Running Comes Home To Birmingham For City’S Big Weekend

Running came home to Birmingham after the city's biggest ever weekend of activity saw world records broken and over 20,000 people take to the streets for the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run and first-ever Birmingham International Marathon.

Participants of all ages and abilities took part in the two events on Sunday, October 15, with thousands of spectators lining the routes of the inaugural marathon and established half marathon.

Starting at the famous Alexander Stadium on Sunday morning, the marathon reached capacity months ago after attracting entrants from across the globe.

The Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run started on Jennens Road in the city centre later in the day, with more than 10,000 people lining up for the popular event.

Both events finished at the city's Aston University Campus and took runners past landmarks such as Selfridges, Edgbaston Stadium, Cannon Hill Park and Bournville.

Christopher Ashford was the first-ever winner of the Birmingham International Marathon in a time of 2.33.46. Martin Williams was close behind in second clocking 2.34.53 while Daniel Robinson was third in 2.36.39.

Sophie Kelly was first female over the line in 2.52.28, Andrea Banks was second clocking 2.58.15 with Victoria Briggs not far behind in 2.58.51 for third.

In the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run half marathon, William Richardson was the winner in 1.06.38, well clear of Michael Kallenberg who clocked 1.10.22 for second. Richard White was third in 1.12.59.

It was to be a family affair for the Richardsons as William's sister Chloe took the women's race in 1.21.40 ahead of second-placed Sarah Stradling in 1.22.10 and Rachel Olivant, who clocked 1.23.07 for third place.

Romana Abdin, CEO of title partner Simplyhealth, said: “What a fantastic festival of sport! It was brilliant to start the 12,000 runners off, with so many lining up at the start line of their ever first half marathon.

“If you want to be part of the millions moving and start your journey to getting active, why not sign up for the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k? And we'll see you in May.”

Birmingham is widely regarded as the birthplace of mass participation long-distance running events and the Birmingham International Marathon helped support the city's bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Birmingham staged one of the country's first open-to-all marathons, the People's Marathon, which ran from 1980-85 and was organised by late Solihull-based elite runner John Walker.

Among those taking part in the first Birmingham International Marathon was Coventry-born Steve Edwards, one of the world's leading multi-marathon runners, who completed his 800th 26.2-mile run in the city.

Steve now holds what is believed to be a world record for completing 800 marathons in under 3hrs20mins.

And not to be outdone, Black Country running legend ‘Blind Dave' Heeley completed both the Birmingham International Marathon AND Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run half marathon on Sunday – a total of 39.3 miles.

It's all part of lifelong West Brom fan Dave's efforts to conquer the Great Run Company's entire, 25-strong events calendar in 2017 – understood to be a world first for a blind pairing – in aid of the Albion Foundation.

With just the Simplyhealth Great South 5K and Great South Run events left to complete, Blind Dave is on target to achieve his fundraising mission.

Families could play their part in the weekend of activity with the Simplyhealth Junior and Mini Great Birmingham Runs held at the Alexander Stadium on Saturday.

Honorary starter for the family events was brave Anupurba Saha, from Shirley, who wears a prosthetic leg after her right leg had to be amputated shortly after birth.

The seven-year-old performed her honorary duties before taking part in the final 200 metres of the Mini Run with her family and friends.

The corporate world embraced the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run by taking part in the Arcadis Business Challenge, which pits small, medium and large firms against each other for fastest-time trophies.

Among those taking part in the Arcadis Business Challenge was the Mayor's Movers West Midlands Combined Authority team, led by Mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street CBE.

The Mayor's Movers were raising funds for Cure Leukaemia's £1 million appeal to expand the globally significant Centre for Clinical Haematology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Brendan Foster, Chairman of organisers The Great Run Company, said: “It was an outstanding weekend of running in Birmingham and underlines the city's credentials as the perfect potential host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“Congratulations to all participants and thanks to the spectators who made their contribution to a memorable series of events.”