The Big Half
Runners crossing Deptford Creek Bridge on The Big Half

Greenwich town centre was transformed into a runners’ festival today as thousands of people completed The Big Half half-marathonthe 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.

The Big Half
Wapping made a quieter viewing spot

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.

The Big Half
Runners passed through Deptford

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
The Big Half
Only in Greenwich could a pub fail to open for thirsty runners at noon…

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.

18 replies on “The Big Half 2018: How was Greenwich’s new half-marathon for you?”

  1. I ran the race today and I thought it was really well organised
    Communication post snow week was clear
    Public transport to the startwas reliable and not busy at all
    The route had plenty if space for runners and overall was a nice flat well planned route
    The finish was extremely well organised with a clever funnel for runners through medals goody bags and kit pick up area through to a well signposted meet and greet area
    Entertainment along the route could have been more frequent but overall I felt well supported and really enjoyed the event
    I would recommend the event and do it again.

  2. My 101st event today so seen a few, run was very well organised as you would expect from the London Marathon group, great marshals and support was pretty good, spares in some areas but to be honest thats the same for the London Marathon in some areas of the docklands.

    People saying the baggage trucks left early ?, no idea why, we arrived and never dropped our bags until after 8.30 which given the run started at 9 was plenty of time.

    the cobbles, well as soon as I saw them I knew some people would complain, come on though, this is running the some of the old parts of London, its character, I have done runs with cobbles, off road, even running on shingle, its part of the run and 99% of it, you could run on the pavement instead and the cobbles around that area are in pretty good condition.

    The route seemed to work well and was 99% on the London Marathon route all be it in reverse, this is great as it gives runners who maybe will never run a marathon the chance to experience a good part of the iconic London route.

    As for transport, we left from Woolwich via the O2 North Greenwich and its was a simple trip, London Bridge then on to bank to change to monument and short hop to Tower Hill, personally would like to have seen the put on earlier clippers as that would have made it easier for lots of us. As for finding the station, they had people walking around with signs pointing to the station and we saw lots of London Transport staff around to help people, I think maybe more caused by the fact central Greenwich is quite tight to walk around and with the road closed it was not easy to get to some parts requiring a bit of a diversion to cross the roads.

    the dreaded Run To The Beat was my first ever run and I argued with them for years to listen to the runners and public so we kept the run but obviously that never happened, dont think London Marathon will make the same mistakes and I am sure will be having a post race debrief to see what needs changing if they do run it again next year.

    Only issue for me was after the finish, we walked about another 2 miles to get around, get our bags and get back to the clipper, seemed a bit like a trip to Ikea, you were forced to go all around to the festival and back around again to get back to the clipper which was hard on the legs after and we have run a lot, saw some people struggling to walk as you do at events, must have been a nightmare for them, would like to see the baggage pickup right after the finish so we could have just gone out and straight to the clipper a few hundred feet away.

    Would certainly be back to run it again next year and recommend it to fellow runners.

  3. I didn’t know it was happening … I don’t get free papers delivered seemingly because I live in a basement. A Plumstead resident.

  4. I ran yesterday and loved it. I’ve done the last 5 London Marathons (and doing this next one) and it was really strange to be running the other way down the streets! I stayed south of Tower Bridge the night before and was a green start runner. There was initially confusion about crossing the bridge in the morning as they wanted green start runners to approach from the north but then decided they would allow us to cross before 8am and on the day there was no problem. Baggage drop quick and easy but there was a lengthy walk at the end and didn’t seem to be anyone removing timing chips as lots of us still had them. Would have loved more crowd support and entertainment on the way around (i’ve been spoiled with the full marathon) but the weather had been bad and I can only see this building as the years go on. Loved the green jackets the volunteers were wearing and the medal is fab! Didn’t like the humongous queues for the DLR as people weee trying to jump queues but the staff and police did a fab job. Great event and would love to come back again next year.

