The Official Big Half – 2018 Review

Firstly, a huge congrats and well done to all the event team, staff and volunteers that helped make this race happen. The beast from the east had been relentless all week casting doubt whether the race would go ahead and I think they did superbly well to ensure all went to plan as organised as it was.

I had signed up to the inaugural Big Half almost a year ago now. Not sure what it would be like, but created by the London marathon events team I thought it’d be a great way to run the streets of London if I didn’t get a marathon place. Then as Sir Mo Farah, Callum Hawkins, Charlotte Purdue and Lily Partridge signed up it had everything in place to be a huge half marathon.

Race day

Finally the freezing cold weather had departed and it was a pleasant, sunny morning! With the baggage trucks leaving at 8:20 I knew I’d have to leave home about 7:15 so not too early a start! Usual bagel and coffee for breakfast I changed my kit about 27 times whilst checking the weather forecast. I also decided to run in the Reacts for their first race – hoping the streets wouldn’t be too slippy!

Getting to London Bridge station I was surprised by the lack of signage around. No one seemed to know where to go and the baggage trucks were terribly organised. After fighting my way through I just made it in time before the truck left and I headed towards Orange B 🍊pen. Bumping into several people on the way the walk over Tower Bridge was a brilliant place to be!

I was still undecided how to take this race, but knowing deep down I’d set off aiming for a PB and go from there. I set off with Paul’s 1:45 pacer group as we waited for the elites to get under way. The pens were very well organised, no congestion and so many toilets! It all seemed to go very smoothly and before long we trotted towards the start…

Race

The route took in the first half of the London marathon (in reverse) starting near Tower Bridge and finishing in Greenwich. The first mile flew by before the horrible long, undulating tunnel that takes you towards Canary Wharf. 1 Mile in and I was struggling! It seemed to go on forever and already had me worrying if I was going to finish.

Around mile 3 I finally settled and started to enjoy it, I loved running around Canary Wharf and seemed to be picking people off gradually. It wasn’t too busy at all and seemed fine underfoot – I can imagine waves D-H had very busy areas though as the course did narrow in places. There was also a large part on cobbles which many hated. I didn’t mind it, they weren’t too slippy and it actually cleared the route as most ran on the pavement to compensate.

To get a PB I needed to hit around 7:05 per mile and finally got to this after about 10km. The crowd support was a massive let down if I’m honest – coming up to Tower Bridge I thought it would be bouncing just like the marathon. It was almost silent with the exception of a loudspeaker that had been on as we passed the start line again. Over the bridge the views were incredible and we passed several charity cheer squads to help lift the mood.

The second half of the race was all a bit of a blur. Miles 8-10 I couldn’t tell you what we ran past – it just seemed to be residential areas with not a lot going on. A few entertainment sections occupied the mind briefly but from here on it was a mental battle to maintain or in fact increase my pace.

There was no huge cheer zone either as expected. Small pockets of crowds along the way but nothing to really give you that extra boost. I will say that all staff and volunteers were incredibly supportive though. Water stations were frequent and well managed as I took a bottle at each one.

The finish is tough. One of the main inclines is around mile 12 and it burned the legs! Heading towards the finish I kicked on and knew a second half marathon Pb of 2018 was on the cards! A great finish line and big crowds next to the Cutty Sark I finished with a time of 01:32:35 πŸ˜„

Post race

I know people will complain here – once you finish you have a long walk ahead for your medal, goody bag and bag collection. I quite like it though, it forces you to stretch the legs and cool down rather than instantly collapsing! I may have been a bit harsh on the medal too. It is unique, it’s big and heavy which I like – but the design is still not for me! Seems like most had a love/hate feeling towards the bling

The goody bag consisted of water, Lucozade, green cola, kind bar, coffee sachet?! And the usual leaflets as well as a great race tee.

I will say they did have a festival style of finish too – seemed to be plenty going on similar to Hackney – but I didn’t look around. It was cold and started to rain so I shot off home!

Thoughts

It seems like people either loved or hated this event but I’m somewhat in between. Credit has to be given to the team for making sure the race went ahead and that cannot have been easy as an inaugural event. It was very well organised (minus the bag drop and signage) and running over Tower Bridge was incredible.

The route however was far less inspiring than hoped and the crowds also felt like a let down. It hasn’t really made me more excited for London marathon but I feel I have learnt from it. I think it could be an amazing event on a sunny day and a slight change in route? Would I do it again… I think I would give it one more go! Definitely PB potential.

What did you think of The Big Half?

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9 comments

  1. Agreed with a lot of what you said there Matt. Great work on getting the PB. I certainly struggled through as you can probably see on my blog post. Things certainly to be improved on by the organisers next year and this could be one of the best half marathons around. It’s nice to have one right on your doorstep! Anyway – great run and well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! This was my first half so I didn’t know what to expect. Got there early to drop bags off but then a lot of waiting around to start. Started at 9:26! The limehouse link tunnel was awful but better to get it out of the way at the beginning (rather than over half way through like the marathon) I thought the crowds were good at canary wharf and bermondsey. But Rotherhithe was a killer. So dull and really slowed me down. Picked up again once got to tesco surrey quays as knew it was a long straight 3 miles to go. Great pacers and good atmosphere. The Walk to the medals and bag check stopped me collapsing. There were no seats! Great first half but they’d need to jazz up the route around Canada water /Rotherhithe for sure. We are lucky to be part of history to be at the first ever “big half” I get a feeling it’ll go on for decades πŸ˜„

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Well done on your first half then too πŸ˜„
      Ah I think if I knew the tunnel was coming I would have been more prepared (maybe)!
      Yes definitely if they play with the route a bit there’s scope to make it into one of the best half marathons.
      If they can attract Mo again then advertise it I’m sure bigger crowds would turn up too.

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  3. That is a great blog about The Big Half. I was expecting it to be a great race and I felt it wasn’t all that. I thought there would have been more crowds and some areas seemed to be lacking crowd support. The medal is unique but it is not one of my best medals. Maybe see you at Brighton Marathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I think it could be great with a few tweaks and maybe if advertised better then I’m sure the crowds would turn up (weather dependent). Hopefully see you at Brighton!

      Like

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