Name: Salomon Citytrail Richmond Half Marathon
Distance: 13.1 Miles (10km & "mini-mile" also available)
Date: 22nd March 2015
Location: Richmond Park, London SW14 8BJ
Merely a month after I completed the 10k in this same area, the Richmond Half Marathon doesn't focus on Richmond Park itself, but courses through towards Kew Gardens and then down towards Ham.
With roughly 4,000 people taking part, there was people there of all abilities (with the winner completing it in a mere 1 hour 11 minutes and 11 seconds - very impressive!).
With a Facebook crowd consisting of roughly 2,000 and regular social updates including training advice, the build up to the event was engaging and help build a community feel.
With such beautiful scenery as you go round the given track, with much of the course running alongside the River Thames, it's a great event to take part in, particularly as part of marathon training, being 5 and 3 weeks away from the London and Brighton marathons respectively.
In terms of the route, many sections were rather narrow, especially at the start, meaning that if you got caught in a group, there is little space for maneuver, much like a getaway driver being boxed in by persuing police cars.
Because of this, and due to the fact that not all of the road areas were appropriately blocked off, I wouldn't recommend this route if you're keen to bash out a new personal best.
Whilst fairly flat, the trail elements can be quite draining, particularly as you have to concentrate on foot placement to avoid stepping into a pothole or, even worse, tripping on an overgrown root and causing a domino-like pile up.
The latter will naturally not make you the most popular person in the crowd when you pick up your post race goodies!
Facilities & Amenities
The advertised benefits of the event were labelled as follows:
- Race Momento - Technical T-shirt and Richmond Half head buff.
- Finishers Medal - Horray!
- Accurately measured courses to IAAF standards & fully insured.
- Chip Timing - time YOU cross the line to the time you finish.
- Paced groups with Xempo Pacing
- 5 weeks Pre-London Marathon
- 3 weeks Pre-Brighton Marathon
- 5% of entry straight to CLIC Sargent and The Vineyard Community centre.
- Easy access to start and finish with Richmond Station 5 mins away
- Age group prizes M40,50,60,70. F35,40,50,60 from Salomon Running UK
- Established Race Organiser - Experienced and passionate about his races
- Bottle of water when you finish along with usual post race goodies.
Many of these should go without saying, particularly aspects such as a "bottle of water when you finish", a medal and chip timing, for many recreational athletes (myself somewhat included) one of the perks of doing an organised race is to have something shiny at the end of it that you can add to your trophy cabinet.
Without at least these three things, you may as well set up a running app, head for a few laps of your local park and post the events to Facebook.
Now, there's a few other added extras I've come to expect when I pay and complete an event of this nature and I'll break down my thoughts on each of them in turn.
First of all, I feel that when you take part in an endurance event, especially one that's not on your doorstep, you'll want to leave your valuable possessions such as phone, keys, wallet, etc in the safe hands of someone who looks particularly scary in the knowledge your valuables are safe, potentially someone resembling the man on the right.
Unfortunately this was not a consideration for the people who organised the event.
In terms of leaving your baggage, there was simply a group of tables in a tent for people to leave their belongings on top of. In reality, it would have been exceptionally easy for someone to simply walk into the tent, pick up a couple of bags that looked expensive and walked away.
This didn't particularly fill me with a warm sense of security, I feel as if I would have been better off simply leaving my bag at the start line in the middle of the crowds, at least this way I would have been able to pick it up as soon as I'd finished.
To avoid this I personally begin somewhat behind a given pack so that the time I catch up, there's been enough time for the pack to disintegrate, leaving enough space for my bearded self to weave through.
Sadly, despite starting quite behind one group, the organizers had (for some unknown reason) created the initial 800 meters or as a narrow path, meaning that even when I caught up the pack still resembled that infamous stampede scene from the Lion King, thankfully there were no small children in the pack or I fear they would have been trampled by the masses as people nudged their elbows against each other to compete for personal space.
This unfortunate crowding was only made worse by the given pacers for the day, who, whilst fairly useful for ensuring people didn't overexert themselves at the start of the race, contributed to the formation of what can only be described as a group of runners that in structure must have resembled a tightly knit flock of birds.
In a typical race where the track is away from main roads this wouldn't be a huge problem, but with the first section of the course being on the path of a main road, many runners favored running on the road and avoiding passing cars in the pursuit of a better time resulting in a potential health and safety nightmare.
If you're super prepared, you may have some sort of camel-back type water container whilst you run around, but for those of us who aren't so prepared, or like to run without carrying a little backpack full of sports drink, the drink stations around the track are pretty important.
The ideal situation in terms of drinks is to have a vast amount of sports drinks available to pick up to hydrate yourself and top up the electrolytes you need so that your running performance doesn't deteriorate through the race, you'd at least hope for a small bottle of water so that you can casually sip over a couple of hundred meters.
Neither of these expectations were met, in practice, all that was on offer were half filled plastic cups of water handed out at maybe 4 points throughout the race.
This was the disappointing situation I'd already encountered during the Richmond 10k exactly a month previously, maybe it's a Richmond thing?
The problem with plastic cups is that unless you're prepared to slow down to a walk, it's incredibly difficult to actually drink the small amounts of water without throwing it over your own face, leaving you not only frustrated, but slightly wet and dehydrated too.
Most of the time these will be products that help your recovery, you might even find something which becomes a permanent addition to your recovery routine (the providers hope).
Here the organizers did fairly well, after managing to catch my breath following the obligatory sprint finish, we were herded through a taped path, picking up a bottle of orange juice, the promised bottle of water, and a goody bag provided.
The goody bag contained a variety of tasters and testers including a low fat packet of crisps, some coconut water, chia seeds, coconut pieces and even a blue cheese dressing.
To top off the day, there were some lovely volunteers from Richmond Osteopaths offering free massages, just what the doctor ordered after pounding out 13.1 miles, my masseur was also able to help me with my tight hamstrings, looks like I should probably spend a bit more time in the yoga studio!
The weather was just right and the views of the local area were stunning as we went through the course. I had initially hoped for a time of less than 1 hour 40, but ended up with a respectable time of 1 hour 42 minutes and 29 seconds, not bad considering I'm carry at least a good 5kg of extra muscle compared to the average runner I'd say.
Despite having a really nice day overall, there was naturally some areas in which I feel the organisation could have been significantly improved, primarily, bag security, drinks available and arranging effective waves to prevent overcrowding.
Overall I'd recommend this event for the scenery alone, it really was a lovely course to run through, it would also be great preparation for a marathon if you have one in April / May, however if you've got your heart set on a new half marathon personal best, I'd sign up for a race where you'll be free to run at your own pace rather than having to weave through a tight-knit crowd for the first couple of miles.
Alternatively, if you don't fancy the full 13.1 miles, there is a 10k alternative in Richmond too. If you're feeling really adventurous, there's always a full marathon, or even an obstacle race in the arctic if you're up to it!
Overall Rating = 3.5 Stars
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