I have just finished RTTB 2013, my third consecutive year. I am currently feeling a range of feelings. My feet and legs hurt, but that is hidden behind the feeling of pride and euphoria that comes with completing a Half Marathon, however the biggest feeling I have at the moment is disappointment..
Let me start of by saying I love Run To The Beat. I think it's a fantastic half marathon and I have ran it for 3 of the 4 years I have lived in London for it (the first one I was a supporter). Living locally to the route, it is empowering running through Charlton and down the Woolwich Road, which I walk regularly to get to work. It's amazing to see locals come out to support and it gives me chills thinking about running much of the same route that I could be doing if I get in for the London 2014 Marathon. In August I suffered a running injury and when I thought I may not be able to run today, I immediately signed up as a volunteer as I wanted to be involved with the process.
This year however, I have been incredibly disappointed by the changes you've made.
I'm not sure if the people who set the route are runners themselves, or just some high up executives, but the alterations and faults caused by the changes were not only time consuming and frustrating, but also potentially dangerous.
I started the half marathon running next to the 2h20m marker runner and ran with him for what I could. At mile 4, however, the part of the route which goes in and out of the Woolwich Barracks there was a bottleneck of about 10 minutes. This is because unlike previous years when you had the runners all running through the courtyard, you decided to have 20,000 runners run in AND OUT of a gate which was no bigger than 8 foot wide.
Mile 4 for me, and for many is 'The Wall', the part of run where you are struggling, but you power through. So having to stop immediately and stand still for 10 minutes often causes cramps. It can be avoided by continuing to move, however there was very limited space due to the sheer volume of runners. Many people climbed over the barriers and ran down the road, I refrained from doing this for fear of missing a 'chip timer' mat, which I figured would be in the courtyard. It wasn't. By the time I got back to the gate to exit the courtyard, the marshals had in fact stopped runners entering and sending them straight down the road. At this point, the 2h30m marker was well in front of me.
You can see the affect the bottleneck had on my time at Mile 4 & 5.
Following on from this, I had to run faster to make up time, which I am sure you aware is never a good idea, but I was already over 10 minutes behind my desired time. However several more bottlenecks occurred, at Mile 5, Mile 6 and Mile 8, mainly down to bad planning.
Along the Woolwich road, a road which has previously been completely closed and both sides of the duel carriageway used, was reduced to single lane of running traffic. This was obviously hugely busy so myself and many other runners ran on the other side of the barriers as the road was empty. We were unaware that this lane of road was open to cars. We found this out by a queue of cars pushing through the runners, which I am sure you can imagine is INCREDIBLY dangerous. The single lane was also an issue running up the Thames Path, a route I use for training a lot and is often crowded when there is a small family walking alongside.
The Water Stations have also been changed. It seems under what I can only imagine to be a cost cutting exercise, bottled water was no longer handed out, but cups of water. Small, often half full cups of water. Which meant stopping, again, to drink several. Adding extra time to the run and causing further muscle cramps.
The rest of the route was nice, until the last stretch. Running up the hill in Greenwich Park at mile 12. I have no idea who's stroke of genius it was to put that in the home stretch as previously it was something we ran down during Run To The Beat, but it was exhausting. I understand hills are part and parcel of Half Marathons, but a bit of consideration could be used to avoid putting the hill within the last mile of the run. I walked most and used the support from the crowd to get up the last leg of the hill, but it is mentally and physically draining.
I feel I should reiterate that I do genuinely love Run To The Beat. The people who run it are hugely supportive, many gave me pats of support on my back when I was struggling. I saw two girls carry their friend Katy for the last 2 miles as she was struggling. I saw a girl fall and she was helped back to her feet by 3 runners. I saw piles of cups place upside down on traffic cones instead of thrown into the road. The runners are good, decent people who do it for the love of running and fund raising.
I feel your focus, as a company is not the runners, but instead the marketing. You spend so long trying to get #MakeItCount or #RunToTheBeat of #JustDoIt trending on twitter and so little time thinking about the people running your route, the people who have paid £50 upward to enter. Leave the social networking to us. The excess in DJs and Music Stations almost got repetitive and mundane. 18 different music stations in a 20km run is ridiculous. Stop worrying about unveiling the 'BIG NAME STAR' and focus on what really counts, the happiness and safety of your runners.
I am sorry to say that if changes aren't made to next years route/run I will not be entering. I genuinely am sorry to say that, as like I have said, I love this day. It's a day that has filled me with pride and joy in the past, but this year, even though I am happy with most of it, the minor errors on your part have caused myself and many other runners to feel let down and suffer major delays on their finishing times.
3 years of Run To The Beat tops and medals.
I understand you are not accountable to me, one runner, but in many ways you are. It is the individual runner that spreads the word. I got many people involved with this years run and I feel like I owe them an apology.
Please take this into consideration. Also, if you could take off 15 minutes off my official time, that would also be splendid.