In short: Those Locks killed me In full: The start of the race was a bit of a joke with runners on different waves turning up too early to beat the midday sun, so I didn't set off till an hour later than I wished, which was a pain as I had family waiting for me in Birmingham. Apart from that the race overall was hard but enjoyable and surprisingly scenic.
The locks, bridges and steps were a killer and towards the end it was a case of walking up them rather than running up them. I ended up running 22.2kms which also didn't help, but that was due to a detour up those steps.
In short: Very enjoyable as a first half-marathon In full: Initially, I was a bit disappointed with the apparent poor organisation at the start. It was my first ever half-marathon and I've never entered a staggered-start event either so wasn't sure what to expect. Waited in the very hot sunshine for over a hour, which meant using the portaloos more than once - not pleasant but that probably couldn't be helped and was made worse by the high temperatures. However, once I'd started, all that was forgotten. I loved running along the towpath in spite of the blazing hot sunshine and, as I'm not a speedy runner, I had time to enjoy the scenery. The marshals were all lovely, friendly and supportive. I really appreciated having water/energy drink stations at 3,6,9,12 miles and didn't notice any great inaccuracy in the distance markers - I always treat them as approximates anyway. I didn't try the energy drink, simply because I wanted to stick with what I was familiar with. The water was cool and refreshing and gratefully received ! The marshals on the water stations were lovely, very friendly and even offered to fill my water bottle for me - a nice touch on a scorching hot day. The regularly spaced water stations were most welcome and, as a first-time half marathoner,I was able to tell myself at each one "just a parkrun until the next water station" which was great for pacing myself and breaking the race down into manageable sections. I loved the tunnel. The steep 85 steps on the diversion were challenging but, hey, we don't do this 'cos it's easy ! . I enjoyed the finish - the lady with the microphone announcing the finishers did a grand job, as well as getting my finish time printed off quickly. I didn't mind at all doing the extra .4 or .5 of a mile - I can work out what my time was for the true half-marathon distance. I assume this extra little bit was due to the diversion and I think bringing the finish point back to reduce the length of the route to true HM distance would have been difficult to do well. Collecting my bag afterwards was amazingly easy - all the bags were transported by van from the start to the finish point and there was a luggage label on the race number. I enjoyed my goody bag (although would have liked a t-shirt!) and the medal was nice. I expected to hate running this race because of the hot weather, which I always struggle with, and it surprised me to find that I loved every minute of it. It wasn't easy but I think it was a great choice for a first HM and I would happily do it again. On the whole, I thought it was really well organised apart from the start. I can see why the start is difficult to get right but I'm told it has been a lot better in the past. This race will always have a special place in my memories. Date of review: July 10, 2013
In short: Nice canal run In full: This was a good race - different to road races and nicer on the foot - but little supporters along the way and it could feel a little lonely in parts - many bridges to keep crossing the canal and a longer than 13.1 course - but this is a small and friendly different race with a nice medal!! I would do it again and hope it will get re-measured! Date of review: July 10, 2013
In short: Something different In full: As other reviews state, there are quite a few negatives to the race and it would be easy to focus on them. The diversion this year added 0.5 miles and there was no obvious reason why the start or finish weren't adjusted to compensate for this. The start was an absolute farce, allocated start times were ignored and it was just a case of turn up and join the queue. And personally having booked a hotel as I was travelling a fair distance and the organisers never bothered to reply to email/forum posts requesting a rough start time it's not great to then see that the start times are irrelevant anyway...
So based on that it would be easy to slate this event, but I loved it. The long course was not ideal but the nature of the course means PB's are very unlikely anyway. Everyone was friendly, the event was well marshaled and the marshalls full of support , the course is definitely something different and the 4 water stations were well staffed and well stocked.
Quality medal, quality goodybag, and despite the moans I can;t imagine not coming back next year.
In short: Wouldn't Fancy it Again In full: The distance was nearer 13.5 miles- if I eneter a half marathon, a half marathon distance is what I want to do.
The start was unorganised, no number calling- just a massive queue to squeeze through a small gap. My start time was 09:15 - I was standing in the baking heat for well over an hour before I could get going.
I'm glad I did it to get this one in the bag, but certainly wouldn't fancy doing this one again. Date of review: July 8, 2013
In short: Unusual and enjoyable race! In full: Having competed in this half marathon for the last three years, I was once again not left disappointed. Despite the heat and a slight diversion up some steps due to canal closures, I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I wouldn't say it's particularly scenic, but you do take in some interesting sights along the way and the finish into Birmingham was, as always, atmospheric. The marshals and organisers were extremely helpful and friendly and I particularly enjoy the floating drink stations. I would definitely recommend this race and will be doing it again next year. Date of review: July 7, 2013
In short: A Great Race Offering something different to the norm. Very Sociable & lots of fun! In full: So this is not a road race but that is what is great about it. It is different, challenging, fun and very friendly. The diversion this year was unavoidable and did add to the distance but this was explained. The finish is in a great location, it is a Saturday race so being able to take on an after race drink was very welcoming and made the whole thing very sociable. The marshals were great, the drink stations (on barges) were charming and the route showed off a different aspect of the black country. I will definitely do it again next year and recommend it as one to do - not a road race but a welcome change from a road race! Date of review: July 7, 2013
In short: A break from the norm In full: This was an event with a bit of challenge and heat thrown in!! Liked the idea of running from one city to another and completing it by tow paths instead of road made a refreshing change!!
I found the route challenging, not helped by the very hot weather. In that type of environment there wasn't much shade!! However, there were plenty of water stations and energy drinks -every 3 miles - which you don't always see at other events. The marshals were helpful and plentiful at all the major points on the course. I liked the 'tunnel' although you couldn't run too fast in there as it was still pitch black even with the lighting. The steps outside we're a big surprise and a killer on the legs!!
However the start seemed disorganised and the allotted start times system didn't work. A crowd of people all pushing in to squeeze through a small door was how I experienced it. The mile markers on the course - if you could spot them all - were not accurate and the finish line round a sharp corner was a let down.
I liked the medal but saw no goody bag as advertised.
I would do this event again as it makes a change from the usual road events but if you're looking for one with the 'PB' factor I would give it a miss!! Date of review: July 7, 2013