When I heard there was going to be a new Bristol to Bath marathon in 2015, I had to sign up – despite the idea of running 26.2 miles on tarmac not appealing to me in the slightest – mainly because it was the first one ever, and takes place on my doorstep, and it would have been rude not to!
I run to feel free, be challenged physically, and to explore… Road-running, to me, doesn’t generally involve exploring and isn’t particularly adventurous, so hence why I prefer to run trails, particularly those in beautiful places with technical terrain, or at least a fair amount of hills. Even so, I was excited to have the opportunity to run an organised event, local to me, and get to see new parts of Bristol/Bath which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited.
As we live closer to Bath than Bristol, my husband and I travelled to Bath and took the dedicated race bus at around 7am from Bath to Bristol, which cost £5, booked in advance. This all left on time, and the only very minor issue with this was that our particular driver took us to Bristol bus station, rather than Baldwin Street as expected. This meant an extra few minutes’ walk to Queen Square (where the bag drop and toilets were). I had wondered how the bag drop would work – it was great: drop your kit off at Queen Square, it goes straight into a lorry, which transports all the bags to the finish line in Bath where you collect it from. Simples!
The race itself
The race starts on Princes Street and pretty much runs the Bristol Half Marathon route out and back along the A4 Portway, before heading to Feeder Road, through areas of South Gloucestershire (including Hanham and Longwell Green) on the A431, through Kelston and into Bath.
I did not particularly train for this race – the longest I had run since Trail Marathon Wales in June was the Bristol Half Marathon in September, and I have never run further than a half marathon on tarmac (that I can recall) so had no expected or target time to get it done in. It is definitely not one for PB-hunters, as the second half of the route includes around 400 metres of climbing! The main climbs were at around 24k and 34k, as shown in the profile below.
After a pretty steady first 17k, I started having stomach cramps as we headed away from central Bristol. I believe this is because I didn’t drink enough water to help digest the High5 gels I had taken. They weren’t awful, but enough to slow me down – and then my ITB started playing up. Damn roads! I don’t tend to have the ITB issue on trails. Still, I knew what the problem was, and this encouraged me to improve my form in the remainder of the race, to minimise the pain.
I made up a lot of places in the second half, despite slowing down significantly myself, probably because I am used to (and enjoy?!) hills. Anyone who ran this without expecting the hills would have had a bit of a shock when they got to 24k. Given the other two marathons I have run are Transgrancanaria marathon and Trail Marathon Wales, the B2B marathon was unsurprisingly by far my quickest marathon time, at 4h47. I was quite pleased with this, as I finished feeling good and know I could have pushed more, if I had wanted to, in the second half.
Highlights and room for improvement
The highlight of the race was undoubtedly the crowd support, particularly in South Gloucestershire on the way out of Bristol, where the residential streets we were running through were lined with hundreds of people of all ages, who had come out to cheer the runners on, offering jelly babies galore. I was also very impressed with the organisation. I had anticipated issues, given it was a first-time event, but my experience was of a slick, well-run race – with a goody bag including mini ActivBod toiletries, loads of snacks and a nice medal. I was, however, disappointed that there wasn’t a finisher’s T-shirt. To be fair, I haven’t run a road race yet where the finisher’s T-shirt is actually something that fits me and that I would want to wear – they’re normally made out of nasty fabric, or see-through, or just big – a ‘small’ unisex top is not going to fit most women! I wish organisers would get with the times and start offering these – perhaps RunBB could lead the way for road races with some decent T-shirts in the bag next year. Transgrancanaria put everyone else to shame, with their fitted technical North Face tees.
It was perfect running temperature, around 13 degrees and dry, and I opted to wear my race vest. I wasn’t the only one wearing the vest, and I figured that if you own a race vest, why not wear it? I used it to carry my gels, water bottle, phone, and, once I had warmed up and taken it off, my rain jacket.