I was thrilled to be able to take part in the very first running of this new event held in the City of London. When it was announced that it was taking place the original allocation of places made available on line were snapped up within minutes of them going on sale and the race quickly sold out. So when I was asked to pace the event for the Centurion Running Pacing Team, I jumped at the chance.
I know a lot of people have complained about the cost of the race, £50 entry for a half marathon is quite steep, but then bear in mind the cost involved with closing off the Centre of London for a day, the entertainment laid on throughout the run and the quality medal and t shirt that was included within the price and it does make sense. I know you will find less expensive races elsewhere, but I doubt it would match this for atmosphere and the uniqueness of it.
As a pacer I was sent a link to regsiter my entry from the pacing co-ordinator, which would have been as general runners would have signed up, I found this very easy to complete and no issues there.
Information and race details were readily available on a range of social media platforms, and a race pack containing your race bib, t shirt and race guide in booklet form, arrived in the post a few weeks before the event.
The startline was positioned on Pall Mall, and runners were asked to gather there after a warm up session in Trafalger Square at various start times, according to the colour of their bibs which based upon predicted finishing times indictated by runners at the point of sign up. This will be my one major grumble of my review.
The start was a mess!
If you are gong to make a big feature of coloured waves and set start times, then you must make sure that this happens. There was no sign of pens to line up in according to colour, instead runners were just arriving en masse and being pushed forward in one group regardless of colour, or pace they could run, towards the start line and just told to run. Therefore in the first wave which should be for faster runners, I saw plenty of bibs for runners allocated waves 4, 5 or 6 starting and quickly getting in the way of the quicker guys, a very dangerous situation.
Also as a pacer who has paced many events, I was getting very frustrated at hoiw we were being used. We should have been put into the waves (had they have been used correctly) ahead of the runners arriving so that they could find us and line up with us. Not just quickly told to jump into the mass start of each group with a minute to spare from the hooter, and have no time to position properly. in wave 1 the 1hr20, 1hr30, and 1hr45 pacers were struggling to actually get into position before the start and actually started running with just a few feet between them selves.
That was my only negative from the day.
The course was a great flat course, although very twisty in some places. a couple of dead turns at times brought the field to a standstill at a few pinch points, which needed care with where to place your feet in the bunch. Living up to its name of the Landmarks half, the route took in many of the great sights, and in the case of Bow Bells, sounds of London, and around the whole course there were signs set up to inform runners of the historic points of interest they were running past
A large range of Bands, Dancers and costumed entertainers were in position to add the fun, and we even had a Roman Centurion salute as we passed through the Guild Hall area. At one point I was lucky enough to have "Delboy" Derek Trotter from only Fools and Horses run alongside me, well done for that lookalike as it must have been hard in that sheepskin coat!
Water stations were frequent and provided water in bottles, some had energy drinks, and were well staffed with cheery marshalls.Volunteers were on hand around the whole course to direct and assist runners if needed. Totally closed roads so no safety issues. Plenty of support from spectators on the route as well
On my GPS watch, and many others alike, the course did seem to measure long. I had 22.62kms at the end, but in London GPS can sometimes get a little confused due to the high building sometimes, but I think it was still a little long.
Finishing on Downing street, the awesome medal was handed to you by a range of costumed actors, or Pearly Kings and Queens, water and a Eat Natural energy bar were available, and a special finishers Wrist Sweatband was handed to you.
To sum up, a fantastic event which in its first year set a very high standard which I hope it maintains. Serious issues with the start needs to be addressed however to make it a safer and less chaotic mess, but I am sure this will be sorted for next time.
Certainly a race to get into if you can, yes the price is high, but as I said the costs involved in putting it on must have been huge, and it was all for a good cause, held in aid of the Tommys charity.
Would I do it again, without doubt, it just may clash next year with another event I have already committed to doing
Posted on 02.04.18
As you may know from previous reviews of races from DB Max, I rate their events very highly. For no other reason than they deserve them, and this Easter offering around the grounds or surrounding villages of Westonbirt House is no exception.
Using the same route as their popular Christmas 10k and Autumn 10 races, the #finishinthebar Easter 10k was another slick, well oganised and enjoyable event, despite the Bank Holiday liquid weather tring to put a dampner on proceddings.
As a member of the #DBmaxpaceteam, registration was taken care of for me by the team, however I did enter my wife into the event using the online entry form and it was a straight forward process to do so. Entry fee was on par with other events of the same size. A nice touch with DB Max events is the chance to have your name on your race bib, which is either sent out to you in the post, or in the case of late entries, can be picked up on the day.
Social media posts kept runners informed of events, and a race letter giving all the logistics for the day, was available prior to the race.
Getting to the event was very simple, Westonbirt House is easily accessed from all directions and signposts directed you off the main road into the car park in the grounds of the property. A field of around 800 (sell out) assembled in a hall of the house which served as the registration/bib pick up centre and bag drop area. A seperate room in the building had a number of stalls and retailers as well as hot drinks and snacks.
Race briefing and pre race warm up took place on the lawns, before runners were led in time finishing order by the pacers (I was on 60 minute duty) to the start line which was about 5 mins walk back up the main drive. Start was prompt and on time, and runners set off on a two lap course exiting the grounds, following a route around the villages that border the house.
The course was on partially closed roads, marshalls were on hand to keep one side of the road clear for runners and to allow cars to pass on the other side. Due to the rain it was a bit wet and slippy in some parts and one section of narrow road was very potted with large pot holes. These filled up with water and was therefore hard to judge how deep they were. Safety however was never an issue.
One lap of the route brought us back into the lower grounds of the house, and through a narrow gate way (single file) and into some off road sections through the trees and on grassy banks, these were a little hard to cover due to the rain, but runners were quickly back onto tarmac and out onto the second lap.
The one water station was positioned as you began the 2nd lap offering water in cups..
There was not a lot of local support on the route, being mostly open country roads it was hardly surprising and where the route did pass houses, homeowners had wisely spent their Good Friday mornings in the warm and dry, however what the locals lacked the marshalls made up for and were superb throughout.
One final push up the grassy banks at the end of lap 2 took runners back up to the house and a final trot up 5 steps to the finish line and across the chip timing mat to finish. Water, quality medal (another regular feature of DB Max events) and sweets and flapjacks were on hand. A print off giving your gun and chip finishing time was available, as were instant results on the DB Max website.
For some runners they had paid a little extra on their entry fee to purchase a fish and chop meal in the hall afterwards, which was most welcome.
A great, if wet, event once more, I would recommend anybody to look into taking part in future DB Max events, you will not find many better around.
Posted on 31.03.18
When you think of Blackpool in Mid February I would imagine the words "Sunshine" "Warm" and "Little Breeze" would not be first on your mind, but after a few years of reports of terrible weather, I was pleasently surprised to see that the afore mentioned words were actuall what we had. A glorious day by the seaside and a superbly well organised half marathon to make the day even more special.
I was part of the Fylde Coast Runners pace team for the event, so my registration was done for me, I just had to collect my race pack and pacer shirt from the registration tent along with the other 1300 or so runners on the day, and this was easily done.
Superb communiaction from the race organisors on Social Media kept everybody informed as to what to do on the day, even giving regular weather updates during the week before the race.
We found car parking on a road alongside the prominade and it was just a short walk to the start/registartion area from there. Plenty of toilets were on hand and a coffee stall to keep you warm in the early morning chill before the sun started to warm us up.
The start area was well set out with zones clearly marked for runners to line up along with their pacer at their predicted finish times. I was on 2hr 15m pace duties and took up my position and was joined by an eager and happy group, most of whom stayed with me all the way around (Including Elvis!!)
The excitement on the startline was built up further by a very bubbly commentator, and the race set off on time and headed off North, along the middle walkway of the prom in the direction of the North Pier, here we turned right and moved down to the lower walkway and headed back towards the start, before once again moving up on to the middle walkway to complete a second loop again passing back through the start. after these two "short" loops which took us to about 3 miles into the race, we coninued along the lower prom to complete two longer loops of the route further down the shore before coming back to the finish which was alongside the startline.
The route was almost entirely flat, with just a few very small little inclines up from the lower to middle walkways, and gave some lovely views out over the surprisngly calm sea.
Decent local support on the route cheered everybody on, and marshalls were helpful and supportive all the way round.
4 water stations on the course handed out bottles of water, screwtop bottles which had already had the tops removed, and I was happy to see that discarded bottles were quickly collected and bagged to make sure they did not find their way onto the beach and out to sea.
With the course being completly offroad and on the prom, there was no problem at all with safety issues from cars, although a few ignorant cyclists weaving in ond out of runners as they sped down the path as if they were in the Tour de France, was a little concerning.
A lovely downhill final half mile brought us back into the finish chute, and the welcome of the course commentator again (she was great) before you collected a stylish tech t shirt, water, banana and a chocolate bar along with one of the biggest and heaviest medals I have ever seen, great value!
I Really enjoyed this race, and although it was a long trip up for us from Wiltshire to take part, I hope that I can be invited back to the pace team again for next years 30th Anniversary staging of the Great North West Half Marathon, maybe see Elvis again!!
Posted on 24.02.18
My second time running this event, the first was back in 2016, and also my second time running it as a pacer for the Xempo Racepacing team.
I recalled from my previous running how hilly the "undulating" course was so I ws prepared for a really good early season test of my own fitness level and pacing skills.
As a pacer, my registration was taken care for me by Xempo, there was good communication for runners via the usual social media channels, with a race booklet in electronic form sent out in advance to runners to give details of logistics.
I was able to park close to the start area which was in Cassiobury park and walk about 5 mins to the race village. A large tent acted as a meeting point for all, and to collect race bibs and timing chips with a curtained off area for male/female changing. Outside a few stands were on hand with hot drinks and food.
A row of portaloos soon became busy as the race start neared, although many seemed to miss the toilet cabins which were alongside the tent, maybe an additional sign informing of these would have helped the queue shorten.
The race start is split into two areas, either side of a piece of grassland, with the two starts merging together just prior to half a mile in. This helps with congestion on the narrow paths and ensures a safe start for all runners. I was on the 2hr 20 pace duties and it took just a few minutes to get over the start timing mat.
After a short lap around the park grounds the route exited through the park gates and took a few twists and turns around the nearby residentail areas before heading out of town and into the Hertfordshire countryside.
