Carmen To

Ruislip, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
Member since Oct 2017

My Completed Races

2018
The Big Half
2018
OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO
2018
London Marathon
2018
Ealing Half Marathon
2017
The Harry Hawkes 10 Mile

My Latest Reviews

Completed as a first timer in 2018

4.7

First and certainly not my last marathon

London Marathon

I spent years as a child watching the London Marathon on TV but you don't get the sense of just how big it is until you spectate and run it. Being in the best shape of my life last year I decided I wanted to take part. It is extremely difficult to get a ballot place so I was very fortunate to get a charity place. The fundraising is just as difficult if not more than the training for the event itself. But it gives you all the more motivation to go out there during the cold and dark Winter months.

The expo was easy enough to get to, although it was almost scuppered by the DLR going on strike. Luckily that didn't happen. Ideally go in the week, as seasoned runners advise not to go the day before the marathon to avoid being on your feet too much. There were lots of stalls and I listened to Martin Yelling during one of the talks about what to expect on race day and precautions to take because of the weather forecast. 

Transport and navigation to the start part at Greenwich Park was straight forward. Plenty of toilets at the start area but as with every race I go to I try to turn up early as possible to avoid stressing out about being late, etc. The weather conditions turned out to be the hottest on record so it was obvious that a good time wasn't going to be possible on the day. But it didn't diminish the atmosphere and the incredible crowd support. I decided against listening to music so I could soak it all in. Definitely get your name printed on your running vest/top because the sound of people shouting your name out is so motivating when it gets tough. I had no issues with the water stations or the run through showers. I thought the start pens were about right to ease some of the congestion and overall I wasn't having to dodge too many people, as we were all really having to pace ourselves in the heat. Huge respect to all those who were running in costumes, as the organisers advised against this. There were some points in the narrower streets where spectators decided to cross the roads when there clearly wasn't space to. I was lucky not to collide into one of them so I feel some extra supervision was needed in those instances. Other than that the marshals/volunteers did an amazing job and to be out in the heat for so long on the day. Also thanks to the paramedics, who had the difficult task of tending to runners who had hit trouble in the heat. 

The iconic course is something special when you are surrounded by thousands of runners and spectators. Highlights include Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Monument and off course the last stretch down the Mall by Buckingham Palace. It's certainly something I can cross off my running list and also one I would like to run again in cooler conditions. I'll certainly be giving the 2019 ballot a go.

Posted on 24.04.18

Completed as a first timer in 2018

3.8

First Time Abroad

OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO

After some gentle persuasion from some of my running friends I booked the UK Runchat package for Limassol. This appealed to me, as I hadn't ever run abroad before and wanted to remove the hassle of booking the accommodation, race entry and travel all separately. The organisers arranged travel to and from the airport on the days of our flights in and out of Paphos. It's definitely worth checking your pick up time when you head home, as a few of the group were given times that could have meant missing their flights. We stayed at the Mediterranean Beach Hotel, which had recently been refurbished. It's a lovely hotel but in relation to the Race Village is a good 6 miles away, which a group of us found out the hard way after the races on Sunday due to road closures until 1pm. Most of us went half board so we had breakfast and dinner there. Breakfast had to be put on by the organisers on Sunday morning due to the painfully early start. Our race packs were delivered to the hotel but there was a delay in them arriving so they weren't in our rooms when we checked in as expected.

The race village itself wasn't too bad, being located on the Cypriot coast. The wind chill did catch us out a bit when we weren't running but on the hotter days it was most welcome. The registration/information desk was easy enough to find, although finding our Race Check tshirts proved a bit tricky despite us being given instructions to find them there. The entertainment in the village was good with live music. It was definitely better on the Sunday night but I appreciate the local entertainment that was put on after the pasta party on Saturday evening.

