I signed up to the Great Birmingham Run on a whim around 3 weeks before the event. Having struggled during the loneliness of marathon training I chose the expensive way to complete one of my last long runs. With the incentive of meeting friends for food and drinks afterwards I was optimistic about the run ahead.
The inaugural Birmingham International Marathon took place in the morning so I took this as an opportunity to arrive in Birmingham early to watch the runners, including some from running club cross the finish line. When I arrived the runners were completing the marathon at around the 2.45 mark and in the time I was watching I saw a runner completing their 800th (!!!!!!!!!) marathon and another runner breaking a Guinness world record for being the fastest viola to cross the finish line.
After cheering those from running club across the line I made my way to the starting area which was packed with an small expo, charity tents and thousands of runners. I managed to pick up some pitta and hummus from Nandos, water and a banana from Pure Gym and a yogurt from Arla. One thing I will say about this event was the amount of toilets in the starting area, as usual ques were long but there were plenty of portaloos to go around! I dropped my bag off to one of the busses and then made my way to the start line.
This I found quite chaotic as the start pens were down the hill so green and pink were totally out of sight. Finding the start pen I made my way in, quite a way back from the 2.20 pacer but I figured I’d just set my own pace once I reached the start line. My wave was meant to start at 1.40 but I don’t think we reached the start to begin our warm until around that time and at 1.50pm eventually we set off.
All started off well with a few up and downs through the city and its outskirts. We headed out of the city and towards the cricket ground, I quite liked this part of the route due to its flatness and Canon Hill Park that was coming up. This was a beautiful part of the course with leaves falling in the park. Upon leaving the park this is where it got tough with the part to Stirchley having a slight incline – even though slight I could feel it. We then headed into Bourneville and around Cadbury World – an iconic part of Birmingham. Upon leaving we headed around a corner where I a word beginning with F and ended in K was shouted out by most runners which was quite amusing. What was not amusing was the hill that lay ahead.
Once the hill passed and another small one came upon us the course flattened out and luckily the final few miles were down. Heading back in to the city a few hills were again apparent. Seeing my friends at the 800m mark helped the final uphill stretch and though I didn’t have the strength for a sprint finish but I happily made it over the finish line to pick up my t-shirt, medal and goody bag. I finished in 2.22.07, not my best but considering I had tired legs from the half marathon the weekend before and the hills I was pretty pleased.
A few things – I’m not sure I’d sign up to a half that starts mid-afternoon again. My pre-race fueling was all over the place and I ended up eating between 2 and 3 bagel thins and a banana rather than a full meal. The start line felt dis-jointed with no one really knowing where to go. It was great that the marathon took place however even for a slow runner like me it was tough having to move around those who were walking to finish the marathon. I thought we’d have some more entertainment though I was impressed with the amount of support even through areas condensed with housing where locals were handing out jelly babies – one family even had a tub of Roses! One final disappointment was the lack of energy drinks on route – I quite enjoy a swig of isotonic drink at around mile 8. All-in-all it was a good event, plenty of water and bathroom facilities in the race village and throughout the race. I wasn’t hugely impressed with picking up my bag as it didn’t at all seem monitored. I headed to the bus I put my bag on took my bag – though it could have been any – and walked off. There was no body checking bag numbers against race numbers which was really disappointing.
A burger and two or three glasses of wine definitely helped to ease the pain.
Final comment – who knew Birmingham had so many hills?