Some very scenic views greeted us as we ran the course, with 4 steep inclines to keep us all on our toes! However there was also plenty of downhill sections to allow everybody to get some recovery in before the next hill test.
Local support was sparse, but where it was present, the residents gave great support, and a special mention must be made of the marshalls on the whole route, who were loud and supportive all the way around, and made sure that in the few areas where cars were present, safety was not an issue in any way.
There was sufficient water stations on the route, water handed out in cups which I am not a big fan of, but again a mention to the volunteers here as well, who were busy handing out and quickly picking up discarded cups to keep the area tidy, Loved the younger members of the teams who entertained us at these stations with songs and cheers!
Eventually the route winds it way back into the park with a very gradual uphill finish over the last half mile.
After you finish a drink, medal and tech t shirt were presented to you, with results available on the race website soon afterwards.
A very enjoyable, if tough, way to kick start a busy year of running for me underway, and I hope to be back in Watford again in 2019
Posted on 24.02.18
Originally planned to take place at the begining of December,but delayed due to the heavy snowfall the night before, the DBMax Westonbirt Christmas 10k went ahead 3 week later, but still had the festive feel that it has done in the past.
Although the Christmas meal option had been taken out from the original plan, there was still an air of Christmas spirit around the 500 or so that managed to make the rescheduled date. Maybe the Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and Turkey Baps that were on offer after the race had something to do with that, although I feel it was more likely down the the ever efficient organiastion from the DB Max team, who never fail to put on a superb event.
Registartion via the DB Max online service was easy to complete, race numbers with names printed on were mailed out in advance, and there were also some being collected on the day. Superb communication via email and social media, kept everybody informed regarding the rearrangment and this all seemed to run smoothly.
A few issues with parking this year, mainly due to not wanting to park a large amount of cars on the surrounding fields due to being very soggy, but everybody seemed to get parked up in time and ready to race by the advertised midday start time a bag drop facility within the magnificent Westonbirt House allowed runners to assemble on the lawns for their race briefing, Runners were then led around to the startline by the race pacers, of which I was lucky enough to be part of, pacing the 60min group.
Despite the strong winds, and chill in the air, a happy crowd lined up in the most wonderful setting for the start and finish of a run, Westonbirt house provide a majestic backdrop for a race to take place, and the surrounding grounds and countryside just add to the glory.
Starting bang on time, the two lap course comprised mostly of roads around the surrounding villages and farms that border the House, with just a small section on grassland in the gardens of the property.
At times the public roads were a little busy with road traffic, but a good amount of well informed, and well supervised marshalls coupled with some common sense by drivers, ensured there were no problems. The recent rainfall made for a few muddy stretches on the narrower roads, and some potholes needed to be taken with care, but the mostly flat course was not too taxing for an after Christmas "Wear off the excess" run!
The course was well signed and acurate KM markers meant it was easy for me to ensure that my pacing was on the mark.
A water station was sited at the midway point of the 10k, just as runners set out for lap 2 and provided water and jelly babies if required
On finishing the race up the steps off the main entrance to the Great Hall, runners were handed water and there was the usual DB Max supply of sweets and flapjacks to refuel with straight away, one of the best finishers medals I have seen for a long time was cheerfully hung around your neck, and due to the chip timing facility embeded into the race bib, you were able to get an instant print out of your result to have in your hand, as well as them being available instantly via the DB Max timing website
Highly recommend this run to anybody interested in it for 2018, as would I for the Easter and Summer events that are planned there for next year, in fact anything that DB Max stage is well worth considering.
Posted on 31.12.17
The biggest Chilly 10lk to date by all accounts, and easy to see why it keeps growing in popularity every year. The usual slick and professional event that you come to expect from DB Max was here again. A few grumbles from some quarters, which I will address in this review, but on the whole a very enjoyable day at Castle Combe.
Registartion is straight forward and esy to do on-line, as I was one of the official pacers for the event this was taken care for me, however I also took part in the Chilly Duathlon straight after the 10k and the sign up process was the same for that so I know how easy it was.
Race bibs were collected on the day from a well laid out information tent, runners were told their race number in advance via an email and just needed to locate the table with their corresponding race bib number listed. A nice touch as always with DB Max is the chance to have your name printed on the bib if you register early enough.
First grumble from many concerned the entry into the circuit before you were actually able to collect your bib. Large queues formed on the road leading into the one entrance that was being used for car park entry, with many being stuck in the queue for over half an hour. This led to the start being delayed to allow all those trying to get in to the circuit to do so in time.
Once in and parked however things ran smoothly thereafter apart from an issue with Ladies toilets, I noticed very long queues stretching back from the one or two toilet blocks that were available for the Ladies to use, Gents had no problems, which hopefully can be improved upon for next time.
The race village, other than the info tent, had a stand from the title sponsors Proto-Col, and a few reatilers selling kit and hot drinks.
The start area was very impressive, with a Red Carpet laid out to set off upon and pyrotechnics signalled the start of the race at the slightly later time due to the already mentioned traffic issues. Once away the course consisted of 3 laps around the Castle Combe Race Track, with KM's clearly marked throughout. Some thought the course measured a little long, but I assume that the 10k was measured using the shortest "racing line" around the track, and if you took a wider entry or exit into the corners if would add a bit to your own distance.
One water station was position on the home start/finish straight on the circuit, which of course you would pass 3 times, and this was where the only real crowd support would be gathered, marshalls were on hand throughout and there was a good medical/ first aid presence.
On completion of the 3rd lap the course diverted off into the circuit pit lane, and finished on the welcoming Red Carpet again, with a name check via PA as you crossed the line. A top quality medal was handed to you, and a bottle of water, the usual DB Max big selection of sweets, chocolates and flapjacks were on offer as soon as you finished. Chip timers in your race bib allowed you to get an instant print off with your time upon it, (both Gun and Chip time shown) and results were also instantly available viw the DB Max website.
I have always been a big fan of events organised by DB Max, and would recommend them to anybody without hesitation, with the exception of the parking and toilet issues this time, there really is nothing that can be faulted about the Chilly, and I look forward to being able to run and pace at more events on their behalf in 2018
Posted on 21.11.17
I was asked to act as a pacer for the Poppy Half Marathon, pacing 2hr10m and was delighted to be able to accept. The thought of being able to run a half marathon in a lovely seaside location, help others to reach new goals and to be able to remember and honour our fallen servicemen and women was so appealing to me.This was the 10th anniversary running of the race.
And what a great day it was, despite a little bit of drizzly rain and a slight sea breeze, the whole event was superb, very well organised and set up and one to recommend for future years.
Getting to the location was easy enough, from my location in Swindon it took about 3 hours to drive, there was parking available close to the start in a pay and display car park, but also plenty of free parking roadside if you didn't mind a short walk to the start.
Based on the sea front at the Grade 1 listed Art Deco style De La Warr Pavilion, the event comprised of not only the headline half marathon, but also a 5km, 10km and junior races (500m and 1km) beforehand. All of these set off right on schedule and were well supported and marshalled.
The Half Marathon was due to set off at 12.30pm, approx 500 entrants lined up ready to go on time, but before the off there was a moment to reflect as runners were asked to stand for a few moments in silence to hear the National Anthem sung and the last post to be played and to pay tribute to our heroes.
Bang on 12.30 the race started, a flat course, apart from a short 100m incline, which was made up of an initial 5km section before 2 loops of 8km out and back along the prominade, all on paths with just a short section on a quiet road.
The route was well marshalled and signed, with mile markers throughout and there was a well stocked and supervised water station at the same point on the course, which was passed on each loop. Bottled water was being handed out and I was pleased to see that all discarded bottles were quickly being picked up to stop any finding their way on to the beautiful shingle beach and then swept out to sea.
First aid was available on the route and at the start/finish area, thankfully I did not see anybody require help from them but it was nice to know that they were there if needed.
There was not a lot of local support save from at the Pavilion, some interested onlookers at the regular sea front cafes gave encouragement each time we ran past, but other than a bemused looking postman at one point there were not many others about.
On completion of the race runners were able to get an instant result on the finish time, through the chip timimg on their race bib, and were handed a bottle of Yazoo flavoured milk as soon as you crossed the line. A really top quality medal with a lovely tribute message inscribed upon it was presented to you and then your could immediatly refuel with a well stocked tent with Jaffa Cakes, Haribo's Jelly Babies, bicuits and drinks galore, oh and more Yazoo if required!
Race photos were being taken on the day and were quickly available to purcahse at a very resonable price, with a percentage of the cost being donated to the race charity.
I thouroughly enjoyed the whole event, and rounded off a great day with a nice helping of chips whilst watching the breakers crash in on the beach. I would recommend this race to anybody looking for a smaller event to run in to avoid the crowds, but that is still on a par with bigger events on the organisational side of things.
Posted on 13.11.17
Always a firm favourite event of mine, this was my 4th running of the Great South Run.
In the few days before the event, there had been a few concerns regarding the weather, Storm Brian which had forced the organisors to cancel all the Saturday planned runs was still hanging around, but thankfully it was deemed safe to go ahead and I am so glad it did. Event staff removed a few barriers and advertising hoardings and banners due to the strong winds but it did not effect safety at the event.
Easy sign up for the run through the Great Run website, with a Great Run ID, its so straight forwards as your information is stored on the site, the price may be a little steep in some peoples eyes, but I do not mind paying for what is always a wonderful day.
Race village is easy to find and there was car parking on the common at Southsea close to the start and finish area, with a park and ride service available as well. A good amount of toilets on site served the 20,000 expected runners well
The start is well organised, wave starts based on predicted finish time, this is my one moan, and it's not the fault of the organisors. Please people be realistic when putting down your predictions!!, I started in the first wave and said I would do 1hr30 and yet I was forced to sid estep and sweerve around walkers after just 1km of the run who started ahead of me!
The course is a little narrow at about 2km, another problem area with runners in the wrong wave walking and causing a problem for runners behind, but widen aout soon after, a highlight is always running through the Historic Dock yards past the HMS Victory and Mary Rose Expo, before heading into the usually off limits Navy docks with the Royal Navy ships moored up. Stunning sight seeing the New Queen Elizabeth Aircraft carrier close up.
Great support throughout the route from locals, almost the whole of the route was full of cheering crowds, which was complimented by a few bands at various intervals.
