Last weekend I ran the inaugural Bristol to Bath marathon. It was a bit of a mystery how this one way going to go. On the positive side, I’d had a decent race at Dartington the weekend before, and got a good block of warm weather training the previous month at La Santa. A potential drawback was that most of the training had been oriented towards triathlons, and I hadn’t got many long runs in. To date, the longest I had run was an extremely slow 15 miler at the beginning of September. I did however do a half marathon, and 2 days later, a 10x1k track session on tired legs in La Santa. Looking back, I really think that 10x1k on the track was a good session. I also think that running after a cycle is good for overall strength and means that you are used to running when the legs don’t feel fresh.
I must say a quick thanks to Kris & Katie for their wonderful hosting and cooking, even going so far to cook for my parents who had come down to support. A short jog to the start line got us there in plenty of time, and I was surprised that I could walk into the sub 3hr pen at the front. With not too many people in there, I found myself on the front row chatting to a guy who was aiming for 2.45, he came in half an hour later so not sure what happened there. The profile of the course, as you can see from the pic below, meant that the second half would have some tough hills. It also meant that the first half was a good opportunity to get some quicker miles in the bag. The beginning route is pretty much the same as the Bristol half marathon. You tick off around 9 miles along the portway which is always fast, particularly on a still day like it was. It was great marathoning weather really, with just enough chill to keep you from getting too hot, and none of the rain that had been around the day before.
Elevation map of the route – All of the climbs come in the second half on the way out too Bath.
We set off with a smile… I have proof:
I went through the first mile in 6.12. and found myself running with a guy called David Burton who I ended up running most of the race with. We settled into a pace around 6.20 min miles which was comfortable. With the marathon you just want to tick a lot of miles off without too much effort. I was happy with the pace and we formed into a small group of about 4 early on. I took on water at every opportunity. I’d bought one gel with me and given another to Sarah who was going to give it me on course. I was holding back taking the gel I had until I could get another one, but then I didn’t see her which was a massive blow really. I took the gel I had around 12 miles. Unfortunately the energy stops on the course were a bit useless. The drink was disgusting and served in cups which made it impossible to drink from as you ran. I saw my parents as we drew near Bristol temple meads. The pace had been good through the city but I knew it would get a lot tougher and I was concerned I would’t have enough nutrition for the end.
Apparently I was in 23rd position at the halfway point which we hit in 1.23.22. We were catching the odd person here and there now. It’s quite nice to pass people in a race – the other way around is not much fun. Mile 15 is where that big bump on the profile above hits. This was a 7min/mile for me, but actually didn’t feel too bad and we settled back to 6.20’s. The other guys had slipped back but the other chap and me were running an identical pace. At some point, a little earlier than I would have hoped, I could feel my hamstrings getting sore. They didn’t seem to be affecting pace too much though. I was expecting a rather lonely venture once we were out of Bristol, before hitting Bath, but it was so great that people had come out of there houses to support. It really made a difference. There was some really loud cheering at a few bits when we were in the smaller villages like Bitten – I’m sure I remember a little tunnel of noise that really made me smile. Somewhere along the way, a friend of David’s appeared and ran alongside him pulling a few gels from his bag. It was perhaps a bit cheeky but I asked if he had any spare… they did, and that was just what I needed. It was the same SIS isotonic gel I had given to Sarah to give me, bloody lucky really, and it potentially saved my race. If you ever read this David…massive thanks for that !
At mile 20 I could feel 6.20’s were getting harder to hold. As we hit a downhill I pulled back a bit and let David go on. He finished about 30 seconds ahead but for me I needed to make a switch from that 6.20 pace on the flats to a 6.30 pace on the flats. My downhill running is also not so great, and something I really should practice a bit more. As is often the case when you reach the bottom of a hill, the up is soon to come. My slowest mile of the race was a 7.29 at mile 21, again to be expected if you see the profile above. After that, it was a case of just keep going. The hamstrings hurt. The calf muscles hurt. You can see in the pic below, it was getting a bit painful !
There was a really nice part which involved coming down a hill and looking over Bath. Not so nice for a guy in front of me who pulled a hamstring- poor chap, but I appreciated it. It was also nice to know that most of the hills were behind us. The course twisted around Bath for a while. It was great to see my parents again in the last mile. They’re usually the loudest people cheering so you can’t miss them. There’s a bit of uphill into the park to finish and then you see the line. I had to keep going quite swiftly to get over the line before the next minute ticked on, finishing in a PB of 2.50.54 and coming 12th. I was really happy with my race and it was nice to finish the season on a high.
I picked up my bag and headed to get a massage. It was’t a great massage but it certainly made it easier to walk around afterwards. I’m going to take it easy for a while now. I know my legs were not entirely ready for that distance, so they’re going to get a good few weeks of recuperation before I even think about doing anything strenuous. What would I do next time? Well, definitely ensure I’ve got gels, and I’ll probably go for 3 instead of the 2 that I had. I think the longer, slightly slower interval sets are good training and I’d probably focus more on extending the length of these. The fact that the course was hilly was perhaps of benefit to me, where the cycling strength tends to help a bit. If I did this course again, I’d get some practice running downhill. Would I do it again? Absolutely, and I’d totally recommend it to everyone, but I think I’ll try and find a flat course for the next one to see how much quicker I can go.