In short: More water stations needed and paper cups please In full: Ran the half marathon this morning in somewhat muggy conditions. The setting in the Bedgebury Pinetum and adjacent forest is spectacular and it's very much a hilly, mixed terrain course with a net uphill.
Pre-race sign-up and communications were clear and race village logistics were extensive. Pre-race parking was well marshalled and worked very well. The start to the half marathon was also well managed and the number of participants was appropriate for the route.
As I already wrote, it was a muggy morning, temperatures maybe mid- to high teens and water was important. But there were only 3 water stations along the 13.1 mile course, all evenly spaced. Many runners carried their own drinks, but many others, like me, did not. The first water station was about 3.5 miles in and the distance between water stations was too far and I believe that the route requires at least 2 or 3 more. One or more of these could be on a section of the course that the route uses both ways, e.g. I'm pretty sure that the 2 mile stretch from Mile 10 to Mile 12 we already ran the other way so one water station there could be used twice.
Other improvements to the water stations would be: * provide water in paper cups or in bottles. Water was in plastic cups and effectively rationed to one cup per runner. Via a plastic cup it's pretty much impossible to take on water without stopping or slowing to a walk. Paper cups can be pinched and drunk from on the run and bottles can be carried and might be the best solution if next time there's only 3 stations. * have the marshals staffing the water station hand cups to runners. At the first water station, the cups were lined up in a tray on the table and runners had to help themselves * provide energy drinks too
Several of the distance markers were up to 200m out of position and my Garmin measured the course at 20.62km whereas a full half marathon is 21.1km. Maybe the course was the full distance and the trees interfered with my watch...
The technical running shirt is excellent and the post race medal and goody bag were impressive.
Thank you to the race organisers, marshals and Bedgebury for allowing the race to use its trails.
In short: Thank you yet again for probably the best half marathon in the world In full: This was my 6th TW Half so by now I am used to the incredible organisation and the vast numbers of volunteers who give up their Sunday morning to make this amazing race.
So, thank you to the organisers, marshals, HQ volunteers, people staffing the water stops along the route, picking up discarded cups and the first aid people. And also to the local residents and other supporters who turned out along the route and the bands booming / singing out along the route too.
And for traffic free and half traffic free roads thanks to the rolling closures.
As in previous years, the paper cups are excellent - so much better than plastic. For anyone struggling to drink from a paper cup and stay running, just pinch most of the rim together to form a small spout and pour in - OK, it’s easy to spill some but even I can get most into my mouth without having to slow down much. Maybe TW Harriers can somehow demo this process in next year’s pre-race notes or at the first water stop?
While the earlier start at 09:00 suited me this time and I was able to drive less than 20 minutes from home (as the previous 5 times), I did check out train times and noted that the first train out of London was cutting it too fine to get to race HQ with enough time before the start. Chatting with one of the marshals pre-race, apparently this train was cancelled anyway. It seems a shame that the earlier start prevents runners from travelling to the race by train. How about a start at 09:30? Or back to 10:00? Or invite Southeastern to run an extra earlier train on the day (as well as run the first timetabled trains)?
With the entry numbers reduced against 2013 and then maybe a higher than normal dropout rate, this outstanding race is suddenly smaller. Yet, surely demand to participate is at an all-time high. Is there and scope to negotiate with the authorities who decide on road closures to revert to the 10:00 start?
Thank you for the excellent race shirt and medal too. And for the text message with finish time received before I’d retrieved my bag. Date of review: March 4, 2014
In short: Another outstanding TW Half Marathon from TW Harriers - Thank You In full: Thank you to TW Harriers and all the volunteers who every year make this half marathon probably the best in the world.
This is my favourite half marathon and it's one of my local races. The course is challenging - fast in many places with a long uphill mile immediately after half way. Mile markers appeared to be spot-on every time and the finish funnel works seamlessly. With chips built into the race numbers this year, there was even no need to stop for a few seconds to have your chip removed.
But it's the organisation (this is the 30th anniversary race) and the people who staff the water stations, marshal the course, lead the pacing groups and provide support services at race HQ that makes this a truly exceptional race.
The race HQ set-up was much improved on last year with the retail and exhibition stalls moved to another sports hall.
If there's one area for improvement, it's the water stations. I love the paper cups as they're much easier than plastic to pinch and drink from. It's the length of the water stations that could be longer as I found several, especially the first 3 to be a little on the short side (length wise) and potentially easy to miss a drink. I messed up at the 3rd just on 8 miles and had to stop just past the last volunteer and request a drink! I appreciate the volunteers who staffed the water station on such a cold morning, however, a few more at each station would have improved supply and availability. Signage of the water stations could have been more visible - I saw no sign for the second one though I might have been looking the wrong way. No gel station this year, though I always carry my own gel anyway.
Thank you also for a decent goody bag and great medal and t-shirt.
Congratulations on 30 years! Date of review: February 24, 2013
In short: One of the most incredible running events in the universe In full: Thank you to Dr Rob and everyone / anyone else in the Trionium organisation for staging another magnificent start to the year. And to the marshals, St John's Ambulance and all the runners.
