Sarah Barker

Member since Feb 2017

My Upcoming Races

2017
Bath Two Tunnels Railway Series 1
2017
Devizes Half Marathon and Fun Run
2017
Trowbridge 5K
2017
Jack n' Jill Challenge
2017
The DB MAX Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon
2017
Mizuno Endure24 - Reading
2017
Bath Two Tunnels Railway Series 3
2017
Prudential Ride London 100
2017
Cotswold Sprint Triathlon
2017
Trust10 Trail Run - September

My Completed Races

2017
Broad Town 5
2017
Heddington 5K Series 1
2017
Chippenham Half Marathon
2017
Bath Hilly Half and Ultra-10k
2017
Good Friday 10 Miler

My Latest Reviews

Completed in 2017

4.8

Challenging is an understatement!

Bath Hilly Half and Ultra-10k

There's not a lot to fault with the organisation of this race. The marshals are enthusiastic, the course is easy to follow, the feed stations are well stocked with water, jelly babies & Jaffa Cakes and the whole thing is kicked off with a 2 minute silence for Remembrance Sunday and a rendition of the National Anthem.

If you like mud and hills, then this is the race for you, however there seems to be a lot more up than down which completely sapped my energy by the end, but that's a personal fitness thing rather than the race. The first 3 miles are steeply downhill to a feed station, and straight back up again passing the faster runners along a narrow track. The last 2 miles of the loop are the hardest as the ground is hard to get any grip on because of the rubble in the mud but the absolute hardest thing is doing the second loop when you know what's next!

The views are stunning and this year was lucky to have such lovely weather. Although chilly, you could see for miles and apart from a very short shower at the start, it even became fairly warm as you ran. 

Both the HM and Ultra 10k (12k) distances set off at the same time, so the course really thins out for the HM, especially if you're slower, like me. Embarrassingly, I was 3rd from last but I did get a CPB by 3 minutes - so every cloud and all that.

At the finish, you're given a medal & a mug, with the option of more jaffa cakes, carrots, flapjacks and a bottle of beer. I was however, disappointed that the medal was of a much lower quality than last year (which was bespoke and had an integrated bottle opener) and there was no t-shirt this year, but the high price of the entry fee remained the same. Last year's top had all finishers names on the back and was a good fit but it was replaced by the mug - which I will probably never use.

Overall, a good event but too hilly and expensive for me to return for a third year. 

Posted on 12.11.17

Completed in 2017

4.6

Well organised 10k

Grittleton 10km

Parking: I arrived later than I'd have liked and the car park at the house was full. I ended up in the field which is a good 500m walk to registration but lots of space for lots of cars. 

Registration: very easy to collect my number and timing chips. No official baggage storage, just trust in the marshals to look after your stuff in the village hall. 

Warm up: a fun warm up from Amy Chalk. Would be great to do to music.

Briefing: very thorough with lots of information. 

Start: this is a bit awkward as you're funnelled out of a very small exit from the village hall to the start where you then have to position yourself to run the way you've just come from. Nice loud horn to start everyone off. 

Route: not as flat as advertised but very pretty and easy to navigate. Killer hill at 8k.

Marshals: very good, very friendly and helpful. 

Water station: needed to be placed closer to the road with more adults than children as they couldn't cope with the busy flow of runners around me at the time. 

Finish: very busy and welcoming at the end with a bottle of water,  cereal bar and a great medal.

All in all, an enjoyable race with noticeable improvements from last year. Thanks Cadence Events. 

Posted on 16.10.17

Completed in 2017

4.6

Challenging but unique duathlon at Bowood House Estate

Today I raced courtesy of a heavy discount from the organisers for marshalling for them back in the summer.

It's the second time I've done this duathlon - once in the dry and today in the wet. Unfortunately the wet weather and mud made the sharp bends on the bike course petty treacherous with a few riders falling quite heavily, however there were marshals everywhere to make sure you went slowly and also to help out if you did fall.