Aid stations handing out bottled water were well positioned and marshalled well, and there was a good medical support team throughout, which unfortunatly I noted had to be called into action on 3 or 4 occasions to help runners in difficulties.
The final 2 miles along the sea front was a little harder than in previous years, due to the strong winds, but once you reached the final 1km and could hear the finish line announcer, all thought of the wind was gone and it was a sprint to the end.
Nice goodie bag with finishers t shirt and medal inside awaited you as you crossed the line and a good variety of stalls and stands along with food and drink vendors were a welcome sight.
Really can not fault the whole day again, maybe do without the wind in 2018 please, but I will be back again
Posted on 27.10.17
First time running for myself of the Great Birmingham Run, the half marathon version, new for 2017 the Great Run Compnay also staged a full marathon on the same day which others will have reviewed elsewhere.
I was on the Duracell pacer team for the run, pacing 2hr20m. Sign up as always with the Great Run events was straight forward via the website, and as I have now done so many Great Runs, my details are stored on their database so there was no need to type in all my information.
Pre race briefings were good, via social media and email, and information was concise and to the point. My race pack arrived in plenty of time with my race bib and information magazine inside.
With the fact that the race was starting from Aston University in the heart of the City, and with the full marathon on the same day, I thought it was best to not try to drive into the area and risk trying to find a carpark amongst the road closures. Instead I followed the advice given in the pre race blurb and used public transport. I parked at Shirley train station and caught a train into Birmingham Moor Strret station (£4.20 return, free parking at the station). The trip took less than 15 minutes and it was a ten minute walk to the race village from Moor Street. On the walk in, we had a chance to cheer on some of the Marathon runners entering the final km to the finish line.
The race village consisted of the Great Run Info tent, Arla protein Yoghurt statnd (free smaples) official mercandise stand from Pro Direct running, 2XU compression gear stand and oddly a Nando's stand, handing out free samples as well. A few charity stands were in place as well.
The runners are started in waves, the first wave starting off at 1.30pm (strange to start a half marathon so late in the day, but the full marathon took the early morning honour) I was allocated to the Pink wave, the last to start, and we crossed the line at 1.58pm.
The first 4 or 5kms followed a twisty route through some rather uninspiring industrial areas, past a lot of shuttered warehouses and closed shops, before making its way through a residential area, we took a loop through Canons Park before circling the Edgbaston Cricket ground and heading off down the Pershore road. This was a changed course from previous years, the infamous big hill which had dominated before at Mile 11 had now been taken out, but there were a few uphill sectins added to the route which caused a few groans and grumbles throughout the run. After a trip around Bournville, close to Cadburys World, the route followed Pershore Road back towards the city, before passing the Bull Ring shopping centre before hitting the final KM.
After the initial blandness of the first section the course was interesting and well supported trouighout, marshalls were positioned well and water stations at frequent intervals kept the runners well hydrated on what became a quite warm afternoon.
After finishing you were given the usual Great Run finishers draw string back with a few goodied and leaflets inside, along with a Tech finishers T shirt and medal
Times and finishing positions were quickly available on the Great Run website.
In summary, the usual good organisation you come to expect from Great Run events, although I had not run the old course, I think replacing the one big hill was a good idea, and I enjoyed to fina two thirds of the route after leaving the industrial areas. Maybe look at the starting time as it was a bit weird starting at 2pm in the afternoon, but a race I would certainly do again.
Posted on 27.10.17
I last took part in this race in 2014, when the route took you out of Kew Gardens and finished up in the Old Deer park, Richmond, so I was looking forward to competing in it again and running the new course.
I was part of the pacing team for the event, running 65mins and as such my entry was taken care of by the race organisers, the price has been described as being a bit pricey by some, but each runner was able to take family and friends into the stunning kew gardens for free (normally £15 per person entry) so it worked out a good deal if you wanted to make a day out of visiting the gardens.
As I had to be there early to be kitted out as a pacer, I was able to get free parking in the road right outside of the entry gate, I understand that there was a recommended car park close by, and public transport routes right up to the main gate.
On arrival in the park, I met the rest of the team at the information centre and got kitted out in our special pacers Tee shirts and flags, the race hub consisted of an information tent, a good amount of toilets and a few chairty supporters tents.
The start was arranged on a wave basis, with each runner allocated tio a wave based on their predicted finsih time, this was very well organised and marshalled, and each wave was set off with a short interval between each other.
The first few hundred metres was ran on grass, which in the early morning (08.30 start) was still a little damp and slippery, but soon we made our way onto tarmac paths to start our tour of the grounds. As previuosly mentioned earlier, this was a new course for 2017, and was almost totally confined to the beautiful Kew Garden park. This has to be one of the prettiest runs I have taken part in as we wound our way through the stunning collection of trees, flowers and statues within the grounds. The course briefly went outside of the walls for about 0.5km towards the latter part of the run, before returning back to the finish line which was where we began. Other than the few hundred metres at the start and end on grass, the route was a majoity of tarmac path, with a few sections on gravel.
Mid way through the run, we were greeted by some people dressed in Alice in Wonderland costumes (Queen of Hearts, Dormouse, Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit), I.m still unsure if these were laid on by the run directors, or they were the stragglers from an interesting night out in Richmond the evening before, however it made for a good atmosphere and lots of Hi 5's followed.
The pre race briefings mentioned that there would be a water station at approx 5km, however when my wave group arrived at this point, all we found was a lot of half empty discarded water bottles on the floor, no sign of a water station.Possibly the early waves used up all the water before we arrived and the volunteers had packed up and returned to base?, there was another water station at 8kms, but this was a bit late for those that missed out on the earlier drink.
The race was chip timed, via a shoe worn timing tag, which on completion of the race, was removed from your shoe and you were presented with a very impressive medal and goody bag, and collected your finisher tee shirt. Photographers were on hand to capture past race images with your medal in front of an advertising board if you wished.
You were then free to spend as long as you liked visiting the park, gift shops and cafe's with your medal hung proudly around your neck.
In summary a very well organised run, save for the issue with the missing water station, in beautiful stunning parkland, one to put onto the to do list for 2018
Posted on 21.09.17
My second running of the Bristol Half Marathon, now part of the Great Run franchise of events.
As in 2016, I was lucky enough to be on the Duracell sponsored pacing team for the event, running 2h20 and loved every minute of it.
As a pacer, my entry was free, however I think the entry fee compares well with races of this size, and you know that for your money you will get the expertise of the Great Run series.. Registration was easy and simple via the website.
Travel to the event was straightforward, the race hub is right in the heart of the City, in Millennium square, we drove in and there are plenty of car parks nearby, however be aware that after a 4 hour stay the fee for these car parks on a Sunday is £12. The race hub had a handfull of retailers stands, and information tent, with portaloo's close by. There were also a number of shops open to get coffee and food before the event started.
The race itself is a wave start system, the faster runners starting bang on time at 09.30am, with the following waves setting off at 8 minute intervals. With 10,000 entries this meant the course would not be too congested and I have to say it appeared that most entrants were realistic with their predicted finish times and wave placement as my wave (3rd off) didn't catch many of the earlier waves on the course.
Starting on Anchor Road, the course makes it way out of the City and under the Iconic Clifton Suspension bridge, along the Portway for about 4 miles, before turning back on itself and back under the bridge for the second half of the run. It wound its way around the harbourside and City areas, before finishing back in Anchor Road. Mostly flat course, other than a couple of short, sharp inclines with a mile or two to go, the route afforded a very scenic view of the area, especially along the Portway. There were a couple of cobbled streets to run through towards the end, which I know caused a few issues for a few runners with tired legs, but on the whole it was a good route to run. A tunnel under the Clifton Bridge which was passed through twice, gave rise to the obvious "Oggy, Oggy, Oggy" chant, which I have to own up to, was led by said Pacer!
Marshalling on the route was excellent, lots of Hi Viz smiling faces, shouting encouragement throughout, and the feed stations were well sited at 2.5, 5.5, 8 & 11 miles. Water was in flip top bottles and plenty to go around. Later in the race, an Army Cadet manned Jelly Baby station was on hand, however judging by the amount of sticky sweets littering the whole width of the road, it appeared a masacre may have occured prior to my pace groups arrival, as it was like running through glue at one point. There were 2 run though showers, and portaloos at intervals on the route
Bands were poisitioned around the route, and even a local resident took it upon himself to sit on his garden wall overlooking the Portway and give us a very good version of the Chariots of Fire theme upon a Trumpet. There was large amounts of support in the City/Harbour section of the run, with good sized pockets of spectators out on the Portway loop..
On completion of the race, runners were given the usual Great Run finishers bag, with medal, tee shirt, drinks and snacks inside and directed back into the race hub to meet and greet family and friends.
The usual slick Great Run experience, and a very enjoyable day, I was so happy to have assisted many runners to new PB's through my role as a pacer, and hope very much I am lucky enough to be asked back again in 2018, if not I will certainly enter myself! One for the to do list for sure.
Posted on 18.09.17
Once again another great event from DB Max.
I have previously reviewed the Chilly Duathlon from an earlier staging in July of this year, this evening was the last in the 2017 series before the big November Chilly.
My previous review holds firm for this evening as well, although not big in participant numbers, just over 100 took part tonight, DB Max laid on exactly the same service as they would for bigger events. First class registration process including on the night, good briefing, well marshalled and organised with their usual slick style.
Looking forward to doing again soon
Posted on 07.09.17
After the last minute cancellation of the 2016 Swindon Half Marathon, it seemed that my home town would be without an event this year. That was until a group of runners from Swindon got together and launched the New Swindon Half Marathon, pulling together a very well organised event in less than 10 months.
There were, understandably, a few teething problems, which I am sure will be looked at and improved for next year, but the response from most of the 2,700 runners has been very favourable on social media.
I was involved as a pacer for the Xempo race pacing team, pacing out 2hr 20m and loved being part of my home town event. As a pacer my registration was dealt with through Xempo, but speaking to running friends who signed up themselves, they all said it was a straight forward and easy process, with early bird discounts on offer if you were quick. Communication from the organising team was first class, plenty of information on social media and through email, right up until the evening before the race.
The pre race village was sited outside the Swindon Town football ground, and had a well marked out start funnel, baggage trucks (which would take bags to the finish in the town centre) information tent, food and drink stallls and retailers stalls, a stage was set up for annoucements and a pre race warm up session.
