In short: Another fantastic Action Challenge event! In full: Having run the 100K TransPennine Challenge (TPC) with Action Challenge the year before, I had high expectations for it to match that and was not let down! It was another fantastic event that was very well organised.
Doing the full 100K as a run, I was a bit worried at just how lonely the run would be. The TPC saw me run some 95Km on my own, with only the rest stops for contact with people... but this was much better!
It was great to see just how well used the Grand Union Canal is by cyclists, walkers and boaters... but also - with the different options available this time (25K, 50K and 100K as runners or walkers), and people going off at different times, it meant there were many more people met and passed along the route, which was great.
Being along the canal it was generally nice and flat, so anybody doing any of the distances would definitely be in the running for a PB.
As you'd expect in the more built up areas of the canal (it's how Britain's trade grew after all) there are some industrial areas but more so, there was lots and lots of nice greenery. All of the rest stops were in nice areas too.
The atmos, although a little quiet at times during the run, was good at the rest stops. Although often not too many runners/walkers - the staff made sure you were jeered up and always had a smile on their faces.
As with the TPC, the FULL 100km was clearly signposted and the rest stops matched exactly what was outlined in the guide. I.e. if the guide said the rest stop was at 14km, it was at 14km. If it said 77km, it was, if it said 90km, it was... you get the idea. It was very difficult to get lost. Leaving the Paddington Recreation ground it was clearly signposted right onto the canal - and being a runner, I led my wave off onto the canal, so anybody else behind us would have easily followed. Then, you were running along the canal with every rest stop clearly marked with "rest stop approaching", so all in all, very difficult to get lost.
The rest stops as well as having nice staff were well stocked. Every one had sweets, cakes, energy drinks, gels, bananas or even more than that, along with hot drinks at each one.
My only slight criticism was that as a 100K runner, the instructions outlined that I would get a hot meal at 50k - but getting there was told I had to buy a food voucher. It wasn't a huge issue as I had a malt loaf with me, but I would have preferred a bit of pasta. Also, I was met by people at the end and they were waiting for about 30 minutes so wanted to get a cuppa. They were all happy to pay but advised they couldn't even pay for a hot drink... and, also - it would have been nice for some heatlamps to be inside the tent at the 100K finish, just for a bit of warmth.
This time around I paid to be a self-funded runner, so at £139 it was steep... but that's got to be expected for such a long event to be fully marked/mapped and marshalled etc. Doing the TPC I had to pay £49 and raise £385 for a charity, so if you can do that, then £49 (early-bird or approx £80 normal price) is great value indeed.
Overall, this was a fantastic event indeed. Date of review: July 5, 2014
In short: Challenging run in a beautiful setting. In full: Having never been to Kielder Water before, I didn't know what to expect, but this man-made reservoir and forest is nothing short of breathtaking - and to run through it all was fantastic.
The run itself was hard but also varied. Steep fell climbs, boggy/pure mud runs for K's at a time, short sharp steep inclines and declines and some "easy" (in comparison) runs along the Lakeside Way around the reservoir made this very challenging indeed. Doing this all this through a dense fir and pine forest and running past icons such as Kielder Observatory, Silvas Capitalis and Kielder Viaduct made this special.
It was heavily club based, especially from clubs from the North East, but that's to be expected - however, all levels of ability were present.
The organisation was good and the entire route (apart from the very occasional missing tape/paint) was very well marked. I am having nightmares of being stuck in a marsh looking for some black and yellow tape in a tree... so it has certainly had a good impact on me! :-)
The only criticism was the atmosphere at the Dam control point and finish - in that there wasn't any (the Castle was very vibrant). I know the organisers/volunteers had probably had a 48hr+ shift, but still a "well done" would have been nice. The Action Challenge staff (on runs by them) were out of this world compared to some of them here.
Still, this was a lovely race - and for £35 (50K) and £50 for 80/100K to get a medal, a technical T-Shirt and support around a route like this was very good value for money. Date of review: April 30, 2014
In short: A very well organised race ideal for beginners. In full: Very well organised race and extremely good value - especially considering you received a technical T-shirt and a medal.
Runners do 8 (half), 16 (full) or 19 (50K) laps of a 1.65 mile track - which is largely tarmacced and generally flat - so definitely promise for a fast time. In this year's event the wind was a killer - in your face all the way up the incline of the home straight, so times were perhaps slowed a little.
Other non-race joggers were running round in the opposite direction too which was a bit odd and there are golfers too as part of the golf course is inside the track. There were a couple of hairy moments when golfers were skewing the ball into the runners... but overall it was fine.
Nice support from the organisers at the start/end (who you would see every lap) - but otherwise this was definitely a training run and if you didn't chat to other runners it would be very lonely. Date of review: December 15, 2013
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