Bath Half Marathon 2009
The year of racing 40 at 40 keeps getting better - seems like racing more makes you faster, how surprising :)
I didn't taper for this one - in fact it came at the end of the week in which I'd finally cracked the 100 mile barrier in my cycling with a ride over the old Severn Bridge (a.k.a the Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridge, for it was so dedicated some years ago, being a bridge that unites two countries). Still, I felt good on the (crowded) train on the way over, and well rested at the start (delayed by half an hour) and even managed a mini warm up which no-one else seemed to be bothering with (probably because there was no room with all of us penned in at the start - I was jogging reps of a 50m section of pavement which was making me dizzy).
I met Mal from Les Croups in the start pen (B group - just behind the fast people) and the late start also meant I had plenty of time to get the pre-race meditation in, though with everyone meeting running club mates and chatting in a very animated fashion, it was a pretty relaxed med rather than the full "go deep within". Still, under a beatiful blue sky on what felt like the first real day of Spring, I was feeling great by the time the horn sounded and we fiddled with watches, Garmins and all the gadgets we have become addicted to as we shuffled over the start line. The first mile was all about dodging and weaving as we all tried to get a clear run and get up to speed, with the road exceptionally crowded. Some of those runners were blagging their place in the B start, or else had opted for a very slow start with a view to speed up later. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was the latter.
By the end of mile one my slow start plan was out of the window and I came through in 6.22. I was free to run at my own pace by that time, and as the course unfolded, over the bridge and into central Bath, I found myself clocking around 6.20 most of the time. There was one hill of note, at around mile 2 (and again at mile 7 ish) but it was only twenty or thirty seconds of effort and not steep enough to make much difference. Well, it was more taxing on the second lap! The course took us along the Bristol road, a city street line with shops and houses and loads of supporters - something unfamiliar after so many smaller events. There were minor ups and downs, and soon we were out in more rural surroundings, crossing the Avon and turning back for town. I was concentrating hard and keeping my foot on the metaphorical accelarator, mindful that I was once again on for a PB in a year that I've managed so many of the darn things! Still, I knew I should be good for better than 1.25 and when the bridge in town came around in 42 minutes I knew I had to stick at it and get that 1.24.
As I said before, the hill was more taxing second time round, but once past that it was all manageable at my steady pace (well, perhaps down to 6.30s) and the miles slowly ticked by with the usual jostling for position, using the pace of passing runners by hanging on to them to hold my pace. All the while ambulances were coming and going with surprising frequency - well, it was suddenly mild if not warm after such a long cold winter, so perhaps many were unprepared and suffering heat exhaustion - or just overcooking it. At one point around mile 12 I lapped Kokila and she called out "Go on Garga, running for Sri Chinmoy!!". This gave me a real boost and I threw in a 6.07 mile, but then, in the lonely last mile after we had peeled off from the loop and therefore lost touch with the slower runners, I suffered on the slight gradient and slowed to 6.36. Despite that, when I saw the clock ahead it was 6.23 and I knew I could crack it - a watch tiime of 1.23.48 actually turned out to be a chip time of 1.233.25 and a PB by about 1 min 30 seconds.
I was well pleased, and thhe only thing that detracted was the hassle of finding Kokila afterwards at the "Suggested meeting point" which became impossible to reach for runners finishing after 2 hours - marshals were blocking off pavements, there were no signs to this meeting place, and it was the one point where I'd say the organisers messed up - a very minor point in what was otherwise a superb race with really enthusiastic and helpful marshals and a nice, fast course. Eventually we did meet up and she had also got a PB, so we celebrated with food at Sally Lunn's before catching a less crowded train back via Bristol. Race 29 in the bag, 11 more needed by June 5th :)
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