In short: Tougher than it seems In full: Firstly - this review is for the 2011 race, not the 2010, but that box isn't there on the review form. Also, this review is for the half marathon.
Got ideas of a PB on this one? Good luck with it. I've had those ideas twice, and failed to get there. Lots of others around me seemed to do okay, but there is just something about this race I find very difficult.
There are a lot more undulations than you might expect. The adrenaline at the start should carry you up the massive hill on Saint Vincent Street, but hold back on those opening miles - there's more to come. The hills in Pollok Park and up to Pollokshields may seem paltry in isolation, but combined with everything else they make for a really challenging course.
The scenery is varied - I personally love running across the Kingston Bridge, looking down at the Clyde. I know others don't. By the time we got to Pollok Park, I wasn't really in the right frame of mind to be appreciating the beauty of it, but perhaps others were. When you're really ready to quit, they send you round the Gorbals... there's nobody cheering there. Thankfully, the last part is on Glasgow Green with lots of people cheering you on.
This race is great for the support local people put into it, and because its another way of seeing a fine city. A couple of problems at the starting with getting to muster areas, and running out of toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Other than that, generally well organised (if slightly officious at the end).
I suppose I'll do this again. I can't say I'm looking forward to it. I really didn't enjoy it this year but feel to mark it any less than four out of five would be churlish. It is a special race. Its just a bloody difficult one. Date of review: September 11, 2011
In short: Fun but flawed - don't believe the hype. Well, believe it a bit. But not much. In full: I was really looking forward to this, and wasn't completely disppointed - but, as people have been saying for years when reviewing this race, please take account of the feedback and make this a race worthy of its price, and amazing location.
The view at the start was incredible - going out past Arthur's seat - really striking. Some nice views of the sea too. The run itself was well stewarded (mostly friendly, helpful types) and the water stations were stocked appropriately. The experience of running with so many people is one I enjoy. There were drummers and music along the way. In the parts where it was possible for spectators to access, people had turned out and were encouraging and friendly.
But sadly, this doesn't tell the whole story. SORT THE FOLLOWING OUT AND HELP THIS RACE ACHIEVE ITS FULL POTENTIAL:
Getting to the start: various transport companies claimed to be putting on extra trains/buses to get to Edinburgh. I didn't see any evidence of this on timetables, and the web site didn't link to it properly. Also - more toilets, please, then you won't have to shout at us so much to get to our pens.
The finish: my God, I've just run 26 miles! I do NOT want a tour of Musselburgh before I go to get my T-shirt. Also - I don't really want to stand in a big crowd waiting for a half-arsed goodie bag (thank God for the toilet roll though, because the toilets didn't have any) and a T-shirt that is the wrong size, because you've run out of the right size. Honestly, I was really feeling pretty rough at this point and this was not what I needed. And then there was the "find the reunion area" challenge... I squeezed through the metal gate at the end of the finish area. There were lots of spectators gazing wistfully through - possibly wondering where their friends/family had vanished off to, and eventually got to the park and.... well, sort it out! Make the reunion area visible from a distance (our brains and our bodies are tired), and give it LOTS of space.
Getting away from the finish: Its a long, long walk to the train station after all that (seriously - over half an hour). I didn't even attempt to get the bus after seeing that queue. Cynics might think this plays into the hands of those trying to make money from the finish area - if we can't get away, we're more likely to stop and queue for beer, burgers, etc, instead of buying cheaper stuff in town.
The "PB" aspect: Please give some thought to: surface quality (the paths around 17-19 miles left something to be desired); mile markers - (the optimimum number is 26. And I'd suggest 20 and 26 are particularly psychologically important (and were missing)); those last few miles - the weather couldn't have been forseen - or could it? Maybe some thought could have been given to potential weather conditions. I'd also say running around so many people (my Garmin said 26.5 miles at the end due to so much of that!) means a slightly slower time, which detracts from the (largely) flat course.
Spectators: If you do this right, lots and lots of people will turn up. You can work with local business and possibly allow vendors, who can exploit this large crowd for their £££ (because, let's face it, this is always going to be a money-making enterprise). People want to come and see their loved ones making the effort, and a lot of them couldn't do that, and felt rather excluded by this event. When they've shlepped all the way out to Musselburgh (which wasn't easy at all, btw) they deserve better. More spectators also means a better general marathon experience for the runners and increased motivation. Which means the PB claim holds more validity, and we'll say nicer things about the race. And I'm told the much-talked-about spectator screen (as very few of them could reach the finish, due to poor signage and difficulty of access) didn't actually show any of the runners finishing.
What would make this race so much better: Start and finish in the amazing city whose name the race bears. If you MUST finish out of town, do it somewhere more accessible by public transport with more space for a finish area. And have lots of signs there, particularly from train stations to the finish. I don't really care about the goodie bag, the crappy t-shirt or the fact that the medal didn't have the year on it. I do care that we all made the effort and felt just a little bit exploited at the end. Perhaps the organisers are thinking enough advertising and hype will mean people ignore that and keep returning. Perhaps, on the other hand, they do care about making this the really special race that it has potential to become. Date of review: May 23, 2011
In short: Friendly, well-organised run in stunning surroundings. In full: I'll start with an admission: I've never seen the Highlands before and oh my god, they're beuatiful. Going along the road, every now and then, I tore myself away from the back of the person in front and just looked across the loch and thought "oh wow". Really - as beautiful as anything I've seen in the UK. Okay, you aren't running right through those hills (for which I was thankful) - in fact, you're running along a road, with a few cars going by, so you have to pay attention (and its for that reason, and only that reason, that this doesn't get a "5" for atmosphere).
