The Brilliant Bath Half
I was first supposed to run the Bath Half last year. However, that wasn’t to be, as I was just coming back from injury after fracturing my fibula. I deferred my place to this year as I couldn’t get a refund. At that point, I thought I would be fit and running regularly by the time the race came around again. Little did I know, that wasn’t going to be the case. After a bout of illness at the end of last year coupled with life taking over, I hadn’t really been running leading up to this race.
Location and race details
If you have ever been to Bath, you will know its a cracking, unique, feel-good city combining vibrant contemporary culture with a rich history and heritage. The majority of the buildings are honey-coloured Georgian architecture straight out of a Jane Austen novel. I like the city and have visited several times, as my sister lived there for many years. More about the race…
The Bath Half is rumoured to be one of the best half marathons in the country. I can definitely say it lived up to its reputation! It’s run on fully closed roads comprising of two-laps and listed as flat. Attracting many runners from all over the country, it sells out (15000 places) most years which is a testament of how great the event is. The Bath Half has run every year since 1982 except for 2018, when cancelled due to snow. In 2019 it raised over £2 million for a range of charities and local voluntary groups, used to fund essential services, as well as providing an opportunity for fitness and wellbeing for local residents, and others further afield.
Bib numbers, timing chips, and race information arrived by post in good time ahead of the event, so no need to worry about that on the day. I was staying in an Airbnb in Twerton, approximately a 30-minute walk from the centre of Bath and the race village. The race start time was 11:00. It had been raining all morning. I made my way there glamorously sporting the bin liner look to keep dry.
The race village
The race village was located next to Bath rugby club Marquees were in place on the grass area for the various charity runners and bag drop, etc. As it was raining, the ground was quite muddy where people had been walking across the grass. However, the organisers placed boards down for people to walk on. They also designated exits to the starting areas for the each colour bib number. These corresponded to predicted finishing times. White for the elite and faster runners, green and then orange.
There was a call for runners to make their way to the start areas/pens. Following the signs corresponding with your bib colour led you to your starting pen. These were on a few side roads near to the main broad starting and finishing road.
The start of the race
After the elite runners had started, it seemed the organisers allowed the runners to just get on their way. Part of the reason for this, I believe, was due to the weather. Everyone held off getting to race village until the last minute so as not to get soaked through, or perhaps everyone was running late, excuse the pun.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to run at this event. Especially in light of all the other events across the country closing due to the coronavirus.
The route and recap
Eventually, the rain did slacken off somewhat as the race got underway. As I was only just getting back into my running, I took a repeated 8 minute run and 1 minute walk approach for the entire race. I started to tire a little after km 16. This was not really surprising, when you consider I had only run 7 times in the last 14 days with the longest run being 10k. All the others were shorter around the 5km mark.
Several runners were keeping the fun in the run by dressing up. A unicorn, Pacman, Scooby-Doo, elephants, teddy bears, a butterfly, a shoe, and a group of runners carrying a bodied stretcher raising money for Cystic Fibrosis, to name a few. In addition, I even saw a caterpillar made up of six runners joined together. They were attempting a Guinness World Record for the first and fastest half marathon in a 6-person costume.
Although the race was listed as flat, the route had a couple of minor slopes to contend with. But, nothing that would stop you in your tracks and force you to walk. A small incline lead to Queens Square, which was full of supporters and some of the charity support teams.
You could hear lots of cheering as you approached and made your way around the square. It was brilliant. Suddenly, the crowd roared, and there were shouts for ‘Freddie’! A runner passed me wearing white trousers and what seemed to be a yellow leather jacket…yes, you guessed right, it was Freddie Mercury from Queen!
The crowd absolutely loved it. It put a smile on everyone’s face, as well as mine. On exiting the square, there was a pleasant downward slope, as the route took you away from the centre. I used this section to release the tension in my body, by allowing my arms to relax and shaking them out. Meanwhile, I gently continued letting the downward slope do the work for me.
Along the route, several bands were playing. I believe there was a ‘battle of the bands’ competition taking place. The music was brilliant, I particularly enjoyed the music from the band at the Victoria Pub. They played lively, upbeat and well-known songs. A little further down the road, another group was playing, with marshals dancing away and handing out loads of jelly babies. I had never seen such a large tray full of sweets.
