Bristol to Bath Marathon 2015
I always enjoy doing a new event, but doing a new event which is in itself new and on the back door of where I grew up is something a bit extra and I was fortunate to secure a place in the Bristol to Bath Marathon inaugural event via one of my nominated charities, Macmillan Cancer Support. I knew it would be a challenging route as the second half involved plenty of hills and the first half covered much of the Bristol Half Marathon route - not necessarily an easy one.
After the 40-40-40 Chester Marathon, five of us ended up running with four more of the team along the course cheering us. Of the five running, two had only run their first marathon in Chester, Maciej and Nancey. It took me a year before I ran my second! Maciej informed me he has the aim of doing 41 by the time he's 40 to be one ahead of me. As he is the same age as I was at my first marathon he has every chance! Lee Scott, like Maciej, lives in Bristol and was using the course as a training run for the London to Brighton Ultra Marathon next May, running over 4 miles before the start, with the fifth runner being Adam Holland, who secured an Elite place late on.
We came into the west side of Bath and the suburb of Weston, up another short sharp hill and mile 23. Another mile with a dip and climb and assurances that it was the final hill. Little did the lady know I'd seen the course profile and knew the final hill was as good as the finish! The bigger corner was on the downward part of this dip I thought my right leg was going to cave in as it felt like the knee had gone. It held out and I kept on going into the city centre. I was expecting to see a few friendly faces in the final mile, including two more Chester runners, Rachel Clarke and Lindi Day, along with other friends, Esther, Claire & Dave and respective children of the aforementioned. The 25 mile point was coming round the World famous Royal Circus and then a drop right through the heart of Bath's shopping area, round the Grand Hotel and past the Bridge and Abbey before coming back through the centre on a gentle (?!) climb. This included three sides of Queen's Square - not a flat square! I had still seen no one I was looking for - where were they all!
Through mile 26 and the final gradient took us into the park beneath the Royal Crescent. An unexpected face cheered me through - Craig Ellis, a former work colleague, before finally seeing Rachel, Claire et al on the final stretch. However, what made the final hundred metres more impressive was I got cheered on by Adam, who was on the presentation bus about to be awarded the winner's trophy! Not aware that I've ever been cheered by the race winner before. This was topped off with crossing the line having not walked any part of the course for the first time in an estimated 18 marathons! My time of 3:36:56 was my 4th fastest ever and given the challenging course, all the more rewarding. As I headed down the finishers funnel, Uncle Derek greeted me and confirmed Adam had won the race by a matter of 40 seconds.
We left the centre of Bristol and headed out along the Avon valley on Feeder Road to Netham and the half way point. Chris Briton was there, in his 40-40-40 top, encouraging us through and getting pictures. 1:40 approx at half way - a good pace and I felt OK. My knee had twinged a bit at the start but had settled and fatigue hadn't hit me either. However the half way marker also marked the commencement of our first real hill, as we had a short sharp climb up Netham Hill and then dropped down Crews Hole Road. The route followed on into a less urbanised area before we turned a sharp left and up our next sharp hill into Hanham. Whilst I slowed a little on the hills, I didn't lose much ground and still felt good. A brief loo stop before the third noticeable climb and mile 16 in Willsbridge and it was out into the countryside section, leaving Bristol behind.
We carried on following what the A431 through Bitton and at 18 miles my brother John (another of the Chester team), and partner, Becci, were on hand to cheer us through - complete with a traffic cone acting as a loud hailer. Much to my surprise I still felt OK, maintaining a steady pace and not deterred by the undulating course. I knew mile 20 took us up the biggest climb, so as the 3:30 pacer passed me around 18 miles I watched them ahead of me starting to rise. The climb started about quarter of a mile after the 20 mile marker as we entered Kelston. The course had been well supported throughout but the one point where throngs of people would have been welcomed they were somewhat depleted. There were a few there still, informing us the top was just round the corner. Three corners and a mile later we finally hit the summit and not much into the drop back down we hit mile 22. And I hadn't walked any of it! I was feeling the downhills more as the impact was felt.
Some of the support - from top left: Esther, Rachel, Megan and Thomas; Claire; (Uncle) Derek
Bottom left: John “Syd” with Nancey’s tongue behind and below: Chris Britton hosting Lucas
Nancey and Lucas on the start line
Left - Lucas running past John & Becci between 18 and 19 miles.
Below - Nancey at the same point
Coming through at halfway, picture taken by Chris Britton
Derek went to keep an eye out for Nancey whilst I managed to get to Adam and congratulate him. He had run the course 3 minutes slower than Chester (2:31:) and said the hills were the reason he won as the second place runner had taken the lead at mile 12 and it had been a real tussle once the hills progressed. I was delighted for him. Nancey finished in 4:04 - a minute behind Chester, Lee in 4:01 and Maciej in 4:38. All excellent times given the course and the shot time since Chester. Sadly we didn't see Lindi, although she was out cheering. An opportunity for a catch up with those who were about and John & Becci finally caught up with us - having missed me by about 2 minutes in Queen's Square as I'd been faster than expected.
A well organised event, well supported and despite the hills, an enjoyable course. I tend to like a few mild climbs and drops as it breaks up the course. My finish time reflect and gave me an added boast for Athens two weeks later, which includes a 10km climb! Thanks to everyone who was out supporting and showed more support through donations.
Adam leading the race half way in?
I stayed with one of the Chester Team, Chris Britton, who's flat was a few hundred metres off the half way point. Chris dropped me in to the start after my whooping 4 hours sleep (I'd driven from Leeds after work), and I located Nancey and Lee in Queen's Square before the start. Nancey was with her Dad, my Uncle Derek, who'd be cheering us along. Having dealt with the usual toilet queues etc before the start, we lined up ready for the 9am start and off we went, a loop around the centre of Bristol and out westbound (the wrong way to get to Bath!) to follow the Portway out under the Clifton Suspension Bridge on an out and back 6 mile section. This has a gentle gradient outbound and gives the opportunity to say the whole field pass each other. As I headed through around mile 4, coming back leading the race on the opposite side of the carriageway was only Adam! He was some way ahead of the second placed runner and we spotted each other and missed a hi-five!
Not too long after the turning point I passed Nancey (and another missed hi-five attempt). We had run the first mile together before we'd split to our own paces. The route took us back down the Avon Gorge and the double, double back over the Cumberland Basin and back to pass the starting area and round St Mary's Redcliffe and mile 10. Uncle Derek was on this section to cheer us through. Just before this as we approached mile 9, my Garmin had packed up! (Well the battery died as it hadn't charged properly). I had anticipated this before we started so had also set the timer on my phone. However, this was not GPS linked so only gave me my cumulative time. I also found it a pain to pull out and check it as I had to enter my pin number each time and hope not to press stop or anything!
With Adam and his winner’s trophy at the finish
With Maxciej and Nancey after the finish