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Race Review: Wimborne Half Marathon

Rob Murray
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Rob Murray

Rob is a self confessed running geek, obsessed with all things related to the sport, whether road, track or triathlon.
Rob Murray
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Yesterday saw the inaugural Wimborne Half Marathon in Wimborne, Dorset. There’s a well established 10 mile race in Wimborne with a course that criss-crosses this route so I thought I had a fair idea of what the race would be like before I arrived. For some reason, you can (or at least I can) always tell when a race is organised by a local running club, and when it’s being put on by a profit making company.

‘For Profit’ vs Running Club Organised Races

You can often tell how well organised a race is by the queue for the toilets. Perhaps fickle, but it’s a widely known phenomenon within the running world that no matter how many times you’ve been to the toilet that morning, you ALWAYS need a wee 10 minutes before the start. Just after the half marathon were the 5 and 10k races which meant 300 people. There were three port-a-loos and one very long queue.

There’s is always an air of self-aggrandisement at these ‘for profit’ events. A sense of show, to justify the expensiveness of the race. Branding, chip timing, laptops at registration, big blowup arch for the start/finish, plus an over the top selection of water, blackcurrant, orange squash or coke with biscuits at the water stops (I very nearly threw a plastic cup of coke over my head). I could name a number of races run by running clubs that don’t have any of this, but still have great reputations as races.

What this meant in reality was a chip timer that you had to wear on your wrist. In order to get your official time at the end, it didn’t automatically detect you crossing the finish line, you had to find a marshal who yanked your wrist into a machine that then clocked your time… 10 seconds after crossing the finish.

The laptop registration (or at least something) meant that there were huge queues at the registration tents.

The big blowup arch said finish but it didn’t say start – I had no idea where the race started from exactly.

At the water stops I had to stop to actually find the water in amongst the soft drinks and biscuits.

Also, why try to cram in a fun run, 5k, 10k and half marathon (rhetorical q, obv it’s to attract a wider range of people)? You just end up with four relatively empty races. There’s a perfect gap in the local race calendar for a well run, well promoted half marathon. I’d suggest focusing on that distance and promoting it more. I only heard about it through word of mouth a few days before and I’m someone that has every race penned in on the calendar and constantly scanning for new ones!


The Wimborne Half Marathon Review

The weather was perfect for running; no wind, overcast but not raining and cool but not cold.

We started in a field nice and close to the parking and right next to registration, which was good. During the pre-race brief we were told of several stiles and gates in the first few kilometres, so I resolved to get myself ahead early on to avoid any bottlenecks. So at the word ‘go’ I sprinted and found myself actually leading the race!

This unfortunately meant not having a clue where to run. The major job of a marshal on the route is surely to direct runners the right way? Why then, did the marshal see us running towards him, yet give absolutely no acknowledgement that he was aware of runners approaching, let alone make the huge effort to lift his arm and point in the right direction. God forbid he should stand up! “Which way?!” Number 2 runner and I shouted.

Eventually we saw the arrow and took an abrupt left turn.

This took us on to an off-road section which took a bit of orienteering to locate the next arrows (was actually quite fun), before hitting several stiles and kissing-gates. After 2.5 miles we arrived at the loop (by this time I’d been overtaken and was sitting in 4th place). I’d had a virus last week and still wasn’t feeling 100% so had intentionally slowed my pace (and so my heart rate) down after quick start. By this time the 3rd placed runner was several minutes ahead of me and the nearest runner behind me was at least 5 minutes away. So for a while it was just like a nice Sunday morning jog in the countryside.

The loop started at 2.5 miles and was two 3.4 mile laps of ‘droves’ (old lanes between the fields) and road. There was a point where runners at different stages of the race met each other head and side on around a corner. For each lap of the double loop runners had to collect a coloured band. I don’t know whether this was to prove that you had done the loop twice (you’re only cheating yourself if you didn’t), or to help marshal know which way to direct people. Either way, the last thing you want as a runner is to have to stop twice whilst someone puts a band on your wrist – puts you right off your stride!

Finally I saw the ‘To The Finish’ sign which was actually quite a long way from the finish, but still gave me a boost (there were no mile markers). The last couple of miles was really tough as it was mainly uphill and off-road, retracing our steps through the fields and stiles. Also I hadn’t really trained for a half marathon.

Wimborne Half Marathon Summary

This was the race’s first year and if the organisers Run Dorset could iron out the negatives mentioned above, this has the potential to be a much loved race. Although not fast and flat, the route is picturesque, peaceful and interesting. I think chip timing on an off-road route with stiles and gates is pretty nonsensical. It’s just another justification (and cause?) of the high entry fee so wouldn’t bother with that next time.

The fun run for the kids was nice, but with only 37 people running the 5k, might the organiser’s efforts be best spent making the half and/or 10k excellent? But then if their aim is to get more people running, then a 5k is a more easily accessible distance.

I’ve perhaps been overly critical as I did enjoy the race itself and I understand that Run Dorset has the best of intentions – to get more people running. However, a high race price sets high race expectations…

A side note: My printed slip at the end said I was 3rd. As I was running I started 1st and was overtaken by 3 runners to finish in 4th place. On the final results a lady apparently finished ahead of me, which happens most races, but I absolutely was not overtaken by a female runner during the race. So something was amiss there.

On the ‘maybe’ list for next year.


Distance: 13.2
Time: 1:30:35

Featured images courtesy of Run Dorset Facebook page. Full results here

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Author: Rob Murray

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