In short: Wonderful day in Stratford - exorcised the ghosts from 2012... In full: First time for me doing the Shakespeare Marathon but I'd read the horror stories from last year. I'd done the Milton Keynes Marathon on the same day so I know how horrendous it was, and was grateful that we had had the opportunity to run the full distance that those running in Stratford had not.
This was a special race for me (my 13th marathon) because it was the first ever half-marathon for my daughter, and we ran together for the first lap before going our separate ways. She finished in a creditable 02:10 and was singing the praises of the race organisation - so I can say with some authority that this race is perfect for beginners.
The marshals, water stations and local people were just superb. I loved the informality of the start and the loop of the town before heading off to the countryside. You can't really say that the course is flat, and certainly that long hill at mile 7/18 was a heartbreaker, but at least there was a nice descent for every climb, and a refreshing breeze in your face.
The weather was great, although (unbelievably) it got a little too warm in the early afternoon. The Greenway plays horrible mind games with you on the second lap as it's a lot longer, and the dust scraped up by thousands of running shoes wasblowing around mercilessly. The brave folks at the water station on the Greenway were being sandblasted all afternoon!
Loved the set up at the finish and a chance for a (free) cup of tea at the end. This was a really good day out and a great racing experience - well done Stratford! Date of review: April 28, 2013
In short: Great effort by the organisers to run the race this year, despite the weather! In full: My third Ironbridge half, but the hardest in terms of weather and running surface. It was a beautiful sunny day but really cold with plenty of snow still lying around.
It was touch and go up to the last minute whether this rescheduled race was going to go ahead - having been postponed from the previous weekend due to the snow. It was a brave decision but a good call, with the organisers making it clear to everyone that we run these events at our own risk. Apart from three or four fallen trees (shame they couldn't have been cleared) and some tricky, thick mud sections, the course was generally good, but this was never going to be a PB route.
Plenty of friendly marshals as usual and the course was easy to follow and well marked. Nice to see a medal this year too. Well done and thanks to all involved; I'll see you again next year.
Many congratulations to Firefighter Stu Ruston who I was very proud to pace and act as witness for, as he broke the Guinness World Record for fastest Half Marathon in firefighter's uniform. Something like 20 minutes smashed off the record! Date of review: March 31, 2013
In short: A 'must-do' event! Brilliant atmosphere and organisation with a challenging course. In full: This was my second event run by COD RC and if running a marathon based on 31 laps of a country road in mixed terrain sounds a bit off-putting all I can say is that it isn't and I was back to run the course again after having completed the Holly Challenge back in June.
The Sunrise to Sunset challenge is a marathon with the option of an Ultra. With the course passing the start-finish line every 0.84 miles you can decided to call it a day at 26.2 or carry on to see how far you can run in the hours of daylight. It's pretty much traffic-free and is an interesting clockwise circuit with plenty of undulations and, um, water hazards.
The weather has been rubbish for the whole of the UK for the past couple of weeks and Telford certainly hasn't escaped it's fair share. This meant for a very wet course, fully flooded in two parts of the course, and more potholes than you can imagine. Some of these viciously blended in to each other which made for some awkward footfalls. We started the race in heavy rain which persisted for an hour or so before easing off a little. In the second half of the race it stopped completely and the sun even came out but the course got wetter and wetter as the rain came down from the high ground. The track completely disappeared at one point with a torrent of crystal clear cold water racing down towards you and helpfully washing off the accumulated mud and cooling your feet!
With no more than about 40 runners you soon get to meet and chat to everyone, those you are lapping and those who are lapping you. With a drink station on the start-finish line there is ample opportunity to stop and enjoy the great selection of food and drink on offer. And with the race briefing taking place in the Race Director's country kitchen you get a really good impression of the sort of race this is.
For such a tiny field what never ceases to impress me is not the fact that you receive a medal, it's the fact that you received a completely bespoke beautiful enamelled medal which is specific to the race and year. So many larger events need to take note of this - if COD RC can provide something like this then others surely could? Not to mention the fantastic engraved pint glass with the race badge on it, and a free '9-bar'. How on earth they can do this for £22 is beyond me.
No-one breaks any records on this course, but that's not what this event is all about. If you want to try something completely different with a brilliant, friendly atmosphere (did I mention chilli and baked potatoes for all competitors at the end?) then this is the event for you. But get in quick; the reputation for this race is growing fast and with only a few dozen places it will fill up quick for 2013.
In short: Hell of a challenge, well-organised and friendly but way too pricey In full: This was my first Ultra but I had put the training in and was very excited to get started. I paid £100 to participate in this event and since it was my first Ultra I assumed that this was the going rate for such a mammoth run. The course booklet was only sent out a couple of weeks before the race, which was disappointing for those intending on some recce runs, but seeing as I live 150 miles away I wasn't going to have the opportunity to run any of it before the race.
