VITALITY BIG HALF 10/03/2019
Sunday 10th March saw me join 15,000 people to run the Vitality Big Half in London. Starting the same race as Sir Mo Farah was pretty exciting and although I had no fear of being able to keep up with him for more than 2 metres I was hopeful for a glimpse of him as he ran elegantly past on what can only be described as a fairly blustery day. The Big Half was my first experience of a ‘big’ race and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every single second. Arriving with my friend, a runner with Redway Runners based in Milton Keynes we decided to take full advantage of the currently empty and plentiful portaloos. This turned out to be a wise decision as later on although still plentiful they were very much not empty and had huge queues surrounding them. We were starting in different pens so this mental that we had different baggage lorries allocated to us for our paraphernalia. When our race packs had been posted we had also been sent a clear plastic duffel bag that was to be used by all runners for their belongings. This then had a sticker which corresponded to our bib number which in turn indicated which baggage lorry and start pen we were to use. Having run only local races I was slightly confused over why this was necessary, all became clear as we approached Tower Bridge! People, runners, marshals, supporters, coaches, every man and his dog to put it shortly seemed to be out. I could now totally understand why everything was as regimented as it was and why it was all so necessary! Having safely deposited both mine and Laura’s bag (having to walk over Tower Bridge and back again the process) we were now wrapped up in foil blankets trying to keep warm in what was now a really very windy and pretty chilly morning. We had to get some selfies on Tower Bridge though, even with the foil blankets taking on a mind of their own and lots of people having the same idea we did manage this. All too soon it was time to be making our ways to our start pen, a quick hug, another quick toilet trip and a decision on where we would meet when we finally got to Greenwich Park and I was making my way to my start pen. Passing now huge queues for the toilets I was eternally grateful for the fact we had decided to use the loo every time we saw one that was empty (something I would definitely recommend). Having found start pen C nerves really did start to kick in at this point, there was lots of people, lots of noise and an atmosphere of nervous anticipation. Within a crowd of 15,000 people I ended up standing next to a lady from Wymondham, wearing a RunNorwich buff and behind a chap wearing a Humpty Dumpty buff, as they say it’s a small world. A countdown was started for the elites to go off and soon the Big Half was officially underway. Just knowing that were going to be chasing along the same streets as Mo Farah, Steph Twell and Charlotte Purdue definitely made for an exciting course. Due to the amazing organisation I crossed the line at 9.10.35 which is almost pretty much spot on to what had been predicted in the timetable of events. It’s always difficult at the beginning of a race to find your comfortable pace and with lots of people about this was proving challenging as people were ducking and diving all over the place to get into their own rhythm. We quickly dropped into LimeHouse Tunnel which was a wall of noise, it was also downhill at the beginning, and the only thing I could think was we are going to have to come back up and out of this at some point! It was actually a relief to be out of the wind for a while, but bizarrely being as the tunnel is 1.1 miles long I actually got too hot and couldn’t wait to get out! Coming out of the tunnel brings you to Canary Wharf where there was steel drum band playing and LOTs of support from the spectators. The wind was also back and I thought longingly of the tunnel (as runners we are never happy are we?) Wapping was the next stretch, and cobbles! I don’t associate London and cobbles and they came as a bit of a shock if I am honest. However time to get the head down and keep moving, the next section contains Tower Bridge. Running over Tower Bridge I suddenly understood why people run the London Marathon time and time again. There were lots of people cheering, even in the wind and rain (and the wind on Tower Bridge was like nothing I had experienced up to this point). The whole way over I had goose pimples and was definitely one the best things I have done since I started running. The second half was perhaps not so exciting course wise, running through various London housing estates and past shopping centres, but there were still a lot of people out on the course supporting and entertainment at every mile in the form of bands, choirs and various other things going on. From Mile 10 I was continuously chanting, just a parkrun to go, just a parkrun to go, although I did at one point wonder if the Cutty Sark had been moved as a 5k parkrun was feeling like running another 10 miles! Soon though there was just one small bridge and I could see the Cutty Sark masts in the distance looming ever closer. Having seen the end of the course on a quick recce in Greenwich on Saturday I knew that once I rounded the bend the finish would be there before I knew it. Again there was noise and people everywhere, although all I could see at this point was the sign saying FINISH! I was then done! Looking down at my watch with a brand new shiny PB of 1.55.46 as well, to say I was pleased would be a total understatement! Walking around the Cutty Sark again taking a few pictures I could see marshals handing out the most gorgeous stick-man medals which I was soon sporting around my neck. We were then ushered around to collect our T-Shirts, walking through the glorious grounds of Greenwich Park. We were asked to walk over a little wooden bridge with ladies sat at snipping off our timing chip. I could see the baggage lorries in the distance, all the time with the biggest smile on my face. Having found my friend we settled down at the finish to watch our children and husbands come in on some of the route we had just run, in the Little Half. The little ones were then handed stick man medals and t-shirts which they loved! As you can probably tell I loved every single step of this run, the two slightly down points would have been the weather and the consequent fact that lots of the planned entertainment in the park had to be cancelled for safety reasons. Other than that I would recommend anyone to run the Big Half although next year I can see me having to do the children’s mile as my husband has already voiced his want to run it having watched a significant amount of the race waiting for me!