I first visited Bath for a weekend break in 2014 and absolutely fell in love with how quaint it was. I have been looking looking for an excuse to go back ever since, so when I was offered the opportunity to run Bath Half I jumped at the chance; this dominated Week 15 of marathon training.
We decided to make a three day weekend of it and spent Friday and Saturday exploring Bath, site seeing, brunching, dining, snacking, coffee shop hoping and generally enjoying life. My number one brunch recommendation goes to Boston Tea Party, it definitely hits the spot.
We stayed for two nights in the Travel Lodge, every where else was either booked up or super expensive and we figured we would only be using the room to sleep. There are two Travel Lodges in Bath, Waterside and Central. The Central one is based in a beautiful looking building in a beautiful street very close to the infamous Royal Crescent. It was a no brainer! Except we discovered upon checking in that it was above a night club, that was open until 3 am. Not getting to sleep until 4 am, by the time the drunk stag/hen do groups moved along from outside the club, is not ideal two nights in a row before a Half Marathon; just a little heads up for any one looking at accommodation for the 2017 race, stay at the Waterside Travel Lodge.
The night before I had a little bit of pre-race race nerves but it was mainly excitement. I did my flat lay, charged my devices and sat thinking about making my sub 2 hour half marathon goal a reality. I worked out my pacing would have to be 9 minute miles, whereas I normally run at 10:30 marathon pace. In short I’m not a fast runner and I knew I was going to have to really push myself to stick to that number. I shared my hopes on Instagram and received a lot of lovely supportive messages. I had put it out there on social media and so in my mind there was no going back.
Despite the lack of sleep the race started at a very respectable 11 am. For someone who isn’t a morning person this was music to my ears. Those 9 am race starts are a killer for me. I was able to wake up, check out of the hotel, load up the car and amble along to the runners village in my own time and still made it there for 10:15 am. Warning too much information alert (note to all non-runners the following is a perfectly acceptable comment to make) One thing I was able to do was properly go to the toilet and this most definitely weighed on my mind as I approached the start line.
The weather had so far been average at best, there were patches of sunshine but it was mostly cloudy and cold, I had been wearing a thick jumper and a coat. My race outfit (above) consisted of full length running tights (yes they are beautiful and amazing to run in – more on these to come) and a long sleeved top with a very thin vest underneath. I had even packed my waterproof running jacket in the event of rain. What I hadn’t accounted for was brilliant sunshine.
The race start/finish line is on the beautiful Georgian boulevard, Great Pulteney Street and I have to share with you this fantastic picture taken by Wiltshire Air Ambulance of 12,300 runners waiting for the klaxon to sound.
The only problem is that shortly after the start the road narrows considerably and I found myself only half jogging at the beginning to avoid bumping into the people in front of me whilst still being jostled from people either side and behind. The first mile was downhill and it was tempting to try and gain some time. I started out with an 8 minute mile, I was feeling good, enjoying the atmosphere and weather. I say to myself every race, stick to the plan, don’t go out to hard you will over do it too early but you get caught up in the moment and having stood at the start line for 20 minutes I just wanted to run.
By Mile 2 I was struggling with the heat. It was hot and there were an array of garments that had been thrown to the side of the road. I had not anticipated this. All of my marathon training and long runs have been in the cold and I began to panic a little. So I had the option of struggle on with the heat in my long sleeved top or take it off revealing a delightful skin tight, leaves nothing to the imagination peach coloured top. Realistically I knew that no one cared what I looked like and if there were photographs then it would be at my discretion to share them.
At Mile 4 I grabbed some water and that coupled with the top having come off cooled me down and saw me keeping pace. At Mile 5.5 I saw a blur speed past me on my right shoulder it was the elite athlete Robert Mbithi who went on to win and beat the course record with a time of 1:01:45.
My goal was to hit 6.25 miles by the hour mark as I usually run a negative split and anticipated making up the additional 0.35 in the second half. I managed it in 1:01:43 and a sub 2 hour time, even if it was 01:59:59 was in sight. By Mile 7 we were completing the second loop of the course. Generally I tend to prefer courses that are a single lap because other wise on the first lap, you know that you are going to have to run this all over again, but on the second lap its some what comforting to know its now the last time you are passing this particular point and you know exactly where the water stations will be. I had my sachet of Pip and Nut, tapped a power up sign and encouraged my legs to go that little bit faster.
