In short: A Half Marathon with an excellent reputation – and a very good rating here at RW. Would 2015 live up to previous years? In full: Spoiler alert: long review coming up! ;-)
I first ran the Chippers Half in 2009 and immediately fell in love with it. I remember arriving at the event village in front of a sports pavilion in clear dry weather with the sun shining and this first impression, coupled with a satisfying performance on the day, favourably set the tone for my subsequent visits in 2010 and 2014. The event that it is easy to compare it with, as they are often on consecutive Sundays, is the Bristol Half. The Bristol Half is, for a ”big city” event, very well organised. However, the Chippenham Half is very different in character and a worthwhile couterpoint to Bristol. It starts out with urban pretensions, as the route goes along the main shopping street of the town (which is helpfully closed to traffic) and then sets out for green countryside. The route stays resolutely flat and rural, passing through one or two hamlets (not really even villages), until somewhere past mile 10. There are then two miles of gentle climb, compensated for by a quick final mile with some downhill back to the sports ground.
When I arrived on Sunday, 2015 promised to be every bit as good as previous experiences – blue sky, sunshine and still air, but with a slight September chill in the air. Absolutely the best time of year for a run like this.
The pre-race process is straightforward. This is one of two Autumn races for which I tend to keep a close eye on the entry calendar, the other being the Abingdon Marathon. Miss getting your entry in promptly and you risk missing out. That remains true for Abingdon, but is less the case for Chippenham and entries were open until shortly before the event. I guess that the sheer number of Half Marathons in the area (including new events like Severn Bridge) mean that we are all spoiled for choice. Anyway, I hope the organisers were pleased with numbers.
The pre-race information is excellent – the website is kept up to date, there are competitor emails and the mailout of number and timing chip is well timed a couple of weeks ahead of the event. There seemed to be two separate Facebook pages (one standing page and one 2015 event page) which confused me slightly when I went back to look for something I had posted, but both seemed to be in good use, which is great. Lots of regular replies from Kevin Napier too, which is reassuring for first timers.
Someone below complained about finding their way to the car park. I can’t really understand this; there are big yellow signs from both directions (and if you didn’t arrive until after the centre was closed off, you were maybe cutting it fine … ?) A mention here for the friendliest set of car park marshals ever – I had my windows wound down and was greeted with cheery “hellos” from all of them.
A short walk across rugby pitches to the sports ground with race HQ and event village. In the past, I have wandered backwards and forwards and left my bag in the car, feeling slightly anxious about the hundred yards walked unnecessarily each way and the energy used and worrying whether I have held on to the right number of layers for the weather. I am not quite sure why – possibly something to do with not having a baggage label, or not needing to join the portaloo queue quite yet and having time to kill. This year, I checked out the baggage tent. What a great idea having the baggage labels and marker pens there on the tables! You couldn’t do that at a bigger event. (And that is one of Bristol’s weaknesses – they just don’t understand that if they give race numbers in the same batch to everyone starting in a particular wave, the congestion afterwards as everyone with similar finishing times stands in the same queue is maddening.) So, a big shout out for the baggage operation. And as for collection – the lady who returned my bag to me must have had both telescope-powered vision and telepathy, because she was already holding my bag up for me while I was still approaching the tent!
Excellent race village. The only thing I would have liked would have been somewhere to buy a Lucozade sports drink (sorry if you were there and I missed you – you missed a sale!).
And so to the start. I remember commenting on this after 2009 – what a sensible idea to display projected finish times *and* minute/mile pacing on the boards alongside the start area.
And off we go. A nice run through the town centre, which makes you feel that the town is really interested in this local event, and out into the countryside. The drinks stations are perfectly spaced out – they seemed to me to come at exactly 3, 6, 9 and 12 miles, so no worrying about where the next one is, they are simply in the right places. Not all organisers can boast that. In 2009, they used plastic cups to dispense water at the drinks stations. I campaigned for bottles, probably with others, and the organisers made the switch the following year. Possibly with some misgivings on environmental grounds, which I would understand, but they did it anyway. Thanks, organisers! I really appreciate having a bottle, particularly when the weather is warm, as it was this year. Enough water for a drink and a shower, with the ability to exercise user control over both of these operations while on the move.
