In short: Improved course In full: I loved this. The problems of last year have been ironed out. The start was much smoother, and the bottle neck has been diverted. This helped me to a good time, as I didn't want to get caught out, I started near the front, and then ran hard to get to the bottle neck before it got crowded. It was some time before I noticed that the course had changed, and we had gone past the bottle neck - by this time I was making good speed and feeling good, so I kept it up. Nice touch to have the race started by Lady Jane Felsham. With all the attractions around the area of the Thames pubs, and Chiswick House with its attractive gardens, this is must do race. Date of review: January 4, 2015
In short: Oh dear In full: Probably the worse organised race I've attended in a good while. I suspect that part of the problem is that there were far too many runners for the facilities. Long queues to get in, and - of course - long queues to get out. Course was congested most of the time, so wasn't that enjoyable. You expect some congestion at the start of an event, but this course was congested all the way round. Overtaking was difficult, and at times impossible. With half the number of entrants the run would stand something of a chance at being acceptable. But they'd need to have someone in charge who understands how to organise a run. This was a very poor event from so many aspects. Signage to the event was almost non-existent. And signage at the event to direct people to the registration and the start was the poorest I have ever encountered. There was no indication at registration where the start was, nor were runners informed that the start was in fact half a kilometre away up a steep hill. The registration area was well meaning - there was food, a runners shop, a registration table, and some toilets. But there was so little signage and organisation at the registration table that it wasn't clear where to queue, or if you had to queue, or could simple squirm through those standing around. There was a handy urinal at the toilets, but far too many cubicles, so the women had a long wait. But these are normal issues at local events. It was finding the start that was the problem, and then on rushing up the hill to get there on time for the start, being delayed for 20 minutes. A slight delay is not unusual, but 20 minutes in cold weather is unacceptable. Then on going round the course there were gates to manoeuvre through. The organisers had arranged the course so all the gates were approached with the gates opened toward the runners - something that on such a crowded course could not always be seen, so the potential for a runner going into a gate and injuring them-self was very real. Marshals had been placed at each of these gates, but had not been briefed on why they were there, because none of them stood in front of the gate edge directing people away from the obstacle, instead, they positioned themselves after the gate entrance, with one warning us of the puddles ahead. Puddles! Nobody gets a groin injury from splashing in a puddle - but you do if you run into an open gate. Then at the end, the finishers are herded in a line so their numbers can be taken. Fine if your position is important to you, but for the tail enders this isn't important. I had my time on my watch, and was not interested in the official time (which would not be accurate, as it would be gun time), nor did I care for my position. When I stepped out of the queue to go get some water, I was told to step back in. I pointed out that I didn't care for the position, but I did want some water, I was told I couldn't step out of line. WTF! I thought this race was for my enjoyment, not theirs. A little row started with the rather officious time keeper. Not a pleasant end to the event.
In short: Best medal ever! In full: Pleasant low key countryside 10K, marked out by the very special handmade medals.
The course is through pleasant countryside, nothing particularly special, and about average for countryside runs, though it has its moments, such as passing Chillenden Windmill at 6K, and going through the village of Goodnestone. I wouldn't recommend it for the scenery, your own local countryside would likely match or better it, but it is pleasant.
The event is organised by SportingEventsUK, who do a decent enough job, but their promotional material needs to be toned down, as the course does not pass through the prettiest villages in Kent, nor is it likely to produce a PB, unless all your previous 10Ks were very hilly. The course undulates most of the time, so you're either going up or coming down. The inclines vary from mild to reasonably stiff - certainly stiff enough in several places for most of the 60 - 70 minute runners to walk up rather than run. I found the undulations interesting, and not too demanding, but they will add around 6 - 10% to your time for a flat 10K.
There is a pleasant buzz at the HQ, and with a decent playground, and a race for the young ones, bringing the family is a possibility; though I dropped mine off at Canterbury, which they enjoyed - particularly the refurbished Beanies Museum.
The medal is handmade by a pottery in Canterbury. It is a cute sketch of a pig - because the race was originally organised by the Wingham Trotters. Very desirable, and the race is doing just for the medal.
