Express & Star

Around 1,300 take part in Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon

And they're off! Runners from across the country turned out for a half marathon through Black Country canals.

Elite men and women runners set off on the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon.

Around 1,300 athletes of all ages and standards set off took part in the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon, which started in Wolverhampton.

And people were raring to go, despite the uncertain weather, as they started the 13.1 mile trek down the canal towpaths.

Music from the 80s was blared out – including Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield – as the runners got underway.

Phil Templar, race director, said: "This is year 12 so we've grown it from 46 people.

Elite men and women runners set off on the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon.

"It's a little bit different and unusual and the runners like it – they get to see different aspects of Wolverhampton and the Black Country that you don't see on a road race.

"It's been growing over the years and we always aim for 1,200 to 1,500 so we're on the mark for that.

"We've got a lot of fairly good comments because it's unusual and different it gives them a different variation of a run – it's a bit more friendly for people, there's no barging out of the way.

"They get to go off with friends and family so it's great."

The 59-year-old, from Merry Hill in Wolverhampton, said work will now start planning next year's event.

The running event forms part of the annual Black Country Festival, which features independent events throughout July, with Black Country Day being the centrepiece on July 14.

And among those taking part was charity champion and endurance runner 'Blind Dave' Heeley.

The journey saw runners pass through Tipton, Oldbury, West Bromwich and Smethwick before finishing at Brindley Place in Birmingham.

And runners even had to power through the 329 metre-long Coseley Tunnel, which formed part of the route.

Naved Akhtar, from Great Barr, said he runs with City of Birmingham Striders down the route where the half marathon finishes – something which inspired him to sign up.

"I've never done it before but I'm part of that club and we run across a stretch of canal – we run quite far, so it's almost like a local run.

"When you start in Birmingham you see the signs for Wolverhampton and we usually run as far as Tipton.

"I thought it was a good idea."

Elite men and women runners set off on the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon.

Drink stations also greeted weary athletes every three miles, which offered water and electrolytes in cups.

Kamaljit Singh, aged 45, from Halesowen, said: "It's a route I run a lot during training.

"It's a nice route, it's very well organised and it's a friendly event.

"And with a bits of 80s music, a bit of nostalgia, you can't go wrong."

Richard and Tracey Marvin, from Erdington, decided to take on the course together.

Tracey, aged 49, said: "This is my first half and it's because I thought it would be quite nice running along the canals."

Richard, aged 48, added: "It's a bit different because there's less support because usually you get people running alongside supporting you, but we prepared."

And Julie Williams came all the way from Aberystwyth – a three hour train journey.

The 50-year-old said: "Some friends told me about the event and I did it last year and I really loved it.

Elite men and women runners set off on the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon.

"It's different from the others we do because you only see the canal pathway – it's a really nice event.

"It's really well organised and they really look after the runners.

"They put on extra water stations this year and they really look after us."

Debbie Cook, from Sedgley, took on the course with husband Ash.

Debbie, aged 57, said: " "We didn't take it up until five years ago. We do it to keep fit and Sedgley Striders are really good.

"It's on our doorstep and you have to do the local things.

"We thought it was too late to get fit but it's never too late."

Ash added: "It's my fifth one. It's for the fun of it.

"I really enjoy it and you lose yourself in the race.

"For us it's just for the fun and fitness."