In short: Great fun, but learn to map-read In full: A fantastic run, and really well organised.
Scenery was great, and conditions perfect, but what really took my mind off the aching legs was the difficulty of the navigation. If you're thinking of doing this run, I'd say you MUST either have recce'd the course, or run with someone who has. I frequently came unstuck and took wrong turnings, and often saw runners / groups of runners heading in several different directions. The maps simply aren't detailed enough to show all the pathways in the forests etc - this isn't a criticism of the organisers, simply saying that OS maps don't contain the necessary detail. Often a path would appear on the map as being straight with no turn-offs, but we would encounter a fork in the path, leading to a mental coin-toss.
Having said that, the run itself was great, hilly in parts without being horrendous, Check Points perfectly adequate and staffed with friendly volunteers. Organisation was excellent, with the TA Centre being a great place to get ready, and they did well to get permission to run across the privately-owned land, but I still think £100 entry is pretty pricey - though perhaps there are costs I am unaware about. However, on the grounds that I certainly wouldn't be running an ultra several times a year, it's not the end of the world.
I'm saying "maybe" I'd do it again - that's more because I'm wondering if I have the time to devote to training for an Ultra again, but for anyone who fancies having a go at a race of this length - go for it, just make sure your navigation is up to it. Date of review: October 2, 2012
In short: Great race In full: Many thanks to the race director(s) and marshalls who made this a superbly-organised race - the race directions were spot on, and water-stations friendly and supplied with unlimited water - very welcome in yesterday's heat - plus showers & changing facilities for afterwards. The course itself was pretty tough - lots of uphill stretches on the way back, that I could have sworn were only flat on the outward leg, and the heat obviously didn't help. But great scenery, and sense of achievement once finishing. At only £10 or £12, this was superb value for money - well done and thanks to all involved in putting this on. Date of review: July 23, 2012
In short: Very tough, but great organisation In full: Not to be under-estimated, either in terms of the overall enjoyment, or the difficulty of the hills. However, this was my first marathon, and I know I was not alone. Excellent organisation (many thanks to the marshalls who were enthusiastic beyond the call of duty, even after 5 hours of manning water stations), beautiful scenery, challenging course, and excellent weather also helped. If my legs feel up to it next year, I will definitely be back. Date of review: October 19, 2010
In short: Actual race - fine, rest of it - woeful In full: The race itself was fine - course is flat enough, with a couple of decent hills, and water stations were plentiful.
However, the race will be remembered for the organisational chaos that started with the problems on the Jubilee Line. This obviously is not the fault of the organisers, but, like others, I don't see why this necessitates a delayed start. Those arriving later can just start later, as chip timing would allow for the late start.
The start itself was really slow if you were at the back - I was over the line quite quickly, but my wife started in Pen 5 (she was being honest about her forecast time, unlike many others), and took around 45 mins to cross the start. At Reading earlier this year, she also started near the back, and crossed in 18 mins....and Reading has around twice the number of runners.
After the race, it was ludicrous to have 100's of people queuing in 1 line for the bag-drop, with other lines being empty. Is it rocket science to work out that bag-drops should be arranged alphabetically, or indeed pretty much any method other than by finishing time?
Finally, I see a number of people didn't receive any goodies, and I can see why...(a) because earlier finishers were indeed walking off with whole boxes of cereal bars etc, and (b) because half of the space blankets had been given out before the start. I also saw one runner help himself to a bottle of Gatorade before the start - the marshall told him that they were for AFTER the race, but he simply looked at her and walked off with his bottle. Then another runner took a bottle, then another, and soon the whole pallet of Gatorade had disappeared. So it is not all the fault of the marshalls - the arrogance of that first runner had to be seen to be believed.
So, as ever, many thanks to the marshalls for helping, but after 3 years, the organisers desperately need to learn some lessons:-
1) Transport issues WILL occur in London (good luck for the Olympics!) There must be a plan B, or just start later. An interesting aside - in the pre-race bumph, it said that roads would be closed for 3.5 hours. When running, I think I saw road-signs saying that roads would re-open at 2:00pm....ie 3.5 hours after the delayed start time of 10:30. Was there ever an intention to start at 9:45? 2) Start / Finish area must be better signposted, bag-drop must be staggered somehow. 3) One goodie-bag per entrant - give it out at the same time as the medal.
4) during the race, pour the Gatorade into cups to hand out at water-stations. Virtually every discarded bottle I saw had barely been touched - nobody seems to drink more than a cupful, so why give out a bottle? 5) The whole Run to the Beat thing was useless - I don't really mind, but don't market yourself as providing scientifically chosen music to get me running at the right pace (how do they know what pace I want to run at?) and then provide a bloke with a pair of speakers and a made-up CD. I wonder how many of the official CD's they sell at £4.99.... Date of review: September 27, 2010