Greenwich town centre was transformed into a runners’ festival today as thousands of people completed The Big Half half-marathon – the new London Marathon spin-off event. Whether you ran or watched, how was it for you?
The London Marathon is a cherished event in the local calendar, but half-marathons have a troubled history in Greenwich, thanks to the botched Run to The Beat events imposed on the area until 2013.
The Big Half avoided all that by using chunks of the London Marathon route to create a course from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf and back again, then through Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford to end at the Cutty Sark.
That said, complaints in the Wapping area suggest that many locals – who have to deal with a number of events each year – felt ignored and taken for granted, with unfortunate echoes of what Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich went through with Run to the Beat. (Although the staff at Wapping railway station made up for it by blowing their platform whistles to welcome runners). The route certainly appeared to change since the event was first announced in May 2017, and organisers might have to think carefully about using that stretch of route again.
But from a tour of the route, much of it seemed to go very well, with huge numbers of spectators at Tower Bridge and Greenwich, although crowds were reportedly thin away from stations. Worries about weather forced the cancellation of a sister event, The Little Half, a two-and-a-bit mile fun run from Southwark Park to Greenwich.
So how did things go for you, whether as a resident, runner or spectator? Some thoughts from a wander around the course…
- Baggage trucks seemed to leave very early, meaning runners had to get to the Tower Bridge start some time before they began the race
- Runners seemed unhappy with running through the lengthy Limehouse Link tunnel at the start of the route
- Stretches of cobbles (through Wapping and past the Mayflower pub at Rotherhithe) seemed very harsh
- The Big Half would have benefited from the public transport arrangements in place for the London Marathon – such as diverting Docklands Light Railway trains from Lewisham and Greenwich to Tower Gateway to help people get to and from Tower Bridge
- Network Rail engineering work meant a slightly reduced service with some long gaps on the London Overground through Wapping, Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays – it coped, but that didn’t help spectators
- Some of the signage around Greenwich was poor, with plenty of lost people trying to find Greenwich station
- It would have been good if pubs along the route were open – not just for booze, but as centres for entertainment
- Some mobile data coverage in Greenwich was knocked out by the event – it would have been useful if The Big Festival had some temporary masts to help runners and spectators
But then again…
- The section along The Highway, where runners passed each other in different directions, was appreciated – as was arrangements at the beginning where runners who were starting later could see Sir Mo Farah and other leading participants at the front
- Crowds were appreciated, as were marshals and the music
- Tower Bridge and Greenwich made impressive starting and finishing points
- It was good that some buses were still able to run through Greenwich town centre – and it looked like local businesses made the most of the day (apart from one pub whose doors were still closed after 12…)
These were some opening thoughts on what seemed like a hugely successful day. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.