The course was a new one from previous years, keeping to the Town itself instead of leaving Swindon and going out into the surrounding downs as in previous years. Mostly flat other than a long steady and continual climb at about 11.5 miles, it appears that most people, apart from the town's drivers!!, prefered this route over the last one. Social media and local press outlets went into melt down during the time of the race, with complaints of gridlocked traffic around the course with many drivers venting their anger through abuse at runners and marshalls. Road closure signs were in place at least 2 and a half weeks prior to day, but it seems many missed them and were not aware of the event until getting stuck in tailbacks. Credit most be given here to the race organiser, who has already released a statement apologising for problems, and promising a review and action to improve things for 2018.
Starting in the car aprk of Swindon Town FC, the route cut across the Town's famous Magic Roundabout and snaked its way around the Town, passing the BMW mini plant, Oasis Leisure Centre (yes the one that Liam and Noel took the name from when forming their little band a few years back), the Outlet Shopping Centre, housed in the town's former GWR rail works, up into the Old Town part of Swindon before finishing with a welcome downhill final mile into the heart of town.
Apart from the afore mentioned traffic problems the course was well signed,with directions and mile markers, and marsahalled superbly. 4 aid stations were manned be happy (despite the rain) volunteers and gave out bottled water, High 5 gels and jelly babies to runners in need. Designated waste zones after the stations meant that the post race clear up was going to be a bit quicker. Maybe not the prettiest of routes, but a nice course to run, although on my watch and many others as well, it did come up a little short of the 13.1 miles.
I was pleasently surprised by the level of local support on the route, pockets of really noisy and encouraging residents were out to cheer the runners through, there were charity cheer points and a samba band at about 9 miles to add to the atmosphere.
One other area which may need a review for next year could be the finish zone, after the finish line it was a little cramped for space, and long queues were forming to get into a tent to collect the finishers goodie bags. The bags included a tech t shirt, medal, gel and Beanie hat with the race logo emboidered into it, I expect to see many of those around town over the coming, colder months!
The race was chip timed by the ever efficient DB Max Race Timing service, results being available online immediatly, and updated as the event was taking place.
In summary, considering the short time in which the organisors had to put togther the event, they have given the town an half marathon to be proud of again, Yes there will be a backlash from motorists over the coming days, but if all parties involved in putting this on again for 2018 take a good look at things, and how traffic management can be improved then I can see this event growing year on year.
I hope I can be lucky enough to pace more runners to PB's again in 2018.
Posted on 03.09.17
If an event has the title, "DB Max Events" attached to it, you can be sure it will be a well organised and enjoyable event, and the Malmesbury Carnival "Flying Monk" 10km is certainly no exception.
Although it's not the biggest event in the DB Max stable, arond 400 registered in 2017, it was right up alongside some of their other events for value, organisation and support, and I was happy to be given the chance to pace the race at the 60 minute target time.
Registration through the DB Max website is straight forward, with race bib's containing timing chips being picked up on the day, runners were kept well informed on the lead up to the race through email of what to expect and to do on the day, and each runner was notified of their race bib number in advance of arriving at the start to speed up collection. there were also day entries available on the day.
Getting to the start line was staright forward, despite it being carnival week and many of the town centre roads being shut off, it was wonderful to see bright, easy to spot signs from miles away on the main roads to direct you around the outlying roads and into the car park at the nearby secondary school. The advertised 5 min walk to the registration tent may have been a little conservative however!
Once at the startline, and numbers collected, there was a bag drop tent, and toilets set up, with stands from some of the sponsors including Busom Buddies and Up & Running. Hot drinks and food were also available, although withe the race starting at 11am, and the temperature already reaching the mid 20's prior to the start, I didn't see many hot drinks being consumed.
A short, but concise race briefing prefixed the start of the race, before runners were invited into the start chute based on their expected finish times, led by pacers starting from 50 minutes and up to 65 minutes. Start was bang on 11am and we left the football ground and headed out onto the course.
As soon as you left the ground the "undulating" (official course description) nature of the route soon become clear, staright away into a steady climb heading back up towards to car park from where we had just came, before heading out into the surrounding countryside. Here we found the real Hills, and plenty of them, and with the temps now climbing into the high 20's many found them tough to handle. The course was on open roads, but it was well marshalled and traffic levels were light, so no real issue here with safety.
A water station was positioned at around 4.8kms, water being handed out in cups, and here I advised many to stop and take on water to avoid dehydration. The course had a dead turn, turn around point shortly after this, and you could grab another cup from the same station at about 5.4km to top up your fluids.
The course now followed the Fosse way, one of Britains Oldest Roads dating back to Roman times, back towards the town, with still a few sting in the tail hills to comquer, the only real downhill section being the final 2kms back towards the football ground. Some local residents were out to support the runners, but not huge numbers which is to be expected for a race of this size.
After arriving back at the finish and crosing the line, the towns Mayor was on hand to present each finisher with their excellent medal, and there was water and protein drinks available as well, plus the usual DB Max offering of a jelly sweet or Jelly Beans. After printing off their race times on the instant results service, most runners headed to the bar, for the free glass of "Flying Monk" beer being supplied by the local brewery of the same name.
Medical facilities were first class, being called into action at one point, and being on the scene within minutes of the incident and an ambulance there in quick time.
In summary, the usual excellence from DB Max, probably not the course for a PB due to the nature of the hills and especially this year due to the heat, but if you are looking for a good, value for money, well organised and challenging event then this is the one for you.
Incidently, if you are wondering about the "Flying Monk" references, it dates back to 980AD, when a Monk, called Eilmer from the nearby Abbey strapped wings to his feet and hands and jumped off the Abbey in an attempt to fly, needless to say he didn't but apparently survived despite breaking both his legs. Bonus history lesson as well as a review!
Posted on 27.08.17
With my first Triathlon coming up very soon, this was a late decision on my part to take part in the Summer midweek Chilly Duathlon at the Castle Combe race circuit. I had previously done a couple of these back in 2015, so knew how well they are organised, and I thought that it would be an ideal chance to practice the transition phase from bike to run needed for the triathlon.
As it was a late decision to take part, I was a day entry, and registration was simple and straight forward. Despite being held up on the motorway on my way to the circuit (arrived at the circuit 35mins before the scheduled start time), I had completed the form, handed over my money and got my timing chip and race number within 5 minutes of arriving. There was ample parking, despite there being a host of camper vans, tents and trucks already present for the upcoming weekends motorcycling events at the circuit.
Bike racked and ready to go, the race briefing was informative and fun, and we were ready to start the 1st run leg bang on time. Around 150 entries meant that the start line wasn't too crowded and there was no jostling as we set off on our first 2 mile run around the race circuit perimeter track. the route was a mix of grass, tarmac and gravel, with a few very short sharp inclines, but mostly flat.
On completion of run leg 1, we were directed back down the pit lane and into transition, which was well marshalled and controlled. there was water in cups available here, which was very welcome as it was a hot summers evening, and it was an additional top up to the drinks I carried on my bike. From Transition it was out onto the motor race circuit, for 5 laps of the smooth tarmac. With a mixture of ages, abilities and equipment on hand there was plenty of room for overtaking and safety was not a concern.
After the bike section, a sharp turn off the circuit took us back into transition for the final run leg around the same circuit as the 1st.
After finishing the race under the DB Max inflatable arch, name checked as you did, water was on hand again, together with the usual DB Max offferings of a large jelly sweet, and a selection of Eat Grub energy bars. Race results were immediatly available on the website and a print out of your splits was easy to obtain straight away
In summary, a great event for all abilities to take part in, friendly, well marshalled and well organised, a very enjoyable, although very hot evening!!
Posted on 06.07.17
This was the first time I had ran this event, the fourth staging of it, and I had heard so many good things about the past few years events. I was therefore delighted to be able to be compete it in as part of the Xempo Running RacePacing team for the day, pacing 2hr 20m.
As a team member, registration was handled by Xempo, so I am unable to comment on this aspect of the event, however the price for entry seems very fair considering the professional manner in which the race was conducted and for the after race "goodies" on offer.
I arrived in Swansea after a 2 hour drive from Swindon at around 07.30am, the first wave was due to set off at 09.00am, so I wanted to make sure I could get parked up and to the village to meet the Xempo team in plenty of time. I maganged to park in the Mariner Street Car Park, about a 10 minute walk from the race village, and found it was free parking on a Sunday. There were other car parks close by which also afforded free parking, and a Park and Ride service was in place for a fee of £5. I noticed a few queues post race for this service, and a few minor grumbles from a small section of social media commentators, but no more than is to be expected from a race of this size, you can't please everybody.
The race village in Castle Square was easy to find, with a small selection of sponsors tents and a large video screen, race announcements were being broadcast over speakers. Due to security measures being increased the bag drop service had been moved from here to a location a few minutes away, with a much stricter system in place. Toilets were on hand in the shape of portaloo's and were much in demand.
The start was seperated into two waves, one for sub 2 hour runners, and another for over 2 hour's and each start was also subdivided into small "pens". Xempo were supplying pacers from 1hr30 to 2hr30, so, after getting kitted up we all took our places, in the now heavy rain, within the pens to assist runners to find their ideal start position based on their predicited finish times. The race was chip timed and our job is to finish just under the alloted time shown on our pace flags running at a constant even pace.
Just before the start of wave 1 at 09.00am, the cold and rain stopped, and the sun shone through again, just as the hooter sounded for the off, I was in wave 2 and we were due to leave at 09.15am which we did on time and set off on the fast and flat course.
The first section of the course wound its way around Castle Square before heading out of the centre towards Mumbles, as we ran past the castle ruins the course become a cobbled road for a short distance, which in the rain had become a little slippy and did not feel comfortable under foot.
On closed roads the route headed out of Town towards St Helens RFC ground and followed the coastal road down to Mumbles. I missed seeing the first mile marker flag, not sure if it was there or not, but picked up the rest of the mile marker flags on route. The majority appeared to be in the right positions, although a couple, including the additional 10km maker flag and timing mat for the DB Max chip timing service, appeared to be slightly out by my GPS, but some allowance must be made for course deviations on my part whilst going through the other runners.
