consider doing this race again.
In short: Lovely race, but need to listen to feedback In full: This was my second year of running this race.
I really enjoyed the course very much. To use that old cliche, it was a "a game of two halves". The first part of the course went around central London - taking in some very famous landmarks: Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards parade, Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Albert Hall etc. That was really special and worth the entry fee alone.
The second half had you running through the parks themselves, this was really nice and a contrast to the first half. There were a few out and back sections but nothing too mentally taxing, given the wave starts, this meant the runners were spread out, so you didn't feel like you were running at the back of the pack.
The wave starts meant the course was busy, but not too bad. There was a bit of elbowing and jostling around the course but I have seen worse. The course was pretty flat, a few gentle inclines but certainly no hills to speak of, so there was a good chance to get round fast (although the course was pretty congested in places where it narrowed).
The race was wonderfully supported, lots of people cheering you on. I especially loved the "rock star" treatment at 6 miles and 10 miles, that put a smile on my face!
There were plenty of water stops and a couple of lucozade stations too, this was perfect - I stayed well hydrated throughout. I did see one poor chap flat out being attended to by St. John's, I hope that he is OK. There were plenty of loos at the start, and very good that water was available before starting. At the end was a fabuolous medal (made out of wood!) and a wonderful goody bag - one of the best I've had!
What could be improved?
The 9am start time is rather aggressive, it meant I was forced to drive in as the train service from where I live couldn't get me to London before 8.30 - which is too late. This was inconvenient and meant a long drive home on tired legs. A 10am start would work much better, but I guess they need to get the roads re-opened.
As per last year, the baggage queues were just ridiculous. The reason for this being that they gave you a numbered wrist band and a matching number for your bag. Which takes time to attach on both runners and baggage alike. Why not do what pretty much every other race does - give you a baggage tag with the race pack, that you can pre-attach to your bag? You can then just dump the bag off and get on with race prep. I saw lots of anxious looking folks in the queue from hell, checking their watches 5 mins before the start. I wonder how many missed their assigned waves due to this. The last thing you need is a load of stress about making the start on time. I even saw one lady running with her rucksack, she must have given up queuing. That's not on.
At the end, there was a massive queue for the goodies. There were multiple queues with people barging in and queue jumping, and a few angry words exchanged between fellow runners. It was not on to have finishers standing around for up to an hour getting cold, shuffling slowly in a queue, just to wait for their goodies. Why on earth not just give you a pre-packed goodie bag as you cross the finish line? This issue really deflated my experience of the day, I just wanted to get something to eat and get home. I guess I could have just decided not to collect the goodies of course, but don't see why I should miss out.
I see from previous years that the above issues have been raised before, it's shame the organisers don't listen to the feedback. A few minor tweaks could really sort these few niggles out and make make this one of the best half marathons in the country.
In short: Not one for slower runners In full: Firstly the positives: Very friendly marshals, who gave lots of encouragment. Loads of well stocked aid stations - choccy biccies, jaffa cakes, jelly beans, crisps, water etc. Thank you all for giving your time up on a soggy afternoon! Great facilities at the University for changing, loos etc. Absolutely stunning scenrary - a highlight for me was running up Little Solsbury Hill and the view of the city below. I also really enjoyed some of the downhill sections including running through a beautiful meadow with wildflowers. Also running down in to Bath was really nice. Lots of commaraderie out on the course - plenty of support from fellow runners. Some nice flat sections - the canal, in particular. Now for the not so positive: This was my 14th marathon, and I'm normally happy to plod round in 4:30-5 hours, doing roughly between ten and eleven minute miles, including hills. I recently completed the Potteries in 5 hours which was very hilly. However, I didn't realise it was going to take me 20 minutes to get up each of the mile (plus) hills, including one hill that required me to go up in places on all fours. This meant I had a massive amount of catching up to do, as a result, I missed the 3 hour cut off for 14.5 miles and so got a forced DNF. Going downhill was not much easier. I know the course was described as challenging, but this was ridiculous. The cut-off time really took the enjoyment away, I was stressing about reaching it, and when I realised I had failed it was totally demotivating. Especially annoying as I was up for doing the second lap, and could have finished it too. I appreciate the need to stand down marshals in good time, but it should be made clear when you enter that there is a cut-off time (it was buried in the notes). And reaching this cut-off time would require FAST running to make up for the crazy hills. Looking at the results, I see an entire THIRD of the marathon course got timed out and DNF'd. That's a lot of pee'd off runners! So to the organisers - come on guys, that's really not good enough. Either give us a bit more time, or alter the route to take out a few of the vicious hills. A third of the course timed out is not reasonable. Would I do it again? I would love to do the "very long half" route again, as there isn't the pressure of the cut-off and the course and scenery are so nice. I'd not do the marathon again unless the cut-off was removed or extended significantly to allow for us slower runners to complete without pee'ing us off. Date of review: July 25, 2016
In short: Tough as nails, a brilliant race! In full: I took part in the 2016 Potteries Marathon race. This race starts and finishes at the Britannia stadium, meandering around the various towns of Stoke. Make no mistake this is a real tough one, the hills were relentless and brutal but it made for a very enjoyable run. I'm not sure I would recommend this for a beginner though, unless you are used to hills it would be easy to hit the wall very early.
