It had been quite an unusual few days of inclement weather. If you needed to get out and run (and some of us, even non-Marathon training, still really do), fiercely icy winds meant extra grit (and layers). Thursday brought snow... a good dollop of it... and then there was even more on the Friday. I was getting anxious about travel to London for the inaugural Vitality Big Half. Created by London Marathon Events Ltd, The Vitality Big Half was billed as ‘a new one day festival centred around the half marathon, aiming to be truly global and uniquely local in a celebration of the wonderful cultural diversity of the great city of London.’ Well, with that organising, and elite runners like Sir Mo Farah fronting the field, what runner could resist!
There had been several cancelled races pop up on my social timeline, including my local Warwick Half, the Leicester 10km and every nearby Park run I can think of. An email from the race organisers confirmed the route was snow-free - so it was GAME ON. My transfer back to Kenilworth Runners was just confirmed on 1st March, so I borrowed a Kenilworth Runners vest from a club mate in the village (where I was marooned) to wear come Sunday!
Sunday morning greeted London with fresh blue skies, and at the Tower Hotel, chosen because of its close proximity to the start area on Tower Bridge, swarms of runners were hustling around the breakfast area. Pinned up, shoe tagged and layers adorned, I set out to join a field of around 15,000 runners, minus those stuck up north in snow. It was nice to hear the organisers had allowed runners who couldn’t attend, could record their own 13.1 miles and claim their medal with the Strava evidence.
Right. Now to it. There was a delay as the different waves surged forward from different converging roads near the bridge, but we were entertained by top tunes including Mr Brightside and London Calling whilst marshals darted about collecting disrobed bin bags and jumpers...then we were counted down. The route passed through the boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and finished in Greenwich with a ‘Vitality Big Festival’ showcasing International cuisine and music to reward the weary runners.
Now most road races I’m pretty zoned out, trying to hold onto a decent pace so my memory of details around me are very random and patchy... but some parts I can recollect.
- A chance passing of Sir Mo himself as he came out of Canary Wharf, in a lead pack of 3 and us outbound runners cheered him on as we passed.
- A mile long tunnel about 2 miles in... the Limehouse Link Tunnel to be precise. I don’t think I’ve ever run through quite such a long one!
- Cobbles along Wapping High Street
- Over the Tower Bridge at the 7.5 mile point... (below)
- A sign at mile 10, saying ‘It’s only a Park Run to go’
- The fantastic crowds in Lewisham cheering for the final mile...
- The Cutty Sark greeting us in the final stretch
Would I recommend the Vitality Big Half?... Yes! In the run up to the London Marathon, it’s a great warm up for the main event. Great T-shirt, unusual medal and the rare opportunity to share a course with the International Elite in a much loved City. The course had some minor challenges...the cobbles and incline from the tunnel exit but I can’t really grumble about 525 feet overall elevation gain. My time was 1:53:19... a bit quicker than the Kenilworth Half the previous September (1:54:37) and close to the Warwick Half the year before that (1:52:52). Seem to be a bit stuck in a groove, but onwards to Berlin Half next.