I’ll have a Half

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That’ll be a Birmingham Half Marathon, if you don’t mind.

After my longish training walk on Wednesday, I took the rest of the week fairly easy with just a few dog walks. Saturday, I took a rest day.

Actually, I did do something walk related on Saturday. As I only signed up for the Great Birmingham Run on Tuesday the organisers wouldn’t have time to post my pre-race stuff so I had the option of picking it up before the race on Sunday or grab it on Saturday.

I drove into Birmingham and managed to find a parking space less than half a mile from the information point on Aston University’s campus.

I walked over to the Uni and found the tent where they were giving out the numbers.

I gave my name and they gave a piece of paper containing everything that I needed for the following day.

I made my way back to the car, grabbing a little geocache en-route.

Looking at my number (9854) I saw that it was printed on a pink background meaning that I would be starting in the last wave at a very precise 10:14. I was expecting this as I had given my expected finishing time as over three hours.

My timing chip was attached to the back of the number.

Sunday morning arrived and I was all ready leaving the house at nine. I got about half way when I realised that my watch that I’d put on charge the night before was still on charge and not on my wrist. Damn !

I did a one-eighty, collected my watch and was about fifteen minutes behind schedule. My schedules are usually fairly liberal so the watch incident was no big shakes.

I was hoping that the parking spot that I used yesterday would be available today and luckily it was.

That’s my little black beast to the right of the tree and if you squint (or click on the picture to enlarge it) you can see the cones and hi-vis marking the starting area. That was lucky.

I changed into my race walking shoes and slipped on my race vest / pack, locked the car and took a leisurely stroll to the start.

I made my way into the competitors’ enclosure and waited for 10:14 to roll around.

There were a lot of people there (and a Scooby Doo, a T-Rex and a Unicorn) but as the race number contained a timing chip my personal clock would not start until I crossed the starting line.

The pink wave slowly moved off, slow enough for me to grab a photo of the start. It also gave the official photographer time to snap a picture of me taking said photo.

As I crossed the line, I started my watch and started the first of thirteen or so miles.

I felt that I was walking at an easy pace but looking at my watch it was showing a pace of around 12:20 per mile – that can’t be right. It must be the tall buildings throwing the GPS signal out.

The first mile was completed in 12:26 – too fast so I slowed a little and managed each subsequent mile in anything between 12:37 and 12:57 – an overall average of 12:47.

After a couple of miles, I accepted that the pace showing on my watch was correct and realised that I should be able to keep it up and finish in under three hours.

From the start, we went past the coach station and around some of the less attractive streets of Digbeth before hitting the Pershore Road for the first time before detouring around Calthorpe Park.

From this park, we entered Cannon Hill Park for a short loop before emerging opposite Edgbaston Cricket Ground of which we did a loop before returning to Pershore Road.

Birmingham Half Marathon route map

We were serenaded by a lone piper, one of many musical acts, as we passed the Birmingham Wildlife Park and on towards Stirchley with five miles walked.

At Stirchley we turned right towards Cadburys and the half way point in a time of 1:24 so still looking good for a sub three hour walk.

We returned to Pershore Road for about half a mile before hanging a left and up the incline of Selly Park Road.

As I was walking along this stretch, I spied a woman whom I knew from my time at Centurion Running Club who was still heading out on the other side of the road. “Come on Jenny!” I yelled. She came across to the centre of the road and we had a quick hug over the dividing rope. That was nice.

The route became a little messy around Selly Park with many turns and a few ups and downs. There was a couple running alongside and it was obvious that he was egging his other half on. I told them that they were doing great and that it was all downhill from here (not knowing the course, I may have lied a little). For the next mile or so, I keep catching them and exchanged a bit of banter. I did bump into them again at the end as I was walking back and they were coming in to finish. I cheered them on and received a high five. “See you next time?” I enquired. “It’s a date”, she replied.

I was planning on taking a few photos along the route but once I realised that I was on for a sub three hour walk, forgot about pictures and concentrated on the walking.

One picture that I really wish that I had taken was of a family on Kensington Road who had a gazebo erected in their front garden and were busy handing out jelly babies. Best of all, they had a big hand and a big fist on poles which they were holding out so that the runners could give either a high five or fist bump.

After the excursion around Selly Park, we returned to Pershore Road heading back into Brum.

As we passed the ten mile marker, I remarked to someone nearby that it was only a parkrun (5 km) to go.

“I did a marathon recently,” they replied, “and just after the start someone told me that it was only eight and a half parkruns!”. That was cruel.

I crossed the line and even remembered to stop my watch. Glancing down I saw that I had done the half marathon in a time of 2:49:07. The official time was later given as 2:49:05 so even better !

I finished in 5,336th place but out of how many I can’t find out.

I collected my goody bag and exited the finishers’ area.

The rest of the walk went fine as we went around what used to be the wholesale market, past the Bullring Market and up the final incline past Moor Street Station before the final third of a mile to the finish.

As I approached the finish line, a voice called out from the crowd. Another Centurion cheering me on! Thanks Paul.

I pulled out my phone, hoping to grab a shot of the finish line but the commentator was saying over the PA, “and here’s Kev texting his mates that he’s just done the Great Birmingham Run.”

It totally threw me and I missed the photo-op !

After finishing, I thought that I’d walk back and speak to Paul. I walked along the pavement until I came to a barrier which was helping to cordon off a temporary St. John Ambulance station. About twenty feet further along, the pavement continued. “Can I nip through?” I asked a St. John’s Ambulance member. “Nah mate – you’ve got to go around”. Around would be about half a mile. Bloody Jobsworth !

I made my way back to the car before taking a peak inside the goody bag. The contents were …

  • Finishers’ Medal
  • Foil Blanket
  • Tee Shirt
  • Granary Bar
  • Clif Bar
  • Box of seven vitamin tablets and
  • Bottle of Water

I drove home and had a quick shower before a crafty half hour snooze.

All in all, it was a fairly expensive day out (£40 entry and another £20 for the official photos – all twenty of them). But,

  • I had a great experience
  • I had a purpose to my walk
  • I did the walk in a good time