The Runner’s Guide To The Big Half 2023: Route, Start Time And More

A runner celebrates as she crosses the finish line of The Vitality Big Half on Sunday 22 August 2021
A runner celebrates as she crosses the finish line of The Big Half 2021 (Image credit: Jed Leicester for London Marathon Events)

In five years, the Big Half has quickly established itself as one of the best UK half marathons on the calendar. It gained this accolade despite initial teething problems when the first two editions of the race, held in early spring, were beset by bad weather: 2018’s “Beast from the East” storm meant the event was almost canceled and in 2019 high winds troubled runners, especially those wearing fancy dress.

The third edition had a better time of it, being one of the few half marathons to go ahead in 2020. However, the fourth was moved to autumn 2021 after COVID-19 restrictions meant its regular spring date was untenable, and the organizers have stuck with this September berth for the 2022 and 2023 events.

If you’re running the 2023 event, we’ve gathered together some useful information to help you prepare for the big day.

When is the Big Half 2023?

The Big Half 2023 will take place on Sunday 3rd September.

How do I enter the Big Half 2023?

It’s too late to enter the 2023 event, but you’ll soon be able to register your interest in the 2024 race so that you will be alerted when places go on sale. 

What time does the Big Half 2023 start?

The first wave of runners starts at 8.30am. From that point on, runners will be released in waves every 10 minutes with the last wave setting off at 10am.

Refer to your Big Half race number to check which is your start wave—these range from A to J. This determines the time you should arrive at the event, which will be from 7.45am to 9.15am.

How do I get to the Big Half 2023?

The race begins in the area around Tower Bridge, but there are two start areas on different sides of the Thames. Make a note of where you need to be ahead of time so that you don’t have to make a frantic dash across the river to get to the correct start zone.

Your race number will start with an N or an S, which indicates your start area—North or South. 

The North Start Area is on Tower Hill and the nearest stations are Tower Hill (Tube) and Tower Gateway (DLR). 

The South Start Area is on Tower Bridge/Tooley Street, and the nearest station is London Bridge.

Is there a bag drop at the Big Half 2023?

Yes. Use the official kitbag and stick on the number provided before dropping it off during your designated time slot. Then you can pick up your belongings after the race from the collection point shown on your race number.

A Buxton water drop during the race The Vitality Big Half, Sunday 22 August 2021.

A Buxton water station in the Big Half 2021. (Image credit: Sean Ryan for London Marathon Events)

Are there water stations on the Big Half 2023 route?

There are water stations at miles 3, 6, 9 and 11, where you can grab a 250ml bottle of Buxton water. There is also a station at mile 9 where paper cups of Lucozade Sport (one of our picks of the best sports drinks) will be available.

What is the weather forecast for the race?

The Big Half has seen more than its fair share of inclement weather, but the conditions for 2023 look pretty good according to the Met Office. The temperature during the race will range from around 14°C/57°F at the start to 20°C/68°F by the end, which is warmer than ideal but nothing to worry about too much, especially since it is set to be cloudy. The chance of rain is less than 5%, and a 3-4mph wind is due to blow from the east-north-east, which should be light enough to go unnoticed for most of your race.

The Big Half Route

I’ve run the Big Half four times to date and an uncharitable person might describe the course as most of the worst bits of the London Marathon, with long stretches in Canary Wharf and Lewisham that provide little in the way of visual distraction from the hard work your legs are putting in. However, you also get two of the best bits of the London Marathon, crossing Tower Bridge just after the seven-mile mark and finishing by the Cutty Sark.

Runners crossing Tower Bridge during The Vitality Big Half, Sunday 22 August 2021.

(Image credit: Andrew Baker for London Marathon Events)

The race starts just north of Tower Bridge as runners head east towards Canary Wharf, turning at around the three-mile mark to come back towards the bridge. Once you’re across the Thames you turn left towards Greenwich and mostly follow the river’s curves down to the finish line. The course is flat and fast, but there are a couple of tough stretches.

After just a mile or so you hit the Limehouse Link tunnel, where you head underground for about a mile. There are no cheering spectators here, which is a little eerie, and the long downhill into the tunnel is matched by a long uphill out of it. Neither incline is especially steep but either can mess up your pacing, especially because your GPS signal will go haywire in the tunnel. Be careful not to overdo it on the downhill.

Then, when you’re getting close to the finish line, you hit a long straight at around mile 11. In the haze of the final few miles of a tough race, this section felt draining and almost uphill to me. The only advice I can offer is to keep your head down and power on to the finish line.

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Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.