After not being fortunate enough to get access to London marathon I looked for an alternative Spring marathon. There were a few possibilities but I plumped for the ABP Southampton Marathon. Part of my reasoning for this was that I went to university in Bournemouth and had some links with Southampton. I also thought it might be close enough to head down in the morning. It wasn’t.
Before committing I checked the Facebook groups where I worked out that it was the first marathon in the city for quite a few years. They have had a half marathon going for a couple of years and has been growing so they pushed for a marathon. Fair play to the organisers for this as it would have been easy to just settle but I feel for the city it is a better way to show it off. As it was the first year it meant that the course was going to be 2 laps which I was slightly unsure of initially but over time I got used to the idea.
In the build up to the race I got my information pack well in advance and I found that I had plenty of information to get me organised. We ended up using air B and B to secure somewhere to stay which was only a few miles from the start. As it turned out, I got free bus travel on the day which saved the legs and was really useful for all runners. This meant that getting to the start line was much easier then it may have been. Dani once again showed how valuable she is on these occasions as I get my blinkers on and she is able to just figure out bus time tables and routes.
In the morning we arrived at the start area which is a short walk from the finish line and baggage drop. We arrived in good time and perched on the steps outside the guildhall which was to be the baggage drop zone for the race. After a bit of waiting around I committed to losing my bag and dropped it in to the drop zone which was reached by marching through a sea of deep heat! I then had the pleasant surprise of being able to use their toilets rather than trying to find the portaloos. So I can’t really comment on that but o know there were none to be seen in the start area.
There was an organised warm up before the marathon for those who want to get involved in those things but there was enough empty street to do your own thing and get some strides in. The starting pen had loose time guides and no barriers along the side of it meant there was no climbing over and squeezing in. They organised for the mayor to do something to start the race – not sure what as I couldn’t see or hear her from where I was. I just know we didn’t start bang on time according to my watch. As you start you loop back on yourself and begin your race with nice crowds seeing you off as people arrived for the 10k and half marathon being run shortly after we set off.
The route was clearly marked all the way round and there were good crowds on most of the route although there were some quiet spots, including the first hill that you climb at mile 4 ish. The water stations were well spread and marshalled too. Going through the football stadium was nice but it could be improved by maybe working it so we got to do a lap and if there were crowds aloud in along with music to add to the atmosphere. Still, I’m sure everyone got a nice picture. I really enjoyed Itchen bridge on the first lap as it provides some pretty cool views – particularly on a sunny day like we had. The second visit was a bit tougher and busier but still nice and it is the worse part as the rest is generally flat.
The race changed on the second lap. Due to timings, as I approached the start of my second lap, there people doing the 10k were still setting off and we had to merge. This means that there was a lot of dodging by marathoners and there was a last minute shout by marshals to let us know when to move over to leave them to it.
Then a bit further round the course I think we started catching the back sections of the half marathon which made the roads quite crowded – but nothing compared to London and it adds to the atmosphere. The only thing is it was clear that people were on different race speeds and therefore marshals had to keep shouting for half marathoners to keep left which I imagine was quite frustrating.
At the end of the race, the finishing packs were not too far away and you get a little video of you crossing the line. As you got your finisher pack you also got offered a non alcoholic beer. I was not in the right state for that but I know a lot of people enjoyed it. As you exit the pen it gets a bit busy as it seemed some people were trying to come in as runners tried to leave. There was plenty of space to meet family by the guildhall and the steps were useful for those who couldn’t get down to the floor. There was also massages on offer if you wanted to join the long queue.
I’m sure there was other things that I didn’t see in this area but my brother arrived and I hobbled off to get myself a burger!
Overall I thought it was an enjoyable event and one I would consider again if I didn’t get into London. I would be interested to see what they do with regard the two lap situation and timings of different races to avoid overlaps.
Did anyone else do it? What did you make of it?