At Verdi's Cafe just in the middle of the pretty town of Mumbles, the course took a sharp left turn back on itself, and headed back toward Swansea, now we were running on the purpose built cycle and footpath that hugged the coast line, and gave some stunning views across the bay.
The warm weather had continued since the start of the race, but frequent and well well positioned water stations meant that everybody kept well hydrated throughout, water was supplied in screw top bottles, which the volunteers had helpfully loosened for you, and there were 2 stations giving out SIS gels as well. My only concern on one of these stations was the disposel of the bottles by runners by Verdi's Cafe, as this was very close to the sea wall, and I was worried about bottles and gel wrappers finding their way over the wall and out to sea However after the race I returned for a bit of sightseeing to Mumbles and was happy to see bags of bottles and gel wrappers piled up ready for collection, big thumbs up to the volunteers here.
On the subject of marshalls and volunteers, a mention here of them, who appeared to be helpful and supportive all the way around the course and at the start/finish area. Local support was thin out on the road section and footpath back, but large and noisy at the start and finish and at the turn around point
As we neared Swansea again there was the only really noticable incline on the course, a short, sharp little hill which was over quite quickly, and then it was time for a short loop of the marina, over two footbridges before heading towards the finish straight. Once more over the cobbles, which were now dry and not so slippery and then the final push to the line. Commentators were name checking runners as they crossed the line, always a nice touch in my eyes.
As we were ushered down the finish funnel, cadets handed out bottles of water, a very chunky medal, a pink tech finishers tee shirt, fruit (all gone by the time I got there) and a goodie bag (again I heard that these ran out for later finishers). Runners who gained a new PB could return to the race village and ring the "PB Bell" to announce their achievement to all around them.
To sum up, a race worthy of it's previous years high praises and awards, slick organisation, well supported and marshalled, maybe a few issues to look at with the park and ride and goodie bag/fruit at the end, but a run which should be high up on anybodies "to do" list
Posted on 27.06.17
I was a last minute addition to the Xempo Race Pacing team for this event, and it would be the first time that I had ran the St. Albans Half.
As well as the Half Marathon, there was a walking only Half Marathon and a 5k and 1.5m run option as well.
As I was such a late addition to the race, I did not complete a registartion process for it, so can not comment on that side of things, it also meant that I had no official chip timed race bib, so my name and result was not on the official list of finishers.
The race started and finished within St. Albans Verulamium park, which saw a very impressive race village set up. Plenty of food and drink stands, retailers, and fun things for the family to do whilst the running took place. Car parking was well arranged, with some free parking available at a local office block, and some set up in a local school grounds.
The half marathon runners were lined up in finish time order pens at the start of the race, and there were pacers from 1.40 up to 2.30 dotted along the length of the well laid out strat funnel. The race started promptly at 10am, and the final runners at the back of the chute crossed the line about 8 or 9 minutes later.
The course description stated that the route was "undulating", read VERY HILLY for that a lot of climbing involved troughout, my GPS date showed a total altitude difference of some 800 feet, and with it being a very warm day, around 23 degrees, the effort took it's toll on some runners who found it very tough. There were a few who dropped out en route and needed medical attention, which seemed to be on hand in good time.
On closed roads the route followed mostly country roads, and was easily wide enough to take the numbers that had entered, there were no pinch points or bunching and marshalls were plentiful and on the whole helpful and cheery. Mile markers were present and apart from a few being slighly out of position (we were informed of this at the race briefing due to a slight course change) they were accurate
Water stations were very frequent, which on the warm day was welcomed, but had a few problems with supply of water. Plastic cups were being filled up by willing volunteers from a large supply of 2 litre bottles and at time they struggled to meet the demands of the numbers of runners arriving at them. I know some runners either missed getting a cup, or had trouble drinking from them and this may have been a factor in the afore mentioned medical cases, dehydration in the heat causing a few to faint. One station was also giving out High 5 gels as well.
Not a large local support, due to being mostly on out of town roads, but some small pockets of supporters made plenty of noisy where they gathered, and at the final big hill of the day, some folk were on hand with a good supply of chocolate mini eggs to provide a little surge of energy to make the climb.
On finishing the run, runners were handed a bottle of water, good quality medal, a well stocked goodie bag with a very nice tech tee shirt, and the famous Ice Lolly from which the race gets it's tagline #IceLollyRun.
A really enjoyable, if tough event, and one to consider if you want a challenge, don't expect a PB on it due to the nature of the hills, but you would be hard pressed to find a better organised and friendly event for the price. Worth adding to the "to do" list
Posted on 13.06.17
This would be my third time taking part in the London 10,000, this year sponsored by Vitality, and arranged by the London Marathon Events team.
As you would expect from an event coming under the banner of the London Marathon, organistion was superb. Registration was simple online and price acceptable bearing in mind the massive road closures needed for the course. Race packs were sent out a few weeks prior to the race, and included your bib and shoe timing chip, kit bag as per the London Marathon, for a well organised bag drop facility and a glossy instructions magazine.
The race hub was sited in Green Park, alongside Buckingham Palace, and easily reached via the tube station. The hub comprised of food stands and a few trade stands, male and female chamging tents, a large bag drop area and a bandstand with DJ and music for the after race relaxation. Water from Buxton in bottles was being handed out prior to the race which was a blessing as the day was very hot and humid. This would also be available after the race as well.There were a good amount of portaloos, but even so with 12500 runners and families/friends queues still formed, and these did seem a little unorganised. There were male and female urinals on the Mall alongside the starting pens.
The start line was set up mid way down the Mall, a little further on from where the finish line of the Marathon was set up a month earlier. There were four waves according to estimated finishing times, with approx 7 or 8 mins between each wave setting off. The race started on time at 10.00am, after a minutes silence had been honoured to remember the events of the week prior in Manchester. A few speakers set up further down the starting pens would have helped those in the two final pens to have heard that this was about to happen, and to catch the announcements of the elite runners taking place.
The course left the Mall and rounded Trafalger Square before setting off up the strand, heading away from Westminster it snaked its way out towards Bank and Temple, turning around at St.Pauls Cathedral and heading back the way it came on the opposite side of the Strand, turning down Whitehall and onto Birdcage walk, with the finish line outside Buckingham Palace. A good flat course, but narrow in places, the first bottleneck at Trafalger square within the first KM brought most people to a standstill and this was repeated at a few other points around the course. Not a course for PB's perhaps but great for seeing the wonderful sights of London. Water stations at 3km's and 6.5 km's provided bottled water and was well marshalled and a run through mist shower was welcome and being used by many on the hot day. Medical help was dotted around the course and was unfortunatly needed a few times that I could see, with runners getting aid after collapsing in the heat. The course was well marshalled and support was large most of the way round.
On completion of the race the timing chip was cut from your shoe and runners were directed to collect their goodie bags which contained a good quality tech tee shirt, impressive medal, lucazade and snack bars and a handful of leaflets. Stangely there was also a single use tube of toothpaste! I heard tales of goodie bags running out by the time the later runners crossed the line however, so one problem there to be addressed for next year.
Back into the leafy shade of Green Park to collect bags and meet up with supporters at the well signed meet up points, them time to grab a deck chair, ice cream and relax in the sunshine.
I have always enjoyed taking part in this event, and will be back again in 2018, and I will also do the equally well organised Westminster Mile which takes pl;ace the day before next time.
Posted on 31.05.17
Reviewing the River Trail Half Marathon. (a 10km run was also taking place)
The Beautiful surroundings of Royal Windsor, with the added backdrop of the famous Windsor Castle served as the setting for the F3 Events Royal Windsor River Trail Run. The race was met with a lovely sunny day, which added to the enjoyment of running a trail race along the banks of the Thames.
I was asked to pace the event by the organisors.
Registration online was simple, and race bibs were collected from the race village on the day, although there was an option to collect on the Saturday as well. Entry fee was resonable for an event of this size, although there were added extras on the day to factor in.
An official car park had been set up in a nearby Boys School (about a 13 minute walk from the race hub) for a cost of £5, this allowed you to park until 3pm so gave time to enjoy the sights after the race. The race hub had a large marque for collection of bibs and information and also served as a bag drop area, for which there was an additional charge of £5. Tea/coffee, food and trade stands were on hand, as well as a pre and post race massage service. Regular announcements from a good PA system kept all informed. A few portaloos were also here, and toilets were available in a shopping area just behind the info tent
The race start area was seperate from the race hub, about a 10 min walk over a bridge spanning the Thames, to a field on the Eton School side of the River. The race was split into 6 waves, with a pacer in each wave with estimated times from 1hr 30m to 2 hr 45m and each wave was set off in 15 minutes intervals.
Race start was advertised for 8.30am and actually started quite close to this, perhaps a few minutes late, each wave was moved up to the start line and given a quick briefing before being let loose. With around 1500 runners in the race, being set off in waves with such a distinct time gap ensured that there was not too much congestion on the course, especially as in some places in was down to single file.
the first 10km or so faithfully followed the twists and turns of the Thames, passing by Ascot Racecourse and Dorney Lake, home to the rowing at the London 2012 Olympics. Despite heavy rain the day before the course, mostly grass and troden paths was dry, a few tricky muddy areas and puddles but not enough to break your stride, At points the path would narrow to single file, and overhead branches from trees and bushes made things awkward but still a nice route. A fallen tree over the path at around 8kms added an interesting dilema, climb over or run off route to bypass, most opted for the former.
The second 10kms or so saw the route turn and head back towards Windsor, crossing to the other side of the river and this time on mostly gravel or tarmac paths. It included a few main road crossings where marshalls were on hand to warn runners, but were not stopping traffic to allow runners to cross, most of the road users however seemed happy to slow and let us cross.
The first water station was not until 7kms, the pre race notes had mentioned a station at 3kms but we did not see this, water was handed out in cups, never a big fan of that, and there were High 5 gels also if needed. The next station was not until 14kms and then again at 19kms, on a hot day like it was a few more stations earlier would have been better. The course was marshalled well, with efficient and well identified marshalls. With the nature of the course being trail, there was not a lot of support en route other than the odd walkers, cyclists or riverside house owners
My main grumble on the day was over the accuracy of the measurement of the course, as a pacer we pride ourselves at bringing home runners bang on time, this was impossible today as the course measured so long, a known issue apparently from previous years but which we were not informed of. My GPS read 21.76 Kms (13.5miles) with the main discrepency being the final "mile" which was long. As a result all pacers finished a few minutes outside of the goal times, which is always dissapointing for us.
