By Andrew McSteen
Over 11,000 people, many from south London, participated in a variety of events related to the ‘Big Half’ last Sunday – the new event from the organisers of the London Marathon.
The 13.1-mile race wound its way through Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lewisham before ending in Greenwich, at Cutty Sark, and thanks to the support of many volunteers, staff and runners from south London, the event, despite bad weather in the week lead-up, went ahead.
Including a large cultural festival in Greenwich Park, the day of activities was billed as a ‘Truly Global and Uniquely Local’ event, with multiple Olympic gold medallist Sir Mo Farah winning the men’s event and leading the diverse field of numerous runners, many of whom came from a variety of community groups across south London.
“London is an amazing city, we have incredible diversity and we want to celebrate that diversity with this event,” said Hugh Brasher, The Vitality Big Half Event Director, to the South London Press.
“At London Marathon Events we passionately believe that sport should be for everyone and there should be no barriers, but we want the ‘Big Half’ to be uniquely about the four host boroughs and the people in them embracing it and getting involved.
“In all of our events we want even more of the community to come out than they did on Sunday. What we have been doing with local community groups for the Big Half, we want to replicate across our other events, especially the London Marathon.”
In addition to the ‘Big Relay’ – a four-person team event only for residents of the four host boroughs – a reserved 7,500 race entries were available at a discounted price of £10 per place for community groups based in, or working mainly, from one or more of the host boroughs, with the Southwark Irish Pensioners Project and Southside Rehabilitation Association from Southwark, Double Jab ABC and the Lewisham Migrant Refugee Network from Lewisham, and GRACE (Greenwich Refugee Aid & Community Enterprise), Eltham Junior Parkrun and Greenwich Migrant Hub from Greenwich representing their boroughs in addition to many other groups and individuals from south London. 200 patients, doctors and nurses from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust also participated.
“It’s been great hearing the stories of people and community groups coming together,” said Brasher. “But this is year one – the first one. We want this to be an annual event and want to grow it, but if you go back to 1981 and the first-ever London Marathon and look what it is now, that’s what we want with this; people coming together and celebrating the diversity that London has.
“London is such an amazing city and we really hope that this event in the future will become another crown jewel in Britain’s sporting calendar, which the marathon now is. Cutty Sark is such an iconic landmark to finish the event on – in the London Marathon is at mile six and now it is the finish of the big half.
“We just want to thank everyone for coming out and supporting people running for charity as an enormous amount of good causes were being run for and I am delighted that Sir Mo Farah has won the first event – it doesn’t get much better than that.
“I want to say a huge thank-you to everyone in the community who helped make the event, particularly the volunteers and volunteer groups who, without, events like this cannot happen. We rang them up in the week and they were to a man, a woman, saying ‘absolutely we will be there’, despite the uncertainty about the weather meaning the event was only confirmed less than 24 hours before.
“This event really brings people together and we encourage those in south London to sign up for next year’s event – it’s going to be amazing.”
For any community groups based, or working in, Southwark, Greenwich or Lewisham, the Big Half interested in this, or other London Marathon Events races further information is available at https://www.thebighalf.co.uk/