I found the majority of the other runners friendly and encouraging - there were lots (comparatively, for a small race in a rural area) of people standing by the road, cheering not only the people at the front but those of us tromping along behind. Lots of water and lucozade. I discovered too much Lucozade makes you feel really sick, but that isn't really part of this review - just thought I'd mention it. Sometimes superfluous information is nice, isn't it? Nice medal, and a t-shirt. These things still impress me, and probably always will. And its pretty much flat - a couple of very gentle undulations, but nothing that significant.
For the scenery and the support, this is one of my favourite races. Date of review: April 12, 2011
In short: The joy of hills....sorry, "undulations". In full: A really nice race. Small, friendly. There seemed something quirky about it - whether it was the distance, or the cake, or the setting I don't know. The marshalls and occasional spectators were encouraging and friendly. The hills were tough in part (I would call that more than "undulating" as this web-site does, but perhaps I'm not used to "real" hills - this is what comes of being raised in Lincolnshire) but really, really rewarding. All round, the race gave a rewarding feeling, and people seemed to care that you were there, doing it, in their village. No "goody bag" as such, but free coffee and cake at the end, and very reasonably priced T-shirts for those of us that like souvenirs (I do). The race cost just over a tenner and just the thought given to feeding you carbs and caffeine at the end is a nice touch.
You should try it. Maybe see you there. Date of review: March 24, 2011
In short: No frills, but fair enough In full: Things I liked: the majority of the runners were friendly and supportive; stewards in most of the places you'd have wanted them and (again) generally supportive; the comparative novelty of the distance; the fact that it is round the corner from my friend's house.
Things I wasn't so keen on: some "clubbiness", particularly amongst those there very early, some unfriendliness (you might even say brusqueness) from a few of the organisers. Start seemed slightly haphazard - those of us at the back were still trying to get out of the car park when the gun went off. I didn't see a starting "line" as such so just clicked my watch timer when it seemed like the right point. Also, a little bit more water would have been nice on the way round.
I guess if you're a goody-bag fan you should know that there isn't one. You can buy a t-shirt at the end, but that's it. There is a part of me that likes that, although I know it annoys others.
I feel like I've been a bit negative. It is a decent, generally well-organised race - does what it says. If you want to do a 10 miler and live nearby, its probably worth your while. Date of review: November 21, 2010
In short: A well organised smaller run in a beautiful part of Scotland In full: What a nice race this is. Friendly people organising, through the countryside (they were kind enough not to send us through the hills, which may have looked spectacular but would not have been my cup of tea) - several water stations all the way round, a good turnout of people applauding...
There are a few hills. They aren't vicious hills by and large - you're looping out and back so mostly they're the hills you ran down or up on the way out. There's quite a long incline at around 11 miles, and another shorter one at around 12 that I found rather...challenging, but others seemed to be hare-ing up them.
Well organised - only one minor niggle would be to request more signage around the car park to the start/changing/alternative car parks... but it is a minor niggle. Otherwise, I'd recommend this. See you there next year? Date of review: November 1, 2010
In short: An enjoyable, if sometimes confusing, 26-ish mile race. Take a copy of the route instructions! In full: Part of me feels I should have rated this higher. This must have taken a great deal of organisation and planning: its a great run through Lincolnshire's countryside - so, no sweeping vistas, but a lot of fields, hedgerows, tiny villages. Nice surroundings, which make a difference if you're going to be in them for 26 miles.
A few tips if you're doing this:
1. TAKE A COPY OF THE RACE DIRECTIONS! They were a couple of stewards short, and we inadvertently took a wrong turn (even with directions). Thankfully, we found our way back to the rest of the runners, but running at the back meant we didn't have a pack to follow for the start of the event, until we started catching the walkers (they set off an hour earlier).
2. Consider some trail shoes. We had a lovely day, weather-wise, but this would be a very different proposition in the mud. Don't wear nice, shiny new road shoes. The route is also very uneven at points, so you might want to think about stability for those ankles.
3. Take a water bottle. There was water in cups, but people were kind enough to fill up your bottle if you had one.
Generally, I felt this race had a definite charm. The friendly atmosphere offered by the stewards, and by the encouragement of (most of) the walkers you pass makes it stand out. There are a few kinks they need to iron out: I'd request mile markers, though I know some don't like them, and a few more direction arrows - or stewards at the vital points (you needed one more in Washingborough, which was where we got lost!). Also, some more clarity about total distance, as there seem to be some varying estimates. But I shall wear my Spires and Steeples challenge T-shirt with a nice warm feeling inside, and I'll definitely be back next year. For anyone reading this, I'd recommend the event. Date of review: October 21, 2010
In short: A generally well-organised, welcoming race. The distance is a gimmick, but it makes the race individual, and worth trying for that reason. Lovely view from the Forth Bridge. Date of review: October 4, 2010