Race Report: The Vitality Big Half

With the Beast from the East having finally retreated, the inaugural Vitality Big Half was given the go-ahead, with more than 11,000 runners toeing the start line on Sunday 4 March.

Making my way from London Bridge station to the start line at Tower Bridge, the event felt buzzier than a beehive. There were first-timers, old-timers, club runners and run-walkers. Oh, and some little-known chap at the front called Sir Mo Farah.

As one might expect from an event organised by the team behind the Virgin Money London Marathon, the Big Half is very well organised. Bags were transported to the finish line on a fleet of lorries, the portaloos were plentiful and the course was impeccably marked.

While the snow may have melted, temperatures were still on the nippy side, so runners were encouraged to take a ‘throwaway’ layer with them to the start line. Waving goodbye to my ill-fitting puffer jacket, I huddled among the my running brethren, waiting for the buzzer to sound.

The timing pens led to minimal ‘runner dodging’ issues at the start, and I was soon up to speed, heading east towards Canary Wharf. The support, although not quite London Marathon proportions, was sizeable and noisy throughout. There were also a number of bands and performers en route, helping to give the race a festival feel.

For those who have run the London Marathon previously, much of the Big Half’s route will feel familiar. The early miles snake their way round Canary Wharf, before heading back towards Tower Bridge, a focal point of next month’s 26.2-miler. It then heads south, passing Bermondsey and Rotherhithe before an exciting finish just by Cutty Sark.

The route is pretty quick, too, with only a few slopes and some cobbled streets to contend with. Hurting at the 10-mile mark, I began to make a series of false promises to myself. “Run hard until the 11th mile, then you can coast in…” “Did I say the 11th mile, I meant the 12th…” etc etc. With a mile to go, the crowd support built in number and volume, inspiring me to muster something approaching a sprint finish. It was worth it, too, as my finish time was the very satisfying 1:24:59.

Ever so slightly further up the field, Mo held off stiff competition from reigning London Marathon champ Daniel Wanjiru and fellow Briton Callum Hawkins to take the win. In the women’s race, Charlotte Purdue ran a big PB to beat her Aldershot clubmate Lily Partridge.

But the Big Half is about much more than PBs and podium finishes. It’s a celebration of running and of London. It wants to get more people, from more communities, to lace up their trainers and hit the streets. Only time will tell if it achieves this. But, on the basis of its maiden outing, there’s every reason to be hopeful.