In short: Big scale half marathon that gets bigger and bigger! In full: Seeing as this is my home town, I've done the BUPA Birmingham Half for the last three years and it seems to slightly improve each year in terms of organisation.
I've read on here that the baggage drop off has suffered problems, but I can't understand how. It's tightly controlled marshalled, and flowed very freely this year.
There are some great bits of scenery to look out for by way of landmarks... but these are offset by running through the lesser attractive streets of Balsall Heath...
It has always been a challenging course with the steepish climbs at about 10.5 miles, but there was another added at about 4 miles this year (just after the Selly Park Tavern) which was a nice surprise.
The atmosphere this year was better than last year (which was quite wet), but still not as good as two years ago when it was a lovely sunny day (as expected). The start and especially the finish (down Broad Street) is really something to remember - and plenty of support cheering stations all the way round.
The entry fee is a bit pricey, but a lot of roads are being shut in Brum City Centre after all - and you do get a medal and T-Shirt.
This is well worth doing and I will probably be back again next year. Date of review: November 2, 2013
In short: Excellent value run - hopefully more local support in the future. In full: This was a varied course indeed. There were two steep hills which were made even tougher with the rain and wind thrashing in your face - but these were offset by two equally steep downhill segments and then around a 1K flat section through Centenary Square and then do it all again three times. I think there is the potential for a PB, but you'd really have to tank it downhill.
The organisation and marshalling was fantastic throughout and, in all honesty, if it were not for all of them giving you support, there really wouldn't have been anybody cheering you on. It was very surprising to see a city as big and populous as Bradford have so few people turn out. Admittedly, the run did take you down some industrial estate and the weather undoubtedly put people off - but it really was very quiet.
The value of this race was incredible though. Only £20 and you got to run in a city centre on closed roads and receive a medal and T-shirt at the end. There aren't many half marathons that will give you that.
I'd never been to Bradford before and so travelled from Birmingham and spent the night and thoroughly enjoyed what the city had to offer as whole - and can definitely recommend the National Median Museum and a trip to Saltaire/alt Mills as something to see after the race. Loads of real ale pubs with local beers around Bradford/Shipley too - and I'd happily travel back to do this again next year. Date of review: October 28, 2013
In short: Well organised race with a few challenges thrown in! In full: The start and finish in the town centre was special and the atmosphere here was truly fantastic. Also supporters dotted around most of the course (quite spaced out though) ensured it never seemed like a full on training run.
Very well organised and well marshalled across the whole 13 miles with plenty of drink stops if needed (I think extra were put on as it was pretty hot!!!!)
Generally a reasonable course but a couple of real tough, tough hills - Heartbreak hill especially was a killer! Also thanks to the chap who had a hose for a shower while running up it - it was so hot by this point this was truly welcomed! Date of review: September 6, 2013
In short: Incredibly tough course, but well worth turning up for! In full: Wow - the weather and the scenery really made this a joyful course. A stunning location with many eager people made this a thoroughly good race.
Beware though... it was a very, very tough course. Much more of a fell run than a trail course. The hardest part was at 11 miles when a 200ft climb was needed in 0.2 miles. Very, very muddy made for some tricky (even dangerous) conditions in certain areas and even with trail shoes on you will still slip. Styles, gates and other obstacles while climbing uphill made for a very tricky but challenging and rewarding course.
I understand some quicker runners went the wrong way... but it was tricky to see how this was possible even without marshalls. There were arrows and ribbons throughout the whole course and experienced runners should have easily realised this.
I think I would be interested in doing the marathon next year - now that would be a real, real challenge!! Date of review: September 6, 2013
In short: Excellent event with superb organisation!! In full: This was my first attempt at an Ultra Marathon and it was a thoroughly enjoyable (honest) experience.
It was a real hard challenge. There were plenty of hills - some very steep! The one at 90km sticks in my mind... who would ask you to go up that after 90km?? :-D
The scenery was a real mix too. Plenty of sparse farmland, up through some of the delightful hills in the Peak District and through plenty of quaint (and not so quaint) residential roads.
The organisation throughout (from a few months before) was exceptional and ran like clockwork. The full 100K was very well marked out (just a couple of flags out of the hundreds and hundreds that had been victim to the wind) so I feel it would have been difficult to actually get lost (although I know some did...)
