In short: Shambolic organisation this year, please improve quick! In full: I will try to avoid ranting. Before I start my review of the 2014 race, I want to be clear that OHM charge £32 for (affiliated) entry putting it at mid-high price bracket. It has also been running for 4 years, therefore teething problems should be sorted by now.
Entering through the website was very straight forward, although if you are affiliate athlete make sure you know your number. Entry pack arrive in good time with everything you’d expect. So start day arrived, an early start I arrive in Oxford outside the Kassam Stadium at 7:50. There is an option to park at the stadium for a prior charge. I had not paid the charge, but stupidly put the wrong postcode from the pre-race leaflet in my sat-nav. I re-checked the leaflet, and followed the new directions the 2 miles or so to the Park & Ride. This journey (according to the nav should take no more than 10 minutes). (Not a complaint at this point, my own silly mistake). I got to the ring road and with in ¾ mile of the turning with in about 5 minutes. The rest of the journey took 1 hour 10 minutes. With only one Park & Ride, the majority of runners appeared to be heading for it from 3 different directions converging on one entrance. The obvious result was a huge tail back in all directions. I then joined a massive queue for a bus. I would seem that the buses had to come in the same way of the cars! Thus they were sporadic at best. Hundreds (I am not exaggerating) of runners were still queuing for buses as I finally boarded mine and we set off for the start. We were dropped, not at the advertised drop off but, at a housing estate a short walk away. The time now being 9:35 (scheduled start was 9:30). Rumors spread that the race had been put back, this was confirmed as we arrived at the ‘Runners Village’ by some of the marshalls. We were told until 10am. So I went to find a cubical to relieve myself. However, the one toilet had only one (male) cubical, which had run out of paper! I later saw some porta-potties, but by then it was too late. So I went put my bag into the secure tent, the attendant was very helpful, taking my bag and pointing out where to pick it up. I, along with many others, were then hurried to the start. I arrived at 10am, however, the vast majority had already been sent on their way (over 10 minutes before, I later found out). For those that have not raced Oxford before, it is not the most picturesque . The majority is on roads around the more industrial areas, there is very little (if any) of the more inviting sights of the city centre. I was prepared for this, but I think the flat course and good spectator along with a lovely few miles along the river Thames, help make up for that. (Although passing is difficult along the side of the river). Oh and not to forget the Bannister mile, though not a wonder to behold, there is something very uplifting and nostalgic about treading the hallowed ground. The website claims it is a ‘traffic free’ race. Well, I would dispute this comment; there is traffic along long stretches of the route. I do concede, however, that there is a section of road coned off for runners so the is a safety gap. Marshalls are enthusiastic and do a grand job, although they are a little sporadic at some points. Water stations could be more regular too. This is only a minor issue though. So to the finish, which is at the Kassam stadium. It’s a great place to end because it means friends and family can cheer you in on the (plentiful) covered seating. As I walked to the through to the goody bags I realised it was the same organisers as at Bath half. The medal was fine, but the T-shirt, what can I say, very basic white cotton with an awful design. Why can’t they do a technical T-shirt (like 2 years ago) or at least put some effort into it. Perhaps do something different, like a towel, pullover, mug or something. The goody bag, as well, was nearly empty save some leaflets and toothpaste?! I had got a PB, by chip-time although nowhere near by the gun! I wandered through the runners village, a total of around 5 marquees and ventured to the line waiting for the buses. Things hadn’t improved! The line was so long, once again no buses, I decided to walk back to the car (roughly two miles). I left Oxford feeling thoroughly disappointed, despite the PB. For an event that is in it’s 4th year, at the price they charge, it really has a long way to go in the organizational stakes. But, the one thing it has to sort is the Park & Ride. That can’t happened again. My suggestion would be to have two locations (at least), it would certainly relive the traffic, which would enable the buses to run more efficiently. There is nothing more frustrating than not being there for the start of the race. I know some people didn’t even make it across the start line. I do want to love and recommend this event, but I can’t.
In short: Expensive, but good fun.T-shirt issue sorted! In full: Had a great time despite the no so great weather. The crowds really made the event, cheering all the way and more jelly babies than you could eat in a month! Slight grievance about being stood around waiting in a long queue to get medals and goody bags/ T-shirt. The goody bag was fantastic though, with plenty of food and drink. Shame the price is so steep, but worth doing at least once, with a really quick course! Date of review: March 5, 2014
In short: Hard work, but worth it In full: My god when they say hilly half, they aint kidding. It's a killer!! But really good fun, with a beer at the end for your troubles. There are some flat and downhill bits, but as you run down you get the realisation that you're gonna have to go back again as the front runners come boming past you in the opposite direction!! Well worth the money, I said never again afterwards, but am already poised to put my application in for this year! Date of review: February 26, 2014
In short: Two years in a row and will be back next year. In full: Absolutely lovely setting. This was my first half and that was it I was hooked. I was back again this year and will be back again and again. Run round a beautiful estate with plenty of water stops. It's not the cheapest race and the goodies are sparse, but the setting and scenery easily make up for it. Date of review: October 31, 2013
In short: Hilly but quiet roads. Really well organised for a small event. In full: Entered this just because it was 1/2 mile from my house. I have to say I wasn't disappointed with the organisation, even timing chips for every runner. Can of Redbull also included before the start and after an interesting and fairly challenging course a goody bag and medal at the end. It's more than I been given at many of the bigger races I've entered. I would throughly recommend making the trip to take part next year. Date of review: October 31, 2013
In short: Fun and Friendly. Narrow in places so get to the front early if you want to set a time. Great for a first In full: Right lets get the bad stuff out of the way: 1. Getting there by car was awful. Plenty of parking, but my god the queues. 2. Baggage collection was appalling both before and after. The queue for took almost as long as the race! 3. At places it was really narrow with traffic going past inches away, not unsafe but hard to pass. Right good bits: 1. Very friendly, lots of chatting before the start. 2. Reasonably picturesque with nice stuff to look at. 3. Pace runners were brilliant and were really helping before I got injured. 4. Lots of medics! 5. Plenty of drinks stations. 6. A great goody bag with recovery gel and some walnutty cake thingy was very welcome. 7. Massage tents that looked great, but as it took so long to get my wallet back I wasn't able to use it!
All in all a pretty good showing for the second event and I think it will only get better, well worth a punt next year!