In short: A tougher than advertised marathon - not really good for PBs In full: 'The course is traffic free on closed roads and cycle paths or “redways” as they are known locally, the course is gently undulating with no significant incline providing real PB potential.' So says the MK Marathon website. I entered this race some months ago chasing 2:45. When I was made aware of the second half of the course using mostly the redways and underpasses, I baulked and entered Rotterdam, using this as a back up instead. I'm very glad I did.
Many of the issues have been already highlighted below and I'll echo those sentiments. Having run Rotterdam I chose to help pace someone at a considerably slower pace than even my long Sunday runs. That said, by 22 miles I was pretty much spent and totally sympathised with my friend who had long since hit the wall and was utterly frustrated by the constant undulations, twists and turns, which although there was no one climb that was that steep or long, had a cumulatively devastating affect on tired legs (I clocked the run as having 970ft elevation - hardly flat by any stretch of the imagination). I'd actually state that recognised hilly marathons such as Winderemere or Taunton were easier than this course. If Milton Keynes wants to be taken seriously as a leading 'city marathon' it needs to be run in its entirety on closed roads and give up on the idea of using the redways - there are no shortage of them and they are generally forgiving in their nature (If a little boring). I thought crowd support was good, as were the marshals. The start was poorly thought out with mixed abilities all over the place. Also some of the water stations were a bit amateur hour in how they handed out drinks - not enough volunteers manning them in many instances. For the price I'd also expect a free t-shirt with the medal. Hate to say I would never race this again, but without major changes I cannot recommend it - unless that is you like major challenges! Date of review: May 6, 2014
In short: Very impressed with this London alternative In full: Having read the mixed reviews from 2012 I decided to put my trust in the organisers' promises to improve for 2013 and I'm glad I did. The course is never going to win any tourism board prizes for scenery or landmarks, but then the organisers are promising a fast, flat, PB potential course, and in that they have certainly delivered. The course is very quick, not entirely flat, but barely a hill to be seen (I think the steepest gradients were climbing bridges). The crowd support was phenomenal (Except for a quiet section between 19.5 and around 21.5 miles (Which is a shame, as this is when many need that extra support) and the addition of our first names on the race number is a super idea. Organisation was first class - particular credit to the baggage which, after the reported disaster of last year, went out of its way to be the most convenient and efficient baggage service I've seen at a race. The medal is huge, the t-shirt great. I'd certainly consider this race again. The only slight negative is the issue with the chip timing, which I understand is a problem with the sub-contracted timing company. The splits and the times for some runners are really all over the place (My brother ran the final 10k in minus 35 minutes, for example, and the second half of the race in 50 minutes, complete with an incorrect chip time). Hopefully they can get the results resolved soon. The race is expensive to enter and it made me think twice, but because there is no expo you need to attend beforehand, for me personally it makes it cheaper than London, as I don't have to spend £20+ getting to and from London before the Sunday to pick up my number. Once that is factored in the price is fairly reasonable for a city race with all roads closed and the extras that come with it. Date of review: April 30, 2013
In short: All new Half Marathon course should attract PB Chasers In full: I last took part in the Robin Hood Half Marathon back in 2003 - I enjoyed the event but like many others didn't make it a priority to return because the course was just a little too hilly to make it a quick course. With the promise of an all new flat PB course for 2012 I took the plunge and paid the not cheap entry fee. For the asking price you expect quite a lot and thankfully the organisers didn't disappoint. Parking was exactly as it was described in the info pack - I went for the large car park close to the village - which was a 20 minute queue away as the pack described it may be, but easy enough to get into. I would say there were not quite enough portaloos judging by the long queues with 5 minutes to the start. Certainly there should be some male portable urinals as the numbers who had to resort to watering the local shrubbery was unacceptable. As for the race and course itself: The race started dead on 9:30 according to my GPS so no idea why a previous poster thinks the race started early. My yellow bib gave me priority to start near the front which was a welcome touch. Some early rain and a headwind made going a little gloomy in the