In short: Best if you have local relatives? In full: We did this last year, the brother-in-law and I. We both came back to see if we could do a PB without the vile weather and we both did! He did a brilliant 1.53.53 and I did my own fastest ever half. I even beat the road closures. The people of Reading were uniformly wonderful (again) incl all the bands and churches etc who were out as well. Thanks also to all the lovely friendly runners who cheered us up with banter and or encouragement at the points where each one of us slowed, wondered if we were going to be OK etc. There were several sets of people in fancy dress in our start wave and I even got a hug on the finish line from one lovely young lady in a pink tutu. We had our family (with our kit, hot drinks, recovery shakes and snacks) waiting for us, so the short walk back to the red car park was not a problem (it had already opened). We were bemused by the fact that we were not allowed to turn right onto the A33 at that point (it is on the roundabout) and were forced to go some way towards town with everyone else rather than towards the M4. That cannot have helped the congestion and we are sure this did not happen last year. I was in pink zone and the phased start resulted in us going so fast we were strung out To get to the start pens we had to go round with everyone else to the front of the start and then along past all the other pens. As expected, the back route in had flooded. As a non-local I had been watching the flood websites for ages but it wasn't until the morning of the race that there was any info that we had to walk in that way as our published route was cut off. Bearing in mind how much water there still was round there I am surprised that info did not make it into the last 2 emails from the race team. It was never going to drain. I also wonder if it was this that caused the delay at the start while they got everyone round? Cannot comment on baggage as did not have to use it but clearly unacceptable to have to queue in wind and rain. The great advantage of the stadium is standing underneath whilst using loos but I see some people were told they could not? Hope this is sorted out for next year as I think it will an effect on the numbers who come back. Date of review: March 7, 2014
In short: Better if you are faster In full: I loved doing the race (we had a family reason for being so far from home). I met lots of very friendly people and was humbled by the friendliness of the locals who were determined to stay and shout everyone through in appalling conditions, particularly one lovely young lady who shouted for us on one side of the town dog-leg and then met us again on the other and remembered our names! Thanks also to Kate for being such good company all the way round. Never particularly fast, I fell into the "triumph I got here category" due to winter-long bugs interfering with training. At that part of the start (the bridge to the orange start was effectively under water as we returned to the stadium) it was cold, wet and no clue of how far up to go/stand. I did work it out eventually but by then it was almost too cold. I did have extra layers and a bin bag and had sheltered for as long as possible before venturing out in a bid to stay as warm as possible.
The general start was late anyway meaning that in orange zone we set off 20 mins late. A failure to adjust the reopening times of the roads meant that if you run a 3 hour half as I do (slow, but not ridiculously so in the context of the "beginner friendly status" of the race) you were, at around 11 miles, being chivvied back onto pavements. I am sure that seemed sensible on one hand as it allowed for road reopening but was completely frustrating (and probably dangerous) as it meant that a large number of runners still out in terrible conditions effectively spent their time battling not only against the rain but against thousands of spectators and those who had already finished who were coming back along the same pavements. This included the Jamaican 4 man bob team who had to stop at one point and put it down before they speared someone. They were doing so well it was a joy to see their good humour and the vast majority of those coming towards us were brilliantly cheery and helpful. Unfortunately the marshals were, at this stage, intent mostly on taking bits of the course down and on 2 occasions at important parts of the course it was finishers who directed us to the correct route. I am not a Reading local but I do know that road relatively well and I had studied the course properly from the map, looked at the elevations etc. All that is of no use at all if the course effectively disappears because someone decided to remove it in front of you. If you expect to welcome beginners then you should expect 3 hour-plus people, particularly when the conditions were so awful. I might have been a little faster over the last two miles if I had not been forced to dive through so many people at each intersection. It was completely crazy, dangerous to those of us who were tired, wet and trying to see. Conditions were awful but I cannot think that it was the intention of the organisers to make it so hard for the slow ones. I had looked carefully (before the race) for the sweep bus times and knew when it was due. I did not see it so presume I stayed ahead of it. It seemed that the road reopening times were not moved back even though the race started late. I have never had this sort of trouble before in a race (last year at the GNR everyone was late due to all trying to high 5 a medallist but there is never a chance that you will be sharing roads with cars or pedestrians and all the road closures are flexible in my regular experience). This really took the shine off a race that was a fun day out for family. I arrived back so cold it would have been handy to be directed to a space blanket (not, as I had found in other races, kept in the goody bag but apparently loose to one side). A family member got me one in the end to assist once I had changed my clothing.
Once changed we did appreciate the closeness of the red car park. My drivers seemed to get all their information about that on time (even the replacement parking pass). The atmosphere was brilliant before the race under the stadium, especially as all the runners came in from the Green Park Challenge. I would do it again with pleasure, if nothing else to see if I can beat the road closures.
In short: Cold, muddy, icy, slippy, wet, cold, friendly, cold, cheery, cold... huge fun. In full: The organisation on the day was friendly and unobtrusive. The before-the-day questions were dealt with extremely quickly and efficiently by email. The race itself was filled with enough runners of both ends of the spectrum to make it friendly despite the relatively small size of the race. There was even a boy's football team. My 11 year old daughter and I did the 5k. Despite being probably the muddiest runner after a fall she managed to finish the 5k before she was lapped by a 10k runner(unlike me who was further back). She said "It was so cool". The overtaking runners were courteous and encouraging (especially up the hill just coming up to the 5k mark) and the times seemed quite impressive considering how much snow, ice, slush and mud there was. The Stewards all egged everyone on and deserve medals for standing there for so long in the cold. T-shirts were the expected sizes and the goody bags are cotton shoppers, useful for all sorts while proclaiming the charity's message. My daughter was particularly fond of the Mars bar. There was even an on-site cafe open for hot drinks etc for all. Brilliant. A perfect get-you-off-the-sofa event. Date of review: February 14, 2009