The organisation of all LPS races is second to none and today was no different. The briefing was very informative and done in good humour, the course marshals were very friendly and enthusiastic and I saw lots of medics dotted around too. The course is uniquely beautiful (the waterfall and temple are my favourites) and the medal is a big improvement on the one I got 2 years ago here but I still have issues with the new style of t-shirt that are given out by LPS. They're not technical and the printing on the one I got from the Devizes half marathon creased and some fell off after a couple of washes. 

The atmosphere was very quiet today. I'm not sure if it's because I had quite a late start time or whether it's because spectators have to pay full admission to Bowood to get right by the transition area meaning there weren't many people about. The ones who were stood just outside the cafe (free section) were clapping and cheering with limited enthusiasm. I think lots were waiting to cross the road.

Thanks again LPS!

Posted on 01.10.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4.9

Fantastic event

Swim Serpentine

There are SO many good things to say about this event from the very organised changing and baggage areas, the amount of friendly canoeing marshals, quality medal and goody bag and the atmosphere from the spectators. I made full use of the dunk zone to acclimatise and listened to the information briefing. My wave was let into the water in smaller groups as we were merging with the Classics wave that had gone in before us. This helped to reduce unnecessary congestion. It was also reassuring to see so many security guards and sniffer dogs around the park following the previous day's terror attack. 

The only improvements could be to have more yellow buoys on the long edges and brighter coloured turning buoys as I found it really difficult to spot the purple ones. Some of the race packs and wave-time emails were also rather slow getting to some friends (only arriving 3 days before!) and I hear that there weren't enough 2 mile medals; something that they have said sorry for and will post them out with a free Swim Serpentine changing towel. The hot tubs were also incredibly small with about 3 closed off as I finished so I had to get very comfortable with a few strangers as I warmed up! 

A very enjoyable event, it's just a shame they couldn't make the water a bit warmer! 

Posted on 17.09.17

Completed in 2017

4.8

Another fantastic event

Chippenham Half Marathon

This is now the third time I've completed the Chippenham HM and I have loved it every single time.

Registration: all posted to your address if you signed up early enough so no queues to wait in. A friend of mine signed up later and had a very straight forward collection of his race bib and chip.

Warm up: a fun aerobic warm up of three high energy tracks 20ish minutes before the start. 

Briefing: loud and very clear.

Start: the road closures were put into effect with no problems. There was music playing which gave a good atmosphere and I could see a pace car out front for the leaders.

Course: the first couple of miles go through busy parts of town and up the high street so the Sunday shoppers are around to give encouragement. It was also great to see the kids that had just finished junior parkrun who came to cheer on too. Then it turns very rural until mile 11 when you start to see more traffic. The local support was dotted around in large and very enthusiastic pockets and all marshals did an incredible job. The course is mostly flat with a surprise hill around mile 12.

Marshals: 10/10 for every volunteer from the Chippenham Harriers. The police were also on hand to help runners and traffic navigate a couple of tricky sections.

Safety: roads were closed to traffic at the start and end with quiet country roads in between with very little traffic and the odd tractor. There were loads of flourescent warning signs about and plenty of cycle marshals to help manage any traffic. Traffic also had at least a months notice of the event with large signs dotted around town, so hopefully they would stay away.

Finish line: loads of noisy spectators here to help you to the finish and lots of help from St John's Ambulance for medical help and the Scouts (I think) to take timing chips off. At the end we got a medal, t-shirt, goody bag of treats, bottle of water and a banana. For families there was entertainment for kids and a tent selling trainers. Times were printed out quickly (but not individually) andv there was a very enthusiastic presentation ceremony.

I thoroughly enjoyed my race today. My only grumble is that they've changed the supplier of the t-shirts and the small is massive this year which is a shame as I love my 2015 & 2016 ones.

Thank you Chippenham! 

Posted on 10.09.17

Completed in 2017

4.6

Fast and flat

Cotswold Sprint Triathlon

A lovely event for my first open water triathlon consisting of a 750m lake swim, 20k one lap  bike route and a 2 lap 5km course around the same lake you swim in.