Races like this are the backbone of the race scene. It was well organised with good parking facilities. The road on which the course starts and finishes is closed off. The rest of the roads remain open, with no pavement, but traffic is very light, and drivers are careful. There was one section where all runners were on the right, and one lone runner was on the left. The roads are very narrow, and this caused a problem for passing cars who couldn't manoeuvre easily and I noted one swerved widely endangering those runners on the right. It might help if marshals gave runners guidance on which side of the road to run, and to urge runners to stay on that side. Other than that, the run was well organised with an apple and a bottle of water at the end. Date of review: September 15, 2014
In short: Remote low key yet uplifting run In full: Stelling Minnis is a village in the middle of nowhere between Ashford, Canterbury and Folkestone. They've been putting on this low key casual 10K for some years now, and manage to attract around 200 runners.
Such races are the backbone of amateur running. Pleasant everyweek events that provide a contrast to the big events like London and the Great North. I like the big events - the buzz and excitement are very special. But those are occasional events - and you wouldn't want too many of them. Events like this in pleasant countryside where you hear the birds tweeting as you trot along, and you get the friendly encouragement of genuinely interested marshals, are wonderfully refreshing, easy to enter, and low cost.
They also put into relief the increasing number of charmless professionally organised runs where the marshals look bored and impatient, the atmosphere is cold and impersonal, and profit rather than pride or fun is the main motivator.
Stelling Minnis is lovely, and every runner deserves to experience the relaxed joy of taking part in such a green and pleasant run. When you pull into the field car park by the ancient windmill, you know you are going to have fun.
It's a stiffly undulating run, with the infamous hill climb just after 6k. You think you've started the hill climb, but then a marshal tells you that the hill proper starts around the corner. Grief! I had managed a decent time all round, and decided to run the hill instead of walk it. The 1k climb added a minute and a half to my time, which seemed OK, but then I was totally blown, and could not get my rhythm back so the next kilometre cost me another minute extra, and I had to walk for a bit to get my strength back. I would have done better to do as those ahead of me did, and walk the hill - for though I caught up to them by the top, they then jogged away into the distance, and I never saw them again. Date of review: May 25, 2014
In short: Enjoyable In full: Enjoyable low key event with a pleasant relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and some great views near the end.
Signposting and information regarding the starting point could be improved, but I think everyone found it in the end. The course goes up or down most of the way, there are few flat sections apart from the start. However, it's mainly a pleasant up and down, though some sections are quite stiff and us slow ones at the back would resort to walking on occasion.
The views and scenery in the last half are very enjoyable, though, sadly, the first half is less pleasant. Indeed, after a few miles of dreary dried mud and dull trees either side, the consensus among those first-timers at the back was that unless the course improved we wouldn't return. The last half changed our minds about that!
Some sections of the course are clearly used by off-road vehicles, so there are deep ruts and frequent large mud puddles. If there has been rain recently, this could be quite a heavy going course - more of a mudder than a cross-country. Luckily the rain has recently held off, so the mud puddles were just about negotiable.
The finish is a steep drop, then one of those heart-breaking trudges around a field, mostly heading away from the finishing post. Oooh, I hate those. Do all the field circuits at the start, then let us head straight to the finish at the end!
Refreshing glass of squash at the end, and then told the engraved half-pint glass is yours to keep as a souvenir. Lovely! I do like a thoughtful souvenir rather than a medal or t-shirt.
We had an enjoyable weekend in Gloucester, so I wouldn't mind doing this again. Date of review: April 16, 2014
In short: Slightly flawed low key event, but I'd do it again In full: This is a pleasant low key event in an attractive location. The race starts and finishes in a small park by Fuller's brewery. Some facilities are laid on - swings for the kids, BBQ outside the pub, a dray horse for everyone to pet and take photos of, etc. Parking is in the streets nearby, and the event is small enough that spaces are available. The toilet is in the brewery visitors area; sadly, sufficient toilet paper was not organised before the race, though there was an abundance afterwards.
There was a slight delay to the start, though the time was filled with some organised warm up exercises. I think the chap doing it had a steep learning curve - he was a little hesitant, always checking with a list on his phone; and he discovered that it was difficult to demonstrate exercises and talk into a hand-held microphone at the same time! Bless.
The atmosphere was happy and laid back, and there was a local radio station present to keep things buzzing, so the overall charm overcame the little flaws. The main flaw, though, was exposed at the start. The start to the race was in the park, and the runners had to leave the park through a narrow gate. This did cause some congestion. However, we were soon out into the street and away we went, until we got to the riverside path. Very, very narrow entrance. Huge block. Some runners tried to go around the gate, and had to climb over a wall. Those who hadn't noticed that route (you keep to the right), were hemmed in by the other runners, and just had to wait in the slow shuffle. Thankfully everyone was good natured, but that was a three minute delay, so this is not a race for a PB, and that needs to be borne in mind - and organisers should not be advertising it as such.
