By Chris Townsend
The Bath Half Marathon is an iconic race that I had been thinking about running for a while so, when a number of my work colleagues signed up, it was a great excuse to empty my wallet and join
them! In the months and weeks leading up to the race, training was going well, an injury I was carrying was healing and thus my ever-changing lofty goals continued to swirl around my head!
About a week before the race, the coronavirus outbreak was front and centre in the news so I was checking my e-mail and message boards frequently for info as London and many other races were being either cancelled or postponed – I was grateful to learn that Bath was still going ahead as planned. However, the situation did have quite an impact on the race in terms of dramatic numbers of people dropping out including several of my work colleagues and friends at the last minute. To add to this, rumours were circulating of people coming out especially to boo runners. So we were not off to a great start all in all.
On race day, in true British fashion, the weather was fantastic!… it was (of course!) smashing it down with rain. Michelle and I were quite early so we dove for cover in a local Café. We were immediately asked what we wanted and, not being hungry, it took all of 0.01 seconds to opt for scrambled eggs on toast – The perfect pre-race bite! Several runners came into the Café and we all got talking, sharing stories and building that sense of running community that we all love so much.
On your marks! I was able to get into a good position in the starting pen just behind the faster/elite runners who had lots of space to warm up in their pen… we did not have that particular luxury as the rain continued to make its presence known! It was at this point that I outwardly announced to whoever would listen “I am going to get this race over and done with as soon as humanly possible, I just want to go home”… we were all shivering and trying to keep warm on the spot and a couple of other runners nodded to me with approval of my outburst, probably feeling the same, soaked to our skin!
11:00 and we are off! We all take off like we are running the 100 metres sprint… then like a wave crashing into a sea wall, we all came to grinding halt as we found ourselves running into the backs of other runners. After a brief moment, I resumed a rather ambitious pace; I did not need to look at my watch to know that I was running way too quick, but then I thought that I always feel like this when I am not warmed up and this feeling of total exhaustion will pass… so keep going! I am pretty sure we had only travelled a massive 800 metres at this point – I think it must have been down to the crowd and adrenaline.
From the get-go, I was travelling a little too quick for the half marathon distance; I know that getting swept along is pretty normal for most of us novice runners and, checking my watch, I confirmed that I was running close to my Parkrun speed! So, trying not to get too concerned about what would inevitably happen a little later on in the race, I made efforts to dial back the speed a little… however, at the 10k mark, I noted my time and was pretty sure that I had just smashed my 10k PB by around two minutes.. “woops!” As I was still feeling fresh, I decided to try to keep pushing on at this pace to see how much longer I could hold on.
The crowd support was amazing all round the course and I was really enjoying the experience despite the weather being awful – this really kept me going and feeling good. The things you see and hear can really make you smile and laugh and this helps you stay motivated while racing. However, at the 16k point, I could feel my energy begin to fade and the pace started to drop away. To counter this, I tried resetting my posture to distract myself as this pace was starting to hurt. At 2km to go, I ran past a live band which was blasting out A-ha’s 1985 hit ‘Take on me’ – this was a old favourite of mine which helped carry me home towards the finishing line a healthy 3.5mins faster than my previous best so, all in all, a good day in the office!