Acronyms are great except for the first time you introduce them and you have to expand the nemonic so that people know what the hell you’re talking about.

So let’s get BBCHM out of the way – Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon. Any wiser ?

This is an annual race, along the canal system, from the centre of Wolverhampton to the centre of Birmingham.

I’d signed up a few weeks agouti during last week’s Covid episode I wasn’t sure that I’d be match-fit on the day.

I did manage a ten mile walk to the pub on Wednesday and that wasn’t too bad so I reckoned that another three wouldn’t do me too much harm especially if I took it easy.

So, this morning, I drove into Birmingham, parking the car at work, about a mile from where I needed to catch the tram to Wolverhampton.

I had a chat with a fellow worker who asked me what time I was hoping for. For comparison, I fired up Strava on my phone and looked at my last half, The Great Birmingham Half back in May.

I explained that I wouldn’t be going anywhere like that pace and was, realistically looking at somewhere between three and three and a half hours.

From Digbeth, I took a steady stroll into the city centre and boarded a tram in Bull Street and asked the guard for a ticket to Wolverhampton. “Single or return?” he enquired. “Oh, just a single” I replied, “I’ll be walking back”.

To my surprise, he countered with, “You’re doing the half marathon then?”

After around forty minutes on the tram, we were in Wolverhampton.

I left the tram and took a short walk to the railway station and the nearby boatyard, where we were to assemble ready to be called into our start waves.

Having over one thousand runners unleashed onto the narrow towpath would be a recipe for disaster so we were grouped according to our expected finish times and released in groups of around twenty.

I was due to be starting at 11:30 but I noticed that as runners were being called forward there were no checks being made so I sneaked into the 11:15 group and after the safety talk was set on my way.

After leaving the boatyard onto the towpath, I shortly crossed the timing mats, started my watch and I was away.

I started towards the back of the wave and as to be expected, the rest of the wave overtook me. Undaunted, I soon settled into a rhythm and set about walking my race.

After a mile or so, I noticed that I was gaining on a guy I thought I recognised from my old running club and this was confirmed when I managed to overtake him.

The course, gradually, became more rural as we left Wolverhampton.

The first water station was passed at around three miles.

Just after a marker for four miles, the northern portal of the Coseley Tunnel came into view.

The tunnel is three hundred and twenty nine metres long but was lit so didn’t slow my progress much.

After a few minutes, I was back into the daylight and on my way towards Tipton Junction where the Dudley Canal splits off to the right.

A number of locks were descended before passing Tipton railway station on the left.

Shortly afterwards, we crossed over the canal and continued with the water to our left.

As I approached a bridge over one of the many arms I encountered a couple of women who had slowed to a walk to get up and said bridge.

“Run through the hills” I offered as encouragement, “Hills are our friends” I called out as I passed them (not for the last time).

The walk continued, amidst light showers with Katia and Amy passing me then me passing them at any inclines.

We passed the Wednesbury Canal on the left until Soon Lane junction where the old and new Birmingham Main Lines split. The BBCHM took the lower (new) route but soon the way was blocked due to some works being conducted on the canal.

A diversion had been put in place which involved ascending to the, higher, Old Main Line.

As this was an uphill, I overtook Katia and Amy who promised that they would see me later.

The Old Main Line is not as well kept as it’s newer version so we had to contend with a few muddy sections and also Summit Tunnel (shorter than Coseley).

Inevitably, being on the flat, my companions caught me and after a very short selfie stop, left me behind.

I kept them in sight from here on but never quite managed to catch up until after we’d finished.

Once past the ‘roadworks’ a steep path dropped us back onto the original path as we approached Winson Green.

With only a couple of miles or so to go, I upped my pace seeing the average drop from 13:08 to 13:02 by the finish.

Soho Loop (which passes Winson Green prison and the back of City Hospital) was crossed and then where the other end of the loop re-emerges, we crossed over to the opposite bank for the final mile to the finish.

This was a little cruel as there are many more arms to cross on this side which is just what you don’t need after nearly thirteen miles.

As the rain became heavier, Brindly Place came into view which meant that the end was near.

The two mile (slow) walk back to pick up the car served as a cool down and stopped the legs seizing up.

Back at the car, I examined the contents of the goody bag and discovered

  • Bag of crisps
  • Small chocolate bar
  • Stick of Rock (made by Teddy Gray of Dudley – makers of Gray’s Herbal Tablet)

With the rain lashing down, I managed a smile for the photographers before crossing the line. I heard a bleep which meant that my timing chip had been registered and which also served as a reminder to stop my watch.

I was quite pleased with that.

Amy and Katia were waiting by the finish and after congratulating each other they insisted on a selfie with our medals.

A short walk took us to the goody bags and T-shirts.

A little later in the day, the official results were released and I discovered my official time was four seconds faster than my watch time. I also finished 950th out of 1022 starters meaning seventy two people were slower than my walking.

Originally, this post read “As I sit here in my office writing this on the following morning, the official photograph are still to be released so they may be the subject of a later post.”

Well, over a week later, the photos became available – and here they are …

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