My Birmingham Half Marathon 2009

First off, what a well-organised race this was. All the various races (elite men, women, wheelchair, mass) started on time, the baggage drop-off was managed well enough and I didn’t have to queue for a portaloo. Support along the route was great, especially around Bournville where obviously it helps to have Bournville written on your running vest

I came 251st in 1:27:21. A full four minutes off my best but I was pleased enough as my training drifted a little in recent weeks. A full season of cross-country over the winter should see me posting better times in the new year hopefully.

Well done to everyone that took part and especially to the masses of colleagues from Bournville Harriers. Some really impressive times amongst club members but Mel James’ 1:23:04 and 6th woman back (first in her age category) was the stand out. I think it was actually Mel’s first ever half marathon.

Here’s the map from my Garmin if you want to see how my race panned out:

(pic: Pete Ashton)

Almost there – Birmingham Half Marathon 2009

It’s almost here. This year’s Birmingham Half Marathon has over 12,000 entrants and one Paula Radcliffe. The numbers have been sent out (well mine has anyway) and letters have gone to residents along the route telling them to shift their cars the night before the race. They’re even re-tarmacing the race route within Cannon Hill Park.

My training has been a bit lacklustre. If you follow my updates on twitter then you’ll have noticed that I’ve done about 3 or 4 runs a week with a recent tail-off due to a recurring hip injury that for once buying a new expensive pair of trainers didn’t cure – it usually does, honest. It’s not bad enough to pull out of the race (lots of ibuprofen gel will help) but it means that I’m not able to push my training just ahead of having to taper.

They haven’t sent out a race guide this year in an effort to be a bit greener presumably. You can download it (PDF link) and it gives you all the details you need about baggage arrangements and start times for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

Paula and the rest of the women start at 9am so they’ll be close to finishing by the time the rest of us start at 10am. As I said to my family, if they want to see Paula they’ll have to be loitering around Maryvale road in Bournville at about 9.30am. They’ll then have plenty of time to pop home, get a cup of tea, some toast, watch some telly, before I appear at the same point about 10.40am. They should actually hang around for the elite men at about 10am as that line-up is impressive.

The race is again billed as the ‘Race Against Climate Change’. Shame then that the public transport arrangements for runners seem ill thought through. There are no early local trains on the Sunday and I can’t see evidence of extra buses being laid on. In fact, where I live all the buses will presumably be diverted due to closures on the race route. The race information that goes out for the London Marathon makes it clear that taking the car is pointless and then lists all the train times to get you to the start from various points of the capital. If the race grows in numbers again then we’ll really have to address this issue. If you do go by car then there’s a document about car park closures (PDF).

If you are travelling by public transport here are some useful links:

Best of luck to all the runners.

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 is go

Entries are now open for this year’s Birmingham Half Marathon taking place on Sunday October 11th. The route is changed to a flatter south Birmingham one (from last year’s undulating north/west Birmingham one) that happens to go very close to my house in Bournville. There are some undulations as you come into Bournville and it looks like the last half mile is a bit uphill but other than that it’s relatively flat. I’ve mapped an approximation of the route in g-maps:

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 route

This year’s event incorporates the World half-marathon championships so there’ll be an elite field competing for quarter of a million dollars in prize money. I still have a vague hope that Paula Radcliffe will squeeze it into her schedule as it would form the perfect build up to the New York marathon in November.

Even if she doesn’t show then rest assured I will – my entry is already in. Online entry attracts a hefty booking fee of £3.10 so it may be worth just printing out the form and putting it in the post. The race may well fill up early this year so do get your entries in ASAP.

Birmingham half-marathon 2009

Presumably the city council will update their own site soon but it’s worth noting that this year’s Birmingham half-marathon on October 11th is also the world half-marathon championships. That means us casual Brummie runners will be racing with the world’s elite.

The IAAF page on the event is quite illuminating. From it you can glean that the elite women will start separately from the men at 9am with the men (and probably the rest of the field) starting at 9.30am. No word on whether the route will change but you do learn that top prize is $30,000 (puts my £30 to shame) and that “the payment of prize money is dependent upon the athletes clearing the usual anti-doping procedures.” I best leave my steroid-based asthma inhalers at home then.

