The London Marathon is the best day of the year in this part of south-east London, right? So wouldn’t it be great if there was another one?
And no, not the return of Run to the Beat.
Just announced today, and coming on 4 March 2018, is The Big Half – a half-marathon using the central chunk of the London Marathon course. It’ll start at Tower Bridge, wind its way back around Canary Wharf, then back over Tower Bridge to end at the Cutty Sark. It’s organised by the same team behind the London Marathon.
The event in full…
– The Big Half, a mass participation race over the classic half marathon distance, starting at the iconic setting of Tower Bridge and finishing in Greenwich
– The Little Half for younger runners will be held on a 2.1 mile route from Southwark Park to the stunning Finish Line by the Cutty Sark in Greenwich
– The Big Relay, exclusively for community groups from the four host boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich, with distances ranging from one mile to five miles
– The Big Festival in Greenwich with a huge range of food music and entertainment, including performances from community groups and fun activities and fitness classes for the whole family to enjoy
Entry is open now if you fancy doing it yourself. There are 5,800 places in the main race (making it much smaller than either the main marathon or the unlamented Run to the Beat) with a limited number of discounted places for people from the host boroughs (Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets).
Quotes from the press release:
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Big Half has the potential to become one of the most remarkable days in our sporting calendar. And putting local people at the heart of a world-class running event is a masterstroke. Sport has the power to change people’s lives, and we hope The Big Half will become an annual event that can help inspire tens of thousands of Londoners to get involved in sport and in their local communities.”
Hugh Brasher, Event Director, The Big Half, said: “If you were inspired by Sunday’s London Marathon, this is your chance to get involved in an event like no other. Sport can be an incredible way of joining people together and getting communities to interact together. We are creating an event that is unique, that is fun, that people will want to come back to year after year. The Big Half is a celebration of community and life.”
There’ll still be a bit of disruption (I imagine people in Wapping will feel sore) but nothing like the mass closures of full marathon day. And it looks like it’ll be a huge day for Greenwich town centre. So stick the date in your diary…
If there’s a train geek in your life who deserves a Valentine’s gift with a difference, then how about… a poster warning of leaves on the line? Yup, a late 1970s Southern Region poster about slippery tracks can be yours from Frontispiece at Canary Wharf for the greater part of a couple of hundred quid.
(If you wanted to impress me, of course, you could buy me a set of bus destination blinds like I’ve seen in a couple of places. There’s a great one knocking around which looks like it’s come off an old 177. Please?)
Smoke wouldn’t exist today if Malcolm Hopkins, who was in charge of periodicals at Borders’ Oxford Street store when we began, hadn’t thought the magazine – and dozens like it – worth supporting. Whenever a new issue came out, we’d take him 350 copies on the 159 bus, and he’d position them subversively among the Grazias and Worlds of Dogs. But, when we breezed in with issue #10, we found no Hopkins, just a surly goth skulking in Esoterica. “He’s gone,” she said. “Gone?” we said. “Why?” “Dunno. Probably didn’t like the uniform.” Half of issue #10 came back as returns. Or the covers did.
Borders wasn’t perfect – in fact, some of its US former parent firm’s employment practices were downright evil. But, without any tradition of independent non-second hand book retailing in this part of south-east London (the nearest independent that I know of is Sydenham’s Kirkdale Bookshop), it’s been the chains or nothing.
So Books Etc in Canary Wharf snagged me very early on, when the Wharf’s shopping centre was a ghost town at weekends, by giving me their poster for the film version of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting for nothing when I asked if they had any for sale. So I stuck with them.
And while Books Etc and Borders were stocking small-scale magazines like Smoke, giving them a leg up and valuable shelf-space. I personally discovered that Waterstones couldn’t care less when I strolled into their Trafalgar Square branch one evening and asked if they stocked it. “We don’t sell magazines,” murmured a surly bloke behind the counter, oblivious to the pile of Time Outs under his nose. I gave Waterstones a swerve for years after, and still try to avoid it.
But the writing was on the wall when Waterstones took over the two Canary Wharf branches of Books Etc a year or so ago, not so long after it’d taken over Ottakar’s in Greenwich, meaning I’ve no choice in local bookshops any more. The closure of the flagship Oxford Street Borders this summer indicated that the game was up. At least a resurgent Foyles is keeping some kind of quirky bookselling going in London. Despite the sins of its US parent, Borders was one American import to London that actually will be missed.