Lesley Pymm reports: Yes, I promise you, that is what it says on the medal ‘Bath very long 1/2M’. When I entered it I thought it was going to be a half, then I realised it was a bit long. It was only on the day before the run that I realised quite how long it was – and how warm it was going to be. I was tempted to swap to the 10k on the day, but really needed to get some miles in. This was going to be matter of getting round and trying to enjoy it – I am not a warm weather runner! There were loads of feed/drink stations out there, so no need to carry anything.
At 10.00 we started in the grounds of Bath University and the first mile went well enough. We were all running along happily in Bathampton Woods and just trundling down a slope when the front runners came back up again telling us that they had gone wrong. We all turned round again and somehow I managed to end up at the back of the field. The runners behind me were still at the top of the hill and turned, and the faster ones went past me on the return climb – I could see them all disappearing ahead of me. The next thing I knew the marathon runners started to come past me. They started 30mins later than us, but had a shorter run to this point. It was a bit confusing at this stage as there were distance markers for the three different distances. it became clearer when we were away from the 10k route. I admit that there were times early on when I considered following the 10k!
We ran past the Sham Castle and then over a stile and down some steps before a long downhill on road. The problem with a long downill on an event like this is that you know that there will be uphills to follow. Not for a while though as, by mile 4, we were running along the canal towpath. I don’t really like towpath running much and was beginning to lose the will to live. I was very pleased when we left the canal at Bathampton. It was quite interesting here as we went over the toll bridge and climbed a bit further before getting onto a footpath that took us underneath the toll bridge! It was then along the River Avon for a while before getting to Batheaston where, after making good use of the feed station and other facilities, the first really steep climb started. This was 1 mile long up the Fosse Way – very straight as you would expect from a Roman road.
At the top, we had more refreshments and then started a very technical down hill into St Catherine’s Valley. It was good to be out of the sun and in some shade – but difficult to see exactly where the tree roots were, so care had to be taken. After a bit of road running at Brow Hill Road we then turned off to the most difficult climb of the day at about 9 miles. This was Stoney Lane – which was exactly as it says on the tin. It was very hard going and very stoney. At the top the marshal congratulated us on making it – not much option really! Then it was a bit of flat running over Holts Down with views of an old WWII airfield at Charmey Down.
Next came my least favourite part of the whole course – I don’t do steps!!! Down a very large number of uneaven steps to Chilcombe Bottom – I had to keep moving over to let other pass me as I really do struggle on steps. Of course, at the bottom we started to climb back up out of the valley again, before climbing up to the top of Little Solsbury Hill (as in Peter Gabriel). The view from the top was absolutely amazing with Bath (a long way) below us. It really is a lovely city.
Back down hill again and eventually we were back in Batheaston and then a lovely new cycle track back to Bathampton. I suddenly realised that I was going to have to go back onto the towpath. At least this would mean that I was nearly back and every step was taking me closer. Coming off the canal we turned into Sham Castle Lane and then started to climb…. and climb….. it seemed never ending! Eventually we were on North Road and still climbing. Towards the top there were marshals directing us into the woods again and onto a flattish path that took us back to the Universtity.
I did 16.52 miles – so it was a very long 1/2 and it took me 4 hours. It was a pretty tough course and I think I would have preferred it in Spring or Autumn when it was a bit cooler. Apart from the section near the beginning where it was not well marked and we went wrong – as did the marathon runners too, it was very well organised with loads of goodies out there to eat and various drinks on offer. I think the electrolite had run out at some of the feed stations by the time the marathon runners were doing their second loop. There was a medal and a pair of Bath Running Festival socks in the goody bag, for those who are into such things!