This was my 3rd Knacker Cracker and a new PB - only because it's a new course and it's the only 12k I've ever raced. The extra half a hill was nasty, though I liked the downhill bit in the middle.
Came a cropper hurtling down the muddy steps yet picked myself up and kept going. If anyone's unfamiliar with this race, check out the race website for the photos - now that it's a mass start, albeit from the bottom of the hill this year, the sight of 200 runners in various states of fancy dress marauding down the hill must surprise a few new year dog walkers.
The camaraderie around the course and the food and mementoes at the end make this a truly memorable race.
In short: Very well organised, wonderful weather, race getting bigger every year In full: Thank you to Sevenoaks Rotary Club for organising the annual 10k in Knole Park. And to the marshals, St John's Ambulance, race sponsors and all the supporters cheering on the runners. Chip timing is a welcome new feature over the last few years. Two lap course, first 2km of each lap uphill, last 3 k flat to downhill with a steep downslope near the end. The field is bigger every year which means that the rotary club raises more money for their chosen charities. When the weather's this good, it's a wonderful morning out. Highly recommended. Date of review: March 12, 2012
In short: Water, water, everywhere. But lots to drink. Plus Lucozade, oranges, jelly babies and incredible support. And vaseline! In full: After two marathons elsewhere following the heat of my first (and only?) London Marathon in 2007, here I was at the start, much calmer this time and thankful that the early morning blue skies had clouded over.
The train journey up to London was way smoother than expected - even the 07:53 out of London Bridge to Blackheath was virtually empty when I was expecting it to be rammed to standing room only. A couple of first time marathoners, Alastair from Scotland (via York) and Janey from Trent Park, North London seemed a lot more relaxed that I remember myself being 4 years ago.
The start area on Blackheath is a pleasant, short stroll up from the station and finding the way to the fast Good For Age Red Start was easy. Getting there 80 minutes ahead of the gun allowed time to relax, have a drink, apple, banana and 4 jaffa cakes as well as a few visits to the loo before the bag drop and a short walk to the adjacent starting zone.
80 seconds after the gun, the mass of runners stopped walking, started running and I was over the start line. Managed to regulate pace to target early on while avoiding trouble from the many traffic islands, narrow stretches and corners and then I was settled.
This time, I even started to enjoy the run. Support was magnificent along the entire route from householders, pubs, parties, bands and crowds many deep in places. And, of course, fellow runners supporting each other with encouragement, drink sharing and conversation to wile away the miles.
Around 9 miles, started running alongside Susanna from Woking, this being her 15th London Marathon with much of her preparation being on the ski slopes! Shortly after, we found her friend Keith from Windle Valley Runners.
Around Rotherhithe, as well as the official drink stations, impromptu supplies of oranges seemed to be everywhere. The other commodity in copious supply was Vaseline with first aiders holding out huge globs on their gloved hands – I wouldn’t have known what to do with it so passed on that too.
The clouds had disappeared and the sun was out and it was getting warm, though slightly less sweltering than 2007.
Just after half way and just before the sharp chicane onto Narrow Street, the leading men tore round the corner on the other side. Emmanuel Mutai already had a handy lead. At that point, Lel and Kebede were vying for second place. Catchable? Maybe – but I decided to let them have their day.
At 12 miles, I’d been on target for 3h 10m but already fading a little and the second half started slower than the first so after a couple of revisions, was looking for sub 3h 20m.
At Westferry, found Laura, another Windle Valley Runner whom I’d met at Bramley in February and she was running well.
This time, I ran through Canary Wharf without stopping and but by the time Poplar arrived, the quads were hurting. Anyway, got and kept my head down and plugged away at what felt like a slow pace but was on a par with most everyone around me. Having my name on my shirt and a very popular name meant that I got a lot of shouts out - even if they were for another nearby David! – and another reason to keep on running.
Water was everywhere – maybe extra drink stations were set up? – so gulped some down every chance I had and poured some over my head to cool down. Also used some of the showers en route but was past or alongside a couple before noticing them.
Final chip time is 03:17:47 which is a new PB for London so very happy with that. First half in 01:35, second half 01:42 so no negative splits.
Overall, another fantastic occasion – amazing organisation and thank you to all the volunteers (I read somewhere that there’s 10,000 of them) without whom the London Marathon could not happen as it does.
And thank you to everyone who has donated to my chosen charity, the DKH Legacy Trust
In short: Thank You to PWAC, marshals, other volunteers, first aid, police and the weather In full: Another local-ish race and well placed on the training calendar for an April marathon.
Good use of the industrial estate as the race HQ, start and finish area. As others have mentioned, the baggage storage was enthusiastically staffed by the local guides and brownies and I found it highly organised and efficient.
Almost as flat a course as you can expect anywhere so definite PB potential (so long as you like a flat course) - flagged a little over the second half and finished one second slower than my PB for the distance.
Drink stations well spaced, well staffed and well run. And 2 sponge stations in the second half of the race.
