In short: Even better second time around In full: I entered this last year so knew what to expect from that hill and ran accordingly and actually managed a PB beating my 2011 Reading tim (although I'd still say Reading is a quicker course but I'm in the middle of marathon training now).
Well organised, pleasant scenery, clearly marked course, plenty of drink stations, good support. The course profile provides a different challenge to most races with such a monster hill but otherwise so flat, gives the race its own character.
Only slightly negative comment is that it is quite narrow for much of the first 7 miles (almost up to the hill) which means you are are not really able to run your own race especially with no time indicators at the start. Speaking to a marshall afterwards she said they were down on entrants from last year but I wouldn't want it to be much busier as I was constantly having to run off the main track to overtake people or just sit behind them and wait. Date of review: October 11, 2011
In short: Excellent off road race, tough but not too tough In full: I did the half marathon this year and will probably be back next year for either the full or the half. Pros: - Well organised, lots of car parking, clear route markings and marshalls at most turnings, potential trip hazards spray painted orange. Lots of water stations (some with food) and nice medal and food at the end. Started on time!! - Nice route, not that scenic in my opinion as you were never very high up but pleasant off road run. Not as tough on the calves as some off road runs as it is fairly even ground (running trainers were fine, no need for trail shoes) - No long, steep hills so you could always recover from any uphill with a bit of downhill the other side.
Cons: - No mile markers. All there was on the half were a 3 miles to go and a 1 mile to go sign (and not sure these were quite in the right place either). My garmin logged the run at 13.3 miles. Understandable as it is off road but did mean I thought I was on for sub 1:45 but missed out by 45 seconds running those 'extra' 0.2 miles - There are about 10 stiles or kissing gates to run through and at each you have to stop. Only costs a couple of seconds on your time each but particularly towards the end of the race it is hard on your legs stopping and then starting again - Some bits were basically single file. The problem occurred for me when the single file bits were uphill, as I tend to maintain my pace uphill and recover downhill. Therefore, I'd be overtaken on the downhill but then have to slow down for the person on the single-file uphill section. Only a small problem as there weren't that many runners but would become an issue if the race becomes more popular
I'd recommend this race, although probably not as a first half-marathon (better to start with a flatter road race). However, as a first trail race it would be very good. Date of review: September 20, 2011