Parking was free (in the stadium) and right next to the start line, which made it handy for popping back to leave jumpers, keys etc. And also a nice short walk back to the car after the race had finished - thank you. There was lots of support on the course, the people of Stoke-on-Trent did us runners proud. Endless people shouting encouragement, handing out sweets and even unofficial water stops. The run up to the finish line (yes, up a hill) was lovely and lots of support. Nice medal and a reasonable t-shirt. For the entry price, I thought it was exception value. I liked very much that the race was low-key and non-commercial, it didn't feel busy and had a lovely atmosphere. I even saw people entering on the day, I'm suprised it's not more popular to be honest. A big bonus was the free digital race photographs - how awesome is that - organisations like marathonfoto charge a bloody fortune, so that was a lovely touch. Extremely well organised, thanks guys. I'd like to do it again, although it's well out of my area (Hampshire).
Ideas for improvement?
Although the main road crossing were well marshalled, there were plenty that weren't. I nearly got wiped out by an enthusiastic bus driver who didn't want to let me finish crossing the road safely. You need to keep your wits about you.
Perhaps the route could include some of the many beautiful parks in Stoke or surrounding countryside?
Finishing up a hill is a bit cruel, I wonder if the finish could be tweaked a bit so you can get a good run up to the line?
In short: Outstanding but extremely challenging race In full: I had the pleasure of running the full marathon on Sunday, this was my fourth marathon this year and by far the best. I loved the atmosphere of this race - being organised by runners for runners, it was very friendly and not at all "corporate" like some big city marathons. The course itself was very challenging, including a really steep climb in the first mile (split time > 17 mins for mile 1!). I found the hills were relentless and brutal but the gorgeous scenery more than made up for it. I live in North East Hampshire and didn't realise this part of the county is so nice. There were plenty of drinks stations, most of which were also "feed station" and had peanuts, crisps etc as well as sweet things. This was so much appreciated as was the squash, it really helped keep me going. Also the marshals on route were very friendly and supportive, I especially enjoyed the banter with the copper at the last water station :) Thank you to everyone who gave up their time to help make this race, much appreciated. Even though the course was on trails and back roads, it was very well sign posted there was no danger of going the wrong way, I was a little worried about this given my sense of direction (or lack of it!) The finish was great, being handed a goody bag right after going through the finish as well as a lovely pint glass, was great. Unfortuanely I'm teetotal so unable to take advantage of the free beer, but I appreciate the sentiment! Thank you to Tim and all the organisers at Basingstoke & Mid-Hants AC. These guys clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the organisation of the race, and it really showed! I really hope you put the race on again in 2017, if so I will certainly be back and I'll be recommending it to my running buddies. I thought this race was outstanding and so well organised, however I have a few suggestions for improvement. These are all really minor... - Could we have a few more mile markers, perhaps at the drinks stations? I was chatting to one lady who was running without a GPS watch and she was struggling to work out how far left there was to go (as we went up that horrible hill at mile 24!) - I appreciate the support from the marshalls, but please don't tell me "it's all down hill from now on" unless it really is :-) I ended up upping my pace for a bit from mile 22 after being told this, which made the subsequent hills at miles 24 and 25 really tough! - Would it be possible to have a timing matt at the half point, so we know our half split times? - That first mile was really congested, what with the styles and the hill from hell. Would it be possible to alter the route to put that a bit later on, so the field can thin out a bit before we tackle it? - It was a long walk from the finish to the car park after having my legs trashed by the hills, is there any way to move it a bit closer? - The medal was nice but it didn't say marathon on it or on the lanyard! Also it would be nice if the medals were out of the wrappers. - Could there be a soft drink at the end for us types who don't drink beer? Date of review: June 22, 2016
