In short: Second time In full: I ran in 2012 (with a time of 1.45), and found the event OK, but nothing special. I enjoyed it, but didn't feel the cost and effort of getting in and out was worth the run, so I wouldn't do it again. But I've now moved to Southampton, so this is local to me, and it is a BIG event, so I thought I'd give it a go. I haven't trained much this year, and when the run started I could feel I was heavy, so my slow time of 1.53 was understandable.
There are many positives about the Great South - it is a big event that is televised, so generates excitement; and they have the runs for the children on the Saturday, and my daughter entered the Mini Great South an enjoyed it a lot - especially the big medal. Her time of 11.16 was slow, but she was enjoying herself.
One of the disadvantages of a big event is that there are so many runners you are going to have to cope with difficulties finding things like the start point, and the baggage area. It's good when there are big sign posts pointing the way. But, sadly, there were not. So we had a hard time finding the baggage point. And then were disappointed that we were expected to just leave our bags unattended in a pile on the floor of a hall. The runners went off in waves to help cut down crowding on the course. It did work to an extent, but the course is still crowded, and though flat, it can hinder those who are looking for a PB.
Good crowd support - in places it's excellent. And, if the weather is nice, as it was this year, Portsmouth is a good place to unwind in after the run.
As I approached the finish line a reporter from the local radio, Wave, interviewed me live as we crossed the finish line, and then went into a long interview afterwards. That was fun! Date of review: October 28, 2015
In short: 2015 race In full: I ran it this year, but I can't find details of the 2015 race on the system. I didn't have a good time - 2.44, because I hadn't trained, and I went off way too fast, so struggled at the end, and was even beaten by a man on crutches. The cost of running events is going up all the time, and this one at £40 for a half is fairly steep, but, as it was promoted as being in Oxford, and you got a map showing all the colleges you pass, it seemed like a good deal. The reality is that you are quickly out of the city and the bulk of the run is through dull suburban streets, plus a bit of the ring road. From my understanding from other runners, the event was better organised this year, and the route was better, so the organisers are moving in the right direction, but the start was delayed by 20 minutes, there is a lack of marshals on the route, and the start finish is a bit of a walk from the race village. Why not start and finish in the park where the baggage tent and the toilets are? There seemed nothing special about the start finish point.
What I did like about the event is that being in Oxford it makes for a good weekend away as Oxford is such a vibrant and beautiful city to visit. I'd like to do it again, as I loved the weekend as a whole, and I loved the idea of running around Oxford, but the route is simply not engaging enough to attract me back. Date of review: October 28, 2015
In short: Awesome. However.... In full: Awesome! I've done various runs around the UK and Europe, and this was a top event. The support from the people of Southampton, especially on a dull day, and this being the first event, was very impressive. One of the best supports in the UK - rivals Hastings Half, and beats the Great North, though not quite as good (yet) as the Great South.
There are automatic FaceBook updates on your progress, which is a great idea.
Better signage for the toilets - there were two toilet areas side by side, and the queue for the right hand one was short, while the left hand one was too long. Folks were not being told there were two queues. Urinals for the boys helps to shorten the queues, and removes the need to pee on the trees.
The start was delayed by 10 minutes. Small events are sometimes delayed. Big events shouldn't be.
Running down the high street to Bargate was fun, and it would be great to keep that, but that needs tighter marshalling and/or bollards to mark the route. It felt odd to be running vaguely down the street while pedestrians and shoppers were wandering around. We were left to ourselves to find the route, and had to dodge the shoppers.
Again, it would be great to keep going through Ocean Village, but there was serious congestion there.
It was fairly demoralising to head toward the finish to be then diverted away from it to take a circuit of the city centre.
Bottles were offered without tops. This made it not practical to carry, so the bottle had to be thrown away unfinished. I asked for an unopened bottle, and was told they had none. At a later stop I got under a table and broke open a case to get one. I'm glad I did as at some later water stops bottles had run out. I didn't carry my own bottle because I assumed this would be properly organised. In many races the tops are loosened but left in place.
The mile signs were not clear enough. Small signs are OK for small races, but at a big event you need big signs, as it can be difficult to spot in a crowd.
There was no goodie bag (at least for the tail enders like me). And no bottles left. I was offered water in a cup.
It's a longish walk from the finish back to the baggage (which is where a number of runners would have left their recovery drinks, etc) And there was a scrum at the baggage tent.
I loved the race and have already signed up for next year. Even if none of these things are sorted out, I would still love the race as I found the organisation to be fun and professional, the route to be first class, and the support very warming.
In short: Dreary In full: The run was decently organised. Friendly supportive marshals. No problems. Roads were closed, and the route was safe. One water station at around 6K, and then a water bottle and bananas and jaffa cakes at the end. Queue to pick up the decent t-shirt in the hall after the race.
Pretty much your standard 10K run. Nothing special there.
But the route! Quite possibly the worse scenery of any race I've done. You would not run along these streets by choice. So dreary and dispiriting. Chatted with the organiser afterwards, and mentioned the route. He said it was chosen because it's flat. There is a slight incline around 3 - 4 k. Nothing serious, but enough to spoil chances of a PB if that's what you're after, so I don't see the attraction. But this is one of the most popular 10ks in this part of the country. Each to their own, but with some cracking runs taking place in the New Forest nearby I can't understand why people come here. Date of review: March 22, 2015
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