The Big Half
The Big Half Marathon was billed to be the biggest and best Half-Marathon in London, combining three races, The Vitality Big Half, The Little Half and The Big Relay.
I heard the hype early last year and looking at the route I didn’t get it. I wasn’t that fussed and I didn’t sign up, with the route and seeing every man and his dog jump at it, something just didn’t appeal to me. But I was worn down eventually and managed to grab a place closer to the day.
It was organised by the same company that does the London Marathon (one big plus as I like these guys). They also do the Westminster Mile, London 10,000 and Ride London so I expected good organisation, nice bling and a decent goody bag.
On the Friday I travelled up to Birmingham for the ASICS FrontRunner team meetup and to be honest I didn’t expect to have to come back Saturday night given the snow on the ground in London when I left. I let the guys at ASICS know just in case and I wouldn’t be the only one coming back for the race.
They left the update pretty late and I’d pretty much assured myself I’d be staying Saturday night in Birmingham looking outside at the foot of snow I’d just been running in. Surprisingly we got the confirmation the race was definitely on during one of our talks and so I scrambled to pack my kit up and get ready to leave that evening.
I travelled back to London with the lovely Corey and we had such a nice chat all the way back to London. I got home about midnight and I just wanted to sleep, kit would be sorted in the morning.
I got 5½ hours sleep and scrambled around to find kit that hadn’t been left in the washer, some nutrition for mid-run and to sort out my vest and water bladder. I contemplated running in my new Gel-Nimbus London shoes as they were really comfortable on Saturday – but there’s a bit difference between spending and hour running in short intervals for photos and walking back to the hotel and doing a half-marathon in fresh shoes, so they’ll have to wait for Limassol next week.
I managed to ruin my bagel, I had no bananas, no trek bars, no fruit, literally just a cheese ploughman sandwich that I bought the evening before, so fuelling was not on point.
I was late at leaving the house and an hour on the District line to Tower Hill just wasn’t appealing – so I got an Uber to the start which dropped me off right opposite the baggage lorries.
I had a look around for loos and I could only see ones that were in the pens, which you could only go in and there was no re-entry. I met up with Jo who I last saw in Berlin, saw Catherine (@superfluidcat on IG) and the usual suspects of Nat, Martin and Kieron before bumping into Tasha who was going to run with me.
Tasha has run Tokyo Marathon the week before and was looking for a chilled, slow and steady run so joined me.
Packed into Wave H like sardines and tried to find the end of the line for the loos and then just didn’t move, so we tried another line and finally got to relieve ourselves, in time before we started moving.
Goals for the race depended on when you asked me, after MK it was
1) Beat MK Time and hence new PB
2) Take it slow and steady and add on 5 miles afterwards.
But then given my weekend of travelling, really poor nutrition and being half asleep that changed to
1) Just finish the bloody thing.
2) Try to enjoy it
3) Don’t fart in front of Tasha
4) And avoid any awkward silences
The start klaxon went for our wave and then nearly took dozens of people out as they decided to stop, turn around and take selfies on the start line. I’m all for selfies and what have you (as you well know), but not there and then, when you have a couple of hundred people heading straight towards you. *insert eye rolling emoji here*.
Over the line, managed not to flattened anyone and now I get why people get annoyed at having to weave around slower runners/walkers in the wrong pens – I’ve done this in the past and I now feel your pain. We had a group of 20ish walkers and a dozen in a box/aeroplane thing who had both clearly started at the front of the wave, not the organisers fault but the needed to think about their positioning especially if they were going to walk it from the start 5 people widthways.
The first mile was spent weaving in and out and trying to find space to run. It was also rather quick, too quick in fact, about a minute quicker than I’d usually like in the first mile of a half-marathon.
We dropped into the Limehouse Tunnel which I thought would be fun, but it never ends, never!!!!!! You think round the next bend you’ll see the light and you don’t and it’s not round the next or the next. Seems like the earlier waves had far more fun chanting whereas we….just didn’t. Apart from chatting to each other the only other sound was the clinking of the guy in full suit of armour.
I was surprised to see Canary Wharf pop up on the exit of the tunnel, I was looking forward to this bit as I knew ukrunchat crew were there marshalling. I saw Catherine from RunMummyRun who came out to Limassol with us in November and went for a hug. Round the corner I was so happy to see Katherine and bagged myself my second hug of the run (and only 4miles in).
I quite liked the Canary Wharf stretch, used to be my hood when I worked there and there was a bit of support around. My favourite part was Tasha saying she has no idea where we were, until I point up to the stonking big buildings now behind us…”ohhhhh”.
It was then onto Wapping and the cobbles, oh the cobbles. I gave up on the third stretch and moved to the pavement for the sake of my feet. There was almost no support around this section and I really wanted to get back onto the Highway as I knew we’d be near halfway and Tower Bridge.
