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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Most memorable races of 2016 - and what to enter in 2017

The most memorable of 2016, or
"I wonder what to do in 2017"

Welcome to our first ever review of the year that was 2016, a quick list of what you thought were the most memorable events of the year (of the ones we covered, not including the 10,000 meters at the Rio Olympics, Brexit, numerous musical artists passing, Donald Trump being elected, the pound crashing, the Syrian conflict, the resignation of a PM, Batman v Superman... you get the gist). Let's do something to cheer things up !

OK it's more of a quick bit of stats than a prosaic review of "how I felt at the time working at ...", what was memorable for us is not the same for you (i.e. for us a memorable day would include - got to work on time, didn't rain, didn't have supporters ringing bells in my ears for 2hrs and shouting loudly at runners over my head, didn't forget any kit, kept warm, didn't get stuck in traffic on the way home, managed to find a good location on the course with a nice background, didn't get abused by anyone just because we're taking photos, camera didn't break down, generally nothing going wrong).

It's a well documented fact that if a race is well organised, has a scenic route, delivers on or above someones expectations, and doesn't have a toilet queue, then they will want to remember it. Also  bizzarly - the worse the weather is - the more memorable they are.

Happy Memories of the 2016 Women's Brutal
Here at SSP, our stated goal is to make people happy - via the medium of sport photography - which is usually achieved in that millisecond of time when someone sees their race photo and remembers the event. So we thought we would create a review of the year based on which events had the highest percentage of competitors that wanted to remember them - i.e. from photo sales.

In attempt to make this a practical list - one which you could look at and use it to make a decision to enter a race - we have drawn up three different categories - best in a month, 10k and half marathons, and most memorable type of race.

I think he remembers this race for possibly all the wrong reasons

If you were to enter all the races on our most memorable of the month of 2016 - you would on average have at least as twice a memorable experience as normal - which is significant if you stop to think just how marginal it can be between a really good event and a "meh" average day training run.

Whilst you might say the list is biased, or doesn't count the lack of toilets, or the parking was rubbish,  or the water ran out, or the online review from "@raceTroll123" on runners world rankings said it was the wrong smell - I'm only reporting based on what percentage of runners wanted to remember the race permanently. Actions speak louder than words. Money Talks.
Look around they said. Enjoy the views to remember...

The consistency we have is that we know almost 95% of all runners search for their race number on our gallery - so the final ranking - is based on a lot of runners opinions all deciding if the race in their opinion was good enough for them to want to remember it.
(Please remember - all those fantastic events where you have sponsored free download images - can't be included or compared to these races - so this is the list of events where you still have to buy your images)

But do different people like different types of races ?
Yes - some might have been beginners, some might be having a good day, and others a bad one - but on average, across such a large population sample - that all averages out.
The Start of the Fleet Half Marathon 2016, full if not popular !

Remember - we now regularly cover almost 150 races each year - so we have a very large base to draw from. The other thing that came out from the analysis is that since 2008, there's been a 16% turnover of events per year. Last year we stopped covering 23 but gained 16 - that's a lot of churn to manage and relationships with race directors to build!

So - first up - how to book your race and event calendar for the best years running and racing to remember you will possibly ever have - each of the gallery links have a link to the race website if you fancy entering it for 2017

Most memorable races by Month in 2016(excludes free download events)

This is the list of the most memorable events across all types of events that we cover on a month by month basis. I've put two in there - and in 2016 none of these were on the same day. Nothing for August - I think everyone is too busy trying to remember their holidays, and October is a massive month, so got three listings.
You'll note the different types of races that are listed here as the seasons go through, and the variety as the year goes on, and the change from flat to hilly.

Have a look down this list and see if your favourite is here !

See what the race looks like on the 2016 Gallery
Serpentine 10k 
Brutal Men and Womens
Brutal Bagshot
Worthing Half
Nuts Challenge
Brutal Bordon
Paddock Wood Half
Clandon Park Run
Three Forts Half and Marathon
Seaford Half
The Hurt
Leeds Castle Sprint Tri
ETL Badger Half
Wakehurst Willow
Nuts Challenge
ETL Bacchus Half and Marathon
Abingdon Marathon
Beachy Head Marathon
Chichester Half
Brutal Spider Hill
PP Grand Union Half
The Hogs Back
The Seaford Striders Mince Pie 10

Of course - different types of races are more memorable than others.

If we were to rank races by type of event then the top 5 memorable experiences would look something like this - which might be handy if you're considering what type of event to do to make life and training more motivating

I think you'd probably remember this from the Way to Battle in 2016 if you did it...

The Top 5 most memorable types of events in 2016 were : 

  1. Sprint Triathlons, 
  2. OCR / Offroad challenge, 
  3. Charity Bike Rides, 
  4. Marathons, and 
  5. Half Marathons

So - the more effort you put into a race, the more you want to remember it ? sort of. Sprint triathlons take a lot of commitment and often financial investment, as do OCR races, Charity Bike rides are also quite a big deal and involve a long day and logistics depending on the course, and then Marathons and Half Marathons speak for themselves !

Because of this we list out the top 3 events for each race distance across the following race types. For simplicity, if it's the 10k list, it includes races where there's a half and a 10k at the same event, and for half marathons, if there's a 10k on at the same time - it's included in the half marathon rankings as well.
The top of that very big hill on the Sevenoaks Tri. You'd remember it.

