In short: All round quality - and great preparation for a spring marathon In full: Really well organized. Loads of pre-race info. Scenic route, undulating enough to keep things interesting. Plenty of noise and support in the villages en route. Water in bottles at regular enough intervals and a great bunch of water station volunteers. And a cracking goody bag full of lunch (even if I had to wait a while before I could manage the cheese cob). Thanks to everyone for putting on a top class event, I will hope to be back for another hoody next year. Date of review: April 14, 2014
In short: Super fast - definitely one for PB hunters In full: Positives - Fast course – as promised, it is very flat. Smashed my PB! - Loads of crowd support, bands, choirs – so a great atmosphere - Lots of water stations – all staffed by a great bunch of guys. I liked the pouches too, although sometimes a pouch that started off really well would suddenly stop letting anything out. - Out and back parts of the course meant I could see my friends going in the other direction. Was good to see the leaders powering on in the other direction as well. - Friendly and helpful team at the finish - Organised starting pens meant plenty of room to get into rhythm v early on without having to weave around people who may have started too far forwards
Things I think could have been better - Pre race info – all done in a pdf, most of which was advertising. I’d like to have had the information, without so much advertising, supplied in hard copy. Paper saving or cost saving? - Gels: the website, and subsequent emails, implied that these would be available at regular intervals on the course. After buying some (from XtraMile, in response to one of their many promotional emails) to get used to them, it turned out that gels would only be available at 22 miles – and then at 22 miles I only found bloks. - Entry fee – why add on a 5% handling fee? Very Ryanair – here’s the entry cost - oh and here’s a compulsory extra. I’d rather have one cost quoted up front which includes that 5%. - Photos – surely the most popular one to buy is the one under the finish gantry, especially on a course that prides itself on its flatness and therefore its PB potential. The photographer was so far to the side that in the pic I’m 90% behind someone that crossed the line beside me! A lost sale there.
Overall though, well worth doing. After fluffing things big time over the last couple of years at events with hills in the last few miles, I wanted a flat course to nail that GFA, and I got that. The race itself was great – fantastic buzz out on the course, due to the crowd support and entertainment – and the other key stuff, like baggage facilities, toilets, water stations, all worked well. Thanks Manchester for a memorable day.
In short: Top notch race In full: Chris and Andy clearly know what makes a good race and equally seem passionate about giving everyone taking part the best possible experience. They’d thought of everything, even down to providing polythene shoe covers for the grassy start. Before the start, the organizing team were everywhere to help with questions. The race follows a very scenic route, ranging from beautiful old Chester itself to pretty villages to rolling countryside and old bridges over the river as we crossed into Wales and back into England again. The roads were closed throughout so there was always plenty of room to run. Each village had loads of people cheering the runners on. Plenty of drinks stations, with info sent out with race pack listing which of water, gels, energy drinks would be available at each – and a big ‘bin’ to aim your empty into afterwards. Mostly flat but, as the organizers say, most of the hills that are there come towards the end of the course – so keep something back for them or risk that finishing time you think you are on course to hit going out the window! Thanks to all the team for laying on such a quality event. Normally I’d want to try a different marathon each time – but with this one I’ll be back for more. Good times! Date of review: October 14, 2013
In short: Well organized scenic race with loads and loads of water! In full: I really enjoyed this race. Scenic - you get a decent look around the old and scenic part of Stratford, some very attractive villages, some great views of the countryside and a riverside finish. Although the marathon is billed as two laps it is more two loops than two laps as the second loop only overlaps with the first one for maybe 7 – 8 miles in total. There is one notable hill on each lap but it comes earlier on than it could do, at 18 mile point on second loop i.e. before things start getting surreal. Lots of support in the villages from the locals, loads and loads of cheery marshalls, roads were either empty of traffic or had enough space coned off to have space to run without worrying about cars, and water everywhere! Seemed like a drinks station every 2 miles or less, all with easily squeezed 330ml bottles – not a cup in sight – perfect! Only slight niggle on the route was a couple of sharp switchbacks in the last couple of miles which interrupt the rhythm a bit. Medal and banana at the end, no goody bag or T shirt - you could buy a T shirts which, given that the aim of the event is to support local charities and the entry fee is relatively low, I guess is understandable. Thanks Stratford and everyone involved in putting the event on for a memorable day. Date of review: May 3, 2013
In short: Fast, flat and fun In full: The more time has elapsed since the race, the more I realise how much I enjoyed it. Its size (800-1000) runners is a refreshing change from the craziness and crowded nature of the big city affairs; equally it's big enough so that you feel like you are part of a special event, you are always running with somebody else and everyone is there for the duration (unlike many marathons which are run alongside the half, and most participants finish at 13.1 miles).
Great venue - easy to get to, plenty of room to keep warm before the start and to recover and get showered afterwards.
Course has a bit of everything (apart from hills), so country lanes, secluded footpaths, ancient town centre, Thames-side back streets, busier roads and a surprisingly pristine industrial estate. Oh - and the infamous subway. The last bit though is extra hard - a windy bit around the park (or was that just hard because it was at the end of the race) - although the stadium finish made up for it.
Atmosphere was great! Lots and lots of support and encouragement from marshalls and others throughout the course. Marshalls were brilliant, friendly, supportive and great at controlling the traffic. And it felt as though there was a real camaraderie (spoken and unspoken) amongst the runners.