The race finish was back in the race hub, and after crossing the line you were handed a bottle of water, banana, and a good quality medal. A finisher bag was also given out with just a couple of leaflets inside. Chip timing tags on the bib meant that you could get an instant print out of your time straight after the race.
Despite the issues with the course length, and the lack of a water station or two, the race was well organised and a pleasure to run, especially on such a lovely day in nice scenery. Hopefully the organisors will address the measurement problem, simply move the finish to the other end of the park perhaps, for next year and I would gladly come back to pace again if required.
Posted on 21.05.17
The Great Run franchise has recently added the Bristol 10k to it's portfolio of races, 2017 was the second time it had been run under the Great Run name, and the usual slick, well organised event that is expected from the group was on hand once again. The entry fee was reasonable and the registration through the Great Run website was straight forward.
Using the same start and finish as the Autumn Great Bristol Half marathon, the flat, 10k course took runners out of the city on an out and back route, twice passing under the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, before a loop around the harbour and back into the City centre.
Getting to the start line was simple enough, road closures meant that you could not park really close to the race hub in Millennium square, I parked in the Trenchard Street multi story car park behind the Colston Hall and walked about 15 mins to the start which was easy to find. I understand that there was a park and ride bus service arranged as well, which from accounts I heard from other runners was a big success.
The race hub had a small selection of trade stands, and an information tent, with plenty of marshalls to guide runners to the start. A few more toilets at the start would have eased some long queues prior to the race starting, something perhaps that could be addressed for 2018.
I was pacing the event on behalf of Duracell, and decked out in their corporate colours and finished off with a set of fluffy Rabbit ears and tail I took up my place to the easy to find colour coded starting pens which are sorted according to estimated finishing times. The race started bang on time at 09.30am, with waves setting off at eight minute intervals after the first one got away.The run was chip timed and also gave supporters a chance to track runners via a smartphone app.
The route was well marshalled on closed roads, with accurate (by my GPS watch at least) makers every 1km, one water station at approx 5kms provided bottled water for runners, and there were a number of bands and musicians around the course to make for a carnival feel. Local support was evident in the city parts of the course, big crowds lining the route around the streets, with a handful out on the portway section of the route.
Post race, the usual Great run style goodie bag was on offer, a corded over the shoulder bag with water, tech tee shirt and medal inside, a few leaflets , lindt chocolate bar and a carton of Chocolate milk completed the goodies.
Times were quickly available via the website and app, with offical race phots available a day or two after. One point to mention about the post race events concerns the newly revamped medal for the event. Now being a square shape rather than the round type that Great Run has used for a few years, it follows the same format as other years in having a standard design but personalised with the city location and title. Some runners found that their goodie bags contained medals for the Great Manchester run, rather than Bristol, and there appears to be a small flaw in the manufacture of the medals, as all too often in the runner/spectator meet up area a distinct clanking noise could be heard as time and time again medals fell off the ribbons hung around the necks of their owners and crashed to the floor.
Despite this a very enjoyable run, with a fantatsic course, great support and good atmosphere which would make this a good run to bear in mind for 2018.
Posted on 10.05.17
The Old Vitality Run Hackney event, which I last took part in back in 2015, has been replaced with a rebranded event under the banner of the newly formed Richard Branson enterprise, Virgin Sport Now going under the title of the VS Hackney Festival it promised to re energise the running scene, and combine the half marathon with a festival of fitness whilst bringing the local community together.for the day.
Based on the vast Hackney Marshes recreation field, there was an impressive race hub, with stages set up for bands to play upon, fitness guru's to lead a mass warm up/warm down session, plenty of vendors with the usual hot drinks and food offerings, and even a barber to give you that all imporatnt pre race hair cut and hipster beard trim. As I was asked to pace at the event I was fortunate enough to be able to get ready in theHackney Marshes Volunteer building, with good toilet facilities, which caused the only grumble I heard about the start/finish area for the runners, a lack of portaloos. Big queues were seen at the ones that were on site.
Again as I was a pacer arranged through Virgin Sport, my registration was fairly simple, and I understand that the event website provided a good, with a few niggles, service for people to sign up.
Race packs were sent out in advance, with a Chip mounted race bib, plastic kit bag for the baggage drop and brief instructions for the day.
As a lot of roads were closed around the area,so it was suggested that runners should park in the Westfield shopping Centre car Park, and walk to the event, a good 25 to 30 minute walk, no excuse for not being warmed up. Some cycled to the event and it was good to see a lot of bike racking available on site for those that did
The pre race entertainment involved a "Stretch with Rich" session, a chance for the lucky few to limber up alongside Sir Branson, who also, along with Virgin Sport CEO Mary Wittenberg (prviously in charge of the New York Marathon), sounded the race hooter.
Runners were in pens based on predicted finish times, these pens were well indicated on the start line, and there were plentiful pacers gatherd from local running clubs and individuals on hand. Most pacers ran in their usual running gear with flags and backpacks, but Myself and Paul Addicott took on the challenge of wearing a Virgin Sport body Morph Suit for our roles....which was probably in hindsight, not the best of ideas!
The course itself took in most of the Hackney area on closed roads, and was very well supported by the local community, residents lining the streets throughout giving great vocal support and offering jelly babies. Run clubs set up cheers points with loud music and cheers on hand which complimented the locals well.
Water stations were frequent and marshalled well, bottled water being handed to runners, although the Lucozade stations were decanting bottles into cups to hand out, which is not always the easiest to drink from on the run.
A couple of run through mist showers were welcomed by many as the sun had graced up with its presence and it was warming up nicely.
The route had changed from the previous Run Hackney race, and did not involve running trough the Olympic park as much as in previous years, it used more of the outer service roads around the park, although it did pass the Copper Box en route back to the finish area
There appeared to be a very good medical presence on the route, and as pacers we were given a little emergency bag for any niggles runners may have during the race, we carried a basic supply of plasters, jelly beans, vasoline and hair bands if needed!
Post race, runners were handed a medal, and a Virgin Sport tote bag, which you were then instucted to fill with goodies as you walked the length of the finish chute, water, lucozade, fruit, crisps and dried mango treats were on hand along with a finishers tee shirt. Some improvements here could be made as it turned into a bit of a free for all at times, with runners grabbing all they can, and the tee shirt distributions wasn't clear as to which was Mens or Womens sizes.
After the race the festival continued with drinks music and food, and later in the day a smaller 5.5k race also took part. Unoffical results were available online that evening and also via a smartphone app
Some people have remarked upon the price being expensive for a half marathon, which Virgin Sport have countered with by syaing that price also includes free race photographs.
To sum up, an enjoyable day, with a few issues to address, toilets, parking, past race goodie bags etc, but an interesting venture into Virgin Territory, with other "Fitness Festivals" of this sort planned for the British 10K (formally Vitality series) in July and Oxford in October
Posted on 01.05.17
The London Marathon, what can be said that hasn't already been said, it's simply got to be right at the top of any runners bucket list.
One of the Abbott Series of Marathon Majors, it ranks right up there with being the best, not the largest as that accolade belongs to New York, but surely one of the best for atmosphere and organisation.
2017 was my third running of the great event, each time I have done so as a charity Golden Bond holder as I have not been lucky enough to get one of the hard to come by ballot spots. I know that many people find the idea of taking a charity spot an issue due to the need to raise a certain (often very large) anount of money to do so, but if you are willing to put the effort in, and remember it is for charity, then I would not discount it as a means of running in the event.
On a personal note the run didn't go exactly as I would have liked, a niggly adductor muscle which had bothered me for a number of weeks leading up to the day, flared up again at about 12.5 miles in and meant I had to really hobble round for the majority of the remainder of the run, but that will not cloud my review of the race.
Registration for myself was easy, as a charity bond holder, my details were supplied to the Marathon organisors by the fundraising team of my charity, and when the time came it was just a simple case of completing my personal details through the event website. plentiful social media updates and information throughout the build up to the day meant that nothing was missed during the lead up to the race day.
In February a "Meet the Experts" event held in Central London, prepared any first time runners on what to expect and what to do, and despite having done this before I still find it a great benefit to attend these days as well to pick up tips, meet other runners and benefit from reduced mercahdise!
Part of the pre pace build up is attending the Expo, where you collect your race bib, kit bag, timing chip and final instructions. Again I know that visiting the expo isn't to everybodies liking, but I find it enhances the whole London Marathon experience and I look forward to going, meeting friends, visiting trade stands and just soaking up the vibes. One tip, go during the week, it's crazy busy on the Saturday.
Race day itself is a tried and tested exercise and runs like clockwork, the three start lines are well organised and marshalled, getting to them was easy due to the great transport links that exist, and runners get free travel on the tube on the day up to about 6pm. Once inside the runner areas there was plentiful toilets, free water, tea and coffe and the wonderful buzz of excitement and smell of deep heat filled the air. Kit bags were loaded onto numbered lorries which would be swifly whisked off the finsih line to be waiting for you at the end.
Start pens were easy to find and despite the large numbers of runners involved there was not a long wait to actually cross the line after the initial gun fired, I took just 13 mins to get from my pen to the start, quicker than at some smaller events I have taken part in.
The three starts are in seperate areas of Blackheath, but soon converge, the Green start meets the Blue at around 1 mile, and then the Red starts joins in at about 5km. After the initail crowded start, runners thin out a little, but care must be taken where the starts merge as it can get a bit crowded and sometimes a few trips and pushing can occur, but on the whole it comes together as one race quite easily. One quirk of this however is that you may often find pacers from the differnet start zones close to each other with differing times on their flags, at one point I saw a blue 4hr pacer, Green 4.15hr and a Red 4.30hr pacer all within about 100 yards of each other.
The course is marked out with easy to see mile markers, and also at each 5km there would be a large marker and timimg mat to cross. There would also be slightly harder to see individual km markers as well.
Aid stations were numerous, water available at 5km and then every mile after that, with Lucozade sport drinks and gels available at 3 additional stations on route. These stations would be my only one item of concern however as they become very awkward very quickly with masses of discarded bottles on the course, which I know caused a few injuries amongst friends of mine from either tripping on or slipping on them before they could be swept aside, I wish runners could be a bit more considerate and try to discard them to the side of the course rather than just drop them where they run.
