First off, I appreciate it was a mammoth task to shift the date of the event by 4 weeks this year with almost no notice due to the passing of the Queen. Well done!
5 of my family ran the full marathon, which saw a strength of just above 600 runners, of which only 7 didn't finish.
Pre-race communication was flawless, and the race pack arrived about 2 weeks before the original date. The chip was attached to the bib, which I find practical. The route map helped me a lot in my preparation, and we ran some stretches of the route beforehand.
I was a bit concerned about parking, but there is plenty of space in the streets to the east of Kew Gardens. It is a residential area, but the number of runners will not make a significant dent in the spaces available, and it is free on weekends. From there it is a 10-minute walk.
We were greeted cheerfully and dropped our bags by the van at the gate. Pre-race all you need is a toilet. I think there were enough portaloos but the signage could have been better. This includes an instruction how to use the lever to pump water to wash away your droppings. Many don't seem to be familiar with that. Also, there was a shortage of toilet paper, thus reducing the number of available toilets. Think ahead and bring as much paper as you may need, and you are fine.
The start of the marathon inside Kew Gardens was on time and they made a good effort to sort the runners into their predicted time slots. However, with chip timing you can just wait a minute or two until the bulk has cleared and start your own race. A field of 600 runners means you will not have to overtake too many, and it disperses quickly. Plus, overtaking others and not being overtaken makes you feel great.
The route is picturesque and gives enough variation in the Garden, along the river, and through Kingston, but using the tow path also means there are several quite rough areas. In the early phase we ran into the low blinding sun and couldn't see where we stepped. One runner in front of me stumbled on a root and tumbled down a grassy bank, luckily without major consequences. A short stretch of cobblestones was treacherously slippery from the dew. So maybe the start time at 8:00 was a little too early for this time of the year.
There were many very happy and engaged marshals along the route at almost all critical points, and the signage was good overall. Only one or two irritating situations came up when runners in front of me didn't know exactly where to go. I had memorised the route and was fine.
None of this would take away a star of my review. The reason why it is not 5 star is that you share the route with the public, and as it was a fabulous warm and sunny autumn Sunday, there was a lot of traffic. And because in some places you can only run single file anyway, you will have to negotiate families with small kids and prams, packs of dogs, non-racers jogging the other way, and not always very considerate cyclists. Then again, had it been a horrible rainy autumn day, some slippery and muddy stretches would have challenged us, including the last 300 yards up a grassy slope to the finish line.
This is quite a small marathon, and the public interest is limited. There aren't any grandstands or bands playing music or masses of hyper excited people behind barriers. Even your last sprint will only be witnessed by a hundred people. Small groups of supporters or individuals will cheer or clap you on along the way though which is nice, and we didn't get a single negative comment.
There were enough water stations and every other also serving energy drinks. It would have been nice to have them announced e.g., by a sign 100 metres on the approach. One of them was a little hidden and some runners had to pull the brakes abruptly and even go back a bit to get their drink. Again, if you memorise where they are located and have your GPS watch you will be fine. Not only that, but your brain will also have something to do other than thinking of running all the time.
All 5 of us finished with PBs, the majority because it was their first marathon. But also, all our running watches showed the route was 170 metres longer than 42.2 km. I know GPS is not 100% accurate, but with 5 watches showing the same difference it is likely the track is a little too long. That's obviously better than too short. We registered an overall incline of 120 metres, which is flat enough.
There is a lot of open space in the large grassy finish/party area to cool down after you received your medal, goodie bag and t-shirt. There was music playing and food and drinks available. Picking up our bags was a matter of seconds. Apparently, some of the booths present on Saturday (for the shorter runs) weren't manned or not present at all on Sunday. Regarding toilets, my comments above also apply to the party area.
All in all, we have enjoyed the run a lot, and we can definitely recommend it. If you prepare for the specifics of this run and know what to expect you will have a great experience.
Quite well organised, very busy place. The 2019 course was really flat, as advertised. Plenty of water & fuel stations during the whole race. All necessary markings are in place, special thanks to the course marshalls!
Just a few downsides that felt annoying: whilst the location was really great (amazing Kew Gardens!), the course went through some quite narrow roads & sidewalks, not exactly suitable for such a crowd. Also, some paths included grass/footpath surface, and often big old pavement stones, all being not quite suitable for the road running shoes. The finish line was in the field with little to no shadow at all and very much lacked some tents/cover as it was a hot sunny day. It also took a while to queue & get back to the parking (by the way, very much limited & costly in that area), nevertheless, there was a free of charge shuttle bus.
Overall, I'd recommend this race if you're local/live at the arm's length so you wouldn't need a car. Also, be aware it's not a road race, per se.
Hi Vladimir, thank you very much for your feedback, we will certainly take this on board! Tom Bedford, Race Director
Beautiful location and nicely organised.. Location was great. Running alongside the Thames was beautiful. The start of the race in Kew gardens was great as well. It was well organised for a race of its size. Lots of sports drinks given, water and energy gels as well.
I would give 4 and a half stars if i could. Almost 5 but just a few flaws. Firstly could have done with a few more toilets. And the timing chip was attached to the foot, which i dislike. A timer clock at the end would have been nice as well. But overall still a great event in a beautiful place.
Hi Ben, thank you very much for your feedback and your kind words. We will look to work on this for this year's event! Tom Bedford, Race Director