“You never regret a run”, I tell myself at 8am. Not only am I gearing up for the morning’s exercise but training for 2024’s Great Birmingham Run, taking place on Sunday 5th May. It’s been several years since I’ve entered and, in that time, my fitness has faltered. However, I’ve been tempted back by the new route, which takes runners past many of the city’s great cultural landmarks.

For the second year in a row, the starting line for both 10k and half marathon runners will be located centrally, in Centenary Square. A cultural hub, its bordered by music, art and theatre with a backdrop of Birmingham Rep, Symphony Hall, the Library of Birmingham and The Exchange.

It’s also home to William Bloye’s bright bronze statue of the industrial pioneers Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch, better known as the ‘Golden Boys’, who are studying steam engine plans or, perhaps on this occasion, the running route.

Just yards away stands the more modern sculpture, ‘A Real Birmingham Family’, which has immortalised ordinary Brummies – two single-mother sisters and their young sons. It was created in collaboration with Ikon Gallery by Birmingham’s Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing.

After waving goodbye to this pair of public artworks, runners will take to Broad Street, which is decorated in the Walk of Stars celebrating Birmingham’s cultural icons, and home to the Black Sabbath Bench, in case anyone needs to sit down already.

It was also on Broad Street that legendary artist Desmond Morris staged a surrealist stunt by planting an elephant skull overnight, which he’d naturally carried into town on the tram. The next morning, local papers reported it as a dinosaur, with accompanying pictures of baffled policemen packing it into their car, while museum experts were called in to identify it.

From this main street, runners will wind their way over to the Jewellery Quarter, where the Edwardian, cast-iron Chamberlain Clock stands tall; recently restored, it will allow keener runners among the pack to check their time.  

Running through the streets of the Jewellery Quarter, participants will then take in historic workshops, as well as contemporary art with the recently opened Stryx Gallery located opposite Banksy’s reindeer-themed mural.

After passing St Paul’s Square, runners will see the RBSA Gallery zooming into view. This reminds me of my school days, when I opted for cross country as my sporting activity; I’d jog to the art department where I’d spend an hour painting, before sprinting back to the finishing point, suitably red in the face.

While there are no towpaths on the route – thankfully, as the geese angrily guard the waterways at this time of year – runners will scale Gent 4several bridges before arriving at the Mailbox’s red frontage. Once a Royal Mail sorting office, today it’s home to Castle Fine Art, restaurants, shops and the BBC where The Archers is broadcast.

On the news recently has been the historic Station Street, which houses The Old REP and The Crown pub, where Black Sabbath played their first gig. It’s also home to England’s oldest working cinema, The Electric, which shut in February, prompting a public outcry to save it. These are the streets which make Birmingham the great city that it is.

History continues as runners pass St Martin in the Bull Ring, which contains glorious stained glass by William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, whose masterpieces can be found in the fantastic ‘Victorian Radicals’ exhibition currently on show at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Not all great artworks hang in museums, however, as Digbeth proves. Pacing through this part of the city, runners will be treated to an outdoors display of street art and graffiti by the likes of Gent 48 and Annatomix.

While half marathon runners will then continue through Selly oak and Bournville, past MAC and Cannon Hill Park, I will be sticking firmly to the 10k route and aiming to finish in one piece at the Smithfield regeneration site.

Three years ago, I was amazed by the carnival atmosphere as Brummies turned up to cheer on runners of all abilities, from those striving for Personal Bests and raising money for charity, to people like me who just want to complete the run, regardless of finish time.

I never regret a run, and this year I am most looking forward to passing the brilliant backdrop of Birmingham’s cultural sights.

The Great Birmingham Run will take place on Sunday 5th May and is open to runners aged 15+ (10k) and 17+ (Half marathon).

Ahead of the event on Saturday 4th May, Run of a Kind will lead a free, gentle Shake Out Run starting from Centenary Square

AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run | 5 May 2024 (greatrun.org)

The AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run Shake Out, hosted by Run of a Kind — RUN OF A KIND – Running Tours of Birmingham UK (runofakindbirmingham.com)

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