The Cambridge Half Marathon started in 2011 and 8 years later it is going from strength to strength.
Here is everything you need to know about running the Cambridge Half Marathon.
With over 10,000 runners in the 2019, it is one of the UK’s biggest races.
With its flat course, it attracts runners from across the country, and indeed worldwide, who are looking to achieve a PB.
I’ve personally entered into six of the nine races since the Cambridge Half Marathon started – in 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
It’s safe to say it is one of my favourite races!
If this will be your first half marathon, or if you are a returning runner, here is everything you need to know about running the Cambridge Half Marathon.
Everything you need to know about running the Cambridge Half Marathon
Before the race
When to enter
Entries for the Cambridge Half Marathon are staggered, with entries for residents (e.g. people with a CB post code) opening first, then entries to the general public opening a few days later.
Registration normally opens in October and lasts for a few weeks. However, entries for this race normally sell out pretty quickly so you have to be quick.
Runners who have run the course before are given the opportunity to pre-register for the following year’s race.
The registration process for the Cambridge Half Marathon is very straightforward. They give you the opportunity to book Park and Ride tickets during the booking process.
Cambridge is quite a small city with a serious traffic and parking problem, so I recommend you get the Park and Ride if you are travelling to Cambridge and don’t want to park centrally.
Where to stay
Once your place is confirmed, you may be looking to book accommodation.
If so, I recommend you book this as soon as possible as good and affordable accommodation is hard to come by in Cambridge unless you book it well in advance.
Here are some picks of decent hotels in the area depending on your budget.
These are all within 1-2 miles of the start line.
- Travelodge Newmarket Road (£)
- Premier Inn Newmarket Road (£)
- Travelodge Central (£)
- Ibis Cambridge Train Station (££)
- The Tamburlaine (£££)
- Gonville Hotel (£££)
- Hilton City Centre (£££)
How to get there
Cambridge has some good transport links with London, with regular trains coming from London Kings Cross and London Liverpool Street every hour.
Please note: there are two train stations in Cambridge now – Cambridge central and Cambridge North.
You need to go to Cambridge Central for the easiest route to the start line.
Parking in central Cambridge is very expensive if you use one of the multi-storey car parks.
The race organisers encourage you to use the Park and Ride facilities instead of using the central city car parks as the roads get very clogged on race day.
I’d recommend you use a Park and Ride if you’re arriving out of town.
London Stansted is the nearest airport.
It’s about a 30-45 minute drive away (depending on traffic).
There are also regular trains from Stansted to central Cambridge train station.
By far the quickest routes to the start line are by Park and Ride and bike (if you’re a local).
There is a secure bike park for around 1,000 bikes at the start line.
On the day
Getting to the start line
The Cambridge Half Marathon starts on Midsummer Common in Cambridge.
Midsummer Common is a large green space in central Cambridge, roughly a 20 minute walk from Cambridge central station.
It’s easily accessible from all the major hotels in the area and the Park and Ride drops you off nearby.
There are lots of portaloos dotted around the start line, but be warned there are always huge queues to use them on race day.
There are few public toilets near the start line so be sure to go before you leave home or your hotel.
The race organisers have improved the bag drop hugely over the years for this race.
You’ll be able to book a bag drop slot when you register for the race, and you’ll receive your bag drop ticket for your bag in your pre-race pack.
The bag drop is available from 7:30am.
The race organisers don’t allow runners to use headphones during this race for health and safety reasons.
If you are found wearing them you may be challenged by a race marshall.
There are sectioned starting pens for this race.
As the race has got bigger each year, the race organisers have introduced these to ensure there isn’t too much crowding and confusion at the start of the race.
The elite runners start first, followed by the different runners according to their finish time.
For the first time in 2019, the race organisers have attached the timing chips to the race bibs.
Personally, I welcomed this change as it saves you from worrying about your chip when it is tied to your shoe laces.
