Published on October 30, 2016
Vitality Oxford Half Marathon 2016
There is much to admire about the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon – pre-race info is good, it’s supported by helpful race volunteers, the start pens did a good job at getting runners into the right order, the course is flat and fast and Oxford itself is a picturesque backdrop for a race. Parking is a perennial problem with the city, but many people took up the Park and Ride option and felt it worked well and overall runners we spoke to thought the race village was well organised.
Arrival by train was arguably more problematic; there wasn’t really time for people to get from the first train from London and local areas (arriving 9.12) to the start (9.30), particularly if they wanted to use the bag drop and loos in the race village.
Starting in the appropriately named / spacious Broad Street the route wound first around the centre, passing numerous colleges and the Natural History museum, before breaking orbit for a long straight up through Summertown – an out and back stretch that allowed runners to cheer on others coming in the opposite direction. A hard left look everyone out (and back) to Marston for a lively loop before heading in to the glorious Oxford University Parks. The final mile or two twisted back through the historical centre and around the spectacular Radcliffe Camera to the finish back in Broad Street.
The race was well supported by spectators and even a couple of bands, which were suitably uplifting. There was plenty of water en route, and in small bottles which are much easier to hold and drink from than plastic cups. There was even a jelly baby station where you could grab a small cup of jelly babies for extra energy.
On the downside? At £40 this is definitely at the pricier end of Half Marathon entry fees, but considering the decent finishers’ t-shirt, quality medal, live tracking, pacers and overall organisation it more or less adds up.
Additionally the race info ‘interactive PDF’ was a little unwieldy on some devices and some information relied on internet links, which meant you needed WiFi (or at least good phone reception) to access it.
Those we spoke to thought the race village was a bit too far from the start / finish and loos at the start itself would have been useful. The start itself was promised on time, and, in the end, was only 5 minutes late, an improvement on 20+ minutes late in past editions. Maybe 2017 will be bang on time?
Of course it’s hard for an event to be perfect, not least because everyone’s perception or definition of perfect differs. But, like a runner putting in good training and learning from their mistakes, for the last few years the Oxford Half has been improving every year. If organisers continue to listen to feedback – and they clearly have so far – the Vitality Oxford Half will continue to grow in both popularity and reputation. See you in Broad Street next year?
Main photo credit Tom Scott-Langley