Corporate 5K

A group of us ran the Corporate 5K on Saturday morning. It was definitely hot enough for a 9am start so earlier may be more preferable. We ended up somewhere near towards the back of the start due to having to wait ages for the bus to get to the race village. Bus services, despite what the locals said, were far from the regular service we have in the UK so we arrived with literally minutes to spare for the bag drop and queuing to start. It's definitely not an event for the faster runners if you are not at the front (you're better off doing the 5K on Sunday for that). There were an estimated 9000 people for this event, as it's mostly the local community taking part, which was more than the 4 events on Sunday combined. You definitely had to have your wits about you, as the majority of the participants walked in lines as many as 4-5 people in row. There were also children taking part so you had to be weary you weren't about to be cut up by someone. The start as well bottle necked so you really couldn't get going for some considerable time. A suggestion would be to have separate start pen for runners and walkers. A few of our group even noticed people stopping for coffees part way round. Definitely one of the busiest 5K runs I have been involved with.

Half Marathon

The organisers arranged transport to the race village so we didn't have to wait for a bus, especially as there were road closures for most of the day. Although the 7.30am race start was much earlier than what I am used to it really helped as the race progressed. It would have been extremely unbearable for the marathon runners if it was any later in the morning, as we experienced the day before for the Corporate 5K at around the same time I finished the half marathon. It was the first time the event used pacers, which I was grateful for, as I didn't want to succumb to exhaustion from pushing too hard in the heat. The course for the half leaves the Marina and then heads along the stretch heading towards the Amathus Ruins before coming back on itself at the turn point (we passed our hotel twice, which has got to be some kind of torture, right?). At points I didn't really know how far I had run, as there weren't many km/mile markers to be seen. Local crowd support was a bit hit and miss and some of the marshalls looked a bit bored. I was grateful for the groups of dancers and cheersquads that did drum up support along the way. I was somewhat baffled by the photographers on the course and a little disappointed with some of the photos from the event. The water and sponge stations were just about right for me, as I started off with my own Tailwind supply before picking up water. The bag drop and toilets could be improved for next time but not the worst I have experienced.

Overall, as a first race abroad I enjoyed it being able to go with the UK Runchat and Racecheck Visor community and also the ease of most things being sorted for you. A few tweaks would be great but I would definitely think about going back again next time.

Posted on 30.03.18

Completed in 2018

4.1

Good but Room for Improvement

The Big Half

I entered the Big Half after not being able to get a place in another London based half marathon. There were worries it would be called off due to the severe weather warnings in the lead up to race day. But it turned out to be ok running weather in the end whilst other races across the counrty succumbed to the snowy and icy conditions. As the event is organised by the same people who organise the London Marathon it was pretty much a slick operation to the point I almost missed the bag drop, as the lorries were on a strict time schedule to get to the finish line in Greenwich. Lesson learnt for when I run the marathon.

The start point is just after Tower Bridge, which you run over on the return portion of the race. Parts of the course cover the London Marathon route but some parts could do with changing for next year. Lots of runners weren't particularly happy about the Rotherhithe Tunnel section early on. You felt you lost all sense of time in there and a lot of runners had issues with GPS on their watches as they ran through and after leaving the tunnel. Some parts of the course had loads of spectators and some not as much. There were some somewhat dull areas of the course and running over cobblestones was definitely not my favourite.

I loved the finish line near Cutty Sark. The walk to the bag pick up was rather long but granted it helped that marshalls were handing out foil blankets afterwards so we could stay warm. I loved the medal. The race tshirts were nice but as they were men's sizing they don't fit properly, which is a shame as it's quite a decent technical tee.

I wouldn't mind running it again but hopefully there might be some changes to make it much better.

Posted on 30.03.18

Completed as a first timer in 2018

4.7

First 20 Miler

On recommendation from a fellow runner when looking for long runs as part of my London Marathon training, I entered the Bramley 20. Parking is a bit far from the start, which made the walk back after a little tricky. It's 2 x 10 mile laps round country roads. Reading Road Runners put estimated finish time pens at the start line so you could start in the right place to avoid any crushing. The weather on the day overall was pretty good (there was a breathe hailstone shower at one point). The course is quite fast with a few hills at times. Local support in places goes really quiet because of the location of the course but when it was there it really helped. Good medal and race goodie bag at the end. The marshalls were really supportive and the event was well organised.