opening miles, especially when running through the near deserted Boots HQ - which was a little dull but was at least flat. The run through the university was uplifting with the drummers and supporters (Who increased in numbers as the race progressed and were very supportive) and saw most of the undulations during the race - and these were barely noticeable. The return back to the start was really fast thanks to a tailwind - only the last couple of miles was spoiled by the blustery wind, but the course was flat and fast enough to minimise this problem. All in all a very well organised race which should attract those looking for a fast half marathon. Still undecided as to whether the new water pouches worked - struggled at times to actually get the water out, but when I did they were easy to drink from on the run. The goody bag was well packed with food and the medal pleasingly chunky. The technical T-shirt was overpriced and for the cost of the race could have been thrown in free, but I'd give up the T-shirt for the quick course and the totally closed roads. Date of review: September 30, 2012
In short: A very good club organised race - blighted somewhat in 2011 by the wind! In full: I was back after a six year absence; the course has changed slightly but the excellent organisation (particularly the abundance of knowledgable marshals) and enthusiastic support from the crowd remains the same. This course has definite PB potential - it's a shame that the strong wind in the second half of the race hindered matters today. Pleasant medal and t-shirt. Could have done with some nourishment at the end and prefer bottles to cups but all in all an excellent race. Date of review: October 23, 2011
In short: A Race With Great Potential But Needs to Get the Basics Right In full: Xscape is fundamentally a good place to host the race - plenty of parking and easy access.The baggage drop looked awful. Portaloos were great but had to hunt to find them as nothing was signposted. Tannoy information was inaudible until you were pretty much at the start line.
To the race itself. Very curious decision to start the 10k just ahead of the main half marathon race. As one of the front runners it was somewhat difficult to make my way through the 10k field - kudos though to the marshal at the roundabout imploring the 10k runners to keep to the left to allow us through - a pity though there were some IPlodders meandering across from one side of the road to the other in blissful ignorance....
The first three miles of the course are a big improvement on last year's course. The course as a whole is enjoyable - although near the front, the use of footpaths means it does feel a bit like a training run for the most part, with little in the way of crowd support except for a few pockets.
My biggest problem with race is, like last year, marshalling and signposting of directions. Majority of marshals were great, some though were simply standing at 'junctions' where I literally had to shout at them to ask which way I was meant to go.
Worse still is that there were several points on the course where footpaths forked off in different directions and there was nothing but a little arrow on the ground indicating which way to go. On one corner there were arrows on signposts (From a different event, perhaps) which pointed in a different direction. The worst though was at just before 10 miles (?) when on the ground was a left arrow, then a right arrow, then a left arrow, then a cross. The winning lady went the wrong way here briefly. I know she did because she was limpet stuck to me and followed me in the wrong direction before thankfully some sixth sense directed me the right way. Basically the race needs more marshals and definitely at least one at every single turn where there is a possibility where you can go the wrong way (There was another at 12 miles when a team mate went straight on briefly instead of sharp right (There was at least 3 paths you could take).
No goodie bag is a bit rubbish too. As was the hilly final mile, which made the PB 30 seconds worse than it could have been (But I won't hold the organisers responsible for this!)
This has the ingredients to be a cracking special race. As it is it falls distinctly in the 'average, could do better' category. Which is a shame, frankly. Date of review: March 7, 2010
In short: Challenging town centre half marathon that is surprisingly rural. In full: Although the hills do not make this course super quick, I managed to knock a minute off my PB so quick times are possible. I think this has a lot to do with the second half being for the most part gradually downhill, which allows for some pretty quick miles if you have something left in the tank.
I was surprised by how rural this race is, especially when faced with a town centre ring road nearly as ugly as Coventry's when arriving. There was barely a car to be seen until the final mile or so which made for pleasant racing. It did make things a bit lonely in places, but you were never too far away from a very efficient marshal, and the crowd support in the park at the end was most uplifting.
