In short: Second time, same result, great day out. In full: I don't like Abingdon. But I grew up there, so that's mandatory. The marathon, on the other hand, I love. I ran it first in 2010 and this review could equally apply to that race; my experiences this time round were nigh-on identical.
The course is flat as anything, giving huge PB potential and the marshalls do a great job of directing traffic around some tricky junctions. The start and finish in Tilsley Park has more atmosphere than many events that finish in big stadia (I'm looking at you Milton Keynes) and the support on route is great (bearing in mind the field is less than a thousand and many travel a fair distance for the race).
The flatness of the course makes it a magnet for PB hunters, leading to a field that is frighteningly competitive. Yet everyone is friendly and respectful to one another through the tighter sections of the course.
The only recommendation I'd make is for the organisers to sort out the marking around miles 15/16 and also 23. Because there is a loop in the course you get pairs of mile markers cropping up, but while 6 was a short distance before 15, 7 was after 16. Also, judging by my pace (which was very consistent) mile 23 was a bit late putting in an appearance. I recall similar issues from two years ago.
This doesn't take the sheen off a great race that I'm sure I'll be back for next year. Both times I've run this I've knocked 11 minutes off my PB, so at this rate I'll have the world record in a few years time.
In short: Ups and downs... In full: For a long time after putting in my entry to this race I thought to myself 'how the hell can they justify charging £150 for a single day point to point race?' I'm still not sure I know. Maybe I got caught up by the 'you've had 2000 years to train' blurb...
There's no accounting for the weather, which was shocking. Supposedly some last minute changes were made to the route but that didn't stop everyone being up to their ankles in water within 15 minutes. Still, it's supposed to be a challenge.
On balance I did enjoy this race. There was some great scenery in the middle part and the finish in Newcastle made all the toil worthwhile.
Plus points: Scenery (some of it), finish, pit stops (packet sandwiches - get in!), route marking (fair play for doing all 69 miles).
Bad points: First stage (dire - 15 miles of dull road running (and I like road running!)), no route map (made it hard to gauge progress), marshalls at checkpoints/pit stops were not properly briefed on distances (again, making it hard to gauge progress), registration the night before (why? Cost me a night's accommodation in Carlisle and for what?), entry fee (organisation was good, pit stops were good, finish was good, but for £150, really? I can do a multi-day with food and accommodation for less than that). Oh, and I'm sure those who entered as 'challengers' enjoyed paying an extra £50 and then being given 'free camping'. Come to think of it, bag transfer was 'free' too, so where did all my money go? Could have hired a limo for my bag for less than that...
Anyway, I nailed the distance so on balance I'm happy. However, anyone wanting to run Hadrian's Wall would be better off just doing the second leg (about 17 miles) off their own back and leaving the rest of it. But then again there was something about seeing those bridges after 13 hours...