The Bath half was the proverbial tale of two halves.
It had already started raining when I got off the train and pootled over to the runner’s village, so I was worrying that my last minute decision to leave my lightweight running jacket and gloves at home so that I could take a recovery shake was going to bite me in the arse (it turned out that by the time the precipitation really started coming in I would have been too hot in a jacket and gloves anyway, though I didn’t end up drinking the shake after all). I’d brought along the hoodie that my roofer had left behind a couple of years ago and failed to pick up, paying it forwards to someone else after I discarded it at the start (they are collected for recycling). I also managed to weave myself quite a long way up in my starting pen (green, the second pen, so not that far from the start line).
It was the usual melee going across the start line with surprise barriers funnelling us away from the side of the road and over the timing mats. It was over 2 and a half minutes after the start that I finally crossed the line at a gentle jog (which is good for a mass start to a race if you’re not an elite athlete). The first kilometre or so is along quite a wide road and slightly downhill, so for once I found myself flying rather than stop-starting and having to duck and weave for space (which can be very tiring on the legs). Unfortunately I just couldn’t stop running at that speed. I was going far too fast, almost a minute per km faster than my target pace for the time I was aiming for (1 hr 50 minutes). But it felt good, and the road was clear with lots of supporters along the side (sorry Poggy, didn’t see you any of the times I went past the train station) and I was worried my GPS was looking a little low on battery power, so decided to see how long I could carry on at that sort of pace before aiming to drop back to my target pace.
I came through the 10k split at 51mins 25secs (my 10k pb is 47mins 57secs). I’d taken on a gel just beforehand in line with the fuelling strategy I had practised, but I had deviated from the fuelling plan a little by taking on some sports drink at around 7km as I’d not been able to pick up water from the previous station and it came before the next water station. The sports drink and gel didn’t play well and acted as a distraction for the rest of the race until my left glutei and ankle started vying for attention in the last 2 miles. I will stick to water next time if I am using gels – I know that works for me.
My back also started giving me some grief but I put on my big girl panties and zipped up my wo-man suit and set myself small targets to get through those last couple of miles. People were streaming past me at this stage (doing to ‘right’ thing and running a negative split, speeding up towards the end), and I knew that even if I went down to my easy pace that I should make it round in about my Bristol half time. So I found someone going at a similar pace to me and tried to keep with them. I told myself I’d just get to that next speed limit sign or traffic lights before I eased up. I kept high-fiving the little kids along the side of the road (the least you can do – standing out in the rain for three hours isn’t my kind of fun). I counted down the time left: 2 miles, well that’s 20 minutes tops I can last that long; 1 mile, only another 10 minutes; 1km, only 6 minutes max.
I didn’t notice the incline back up to the finish line (it has nothing on Ashton Court’s hill), but really hoped we were turning at the roundabout and not at Holbourne Museum. Alas it was not the case and the finish line looked a really long way away. I didn’t feel like a sprint finish as I had in Bristol, but there were a couple of guys about 20m ahead of me whipping up the crowd and they carried me home and over the line. The clock said 1:52:02, but my GPS said 1:49:22 and the official chip time was 1:49:24. So I made my target, but damn it hurt. I wouldn’t recommend going about it the way I did.
It was a long and slow procession back to the runner’s village, chatting with other runners. I got my photo taken and then headed over for ‘de-chipping’, going right down to the end of the line to the last lonely de-chippers, crouched on their stools in their rain ponchos, clipping off the wire ties that had attached the timing chips. Then it was off to retrieve my bag, get changed into some dry clothes and head back to the train station to stand on a platform, then stand on a train, then suffer the horrors of having to go down a flight of stairs then up another one to exit the station. Home for a very welcome hot shower, panda onesie and (later) pizza.
So yay, more bling, but done the hard way. At the end of the Bristol half marathon I wanted to do it again, at the end of the Bath half I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Donations as always gratefully received for Cancer Research: Donate here.