On Sunday 26th April 2009 I (Andrew McEwen) ran the Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford upon Avon - finishing in 3 hours 12 minutes and 11 seconds. This was the third time I have done this event and it is a pleasant two lap mainly rural mainly flat course run during Shakespeare week which adds to the sense of festivity.
Organisation was excellent with plenty of marshalls, drinks stations (water and energy drinks), toilets and chip timing. A solid if not huge crowd most of the way round really helps too.
There is a half marathon running at the same time which swells the numbers and adds to the sense of occasion although the mile or two before they peel off for the finish can be a bit hectic as runners come swarming past making their big push for the finish. It was with a sense of relief that we set off on the final 14 mile loop.
The weather was beautiful - sunny with a few clouds for shade and a surprisingly cool breeze. It was starting to get warm by the afternoon though and that will have affected some of the later runners I am sure. There are a couple of smaller hills and a fairly long sustained hill (which you do twice at 5 and 17 milesish) but otherwise it is a flat course. The final run in can seem a long drag along a firm surfaced (but not tarmac) cycle track which is dead straight for about 4 miles.
At the end there is a nice medal, plenty to drink and a cold shower if required - it was quite refreshing after the initial shock!
I had a steady run and was pleased to be able to maintain my pace until the end as I had struggled to go beyond 20 miles in training. I think the rest week must have really helped me.
I got a PB there 3 years ago but on this occasion I was delighted to get under the good for age qualifying standard for London next year.
This year it was held on the same day as the London Marathon which made it easier to follow some of the London based training schedules and I would recommend it to anyone as a good alternative to London especially if unsuccessful in the ballot.