As mentioned previously…running is a thing now.
Back in 2016 I ran the London Marathon.
I got in by pure luck through the ballot, had an amazing time and thought that would be my one and only marathon.
But I’ve ended up running a lot more since then (and actually enjoying it) so when I heard Birmingham were planning on hosting a marathon for the first time in over 30 years I had to sign up.
So on Sunday I ran my second Marathon
I knocked 27 minutes off my London time and just squeezed under 4 hours with a finishing time of 03:59:06
I’m really pleased with that!
Having a had a couple of days to take it all in I wanted to share some thoughts on Birmingham’s brand new marathon!
A bit of a mixed bag
The course started at Alexander Stadium on the outskirts of the city, into and around parts of the city centre, through Canon Hill Park, around Edgbaston Cricket Ground towards Bourneville and then presumably so they didn’t have to shut Birmingham down totally back towards the park again to do it all over again. There is basically a big chunk of it you do twice.
I wouldn’t have a problem with this generally but there were some really tough climbs in there so knowing you had to do them twice was hard going.
There were two hills in Bourneville in particular that nearly finished me off
The last mile itself had two or three uphill sections that were really the last thing you needed at that point!
A lot of the marketing messaging around the event talked about it being a fast course. There were sections of it that certainly were quick and for an experienced marathon runner it would have been a good challenge. But for the more casual runner, who Great Run will need to attract if they want to keep running the event, the loop and those tough climbs won’t have those people rushing to sign up again. A lot of first time marathon runners may not come back because of it. I saw a lot of Facebook comments on the Great Run pages that would seem to back that up
The Birmingham Half Marathon that has been around for years famously had a killer hill at the end (and it is a killer. I ran up it with a torn ankle ligament last year!)
That hill was taken out, presumably in recognition that it wouldn’t be a good way to end the marathon.
It’s a shame as there are some really good things about the course
Starting in the Stadium was great, running through the park was beautiful and we got to see a wide variety of different parts of Birmingham.
The event itself
I’ve run a few events put on by “Great Run” now and by and large it’s a well oiled machine.
I don’t have much to complain about. The communication and information in the lead up to the event was good. The Great Run app is fantastic, especially as it allows friends and family to track runners.
Water stations on the course felt well placed. The lack of a sports drink stop towards the end was commented on by some other runners. My guess is this will have been to do with the mix of marathon and half marathon runners. Gels were offered but I declined them as they were not a brand I’d seen before and I really didn’t want to go for something unknown in the middle of the marathon.
A tiny gripe was at the finish. It would have been nice to have been given the medal instead of having to fish it out of the bottom of the goodie bag.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion about having the half marathon on the same day and the loop causing problems with runners of different pace coming together. I didn’t suffer with that too much. The pace I ran at meant that I didn’t have too much of a problem, the timings meant I only came across really fast runners from the wave before me but I can definitely see the faster runners and slower runners coming together and getting in each others way.
Fast half marathon runners could very easily catch the tail of the slower marathon runners.
The support from the side lines was great. Though there were big stretches that were devoid of people. There lots of reasons why this would be the case. Time of day, length of the event, some parts were totally impractical for spectators (flyover into the city) but where there were people they made themselves heard.
When I ran at London it wasn’t with any specific goal in mind other than “get over the finish line”
This time though I really wanted to set myself the goal to try and get under four hours, even though I knew it meant a big step up.
But I worked really hard to train for it and I was right on course at the half way point and felt really good.
That was when the hills nearly did me in! The road from the cricket ground to Bourneville is very long and straight but is an incline all the way. Then when you reach the end you turn right and immediately hit a steep hill. I didn’t really notice that incline on the first time through but the second time round it really sapped my strength and the two big climbs just after that were torture.
My pace dropped off significantly and those internal personal arguments that happen inside every runners head were trying to chip away at me
“Just walk this bit, and this bit, and this bit”
“Stop for a little while, it’ll be fine”
“So what if you don’t quite make 4 hours”
“You’re never running again”
As my watch beeped for the end of mile 23 I knew I was getting a lot slower. Even if I kept the same pace that sub four hour mark wasn’t going to happen.
I had a moment to “have a word with myself” and I gave it everything for the last two miles.
What was also a massive help was the sight of my eldest daughter running toward me at mile 25. Bryony and Alice had come into Birmingham to cheer me on and instead of waiting at the finish line they’d ventured down the course to try and find me.
It was a massive help. Alice even ran alongside to shout her encouragement!
On the whole I had a really great day.
I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the run as much as I have others. I really suffered in the latter parts of the race but the feeling of crossing the finishing line having managed to hit the time I wanted helps to put that to the back of the mind!
I’m not sure I’ll be back for the same event next year. Maybe the half marathon. Never say never though.
But it won’t be my last marathon.
I’ve got a new time to beat.