So an idea I had about a year ago but never got around to implementing was for the races I did to grade them according to how I personally felt about them on a number of criteria that mattered to me and I would hope the rest of the running fraternity. Whilst Runners World have a rating system, given that it includes negative ratings for tough courses and being "clubby" (way to get people involved guys...) I never really felt that it was a good way to evaluate a race. Generally I relied on word of mouth as to the best races. Hopefully if a few others fancy contributing reports on "Races for Runners" and equally "Races for Non-Runners (or Rip-Off Races)" then it'll help focus the best runners on the best races!
So - one of the reasons that has driven me to do this is that after my 3rd place finish last year Great Bentley went to great lengths to contact me and offer me a complimentary place this year. I'd always planned to try and do a review on the races I'd enjoyed and figured that if they could go to that effort I could get around to doing a short review!
The criteria I'm marking a race on are:- Entry for the Semi-Serious, Pushing to the Front, So "Undulating" Means F:!@:##! Big Hill, Twice, Was Anyone Else Running Out There Today?, 3000 runners at £20 a pop less £4 for the Winners Trophy and Movie Time (AKA The Big Picture)
Great Bentley Half
Entry for the Semi-Serious
Now this one is a year ago so my memory is a little foggy. From my recollection though there was a fairly reasonable deadline before the race. The fee was reasonable and not extortionate. I didn't enquire before the race as to whether free places were available at the time nor whether late entry was possible (as I was actually organised for once!).
Given that they were willing to offer me a free place based on a 3rd place 71:55 finish the previous year I'm sure that they would at the very least be willing to listen to faster runners looking for a late entry though you'll have to speak to them personally. Offering free entry to high placers from previous years is a great way to build up strong local race support and make sure it's down in the calendar as a definite.
Pushing to the Front
I was fine to get right to the front of the start last year which is a pleasant change from clambering over barriers that I usually end up doing. At the start of the race most went off at a reasonable race pace. The only issue that seemed to be was a slight lack of loos in the immediate vicinity. (You'll get any problems as well as praise!)
So "Undulating" Means F:!@:##! Big Hill, Twice
This is a potentially very fast course. I ran a decent PB there of about 2 minutes (taking another one off at the slower Reading comparatively). There are from memory 2 very minor rises. One I think was a motorway bridge and the other was a train bridge so fairly short in both cases. The rest of the course was basically flat.
The only problem with the course is that it is exposed to wind and hence "potentially" - if you get a calm day you will run a PB. Get a huge wind going and it will be a tough one. The time of year is great for a decent temperature.
Was Anyone Else Running Out There Today?
Field is an interesting one. Last two years James Connor has won with ease. Last year Paul gave him a bit of a battle. I was trying to keep the faint sight of a vest in the distance and there was another biggish gap behind me. That said - there were a lot around the 73-80 mark and the same again this year I believe (though the front end suffered). If you want to run in the 73-80 mark this is a very good race. If you are faster you can still run a fast time but might end up time trialling a bit.
If you can get a few faster runners interested then you could really fly on this course.
3000 runners at £20 a pop less £4 for the Winners Trophy....
Last year in an absolute rarity for a mid-level East of England road race they actually gave out some cash prizes! Whilst they're not giving out thousands I think any step in this direction is to be highly encouraged. I picked up enough to have covered the entry fee and part of the petrol which is nice and doesn't really hurt the bottom line too much I'd hope. *
As far as the rest of the experience went - the goodie bag had quite a bit in and the T-shirt was actually quality. Technical from a decent fabric rather than the really cheap stuff. Blue colour with a nice white reasonable design. In terms of race t-shirts it was definitely worth it. I've even found a picture of me wearing it!
Movie Time (AKA - The Big Picture)
Overall - a very good experience last year backed up with a complimentary entry this year. I was actually quite annoyed I couldn't manage to get back that weekend and compete as I would have liked to support a race that supported the community.
The number of negative things I can say about the race are limited. Basically if you're really fast and want to run a fast time you might be out there on your own!
I'd seriously recommend this race to any semi-serious runner and in particular those in the 73-80 minute range for which this would be an excellent opportunity.
Race for Runners Award (I'd do some logo but I'm crap at art)
Link to GBRC site
Given my experience to date in the East races are very "economical" when it comes to sharing out the entrance pot. I can't think of more than twice when I've actually picked up cash despite a fair few wins and no more than one or two more a reasonable prize. The vast majority offer a cheap trophy (yes - I've organised my own race and get copies of the Running Imp catalogue - I know exactly how much you spent on it! In my race we made a decent money off a low entry fee and had a prize list worth over £500 for a relay race of ~700) which if you're up to much you'll not know what to do with all of them fairly soon. If races can focus on offering either cash prizes or reasonable alternatives (bottles of wine are always appreciated!) it would be appreciated by the serious runners and they will return to the race!
Anyways - that's my first race review and hopefully I'll do a few more over the next few months. It'll be more entertaining when it's a race that's really cocked something up.