I've done the Plymouth Half five or six times now.
From my experience of yesterday, my views are like this:
The new baggage area worked well before the race, it was well designed, but the old location never posed problems to be honest.
The new start pens did seem much smaller. I entered at the 1:45 point and there was a bit of a crush. People climbing the barriers more than usual, the barriers even being moved by athletes to ease the crush at one point and allow more runners to enter.
The gun was clear, but the PA system at the beginning wasn't - the guys around me clearly didn't hear the minute of silence being announced.
...and off we go! Gone is the roller coaster run round the Citadel which allows you to corner and look down over the other athletes in front of you as they stream off round the sea front.
Replacing the scenic old route is a dull new route taking in the degraded parts of the city centre but providing roads that are clearly going to be better for accommodating the anticipated growth in participants in the years to come.
For me, it was a poor trade off. I would love to see the old start back again.
The new start feels longer? Clearly it can't be, but it does feel longer!
OK, what of the finish? Well, come rain or shine, the finisher's medal has always been second to the view and sounds from the athletes enclosure. In the old days, you finished, enjoyed the view and listened as the crowds cheered off to the left as runners continued to pile up the hill form the water front.
The new finish enclosure is a slick operation, no more helping yourself to multiple pasties, instead it's a cheese and mushroom slice in a pre-prepared food bag and the opportunity to "relax" under the shade of the holiday inn. More shelter from the elements yes, but give me that view any day!
Change is needed to allow for growth. However, these changes need some tweaking in my opinion.
The above said, I'd question if any city has a better supported event - the crowds kick arse in Plymouth, the volunteers are solid and the vibe is always pretty good. No getting away from it, the organisation is slick!
As a final thought, I feel as though a popular runners event has gone the way of the inevitable and become a promotional event that runners take part in. These changes seem to ignore the human element of the participant and place this event in the realms of the "ordinary" and not the "unique."