Every 1km was also marked out, albeit the distances between some of these was quite sporadic (I seem to remember 46-49km being less than 1km in total) - so you always had a great sense of just how far there was to go... and to see the 99km as you just turn off the canal was quite emotional...
Although for the run, a lot of this was a hard, lonely slog - the rest stops were all marshalled by absolutely charming people all of who were working 36+ hour shifts themselves. The pick 'n' mix shop at (about) 44K was truly superb! I would definitely recommend more of these!! :-) Otherwise, just the odd chat to the passer-by bemused by what all these pink arrows were in the trees! The end was also great to finish at the (soon to be gone) Don Valley Stadium.
My legs and body now - two days on are saying to never do that again... but wow, could I have gotten the Ultra Bug because of this??? Date of review: June 24, 2013
In short: Good city marathon In full: The organisation and marshalling of this course in general, was excellent. It was all for a great cause and the value for money was also decent (£30 for a T-shirt and medal and £22 early bird prices for next year already).
It was an undulating course, but I would say there were more downhill/flat parts than uphill parts (some of the uphill sections such as 2.5 right through to 4 miles were tricky) so there is the potential for a PB and it would also be good for a beginner.
Although the atmosphere at the beginning and end (around Millennium Square) was amazing and the crowds were fantastic there, away from this it was very much like a training run. There were very few areas with any crowds and at times you could run over half a mile without seeing spectators. Being a city run too - although you were running in a coned off section on the road, very few roads were actually closed so you had traffic going past in both directions.
The parking situation was excellent. The Woodhouse Multi-Storey was only a few minutes walk away from the start and priced at only £2 for the whole day. There were also plenty of toilets at the start in both Millennium Square and down on the Headrow.
One criticism I would have though, was the start itself. The runners were ushered very well with great co-ordination... BUT, there was then a 50 minute wait with no atmosphere at all. A mass warm-up took place in Millennium Square and the Elite runners were then ushered to the start at 8:45 - but the race didn't start until 9:35. A woman said a couple of shout outs during this on a microphone time but that lasted for one minute and there also wasn't any music or any interaction of any kind at the start line. It just made for a very boring and long wait. People who had done the warm-up had then long since cooled down.
Otherwise, a good city run and for the £22, I could well be tempted back next year! Date of review: May 12, 2013
In short: Fantastic race with a superb stadium finish! In full: This really was a fantastic event made even more special by the stadium finish.
Seeing as though we were running through so much woodland, I was surprised at just how much support there was throughout the whole route. You really never ran more than a few hundred yards without seeing somebody cheer you on - yes it may have just be one bloke, but to have a constant stream of support was uplifting and the people of Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas can be proud of the support they gave.
This was really well organsied and marshalled throughout. Only a handful of places towards the end where there wasn't a marshall - meant pretty much the whole race was laid out clearly.
The baggage drop-off and collection was speedy, the race results at the finish line were instant and the goody bag was great: non-technical T-Shirt, a really good medal, banana and Mars bar.
There were far more hills and slopes than I was expecting. The profile is classed as flat/undulating, but I would just say undulating. The run took you under and over roads and canals constantly, so there was always a down bit followed by an up bit... and a few more up bits than down it seemed! By 20+ miles this becomes hard.
I understand the weather last year wasn't great and this time round it was glorious. A little too hot for a marathon I reckon, especially when all the training has gone on in cold conditions - but it did mean that the crowds came out and the support was there.
A superb race and great value for money... and The Beatles 1 album was playing from 9am in the stadium until the race start, so that was all good too!! :-)
There were only a few very minor points which could be improved on, just by way of feedback:
- race beginning: have a separate entry for the sub 3:30 runners and have a few feet gap between the green. There wasn't enough room for the red starters and people were having to climb over the barricades to get into their "pen"
- T-shirt. Although it's good quality cotton, the Large is far too big. Hopefully they'll be some Mediums next year!
- Parking. I missed out on the VIP parking so ended up sneaking into the Ikea car park. It would have been nice to have some signposted and suggested alternative parking. The Asda/Ikea car park is big enough, I'm sure borrowing a few hundred spaces at £3 or £4day would have been easy enough to do. Date of review: May 6, 2013
In short: Excellent race, perfectly organised with some stunning scenery. In full: From start to finish, the organisation of this race was top notch. A helpdesk the whole day before, perfect transport details, incredibly organised kit baggage couriers, plenty of water stations - all with outstanding volunteers and a text with your time and position 15 minutes after you finish.