During the race
The Cambridge Half Marathon has a relatively flat course so it makes it ideal for getting a PB.
The route changes slightly each year but always starts on Midsummer Common in the centre of Cambridge.
It then makes its way into central Cambridge (past the iconic sights like Kings College and The Backs).
Then down to Trumpington and Grantchester (where the ITV show is set and filmed), then back into central Cambridge.
Grantchester is where you’ll face the the hilliest parts of the course.
As a lot of the course is in central Cambridge, you can expect an amazing turnout from locals cheering you on.
This is what makes this event so special.
The race organisers have recently introduced a live tracking features for runners so your family and friends can track you so they know where to cheer you on.
The route itself is very spacious so you won’t feel too crowded on the way route.
The route through Grantchester and the surrounding countryside is very bracing!
The most crowded part is in the city centre when you’re running through the historic centre.
There are normally around four water stations on the course, each providing water and energy gels.
The spectators do a great job at providing other things like jelly babies on the course so be sure to look out for these too!
The race organisers are very pro recycling and keeping the course as tidy as possible so you’ll find lots of bins around the course to chuck your bottles into.
There are race photographers dotted throughout the course.
These are a mixture of race photographers and photographers from local newspapers and media outlets.
In any case, be prepared to smile!
After the race
Medal and goody bag
The medal for this race is normally a good one – well designed, big and uses quality materials.
The goody bag also normally includes a good haul of items.
There is also normally a bar offering post-race pints which is also a plus!
There are post-race massage services available to runners, although there’s normally a large waiting list for these services.
Food and drink stalls
There are a few food and drink stalls dotted around the finish line should you need to grab a quick bite to eat.
There are a range of good restaurants and eateries in Cambridge which I’ve written about below.
Where to meet family and friends
The best place to meet family and friends is on Midsummer Common itself in front of the race stage.
From here you can then make your way out into the city centre or back to your hotel.
And if you’re making a weekend of it…
Where to eat
The race organisers secure discounts at local restaurants and eateries each year so be sure to check out their discounts page for more information.
Here is my pick of some good restaurants in the area:
- Aromi – a lovely Sicilian eatery serving fresh sandwiches and treats at affordable prices.
- The Eagle – perhaps the most famous pub in Cambridge owing to its links with the scientists Crick and Watson (DNA was discovered just a stone’s throw away and they ran into this pub declaring their find). The pub also has graffiti from World War Two pilots on its ceiling. Owing to its popularity, it can be hard to find a table here on a weekend.
- Zizzi – a high street staple with some good carb loading options.
- Millworks – this place does some great options for the meat lovers.
- The Petersfield – one of my favourite pubs in Cambridge with great vegetarian and vegan options.
- Bibimbap House – a very tasty South Korean eatery on Mill Road – one of Cambridge’s best areas for independent dining and shopping.
Where to shop
Cambridge has its fair share of shops to keep you entertained the whole weekend.
The shopping hub is the Grand Arcade in the historic centre of Cambridge. This has over 30 shops and cafes to choose from, including John Lewis, Ted Baker, Topshop, New Look and Disney.
The other hub is the Grafton Centre on the other side of the city.
It doesn’t have quite a large range of shops, but this is where you can find the more affordable options like Primark, Poundland, Debenhams and Wilkinsons.
There are a few independent shops and cafes on Mill Road which is also worth a visit.
Where to visit
Cambridge is a treasure trove of sightseeing activities, most notably the university.
Visit Cambridge provides a host of tips and advice when visiting the city. Here’s my pick of things to do:
- Punt along the River Cam – a must for any visitor to Cambridge
- Visit the Orchard Tea Rooms in Grantchester – a great relaxing activity in this historic village
- Take a tour of Fitzwilliam Museum – Cambridge’s largest museum has lots of interesting exhibits to keep you entertained the whole afternoon
- Visit Kings College Chapel – Cambridge’s most iconic building and rightly so. The chapel is open to the public on most days and there is a small fee to enter.