Posted on 30.03.18

Definitely a Winter 10K

I've run this event two years in a row now. It is probably one of the more expensive 10K races I have entered but it is very popular and for a cause close to my heart. Be prepared for the cold weather, as the temperatures can feel a bit artic, especially if you have to hang around a bit before your wave sets off. A lot of runners tend to duck into the nearby eateries so be prepared for queues if you fancy a bite to eat before hand. Plenty of toilets just off Trafalgar Square. Crowds are always amazing for London events. If you're looking for PB times you would be best to start in the earlier waves as there can be a bit of a backlog, especially where parts bottleneck on the course. Overall I love this course and would consider entering next year.

Posted on 30.03.18

Completed in 2018

4.7

Another year another go

After running the Serpentine NYD 10K last year I was happy to be going back again the following year. Serpentine RC don't disappoint with the way the event is organised (it's very popular) and everyone has a good time in kicking the new year off with a bang.

Posted on 30.03.18

Nice impromptu 10K

This is the first race where I've entered on the day, as just missed the original deadline due to leaving it last minute to decide on doing a race this weekend. The process was simple and very quick. Overall organisation was very good and hassle free. You get chip timing as you do with all Purple Patch events. A nice medal at the end, along with refreshments.

The route itself was very scenic alongside the River Thames. The mix of terrain kept it interesting. You have to cross over the the river a few times via some steed bridges so it is worth pacing yourself. Luckily as it was dry there was no fear of slipping over. There are few narrow sections due to kissing gates and areas being sectioned off to prevent cars so make sure to give yourself enough space between yourself and other runners as it can get a bit suggested. Loads of clear route markers along the whole route. Water station at the point where the 10K runners peel off whilst the half marathon runners continue on. Overall a nice 10K race.

 

Posted on 22.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2016

4.6

Tough course

On the recommendation from the UK Runchat community I entered the Royal Parks 10K Winter Series. Greenwich Park was the first of the three and only my 4th 10K overall. Race HQ was by the bandstand so there was a bit of a walk from the station up a hill, which is an indication of how tough the course is. You get a led warm up by one of the volunteers and briefing of what to expect. Definitely pace yourself, as there are some serious inclines, which you run twice. My favourite part was speeding down a massive hill. Just let gravity take you all the way down it's a lot of fun. The medals are nice but tend to be the same colour for all the races, unless you're lucky enough to get the odd medal in a different colour from previous series, as there is no year printed on them.

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4

Experience in trail running

I'd read about the Leatherhead Rotary Run because of the scenic run through the bluebells. I got there early, as it was advised there was limited parking on site and also limited toilet availability. The route itself was very scenic but also a hard lesson in trail running for me, as I picked up an injury around 6K. It's quite hilly early on in the course so I would advise this to be for more experienced trail runners. 

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4.3

Local 10K event

Nice local 10K event for me. Plenty of parking on site. I offered to warm up the runners last minute so that was new experience for me. The organisers are friendly and race village had a few stalls, including a pick and mix stand which was a win for me. The organisers also got Granny Turismo to entertain everyone and also hand out the winners trophies at the end of the race.

The course itself was a mix of running around Stockley Park's wide roads and also trail running around the outskirts of Stockley Park Gold Course. There were some serious inclines in places so you have to pace yourself. Some runners were caught out by a confusing point in the course. Not so much a negative for me as I managed to stay on track but it might help to make sure signs are pointing in the right way and having a marshal to make sure peole don't get lost. The event is chip timed and the medal is really cool.

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed in 2017

4.3

Fast local 5 mile

I'd previously run the Ickenham 5 in 2015 as a step up between 5K and 10K distance. I returned to the event this year with my local fitness group for the 5th anniversary of the race. They changed it up and reversed the route but it is still two laps. As it's in the Summer it is quite tough race conditions as there isn't much shade on the route so bring a hat and have adequate fluids to hand, as there's only one water station. But it is a fast flat course where PBs are possible. The only bit to be wary of is the start and end in the park, as it's on uneven grass so watch your footing. It's chipped timed and there is also a mini race for the kids before the main event.

