The North Downs Way Half Marathon is organised and run by Hermes Running who provide organised running events in Surrey and London. This challenging trail half marathon follows the North Downs Way with a climb up Box Hill thrown in for fun.
This event is organised by Hermes Running who organise runs in and around Surrey, Kent, and London. The North Downs Way Half Marathon and Marathon are overseen by David Ross who has been organising events since 2012. He is an experienced marathon and ultra marathon runner himself so knows what runners want and expect from a race and his mission is to make sure his runs are scenic and enjoyable, something I'd say he's definitely achieved with the North Downs Way Half Marathon.
This event sees a half marathon and a full marathon run concurrently on the same out-and-back course. The start is at The Bridge House Hotel in Reigate which is a great venue as it means runners can relax in the comfort of the hotel lobby before the race starts, and make use of the facilities instead of queuing for portaloos in a field! For the 2019 race, despite it being the beginning of July, it was raining profusely so it also meant we were able to stay dry and warm before heading out to the race start.
The race start is in a field near the Reigate Hill car park and David gives a short race brief before the off. Parking is a bit of a pain as there are only a few spaces at the hotel and the next nearest place to park is a very long walk down Reigate Hill to the station. It acts as a decent warm up for the race though! But it was quite a sight seeing hoards of very wet, chilly people slogging up this hill before the event had even started.
Overall the race is organised very well and it's all very straight forward.
This race is advertised as being 'challenging' and challenging it is! Not for the faint-hearted, the half marathon is once out-and-back while the full marathon is twice out-and-back. This is a trail run and gets very technical in places. There are some sharp, steep descents and ascents as well as stairs and single-file sections, tree roots and rocks to jump over and thick foliage to push through.
Despite the challenging nature of the run, the views are superb and the route is beautiful. You forget how much your body is hurting because you're focusing on your footing as well as enjoying the views.
The turn around point is right at the Box Hill lookout so your reward for making it up Box Hill and to the halfway point is a quick respite with some snacks and drinks provided by the aid station while enjoying the views out over Box Hill.
The route goes through various different sections including open fields, woods, and tracks. There is a very short section on a pavement next to a road as well. Many sections are single-file which means overtaking is a challenge however by this point most of the runners had settled into a steady rhythm and so this wasn't a problem at all. You do have to be careful when the faster runners are coming back the other way and us slower runners always stepped to the side so they could get past quickly and easily.
If you're a recreational runner like me, this is not a half marathon you would do for time. There are some sections where running is simply impossible due to the technical nature as well as one particular hill that is so steep even the fastest athletes were having to walk. This is definitely a run you do for fun instead of a PB but it really is great fun and I loved every minute of it.
The race is held at the beginning of July so I expected it to be very hot. However, it just so happened to be fairly chilly (14 degrees) and raining the day of the 2019 race so this made it a lot easier but also meant the route was slippery under foot at times. If it had been very hot, it would have been a lot more challenging.
The support at this race is absolutely outstanding. Because it's an out-and-back route, you see the faster runners on their way back and everyone smiles and says, 'Well done! Keep going!' to each other. Then on the way back you see the marathon runners heading out for their second lap and so cheering them on and congratulating them on an insane achievement is a real mood booster, especially when they smile and say well done back.
At no point was I on my own: there were always other runners around me the whole time which really motivated me and kept me going. The camaraderie between the runners was the best I've ever experience during a race; it was the friendliest race I've ever done.
There are two aid stations on the course, one at roughly 3 miles and one at the turnaround point. This means the half marathon runners get to pass an aid station three times (twice for the first one and once at the turnaround) and the marathon runners will pass an aid station six times. The aid stations are stocked with water, juice, dates, Chia Charge bars and various other snacks.
As this race is so challenging, you can expect to add on around an hour to your normal half marathon time, and up to 90 minutes to your marathon time. Because of this, some of us slower runners didn't finish until over 3 hours after the start. I was really impressed that there were lots of people at the finish to cheer us on and support us as we finished. It's great that they all stuck around for so long, 3 hours is a long time to wait! There was an aid station at the finish with plenty of provisions and the addition of a big bag of electrolyte powder which was well needed and appreciated.
Overall the support at this race was outstanding and the best at any race I've ever done. I really enjoyed this race even though is was so challenging and physically demanding and I'd massively recommend it to anyone. Just make sure you do lots of hill training and don't skip leg day at the gym!