The IAAF do a nice little descriptor of Brum: “This city has been the industrial heartland of the country; it is still important industrially but this has also made way for an increasingly high position in the service sector.” Yep – about sums it up. Of course I’m still hoping my prediction for Paula Radcliffe to run it as a warm-up for the New York marathon comes true but most of all I hope it’s as good a race this year as it was last time around.

(nice pic from Flickr by hartlandmartin. Note Bournville Harriers’ star female athlete Linda keeping those guys on their toes)

Paula Radcliffe to run 2009 Birmingham Half marathon

…according to Monday’s Guardian anyway:

“November 2009: Three marathons in a year might be tough but will she resist the temptation of being back in New York? She might opt for the world half marathon the month before in Birmingham as well”


In fact I’d mentioned this as a possibility to a couple of people recently and there is some logic in thinking she’ll come to Brum. This year she would have gone to the world half marathon championship as preparation for running the New York Marathon which she won in style on Sunday. However, as the halves were in Brazil she opted for the 10 mile Great South Run instead.

So next year, if she decides to run New York again, I reckon the Guardian have it spot on and she’ll come to next year’s world halves in Birmingham in October as well. Now that would be just great, both for the city as a whole and for us runners who would have the privilege of running in the same race as her in our home town. The thought of Paula legging it past the Bartons Arms and avoiding bolshy Sunday shoppers at the back of Rackhams fills me with glee. Bring it on!

(pic by matt semel)

Birmingham Half Marathon race report

So that was the first ever Birmingham Half Marathon. All told it was pretty good. Here’s a brief report on the day:

It was of course a horrible night weather-wise (not as bad as up in the Lake District of course but thank goodness all the runners there are safe). By the time a group of eight of us got into a shared taxi at 7.40am it was just down to light drizzle and had stopped by the time the race started. I have no doubt that any complaints about the race will be based around the traffic at the start (big queues to park) and the loos (big queues to wee). Neither affected me much but I suspect the former was responsible for the 15 minute delay at the start. The pen system at the start worked well with runners starting according to their predicted finishing time.

The race was off by 9.45am and I have to say that it felt great to run on such wide roads. There was no runner congestion and generally good support all around. The underpasses and flyovers of Perry Barr were on the undulating side and running through the centre of town was fun but the really tricky hills were in Edgbaston. Every corner you turned seemed to be another uphill. The support on these roads was great and the water stations were well placed. Big thanks to Helen Foot who acted as my support crew by having a sickly orange energy gel ready for me at about mile 6.

The last two miles of this course are great. Given how tired my legs were after yesterday’s cross-country efforts I probably didn’t make the most of the two mile ever-so-slightly-downhill section but I gathered a little speed as I came past the large crowds lining Broad Street. An attempted sprint finish didn’t quite come off but I finished 96th in 1hr 27 min 11 sec. That’s a second best time for me at this distance. 

Overall there were about 40 Bournville Harriers running. Four of them were ahead of me with a couple of personal bests being achieved. Full results are online now. Well done to all.

I think the race was a triumph but I’ve no doubt there’ll gripes, especially from runners themselves (not flat enough, not scenic enough, no chocolate in the goody bag – runners can be a miserable bunch). But anyone who got themselves organised enough to arrive early, took in the atmosphere (lots of music along the way as well) and had the right attitude will have come away with a smile on their face as well as a medal around their necks.

By way of an aside yesterday’s cross-country was great as usual, and of course, muddy:

(pics Paul Foot although it must have been his wife Helen as Paul was one of the people stuck up a mountain in the Lake District)

Big weekend for running in Birmingham

Just to remind you that it’s a big running weekend in Birmingham. Tomorrow of course is the inaugural Birmingham Half Marathon. 9000 runners taking in Perry Barr, Newtown, City Centre, Edgbaston, Bearwood (presumably right up to the Sandwell border) and then back to Centenary Square. Given it’s a ‘Race Against Climate Change’ there could have been a few more options other than car to get people to the start. Apparently 75% of the 9000 are from the West Midlands so putting on some early local trains to Perry Barr as well as the shuttle buses from town would help persuade runners to leave their cars behind. As it is I’m car-sharing with some fellow runners. For a top example of running geekiness then check out Oliver from local design firm, ie design, who is using his iphone to allow others to track him though the race. Oh and I just noticed the link to the prize money – look at what I won’t be winning. Forecast is for early rain but clearing – ideal.