In short: Outstanding but extremely challenging race In full: I had the pleasure of running the full marathon on Sunday, this was my fourth marathon this year and by far the best. I loved the atmosphere of this race - being organised by runners for runners, it was very friendly and not at all "corporate" like some big city marathons. The course itself was very challenging, including a really steep climb in the first mile (split time > 17 mins for mile 1!). I found the hills were relentless and brutal but the gorgeous scenery more than made up for it. I live in North East Hampshire and didn't realise this part of the county is so nice. There were plenty of drinks stations, most of which were also "feed station" and had peanuts, crisps etc as well as sweet things. This was so much appreciated as was the squash, it really helped keep me going. Also the marshals on route were very friendly and supportive, I especially enjoyed the banter with the copper at the last water station :) Thank you to everyone who gave up their time to help make this race, much appreciated. Even though the course was on trails and back roads, it was very well sign posted there was no danger of going the wrong way, I was a little worried about this given my sense of direction (or lack of it!) The finish was great, being handed a goody bag right after going through the finish as well as a lovely pint glass, was great. Unfortuanely I'm teetotal so unable to take advantage of the free beer, but I appreciate the sentiment! Thank you to Tim and all the organisers at Basingstoke & Mid-Hants AC. These guys clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the organisation of the race, and it really showed! I really hope you put the race on again in 2017, if so I will certainly be back and I'll be recommending it to my running buddies. I thought this race was outstanding and so well organised, however I have a few suggestions for improvement. These are all really minor... - Could we have a few more mile markers, perhaps at the drinks stations? I was chatting to one lady who was running without a GPS watch and she was struggling to work out how far left there was to go (as we went up that horrible hill at mile 24!) - I appreciate the support from the marshalls, but please don't tell me "it's all down hill from now on" unless it really is :-) I ended up upping my pace for a bit from mile 22 after being told this, which made the subsequent hills at miles 24 and 25 really tough! - Would it be possible to have a timing matt at the half point, so we know our half split times? - That first mile was really congested, what with the styles and the hill from hell. Would it be possible to alter the route to put that a bit later on, so the field can thin out a bit before we tackle it? - It was a long walk from the finish to the car park after having my legs trashed by the hills, is there any way to move it a bit closer? - The medal was nice but it didn't say marathon on it or on the lanyard! Also it would be nice if the medals were out of the wrappers. - Could there be a soft drink at the end for us types who don't drink beer? Date of review: June 21, 2016
In short: A lovely run around central London and the royal parks In full: Awesome route, dare I say a better run through London than the VLM. It felt very much like two parts though. The first part highlights were running down birdcage walk, the Mall, the Strand and around Trafalgar Square was great. The second half around the Parks was really very nice, although the course had quite a few twists and turns. Also quite a few sections where faster runners were coming the other way which can be a bit off putting, as is running past mile markers meant for the other direction.
Having said that, the support was just awesome, especially as you come back into the park and again towards the finish line. Wonderful it made my day. The goodies at the end were very nice - especially the water bottle. T-shirt really good too, it's a nice tech t-shirt.
Marshalling was brilliant and very supportive, lots of help finding the start too which was good, as I came in from Marble Arch.
I really enjoyed this race a lot and so glad I ran it. I hope to be back next year - ballot permitting!
A few things for improvement:
The baggage drop was a total faff. The queues to drop your bag were just crazy, for some reason they tagged your bag and gave you a matching wrist band with the same number. Which takes time. Almost every other race I've done use your race number for collection and send you a baggage tag in advance, so you can just dump your bag off quickly and get prepared. I arrived with 30 mins to go, and it took me 25 mins to drop my bag off. It just should not have taken that long. It was comical that the organisers were making tannoy announcements for runners to "make your way to the start as soon as possible" as we shuffled forward slowly in the queue from hell! Chance would have been a fine thing :-) Having said that, if you were starting in a later wave you had extra time of course, but even so you could feel the stress of everyone in the queue and lots of moaning going on. It spoilt the start, to be honest.
The queues for the toilets at the beginning (and also en route) were very long, mind you there can never be enough toilets. Toilet marshals would have helped the queues I think. Comical signs up mid-route around the park saying "no urinating" were roundly ignored.
I have to say that the 9AM start was a little too aggressive. It meant I had to drive in London and park up, as getting the train in from where I to get in for London in good time for the start was just not possible.
The queues to get out of the finish area were a little mad. Spectators as well as runners milling about and not clear where to go back to the runners village. It took me quite a while to get back to the runners village to get my bag. Could have done without that.
Course very busy, shoulder to shoulder the whole way round. A little bit of pushing and shoving going on, mostly good natured but wonder what it was like up at the front for the speedy runners. Also quite a few runners going along with headphones on, in their own little world and not able to hear fellow runners or marshals. I was surprised the organisers allowed that.