As well as this, you had collaboration from The Gym Group to provide free showers for all runners and cheap all day secure parking from Liverpool ONE Q-Park for only £5. Superb.
The scenery was glorious. A beatiful run down the New Brighton promenade to lead you into the Queensway tunnel (which was an experience to run through). Through the City Centre and up to the fantastic Princes and Sefton parks and back down along the Kings and Albert Dock to the Pier Head finish by the Liver buildings. It wasn't hills and countryside, but this was so much better.
For me, I got my pacing all wrong and did the first half marathon in 1:33 - and I was aiming for 1:42 so I suffered a bit in the second half, but it goes to show the first half was certainly quick. There were some killer hills (for me) though. The half-way point is slap in the middle of the tunnel - meaning the climb from 13 to 14 miles is uphill (and quite steep), but the sound of the drums outside the tunnel spur you on. Once you then get to around 17 miles, you have another one-mile hill, which was the first time I had to stop for a walk - and then again from about 22 1/2-24 miles is an uphill gradient... which by this time I was a bit of a mess. But alas! 24-25 miles was downhill leading you back to the sea-front and the last mile was flat with crowds all around you - especially the last 800 metres or so where there were thousands of spectators.
There were times when this was very much a training run though - but at least once every mile there were small crowds cheering people on. I seem to remember reading there were meant to be a few music stages along the course but only remember the one at the finish - which was playing bloody Gangnam Style as I crossed the line. Being 50 years since Love Me Do, where were The Beatles tunes?? :o)
This was my first ever marathon and I am so glad I chose such a fantastic city to run it in. I've run about 20 half-marathons and can easily so that (along with the Birmingham Half) this was the best race. Fingers crossed I get to do the Great North and London at some point in the future. Date of review: October 15, 2012
In short: £30 is not cheap, but just about worth turning up for. In full: At nearly £30 this race wasn't cheap, but I think it was just about worth the money...
Firstly, trying to get into Car Park A was not enjoyable. Living in Birmingham and no trains going to Nottingham this early on a Sunday meant I had to drive and park. I left around 7am and eventually parked at 9:00am (I just made it in) - which shows how bad the traffic was.
There were only the toilets in the pavillion available and an enormous queue of over 100 blokes when I arrived. Luckily I met up with a friend who lives 5 minutes away, so used their facilities, otherwise I would have definitely poohed and wet myself. There really should have been some portaloos.
The race started on time to a great atmosphere and the pace setters were a very nice touch.
This was indeed a new flatter course, but there were still some climbs. If this is the same course next year, don't think it's going to be as flat as say Bath - you still have a good few miles of steady (some not so steady) gradients. The run itself was very scenice in parts - especially through the University campus.
The attitude of the marshalls and drinks staff was excellent - very encouraging. This made up for a lack of any support for most of the first 10 miles. Once you got back into the City Centre and along the riverbank, the atmosphere picked up again - and the finishing section at the Race Village was just what was needed after the run.
The goody bags were nothing special - a Mars bar and a Lucozade bar, along with Maggi's cispy chicken coating, which was a bit weird. The medal was nice though - substantial. Not all goody bags were the same however, and a friend received two goody bags - neither had a Mars bar, only one had a Lucozade bar, but both had some Coffee sweets, which I didn't receive in mine.
If the price stayed the same I think I would do this again, but if it went up - I probably wouldn't. Date of review: October 1, 2012
In short: Challenging Half Marathon with some beautiful scenery. In full: There were a couple of real killer hills. One at about 2.5 miles where the incline lasted for approx 2 miles (steeoer in parts) but then at about 7 miles (for 1 mile) it was almost quicker to walk up it (well for me anyway). The rest was then plenty of downhill/undulating. With that said, this is definitely NOT one to get your PB on!
Plenty of water and sponge stations and the organisation in general was excellent. Marshalls kept the roads closed where needed. Started bang on time and a great welcome at the finish.
Although the scenery was beautiful in parts (at the top of the hills), it was generally down counrty lanes that were shadowed by trees and hedges so you didn't get to see much. Being country lanes, there also wasn't really a crowd until you reached the very end - so it was more like a training run. Date of review: September 17, 2012