Date: Sunday 23rd June 2019
Location: Grimsthorpe Castle, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 0LZ
Event Type and Distance: 5k run, 10k run, 10-mile run, Half Marathon (13.1 miles) run
Amenities: Entries for Canicross and British Nordic Walking, Chip timing, Regular water stations around the course for both 2 and 4 legged runners, Route fully marshalled and signposted, Distance markers, Bespoke race finishers medal for everyone, Post race massage, Race village with hot food and beverages for sale, Free onsite parking, Bespoke hoodies & t-shirts for sale
Entry Price: £9 - £32
Set in the beautiful grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle, in the delightfully charming Lincolnshire countryside just 10 minutes off the A1, this event makes for a perfect summer race, whether you take on the family friendly 5k or go for the longer challenge of 13.1 miles.
The four routes take you past various delights within the private grounds including the castle, lake, tree-lined tarmac avenues, ancient woodland, and even a disused Victorian railway. The train line no longer exists, but the 10 and 13.1-mile routes travel along this section and take you to a part of the world generally unseen by the public.
The race start/finish line will be in front of the castle along the driveway, offering a unique venue. All finishers receive a bespoke race medal!
Date: Sunday 28th April 2019
Location: Thoresby Hall, Thoresby Park, Ollerton, Nottinghamshire NG22 9WH
Event Type and Distance: 5km run, 10km run, Half Marathon 13.1 miles run, Full Marathon 26.2 miles run, 60km Ultra Marathon run
Amenities: Post race massage, trophies, prizes, medals, food and drink, chip timing, free parking, free bouncy castle for children
Entry Price: From £10 for the 5k fun run to £55 for the 60k ultra marathon
The Longhorn Race series will find you running over old military roads, cleared tracks through ancient woodland and grassed paths around the country estate. The route includes a few hills to offer a small challenge around the course in the most scenic countryside and forest. The terrain depends largely on the weather; in 2015 it was very dry so the ground was firm under foot, but in 2016 there was lots of rain so there were a considerable number of muddy areas.
Nothing looks more beautiful than the sunlight streaming through the leaves in this natural area of beauty. We have devised a race that takes you into Nottinghamshire's National Nature Reserve, through private areas that were once part of the 10,000 acres Royal Forest of Sherwood where the woodland is dominated by native Oaks as well as other native trees including Silver Birch, Rowan, Holly and Hawthorn. The reserve is also the site of Europe's oldest Oak tree woodland, containing over 1000 Oaks most of which are over 500 years old! It is here that the Longhorn Cattle of Thoresby Estate now roam freely, although being a very docile breed of cattle, they will be tucked away during our run race.
Date: Sunday 20th October 2019
Location: Thoresby Hall, Thoresby Park, Ollerton, Nottinghamshire NG22 9WH
Event Type and Distance: 5k run, 10k run, 10 mile run
Amenities: Chip timing, bespoke medals for every finisher, trophies for winners, post-race massage, race village with hot food and drinks for sale, free onsite parking.
Entry Price: £9 - £27
Thoresby 10 is back for its annual autumnal trail run in the beautiful grounds of Thoresby Hall, north Nottinghamshire. Choose from a race over 10k or 10 miles, running along old military roads, cleared tracks through ancient woodland and grassed paths around the country estate. The 10k route is The Longhorn race in reverse, the 10-mile race is the 10k route with an extra 4 miles added through more of the estates ancient woodland. The route includes a few hills to offer a small challenge around the course in some of the most scenic Nottinghamshire countryside as well as the forest and past the lake.
The Autumn colours should make this a race to remember in this natural area of beauty. The race takes you into Nottinghamshire's National Nature Reserve, through private areas that were once part of the 10,000 acres Royal Forest of Sherwood where the woodland is dominated by native Oaks as well as other native trees including Silver Birch, Rowan, Holly and Hawthorn. The reserve is also the site of Europe's oldest Oak tree plantation, containing over 1000 Oaks most of which are over 500 years old! Look out for the Longhorn Cattle of Thoresby Estate, who usually roam free in the forest, in their restricted fields for the race.
There is also a 5k run/walk for all levels on offer. It's a different course that takes you past the beautiful church at Perlethorpe, through woodland groves and back onto the main field in front of Thoresby Hall. This event can be a gentle stroll with the family or a race to get your 5km PB. The 5km race is 2 loops of the course.
Date: 9th June 2019
Location: East Beach, Shoeburyness, Essex, SS3 9AD
Event Type and Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles) run
Amenities: Chip timing, medals for all competitors, sponsorship, free bag drop, paid parking, changing facilities, refreshments, sports massage, closed roads
Entry Price: From £20
Southend Half Marathon is a two lap, traffic-free course along the Southend coastline. The annual event is set to bring in around 5,000 participants and is always a popular local spectacle. It is always set to be a warm event, with beautiful views across the Thames Estuary for runners as they race along the fast, flat course. There are always thousands of spectators creating an electric atmosphere.
The run begins at East Beach in Shoeburyness, Essex and loops up the closed seafront road twice and back to the starting point. The event is organised by Havens Hospices with some of the entry fee going to their charity.