Have little to complain about this race - I'm in the medal rather than t-shirt camp. Gatorade was a nice touch, but the bottles were too big. Also I would have had water but the cups were too flimsy to grab and many had barely any water in. Maybe small bottles?
The race has a similar feel to another February half at Wokingham - I think I prefer this one. Date of review: February 7, 2010
In short: Unfortunate diversion for some, but a pleasant race nevertheless In full: The inadvertent diversion on the busy A428 was apparently caused by a policeman wanting to stop runners from interrupting a Remembrance Sunday service. It added about 400m to the course, which was disappointing and a bit bizarre as racers dodged the traffic, but didn't spoil the race that much.
Other than that it was a pleasing race using much of the old 10 mile course before it headed to the currently out of service Draycote. Runners needed to save some reserves as the final 3K or so was all uphill, but they had been pampered by an easy first 6-7km.
Little in the way of extras but marshals were enthusiastic and clearly desperate to keep the race on track when the diversion occurred.
I'd suggest if the race uses this course next year, that the event start at around 09 to 09:30, as by 11:30 the A428 is pretty busy with cars heading to shops presumably and not really suitable for racing. Date of review: November 10, 2009
In short: Race itself was great, organisation at start needs work In full: From the moment I crossed the start line to collecting my very generous goodie bag at the end, the race was superbly organised, with a quick course (The final killer mile excepting) and superb crowd support for a wet grey day.
However I thought that my pre-race experience was one of the worst ever at a race. The 2 page leaflet was insufficient, the 24 page PDF didn't really give much more information. The race was promoting going green and I decided to do my bit by going in by train. The first train from Coventry arrived at 9:10 and was rammed full - making me wish I'd gone by car. Worse was that from the train station there was not one iota of a direction sign indicating where the start was. Sorry for not being a local but I'm not familiar with the layout of central Birmingham. It was trial and error and following the most confident looking other runner which finally got me somewhere near the start.
I didn't even make it to the NIA, I tried to find the toilets and could only find 7 portaloos at the orange start area on the course itself, which I was still queueing for 5 minutes before the start! With no idea of where my proper start pen was I resigned myself to starting way further back than I should have and was pretty frustrated.
Again at the end of the race there was no real indication of where we were meant to go to meet up with people / baggage etc.. Basically the race needs to be much better signposted and better pre race information and don't pretend to have green credentials if you cannot effectively make it to the start of our second biggest city by public transport. Date of review: October 13, 2009
In short: Well run race on undulating country lanes. In full: First time I'd done this and best described as an inoffensive, well organised, good value race with few thrills but little too in the way of criticisms. The course is certainly undulating, with barely a bit of flat road to run on the for the entire course. This eventually takes its toll, but it is not that slow a course. The start was well managed considering it took place on an open road with traffic and from there on there was barely a car to be seen until the final 2 miles. Well marshalled with good drinks stations, an odd finish beside a football pitch but a nice pair of Ron Hill socks as a memento. The college as a base made for a stress free build up to the race. The only minor criticism was that a few of the mile markers were out by a fair distance. Date of review: September 8, 2009
In short: A race you must do at least once in your lifetime! In full: This was the first time I'd made it to Race the Train and now I know why people from the club come back year after year after year. I'm no fan generally of off-road running / cross country, but by 9 miles I was laughing out loud at the exhilarating hilarity of trying to stay on an off camber mud strip on the side of a steep hill. There was a smile on my face all the way to the finish, once I'd known I'd beaten the train, that is.
The organisation for this race is outstanding, the goody bag as generous and well thought out as I've ever seen (Why have the medal or t-shirt debate when Race the Train gives you both!). Marshals were dedicated, as was the enthusiastic crowd both on and off the train. A special mention to the Toddler Trot which the little one really enjoyed, especially the cute finishers' T-shirt just like Daddy's! Also the wife thought the train was brilliant and said she'd never enjoyed a race as much as this one. I hope very much this race continues as it is unique and superb!