However I got a pang of disappointment when I got back to where the start was – they were packing away and I don’t mean the start gantry etc, they were removing the advertising, the barriers and it was really quite demoralising, especially as we were nowhere near the back of the pack.
Tower Bridge was windy but at least there were people cheering as most charities has setup cheer zones. We stopped for a selfie and got moving again, it wasn’t exactly the tunnel of noise I was expecting and the best bit was there was a bit of downhill on the other side.
Officially into the second half and I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the race, I don’t know this part of London, and from an initial look at the route there didn’t seem to be anything appealing to look forward to seeing. Apart from the Chasing Lights cheer crew at 11miles and IG Cheer squad of Becca, Lizzie, Lou and Emma at 11.5.
This bit dragged, there was little support around the housing estates or shopping complexes and I was hurting. I was having to push far too hard to maintain any sort of pace. I took a second gel (Lemon drizzle, first one was Winter Shandy flavour – both from Torq Fitness) hoping it would perk me up a bit.
By 10 miles my legs, hips and feet were sore and I just said to Tasha, let’s get this bloody done with, parkrun to go.
I saw Catherine again and as she is wearing a boot at the moment to help with Plantar Fascia so I agreed I’d get through the next mile for her.
Seeing the CLC guys helped a lot and I got a good run going after I saw them, they really are the best squad in town. They’d spent hours on Saturday making awesome signs and even a lady caught us up and said how fantastic the crew was.
Then we heard a very familiar noise, but cowbells in Rotherhithe, surely not? Then came the scream, the shout of support that everyone got whether they’re in the lead or leading the sweepers. It was IG Crew and we sprinted (read crawled) to them, I couldn’t wait to see them and give them a big hug. Think I nearly made Becca cry again, we hugged for at least 20 Mississippi’s.
By this stage any hope of a decent time had gone so we all walked it in together for the last mile and a half. Becca asked whether I was in Victoria Park mode, not quite, not quite, but I was close. Bless her she tried to keep me talking asking about what my highlights were (…….long pause)and telling me basically that most people that came past them while cheering were looking absolutely broken.
Sign came up for 400m to go and it was also the crossing point, I stopped and chatted to Megan and Sophie before trotting over the line to finally finish, it was all very un-triumphant as you can see from my awesome finishers video – thanks Marathon Photos, you professionals, you!
We walked around the Cutty Sark, received our medal “aka stick man” and foil blanket – not entirely sure what they achieve but stuck one round me and we took a few pics to celebrate surviving, I mean finishing.
Goody bag collection was good and they even had some Small and XL left for Tasha and I – not always the case, I’ll let you guess who was Small and who was XL.
We then seemed to walk forever until realising where the baggage lorries were. We walked through the gate only to be halted and told our bags were being brought across to us. This would’ve been lovely if it had just been 10/15 bags but the crowds were gathering and they were having to bring them over in golf carts. Chaos ensues, Tasha’s bag and coat fly off in different directions and people just ended up clambering for their bags, it would’ve been quicker, even on tired legs to go and get them from the lorries ourselves.
I wasn’t feeling great and contemplated just going home, but Nat sent me her location and Emma messaged me to see if I fancied meeting with them, I’m glad I did. I sat in a mood and watched the guys tuck into Fish and Chips and Burgers and drank my Coca-Cola Green?!?! from my goody bag.
Scrolling through Instagram was just a field of people saying how much they struggled and hated it, spaced occasionally with the odd person who PB’d. I’ve never seen such a response to a race before.
I posted something on Monday and the amount of people thanking me as they’d had such a rough time was incredible – but I’m glad it helped.
Goals-wise I don’t really care, but below are the important stats.
Hug Count: 7
Time on Feet: 3hrs 32mins
Awkward Silences: 0
Times farted in front of Tasha: none to Tasha’s knowledge
Would I do it again? No, I have no need to unless they change the course. Organisation wise, it could be improved with having more room in the starting area and making the other loo’s clearer and just removing them from the starting pens. Water was in bottles and ok, bag drop was good but the collection was all over the place and the walk to get there was unnecessarily long.
I can’t comment on the event village simply as I had no want to go and do yoga and I just wanted to go home.
Next up I am really looking forward to heading out to Limassol on Thursday for a nice break and the 5k and Half Marathon out there – I’m sure it’ll go better than the Big Half – I also seem to thrive in warmer conditions, my PB’s were from Brighton (same day as the marathon) and Hackney Half!
And don’t forget, you have 6 days left to vote for my Blog at the Running Awards.
You can find at https://therunningawards.com/ .
➡️ Publications & Online.
➡️ Blog (Personal).