London is my favourite city in the world and over the years I’ve done quite a few races there. My first half was the Richmond Half, but I’ve also done the East London half, Urban Rush London, the Tower of London Run and I got to do the London Marathon last year. However, there are still a few half marathons in London that are still on my bucket list. One of those being the Big Half, which is basically the first half of the London marathon, but then in reverse and organized by the same organization that does the marathon. So, when Myrthe said she was organising a trip to London with a bunch of runners for the Big Half I told her to count me in.
I first went to Mile End parkrun on Saturday. I mostly volunteer at my home parkrun, so this was my chance to actually run another parkrun. Mile End parkrun is close to Regent’s Canal and is basically a double out and back through the park and partially along the Canal. I took it easy and enjoyed the parkrun.
The problem was that before parkrun I had stubbed my toe on the metal legs of the desk chair in my hotel room. I hadn’t really thought anything of it at the time, it always hurts at first when you stub your toe. But while running at parkrun I realised my toe still hurt and that worried me a bit for the race the next day.
Luckily, my toe wasn’t as purple and red the next day and didn’t hurt as much. So off we went to the start of the Big Half. The bag drop for us was on the South side of Tower Bridge, but the start is on the North side. So we had to cross the bridge to the South bank first, drop our bags off, which went pretty quickly and then cross the bridge again to get to the start. Which was a rolling start. I know some people don’t like it, but I actually do. You don’t have to wait around before you can start and runners are spread out from the get-go, so there are people around you but it’s not too crowded. I really wouldn’t mind if every race did this from now on.
I started around 9 AM, but it was already a bit warm and humid at that point. Around 18 or 19 degrees Celsius. The first few kilometers were fine, but then we got to Limehouse Tunnel, which was a bit like a sauna. It has been a hot and dry summer and there was no wind at all in the tunnel and the air in there was still warm from the previous days.
I lost a lot of fluids in that tunnel already. I did have my bottle of Tailwind with me, but with this weather it wasn’t enough and there weren’t that many aid stations, so I basically ended up being thirsty most of the way round.
Since it was a rolling start one by one the rest of my group was passing me. Some parts of the course had u-turns, especially in Canary Warf, so that does allow you to see more runners and wave to the ones you know.
I definitely recognised some of the course from the London Marathon. And after some cobblestones in the docklands, you take a left turn onto Tower Bridge. That is always a magical moment.
After that, you go through Southwark and head towards Greenwich. I was doing okay on energy this time around, but I couldn’t really keep up with the fluids. They were handing out small bottles of water at three aid stations and one aid station only had cups with a bit of sports drink. I was adding the water bottles to my own Tailwind bottle, but it was a long way between aid station 2 which had water, and aid station 4 which also had water. Before I got to aid station 4 my whole bottle was empty and I grabbed two water bottles, briefly stopped to the side of the road to transfer them into my one bottle, and continued on.
You finish next to the Cutty Sark, but there are so many banners everywhere that it isn’t even that obvious that you are next to a giant ship.
After the finish, you have to go to the ground of the Maritime Museum to pick up your bag and further down to the back to the Maritime Museum to get a t-shirt. Which were in unisex sizing again (this is always the case with the London Marathon organization, but I don’t understand why) and when I arrived XS was no longer available, although I’m not even entirely sure if they had any to begin with.
It was a bit of a wait to get on the boat afterwards, but it was an easy way to get back to the city center. In the end I finished in 02:55:09. The lack of fluids and the weather definitely slowed me down a bit.
Although this race follows part of the marathon route, it’s not always the most exciting parts, except for Tower Bridge of course. And since the race starts early and isn’t as well known as the marathon (it hasn’t been around for that long), there weren’t that many spectators around. But it is one of the easier races to get into in London and if you want to experience running across Tower Bridge, you could definitely give it a go.