In short: Top race for London In full: Whilst there are plenty of small races dotted around the M25, a city the size of London is actually somewhat lacking for "big race" half marathons. The only choice you have is the Royal Parks (too crowded, almost impossible to get into if you are not going via a charity place) and Run to the Beat (interesting course, but overpriced, too corporate and poor organisation - also now changed to a 10K!).
At nearly 5,000 runners Ealing has a valiant attempt to try and fill the gap. They make a good job of it too. Organisation was slick, and helped by the fine weather there was plenty of local support and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face.
As somebody has already mentioned, the course isn't bestowed with landmarks or an abundance of leafy parks. Most of it is on residential streets. I do understand why though. With this volume of runners you are restricted to roads, certainly in the initial stages. London has a number of races that run through the parks or along the Thames with spectacular scenery but they would never be able to handle this volume of people. It does have some ups and downs that mean if you are looking for a flat course PB it may not be ideal, however they are not too bad and the last 3 miles are flat.
Overall a great race and one I would definitely recommend. Date of review: September 28, 2014
In short: Pleasant with some challenging hills In full: For the race itself, not much more to add to the reviews already posted. Up and down course, scenic and well organised. Rather humid so not super fast, but compared to the furnace that was last year and the fact it it July, conditions for running weren't too bad!
Only thing I want to add is that unfortunately numbers were well down this year, almost by half. Much of this I think was due to the fact that although he race started at 9am, the earliest train from central London didn't arrive until 8.35am. With a 15-20 minute walk to the start from the station, plus the fact you needed to pick up your race number from the venue, travelling by train would not have been a practical option for most people. I realise that this problem arose from SouthEastern Trains pulling their usual nonsense of never ending weekend engineering works over the summer months and can't be blamed on the race organisers as such. I caught the train last year which had a good crowd of runners on it heading to Dartford. Therefore I can assume that a lot of people would have been put off this year (I don't live too far away so was able to find a bus alternative - took a lot longer though). I'm not sure how much the organisers were aware of this, maybe they knew and I'm just stating the obvious! However if they had been able to push the start back a bit, even if just by 30 minutes then the race would have remained a viable option for a much larger group of people.
In short: Great Friendly Race In full: This race attracts a broad range of runners, from complete newbies through to hardcore "100 marathon club" types. This made for a wonderful friendly vibe with plenty of opportunities for interesting conversations on route! Kudos to the guy doing something like 40 marathons in 35 days (with his fastest one being the same as my PB!!).
The race itself was exactly as billed. Mainly off road around the edge of Richmond Park with some nasty short sharp hills thrown in. Combined with the toasty temperatures made for a truly challenging race.
Organisation was top notch for a small event. The marshalls did a great job of managing the traffic, no easy task considering how busy the park gets! Kudos to the cars and bikes too who generally seemed quite happy to stop (bar one t****r who decided to drive at full speed across the centre of a roundabout - still, there's always one I guess!). Everything else seemed to run smoothly. If I have one slight quibble, a couple more signs where the trail forks would have been helpful. It's not so bad early on when people are more clustered up, but by the last lap when your brain is turning to spaghetti I found myself getting confused.
Overall though a great race and one that I would definitely want to come back and have another crack at. Date of review: May 19, 2014
In short: Not bad considering... In full: Hopes initially weren't high.
Course was changed at the last minute (still don't understand fully why - start is nowhere near the boat race??). This meant the scenic riverside route was replaced in large part with nondescript residential roads.
My 3 mile warm up jog to the start then became a bit of an ordeal as the heavens opened meaning I was well and truly soaked when I arrived.
Use of a local youth hostel was handy, however as the previous reviewer has mentioned there was a lack of toilets meaning I made the start with about 30 seconds to spare!
The race itself though was a big improvement. Yes, the course was less scenic but as the organisers promised it was fast and flat. Kingston at 9am is not a busy place and despite the race not being on closed roads most of them could be run along without worry. There was one moderately busy road that needed traversing but the marshals did a good job of managing the crossing points. The marshals in general were very keen and enthusiastic which was a nice plus considering the weather. Plenty of snacks and drinks at the end too! Date of review: April 7, 2014
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!