Good marshalling too. Thanks, drinks station teams; thanks, marshals! You were all cheerful and supportive. (Or if you were unhappy, you hid it well!)
This is a great course. Absolutely flat for ten miles, then a little climb in mile 11 and a little more of a climb in mile 12. My mile splits were within a five-second bracket for each of the first ten miles, which I was really pleased about, then about 20 seconds slower in mile 11 and another 20 seconds slower in mile 12. The final mile has some decent fast downhill in it, so that was my quickest mile of all. You soon forget the gradient of the previous two miles as the sports ground comes into sight. Brilliant spectator support in the final field – probably better than a stadium finish, as everyone is so close to the runners. And the commentator is out there somewhere behind the cheering counting us all in too.
Across the finish line. I don’t think this has changed and it doesn’t need to – medal, water, banana, goody bag, t-shirt. Spot on!
Having had a knee niggle in the previous weeks, I went for another first: the post-race massage. Now a big shout out for Amanda Cleverly and her team of friendly physios – great work, ladies!
Next to the information tent, someone was posting sheets of results as they were produced. This meant that, within a short time of finishing, I could see my finishing position and my gun and chip times. Great.
Well, you can probably tell that I enjoyed this a lot. Thank you to the race organisers and everyone involved in making this such an enjoyable day. Yes, I will be back to run this again!
No apologies for the long review; I hope it is helpful! And it's the first time I have been motivated to come back here and write a review for about three years. That says something about this event!
In short: A most enjoyable small-scale marathon with a few quirky bits In full: This was my second Boddington Marathon. I had run it in 2010 and so I was confident that I knew pretty much what to expect. Did my expectations turn out to be correct?
I put my application in way back at the start of February through the Runner's World website and received an email confirmation of entry straightaway. That was fine and I didn't expect to receive anything else, either by email or by post. That was exactly what happened and so I kept an eye on the beyondthelimitations website in the weeks leading up to the event. Race instructions were duly posted and these confirmed that the arrangements would be similar to 2010. So far, so good! The first surprise was that, when I arrived at the race HQ to register on the Sunday morning, there was no record at all of my entry! Anne Wilson asked me to fill out a fresh entry form and issued me with a number. No problems, no fuss! I guess something had gone wrong with the record-keeping, but it was all resolved very smoothly.
The race instructions were reassuring, although there are one or two elements that could be improved. They continue to refer to "twelve laps" on the marathon when in fact it is a part-lap followed by eleven complete laps. Maybe that's more complicated to explain, I don't know, but it would also be a little more helpful. (You wouldn't refer to a 1500m race on track as four laps ... would you?) I suppose they wish to indicate that runners pass the timing mat at the end of each lap twelve times?
Some of the timings were a bit vague. The marathon briefing was scheduled for 10.20am, I was told on the registration desk that it would be at 10.00am and in fact it took place after 10.30am. It doesn't really matter for a small event like this, but it could be avoided. More surprising was to be told at the briefing that the race start was 11.00am! Fortunately the speaker was quickly challenged and corrected.
I had been a little worried in the week leading up to the event that it could be a hot day. I had been fortunate not to be on the start line in 2011, which was a scorcher. If the forecast this year had been for temperatures much over 20 degrees, I think I would have stayed at home. I wonder whether the organisers might look again at the idea of an early morning start? In the end, the weather turned out to be close to ideal. Very little sunshine, largely overcast, just a wind which was a bit of a headwind in the section after the timing mat, but which also had a pleasant cooling effect.
My own race went reasonably well. At the start of the year, I had planned that I would go for 3:20 and capitalise on the benefits of my VLM training. In fact, I only managed about 60 miles in each of May and June, so I knew that this was not on. I decided that there was no point putting myself under pressure and gradually slipped from 7:50 m/mi to about 8:50 m/mi for a finish time of 3:41. My slowest run for several years, but I ran through the whole thing without needing to walk a step, so that was satisfying.
