I awoke bleary eyed after drinking one or two G&Ts from my father-in-law’s extensive selection (48 and counting) the previous evening and then remembered I had 10k to run in around two hours’ time. Fortunately, my ever-understanding wife appeared with a mug of coffee to wake me up. After a hasty shower and change, my wife and I made our way to the train station, where we were joined by a horde of lycra-clad, fluorescent-shoed fellow fools who think that jogging for miles around Birmingham’s urban decay on a Sunday morning is an acceptable activity. Already there was a friendly atmosphere, strangers smiled and joked with one another -camaraderie that’s missing on the usual morning commute.
We arrived at Grand Central and streamed off the train with our fellow runners. After a pit stop for a sausage baguette to fuel my efforts, we made our way to the start at Millennium Point. We were greeted by a mass of noise and movement and colour. Runners of all ages and sizes and races mingled together, bobbing up and down to motivational music in an effort to keep warm under the grey April skies. Wherever you looked, people’s backs were adorned with dedications to those they were running for: for Dad, for Grandma, for a friend. Each runner had their own story, their own reason for putting their body through the impending hour of agony.
The runners were released in waves, each to the music of a particular decade. My wife and I, being of a certain vintage, were in the 90s wave and warmed up to some of the cheesiest songs ever recorded. We marched and star-jumped and hopped about in the spotty rain, before being set on our way by Brum legends UB40. We got caught up in the adrenaline of the initial stampede and set of at far too high a pace, but soon found our cruising speed and soaked up the sights and sounds of this splendid city.
The support was superb, with people from across the city turning out to cheer us on and keep us entertained with witty banners like “I’m here to support you, random stranger” and “Only 1.1 miles until wine”. Along with the tremendous support, we were spurred on by live music around the course that raised our spirits every time we began to flag. Entertainment Nation’s own White Rabbit brought sunshine to a cloudy day with their feel-good funk and reggae, while Miracle Motown motivated the masses with old school classics as the race reached the dreaded “Hill”.
“The Hill” is the biggest challenge faced by participants in the Great Birmingham 10k. A gruelling climb that from Ryland Road to Calthorpe road that lasts for nearly a mile. The cruellest part? It comes at the end of the course when heavy legs have already been sapped of energy. We very slowly jogged up the hill and somehow made it to the top without stopping. There is a dispiriting moment about halfway up when you think you’ve made it, only to see another endless slope rise in front of you. Congratulations to everyone who conquered that beast, it’s a great achievement.
All the way round I witnessed moments that made me proud of my city: the schoolkids and their teachers out on a Sunday shouting wildly in support, the guy running in front of us keeping his tiring mate going with words of encouragement and a high-five, the fireman running in full breathing apparatus for the British Lung Foundation. I’ve got huge gratitude, too, for the volunteers and medics who gave up their time to keep us all safe.
We finally reached the final straight on Broad Street, where packed crowds clapped and shouted, urging us to give one final push for the line. My wife took the crowd’s advice a little too seriously and dipped when she reached the finish, thus beating me by 100th of a second and four places! We’d done it in a respectable time of 1 hour and 9 minutes. Aching but triumphant, we collected our medals and contemplated signing up for the half marathon in October over a well-earned pint.
I’d urge anyone who wants to sample the atmosphere of a big race to sign up for a 10k. It’s far enough to hurt, but not so far that it’s an insurmountable obstacle. My wife only started running in January and has already completed two 10ks. My memories of the day are a whirl of music and colour and joy. Give it a go. You won’t regret it.