A Bath Half Marathon Report by Debbie Docherty
One chilly winter’s morning, I found myself trudging down beautiful Bathwick Hill towards the runners’ village at Bath rugby ground with my two companions; Hugh, shivering pitifully, planning to race in what looked like his pyjamas, not in a happy frame of mind as he’d left his anorak and race number back in London. Charles, in his top hat, running for Julian House Homeless Shelter, was looking uncannily like the undertaker at my own funeral. You could say the atmosphere was a little grim….then it began to snow.
But, spirits lifted by the sun emerging from the clouds and the stunning views across the Bath skyline, we entered the arena. The ‘BATHALF’ is brilliantly organised. Hugh’s registration was quickly completed, bags put in storage and we were off through the razzmatazz to our clearly signposted starting points. I took my place at the back of the 13,000 runners, all jostling to achieve their own personal challenges; including a perambulating telephone box, charity runners and not to mention the elite athletes aiming for a new course record. The noise of the 30,000 spectators cheering everyone on their way, the sounds of the battle of the bands lifting our spirits were all incredibly exciting and suddenly we were off!
Out up the river and back, the Vitality Bath Half Marathon is a fast flat course, straddling both sides of the river Avon and avoiding all the hills surrounding the City. The blurb says it is an ‘honest’ two-lap course with proven PB (‘personal best’ time) criteria, entirely traffic-free (full road closures throughout), officially described as flat with three undulations. Even at the front end you’ll have plenty of company to pull you round for a good time. This is a ‘Big City’ race, starting & finishing at the same point in Great Pulteney Street – with a roadway spanning 46 feet – one of the widest Georgian boulevards in Europe and a course that threads through the heart of this historic city.
The first mile is gently downhill down Pulteney Road to Churchill Bridge – so resist all temptations to go off too fast. (I quite enjoyed this bit, cheekily waving to friends in the crowd )
You then follow two identical laps from Churchill Bridge, gently rising up past Green Park Station, a gentle ‘pull’ round Queen Square (I coped with the hill first time round, not so happy on second circuit), then down Charlotte Street and out along the Upper Bristol Road, (lulled into a false sense of security, I was settling into a nice steady pace and enjoying myself. It was here that I succumbed to the disgusting energy gel, second time around) gently undulating along Newbridge Road, and a longer ‘pull’ up to the ‘New Bridge’ at the beginning of the dual carriageway (ooof! that was a bit of a sneaky incline). From the ‘Twerton Fork’ the race heads back towards the City centre (still just about holding on) pancake flat along Lower Bristol Road before crossing over Churchill Bridge and up Green Park again for the beginning of the second lap. (10k marker …oh dear quite a bit further to go ) At the end of the second lap the runners pass across Churchill Bridge, finally rising gently (but remorselessly!) back up Pulteney Road (by now my feet were killing me – wrong socks – my glutes were screaming for a rest…that last mile seemed to take an hour ) all the way to the finish with a dramatic last 200 metres in Great Pulteney Street (Yes, very dramatic! Probably crying at this point but like childbirth you don’t remember much about the pain …only the exhilaration of having made it!
Hooray! We all made it despite the cold and windy weather – Hugh and Charles in under 2 hours and I managed 2hours 39min. New records were set. For the first time in 12 years, a British male took the top spot, with Paul Martelletti finishing the 13.1 mile course in 65 minutes and 28 seconds. Paul also recently won the 2015 Vitality Brighton Half Marathon.
I can thoroughly recommend the ‘BATHHALF’ for an excellent weekend away. What can be better than a trip to such a beautiful city? Run the race, get a half marathon PB, enjoy the music, see the sights, be cultured at the Bath Literature Festival, check out the fab shops, eat and drink in the coffee houses, pubs, restaurants?? Last but not least why not chill out after the run in the miraculous Bath Spa…floating in the natural hot springs pool, high above the rooftops gazing out over the City to the fields beyond…..