Posted on 16/04/2019
You often see runners and joggers of all abilities pounding with red cheeks and serious faces around the many towpaths of Birmingham and the West Midlands. The region’s extensive network of canals is tailor-made for running, offering long stretches of flat, even towpath, a variety of routes, complete freedom from cars, and attractive, constantly changing surroundings. The canals are also the site of some competitive runs, such as the epic Grand Union Canal Race, which journeys for 145 miles from Birmingham to London, or the shorter (but still very long) Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon.
The 13.1-mile half marathon has been taking place for several years and is now a popular event in the local race calendar. The 2019 event, which takes place on 6 July, starts at the Canal & River Trust boat yard in Wolverhampton city centre, close to the station, and ends at Brindley Place in Gas Street Basin, in the heart of Birmingham. Runners are seeded through a time trial format and start in waves between 8am and midday. The route is largely flat, other than the occasional bridge or lock, and includes the 360m Coseley Tunnel. Every three miles, there will be canal barges that double as drink stations, so runners can rehydrate regularly. All competitors get a medal and goody bag. It’s a charity event, so if you can’t participate you can always volunteer as a race marshal.
The run largely follows the course of the Birmingham Canal Mainline from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, which was cut by James Brindley in the 1760s and then straightened by Thomas Telford, who rather harshly felt the original was little more than “a crooked ditch”. Telford’s improvement included the construction of the tunnel at Coseley, which was completed in 1837 and, unusually, has a towpath on both sides. Telford’s changes created numerous loops of canal and shortened the main line by around seven miles, making it almost the perfect distance for a half marathon. So even if you’re not up for a run, you go another day and enjoy the sights and sounds.
To join the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon, you need to submit your entry form by June 1. Find out more on here. Regarded by many as Britain’s premier Ultra, the 145-mile continuous Grand Union Canal Race, from Gas Street Basin in the Centre of Birmingham to Little Venice in the heart of London, has an overall time limit of 45 hours. Those who feel up to the challenge can find out more here.
For a more casual day out along the Birmingham Canal Navigations, have a look at our website.