SWIM: this was the bit I was worried about having only ever competed in pool triathlons. Unfortunately I couldn't hear very much of the briefing as it's announced as you enter the lake and everyone was talking. We also didn't have very long to acclimatise which unsettled me and I panicked a bit when it started. Once I'd calmed down, the water was warm and clear with plenty of canoe marshals and a lead canoe to guide everyone around. There were also about 4 marshals to help with the exit from the water which I appreciated.

BIKE: A very fast and flat route that was lead out of transition on a well marked mat. I was pleased to see the police helping to stop traffic at a tricky crossroads at the start of the route but I wasn't a fan of the short section through the industrial estate in Cirencester as the road surface was very poor, but the marshals were very vocal and warning you of potholes in good time. After the dismount line, you enter transition the same way you went out but there is no mat to run on which made it difficult in cleats. 

RUN: A very pretty route around the lake along wooded trail paths which is very narrow. This made it tricky for faster runners to pass, especially when I started my second lap as it became very busy. You're also directed to run through a play park through two very narrow gates which caused problems for a few people.

TRANSITION: This area is very small and it was difficult not to get in each other's way.

FINISH LINE: The approach to the finish looks a lot like the professional ones you see on TV, which I loved, and the commentator was doing a great job of calling out everyone's names and cheering them along. Her Freudian slip when pronouncing one particular surname really made me chuckle as I crossed the line! Everything after that, I must admit, I hated. It was so crowded at the end with the results tent, massage gazebo, medals, water, finishers and spectators crammed into a very small space, it made me feel very claustrophobic and anxious as I couldn't find my own space to get my breath back. I've never felt like that at the end if a race and it unfortunately spoilt some of my enjoyment.

Overall, the organisation was fantastic and communication on the lead up to the event was very helpful. Even registering the day before didn't bother me too much as it meant I had less to worry about on race day. I'm not sure I will be back but I had a lovely morning out with friends. Thank you Tri Ferris. 

Posted on 03.09.17

Completed in 2017

4.8

Great 10k in hot, hot heat

Malmesbury 10k

I absolutely love any race that is organised by DBMax and this one did not disappoint. There was excellent signage to get you to the car park and avoid the road closures for the Malmesbury carnival, as well as good signs to get you to registration and around the course.

Loved the atmosphere around the start/finish area and meeting some other #visorclub members! The course was a lot tougher than I was expecting with plenty of steep inclines to keep you alert but the idea of running along the oldest Roman Road in Britain was interesting enough so that you didn't mind the hills too much. I also liked having a bottle opener encorporated into the medal at the end.

The only couple of gripes I had were that it was way more than a 5 minute walk to the registration area and made us glad we hadn't arrived any later than we did and that I'm not a fan of beer. I'm aware that it was free and I do feel a bit guilty having a moan, but many people around me said that it didn't taste very nice either. A cider option would have gone down much better!

Thanks again DBMax for a great event.

 

Posted on 27.08.17

Completed in 2017

4.6

A great event!

Prudential Ride London 100

This is the second time I have completed Ride London so I can compare them against each other. it was nice to see a few changes to last year like moving some of the feed/water stations on to the left side of the road and better management of pedestrians and cars from locals trying to move about.

I couldn't make it to the expo last year and had someone else pick up my rider infrmation but I made it this year. Registration was incredibly straight forward and I was impressed at the amount of stalls and things to see and spent a bit of birthday money while I was there, but it probably wouldn't be as exciting for a second visit. There were funny and informative shows on the main stage throughout the day with very useful tips for the ride and lot of safety information. I even saw interviews wth Heather Stanning and Martin Johnson! I also stopped by the TfL stall to sort out my train plans for Sunday and was wowed by the Action Sports Tour show.