There was a lack of marshals for a long period, and people did take alternative routes. So this is unlikely to be a precise 10K. Best to view this as a pleasant day out, than a serious 10K event.
The course is very pleasant - the return leg on the south bank being the more scenic with views of the Thames all the way; and it is flat, so after the dodgy start, you can stretch your legs a bit. You'll clock various pubs, and select which one you'll return to after the race. Though this is a Fuller's sponsored run, we did go for a Young's pub, purely because it is right on the river.
At the finish you queue for a pint of London Pride. It comes from a cask, but it's a "bright" beer - which means it has been poured into the cask without any yeast. I think this is because it was set up on the day, and it usually takes at least a day for a cask with yeast to settle. It wasn't that fresh, so I assume it had been filled a few days earlier. It seems a shame that the beer for which the race is named, should not be served in decent condition when only a 100 yards from the brewery.
However, the little flaws aside, I enjoyed the event and the day overall, and would urge people to give this one a go. It's in a great location, it has a charming, friendly atmosphere, and is damn good value, considering that a pint of beer is included. Date of review: June 25, 2013
In short: Wonderful low key event. Very charming. In full: I loved this. Warm, friendly, fun atmosphere. Well organised for the scale of the event. I felt that the organisers were in control, and were confident and happy with what they were doing.
You meet up on the grass area between the river and the sports centre. Free and ample parking on a Sunday - though the spaces are small in the indoor car park, so take care. There are toilets in the sports centre, though not sure how official the arrangements are, as I overheard one of the organisers say to someone to ask the receptionist nicely if they could use them.
There's a short and friendly pep talk before everyone is walked over to the station, where extra railway staff have been brought in for everyone's safety, and there's a station announcement to welcome the runners. Nice touches like that make you feel warm and safe.
Pretty train journey, which can be easily missed if chatting to some other runners. There's a real warm, social outing feel to the train ride. And everyone feels pally and happy.
Greeted at Wateringbury by a mayor. Another nice touch. And we are walked to the start by the river, where a press photographer takes a photo of the bunch of us waving. Even though this is a very low key event, with only about a 100 runners, the organisers have clearly put a deal of thought into this, and that makes the event so special. I want all local runs to be like this. Many of them are. But, sadly, there are some professional race organisers moving in now, who take the joy and pleasure out of running events, by doing it for the money. Events like this renew my interest in running.
The course is more fun than serious running. It's an unconventional distance which might detract some serious club runners, and the course is very narrow in places, which means that even with a small pack of runners, there was a little bit of walking and sometimes waiting at bottlenecks. If you want a fast run - get to the front and stay there.
There was one stretch where nettles grow both sides of the very narrow path. Leggings are advised. Either that, or squirm and tiptoe like a pansy past the stinging leaves. Three muddy streams across the track made this feel like one of those mud challenges - though the streams could either be jumped with a confident leap, or negotiated by careful selection of the correct fallen tree branches!
The scenery is delightful - swans and boats bobbing on the Medway, and some picture postcard views of bridges along the way.
Nice atmosphere at the finish, with supporters on the footbridge which acts as the finish line (I didn't notice, and kept on running until I reached the goodie bag table!) The goodie bag was the usual marketing samples nonsense - but there was an apple and a bottle of water. The medal was pointless as it was a generic charity medal which doesn't mention the race or the year, but some people do like medals - especially if they don't do many races.
Overall, a charming event. I'll be keen to do this again, and have already got several friends who want to do it with me next year. Date of review: June 10, 2013
In short: If only all runs were like this In full: The Hemel training runs are legendary - and rightly so. If only all runs were like this. Only £5, yet you get the support and protection of the marshals, and stand-by first aiders. Plus, you get unlimited hot tea and cake at the end. I've paid ten times as much for far, far less.
The course starts flat for three miles along the Grand Union Canal, but then goes up a long stiff climb for a couple of miles, and remains hilly/undulating until the end. The course is through attractive countryside and little villages. Very pleasant. The runners and marshals are relaxed, cool, friendly, and there is a special feel, as most people are doing this as part of training for London.
I can't think of any problems with this run at all. Yes, there's no supporters, yes, there's no big race atmosphere, but you aren't here for that. You are here purely for the run, and it's a perfect run.
I did it in 3.10.43, and finished strong, so I was buzzing. Date of review: March 23, 2013