I was in a similar situation in last year's VLM where I'd put down an estimated time of 4:10. After a solid year of committed training, I managed to bring my spring half marathon time down to 1:37 so a 3:30 marathon was realistically on the cards. My pleas to be promoted up to an earlier pen fell on deaf ears both in the lead up and also at the expo.
I was shoved into pen 8 out of 9 with most people looking to run nearer 4:30, so I knew I had a lot of work to do in the early stages. It was like running a gauntlet where I struggled to maintain a constant pace, slowing and speeding up to squeeze through gaps etc. Following the blue line was completely out of the question until Canary Wharf where people started dropping like flies around me.
Sadly from about mile 21 onwards, I started to run out of steam due to my earlier struggles. I eventually crossed the line in 3:52. A friend of mine had been shoved into pen 9 and managed to beat my chip time by about a minute going through a similar experience.
Long and short of it is it's possible to a run a decent time even if you've been placed too far back. Don't fight the crowds early on and go with them. When it thins out, that's when you should make your move and try to hit target race pace. Don't needlessly waste mental and physical energy speeding up and stressing out about the slower runners around you during the early stages.
The only club I can think of off the top of my head that are based in the city centre is the newly formed Birmingham City Striders. I believe they meet in the Jewellery Quarter on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm.
If you're willing to travel further out of the city centre, there's BRAT as others have mentioned that meet at Birmingham Uni and Bournville Harriers. I've also run with Kings Heath Running Club before and they're a friendly bunch, too.
All of these places are fairly easy to get to using the bus network and all should only require one bus to get there from the city centre.
Agreed; despite the rain holding off, the course was very slippery. The new hill on the Pershore Road felt surprisingly hard and the monster hill with a head wind just wasn't good at all.
Was 11 minutes faster compared to last year with 1:34:45. My sub-90 attempt never really materialised - I was still physically and mentally tired after the Cardiff Half. Looking at various friends, their times were all a few minutes off their all time PBs.