Top 3 Memorable 10ks 

The Serpentine New Years Day 10k
The Clandon Park Run
Cambridge Town and Gown 10k

The very internationally attended Serpentine New Years Day 10k makes the top list - in a historic setting with fantastic London city views, plus a great start to the year - you've already missed the 2017 race !
Who wouldn't remember running past the fountain of the great Bridget Jones fight between Mr Darcy and Daniel Cleaver?

The big surprise for us here in the top three is the Clandon Park Run - it's probably more memorable because the junior race and fun run does go a decent distance through some interesting woods - so it generates some great images, and often the first good action shots for those taking part. It's also got a highly relevant charity element being organised by the PTA, and a lot of the parents and school kids take part in it.
Running through the woods near Clandon Park House

The Muscular Dystrophy Cambridge Town and Gown 10k continues to grow in size and scale - the route goes past the very picturesque Kings Street college frontage, along the lazy River Cam, and around the large green park areas of the city of Jesus green and Midsummer Common. As my hometown, it's great to see this race growing year on year - the benefit of having plenty of space to grow the event village. The one pinch point under the Victoria Road Bridge needs a think, but I'm sure they'll get there.

The Kings Parade section of the course of the Muscular Dystrophy Cambridge Town and Gown 10k

Top 3 Memorable Half Marathons

The Three Forts Half and Full Marathon
The Events To Live - Bacchus Half and Full Marathon
Chichester Half Marathon

The interestingly consistent fact amongst all these half marathons is that they all run up over hills and Downs (North or South) with views and trails, all good ingredients for a good images and great memories.

The Three Forts is a fantastic challenge, starting and finishing in Worthing, and really taking in a tour of two stone age forts (Cissbury and Chanctonbury) with the further Marathon taking a leg out to Devils Dyke - really has some stunning views out across the River Adur.

One way to remember your birthday - go for a scenic run over Three Stoneage Forts

The Bacchus is an extravaganza of fancy dress of the like we don't see at any other races, with wine at the waterstations (which are only supposed to be tasters not sustenance, but sometimes that doesn't quite work out), it's British social silliness and fantastic views from the North Downs near Dorking at their very best.

You always remember a Blue Nun or three. The Bacchus is worth the experience.
The Chichester Half has a fantastic run out and up to the top of the hill overlooking Goodwood racing course. Along with the scenic city to start from on the road out past the Cathederal it generates a lovely backdrop for the runners to take in the experience. It's a shame that it finishes in a carpark - but I don't think that's what people remember from this one !
The Chichester Half above Goodwood Race course on Kennel Hill

With that in mind, for 2017 it's worth taking a look out for the Hampshire Hoppit - a new race on the calendar that runs out over the Hampshire downs - which was just outside the top 3.

Overall most memorable event 2016

Fancy a swim - aim for the arch in the middle at the Leeds Castle Triathlons
And what was the single most memorable event of 2016 ? well it was a triathlon - the Leeds Castle Sprint Triathlon.

The castle makes a fantastic backdrop to all the races activities
With some many triathlons including race images, there's not really enough on our calendar to have a category for them in this review - but it is an outstanding event on its own.
Mind the local Geese on the bike leg !

With dramatic views to stop and stare at, the saying "location location location" is everything for this race. Organised with Orca Tri club, with the Castles event management team in charge - it has consistently delivered a fantastic backdrop for an event and had fantastic weather - but then it is in June ! It's also somewhere you can take the family for a day out and a walk in the grounds - everyone is a winner !
Enjoying the finish line moment at Leeds Castle Tri
(Just in case FYI - Leeds Castle is in Kent, not Yorkshire...)

So there you have it, six running events across normal running disciplines, a Triathlon worth trying, and a calendar to fill your year.

If there was one other general observation to make - two event organisers consistently had their races there or nearly at the top on our lists - and that was Events to Live, based in Dorking, and the Brutal races - based over on the A3/M3 quadrant of the Surrey/Hants area. We couldn't really have a category for Brutal races - because they are in a world of their own but make up the off road / OCR challenge category - but we would suggest that you give them a go as a change from standard races - it will certainly be a memorable experience !!
Events to Live operate mostly out of the Denbies Vinyard in Dorking - so apart from stunning Surrey Hills, views and great facilities, there's some lovely wooded trail runs on solid paths to enjoy. And wine. Did I mention the Wine ?

Looking forwards to 2017
So I hope that little bit of analysis has sparked your interest in what events you might want to enter in 2017 - although you're already too late for the Serpentine 10k. With the county cross country championships this weekend and next, and the South of England Cross Country Championships at the end of the month at Parliament Hill in London is all something to look forwards to !

Fancy a book to read on how to do any of this
As a final thought for any of you who like a bit to read, a friend has written a book on running training. He's a Doctor too, so has a bit of a clue what he's talking about, so once you've decided on your challenge for 2017, get a copy of this, raise some money for a good cause, and enjoy your running even more ! (only problem is that it's a Kindle only - but you can get a kindle app for your smartphone - so that's not an excuse).

Next Events
Back to normal for next weeks posts, if you fancy a challenge (and it will be with the weather forecast) and something to do this weekend - which doesn't involve getting too fit - there's the London Winter Walk for a nice 20k along the river - and that's going to have free photos given to participants via the Pic2Go technology - live during the event. What could be better way of sharing a memorable days fun ?

Until next time - enjoy booking your races for 2017 and here's hoping that it's a fun and indeed memorable one for you !!


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