Brass Monkey Half Marathon Race Review

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On Sunday morning, Dermot O’Leary joined a large crowd of runners participating in the York Knavesmire Harriers-organised Brass Monkey Half Marathon’s 40th birthday celebrations – race founder Brian Hughes was present to send runners on their way.

Runners’ Guide

Two thousand runners will brave chilly conditions at this weekend’s Brass Monkey Half Marathon – one of Knavesmire Harriers’ most beloved events. Since its inaugural staging in 1983, this event has experienced tremendous growth and now attracts some of the finest athletes from Britain to take part. Yared Hagus of Wallsend AC appears set to defend his 2010 victory, although local runners Matthew Pierson (winner in 2010), Paul Lockwood (26th at Yorkshire Cross Country Championships this month), and Matthew Pierson are all potential challengers. The race starts off Bishopthorpe Road and follows its path through Bishopthorpe village and Acaster Lane via Appleton Roebuck before finishing back up behind York Racecourse Grandstands.


The course for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon features a mixture of winding trails, rugged fire roads and challenging singletrack. Race organizers employ their own private gritter to ensure a safe course experience – this winter race provides an ideal opportunity to build endurance.

York Knavesmire Harriers hold this race every year at York Racecourse. Since 1983, when its founder Brian Hughes announced the initial start in cold winter conditions – just 20 runners took part at that point – this event has grown into one of the UK’s premier running events. To symbolise the race’s extreme conditions it was named after brass cannonball trays once used on ships to keep cannonballs stable for launching cannons; its name refers to how in cold temperatures their metal would contract and dropping balls off – making this race all the more unique!

At 10am sharp, runners gather in the square for an eventful race which begins with a short downhill section designed to ease their legs in, before ascending through Bishopthorpe village and through five sets of speed bumps before returning back down through Bishopthorpe airfield and back onto its course. Marshalls on hand provide important cautionary signals and must pay particular attention in the swoops down to its airfield area which are particularly tricky and requires full focus from runners.

Race Finish

Once the Airfield section has concluded, the race continues in an anticlockwise direction to Appleton Roebuck – an idyllic village featuring beautiful houses and offering some gorgeous scenery along its route. You should take some time to discover this area and its features before racing forwards again.

After leaving the village, runners move to open country before returning into forestry again for the final leg. Its flat terrain makes this course ideal for speedy times. Once across the finish line, there’s free drink in the Race Tent as well as great prizes on display for those who have done particularly well; each participant also receives a medal to remember the occasion and help set new personal best times. It’s a wonderful way to kickstart 2019 – give it a go now and set a PB!


Please note that entries must be pre-entered due to COVID-19 regulations; once entry closes no refunds will be available. Transfers between participants can be done, with the original entrant receiving their new race number and T-shirt size before midnight of Monday 9th July as the transfer window closed.

Low winter sunlight was shining over runners as they crouched along Bishopthorpe Road this morning, waiting for the klaxon signaling start for York Knavesmire Harriers’ Brass Monkey half marathon at York racecourse to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Brian Hughes had come from Australia specifically to mark this momentous occasion; he has been shouting ‘go’ since its inception back in 1983! Founder Brian Hughes himself was there today to mark this special milestone event.


Dermot O’Leary took part in the annual Brass Monkey Half Marathon on Sunday, taking to Instagram to share photos from his run through beautiful countryside near York. Organized by York Knavesmire Harriers, this 40-year old run was started by Brian Hughes of their club; and on Sunday he was at its starting line to send off runners as they set out. Additionally, Brian Hughes joined them at their milestone celebration.

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