Running through the rain

Jamie Sircom tells of his experiences during Sunday’s Great Birmingham Run.

The Great Birmingham Run half marathon has been an autumn fixture in the Birmingham sporting calendar for the past ten years. The race holds claim to being the second biggest half-marathon in the country. behind only the Great North Run.

And checking the Met Office YouTube forecast video for the event issued three days before the race, the 2018 edition promised to be held in perfect running conditions.
“It’s looking dry and bright,” and “We really couldn’t complain about the weather on Sunday,” were just some of the comforting phrases uttered by the besuited gentleman weather forecaster on the video.

As I drew back the curtains at 7 o’clock on Sunday morning, I was greeted by the sight of near torrential rain bucketing down from the skies. It didn’t ease up on the journey into Birmingham city centre, and showed no signs of stopping as thousands of runners assembled in the start zone on Broad Street, finding what little shelter they could.

Nevertheless at 10.30 am, over 7,800 runners set off from the start line outside the Novotel Hotel with 13.1 miles ahead of them on the by now throughly rain-sodden streets of Birmingham.

The first couple of miles saw the course head down the hill from Hagley Road to Belgrave Middleway via St James Rd, a reversal of previous years in which the course headed up the hill in the last two miles of the race.

After a enjoyable and fast start to the run came a section of road that runners never usually habitate – the Belgrave Middleway underpass! A few enthusiastic “Oggy Oggy Oggy!” cries came with the brief respite from the rain before it was back into the downpour.

The course then wound its way past Calthorpe Park and through Balsall Heath, where kids were enthusiastically handing out water bottles and jelly babies. More support from hardy Brummie spectators was to be found in Cannon Hill Park before a detour into the least inspiring section of the course, Edgbaston Cricket Ground.

Whilst Edgbaston is undeniably one of the best cricket venues in the country, the stadium surrounds and car park proved dull, and this was not helped by the huge puddles that gathered as runners exited the complex.

The next couple of miles saw the race head out on Pershore Road, boosted by support from a number of roadside bands and sound systems, before my favourite part of the course, Mary Vale Road in Bournville. Although the hill up from Pershore Road is now one of the steepest parts of the course, the support on the railway bridge at the top gives a real Tour de France feel to the race and despite the awful conditions, we were greeted with a great reception from the good people of Bournville.

After another quick hilly detour through Selly Park it was back onto Pershore Road, where the out and back nature of the course gave runners and spectators plenty of chance to cheer on faster and slower runners alike.

Upon leaving Pershore Road, a twisty section through the rather deserted back roads of Highgate and Deritend eventually brought us out to a challenging final half mile.
The crowds were out again for the surprisingly strength-sapping run up past Selfridges and for the long finishing straight along Moor Street Queensway and towards the finish line on Jennens Road.

Never before have the grounds of Aston University been such a welcome sight as it gave thousands of runners the welcome chance to get warm and dry following the wettest race many have done or ever will do!

At the sharp end of the race, the first man home was Kadar Abdullahiin, who in his first ever half-marathon took the win in 1 hour 06 minutes and 06 seconds. Kadar is a refugee seeking asylum in the UK and he ran in last year’s World Championships at the London Olympic Stadium as part of the refugee team. His Birchfield Harrier teammate Omer Ahmed was second and Ian Williams of Tipton Harriers was third (podium runners pictured).

Nicola Sykes of Bournville Harriers was first woman in 1 hour 19 minutes and 57 seconds. Last year’s winner, Chloe Richardson from Birchfield was second with Nuneaton’s Alison Taylor in third.

Despite the awful weather conditions, many runners (including yours truly!) registered personal best times and although the poor weather inevitably reduced the number of spectators out on the course, it was great credit to the race organisers, volunteers and most importantly, the people of Birmingham who took to the streets and made it such a great event.

And as the last of the runners crossed the finish line, it finally stopped raining ….