  5. Live in Greenwich west, just under creek road. We were locked out unable to leave our apartment by car. Needed (family members) to catch a flight from Heathrow with a lot of luggage, so had to haul that up to Norman Rd while taxi was about half hour late due to the delays. Luckily knew about this 1 day in advance and planned some extra time, but this was because we happened to hear about this event via social media. Know of others who really needed to leave by car and were not able to do so.

    With the marathon we get leaflets allowing to plan early in advance. Also there usually is the occasional window of letting some traffic through. Now our development was completely closed off between 9 and 3pm. (even asked local organizers the day in advance who said it would be ok by 12, but it was not).

    Usually I don’t mind these sort of events and don’t mind a bit of disruption for the fun of many, this was not balanced, and information advertising to local residents could have been much much better.

  6. Road closures on routes into Greenwich from the east were not well publicised or signed. Stewards manning the road closures looked to be having a very difficult time dealing with angry drivers, especially as buses were being waved through.

  7. I actually thought the day was fantastic and as others have said running backwards on parts the original full marathon which I have ran several times. This was the first big half so many lessons would of been learnt from yesterday’s event. I will be running it again next year and I do hope that all residents on the route are notified well in advance so the event can continue for many years to come and give new runners the chance to experience running through some of the iconic parts of London Town.
    I live in Eltham,borough of Greenwich and liked the idea of giving all runners from the supporting boroughs a chance to run.
    This will promote healthy and fit lifestyles for all.. The big half 2018 gets 9/10 from me

  8. Received no information about this as not directly affected up the road in Charlton – I only knew because sections of my daily commute were closed off (not that it bothers me on a Sunday).

    I do think that organisers should really ‘impose’ these events on a different bit of London. I think the South East corner suffers more than enough already with the cherished London Marathon… although (Easter not withstanding) we do at least know when that is going to be.

  9. Sorry, but the people who didn’t see the numerous signs around Greenwich/Deptford/Rotherhithe about this event must have been locked away for the last month. I live in Charlton too but deliver around the area and can assure you this run was well publicised. EG – Creek Road had a sign on each lamppost it seemed to me. Even the dot matrix sign ahead of the Blackwall Tunnel had notice of it for at least two weeks, probably more.
    I had to be in Deptford on Sunday morning and so was ‘inconvenienced’ by the event. I got the (miraculously running) train instead. No problem.
    And I actually preferred the half marathon to London Marathon. You could cross Evelyn Street with care, unlike in April. There seemed a better community atmosphere all round, which for me was enhanced by a local choir of ladies of all ages who were singing beautifully on Evelyn Street as the runners went by. Well done girls!

  10. I live in Greenwich, ran it, and loved it. The event was well organized and well attended by spectators throughout. I’m not sure what those complaining of thin crowds are used to, but they should try events outside the capital, where long stretches are devoid of people altogether.

    I didn’t take baggage, and did think the supposed departure time for baggage trucks (8.20) seemed early. I don’t think they left that early though.

    There were an amazing amount of loos and they were inside the starting corrals, which was excellent.

    I was in wave D, and we didn’t get to see Mo et al, but I did see Lily Partridge steam past as we headed towards Canary Wharf, which was great.

    The Limehouse link certainly wasn’t picturesque but, when I went through it, runners were entertaining themselves with the echoes of their chants and calls. It was early on as well, so out of the way quickly.

    The finish funnel confused a few people I finished alongside, as it was so long, but the info sent pre-race did say we would be funnelled to the park.

    Signs before the event around the borough we’re plentiful enough that friends who know I run were asking me if I was running this weekend, having seen them.

    Finishing in Greenwich was an absolute treat for me and made me super-proud.

  11. This was my 2nd half marathon. Last one was Royal Parks in Oct last year.

    I really enjoyed this run. It was well organized with lots of info, number & time tag sent beforehand.

