In short: Good fun! In full: If scenery is your thing then Greenwich Park is pretty much the best you are going to get running in the capital. Mother Nature too was smiling down on us yesterday which was a nice bonus.
Of course, being Greenwich Park the route is not flat. Despite the park being only 2 miles round the edge, the organisers just about managed to squeeze the route into 2 somewhat zigzaggy laps.
Organisation was fine. Everything seemed to work OK. Goody bag had a nice selection of treats in it. Date of review: November 11, 2013
In short: Brilliant! In full: So on my third attempt, I have finally managed to run a marathon without grinding to a halt at 20 miles. A massive PB and Chester 2013 will always have a special place in my heart.
When the biggest criticism I can think of it that the 24 mile marker was a bit early, you know this is a well organised race. From the arrival at the race village to one of the two organisers shaking your hand as you crossed the finish line everything ran like clockwork.
The only (albeit slight) markdown I have given is on beginner friendliness. This is only because, for somebody new to the distance, having a course where the only real ups and downs are in the last 2 miles seems a tad cruel. Not a major issue though and to be honest the amazing crowd support at that stage of the race more than made up for it.
In short: Lovely Run! In full: Clearly there is something in the air around Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells that makes me run fast. For the second time this year, a run in the pleasant rolling countryside around there as allowed me to take a good chunk out of my PB!
Actually both races have quite a bit in common. Organisation is second to none. Being able to use a large building such as a sports hall or college as race HQ (in this case the K College) is a big benefit. Toilets, changing facilities etc were all readily available.
The course was classic Kent countryside with lots of pretty little villages and tree lined country lanes. It was split about 50:50 flat, undulating. How hard you find this I guess is more a matter of individual preference. I actually thought the course was a bit harder than Tunbridge Wells which basically has one massive hill in the middle but apart from that is largely flat meaning you can plan for it. I found the ups and downs between miles 9 and 12 on this course harder on the legs.
On course support was brilliant. There was one place, Leigh, where it felt like the entire town had come out to cheer you on. The water stops too were entertaining. The local kids were competing with each other to hand the water cups to the runners and they would cheer and whoop wildly if you took theirs. It all added to the great, friendly atmosphere on the day. Date of review: September 23, 2013
In short: Hot and Hilly! In full: A glance at the course profile (and the weather forecast!) and you quickly realise that this isn't likely to be a PB course. Far better to kick back a bit and enjoy a lovely scenic run though the rolling Kent countryside. Most of the course is run on quiet country lanes, with nothing more scary than the odd speedy cyclist to worry about. There were a few bits that ran alongside main roads which are always less pleasant, but never hair raising.
Organisation was top notch, marshals everywhere so for a noob like me I never felt like I was going off course. Plenty of water stops too, and sponges which were most welcome.
In short: Who needs London! In full: What I like about this event is that the organisers have the right attitude. They clearly have listened to the criticisms raised after the inaugural event last year and have acted on them. In this case the bag drop ran like clockwork, there were plenty of available loos and the whole thing had a very professional feel to it.
This year posed a whole new set of problems with blazing sunshine replacing wind and rain. Thankfully there were plenty of water and sports drinks being distributed on route. I liked the water bottles, a practical size and easy to drink from. The Mars bar and banana in the goody bag at the end was also very welcome!
The course is a real mixture. The first third was on closed roads and reasonably flat before heading onto paths around woodlands, lakes and residential areas. As others have pointed out it did become quite undulating towards the end with seemingly endless bridges and underpasses. They are the kind of hills that you would barely notice if you were running 5k but after 20 miles it was hard work.
One thing that was a really nice surprise was the number of people out cheering on the runners. It does make a difference, especially when you are struggling. The marshals too were always cheerful and helpful.
Overall I think this is a great race. For anyone who didn't get into London but who wants the experience of running in a well organised, friendly event I would definitely consider this a worthy alternative.
In short: Few teething problems but a good first time effort. In full: This was a charming little race, that had a very friendly, intimate feel to it. They were certainly lucky with the weather. After 6 weeks of cold windy rubbish, finally the sun came out and you could almost describe the day as warm. This was extra lucky in a way because it doesn't take too much rain to turn part of this course along the south side of the river into a muddy nightmare! No such problems today though!
Scenery - For a run this close to central London you are not going to find a more idyllic route.
Course - It's flat so PB's are possible. Beware though that about half the race was on tracks rather than roads which were, especially between Hammersmith and Chiswick on the South side quite rutted and stony. It's harder work than running on roads, my legs suffered badly in the last few miles!
