So having done Silverstone half marathon last year in preparation for Manchester I wanted another big race experience for London. A friend mentioned Bath Half so I signed up too, well after I choked at the entry fee first! Now I know I’m used to local club race prices but £40 for a half marathon seems mad to me but this now seems to be the normal for the big events.
I decided to make it a worthwhile trip so evolved it into a family weekend getaway too. I booked a hotel just outside Bath (because I forgot to book early) and headed up after the boys had finished school on Friday. On the Saturday we drove in, had a look around and took the boys to the Romans Baths Museum. It’s certainly a beautiful and interesting place to visit even if you’re not running!
I was under strict instructions by the boys to be back to the hotel for 7pm so I can be well rested for the next day….this obviously had nothing to do with Saturday Night Takeaway starting at that exact time too!!
A car load of Harriers were coming up on the day and it was nice to see there messages of just leaving, Gary where are you, I’m getting anxious, whilst I merrily made my way down to breakfast.
We caught a train into Bath too avoid the stress of traffic and parking. We split up on arrival with the wife and boys heading off towards mile 3 to find a good spot.
After visiting the toilet once more I jogged down to the start area as a warm up. I went the long way to fit in a mile and joined my pen. I did a few drills in the pen and had a little stretch.
Once we were set off it was quite comfortable with pace slowly increasing until we hit the first corner. I was on the inside and got pinned in and had to reduced to walking. Now bear in mind I was very close to the front this obviously only got worse. Once I got round the corner I was able to find my stride again and just looked for pockets of space. Once we got too mile 1 (6:11 /mi) it began to settle down.
I’m not sure if it was being pinned in and over compensating or spotting Harriers ahead but I went a little quick on the next mile (5:48/mi). You hit the a short sharp incline near Queens Square but with some fantastic noise from the drums and carnival band I hardly notice it first time round. Thereafter it’s a gentle decline and it was here I caught up with Dave. I gave him a pat on the back as I passed, said hello and then waved goodbye saying that’d I’d see him at the finish. I then started looking for both Gary and my Cheer squad. I spotted Gary’s vibrant orange calf guards first, he was about 100yds ahead. As I slowly began reeling him in, I was looking intently looking on the right side for the boys. Just as I was right behind Gary I heard my name being shouted and it turned out they were on the left!!(They’d been informed that it was a better position as they could dash across to mile 7)
I passed Gary sharing pleasantries and focused on finding a steady race pace. I did this well over the next two miles registering 6:02/mi (mile 3) and 6:00/mi (mile 4). You then cross a small bridge across the River Avon and head back towards Bath (mile 5 6:07/mi). There’s a Lucozade stop here, I took a bottle and had a few zips before tossing into the bin. This did get me thinking on how much lucozade and water gets wasted at these events, it’s criminal really when you consider the wider world.
Anyway on to mile 6, the return is a lovely flat route and after refuelling it was nice to just focus again on returning to a steady pace. There were some lovely old warehouse conversion along here with overhang extensions but other that there wasn’t much to see. I clocked a nice 6:01 /mi and got the surprise bonus of hearing my named being bellowed, there was no mistaking those voices and there was my family. I hadn’t expected to see them here and it was a nice surprise. This time I wasn’t missing my chance for a high five! I darted across the lanes and gave them the biggest high five. What I hadn’t realised is the marshals were now preparing to split the road for the second lap and I had to duck under some red tape to rejoin the racing line…oops!
You now enter the big crowds again and get that lift from the cheers. The only problem with loops is you now know what your facing!
I clocked in at 6:11 for mile 7 and was now focussed on hitting that incline around Queens Square. I’ve been doing a bit of spin recently and something you learn in these classes is hitting the beat. As I got to Queens Square the drums were going and I just focussed on that as I got to the incline, I shortened my stride but increased my steps to power me up. Then as soon as I saw that decline I pushed.
The route now is clearly separated with the slower runners on the left and the faster on the right.
I saw my boys again along this stretch and once more shot across to say hello, blow the wife a kiss and ploughed on with a “see you at the finish”
I clocked mile 8 at 6:13 and just brushed that to one side. However my legs were now beginning to feel heavier and doubt started to creep in to my mind on whether I could maintain my sub 1:21 pace. To be fair I’d run Wimborne 20 harder than I set out too the Sunday before and I think this was still in my legs. Mile 9 came with a 6:14/mi and I now just set a goal of beating my pb, after all my boys were here to see me succeed and I was going to let them down (truth be told they don’t mind, they just enjoy the trip away!).
I took another gel after I crossed the bridge and my watch beeped at mile 10 with a 6:16/mi.
It was now I began to lap a lot of the slower runners and it was fun spotting all the fancy dress costumes. The only problem was there was quite a lot of them which made it narrow and a few kept coming out of their lane to overtake without thinking to look over their shoulder.
When I passed mile 11 with another 6:16/mi I started to fear even a pb wasn’t on the cards. I told myself to keep pushing hard to maintain the pace. The crowds began to grow and this helped spur you me on. There was a slight decline on the next mile and this helped me register a 6:09/mi for mile 12, this helped mentally and told me I still got some in the tank.
You break free of the slower runners here and it was nice to have that space once again. You now know you’re on the finishing straight and that pushes you on even harder. I started to read people’s signs now and look to at the cheering faces as I pushed as hard as possible. I registered a 6:14 for mile 13 but I was still on the incline so stayed patient, I then hit the flat and again heard my name being called, I quickly zones in on them, gave a big wave and then said right they’re watching so time to put on a sprint!
I crossed the line in 1:21:08 beating my pb by 30 seconds. Whilst I’m super pleased to be 30 seconds quicker than this time last year, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed on missing out on that sub 1:21. That will just remain as a goal for this year.
So would I do this race again? – Bath is a beautiful place and well worth visiting but I wouldn’t do this race again. I didn’t particularly enjoy the race, the route is ok but doesn’t really take in the sights of Bath. Additionally it’s a lot of money and there just isn’t enough to the race to justify it.
Would I recommend it? – I wouldn’t go out of my way to say you must do this race. If asked I’d give the positives of big race experience, quick course, nice if you make a lonh weekend out of it but that’s about it.