Race HQ is in Swakeleys Park, which isn't far from Hillingdon tube station. You can park nearby but the organisers advise you where to park to avoid blocking the race route. There aren't many toilets so make sure to go early before hand. Bag drop was easy and the course marshals were very encouraging. A nice friendly 5 mile event

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

3.8

Local Half Marathon

I chose the Hillingdon Half as my first half marathon race as it is fairly local to me. I had run the 10K event the year before so I was familiar with the route. The race start is at Brunel so race HQ has plenty of parking available and there changing facilities and toilets on site. Definitely go to the toilets early, as between the sports centre and the Indoor Athletics Centre there aren't really enough. It's a chipped time event. It is open road so you will be reminded not to wear headphones. They did checks this year so they are clamping down on it unless you have the UKA approved bone conducing ones.

The route goes through residential areas so there isn't as much support in for parts of the route as there is on the campus itself. The half marathon takes you out on the course twice, which is tough when you're feeling quite tired. The medal is very nice and there is also the opportunity to get a sports massage after if you need one.

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4

Nice 10 Mile Run

I was recommended the Harry Hawkes 10 by members from the UK Runchat community, as I was looking for a race distance between 10k and half marathon. There was ample parking nearby and the race village was easy to reach. There weren't enough toilets for the number of runners entered so there was a bit of a queue right up to the start of the race. The course itself was fairly flat and scenic, going along parts of the Thames and near Hampton Court. The water stations used cups so you couldn't take the water with you and I had to stop at one of them as the cups weren't quite ready so it slightly disrupted my run. Other than that it was a nice first 10 mile race for me.

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2016

4.2

Home of London 2012

Another race that I had read about and wanted to try out. You can't say no to the prospect of finishing a 10K run in the Olympic Stadium, which some of the world's best athletes had graced during London 2012. The organisation of the race was pretty smooth I didn't have any major issues. Given the time of the year for the race the weather was very unforgiving. There were water stations but it would have been good to have some more shower stations along the course to help cool you down. It was a busy event but you didn't feel like you had to weave around or jostle for space for too long at the start of the race. The course is flat for the most part but there were difficult parts such as the incline near the velodrome. When you approach the stadium you run inside the corridors and then detour out to the practice track before heading into the stadium itself. That caught me out a bit as you think you're almost there so definitely don't go out to hard. Finishing on the Olympic track is certainly a memory I will cherish for a long time. 

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4.4

Good Way to Start the New Year

I entered the New Year's Day run as a way to kick start 2017 and also for training towards my first half marathon. It's a race event organised by Serpentine AC members so it really is an event by runners for runners.

It was quite a good day weather wise and the race organisation was pretty good, as there were about 600 runners. No major queues for the bag drop. The route is a nice scenic one around Hyde Park. Definitely recommend it.

Posted on 09.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4

Great Half Marathon Experience

I had heard about the Royal Parks Half from friends who ran it last year so that was enough for me to enter the ballot. When I didn't get a place that way I chose to run for Macmillan Cancer Support, which is one of the Golden Oak charities so meant raising a fair bit of money for the place. But that just gave me more purpose to complete the race. The weather was perfect and the course is very scenic. Race village is a bit hectic in the lead up to the start. Queuing for the bad drop wasn't too bad as I got there early but queues for the toilets were really manic. So you have to plan it well or risk having to stop early on in the race to use the ones at the start of the course.

The atmosphere is amazing but also very busy. It does take you a while to get going due to the sheer number of runners in the green, blue (where I started), yellow and maroon pens. You have to pace yourself and watch you don't trip over legs as you jostle for some clear space to run in. The fueling stations could be a bit better organised as the bottles of water and lucozade and weren't opened up quick enough so I had to stop briefly the two times I picked some water up. Also another thing to be wary of is spectators darting across sections of the route where there weren't enough volunteers to safely guide them across. This happened a few times in really busy sections of the run so there could have been a few accidents along the way.

The course itself is very scenic. Parts of the route cover that of the London Marathon and also the Cancer Research 10K Run that I did earlier this year. It's definitely one way to take in the sights of London. The route markers were clearly laid out. The crowds were amazing and I loved some of the funny banners being held up to help spur you along when the race got tough towards the latter end. The medal is a great one to have in your collection. It's definitely one of my favourites.

Posted on 09.10.17