The half marathon moves centre stage in Birmingham this weekend (16 October) as the city prepares for the Midland's biggest annual running event. The Great Birmingham Run will see GB star Chris Thompson return to defend his men's title as a big overseas contingent plus 20,000 weekend warriors descend on the city centre.
The field will have a strong turnout of charity runners including a team of 1,000 raising funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. They will all be tested on a route that passes city landmarks - the Bullring, Cadbury World and Edgbaston but can expect a boost at the jelly baby station strategically located at the top of the 'Hill'.
This year's Great Birmingham Run has added significance with the arrival of the Birmingham International Marathon in 2017. This weekend's half marathoners, many graduates from May’s Great Birmingham 10K, will be eyeing the 15 October 2017 marathon date.
Thousands of on course spectators and millions of TV viewers can look forward to a battle in the men's race as Thompson faces challenges from Rio-hardened Andy Vernon, who returns to half marathon for the first time since 2014’s Great North Run and Belgian ace Koen Naert.
In the women’s race, Sonia Samuels will take on a strong European field. Samuels represented Great Britain in Rio over the marathon distance and the Sale Harrier will face competition from Belgium’s Almenisch Belete. Ukraine’s Olha Kotovska and Romania’s Madalina Florea.
Meanwhile, celebrities from the screen and stage will also be taking part in the half marathon, with presenter and fitness author Nell McAndrew signing up. Chris Chittell, Emmerdale’s Eric Pollard will be supporting the event while Casualty’s George Rainsford will also be on the start line. Free Radio presenter Gemma Hill will be joined by Olympic diver Leon Taylor and Gary Poulton, a contestant on 2015’s The Apprentice.
The Junior and Mini events take place earlier in the day on Broad Street, where the half marathon will finish, making it a great family day out. Entries are available online at the Great Run website or in person at Up & Running on Temple Street, Birmingham between 10am and 4.00pm tomorrow (Saturday 15 October).
The Great Birmingham Run is televised on Channel 5 from 10am until 12noon.