There are a few areas of the route where the sheer numbers of runners involved is hard to handle, and bunching often occurs, but most of the course is wide enough to cope just about, I don't think the race could handle any more than the 40,000 that ran this year.
Landmarks aplenty as you make your way around, with large, often 9 or 10 deep, crowds to cheer you on. Passing the Cutty Sark at 6 miles is always a fantatsic expereince due to the sheer number of spectators, and crossing Tower Bridge makes the hairs on the back of you neck stand up. You continue through the Docklands and Canary Wharf and back into the City to pass the Tower of London, down the Embankment, pass the Houses of Parliament and on towards the iconic finish in front of Buckingham Palace on the Mall, the final mile on Birdcage walk is so loud it carries the weakest of legs along to the finish with a final surge.
Once across the line, you are greeted by smiling marshalls who place the quality medal around your neck, always a nice touch I feel, and then you are efficently kept moving down the mall to collect your well stocked goodie bag, good quality finishers t shirt and on to the baggage lorries that have now arrived from the start line. There is a pride in the baggage truck marshalls in the claim that they make that you will never wait to be handed your bag back, spotters will be watching for you to approach and call your number to handlers who will have it ready to hand to you even before you get to them, and each time I have done it I can vouch for this.
Meet and greet zones are set up on Horseguards parade for the thousands of runners to meet their family and friends and this also seems to work well.
In summary, the highlight of my running year, and one I would suggest every serious runner thinks about doing at some time, if you don't get a ballot spot, consider the charity route, you really would not want to miss out on the experience.
Would I do it again after 3 finishs so far?, hotel is already booked for 2018, ballot or charity I will be there
Posted on 27.04.17
The first time taking part in this event for myself, and proud to be asked to do so as an official pacer for the organisors, LPS Events.
Pre race registration was very easy, and a very good price for a half marathon meant that the race reached it's 600 runner capacity without any problem. Once registered runners were kept well informed with details of the race, logistics and information being sent out in regular email's and through wonderfull use of Social Media, nothing was left to chance and I would imagine that everybody arrived at the start line fully aware of how the event was to pan out. Even the night before, runners who registered a mobile phone number on sign up received a text message to inform them of their race bib number which they would collect from registration on arrival. The race was timed using ankle bracelet chips.
Race day itself turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, there was easy access, plentiful parking close to the start and a good race briefing kept runners aware of the time and when to line up for the start. A compact but functional race village with food/drink stands, pre and post race massage, baggage drop and toilets was well laid out and all went smoothly here. There were plentiful pacers for the event, from 1hr 28mins through to 3hr 15mins and we were easily spotted by bright t-shirts and pace boards to allow runners to find us at the start.
The course starts in the centre of the lovely town of Devizes and winds it way out through scenic countryside with beautiful views and picturesque locations, altough we could have done without the local farmers picking the warmest day of the year to start spreading sillage! The course descriprition?, undulatring would be being a little economical with the truth!, one very big hill early on, summit reached at 2 miles, which tested the strength of many but afforded a superb view across White Horse county when you got there! What goes up must come down, and there was also some long downhill sections as well, but other than the initial hill, and a tricky incline on a gravelpath at around 11miles, the course was on the whole flatish. On open roads safety is always going to be a concern, but a strict no headphone policy and plentifull, well briefed, marshalls ensured that there were no problems. 4 official (and one locally set up unofficial) water stations, complete with Jelly Babies, kept all well hydrated
Although not huge crowds on the route, there were pockets of spectators at intervals, and offered tremendous support to all the runners. Course was well signed with very accurate mile markers which made my job as a pacer that much easier.
Post race, runners received a top quality medal, finishers t-shirt and water, and were entertained in the race village but a local covers band playing some wonderful tunes, a chance to kick back with an ice cream, enjoy the sun and rest the feet. Results were available within an hour of the event finishing on line, and again runners were informed of this via a prompt congratulations email.
In summary, a superbly well organised and enjoyable run, if you don't mind a few hills, this is a race that I would highly recommend, and I congratulate the organising team on such a great job.
Posted on 09.04.17
Organised by the Stroke Organistion, the Resolution Run, or #ResRun as we were encouraged to refer to it as, returned once again to the beautiful setting of Swindon's Lydiard Park. OK, I may be a little biased here because Lydiard is the home of my local parkrun, but in the welcome Spring Sunshine that greeted us today the park was looking sublime, and a joy to be running in
This was the first time I had taken part in the event as a runner, my Wife had previously competed in 2016, and this year I joined her to help her around her first ever 10km distance. Competitors had a choice of either taking on 1, 2 or 3 laps of the course around the park (the same registration fee applied to all distances) which made up the 5k, 10k or 15k distances, For your entry fee you received a Stroke Association branded Tech Shirt to wear in the race, and a finishers medal at the end. Medals were personalised with the various distances on the ribbons.
Parking was plentiful in the grounds of the car park, and even with a large dog show and junior football competition taking place on the same day, there was room for all (again a bit biased with reporting on the smooth parking facilities as I had volunteered to marshall the car park!). There was a charge for parking, but not excessive.
Most people had pre registered and received numbers and shirt prior to the race, but there was also day entries available, a small queue for these were being promptly dealt with. No bag drop facilities, but with your car only being parked a few hundred metres from the start/finish this wasn't really an issue. A choir entertained runners prior to the start and a zumba style warm up got everybody ready to run. The pre race briefing was a little hard to hear, due to only having a very small poratble speaker and microphone, but I feel that most got the message OK.
All 3 distances started at the same time, and various paced runners started from where they found themselves lined up, so a few problems early on with faster runners trying to overtake slower runners/walkers, but a wide start area avoided any major hiccups here. It was an impressive sight to see hundreds of runners, all clad in the matching purple shirts snaking around the course
A gently undulating course around the park, mostly on gravel path, but a few sections on grass, was well marshalled by cheerful marshalls and followed part of the usual parkrun course, In took in all the glory of the park, lake and stately home. Small pockets of families and friends of runners gathered at various points on the course to cheer eveybody on.Water stations were promised at every 2,5kms, but in reality only one was set up at 5km (and 10km for the 3 lappers), the one lap runners would not have seen this as they would have already headed off the finish before hand and 10k runners would only pass once. In the hot weather this may have been a problem, but I did not witness any issues to report.
The race was not chip timed, just one large time clock at the finish, but this was not about winners and times today, it was all about raisng funds for the Stroke Association and raising awareness of the condition, there were a number of stroke survivors who bravely took on the challenge today.
Medals, banana's and much needed water were quickly handed out at the end of the race.
A really enjoyable event and for a good cause as well, worth supporting in future years. A few small problems to sort out but well organised apart from that, and for the record my wife completed her first 10k in about 12 mins faster than she had hoped for, so one happy runner here.
Posted on 02.04.17
This was the first time I had taken part in this event, and I was asked by the event organisors, Human Race, to be pacer for the 16.2 mile run. There are three distances on offer on the day, 8.2, 16.2 and 20.1 miles, the latter two distances being ideal for those preparing for spring marathons.
Reporting for duty at 07.15am meant a very early start for myself, a 2 hour trip from home, which was made a little more difficult when I remembered mid way through the week leading up to the day that the clocks were moving forward!
After being issued with our t-shirts and pacer flags, I had a little time to kill, the 20.1 mile runners were to start first at 8am, so a coffee with fellow pacer Paul Addicott and his family was very welcome as it was a bit chilly that early in the day. At 08.30am the 8.2 and 16.2 mile runners were on the start line and ready to go. we went off in well staged waves, lead by the pacers running even mile splits from 8min per mile to 12 mins. I was doing the 11 min pace so had a short wait to lead off my group.
The course was a two lap, 8.1 mile loop, croosing the River Thames twice at Kingston and Hampton, and passing through Kingston centre and past Hampton Court Palace. For most of the way the route was off road, but there were a few areas where we were running on open roads with live traffic, but on the whole safety was foremost and plentifull marshalls kept runners and traffic apart. Just one rather tricky area under a road bridge where the path was very narrow and required runners to pass in single file caused some issues, but this quickly opened up again and the bootlenecks eased.
At the completion of the first lap, the 8.2 mile runners crossed the finish line whilst the 16.2 mile runners, who had now been joined with some of the later 20.1 mile runners, continued out for a second loop.
There were aid stations positioned at 3 points on each loop offering water and energy drinks, in cups which isn't always the easiest to drink from whilst running, and also SIS gels on offer if needed. First aid cover was offered through medics on bikes at regular intervals, and thankfully I did not see any of them being asked to attand runners.
On completion of the runs, a specailly commisioned finishers mug was handed to you as soon as you crossed the chip timimg mat, I heard afterwards that some runners did not get a mug as the organisors had not ordered enough to cover the amount of runners, but to their credit they promised to send them out to anybody who missed out. We were also presented with a fantatsic, tote shopping bag filled with loads of goodies from race sponsors Lidl supermarkets.
After a chilly start, the weather was perfect for running, and it was really enjoyable running along the Thames in the sunshine, well before most people had even thought about getting out of bed and celebrating Mothers Day. Certainly one for the list for 2018.
Posted on 29.03.17
Having taken part in this race in previous years, this is always one of the first events I ink into my race schedule each year.
Always well organised, well supported and well marshalled, this year was no different and despite a chilly, windy day the event was once again a great success.
The race hub is situated just outside the Reading FC ground, and the organisors had once again laid on superb park and ride facilities to get runners to the start. We parked in the yellow car park, and had busses waiting to take us straight in to the event with about a 5 min ride. After the race we jumped staright back on a waiting bus and exited the car park with no problem at all. There were buses to other car parks and to the main bus/rail station.
the race village was basic, but had enough for a race of this size, toilets were numerous, including ones actually inside the stadium as well. Sweatshop and Mizuno had retail tents, race sponsors Vitality were in attendence and there were burger bars and coffee stands to keep runners and supporters fed.I did not use the bag drop facilities, but from what I saw, and heard from those who did, this was also well organised and passed without problem
A short walk from the hub to the colour coded start pens gave runners a chance to warm up, the pens were well marked and marshalled and there was a very limited delay in getting each wave away after the firing gun sounded.