With 28,000 riders taking part, you do have to be prepared to do a lot of waiting around at the start and finish and have to put up with using the London transport system - and to someone who uses it once a year, it can be pretty stressful. However, the organisers do all they can to help with planning your journeys throughout the weekend. The only real grumble I have about getting around is that it stated in the magazine that you could ride the Air Line for free if you were taking part, which was OK in the morning but when I tried to get on at the end, I was told that the free offer stopped at 9am. The wave colours at QEOP are clearly marked with plently of loos and coffee stands to keep you going while you wait and the MC at the start line did a great job at getting everyone pumped up.

I know that everyone will have had different experiences of their ride and different times of the day, but with my reasonably late start time of 8:44, I had a pretty clear run all the way round and only had to stop for congestion once at the bottom of Leith Hill. I'm not fussed about how long it takes me to complete, so this was a non-issue for me. The course is pretty flat for the first 33 miles until you hit the Surrey Hills, which are challenging and enjoyable at the same time. The main hills are hard going and lots of people got off to walk, with some people ignoring the very clear signs to walk on the left. This did cause a few slow moving falls and a few choice words being thrown about. Once the main hills are out of the way, it's plain sailing back to London.

The Hubs and water stops are well managed with racking, loos, medical help and mechanical teams sread the whole length of the course. However, with my start time, I found that lots of the food was starting to run out. All of the Clif bars had gone and we were left with the dregs of the Graze boxes, however they all had a plentiful supply of water and hydration tablets. Some places had food to buy that supported local villages, so I spent £3.50 on a massive bacon roll at the top of Box Hill which was delicious!

The marshals and supporters were incredible all the way round with loads of smiles and encouragement, which certainly helped through the towns later on in the course when everything was starting to hurt.

I found that it was much quieter at the finish line this year, despite finishing at roughly the same time. There were less spectators but there was much more room to move in the finish area which made it easier to take photos and collect your medal. There was no goody bag at the end but you did get a bottle of water, however everythng that was in the bag last year could have been collected from the expo instead. I found that this actually made it easier to carry my stuff around while I organised myself to get back to my car.

I didn't take advantage of the kit bag but the lorries were very visible at the end by Green Park so it would have been very simple to find your things. I also didn't go to the festival in Green Park as I just wanted to get back to the car, but there was a great live band playing and people sounded like they were having a great time

I've seen a lot of critisism about Ride London on social media over the last couple of years, but in my opinion, this is a fantastic event that should be tried at least once. Well done to the organisers!

Posted on 31.07.17

Cool Tunnels in hot, hot heat

Bath Two Tunnels Railway Series 3

Today was the 3rd time I've run this race. The cool Tunnels were a welcome break from the heat and help to settle a pace. 

Fantastic organisation, fab feed stations, lots of medical supervision and an incredible table of food at the end. I especially enjoyed the ice pops. 

I heard that there were problems with the Park & Ride but we parked elsewhere so didn't encounter this. Also, there needs to be way more portaloos as there is always a huge queue. 

Thanks Relish Running, I'll more than likely be back in the future. 

Posted on 09.07.17

Completed in 2017

5

Great local race

I think I've done this race 6 times now. It's flat, fast and very popular; often selling out within 4 hours or so. For your money, you get chip timing, enthusiastic marshals, great race HQ, a good briefing that everyone can hear and a fantastic pub at the finish line. There's no medal or t-shirt but you do get a huge choice of chocolate bars at the end! 

Thanks to Calne Running Club for continuing to run this summer series. 

Posted on 17.06.17

Completed in 2017

4.7

Excellent organisation in 30 degree heat

Broad Town 5

It was certainly a scorcher out there today so thankfully, the organisers added 2 impromptu water stations, marshals with super soakers and even a lady with a hose pipe at the top of the hill! There were extra first aid marshals back at the start too for those runners who really struggled in the heat. 

I love the fact that this race runs alongside the school fete which gives it a real community feel and the ice cream stall was to die for. 

The only downside was that they had run out of small t-shirts by the time I'd finished so I didn't take one as I'd never wear a larger one. Unfortunately, the same happened last year too. I thought last year's medal looked better too. 