    Atmosphere was brilliant. Volunteers kept you motivated along with the crowds.

    I was Green & ‘G’ so I was lucky enough to see Mo Farah at my start of race & it made me smile all of the way to the end at Greenwich.

    At the end it flowed with medals & goody bags & meeting points were easy to meet up with family.

    I can’t wait to run it again next year & hopefully they will have an ‘app’ in place so that people can be tracked next year which will be easier for family/friends to know where you are.

    Well done to the organizers, photographers & volunteers & everyone who helped make it a ‘memorable’ day!

  12. I live in Woolwich and my (cycle or run) commute is via the route every day, pretty sure I saw road closure signs. I know I do for the marathon and I am not sure if I just zone out of some the messages or road signs I see now.

    The event itself seemed a really good way to encourage exercise, I know a few people who took up running in order to complete the event and ended up taking part in other races in the lead up to this as they were enjoying their training. Well done to the boroughs that allowed this to happen.

    The music around the course was great, DJ’s, choirs, bands, steel drums, all excellent, thank you. The conductor at Rotherhithe looked to have given up on conducting the orchestra(?) and stood watching and clapping, though kept the air of conducting. What a pro.

    Crowd wise, I enjoyed it, Canary Wharf was great, Tower Bridge, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe all had people clapping and cheering.

    I was orange pen A so was away less than a minute after the start and had lots of people to run with, I heard plenty of encouragement and friendly words during the event which is nice, I never interact with strangers.

    Toilets and bag drop were excellent (these are as important aspects IMO), I think the 8.20am cut off for bag drop was a good idea, it wasn’t enforced and think it was purposefully early in the hope runners would make the extra effort to drop off as early as possible.

    Bit rambly, apologies.

  13. Enjoyed the race myself … Well supported in most areas by Marshalls and general public came out they were lovely .. mile 8 ditch the nasty Lucozade and offer water I was told it had ran out so had to wait till Mile 11 got cramp and had a banging headache .. goody bag nice.. did chuckle to myself with the extra mile or so at the end just to escape

  14. Had great time on Sunday . Really well organised. Everything clear and easy to find . I live out of London and had rail problems but once I arrived at Redhill everything was smooth sailing . Arrived by 8am straight into the baggage lorries . Amazed by the amount of loos. What a fantastic idea to have the loos in the pens which meant no massive ques. Course was brilliant , the tunnel long but loved it. Cobbles… they just gave us a different surface to run on . Spectators were great . As for the long walk at the end to get to the bag lorries , well it is good for muscles to continue to walk out slowly .I love the bling . Looking forward to next year

  15. I ran on Sunday. I haven’t ran in London before, but I have done other half marathons.
    The crowds were great, the Marshalls were encouraging and there were plenty of toilets.
    I didn’t like the cobbled areas, as I have ran in towns with cobbles before and they have been covered. I found they did upset my run. But if I could get on a path, I did.
    I did see a wheel chair user, and thought to myself I bet he struggled a bit on them stones, as he didn’t have a high tech chair.
    I loved the bridge and the finish. The tunnel didn’t really bother me, just the slope coming out. But we all managed it.
    The walk to the events village was long! I ran for charity and was a bit down hearted when I got to the charity tent, and there was no tea, as there was no electricity to these tents.
    The baggage lorries didn’t leave early as I was stood by them till 8:30 before going to my green pen.
    In all it was a great day, and I think I would do it again, just pad my feet out for the cobbles. Well organised and as a runner, very much appreciated.

  16. The finish area falls under the Low Emission Neighbourhood yet the LEN and the Royal Park were swamped with least 12 diesel generators. It is a complete joke that despite supposedly being an Exemplar borough for Air Quality a blind eye is turned. I have images of most of the generators and asked the GLA Deputy Mayor for an explanation. It hardly fits in with the Royal Parks sustainability aims as the parks are described as being London’s lungs; not when they are being filled with diesel fume pollution!

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