On the 10th March 2019 I took part in the Big Half Marathon. As always I am pleased to review the event, and really enjoyed taking part in the Big Half for the second year in a row. I paced the 1:45 #funbus for #rwpacers in 2018, and you can check out my blog about the event HERE. In 2018 there were cancellations across the country because of snow, and in in 2019 there were cancellations because of wind. Fortunately both years the #bighalf still took place, but the big loss this year was that the event village was cancelled. This was completely out of the organisers control, and a real shame for them.
As always I got my kit ready the day before to ensure I had everything I need. This is something of a ritual for me, and gives me confidence so I can wake up stress free in the morning. The Big Half 2019 was my 5th event of 2019, and the 3rd event I have paced this year. I have paced London Marathons warm up half marathon for 5 years now, which consists of 3 Silverstone Half and 2 Big Half, always as the 1:45 pacer. This is also the 66th event I have ran as an official pacer.
It was an early start for me as a pacer. We agreed to meet at 07:45 so we would have time for a photo and then make our way to our baggage tents before they closed at 08:20. It was cold and wet, so we sheltered waiting until 08:00 before taking a picture with everyone who had arrived. It was nice catching up with everyone before we started.
I was Green start this year, and love my Green Top, which I managed to match my socks to. Last year I was in Orange B, but London Marathon events have assessed looking at average finish times, and as a result there are more Pacers at a slower time. We also started further back. As Green start I didn’t need to cross Tower Bridge, but I still decided to go for a walk to see a few people and grab a quick photo on the bridge.
I made sure I got into my Pen nice and early to meet my group. I left my sunglasses in my bag as it was raining and I knew they would be in the way. However when I got to the start it was dry, and as I got my phone out for a selfie the sun came out, typical. I went to the front of Green C and there were lots of runners there waiting for the 1:45 #funbus. When we started to move forward there were also a number of Orange B runners waiting to jump on as well. It is always great to start with a big group, and I spent time at the start just chatting with runners and talking about pacing strategies. I talked to runners about the course, and what to expect running with the pace group, all with an aim of building confidence.
A point to note here are the toilets are in the start pens. This is great as you can queue up for the toilet and still be where you need to be. The queue was too long for me and I wanted to get to the front so I skipped it, but a great idea.
It was not long until we got going, and we immediately found a happy pace. The Big Half is a large half marathon in central London, so there are real risks of congestion. However, I did not experience this at all. There were times that were a little busy and we were delayed ever so slightly at certain points, but it really wasn’t noticeable. We hit the first mile in exactly 8 minutes which was the target time. I always like to get the first mile accurate and then just run to feel throughout.
The course was slightly changed this year, and we hit Lime House Tunnel in the second mile. The mile markers were accurate throughout the course except for mile 2 which was in the tunnel, it came far too early, but this would have just been human error and would have been hard to place without GPS. This tunnel lasts for a mile, and really messes up everyones GPS, but not immediately.
When we hit the mile 2 marker I told everyone that we weren’t there (it would have meant we just ran a sub 6 minute mile, which we didn’t). On my watch I hit 07:55 which is good, especially running to feel. At mile 3 I did another 8 min mile, so everything was going to plan according to my watch. As expected the GPS kicked in at about 3.5 miles. My watch was on 07:59 average pace, and all of a sudden it was recording that I had ran an extra 500 metres, changed to an average of 07:37 min miles and suggested I was running 14 minute miles. At mile 4 it suggested I did a 07:00 min mile, which I didn’t and from this point on it was pointless looking at my watch, it just wasn’t right and I stopped paying attention to it.
Fortunately all the mile markers are accurate, and each marker I checked my time and where I expected, and throughout shouted to everyone so they knew we were on target. I ran past Chris Evan’s which was nice, and I kept a really busy #funbus.
The Big Half course follows a lot of the London Marathon route. There are a lot of the quieter areas from London, but with so many runners, and being inside London, there is always plenty of support. The biggest highlight is crossing Tower Bridge.
I always love Tower Bridge, we approach from the opposite direction to London Marathon. I have paced 66 events now, and many a time people have asked if my flag can be difficult in the wind. The answer has always been no, until now. When I got on to Tower Bridge it was crazy. It was windy in lots of places, but at one point on the bridge I had to lean right forward. I lost my hat into the Thames, and my flag almost ripped off my back. I almost flew off like Mary Poppins.
Throughout the rest of the event I kept a nice steady pace, and there were lots of runners with me. Owing to the earlier GPS issues my watch was no help at all. Not only did it think I had ran further, but the pace wasnt recording correctly, so I just relied on mile markers and used my watch like a stop watch. I got up to a 30 second cushion and just maintained this pace. Owing to the uncertainty of the GPS I didn’t want to run too close to desired time as I would risk being over. Lots of checking in with runners around me let me know we were at the right pace.
The aid stations were really well organised with great volunteers. Water giving out in small sports cap bottles which is ideal, and we got to try lucozade in a small edible package. It was great and not messy like I thought it would be. I just put one in my mouth, burst it and discarded the package, although I could have eaten it. Note for London if they hand these out I will need a few more as I usually drink about 250 mls.
The rest is history really. I spent the last few miles motivating people to keep up, and it is good when you encourage walkers to get running again.
As I approached 13 miles I thought I was about 30 seconds up but I didn’t want to slow up until I saw the finish. You turn a corner into the finish and the crowds are great. A little bit of a push to get people ahead of me and then I crossed the finish with a smile in an official time of 1:44:23.
So I lost my hat in the Thames, but didn’t get blown in. GPS was terrible, but we got to cross Tower Bridge and finish at Cutty Sark. It’s a great warm up event for London Marathon, and my last half marathon before my Marathon Season. Who will be joining the sub 4 #funbus at Limassol, Manchester, Paris, London, Liverpool? I am looking forward to seeing lots of you there.
A great medal and finishers tee at the Big Half. It’s a real shame that the event village was closed because of the wind, but really cant be helped. On the plus side it meant that I could wait in the pub for Kirsty to finish. Oh and a TV appearance is always nice.