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Oxford Half-marathon: Route preview

September 24, 2012

Cafe Sub 4 in Oxford

Oxford: home of dreaming spires, the BMW Mini production plant and the first sub-4 minute mile. Now also home to a relatively new city half-marathon that’s aiming to take on the likes of Bath, Bristol and Reading.

The Oxford Half-marathon has every chance of being a major event in the running calendar. It’s a single-lap course that takes in some iconic landmarks, it’s relatively flat, it has big-name sponsors and it can take advantage of the relative scarcity of half-marathons in the county.

Being as I lived in Oxford for a good few years before moving to London, I thought I’d doctor the route map provided by the organisers to point out a couple of things worth keeping your eyes out for while on the run.

The Oxford Half-marathon route map

The route map of the Oxford Half-marathon – this is a big map, so you’ll need to open it in a separate window really to be able to see the detail.

The landmarks highlighted by stars are as follows:

  1. The BMW Oxford Mini Plant. Sure, perhaps that doesn’t sound overly exciting, but as one of the lead sponsors for the event it’s not unreasonable to suspect there will be some entertainment to be had here…
  2. The Iffley Road running track, where the first ever sub-4 minute mile was run
  3. Magdalen College, where at dawn on the morning of 1st May a choir sings from the top of the spire
  4. The Oxford University Botanic Gardens – you’ll be able to peer in and see the autumn foliage as you run past
  5. The Oxford University boathouses – being a Sunday morning, there will almost certainly be some rowers practising on the Thames
  6. Christchurch College, which provided the set for the dining hall in the Harry Potter films and also houses the UK’s smallest cathedral
  7. Riverside pubs – not so much for runners, but a good spectator location – and Iffley Locks
  8. Stadium finish!

In terms of running, the course is technically multi-terrain. The first 7 miles are on road, but then the majority of the next 3 miles is on some slightly uneven gravel paths, followed by another 3.1 miles on road and tarmac paths. The road sections should be pretty even (especially given that the course takes in a section of the ring road), but the 3 miles of gravel are likely to be slower.
The route down through Christchurch meadows and along the river is quite uneven in places. Once past the botanic gardens, the path is tree-lined and the roots make some potential trip obstacles. Once on the other side of the river and heading back out towards the stadium, the ground is likely to be a little pot-holed, but a bit more even.
Although the route is advertised as largely flat, the course crosses a few bridges or underpasses, so there will be some sharp inclines that may make progress a little uneven. Most notably:

  • Mile 3 where the route takes in the ring road flyover – not necessarily staggeringly steep, but enough of an incline to notice
  • Mile 4 where runners cross the ring road through an underpass, with the accompanying sharp downhill and sharp uphill
  • Around mile 4.6 there’s a gentle decline, which continues for around a mile as you progress into town
  • There are two easy-going bridges, one just before mile 7 and the other just after mile 8 that shouldn’t cause any problems
  • There’s a bit of a short, sharp bridge at mile 9 along the footpath – over in a couple of steps, but enough to swallow some momentum
  • At mile 10 there’s a hairpin turn up a bank to get on to the path that runs alongside the ring road – probably the most energy-hungry of the lot
  • At mile 11 there’s an underpass to deal with, followed half a mile later by a relatively gentle incline from the bridge over the A4074
  • At mile 12 you’re descending back under the A4074, but then faced with a bit of a crawl uphill as you head towards the final couple of roundabouts

Overall, though, the course should be pretty fast and with plenty of sights to take in over the middle-section of the run. The final few miles might be a bit barren, but that stadium finish is going to be something to look forward to!

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