It wasn't very clear how to get back to the tube stations after I exited the runners village. I wanted to get back to Marble Arch but ended up in Hyde Park corner. Some signs would be really useful to avoid a long walk! Date of review: October 14, 2015
In short: Yateley 10K still rocks! In full: Well it has been ten years since I did this race, on a whim I entered the final race in the 2015 series. I was not disappointed and so pleased to see many improvements. The organisers are clearly open to feedback and Sanhurst Joggers have done a great job with this race.
The car parking was much better than I remembered from the mid-2000's and very well marshalled. There were plentiful toilets at the start, including Port-a-loos out in the field. Although there was still a big old queue for the toilets by the hall. I didn't use the bag check, but I could see that it was well marshalled and not a free-for-all that it used to be.
Having the chip timing was excellent, although a minor faff to get on in the first place. The course start no longer has a ruddy great bollard in the way to trip over. Even the weather held up :-)
The course itself is fairly flat (ish), with a couple of inclines between 8K and the finish - just as you are getting tired. This is made up for by the nice downhill bit at 3K - 5K where you can really get your speed up. The course was well marshalled and a reasonable amount of support. There were two water stops en route, and a sponge station. I took my own drink so didn't use them, but good to know they were there.
Coming into the finish was good too - a PA announcer calling out peoples names and encouragement and some music.
At the end there was a lovely medal (celebrating 25 years), a small packet of Haribo sweets and a bottle of water which was much needed. Getting out of the car park was easy - although that was probably because I came in at just under an hour by which time most had already finished and left.
What could be improved? Not much, really. Although - you rang out of the "Yateley 10K" mugs at the finish line guys! I really wanted one of those :-)
Picking the race number up on the night is still a bit of a faff and means mucking around with safety pins. Also means you have to arrive extra early to make sure you have enough time to collect.
Better signs to the alternative toilet facilities (by the ones in the hall) - some in the field and also some in the swimming pool changing room. Seemed a bit bonkers having a massive queue for the loo inside when there was lots of alternatives around.
I'll be back to race again in 2016 - thanks for restoring my running mojo, Yateley :-)
In short: An excellent event, whichi just keeps getting better In full: I'm local to Fleet, and have run this race many times. There are lots of other half marathons on around this time, but I keep coming back as it's just such an enjoyable race. It is a wonderful event, brilliant atmosphere and support during the 2 laps of town. Beautiful countryside. It's always a well organised event but I thought that F&C had managed to up their game even more this year. The extra water station was most appreciated, plentiful supplies of water and the new water pouchers were fine. The new finish line much better placed. Nice goody bag at the end of the race. Extremely well marshalled and very friendly. I also like that F&C are always open to feedback and you can see they try to improve the race each year. How refreshing compared to other races in this area (e.g. Windosr). The only minor grip would be that the medal this year was again a bit dinky and rubbish. Proper bling next year please :-) Well done Penny and all at F&C on another fantastic job! See you next year! Date of review: April 2, 2015
In short: Nice race, but failed to learn the lessons from previous years In full: This was my first race 10 years ago, and I've run it maybe 6 or 7 times. It is a lovely route, off road with gorgeous scenery and a friendly atmosphere.
Some improvements have been made over the years for sure. I like the funnel start which was much longer than previous years and also marshalled - much better to get yourself into the right place. Also there was good support (mainly by the copper horse and finish) and also the marshals were plentiful. Technical Tee although additional cost was great. Parking issues were so much better and people were getting out nice and quick. Also the website is much better with an excellent FAQ section. All good stuff.
So after 10 years I've reluctantly decided not enter this race again. I hope my comments below do not read too negative; this feedback is shared in the hope that things can be improved in future races.
Despite every year people calling for the start time to be shifted forward from 1pm to a more sensible time, the organisers stick to this later start time. I bet the 2015 race will be at 1pm too. This means this race takes up your whole day, and you can't eat lunch before the race. Once again it was far too hot for a race to be held in this time of the day. The sight of so many runners being laid out and being attended by St. Johns was a very unpleasant sight. I fear it will take a fatality for the organisers to sit up and take notice and I'm sure nobody wants that.
Once again, silly cups of water were given out at water stations. These are near impossible to drink properly whilst running and also limits you to how much you can actually get down you. The emphasis seemed to be on minimising the clear-up for the organisers rather than keeping runners properly hydrated! In previous years they handed out Lucozade bottles at mile 10 so I don't get the argument about water bottles littering up the place.
At the end to be given one small bottle of water (and denied a second bottle!) and a Mars bar I felt was not adequate given the heat of the day. The queue for the water tap was very long, I didn't want to spend ages just for a top up and wanted to get off my feet.
Could the organisers consider some marshalling of the toilets as they do in other races? The queues were just way too long; given you only have 10 minutes to get started after the gun goes off this could be managed a bit better.
I really hope these issues sorted out and runners safety is put first.