Race Date: Saturday 1st July 2023
Race Report by Stephen Schubeler
The Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon is a point to point race along the canal towpaths between Wolverhampton City Centre and Brindley Place in Birmingham.
The race format is based on people’s predicted running time (seeded) in a time trial format with runners starting in waves between 09:00 – 12:00 and accommodates all capabilities.
The conditions underfoot vary from gravel tracks and un-kept trails to smooth pavement.
The route is largely flat with locks and bridges as the only inclines, the route includes the famous ‘Coseley Tunnel’ a 360 metre tunnel, a memorable feature of the scenic course. The route features floating drink stations (canal barges) every 3 miles offering runners water and electrolyte.
I always tend to make this race, largely because it’s a Saturday, and it ties in seeing Clare’s family in Birmingham (with no restrictions on type of food/drinks Saturday eve before a Sunday race 😊)
So, on with the run, and I’ve not gone into this run feeling great, following a busy previous weekend with work Saturday, RSR Sunday and glorious Sunshine. The week wasn’t much better with busy days at work, lots of time on feet, couple of rest days to save the legs a tad, but still mega step counts!
So… race morning, didn’t check but there were rail replacement bus services, which meant an earlier start to get to Wolverhampton, I chanced a sold out train (the one running) and got on.
Few minute’s walk to the start by the canal from the train station it’s an easy one to attend. Quick bag drop, a briefing pre race for our wave, the usual, narrow, the dark tunnel, mix of terrain, be cautious around swans/geese etc… and of course the bridges can be slippy underfoot when wet, so careful on the sharp turns.
Not feeling the best, legs zapped, tired, it was a case of use it as a training run, finish and get the medal, stick of rock and t-shirt.
Off we went, about 12 of us started in the wave, I hung probably two thirds back, lots of speedy looking folk and I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way given the narrow canal paths.
However, the Tipton bunch soon sped off into the distance with a couple of hangers on (Tipton are always up in the field here). I then found myself boxed in pretty much on the heels of people, not the best being so close and mixed terrain underfoot.
So I sped up to get ahead of the bunch, make some space, assumed would get overtaken later on when the field spread out and people found their rhythm.
Keeping it comfortable I was pretty much alone running for a good while, the pack behind seemed to stay where they were. I caught up with the guy in 7th who had dropped off the front pack at 3.5mile.
Then came the dark tunnel, 360yards of it, which they light up with portable lights as best they can. Just be sensible running it really.
I then spied another guy, good target to have, so at this point the training run turned more into let’s see where I can get, felt fine, still early and the chance of my legs wavering at 9-10mile for people to overtake was a possibility, so kept it comfortably quick.
Caught up with 6th, then 5th, so wanted to keep the position, then around mile 8 spied one of the Tipton 4 had dropped off, and gradually caught up and overtook about half a mile before the 9mile diversion onto some pretty much grass/mud/trail, for about a mile, really zapping the legs after the RSR haha.
At this point 4th spot was pretty much secured and back onto the canal path with the last 3mile to do.
Stomach was feeling a bit ropey at this point, but less than 3mile to go, 4th spot was guaranteed, a V40 prize too so just stay comfortable, no need to force/push it.
The finish usually involved one more bridge to cross then onwards for the last 500mtrs, however, another diversion due to repairs meant we just stayed the same side so it was easier to just keep at pace, control breathing and potential stomach issues.
The finish came sooner than expected, bonus, Clare was waiting, bonus (having done Edgbaston Reservoir Parkrun and ran back).
So given how I felt this week, before the run, it all seemed to click, massive bonus finishing 4th and bagging my age category, and a good workout for the legs.
Baggage collected, goodie bag consisting of a stick of Birmingham Black Country Rock, freddo/sweets/bottle of water, crisps, jelly babies and a race t-shirt and off we popped, passing the Black Sabbath bridge with obligatory Ozzy snaps.
However… that is where it turned bad for me. Dizzy, bad guts, feeling really pants, which took a while to shake off, emergency Spoons stop, no need to delve into that! Then onwards to the hotel, collect gear, and local café, which again still felt dizzy, stomach in bits! Only managed half a brew!
Which ultimately resulted in abandoning the weekend in Birmingham and heading straight back to Sheffield.
Comforts of home, felt way better when we got back, water was had (rare for me), sugary sweets, coke…
Basically I probably should have stuck to running it as an easy half, training run, not to push on or get in a position and think oh yeah I’ll give this a bash and see how I go.
Or, given last weekend, the week, how zapped I felt, I should have bombed it off and just joined Clare at parkrun.
If I had done any of those we would probably of still been in Birmingham, Curry, family visit and this report would not exist 😊.
So even at 41 years of age, it is another lesson learned. Listen to your body!
The race was won by Jonathan Carter of Tipton Harriers in 1:14:44, the first female was Rachel Felton of Stroud in 1:21:08 who actually beat the course record (1:23:02 back in 2016) and nabbed an extra £250.
I was the sole Steel City Strider, not a bad run to do, nice and scenic along the canal, and of course it is a Saturday race.
852 runners lined up for the Birmingham Black Country Half.
Full results can be found on the StuWeb website.