I like this course. Running this many laps is a real novelty and the consistent lapping and being lapped is fascinating. It was scary how quickly (and how often) the lead runners in the marathon and the 50k came storming past. The nature of the course also has huge benefits trackside. The drinks station is always exactly where you expect it to be - and the personal drinks transportation service is great - and it was good to see supporters time after time. A special mention to Mick'n'Phil, who were, as usual, incredibly supportive and enthusiastic. Mick probably thought I was suffering heatstroke, because our brief exchanges usually consisted of him saying something, then me replying to his comment from the previous lap! The drinks station has attracted comment. I hadn't expected the individual drinks to be there on the first lap and took water. On the second lap, I did a sighting job and located one of my two bottles which I picked up on the third lap and which I gradually moved along the verge until it was on the long straight several laps later. By about lap 7, I still hadn't been able to locate my second bottle on the table. To my delight, one of the spectators waved it in front of me and I was saved! Thank you, whoever you are!
The lap counters were spot on this year and correctly gave me the "two laps", "one lap", "finish this time" calls - great! Not sure where the negative comment about marshals came from in the earlier review (and it is not explained) - I thought they were great. I tried to thank as many as possible on my final lap.
And so to the finish. It seemed fairly obvious to me where it was, but then I have been there before! Norman Wilson was there to hand me my medal (top marks for this, by the way, a nice memento) and for a quick chat before the next finisher arrived.
After-race arrangements were fine. Hot showers, a hugely under-publicised cake stall and an opportunity to sit on the lawn and exchange views. Excellent!
In summary, this event is very good. The only thing that would put me off next year would be hot weather, but it will go into the 2013 race diary as soon as the date is confirmed.
In short: This race gives me one more reason to want to live in the Lake District In full: I must say that I am very envious of all those runners who have run this event year after year! This was my first time on the Coniston 14 (or, more accurately, the Coniston 13.875!). I sincerely hope that it won't be my last. For one thing, I am pretty sure that there is nowhere else where I can try to break my brand new 13.875 mile PB of 1:40:50! Brilliant event from start to finish.
When we booked a week's walking in the Lake District for the week before Easter, my first thought was "Oh, that'll mean some careful programming of the latter stages of my London Marathon training". My second (quite soon afterwards!) was "I wonder ... ?" and I checked the RW and Fetch race databases. Up popped the Coniston 14 and, as we were staying in a cottage up at Coppermines, this was a no brainer. In went the entry form and back came the race number. Excellent!
Pre-race instructions were excellent and I decided to drive down to the village rather than risk an ankle on the miners' path. Plenty of parking at the John Ruskin School and a great little race village with stalls, running gear and refreshments. There was a super atmosphere and it was clear that this is a very popular event among northern running clubs (and there I was with my Westbury Harriers vest ... who?) and that the majority of participants had taken part before. A friendly crowd!
I hadn't studied the course profile and decided to take up a cautious position just over half way back in the field. I had read some comments about people burning out in previous years and didn't want to push too hard early on. I had in mind a sub-two hour time which would need 8:30 miles or better. The first mile was slow simply because of the congestion and I reached the first mile marker at about 8:30. So far, so good. The next couple of miles on the A-road out of Coniston were quite hilly, but already the field was beginning to spread out. By the end of mile 4, my average pace was down to 7:30, so I started to feel more bullish about the whole thing. I pushed on and hit the seven-mile mark in 52 minutes.
It really should go without saying that the scenery is utterly fantastic. The run down towards the foot of the lake was beautiful and then we turned to start the northward plod along the eastern shore. The views up to the southern Lakeland fells were superb. What a course! What a location! Before the race, I had been handed a flyer for the Brathay Windermere Marathon and am now more determined than ever to make the journey up for this in the not too distant future.
Some more undulations on the lovely shoreline road up past Brantwood and many runners were beginning to tire. I was fortunate to have started out conservatively and was able to push on quite hard. My Garmin tells me that mile 12 was about half a minute slower than the other closing miles, so I guess this is where one or two of the more energy-sapping little slopes were! I'll be positive and say that none of the climbs were particularly long. I hit the Half Marathon mark (that was a nice touch to have that marked) less than three minutes behind my current SB and ended with a good negative split.
It should be clear that I enjoyed this run. It was by no means solely because of the scenery and location, although they play a large part. The whole event - the organisation, the atmosphere, the support, the marshals, the drinks crews - I really don't think any of it can be faulted.
