marathon, running

On 15th October 2017, thousands lined up to take part in Birmingham’s first marathon in decades. Being our local city, eSense decided to review its success and asks how it has helped promote Birmingham to an international audience.

It is not the first time Birmingham has been the host of a marathon. In 1980, the ‘People’s Marathon’ was launched by elite runner, John Walker, a year before the London marathon! The former marathon ran between 1980 and 1985 and took a slightly different route to that of last weekend, actually encompassing part of the (then half-built) M42! It was billed as the first ‘open-to-all’ marathon, bringing long distance running to the masses. In fact, elite runners of 2 hours 50 minutes or less were not even allowed to enter. Would John have foreseen the huge popularity running now has well over thirty years later?!

Last Sunday almost 6,000 nervous marathon runners gathered early at Alexander Stadium. The number signed up to run made The Birmingham International Marathon the sixth largest in the U.K. The half marathoners joined them at lunchtime, starting in the city centre, to make the total number of runners up to around 25,000.

The marathon wound its way into the city centre before completing a double loop around Cannon Hill Park, the Cadburys factory at Bournville and Edgbaston Cricket Ground, giving runners a tour of the local attractions. Spectators turned out in their thousands to support the runners, alongside musical entertainment and charity cheer buses, creating a positive, lively atmosphere throughout the city.

Birmingham has been slowly, but surely, recovering from the bleak and gloomy reputation it gained in the 70s and 80s. This was when high-rise tower blocks dominated the landscape and manufacturing was a key industry for the city. Unfortunately, a lot of the manufacturing giants, such as Rover, have now gone; an economic hit for the city, but these have been replaced by the drive to make Birmingham more culturally attractive to tourists. Iconic architecture, a passion for dining, the arts and entertainment, great sporting events and a well-connected network of travel have developed to show outsiders that Birmingham has a lot more to offer. When many visitors descended on the city last weekend for The Birmingham International Marathon, we had our chance to show just how far we have come.

In the days following the event, the feedback has been largely positive. The murmurs of the route still being a tough, hilly course have been overshadowed by the hugely positive and supportive atmosphere and the evaluation of the race being a well-organised event. This success demonstrates that Birmingham is able to host sporting events smoothly on an international scale. The welcome given to all visitors of the city should be a fantastic boost in promoting this underrated city.

By Lorna Paice

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