Vitality Big Half 2020 race report

Race Reports Mar 15, 2020

After volunteering at the Big Half for the first two editions, I decided to see it from the other side and run it this year. Weather conditions looked kinder than the previous 2 years.


The race route is practically flat. Probably the only two tricky sections were the cobblestone areas and the Limehouse tunnel, which is over 1 mile long. It seemed like an eternity to run through the tunnel and unsurprisingly it messed up with the GPS watch.

To get to the start I took the underground, along with my running buddy Mike Dennison, from Osterley to Green Park and changed to the Jubilee line to get to London Bridge station. As we were approaching London Bridge more runners were filling up the underground carriages. At that point a London marathon déjà vu hit me.

The bag drop was straight forward. There were plenty of toilets around the area and we didn’t queue for long. At that point we headed to the start, crossing Tower Bridge, such an iconic landmark.


I was allocated to start wave A, given my predicted time of 1.35. Once we got to our pen we met Nick. It was nice to ease the initial race nerves with some familiar faces, a quick chat and a smiley picture helped. 9 o’clock and we were off. It took me just under two minutes to cross the start line and I easily got into half marathon target pace.

From left to right, Maria Jovani, Mike Dennison, Nick Rowe and Instagram influencer James Shoulder


Miles were ticking fast, the body was responding well and the legs didn’t complain too much.


7 miles into the race and we were crossing Tower Bridge again, this time heading towards the finish line. It was hard to believe that a few minutes earlier the place was packed with runners, lorries and portable toilets. It was all clear now.  7 miles done, 6 to go and still no sign of fading. There were time mats every 5k which helped with the maths after the gps fail.

When I reached the 10 mile sign, the watch was showing me a sub 70. I knew at that point that I had to give my all if I wanted to keep a sub 7 min/mile pace. I told to myself, “one parkrun to go”.

I tagged along with a couple of ladies and we kept pushing and dragging each other. Teamwork makes the dream work.

As I crossed the finish line I couldn’t believe my watch. It didn’t take long until I got my text confirming my time, 1.31.31, smashing my previous personal record by almost 5 minutes. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate all the glory with Nick and with Mike.

We headed to collect our bags. We were very lucky as our lorry didn’t have many runners waiting to have their bags handled out but others waited up to 50min. Something that has been addressed to the organisation to be improved next year.

A race I would highly recommend, fast, flat, well organised and wide roads for a PB potential.

Fantastic performance by the SHAEF Shifters crew

Will Rawling 1:18:13 PB and club record

Robert Thornton 1:18:37

Fernando Goñi 1:24:20 PB

Maria Jovani 1:31:31 PB

Nick Rowe 1:32:06 SB (and also fastest HM time since 2017)

Ian Collier 1:46:52


Maria Jovani