Several reviewers have commented on vehicles in the finishing straight. I will put my hands up and say that I was in one of these. I completely overlooked the "no vehicle movements between 11 and 2" rule for those parking in the School playing field and we drove out - very carefully and only after being held, then waved on, by a community police officer - about twenty minutes before the deadline. I feel guilty about this, but wonder whether the rule could be given slightly more prominence, for example on entry into the field or by the Race Director with his megaphone? My fault entirely, and it would of course be easy for me not to mention this at all, but I have owned up in the interests of improving the situation - perhaps giving this rule greater prominence could be looked at?
I am very pleased with the slate coaster, although I couldn't really see the point of the asics goody bag. I bought a souvenir T-shirt from a stallholder and proudly wore it over Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam (not running, but walking!) on the following day!
In conclusion, a fantastic event. Many thanks to all the organisers. I certainly hope to be back to have a crack at my PB! Date of review: April 7, 2012
In short: It's a twenty-miler, Jim, but not as we know it. In full: This had been one of my favourite races of 2010. I missed it in 2011 because it fell on the same weekend as the San Domenico 20, but the dates in 2012 were more favourable, so it was back on my calendar of essential pre-London twenty-milers. Would it live up to my memories of 2010?
[First, a quick plea to Runner's World. Please sort out the linking of events in different years. At the time of writing, this 2012 entry is not linked to earlier years and so it is not possible to view previous years' ratings without searching for a completely separate instance of the event.)
The event website is workmanlike and includes all the essential details on how to enter. I entered by post and received a printed information sheet by post several weeks before the event. It confirmed my running number, which was to be collected at registration on the day. No problems so far! On the day, with a two-hour drive to get to Rhayader, I left early and, with plenty of time in hand, enjoyed a lovely drive through Abergavenny, Talgarth and Builth Wells on quiet A-roads. I arrived early enough to bag a parking place in the Leisure Centre car park and duly collected my number. I must say that I didn't get the impression that parking would be a problem for later arrivals either. Everything went very smoothly indeed.
The race start is just a couple of hundred yards along the road from Race HQ and we were led in a gaggle to the start. A short wait while the official photographer (local press?) mounted his stepladder in the middle of the road for a group photo and then we were off. There had been a couple of minor changes to the course since 2010 and I think the opening couple of miles round the town were slightly different, but in essence this was still a gentle two miles with a few undulations to get everyone warmed up for the climb.
We left the town and reached an innocuous-looking country junction. Shortly after this, the big climb, which continues on a pretty steady gradient from mile 3 through to mile 6, began. There was a water station part of the way up, which was good news. This is a long hill climb and probably puts some prospective runners off. It need not do so, because the gradient really is very constant - with only one short steeper pull near the top, and so you can settle into your chosen pace (hopefully running rather than walking!) and plod on up.
There are a couple of immediate rewards when you reach the top. The first is a fantastic panorama of open moorland and the second is a very fast downhill through mile 7 towards the first of the reservoirs, after which there is a continuous downhill trend, but not without one or two undulations along the way.
There wasn't quite so much support along the course as there had been in 2010, but the water stations were all very well organised and marshalled. They were ideally spaced out too. Thanks to the organisers and marshals! Also a round of applause to the locals who were out in force in the last 400 metres of the course in the centre of Rhayader.
The course descends gradually along the chain of reservoirs and is an absolute joy to run. I settled into a good pace through the middle stages and thought back to the 2010 event, when I had teamed up with a runner from Aberystwyth at about mile 15 to finish the race at a canter. Imagine my surprise when, at almost exactly the same point of the course, I saw a familiar looking figure up ahead. It was the same mystery lady from Aberystwyth! We remarked on the coincidence and ran about three miles together. Then, at mile 17, a new and sneaky little slope positioned just after the final water station proved to be one climb too many for me - and she sped off over the horizon. Calf cramps hit and the last three miles were slow and painful. To be fair, I had probably pushed a bit too hard in mid-race too. As a result of the cramp, I was three minutes slower than in 2010, but I achieved exactly the same WAVA score, so can't complain!
