The New Forest Marathon, Half, 10k and 5k returned this year after an absence in 2014 and perhaps unsurprisingly, there were a couple of teething problems so I will be placing these in between a mainly positive review.
I love the New Forest so will always go into any review with bias but from what I have heard, the issues have already put some people off next year’s event which is a massive shame.
It was a last minute decision to try and reboot my training mojo by booking an actual event rather than just pootling the odd 5k at lunchtime.
In that respect, it worked.
The day before the race, I cycled around 16 miles, swam 800 metres and ran a 20 minute parkrun (at a mountainous Eastleigh course).
When I should have been relaxing, I was trying to get some extra training in (doing my first triathlon at Hever Castle next weekend).
All of which should have meant that I had a terrible Half Marathon, but for some reason it all came together.
Part of the reason might have been that I was running about a minute per mile slower than I had done at parkrun the previous day. Doing something really tough the previous day meant that my normal pace now felt pedestrian in comparison and yet I still broke my PB by nearly ten minutes.
It also helped that I was running through some stunning scenery which kept me occupied throughout.
I was almost welling up as I ran through fields of purple heather and bracken with a low sun providing eerie lighting and then again as we emerged from the trees to see horses running across the open moorland.
Type “new forest ornamental drive” into google to get some idea of how beautiful it was.
The course itself was less hilly than I expected with around 300ft of elevation gain and was probably 50/50 on road and trail.
Unfortunately, the course did have one of my pet hates in races – loops.
There is very little more demoralising than watching faster runners come back past you and knowing you still have to get back to where you are.
Loops obviously make it simpler for race organisers but I hate seeing people going past.
The NF course also had a terrible additional loop at the very end where the 10 and 5k runners turned right into the finishing straight and the half and full marathon runners set off on a loop of nearly an extra mile.
And while I’m addressing the parts that I didn’t like, here comes the filling of my feedback sandwich.
The half marathon was delayed by over half an hour as the traffic getting into New Park was backed up to at least Lyndhurst if coming from the North.
It was partly my own fault but as I turned onto Brockenhurst road nearly an hour and a half before my start time, I was immediately worried that I wouldn’t make it.
The official advice was to arrive two to three hours before the gun goes off so I think the organisers were aware that there would be problems but when 5,000 runners try to access a site that is accessed by only one road, it is always going to be an issue.
Other people also had similar problems on the way out but as I had to get home quickly, I was lucky to miss all of that.
Aside from that and the fact that the announcer thought that despite a half hour delay, he still wanted to sing the entire happy birthday song to three times to three random people.
If I had anything in my hand at that point, I would’ve happily thrown it at his head to get the race started.
But to continue the slightly tired sandwich analogy, let’s get back to the bread. Sweet, sweet bread.
The race village had a really good vibe with lots of families enjoying the food and entertainment and I would’ve loved to soaked up the atmosphere and music.
Instead I grabbed a slice of very tasty pizza, a can of coke and headed back to my car.
So all in all, personally I had a brilliant time. I know there were some problems but I am sure the team are working to iron these out for next year.
The volunteers were all wonderful, the weather was great and I hit a PB. Honestly can’t think of how the day could’ve gone much better.
Since I first ran the “old version” of the New Forest Half Marathon in 2008, I’ve taken nearly 20 minutes off my time.
A very happy days work.