Royal Parks Ultra

The inaugural Royal Parks Ultra took place today on a sunny and warm day in the capital. London really is quite a beautiful place when the sun shines on it!

A misty cool morning gave away to blue skies and warm temperatures.

I was at the race with the very kind help and cooperation of Salomon who had two star athletes taking part;

 Dimitrios Theodorakakos and Silvia Serafinii

They both won! Silvia running so quickly that she was 4th overall and this may very well have been a top 3 had she not been of course multiple times through poor course marking and complacent marshalling. Dimitrios ran 3:25:19 and Silvia 3:39:15.

Dimitrios almost lost the race due to errors from course marking and marshalling…. from a comfortable lead he ended up being neck and neck with 2nd place Julian Rendell  and then pushed away again in the closing stages to secure victory!

Dimitrios said “the course markings are terrible and the marshals are too busy on phones… by the time they realised I was there it was too late… six times I went of course. The organisers seriously need to look at some significant improvements for next year!’

Silvia confirmed “I went off course so many times… it’s terrible! If I am running a ‘marked’ course I want it to be marked. Today was too stressful. It as all very well when running slower and you have the time to look around but if you are racing I just want to concentrate on speed and effort… not worrying if I am course”

Not great! Considering the ultra had a small field in comparison to the Half Marathon (12,000) the race had some great pluses. A wonderful course around the parks of London, post race massage, good food provisions post race and a great setting. If only they could get the course marking to that standard… in addition, each runner got a wooden medal; a nice touch!

This race has great potential and will be a perfect race for those venturing up from marathon distance. It includes road and easy trail and at 50k it is the perfect step up distance.

Here are images from the day.

8 thoughts on “Royal Parks Ultra

  1. Great read and glad I’ve spotted this blog. I registered for the RPU 2013 yesterday. It will be my first step up in the distance of ultras and am hoping for a great run this time next year! I hope the route will be better planned next year, by the sounds of it, it was not the best. I may try do the route beforehand in stages, so I’m confident of where I’m running! There’s nothing worse than being unsure fo whether you’re on the right path! I had a great time of 1:33 on the Royal Parks Half, so will be shooting for a 5hr ultra.

    • You’ll love the race. It is a great course that mixes road and trail and a great into to running beyond a marathon. Also a great way to see London. I am pretty sure that any route marking errors will be remedied for next year. It would appear that the runners going slower had less of an issue… primarily more time to ‘look’ I think. Certainly on a sunny day it was a perfect day out in London.

  2. I was involved with the race day organisational side of the Ultra and it was a great event to be a part of. Definitely designed to show off the best of London’s parks and riverside views. I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants to take a first step up beyond the marathon to the ultra distance, without it feeling like a race taking part in a big city at all.

    The support from the sponsors made it such that there were great facilities at both the start and finish (massages, showers, hot food), plus well stocked checkpoints along the route (gels, food, isotonic drinks, etc).

    Just a word to clarify the situation with route markings. There were dozens of marshals deployed on the course, and hundreds of route markers (some fixed, some hand held). Unfortunately we did hear of the leaders getting off route a couple of times (not sure how that happened), but we immediately moved marshals around to ensure that any confusion wouldn’t happen again. I think the overwhelming feedback from all the runners besides the leading few, was that the marking and marshalling was superb. Really sorry though that the leaders did find a couple of parts confusing – it has been taken on board and will be addressed for the second edition in 2013.

    • Dan – it’s a first edition and having run much of the route (Thames Path) navigation can be tricky. Route marking needs to be obvious and yes, it would appear the message did get back to marshals etc and slower runners had less of an issue.
      It’s a great course; no doubt. Particularly when the sun shines. As a ‘first time’ ultra I think it’s a great one as it includes road and easy trail. A perfect combo.
      Facilities at the start and finish, as you say were very good. Better than average food, showers, changing and massage.
      BUT for me it comes down to the route and how the route is managed. Dimitrios was extremely lucky that he is ‘so quick’. Anyone else may very well have lost the race had they not had the turn of speed to correct the errors of going off course and that’s just not good!

  3. I have to say I am quite disappointed to read such a negative report on this race, and feel it is very biased, unjustified and as a top ten finisher, I completely disagree with what you have written. You appear to have taken a few comments from two elites out of context and used this as the basis of your report. Having spoken to Dimitris at the finish myself, although he did go off course in some areas, he still praised the race, its setting, facilities and its organisation.

    I understand that not everyone will be happy with their race and will have something to grumble about. However, myself and everyone I spoke to afterwards thought it was an absolutely brilliant race. Those thoughts are echoed extensively on the Facebook site; http://www.facebook.com/royalparksultra. As a first time Ultra runner I felt fully supported and made to feel like a VIP the whole day – it was a great introduction to the world of Ultra’s.

    With regards the comments about the route marking. This only seemed to be an issue for the first few runners. I still don’t know why it was an issue…it was just a matter of following some arrows. Easy enough when you are travelling at speed concentrating on pace and effort (don’t we all do that?). And as for the marshals, 99% were brilliant. Staffing this length of route to level which these guys did is no mean feat and unfortunately when relying on humans you cannot always ensure every single one is top notch. I have to say having done a number of trail races, I have never seen one so well sign posted, supported or marshalled.

    Sorry to rant, but this was the best race I have ever done, I feel a more balanced report would have been better and much more deserved for the Royal Parks Foundation who have clearly put a lot of effort, time and thought into this event. Maybe ask what the rest of us thought next time…

    For those of you interested in a view from the rest of the field – please go to the Facebook site.

    • picrunner – this is not a biased report by myself it’s factual based on following the race from start to finish, standing on the finish line and talking to people as they finished or after they finished. In my opinion of course!
      The main complaint particularly for the front runners was poor marking and poor marshalling. I would imgagine the message ‘got back’ to the race organisers from the front runners complaints and therefore the slower runners had a more pleasurable experience. If a course is ‘marked’ it should be marked so you can follow at speed and this was not the case!
      As for acknowledgement for the course and setting, and I quote:
      “Considering the ultra had a small field in comparison to the Half Marathon (12,000) the race had some great pluses. A wonderful course around the parks of London, post race massage, good food provisions post race and a great setting. If only they could get the course marking to that standard… in addition, each runner got a wooden medal; a nice touch!”
      If you need additional clarification on the thoughts of Dimitrios and Silvia, you can listen to two interviews on the next edition of Talk Ultra. Maybe when you hear them say exactly what they thought you will understand.
      You mention you are a first time ultra runner and therefore I am sure the experience was enlightening. But when you have seen races and races and races and understand what sets the good ones away from the bad ones, my comments are in my opinion, far more helpful to the race organisers moving forward than just some glowing praise that misses obvious errors. I didn’t mention the one hour delay to the prize giving, the lack of a PA for the awards and ‘other’ notable points. For me the biggest priority was poor route marking and if this event is geared at those moving up from marathon to ultra, route marking needs to be perfect!
      Nobody doubts it was a beautiful day, a great course that mixes road and trail, a great distance and a nice rural finish. I acknowledged that.
      You say may report is biased – I would also say that your thoughts and comments are equally biased. But opinions are opinions and that is why I love the freedom of speech that we have and that is why I do what I do.
      Ian

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