Mile 8 saw me in difficulty. I am very fair skinned and I was burning from the sun. I could feel my pasty arms, chest and back, exposed for to the sun for the first time in over six months frazzling. I tried to run in the shade where possible but much of the long stretches of road were fully exposed. Secondly, wearing the silly peach tank top, I had my first experience of chaffing. One small patch on the underside of each of my upper arms. It stung and burnt and saw me trying to run with my arms lifted up to avoid contact, which is where I think I began to slow down. In hindsight I should have put my long sleeved top back on to stop the sunburn and chaffing but it was just so hot.
Mile 9 and my watch cut out. Storage full. I had remembered to full charge it but I hadn’t even thought about storage. I hadn’t deleted a single run from the watch since I first got it in October, I didn’t even know that was something I had to do. It was a blow as I had no idea what my pace was running at. At that point I knew in the back of my head that I wasn’t going to achieve a sub 2 hour time. I powered on knowing that I wanted to get as close as possible and failing that a time under my current PB of 02:06:28.
Mile 10 I was on my second lucazade and third bottle of water and desperately needed the toilet. Running with a full bladder is not fun but there was no way I was going to concede the time for a toilet break.
Mile 11 went much like this. Everything hurts. Like everything. I think my toes are bleeding (they weren’t). I want to stop. Is this over yet. I’m desperate for the toilet. Why did I choose do to this. Do I even like running. This is awful. Why am I not in a pub garden with a glass of wine. How the hell am I going to run a full marathon in a few weeks.
Then I saw the Mile 12 marker. My brain kicked into gear and all I thought was the faster you run the faster its all over. Potentially 8-9 minutes and its all over. But seriously who makes the last mile of a half marathon course up hill. That was just cruel. I really needed Eye of the Tiger to come on at that point, instead my headphones cut out! I dug deep really deep and as horrendous as this picture is I think it truly emphasises the effort I was putting in, that words can’t fully express.
As I rounded the corner back onto Great Pulteney Street, the atmosphere was electric. The streets were lined, jam packed with supporters and that big clock was ticking. I had a quick glance but didn’t want to waste any energy figuring out my time, I just sprinted as fast as I could to the finish line; every second counts!
In the end my time was 02:11:09 and I felt a real sense of disappointment. Not only was it 11:10 over my goal of a sub 2 hr. I was 05:41 over my current PB. As I stood in the queue to be given my medal and t-shirt (not a great idea to make people stand still in a queue rather than be able to walk immediately after finishing a race…) I felt crushed. If you had told me this time last year I would be voluntarily running a half marathon in that time I wouldn’t have believed you, because I wasn’t even running yet.
We sought out a table at Nandos and I refueled with ALL THE CARBS and a teeny bit of protein between two carby bits. As we drove back to London with the sun setting behind us I decided that today was a race full of lessons learnt. I may still be chasing that sub 2 hour goal but the things I learnt during Bath Half are far more valuable ahead of my marathon than achieving sub 2 hrs; there’s time to focus on that later in the year and I wasn’t going to let that ruin an otherwise fantastic weekend.
In some respects I wish I hadn’t put the pressure on myself so much and I would have enjoyed the race a lot more. I would definitely recommend running Bath Half, no doubt I will do in the future, and I would definitely recommend you combine it with a weekend break. A tremendous thank you to the race organisers, all the volunteers and spectators and to Alex for dealing with everything that goes along with having a girlfriend who runs.
I am now slightly terrified at the prospect of running a full Marathon in 33 days. I have always said that I am not looking to run it in any particular time, I just want to finish but if I’m being honest I’ve always sort of had a time in the back of my head. Learning from Bath Half I am well and truly banishing that. I want to enjoy my first marathon as much as possible. If it takes me six hours and a toilet stop then that’s what it takes, I’m unlikely to run above a 11:30 mile and I may be the slowest people of those I know running, to finish. That’s ok, because its going to be my, pressure free, marathon and I want to enjoy it. One thing is for sure I’m packing suncream and vaseline.
Now I just need my legs to recover asap because I’m running North London Half next Sunday…….