And so to the finish. This is positioned in a large market yard right opposite the Race HQ, so really could not be better. Race results are printed and posted page by page on the wall of the HQ, which is a nice service. Good changing facilities and showers and there's a counter where you can buy cakes, sandwiches and drinks in the Leisure Centre, so everything you need immediately after the race is right on hand.
All in all, an excellent race. It was every bit as good as I had remembered and so I will say - again - I hope to be back! Date of review: April 7, 2012
In short: Brilliant addition to the South West's Half Marathon calendar. In full: I ran in the Great West Run a couple of years ago and always assumed that this (a May event) was the "Exeter Half Marathon" by another name. Well, those chaps at Ironbridge Runners have proved me wrong - imagine my surprise to find this race coming over the horizon with a February calendar date. I hurriedly put in an entry and was numbered 280 out of 300 runners. Quite a small field, but I guessed they were just trying the event out and didn't want to make life too difficult. So, what was it like?
Race instructions and runner numbers were sent out in good time (even though the website said that numbers would be collected at registration on the day!). I knew the area because I had taken part in one of the "First Chance" 10k races on pretty much the same course a couple of years earlier. It was a fast and flat loop on a combinaiton of paving, tarmac and well-packed gravel, on routes that are popular walking/jogging/cycling terrain between the River Exe and the old Ship Canal. The HM would cover three laps - I think this route choice was the other reason for a cap on numbers, as there would undoubtedly be quite a lot of lapping going on and the route was still shared with other path users. I arrived in Exeter at about 8.00am and was able to find roadside parking 50 metres from the start. There were also several pay and displays in the vicinity, so the location shouldn't have been a problem for anyone.
There was no need to register, but I wandered over to the race HQ where they were offering heated air which was warmer than outside, where the temperature was still just creeping up towards freezing. It looked as if hot drinks were being brewed up, but I didn't stay, instead crossing back over the river to the start area. 9.30am arrived and off we went. The course lived up to expectations and was very good to run on. We had to keep one eye open for cyclists, as there were one or two out training on the drops, but most walkers and cyclists were considerately keeping to one side. There was a slight tailwind heading down from the Quay to the bottom of the course and my miles were about 5 to 10 seconds slower heading back up towards the start/finish on each lap, but it really was a very nice day to be out racing. There was one cleverly-positioned drinks station which served as six drinks points and which was manned by cheerful and friendly volunteers. Thanks to them and to all the marshals on the course - a good job done by all!
I really enjoyed this run and managed to average 7:15 minute miles throughout. Having started about two-thirds of the way back in the field, I was fortunate to have one of those days where I was steadily passing other runners on all three laps, which is always a nice feeling. I finished in 1:34, which I was very pleased with, and stopped to watch other runners coming in. The location for the finish was great. Not only was it 50 metres from my car (!), but there were several coffee shops and cafes right there, so stocking up after the run with refreshments was very straightforward. Good timing system and results were out promptly. Good photo service too. I was ever so slightly disappointed with the lack of either a medal or a T-shirt, as I am still new enough to all this to appreciate taking one or the other away as a souvenir. There was a goodie bag, though, which was appreciated.
Overall, as you will have seen from my summary line above, this was a race that I really enjoyed. I hope very much that it becomes a permanent fixture in the calendar. Thanks, Ironbridge Runners! Date of review: February 18, 2012
In short: When do the entries open for 2012? Count me in! In full: This was my third year in a row at Abingdon and I hope that I will be back to make it four ... and more! I have been fortunate enough to be able to take part in larger Big City marathons and in smaller events, but Abingdon is hard to beat for the excellence of its organisation and the speed of the course.
The location is excellent. The start and finish are on a 400 metre track in a stadium; as I write this, I realise for the first time that we started anti-clockwise and finished clockwise ... ! This location means good changing facilities, hot showers, a warm building to keep the early morning October chill at bay and plenty of space for speactators and for the runners to chill out afterwards. I suppose the only slight drawback is that there isn't more parking on site and that the college designated for parking is a fifteen minute walk away. However, I can understand that the organisers wouldn't want too many vehicle movements in the vicinity of the stadium given that the options for the run route seem to involve using the main road entrance and exit. The walk (before the run) is also a good loosener after a car journey and (after the run) gives an excellent chance to cheer/encourage/abuse the later finishers as much of the final mile of the run is on the walking route back to the car park.
