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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 !!


Monday, 9 January 2017

The Tadworth 10 2017 gallery is now live and next events to enter

The 2017 start of the Tadworth 10 from the in front of the Epsom Racecourse Stand
The race photos from this weekends Tadworth 10 are now live and online here:

An unseasonably warm day up on the Epsom downs - around 12degrees, with only a spot of rain at the end of the race for the tail markers, an excellent turnout for the extremelly hilly course up and down the Epsom Downs over 10 miles. Make the most of the warm - in a weeks time it's going to be very cold indeed !

Date Event name Gallery or event link
This weekends event
Sun-08/01/2017 The Tadworth Ten
Last weekends races
Sat-31/12/2016 Brutal Longmoor
Sun-01/01/2017 Serpentine 10k
Next events
Sun-15/01/2017 London Winter Walk - with free race photos on Pic2Go
Sun-22/01/2017 ETL Denbies10
Sat-28/01/2017 Brutal Men only
Sat-28/01/2017 Brutal Women Only
Sun-05/02/2017 Gloucester Marathon
Sun-05/02/2017 Watford Half
Sun-05/02/2017 ETL Bookham 10k
Sun-12/02/2017 Worthing Half Marathon
Sun-19/02/2017 Hampton Court Half Marathon  ***race almost full**
Sat-25/02/2017 Brutal Bagshot

Any News ?
Just a short note - we are sad to hear that the Run the Streets Kingston on the 26th Feb 2017 has been Cancelled - find out more here -

All good going down hill at the 1mile mark

hold your hands in the air like you - can't see the camera yet

Good work back up the hill to the top at around 4 miles

so much joy !

good airplanes

it was a good race but it didn't quite taste right

plenty of laughs and fun on the way round with these two

deep thought on the whole surrender waving policy

both enjoying the run out

one mile to go and all downhill

meeeoow, or is that a thriller move ?

Pedro was happy with nearing the last downhill

All was good for 160

Geek Chic shows us how it's done

for the win for Carlie

The lead three kicked off straight from the start

The view off up the hill as they go off to one mile

top marshalling

A bit of a chase into the finish line

Bananarama sung a song about this

and for those of you who enjoy a what happened next - enjoy this video

until next time and our review of 2016, train carefully

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Brutal Longmoor 2016, Serpentine NYD 10k, and new 2017 Gallery now live

Happy New Year !! For some.

Welcome to 2017, and the brave new world of our new gallery, hosted on Photoshelter. I'm not going to even mention how completely bonkers 2016 was, but if the laws of entropy are anything to go by - it's only going to get more mixed up. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday break, and if you were working in the office it was equally fantastic without everyone else there !

Please - if you have any thoughts or observations about the new gallery - please let us know on

Here's the quick list of last weekends events and some future races to enter.
If you prefer visual browsing - go to our top level gallery page (here) and navigate by year and month to where you want to go - we are putting future events up there too - with links to their websites so if you fancy a race in March 2017 for example - surf through and have a look to see what's on offer. 

All of 2016 galleries are on the new gallery - so you can now look back and compare and see how much better you look (now?)... and our plan is to back-populate all the other years (and 2015 can still be found on our old archive pages - which we have handily linked to).

Latest Gallery Listings

Date Event Live Race Gallery or future event website
Sat-31/12/2016 Brutal Longmoor 2016
Sun-01/01/2017 Serpentine NYD 10k 2017
Future Races to Enter
Sun-08/01/2017 Tadworth Ten
Sun-22/01/2017 ETL Denbies10
Sat-28/01/2017 Brutal Men only
Sat-28/01/2017 Brutal Women Only
Sun-05/02/2017 Gloucester Marathon
Sun-05/02/2017 Watford Half
Sun-05/02/2017 ETL Bookham 10k
Sun-12/02/2017 Worthing Half Marathon
Sun-19/02/2017 Hampton Court Half Marathon

I hope you all managed to get what you wanted for Christmas, even if it was the much evasive "peace and quiet to all men" [Ed:that's a bit sexist ?]. We managed a quiet spell for almost three weeks from the 11th to the 31st of December - which was successfully taken up with admin tasks like doing the year end accounts - our annual moment of reflection and deep thought...