That being said, I had a great afternoon at Broad Town and would definitely come back in the future. 

Posted on 17.06.17

Completed in 2017

5

An incredible experience

Mizuno Endure24 - Reading

This is easily becoming a must-do annual event for me. It's my second year and I loved it just as much as I did last year. At the beginning, I thought the change to the parking would be horrible because but it turned out to be a good move. The atmosphere between runners on the course is amazing and the experience of running at 2:30am in the rain will stay with me forever!

Pros: loads of portaloos in every field and at the start/finish line, large water tanks, loads of camping space, edible goodies at registration, enthusiastic marshals, festival atmosphere, food tent, huge medal and technical t-shirt, physio on site, beautiful course, fairies and glowsticks in the trees, medical aid at regular intervals, the whole site is easy to navigate and there are decent showers. 

Cons: the t-shirt was almost identical to last year's, the campervan field is really far away from the start, the VW bar ran out of drinks by the end of Saturday, the Clif Café ran out of jelly blocks during Sunday but did still have water which is an improvement on last year, there was only 1 block of showers that I knew of. 

If you can get past the pain of running loops around a hilly trail course, you will have the best time. I also want to say a huge thank you to the team who were maintaining the portaloos all weekend; I hope you got a medal too! 

Posted on 13.06.17

Great, picturesque route

The DB MAX Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon

Racing with DBMax is always a pleasure and their races get better every year.

This is a brilliant race and superbly organised. Very helpful staff and encouraging marshals. Brilliant finishline snacks (although I'm really not keen on the Eat Grub bars. It's not the cruched up insects that's the problem, they just don't taste good) and the medal is stunning. I was especially imrpessed with the introduction of the bib number tattoo transfers; it made me feel like a professional!

Thanks to DBMax who organised a swim wave just for the Avon Valley Triathletes so that we could all start together and kudos to the compere who was calling out our names on the run after each lap.

The only thing I dislike about the race, is how many times you have to repeat the bit up to the leisure centre and turn point. Apart from that, everything was brilliant.

Posted on 29.05.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4.9

Amazing!

Jack n' Jill Challenge

There aren't enough adjectives in the world to describe how much I enjoyed this race today! Everything about it was perfect: supportive -  and sometimes singing - marshals, clearly marked course, friendly water station, copious mud, brilliant scenery, loads of rivers to Wade through and a very unique hill to climb - complete with nursery rhythm markers and a well at the top! 

The runner's safety is the most important thing to Somer AC on the way round, with marshals making sure competitors were aware of steep gradients, animal holes, helping to cross roads and streams and being generally very helpful. 

At the end, we were given a superb medal and goody bag, some of us got our names announced over the PA as we crossed the line and the standard of cakes back at HQ was incredible. 

I can't recommend this race enough! The only suggestions I can think of making, is to have some sweets at the water station and a few more loos for the ladies. 

Thanks Somer AC! 

Posted on 14.05.17

Completed in 2017

4.3

Great fun

Trowbridge 5K

Each year, the theme of the Trowbridge 5k is different and this year's event was 'colourific' so there were lots of fluorescent tutus, headbands and hairspray in attendance! 

Stampede Sports always put on a well organised race and today was no exception. Loads of friendly marshals were on hand and the course was well marked. The only thing that could cause problems (although I didn't see any) is when the course takes you along a main road without a pavement towards the park. Other than that, the route is extremely safe and spends a large portion in Trowbridge park. 

A great bargain price and a fantastic medal helped to top off my day. Race headquarters was in a Wetherspoons which as always great for a post race social. 

Posted on 11.05.17

Completed as a first timer in 2017

4.8

The epitome of 'multi terrain' races

What a race that certainly isn't for the faint hearted!