Loads of marshals who also did a great job of suppressing motor traffic while directing and encouraging the runners. And first aid teams stationed at regular intervals along the course.
A few suggested improvements to take the race to the next level: (1) paper cups for drinks - these are easier to pinch than plastic. I think I got a paper cup at the first station and a sturdy plastic one at the second then collapsing plastic ones at the rest. (2) to come close to T Wells, consider pace runners, gel station and/or energy drinks (3) liaise with railway services - in 2008 I took a train from Sevenoaks but the line was closed for engineering works this time so drove. Even though I parked away from the industrial estate, exit time was long because the race was still going on. I was fine to wait and, sure, could have taken the rail replacement service but I noted a large number of runners from Sevenoaks and Orpington areas who may also have driven this time rather than get the fast train.
In short: Wow. Incredible, near perfection! In full: Thank you to TW Harriers, the huge number of marshals, water station staff, the ambulance people, the police, all of T Wells and all the participants for making this the best half marathon I've ever run and could ever wish to run.
Oh, and the weather which was also perfect.
This half marathon has EVERYTHING - chip timing, loads of drinks stations, pace runners, several elite entrants, fast downhill sections, a killer one mile hill, three drum bands (including one that started at the start and must have legged it to mile 9), paper cups, even a gel station and, best of all, Dame Kelly Holmes.
DKH was there for photos in the sports hall before the race, at the start to sound the hooter and at the finish to hand out all the medals.
This was my 3rd run at this event so the course is kind of familiar now. The first couple of miles is more uphill than down before 3+ miles of alternating flat and fast downhills into Penshurst. There was a marshal outside the door of the Leicester Arms, the pub in Penshurst, maybe to deter runners from popping in for a quick drink.
But there was no need for that as there were plenty of water stations along the way - 5, maybe 6 - I lost count!
If you're aiming for a time target then you need to throw away any concept of negative splits because the half way point signals the start of the longest uphill section on the course. Star Hill extends for about a mile up to the picturesque village of Fordcombe - it's perfectly do-able with the steeper sections of the slope itself offset by much shallower slopes. And through the village at the top, the support is vocal and encouraging. Just then other side of Fordcombe was the GU gel station, though I'd already had my gel so passed on that one.
The final 5 miles of the course are pretty flat along the A264 through Langton Green spurring off for a half mile loop through residential streets with the householders cheering on the runners.
The route returns to T Wells town alongside the common before holding a level elevation along the ridge, passing in front of The Spa Hotel then hitting the A26 St John's Road for a fast finish.
Many of the roads are major routes but the police close them off in one direction, in some cases both so the left side of the road is technically traffic free.
For the first time I've seen at a half marathon, there are pace runners for target times from 01:30 to 02:10 in 10 minute increments. I was aiming to attach myself to one of the pacing groups but lost the pace runner at the start. I guessed I was ahead of him at one stage but I never saw him pass me so he must have been ahead all the way! As it was, I'd have struggled to keep in touch anyway.
The goody bag was well stocked with water and food items including a welcome banana. I thought better than to read the race instructions booklet so managed to miss collecting a technical t-shirt. Assuming it's like previous years, it'll be a welcome gift and useful for training and races.
T Wells is my PB and PW course and now I have a "personal middle" time.
Unsurprisingly, given the massive attention to detail and supreme organisation, this race is selling out quickly every year. To push it even higher up the RW tables, vote YES to Would you do it again? Date of review: February 27, 2011
In short: Brilliant event - perfect preparation for a spring marathon. Thank you to Reading Roadrunners In full: Thank you to Reading RR, all the marshals at race HQ and around the course, air cadets and scouts who staffed the drink stations, British Red Cross, spectators, chip removers, bag supervisors, photographers and all the participants for making this an excellent event.
The weather was kind - dry and perfectly cool and the route was just as remembered from 2007.
The course is undulating with a few short, gentle hills one short, steepish downhill around 8 miles. The 2 lap 20 mile race is ideal preparation for a spring marathon and was perfectly placed on the training plan for London.
A high proportion of club runners with strong camaraderie made for a friendly race.
Mile markers were spot on apart from 7 & 17 which were a shade late and the roads were predominantly traffic free - all the motorists I encountered were considerate to the runners.
The marshals are super efficient and are friendly and supportive especially when runners take the opportunity to recognise and thank them.
A couple of suggestions to make the event even better: (1) more toilet facilities at the start - there were long queues only a few minutes before the race (2) please can we have drinks in paper cups because the plastic ones split when crunched up for drinking on the move
Overall, totally recommended Date of review: February 20, 2011
In short: As ever, excellent organisation even down to the weather In full: Thank you to Sevenoaks AC and everyone else involved in organising, staffing and supporting the Sevenoaks 7.
Totally hassle free for this runner, the two lap course works really well with the hills (seems like much more uphill than downhill!) providing interest and challenge.
A couple of suggestions for improvements: (1) to supply water in paper cups as these are easier to pinch than plastic cups, and (2) reposition the finish line to avoid the crater and drain cover approx 5 yards from the line itself - these are a potential hazard , especially for a competitive sprint finish