Droning on about drones
Let's get one thing straight - drones are fantastic things (I'm talking about the small ones with cameras, not the big ones with bombs, that's a whole other conversation) the images are superb and the landscapes and vistas that can be achieved are wonderful. 

Those of you who know me well will also know I'm not too keen on drones flying about at events with their sharp rotating blades and emptying batteries, mainly because they have a tendency to fall out of the sky and land on things (i.e. probably me). The good news - I did not get a drone for Christmas ! 

The bad news - for all you drone pilots out there (amateur and professional)- the recent update to the Air Navigation order - still means you have to keep them at least 50m away from anyone, and if it's busy (>1000 people at an event) or in town, you can't fly overhead, and you have to be 150m away from everyone. That's quite a long way away. If you've ever stood on a running track and tried to shout at someone only 100m away down the finishing straight - you can't - so 150m is a very good safe distance. (i.e. by definition - If you can hear me shouting delicate requests to the drone pilot - your closer than 100m)

Here's the best explanation online for all of you who might have a new toy for Christmas and want to give it a go :  - slide 4
Most of the events we attend have at least 1000 people attending when you add families, supporters and organisers staff - so I don't expect to see too many legally flying drones in 2017 except at a distance !! 

And now for some photos from this weekend including - some video stuff

Brutal Longmoor 2016 - New Years Eve
Top new years eve workout with friends

After while the water does smell a bit

Castanets anyone? "Hola!"

MAny thanks to the marshals

Excellent work all the way around

All looking busy in the event village

The casual look of pre-race nerves

Flying through the woods at speed

On fire

New Christmas hat gets a good workout

Brutal as a spectator sport

Sisters together

One of those new clapping hand hats

uh oh, what has he found

Towards the Shrubbery

mind the trip hazard

and it was all going so well

He was rushing through the invisible sand-bag carry

Meanwhile at the Serpentine New Years Day 10k - near perfect conditions prevailed - it rained very heavily about an hour afterwards ! Our tenth outing at the race.

There's a video of the start and another one of the finish on our facebook page here:

Apologies for the constant mini-cow-bell ringing in the background noise for the finish - it's the sort of occupational hazard we have to put up with at in the workplace ! welcome to our world.

To be fair - the winter wonderland doesn't look so amazing from here at the race start

Lead three through 2k - pulling ahead of the field

Josh hadn't quite realised that he was covering up his race number, rendering cataloguing almost impossible. They did however manage to look cool.

Sophie had a good run out for the Ealing Eagles

Milton Keynes flew in at the finish

Always good to see the junior runners storming home

Always good to see the parents being supported and encouraged in their New years resolutions

Emma looked serene as she cruised to victory

always good to have a wave on the way back in

Thoughtful statues look on at the hardworking 

it's just a lot of fun

Social Runners being - social !

Congratulations to the race director on the day who had to deal with unplanned infant swims, winter wonderland movement restrictions and vehicle escorting, vehicle park entry refusal by security (despite having only just exited past them) and a million other things that we never have to deal with as innocent observers of all this, on a bank holiday sunday !

Happy New Year !

I can only wish all of you best of luck with your New Year's Resolutions, race plans and anything else that you find inspiration and fun from. Some of you will be starting to run for the first time ever (good luck - don't worry it gets warmer later in the year), some of you will be deep into your long Sunday runs as you scale up for marathon season in April.
Me - I'm going to do 2000m on the indoor rower every day - something I feel I can commit to, and it's nice that it's easily recorded on the machine with no fancy straps, watches or anything else to forget. First two were 8m34sec, and my PB from over 15 years ago is 6m59sec - so there's plenty of scope for improvement. I just have to do it !
Other than that I'm sticking to the best thing that happened for me last year - and that's my Low Carb High Fat lifestyle (LCHF for short) and the 1.5st I lost to get back to 12st dead - there's a great video about it here, which is also quite funny:
I use "lifestyle" instead of "diet" to describe it - because it's not really a calorie restrictive plan - which is what I take diet to mean. And I eat tons of nice food on it. Anyone for a bacon omelette ?

So live long and prosper - do new things, keep your network of friends and family familiar with your face (not just your voice), and share in the happy things.

Until next time

Fitness rewards