Later today is the Birmingham and District Invitation & Midland Women’s Cross Country League. I know, sounds exciting doesn’t it. But it’s about 6 miles of running through muddy fields and muddy streams in Senneley’s Park, south Birmingham. I run in this one for my running club and although I should just focus on one race this weekend I can’t resist a bit of cross-country as a pre-cursor to the longer run on Sunday. 

I’ll do a report on each over the weekend.

Running on the Birmingham Plateau

They’ve published the course profile for the Birmingham Half marathon and it turns out that despite Birmingham being largely flat, the course isn’t. This is partly because we have to trudge up overpasses (Perry Barr) and pull ourselves out of underpasses (Lancaster Circus, Five Ways).

That last long dip is the 2+ mile downhill run from Bearwood to Centenary Square – presumably the blip in it is coming out of the underpass at Five Ways but it should be nice and fast if I’ve got any energy left. There are some minor route changes to the orginal published route.

Given this is the ‘Race for Climate Change’ the logistics of getting to the start are still built too much around using your car. There’s a shuttle bus from the city centre but they could have partnered with a car sharing scheme or at least, like London, put on extra regular buses and trains (Perry Barr station would only be as far from the start as Blakheath is from the London start – alas the first train that Sunday is well after the race has begun). If the race grows (9000 this year) then they’ll have to put other measures into place to encourage/force runners to use public transport.

As it stands I’ll be trying to scrounge a lift from Bournville – any offers?

Take a run at the sun

Woolacombe Bay
A week in a dull, foggy and sometimes drizzly north Devon has left me invigorated on the running front. We had a four day break in a caravan near Woolacombe Bay which was lovely bar the weather (total sunshine in four days: about 45 minutes). It was great for running in however and I managed three runs in successive days – a rare event for me.

Day one saw me dropping down from the caravan park to the beach and then back along the dunes – about 5 miles. The next day I got lost in some woods and then found myself trying to get back via the coastal path from a tiny place called Lee. I only covered about 7 miles but it took me over an hour with lots of tough climbs. My final run took me along the famous Ilfracombe Branch Line except that I went too far and a planned 40 minute run ended up being 75 minutes.

Despite getting lost I can heartily recommend Croyde Cycle maps as the most detailed way to find your way around that bit of North Devon be it on foot or on bike. They only cost a couple of quid and include the kind of detail that OS maps don’t. Namely, the phone numbers of local pubs and restaurants, how often the buses run and even how muddy a particular path gets.

All this mileage is in aid of my so far rubbish training for the forthcoming Birmingham half-marathon which I’m pleased to see has a blog.

Finally, the title of this post refers to one of my fave summer-type songs. I found a nice video on youtube that sets the song to someone’s Super 8 footage of their summer hols. I plan a Super 8 related post soon so this seems apt:

Running to stand still

I spend too much time on this blog telling you about my gardening exploits. You’d have thought I’d given up running completely so this is a brief post to update you on where I am with that aspect of my life at the moment:

Training – in case you didn’t know I ran the London Marathon in 3hrs 1 minute in April and since then I’ve eased off training (compunded by a light ankle niggle in the weeks just after the race). I’ve been a bit half-hearted about it actually but I plan to step it up with the aim of getting a personal best half-marathon time at the year’s Birmingham half-marathon. Colleagues in my running club are even getting me to think about my spring 2009 marathon (maybe London, maybe somewhere else) and how I should be training for it now – yikes!

I’ve started running home from work a couple of times a week which is good for the soul, and on the pocket given the price of fuel. It’s only about 4 miles or more if I take the scenic route via Cannon Hill park (more again via the canals) but overall I doubt I’m running more than 25 miles a week at the moment, often less.

Racing – My last race was the Malvern half-marathon on June 22nd in which I came in the top 30 and recorded a good time in windy conditions of under 1hr 29mins. I was however a little dissapointed as it felt harder than any race I’d done for a while and I tailed off very badly in the second half. I should have paced myself for a more sensible run. I’ve much to do ahead of Birmingham in October if I’m to hit 1hr 26mins.

In mid-August, for fun more than competition, I race against a train across fields in Wales. Beating the train there and back along the route is quite difficult apparently but it should be fun. I’d like to squeeze in a 10k race at some point over the summer or early Autumn but I should wait until I’m at least a little fitter.

So overall this post is to let you know that I’m running less (I was doing 5-6 days a week during marathon training and up to 50 miles) but still enjoying it. In fact I’m probably enjoying it precisely because I’m running less.