The course is well marked out with marshals at key points. It starts uphill for a mile or so and takes you into deep mining canyons where you have to jump and dodge the large rocks and boulders and then gives you about 2 miles of gentle downhill running on a quiet country road and then around a high ridge with spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons. After this point, it all got rather interesting with almost sheer climbs downhills and near vertical scrambles up. The best bit was definitely the hill with a rope climb, a wade through the muddy marsh and the end on the 'volcano' before crossing the finish line.

The landscape changed so often along the route, it was hard to remember I was actaully in Wales! The Brecons are beautiful, the mining areas were barren, there were a couple of pretty waterfalls and wooded areas that could have easily been back at home in Wiltshire.

Although there are no aid stations on route, you are greeted with a bottle of water at the finish line and a moutain of cakes and energy drinks back at the pub.

There is no medal, but for only £10 you get a great day out and an extremely fun event. I made a 160 mile round trip to do this race which was definitely worth it. Thank You Rogue Runs!

Posted on 18.04.17

Completed in 2017

4

A good race with a few niggles

Good Friday 10 Miler

Cadence events looked very professional at race HQ. Everything was well sign posted and all the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. 

Pros: great HQ facility at Stanley Park with ample parking and clean toilets, chip timing with instant results at the end, coffee van, decent sized Easter egg as a prize, cute bunny medal, decent photographer, quiet country roads that were generally quite flat with some undulations, fun warm up and a race briefing that everyone could hear. 

Cons: no baggage facility, only 2 water stations (same one that you pass twice) and no jelly babies or similar, long queues at registration, a bit over priced compared to the Devizes half that I did on Sunday which is the same price and it's an 'out and back' route which could put people off but it is nice to get encouragement from the faster runners when they're on the way back.

All in all, a good first running of this event with just a few tweaks to make it perfect. 

Posted on 14.04.17

Fantastic, as usual.

Devizes Half Marathon and Fun Run

Everything about signing up and participating in this race was easy from the start. The organisers made sure that everyone had the information they needed via email and FB on the run up to the event and were on hand to help if you needed it on the day. All the marshals were friendly and encouraging and the atmosphere at the start/finish was brilliant.

Pros: Great views, easy registration, excellent medal, race photography and filming (I think the drone got me on the canal bridge!) live music at the end, safe baggage storage, food outlets nearby and clearly marked pacers.

Cons: Couldn't hear the race briefing at all, at some of the water stations, the jelly babies were in bags under the table and not on offer to the runners and there was a disappointing cotton t-shirt at the end that I am unlikely to ever wear.

I would definitely recommend this race but I'd consider how much you like running up hills before entering!

Thanks LPS Events.

Posted on 09.04.17

Two Tunnels 10k

Bath Two Tunnels Railway Series 1

I've done this race before so I knew what to expect but it didn't stop it from being a well organised event. I was an 'on the day' entrant and found the signage a little confusing at registration and ended up queuing for the colourburst run. It also wasn't clear whether it was a UKA or ARC race so I wasn't sure if I was affiliated or not. Apart from that, I loved it all; the warm up, the course, the marshals, the music and the treats at the end. All of us who were there,  enjoyed how much quicker we felt as we ran through the tunnels and were amused by the random results on Strava when the GPS dropped out in the tunnels! I'm coming back again for the July event as it's included in the Wiltshire Road Race league and in the Avon Valley Runners championship too. It would be nice to have chip timing on the future though. 

 

Posted on 26.02.17

Excellent race

The Castle Combe Chilly Duathlon February

I've done serveral DBMax events before including the Chilly 10k which runs before the duathlon. Today I marshalled the 10k and took part in the duo after. The whole team are brilliant and their organisation and brand are, in my opinion, the best in the south west. The finish line tent was fantastic with excellent treats and bespoke medals for finishers. The #chillyselfie frame in a nice added touch too. The atmosphere for this race is brilliant because of the multiple laps around Castle Coomb race track, meaning that spectators see a greater proprtion of it when compared to a road race. This means more cheering which is a great motivator for participants. I honestly can't say anything bad about this event and its organisation.

Posted on 19.02.17