Walking back to the car park also brought home just how many marshals there were deployed. I had decided when leaving the park to say "thank you" to every marshal I passed when walking back to the car and found this almost as exhausting as running the marathon. It may just be that someone had issued everyone in the town with a high-vis vest, but I think they were all genuine volunteers! Does anyone know how many marshals were involved? The Course Director must have called in a few favours or have promised beers to a lot of people - fantastic contribution from you all - thanks!
On a related note, I couldn't help but notice the new approach to road crossings. In previous years, marshals directed runners and drivers with great aplomb and authority and I had never felt at the slightest risk. This year, the county's manual "Stop/Go" sign operators had been drafted in to make sure the risk of runners and drivers meeting was reduced further. I hadn't perceived any weaknesses in previous years, but this new approach certainly gave runners even more confidence to step off the kerb and cross the road without further ado. Whether drivers were quite as happy with the arrangement, I would doubt. It seemed that there were several queues which might well have led to some frustration. This is one for the race organisers to weigh up - and I would not be surprised if they get some negative feedback from other quarters - and I will simply thank them for continuing to strive for improvements that make this an even better experience for runners.
The course itself is fantastic and needs no changes. There is plenty of variety, both urban and rural, and all the old highlights are there - the turkey farm, the long straight footpath sections, the glimpses of the Thames with its dinghy sailors and its rowers, the villages, the Milton commercial estate with its colony of noisy fetchies - and the only section that I dislike is the short run around the grounds of the sports centre (presumably the best way of making up the distance) before you hit the track for the final lap.
Excellent work from the marshals and the drinks station teams. I think the latter had all received training in handing out cups. At the first station, I reached out for a cup and the chap seemed to be pulling it away just as my hand got near! I soon got the hang of it! As for the beakers, I wrote about these last year and don't have an issue with them. As it is October, I really think that water bottles would largely go to waste. In fact I felt quite guilty discarding my Lucozade bottle after taking only a few sips. I would rate the mix of drinks/sponge stations as just right.
As for my run, I enjoyed it immensely. I had run the Berlin Marathon only three weeks previously and running another marathon so soon was a new experience. I was prepared for the worst, but managed to churn out 7:30-minute miles for the first 22 miles. Thanks to two runners for their company from about mile 14 to mile 22 (one from Woodstock who was doing his 100th marathon and one with a shaved head who seemed well on the way to beating his 3:21 PB). I ran out of steam at that point and they sped off into the sunset. I realised afterwards that I had been running at my theoretical maximum HR for the whole of miles 21 and 22, so my slowdown was probably inevitable, but I'll admit to being pleased to keep the pace going for that long! My finish time was still my 2011 SB!
And so to the finish. Excellent finishing "funnel" again - nice T-shirt (and good to have another "new" colour) and the free hot drink is a good touch. Yes, the goody bag was a bit light, but it had all the essentials. Many thanks to all involved in making this one of the top events of the running year. Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Excellent preparation for a Spring marathon with vast improvements in the course since 2010. In full: This was my second visit to the San Domenico 20, and one which I had planned very early as part of my schedule of long runs in the training schedule for the London Marathon. Unfortunately, it was timetabled on the same weekend in 2011 as the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 and so one of the events had to go. Did I give up the right one? Well, the San Domenico 20 is about 90 minutes closer to home, so that was a factor, and, much as I enjoyed the Round the Lakes event in 2010, I fel that something without the unforgettable four-mile climb out of Rhayader might be a more sensible choice!
Did I have any regrets about the choice? None! The SD20 course had obviously been reviewed very carefully and a number of improvements made. There was still "that hill" on the right hand side of the valley during mile 9, which meant that, having reached the 8-mile mark bang on 60 minutes with a nice series of 7:30 miles, mile 9 was my slowest of the whole run, coming in at about 8:15. Mind you, mile 10 is a quickie which gives the opportunity to make up quite a bit of the time lost.
