On Saturday I took part in the Rough Runner Chiswick 10K. To say it wasn’t the best race would be an understatement. The start and finish was in Chiswick House & Gardens (one of my favourite places in Chiswick), sadly neither the 10K or half marathon routes actually went through the grounds, instead we headed straight out along the main road, under the underpass and onto the Thames Towpath.
There were waves every 30 minutes, with groups of 5 runners set off in minute intervals. This was a good idea to keep crowding down but annoying for us standing in the rain waiting to start.
I ran the first 2 miles with Tom then planned to use the rest of my race as a workout.
1-2-3-4-3-2-1 minutes fast with 90 second recoveries (most of these were run around a 7.30 min mile pace)
1 mile cool down
Unfortunately the towpath was very, very crowded due to runners (both those taking part in the race and those just out for a Saturday morning run), dog walkers, and spectators watching the Head of the River race. Not to mention the rowers taking part in the race, and transferring their boats from the boat houses to the water – meaning that many of us had to duck under boats or round them as we ran.
There are some very tight corners and narrow paths along the path which also meant I had to come to a complete stop at points – none of which I minded as I wasn’t racing it.
The real problem was with the signage and lack of volunteers. I had looked briefly at the route course, so knew where we were going as I’ve run thousands of miles along this stretch training for multiple marathons, and therefore could follow the route without signs. I heard that people who were running the 10K ended up covering 13K, whilst the half marathoners ran 12.1 miles…
The organisers had set up a water station near the halfway point but it was undermanned and we had to stop to wait for them to fill a cup per person. Again, not a big deal if you’re fun running, but not ideal if you’re trying to race.
Oh and did I mention that the event wasn’t actually chip timed… Apparently this was to do with issues with the timing company and equipment being stuck at customs, however none of this was communicated to us before the race. If it had, perhaps we would have been a little more forgiving and appreciative for the organisers honesty. As it is, 48 hours + later and we’re still waiting for timing. If parkrun can do it without timing chips, then Rough Runner should be able to do it in a timely manner too.
We had stick on race bibs, which I initially thought were awesome as it removed the need for safety pins however as mine flew off 3 miles into the race, I realised they weren’t so great after all.
I was disappointed that the race used generic medals that are clearly used at all of their events, without the name, date or any specifics on it. Makes me wonder what exactly the £34 entry went towards… in total I got 2 half cups of water and a cheap medal. Honestly, it’s the first race I’ve ever done that I thought was a total waste of money. I wish I’d spent the cash on a post-run brunch instead and just run on the towpath for free!
As my friend Jo said, ‘overall the efforts of the team are appreciated however the event was overpriced and not just because of the issues. In essence we paid £34 to run on fully open public route with no cordons and very little safety consideration and no timings yet…’
I do have to say that Rough Runner have sent out a post-race follow up, however in my opinion, the emails are less apology, more a chance to pass the buck.
‘Thanks for attending the event at the weekend. We saw and spoke to a lot of people that had a good time and enjoyed the event, but we also had some negative feedback about it, so we’d like to address that here.
First, we want to assure you that our events have always received an overall fantastic level of feedback, which you can see on any of the reviews pages on our website – each and every one of our events is rated at 4.5 stars or higher. With this in mind, we are keen to show everyone who came along at the weekend, whether their experience was positive or not, how good our events usually are. If you know anyone who’s been to one before, they will tell you the same!
We’d also like to collect your feedback in one place. We are aware of a number of issues, but we’re always looking to improve what we do so please do give us your thoughts, as constructively as possible. The first thing we’ll be changing in future is to only hold events in private areas where signage is much less likely to be tampered with!
Timing was one of the issues we faced, which we’ve had a few questions about already. In short, we were let down recently by the guys who were coming in to chip time the event, so ordered in (at considerable cost) a system to do it ourselves. It arrived from Italy this morning, having been held at customs for several weeks. As a result, we resorted to manual/video timing, the results for which will be posted as soon as they are complete – a link will follow in another email.
Finally, we’re a small team who have spent the last 4 years putting our very souls into the events that we run, and we’re disappointed on a personal level that this one may have affected our otherwise strong reputation. So if you did have a good time at the event, we’d love to hear that feedback too!’
I feel like some more upfront communication to the runners would have gone down well – a pre-event email explaining the timing situation, or even on the day announcements would have helped. Rough Runner are offering free entry to another event for those that got lost, however I actually feel like they should be offering everyone a free race entry to a future race as a good will gesture.
Apparently instead of spending money on a free race t-shirt that many of us throw away, Rough Runner announced that they dropped the ticket prices. I have to say, I would hate to know what the prices were before they were dropped, considering the Half marathon cost £45!
The whole race has left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m unlikely to be giving one of their races a second chance…not for £34/45 anyway.
This weekend’s disappointing race got me thinking about what I look for in a great race,
- Chip timing & course length – needs to be the right length, obviously!
- Starts on time.
- A pretty route! Also must be well sign posted. (Lots of people messaged to say they look for courses without plenty of switchbacks).
- Plenty of loos at the start (and on the course) with no huge queues.
- A free bag drop is a must. I hate races where you have to pay for this, or ones that don’t offer this (Race for Life – I’ve seen people running with their handbags!)
- Not too crowded – it’s hard for big races to avoid this but as long as I have some space to run at my own pace, then I’m happy.
- Friendly volunteers, I like it when people are cheerful, happy to be there and chatty!
- Crowd support is a major bonus, especially during a marathon when you need the extra motivation to get to the finish line.
- It’s not the most important factor, but I love a good medal. The bigger, the better in my opinion, especially when there is a fun design.
- Free race photos are a mega bonus. I love races that do this or that have a ‘pay what you want’ opt in.
- Snacks afterwards – I think the American local races have got this down with the breakfast spreads post race, but we are a bit behind here in the UK. A lot of people on Instagram mentioned cake as integral to a great race… I agree!
What do you consider a MUST for a great race?
What race do you think has the best organisation or value added?