The start - no fancy celebrities or big hooters. It was just a bloke blowing a whistle. Keep it real!
Cons: A few more signs would have been welcome, especially around the bridges. I run round these parts quite regularly so had a rough idea where I was going. However towards the end of the race (from Chiswick bridge onwards) there were a number of paths, junctions and turnoffs that could have done with some extra signs just to reassure tired runners that they were still on the right track.
Water bottles - Big, put not a major problem. I certainly prefer them to the paper cups. What may have been useful would be some temporary bins to dispose of them after 100m or so. Maybe I was just knackered but certainly after the second stop at 9-10miles I struggled to see anywhere.
Loos: Few more at the start please.
Chip timing: Appreciate that this was meant to be happening but the organisers were let down by the chip company. Definitely a plus to have this in so you don't need to wait too long for the results!
In short: Brrrrrrrr!!!! In full: Apparently last year some people were complaining it was too hot. No such problems this time round. Definitely a hat and gloves race!
Thankfully Tunbridge Wells Harriers clearly know what they are doing and, despite the conditions this was a wonderfully fun, well organised race.
Quick too. I broke my PB, and the wife came very close to hers too (which she set here anyway!). For the first 5 odd miles the course is predominantly downhill. Spring Hill in the middle is long but not too steep (compared to say the hill at the end of the Canterbury Half which feels like you are scaling a cliff!). After that it's a relatively flat run to the finish. Therefore if you get your early pace right I think it's very possible to run fast here.
The free bananas and hot chocolate at the end were definitely a welcome bonus and long may it continue! Date of review: March 1, 2013
In short: 2012 Race Review - They need to think about what they want this race to be In full: Firstly, I live in Greenwich so by walking to the start I was able to bypass a lot of the queuing/bag drop issues that would have affected most of the runners. Therefore I have given the low organisation mark in line with what others have been saying as it definitely sounds like work needs to be done here. I've done the Reading Half a few times which is a similar size and that seems to function quite well so maybe they need to have a look at how that works.
I like the route. It's generally wide and open and for an intermediate runner like myself quite fast - the uphill bits are in the first part of the race with the downhill where you want it most i.e. near the end! I managed to knock 3 minutes off my PB.
I think the biggest problem that RTTB has is that it is confused about it's identity. Events can be set up as serious races with well laid out courses, chip timing and efficient logistics to get runners in and out quickly. Or they can be built around the novelty/party angle with unique features that make them appeal to more than just pure runners. These may be less well organised, busier and potentially more expensive but make up for it because it is the "experience" of the whole day rather than just the run that matters.
Run to the Beat seems to be trying to do both but hasn't quite got it right. Serious runners get frustrated with the poor logistics, timing chip issues, questionable course length and high cost. At the same time the fun run element hasn't quite worked because I don't think the music is inclusive enough, plus it was so damn cold this year! Last year the event was held in September on a lovely warm day. I don't think it was any coincidence that there were less complaints!
Until they decide which option to go with: 1). Serious organised race: cheaper, better logistics, fewer runners.
2). Novelty run: more music & activities, summer.
I think this event will continue to receive dodgy reviews. Date of review: October 31, 2012
In short: A few minor niggles but otherwise a lovely way to spend a crisp autumn morning! In full: Pros: 2nd half of the course was lovely. That coupled with running largely downhill for the last 3 miles made for a great finish.
In race organisation was fine; plenty of enthusiastic marshals and water stops where they should be.
I liked the t-shirt at the end. Some people complain about not getting goody bags etc but personally I'd much rather have something I can actually use in the future.
Cons: The organisation at the start needs to be improved a bit. We arrived a hour before start time but by the time we had got parked, changed, queued up to get our numbers, obligatory visit to the loo and made the walk upto the line we found we had actually missed the start! The main problem was the queuing for the numbers. Similar size races I have been to (Grand Union Canal, Upflow Downtow - Purple Patch Running, Canterbury - Nice Work)post the numbers to you beforehand which is great as it means one thing less to faff around doing on the day. The queuing system itself was also somewhat chaotic as the hall was bursting to the brim with runners queuing, warming up or dropping off bags,race organisers and people setting up stalls.
The first half was a bit bland/occasionally dangerous. OK, so I probably didn't help myself here by starting late but being forced to spend a large chunk of the race running in single file along busy A roads didn't really help the racing too much. Date of review: October 15, 2012