Course changes/improvements included the elimination of a lot of back street twists and turns in Abercynon, the addition of a little out-and-back leg near Pontygwaith (which apparently wasn't to everyone's liking, but I really enjoyed seeing runners I knew both ahead of me and behind me and having the opportunity to exchange a quick greeting) and the elimination of the dreadful "round the car park" lap at the end of the race.
Other than this, the event was very much on the same lines as in 2010, so do go back and look at my earlier review. I'm writing this one some time after the event too in an effort to fill the gaps in my 2011 reviews.
Many thanks to marshals and organisers alike and in particular to those involved with the course development for 2011. Probably my favourite 20-miler! Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: Essential event for the diary of anyone training for a Spring marathon In full: This was my third visit to the Gloucester 20 in three years and the second on this new course to the east of the motorway. I wrote at some length in my review of the 2010 event and so will keep it brief this year! (I am also backfilling some gaps in my reviews, so this one is being written some time after the event.)
In 2010, I found the new course quite disappointing compared with the old Longney/Epney course; the hills are about the same, but the course somehow feels a bit more enclosed and also has a section on a busy road. However, running it for the second time, I couldn't really highlight any particular faults with it and would certainly do it again.
No particular comments to add this year. As for the run itself, I ran the first 18 miles at a steady 8-minute mile pace with fellow club member Brian, then struck out for home with a couple of 7-minute miles for a finish in 2:38.
Nice technical T-shirt this year - thanks as usual to the organisers and the marshals.
In conclusion, as nearly every reviewer has already observed, this is an excellent event for anyone training for London or another Spring marathon. Date of review: October 17, 2011
In short: My first duathon, but not my last. In full: I have run the 10k at Castle Combe several times and on this occasion (February) decided to have a go at the duathlon as well. Like the majority of the reviewers below, I was a first timer. I don't think that I could have asked for a better introduction to duathlon.
As with the 10k, the entry procedure and the event organisation is very good. Castle Combe makes an excellent venue for the duathlon. The start, finish and transition area are all right near the clubhouse and the arrangement of the race makes the best of the terrain - there is a 2-mile run (one lap) around the perimeter track, a 10-mile cycle (five laps) around the racetrack itself and a final 2-mile run around the perimeter track to the finish.
The excellent chip timing system used means that section timings and splits are available (including via printer) within minutes of each competitor crossing the finish line. The transition area is well laid out and securely marshalled.
I found it surprisingly difficult to count five laps on the bike with confidence (how do seasoned competitors manage this?), but managed to finish after the right number of laps, much to my relief. The racetrack is perfect for cycling on and there is plenty of space for overtaking and, more to the point, being overtaken. I felt almost stationary as some of the quick riders hummed past me! The main challenge was the wind on the back straight and my Garmin download shows tha on each lap I got up to about 26mph with the wind behind me on the home straight and down to about 14mph into the wind on the back straight. It was consistent (!), but more practice is clearly required!
Overall, this was a most enjoyable event. I would recommend it strongly to beginners, as everything is explained really clearly. You just have to be prepared to be lapped by some very quick riders.
In short: One of the best 10k races in the West In full: This was the fifth time I have run in a dbMax 10k race at Castle Combe and so I pretty much know what to expect. The event takes place three times a year (Feb, Aug, Nov) and runs along the same lines each time. The entry procedure is straightforward, the arrangements for registration and collecting race numbers are very easy and the chip timing system used is first class. Will Whitmore continues to use his megaphone to good effect (I just wish he would lend it to other Race Directors more often, though.)
As I have written before, the venue is great. Castle Combe has good on-site parking, excellent facilities and good spectator galleries. The course itself, on the motor racing track, is brilliant and the race experience can be marred only by a headwind on the back straight.
There are occasional gremlins and on this occasion there were problems with the order for finishers' medals. As usual, the organisers took great pains to keep everyone informed and my medal duly turned up in the post a couple of days later.
My only disappointment was that the race was not registered with UK Athletics and so the results were not eligible for inclusion on the Power of 10 database. This is a shame, although I acknowledge that it results from a change in policy by the guys at Power of 10 and not necessarily from any action by dbMax.
This time round, I ran the 10k 30 minutes after finishing the Duathlon, which was a new experience, and it made the day into an interesting challenge. Most enjoyable! Date of review: March 27, 2011