After a “fantastic” maiden venture into the city back in the spring, the new organisers of September's Great Bristol Half Marathon are confident of seeing a repeat performance.
The 10k in May 2016 was the first staged by the Great Run Company, which last year won the contract to become Bristol City Council's partner organisation for its two mass-participation running events, and attracted a field of 12,000 as well as a sell-out field for the inaugural Family Mile. It is now preparing to welcome thousands more for one of the country's longest-established road races. The Bristol Half made its debut 27 years ago and, although numbers have tailed off slightly since its peak of 16,000 in 2010, remains a huge draw for the running community. It boasts a flat course that features a many the city's major sightseeing hotspots – notably the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Harbourside, where the start and finish area is located.
“Our target is 10,000 runners and we're on target to break through that,” Andy Graffin, the Great Run project manager for the Bristol events, told XtraTime six weeks ahead of race day. “Entries are going well and we are quietly confident that we will get there. That gives us a good platform.
“The events were run very, very well in previous years by [former race director] Georgette van Hoof and her team and we are just taking up the reins and trying to spread the word a bit. At Great Run, we have a large portfolio of events and a database of runners from all over the country, so we are able to utilise that.
“It is such a beautiful run and arguably one of the most scenic in the country, going around Avon Gorge and back into the city centre, and I think it is a must-do for runners, I think. We feel the pressure and responsibility to keep these events as great as they already are and put a lot of emphasis onto advertising them. We are selling a fantastic event and a fantastic weekend away for those who come from outside the area. Hopefully the weather is nice and people can have a lovely weekend in Bristol.”
While wholesale changes are not in store, there will be a tweak to the course due to the long-term closure of one of the city centre bridges and the start line will move slightly further along Anchor Road in order to maximise the atmosphere for runners and spectators alike.
Graffin added: “We hope what changes we do make will lay the foundation for growing the event for next year and beyond, which will help achieve our ambition, and that of the council, to get more people running.
“The 10k was a fantastic event. It was good to get that under our belts and become more familiar with how everything works in Bristol. While 10k is as far as some people want to run, we hope a lot of will do that and go on to do the half, whether it is in the same year or the following one.
“A lot of our customers run every year but for those who are just getting into it, we'd say: 'come along and we'll look after you'. There are free training plans on the website, there is an event guide and when you come to the day itself we hope you will find plenty of information and people to help you. We try and drum up a good community atmosphere and plenty of anticipation for the event so that the city celebrates it. It's big event and there aren't many like it in the country. It's something for Bristol to be proud of and we are happy to take the reins for the forseeable future.”