Previously, I felt that there are too many marathons out there to want to come back and do the same one again, but Abingdon has changed my mind. Here's hoping to be back next year! Thanks to everyone involved in putting on such a quality event - a top day out. Date of review: October 26, 2011
In short: Top race - great organisation, loads of support, scenic and gret value for money In full: Great race, not to be missed. Organisation on the day was spot-on, from the moment I came off the M4. Parking, PA system, baggage tent, toilets, start pens, mile markers, the setting (and fantastic crowd support) at the finish, showers, results up before I got out of the finish area - quality all round. Marshalls were full of support (thanks guys - appreciated it) as were the good people of Chippenham, including the ones stuck in their cars waiting for a gap in the flow of runners. I hadn't anticipated the climb at around mile 11 - payback time for starting off too fast! Great T shirt, especially considering the entry fee (inc no charge for online entry). The only thing that maybe could improve things was water ie bottles rather than cups - but then weighing up the amount of plastic left behind maybe not. Thanks to everyone involved for putting on such a quality event - I hope to be back next year! Date of review: September 13, 2009
In short: Fast and beautiful course, recommended In full: I last ran this in 2004 and was concerned that the doubling in size since then would make things congested. In fact, apart from right at the start, all was well; the road closure in the runner’s direction meant we had loads of room. Apart from the distance issue (an honest mistake – which everyone makes once in a while) the organisation was faultless. There was plenty of support at the start and finish, there were cheerful folk at the water stations and a friendly bunch in the club house. The weather and the fabulous scenery all helped to make this a great day out – as did the camaraderie amongst the runners and my spot prize! Thanks to everyone involved in putting on this race; I’m hoping I won’t leave it so long next time to return (especially as this year if I take off the 0.3 extra miles I would have had a PB - just like I did here in 2004!) Car park was £1.50 for 4 hours – is that such a big deal?
In short: Disappointing – I expected more from 2:09 Events In full: I was expecting this to be a really slick operation but there were some aspects of the race which I think could have been organised a lot better. Chip collection – a bit of a scrum, no indication as to which desk was the right one for your number, which slowed things right down. Start – no indication of how far forward to start based on predicted finish time. I was lucky I guessed about right. Water station – the first one had one guy on his own trying to get all the water out as fast as he could; is one person enough for a water station on a hot day? All points that I would have thought were pretty elementary for race organisers and ones which I have seen work very efficiently elsewhere. It does make me wonder what the organisation of 2:09 tours is like.
Shame there was no clock at the end.
Otherwise, signing was ok, route was ok (though not as flat as I had expected – maybe the heat made the nearly flat bits feel more hilly than they were). Best point was the support of the locals (and the patience of the drivers we were holding up) – thank you all.
In short: Incredible - Everyone should do this at least once. In full: I first ran London in 2003 on a Gold Bond place and have to say it was one of the best days of my life (yes, alongside getting married, becoming a proud father and all the other highlights that life has to offer). After 5 long years of being rejected in the ballot it was time for another go – and it was worth the wait. Worth all the early morning runs, the evening runs in the dark, the long cold wet ones on Saturday morning – the buzz of being part of such a massive and special event plus the phenomenal crowd support makes it a day I will never forget. Paris may have the sights and an amazing start but for atmosphere it lags far behind London. Organisation too is like clockwork – I still don’t understand how they manage to pull it all together so efficiently.
PB potential? Pen 3 on blue start wasn’t that congested – busy but not impossible - and the crowds meant I couldn’t go off to fast, ie meant it was easier to keep going at the end – which I think is what resulted in my PB. That and having my name on my top – its an incredible feeling to have hundreds of complete strangers (who for a brief moment become your best friends) cheering for you specifically. Anyway, it wouldn’t be the event it is if you didn’t have 34999 companions to run with.
Thanks to everyone who made it such an amazing day – the organisers, the drinks station guys, everyone at start and finish, all the crowds on the route and all you other runners who make the day what it is. See you next year?
And for anyone else still thinking about it - register. NOW! I can 100% guarantee you won't regret it.
In short: Great potential but the race can't cope with the numbers In full: The commentator told us all at the start that the numbers had grown 5 fold since 2000 and that this year there were 15000 runners. Great news for charities of course. But when the Park and Rides can't cope and the start won't physically hold all the runners then I think the organisers have to ask themselves if they have increased numbers too fast.
Half the runners at the white start couldn't get into the pens before the gun went off - and then had to filter in alongside the slower runners in pens further back - which completely defeated the point of starting pens and everyone starting in the right order. I predicted 1.35 on my entry form so was surprised after 2 miles to catch up with the RW 9 minute miler!
Queues at Park and Ride were massive - I don't think the regular Saturday service is enough when you have this many people all needing to get into town at the same time. Borrow buses and drivers from Bristol P&R if it doesn't run in Bristol on Sunday?
Once things got going and the runners thinned out it was excellent. I liked the two lap route, marshalls were great, lots of support from crowds, music pounding out of windows, plenty of drinks and a fab finishing straight. I didn't experience the problems at the finish that others have mentioned so can't comment on that.
I guess the real reason this race is so in demand is the great PB potential. I managed one despite the slow start - and that means I'm thinking about coming back next year for more. Hopefully the organisers can look at ways to accommodate these kinds of numbers - or reduce the size of the event. Bigger isn't always better!