The start at Blackheath was great fun, with excellent use of a large (and warm) TA centre which was perfect for the pre-race gather and a good chance to meet and chat to other runners. There were some serious looking people there and a variety of kit from the worn an faded to the Uber-Gucci! The excitement built in the last few minutes in the dark of Blackheath before we were finally underway.
The weather was just perfect - dry all day but warm enough and with a cool breeze (albeit a cool gale over Black Cap later). But we were also treated to some beautiful early morning sunshine as dawn broke.
The scenery on this run was beautiful and breath-taking at times. I was amazed how soon out of London we were on the trails and clearly a lot of time and trouble has been taken by the organisers to find the best route and to secure the necessary permissions from private landowners.
Navigation is a real challenge and I struggled at times but despite the small and well-spread field it wasn't long before you made contact with others. The navigation was a welcome distraction from the pain and discomfort and was a real feature of the race for me.
Checkpoints were roughly every ten miles but I have to say that I was disappointed by what was on offer considering the cost of the race. But they were staffed by friendly folk who did their best to get us up and running again.
The last 20 were a struggle as the climbs got worse and fatigue was taking its toll on the navigation. I was lucky to tag along with a local guide who saved us a bucket load of heartache and led us 6 miles or so through open fields. The climb up to Black Cap was tough (particularly as you have to cross a few hundred metres of ploughed field to get there) and the exposed ups and downs of those last few miles were the most testing, but suddenly it was all downhill to the sea. Shame that in the last 100 metres some travellers had decided to take over the road and exhausted runners had to weave their way through a couple of dozen caravans, transits, kids, dogs ... out of the organisers' hands though.
And suddenly there was the finish, and a good sized group of warmly supportive people. Great medal and T shirt which I will wear with pride. My garmin tells me that in the end I ran 61.75 miles and finished in 12:07:50. Made it back just as it was getting dark.
This was an epic event for me, the memory of which will last for a very long time. The only criticisms I have were the poor quality of the checkpoint supplies(just water, bananas, biscuits and cold, soggy potatoes) and the overall cost which I don't think gave value for money. Apart from that, a massive thank you to the marshalls and organisers for making this a fantastic day. Back next year?... well maybe; I'm in a world of pain today but by the end of the week it'll be forgotten... Date of review: October 1, 2012
In short: A good day out In full: My first time at Wolverhampton although it's pretty close to home and was my 8th marathon and fourth this year. As I'm taking part in the London to Brighton Ultra on the 30th Sept I decided to do this marathon as a last long training run and didn't intend to run it at anything faster than four hours. However I very quickly settled into the informal spirit of the race and was very pleased to finish in 03:34 and my first marathon negative split.
The start was a bit chaotic, with cyclists turning up very late for their start and forcing their way through assembled runners. There was no time penning so it was pretty much a free for all. I did enjoy the "Jamaican Bob Sled Team" who were a lot of fun and were responsible no doubt for lots of smiles on faces.
The route wasn't particularly spectacular or memorable although there were some pretty sections along the canals. There did appear to be a lot of running through housing estates with various bemused residents peering out from their front doors. There wasn't a huge amount of support on the route, but what there was was really friendly and enthusiastic. The second lap was a bit grim and lonely at times, with the traffic reasserting itself on the open road sections after the half-marathon masses had finished. The finish was excellent and overall the organisation was very good. I parked for £2 at the Molyneux and the five minute walk was a perfect warm-up/cool down.
I wasn't expecting this to be a London, and to be honest I hadn't heard great things about this marathon, but I really enjoyed the race and would definately run it again. The informality and low-key approach was actually refreshing compared to some events and the people of Wolverhampton did a good job for us. Date of review: September 2, 2012
In short: Brutal ... but what a great day. Mud. Hills. What more could you want? In full: I'd been building up to this race for some time, it being my 7th marathon but I've only recently moved to more off-road events in training for the London to Brighton Ultra. I was looking for a challenging trail marathon and it certainly didn't disappoint.
The start facilities were brilliant and I think everyone was thrown by the fact that we enjoyed lovely warm sunshine, rather than the day of rain that had been forcasted for about a week! Getting Jonathan Edwards to start the race was a bit of a coup for the organisers and it was nice to see that he seemed genuinely interested and willing to chat. The pleasant jog across the fields and the first couple of miles of easy running didn't last long. The there was the brutal climb up to the Folly, including a murderous set of steep steps. And then the mud. Gloopy, sticky, wet ... and everywhere! There was a run of about a mile or so where every step sank you into 6" of the stuff. Thankfully I'd bolstered the elastic laces in my Brooks ASRs with a loop or two of hard tied lace otherwise I'd have lost them very early on! This pattern of long sections of quagmire repeated for the rest of the race.