The course starts with a loop around the business park before heading off towards the town centre, mainly flat but with two noticable hills at 2 miles and 8 miles. A loop around the grounds of the university is included before heading back out of the town centre before turning back towards the stadiom to finish inside the football ground,
This has to be one of the best supported half marathons in the area, crowds were large and noisy throughout the course, with the exception of the final drag on the A33 back to the stadium, and numerous bands and a DJ Truck made the miles pass quickly. Just before half way a local pub set up a beer table outside their doors offering runners a free tipple, Local residents often are on hand with jelly babies and drinks, and some local shopkeepers were handing out free oranges and drinks, a real community feeling.
The official drinks stations were placed well and manned with keen helpers, the only grumble from some runners concerned the use of water pouches rather than bottles which some runners found a little awkward to use. There were 2 lucozade stations as well.
Closed roads throughout, and plentiful marshalls ensured the race was safe, and there was an excellent medical presence as well, which was on hand quickly to deal with any runners encountering problems.
A stadium finish was received well by everybody, a large crowd in the stands ensuring a noisy welcome back after the 13.1 miles, and a well organised finish funnel directed runners out to collect their foil blankets, chunky medal and goody bags. The bags were basic and included a finishers t shirt (cotton unfortunatly) Inside some bags the organisors had included a "Golden Ticket" to give lucky holders free entry to the 2018 event, if you were not lucky to get one of those there was a voucher with a code to get discount off the early bird price for booking the next years event.
A race I would recommend to anybody looking for a great half marathon
Posted on 22.03.17
The banner headline for the race says, "The greatest finish line in the world", I would maybe dispute that a little if you consider you can also run and finish inside London's Olympic Stadium, but nevertheless, it's still a buzz to be able to end a half marathon under the iconic arch of the famous stadium.
I had a place offered to me in the race through Fitness rewards/Vitality, and was also asked to pace the event by the race directors, entry fee was therefore not applicable to myself, the fee was £45 which seems a little steep for a half marathon.
Organisation was superb, as a pacer I had access to the behind the scenes activities that preceded the race, and was able to see the well thought out plans being put into place, the large number of volunteers being well briefed and prepared before being sent out to the posts.
A very early start, 08.30am, to allow the event to reopen the roads of the route early to avoid traffic problems, getting to Wembley by car was easy and parking was avaialble in the stadium car parks. Last years very impressive race village on the Wembley lawns, was greatly scalled down and moved inside the stadium concourse and was a little disappointing, The bag drop had also been moved inside as well, and seemed to operate well, runners given plastic kit bags with their number attached to, which was then stored in well marked drop areas.
Starting pens were clearly marked and well marshalled on Olympic way, formally Wembley way, and the pre race warm up kept the runners entertained before the start.
Started right on 08.30 with no problems, being the 2 hour 30 min pacer meant I was in the final pen, and it took about 10 mins to reach the start line.
The route is described as undulating by the race website, for that read mostly flat with some fairly big hills thrown in!, the final hill between 9 and 10 miles causing many grumbles amongst my pace group!
The route took runners away from Wembley through local suburbs and parks, passing the RAF Museum at Hendon on it's way to The Allianz park rugby ground. Excellent water stations and aid stations were frequent and manned with cheery volunteers, and the course was well marshalled throughout. Some bands and drumming groups on the route, made up for the lack of local supporters on the roads.
After a lap of the Rugby ground it was time to head back on the return leg, following the same out route back for most of the way.
My only complaint with the drinks stations would be concerning the 2 lucozade stations where drinks were poured from bottles into small paper cups for runners to drink from, I assume to cut down on waste and litter, but some around me found it hard to run and drink from the cups.
On arrival back at Wembley runners were directed into the stadium and did a half lap of the pitch before finishing on the touchline and crossing the chip timing mat.
A good medal, quality Tech finishers shirt and goodie bag were efficently handed to finishers and a designated "selfie zone" allowed runners to get that all important medal shot pitchside, without causing a blockage in the finishing straight.
A very well organised, and enjoyable race to sum up, despite the lack of big landmark areas out on the course, the uniqeness of the finish make it one that you should consider running at some point
Posted on 15.03.17
Billed at the Milton Keynes Festival of Running, the name can be a bit miss-leading.
Although there is a good range of races on offer, a 5k, 10k, half and 20 mile race all on the Sunday starting at staggered times, there was really nothing else that would justify the festival tag. the race hub was basic to say the extreme, a registration tent being the only thing really to see, other than the xempo pacers flag, for whom I was running on the day,
Car parking was fairly easy, plenty of pay and display parking outside the Xscape centre, which acted as a meeting point for most of the runners sheltering from the terrible weather on the day. the organisers I feel could have possibly made a bit more of the centre, although that said Sweatshop were open early for runners who may have forgot something, and later in the day there was discount for runners on Dare2B products if you had your race number at a retailer in the centre.
I was pacing the 20 mile event today so my review will obviously concentate on that.
Around 900 lined up, there were four pacers for this event, ranging from 2.30hr to myself at 3.30hr, there were no marked starting pens so we hoped that runners were sensible and lined up according to their pace using us as guides, the lack of pens were not an issue in the 20, but may have been in the more heavily populated half which started an hour after we got way.
From the start we follwed the footpaths and cycle ways along the side of the main road from the Xscape for about 3 miles until we reached Willen Lake which took us out on two 7 mile loops. my only grumble here concerns a very flooded underpass ( most of the route involved running under the main road through underpasses) within the first 2 miles. Although I understand there had been some efforts to clear some of the water, it was still knee height (for men) to run through. The early runners braved it but later runners thought better of it and scrambled up the bank and over the barriers to risk crossing a major dual rosd with live traffic flowing at speed, a marshall positioned here would have prevented this potentially dangerous event from happening. I saw a very rapidly approaching Police 4x4 to try to stop this from happening further.
On the subject of marshalls, a big well done to them, standing in some pretty grotty weather and smiling and supporting for all the day, they deserve a massive thank you.
There were good water stations, with bottled water in good supply, and plenty of clean up staff as well to avoid the usual minefield of dropped bottles.
the two laps around Willen nlake were very nice, despite some building work at some points, the views of the countryside, and the impressive peace pagoda (which features on the medal) helped the miles flow past. Mostly flat and on paths and cycleways there was plenty of room to run. Mile markers were obvious, but sometimes a little out in distance going by my TomTom GPS watch. Local support was patchy but welcomed, some groups had set up unofficial jelly baby stations. Local road closures meant most of the route was traffic free.
After the two lakeside laps, we were directed back towards the centre of MK and back towards the Xscape, a sting in the tail at 19 miles with a steep, winding hill causing a few to stop and walk, but then a nice run in to a wide finish area with an on couse announcer to name check you as you crossed the chip timimg mats, a nice touch.
Afterwards again a very basic feel, no goody bag or finishers shirt (I think you may have been able to buy one in advance) with just a bottle of water and banana given to you. The medal was the same for all distances with just the different coloured ribbon to mark the seperate events.
With nothing else to do outside again most runners headed off to get food and drink in the Xscape, although many just left before the hail storm from hell arrived!
To sum up, a very good event which is well organised, with a good range of distances, but to really live up to it's festival name it could do with a better race village, maybe a band or two on the route and a better end of race experience.
Worth doing however if you are looking at events to include in any training for spring marathons.
Posted on 05.03.17
This was the first time for myself to run this event, which is now in it's fourth year. I understand that this years course was a little changed from previous runnings, but talking to others who have completed the run before, the changes were very welcome.
The main race hub was easy to find, with the start/finish in the same area, not the biggest of race villages, but enough to keep everybody happy, coffee and bacon rolls doing a good trade, and post race massages in demand. A good amount of portaloos at the start for the number of runners.
Running as part of the Xempo pacing team, it was nice to see a well organised timing pen system at the start, and the staggered wave departs ensured a relativly free route from congestion.
The stsrt and finish was sited on the large green and this was the only part of thr route which could be called "closed roads", most of the race was on open roads with two way traffic and in some places a narrow path meant some runners spilled onto the road, however a good supply of helpfull cheery marshalls and a large cycle lane and cones meant that safety was not overly compromised.
The route followed the course of the River Thames, heading out of Thames Ditton towards Kingston and after a loop around returned on the opposite bank of the river, past the gates of the Hampton Court Palace, where Henry VIII was on hand with High 5's. Support on the route from spectators was patchy, but where they were people watching they were noisy and supportive. The course is predominatly flat and lent it's self to PB potential well.
En route there was a good supply of water, in bottles as well, and first aid was at hand, unfortunatly these seemed to be needed on quite a few occasions, with ambulances and paramedics seen at least 4 times during my run, but always on hand fast and efficently. Toilets were also on hand just before half way.
A well organised finish chute at the end kept the flow of returning runners moving well and happy, with stations after the timing mat to have the Ipco timimg tags removed, water, banana, medal and goodie bag handed to you by smiling helpers, even a monkey was on hand to give you the banana!!.
A very nice medal, and excellent goodie bag which included everybody's favourite Caramel chewey bar, was suplimented by a quality tech t shirt, and there were chances afterwards to have selfies with Henry VIII and his entourage again.
Overall a superbly organised event, which despite the early start (08.30am!!, thank you local residents for being so understanding), I would recommend to anybody to add to their wish list.
Posted on 19.02.17
Great South in name, and Great in nature.
Although entry fee is a little high, the price is not too bad when you take into considerations the way the event is organised. Always a great day, well marshalled and supported by the locals, goodie bag is well worth getting, the medal is the generic Great run series medal, just personalised with the Great South logo. Course is great, although the final few KM.s can be tough if the sea wind is against you. Would recommend
Posted on 15.01.17
Really enjoyed the DB Max Westonbirt Christmas 10k today, a very well ogranised and put together event, DB Max even ordered a beautiful sunny winters day for all the Santa's and Elf's to run around in.
Wonderful setting for the start and finish of the run, Westobirt house is a majestic backdrop for a race to take place in, and the surrounding grounds and countryside just added to the glory.
At times the public roads were a little busy with road traffic, but a good amount of marshalls and some common sense by drivers, ensured there were no problems.
The 2 lap course was well signed and acurate KM markers meant it was easy for me to ensure that my pacing (I was the 65 minute pacer) was on the mark.
One of the best finishers medals I have seen for a long time completed a great day, Even a visit from the Big Man himself (Santa) was laid on.
Highly recommend this run to anybody interested in it for 2017.
Posted on 11.12.16