Students were in their front gardens playing music and cheering you on. Guesthouses also played music. One put speakers in the windows and the lady danced away. The atmosphere was tremendous, so positive and uplifting. As your name was also on your bib number, the onlookers calling you out and with words of encouragement throughout.
I had my own little support crew with me in the form of family. The Airbnb where we were staying was only a short walk from the lower Bristol Road, where the route ran.
Usually, I don’t like races with laps, but this was different. There wasn’t a section which didn’t have any supporters, a band, or marshals, etc. I love it when the crowds keep you going! I always find I run well when there are cheers along the way. At no point in the race did any negativity creep in.
The roads had a line of cones in the middle to allow the elite and faster runners to pass the slower runners, like me on the right. They came flying past, their pace was incredible as they dashed down the road. The first finisher completed the course in just over the hour (01.04.14) to give you an idea of how quick they were going.
The water stations were manned with plenty of volunteers. They handed out paper cups instead of plastic ones filled with water. This was in line with Bath Half trying to make the event plastic free. Hydrozones could be used to top up with tap water, if you brought your own reusable bottle along.
Also, along the route, many official photographers took your picture. I smiled, waved, posed, etc., whenever I saw a camera but am sure I probably got caught looking a little worse for wear by a few.
The medal and goody bag
After crossing the finishing line, I made my way back to the race village to collect my goody bag and medal (a couple of minutes walk). There was a water terminal on the way, it was just what I needed. The race staff handed out goody bags by T-shirt size. Your medal was in the bag.
I do feel medals should be given out separately at the end of the races. It’s always nice to receive your bling shortly after crossing the line, to mark your achievement. The medal, albeit nice, was quite small. I must say I did expect it to be bigger for an event of this size. Furthermore, I am a firm believer the longer the distance or larger the event should mean the larger medal! Not to worry, the experience and atmosphere compensated for this. It was fantastic, I don’t think you will find much better!
Being a plastic-free event the goody bag was a brown paper bag with handles, similar to that of a Chinese takeaway. A good idea potentially, however, probably not the most helpful on a wet day. While carrying my bag, it developed a hole on the seam in the corner along its base. A sweet dropped out. Fortunately, I had already taken my medal out and was wearing it around my neck. Otherwise, I might have been medal-less!
The contents of the bag contained;
- A chocolate sweet
- Protein almond flapjack
- Protein toasted caramel nut bar
- Super snack seed nut mix packet
- A packet of Eat Real lentil chips/crisps
- Two high five zero sugar calorie-free hydration tablets
- Bio freeze gel for muscle aches
- Some leaflets
And of course, your technical finishers T-shirt, not forgetting the medal.
Time and summary
I finished the Bath Half with a time of 02:57.03 by adopting a easy 8-minute run, followed by a 1-minute walk and repeating. My target time was 3 hours.
At km 19 looked at my watch, my elapsed time was 2 hours 37 minutes, I was ahead of schedule but starting to fatigue a little. I realised I could reach my target of 3 hours by walking the last 2 km, so that’s what I did. I thought this was a good option with the view to reduce the risk of picking up an injury. Let’s face it, running a half marathon with next to no training, (in my case 7 runs in two weeks) is probably not a good idea. I certainly didn’t want to pick up any injuries which could halt me in my tracks again. Especially with more meaningful goals in mind down the line. All things considered, I am pretty pleased with how things went and the strategy I adopted.
As you have to start and finish at the race village, next time, I would probably utilise the bag drop as there were plenty of people on hand. Everything was efficient and I found the event very well organised.
After the race had finished the sun and blue sky made an appearance. Murphy’s law. Despite the weather not being that brilliant and half the runners boycotting the race due to concerns about the coronavirus…it was a terrific experience with an superb atmosphere. I can only imagine with good weather and a full turnout it would be even better!
I am going to rate the Bath Half 4.5 out of 5 because the medal could have been a bit bigger otherwise I would have rated the event as 4.75!
Route and elevation profile
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