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Oxford Town and Gown: Course preview

February 22, 2010

16 May 2010

The Town and Gown is Oxford’s largest road race, drawing thousands of runners to the centre of the historic city for a flat and fast 10km passing many of the famous colleges. This year the race limit is 4000, and I’m sure the organisers are hoping for better weather than 2009’s Town and Drown.

The important information for runners is that this course is flat, predominantly on road surfaces, well supported but a often a little crowded. The race start is banded into anticipated finishing times, but with a combination of super-fast club runners and first-time fun runners, there is inevitably a number of runners starting too far up the field.

It’s worth noting that the northern part of the course cuts through some roads with some  uneven pavement – and often a few parked cars. While this is probably the widest section of the course with runners free to spread over the full width of the road, it’s also a bit of tussle to hang to the apex of the corners. Similarly, the last 1500 metres are run on relatively narrow gravel paths before finishing on grass. If you’re in the middle of the pack, picking a time for a burst of speed may be as important as judging whether there’s sufficient space on the course for a sprint.

A map and elevation profile for the Oxford Town and Gown 10k race

The course cuts through the centre of Oxford, so works well for spectators cheering friends on. Note: This is the 2009 course, so there may be some changes for 2010 – these are usually announced in April.

<a href=’′><img src=’; border=’0′ alt=’View Interactive Map on’></a>

Oxford doesn’t deal well with traffic, so with a couple of roads closed and high street partially closed, it’s no surprise that the city grinds to a halt each year. If you’re driving in, you need to plan your parking carefully – not least because Oxford’s traffic wardens are eagle-eyed and will pounce on anyone parking illegally. Oxford is served by a number of Park and Ride routes – details of the services can be found here.

The registration price is a little steep, but it’s all for a good cause. (Rather than being organised by a local running club, it’s managed by the Muscular Dystrophy campaign. However, the speed of the course attracts PB hunters and club stalwarts as well as less regular runners and fundraisers.) You can register online or by post, with full details available from the organiser’s website.

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