At the halfway point we were treated to several fly-bys of a squadron of no less than 12 RAF Tornados flying in formation. How the organisers managed to book a flying display with the low entrance fee is beyond me! (There was some mild concerns that there had been a terrorist incident somewhere but the marshals appeared to be laid back enough to suggest all was well!).
The back 8 miles was a struggle, if I'm honest. It was all climb, climb apart from a couple of crazy steep descent sections where I barrelled completely out of control through the mud, and there was a real sense of relief when the little town of Much Wenlock came into view. The finish was also brilliant ... I held an Olympic Torch and chatted with Jonathan Edwards who was making time to speak to runners and sign certificates / pose for photos as well as hand out the medals.
All in all this was a bl**dy tough marathon; easily the toughest run I have ever done. But the organisation and particularly the marshals were superb. It ran like clockwork and there were some nice touches. The only gripe I had was the finishers medal. What we got was the sort of medal you get after a run of the mill 10k; I think an opportunity was missed here to have incorporated the Olympic Heritage to this race in a bespoke medal, but I guess that all costs money and to be fair, the entrance fee was very good.
Well done to all those involved in the organisation, particularly those who had obviously worked very hard to clear so much of the paths of nettles and overhanging branches .. it made such a difference. In the end we had glorious weather but the mud was a killer. I really hope that this becomes an annual event; I might even consider coming back next year ;-) Date of review: July 8, 2012
In short: Challenging but scenic; great atmosphere, well managed. In full: My second Shifnal Steeplechase, this year with perfect weather; nice and cool with a good breeze although there was a very sharp shower shortly after I finished. This race is run by a local school, with staff members assisting and many marshals are pupils. It was really well managed - I registered on the day which was very easy and the school's facilities were available. The course was very well marked with plenty of marshals; many of whom offered advice for the paths ahead.
Several water stations with bottled water and a great reception at the end with an announcer (Alan Partridge-esque), a good crowd and refreshments. This is a great local half marathon which brings runners back year after year; well worth a try. Well done and thank you to everyone involved; you put on an excellent race. Also it's brilliant that there were plenty of photographers at various points and the photos are posted on the internet for free! Great stuff. See you next year. Date of review: July 1, 2012
In short: Beautiful scenery, well organised and a challenging run! In full: First time for me in this race, which I ran with my 16 year old daughter as part of her training towards the Great South Run. Lovely setting, and easy to park close enough to the start. The organisation was great and although we registered on the day it was a quick and simple process. The course was very pretty, highlight being running through a bright yellow field of waist-high rapeseed. Marshalls were well spaced around the course and supportive. Perhaps a little more challenging than we'd anticipated, with quite a bit of undulations to negotiate and a few muddy puddles, but it was a great route. Nice finish, with the air of a village fete about it! Always nice to take away a medal and this one didn't disappoint. All in all a really good race and a really good day. Thanks to the organisers and the marshalls and supporters around the course... definitely one for next year's list! Date of review: May 20, 2012
In short: Could have been so much better... In full: I'm not going to repeat all of the clear areas for improvement, but I think the organisers did well in artrocious conditions. However a strategic decision should have been made to bring the baggage inside because frankly the conditions for runners standing around in the rain and wind and waiting up to 20 minutes to get their bags was nothing short of dangerous. So much more could have been made of the finish, the race was long and uncomfortably twisty and undulating, the goody bag was a disgrace and the congestion in the stadium was not acceptable. That said the crowds were great and so were the water stations - but please leave the tops on! Such a shame about the weather - kept may people away and it seems that virtually all of the bands and entertainment cancelled. I also felt that the course was a bit tedious and 'samey'. However there is a good marathon to be had in Milton Keynes and I'm sure next year will be spot on. I might even come back. Date of review: May 2, 2012
In short: Beautiful, challenging, unforgettable In full: Brilliant race. Scenery seems to just get better each year. This is my home half marathon and in the glorious spring sunshine this was real picture postcard stuff. Making the best of the infrastructure of the Town Park for parking, start/finish and spectators and taking in the most scenic parts of the area. Superb organisation, loved the announcer before the start, "Oh, there's a bastard hill at mile 8", and lots of smiling, helpful marshalls. Only two niggles for me: firstly, what a load of bollards! There are several places on the course where the wide paths are kept traffic free by the use of nasty, 2 foot high concrete or metal bollards. Some marshalls had marked these with high vis jackets, some shouted warnings to runners, and some just left you to fend for yourself. Approaching a water station after only 1.5 miles I watched a guy run straight into one of these, smacking his leg into it and falling on his face. Right in front of 3 or 4 marshalls. He took it like a boss, brushed himself down and carried on. Shouldn't have happened. My second gripe is the goody bag. Why or why won't they create a medal for this event? I like medals. Many runners like medals. When a race is focused on an iconic landmark why not have it on a medal? Anyway, all in all a brilliant race and despite the 'bastard' hill, I managed a race PB which was a nice unexpected bonus! See you next year... Date of review: April 1, 2012