Bath, a wonderful city. Ever since my first visit I’ve loved the place and any excuse to visit is a good one in my books even if it meant running over 13 miles on Sunday, but I’ll come to that a bit later.
Friday afternoon I took the train down to spend the weekend in the wonderful city, to enjoy all the sights and sounds Bath had to offer. Fortunatelty it doesn’t take too long to get down to Bath from Reading so in just over an hour I arrived and went to seek out the accommodation for the weekend – the Lamp Post Villa. Unfortunately, upon arrival there was a note on the door saying that the usual check-in time was between 4:30pm and 7:30pm and as it was now a little after 3pm what else was there to do other than find a pub and enjoy a nice pint? So that’s exactly what I did finding a pub just down the road, phoning the girls before checking in.
The room was perfectly serviceable and the chap running the place seemed nice enough, offering suggestions for where to go to eat and the general lay of the land. I dumped my stuff off, freshened up and headed out the door for the evening, hoping to make the most of it because, what with the race on Sunday, I wasn’t expecting to be getting up to much Saturday night.
Who’d have thought vegetarian food could look and taste so good?!
First things first: food! I love my food as a lot of you may already know so I headed to Demuths after it was recommended. They were voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant by Gourmet Britain in 2010 so not having booked a table I was hopeful that as it was still early there’d be a table available. Fortunately there was and I can honestly say that I have never had such exquisite vegetarian food. It looked and tasted absolutely wonderful – there are some photos of the food posted in the photos section if you want to see what was eaten. I’d not normally consider a vegetarian restaurant as I do like a bit of dead animal in my food but I highly recommend you try this restaurant if you’re in Bath, but maybe book ahead of time to save disappointment. Great food!
After having a great feast there was nothing left to do but find somewhere to have a beer. I’d remembered a few pubs I’d visited before with Stu and his brother before heading off up the country last year and, more by luck than judgement, I came across the Volunteer Riflemans Arms. This was a lively little place and instantly got into a conversation with one of the locals at the bar. To be honest, it looked like he was trying to chat me up a bit but I managed to get a drink and skulk off to a table and avoid him any further. Why does this seem to happen to me?!
I’d planned a later breakfast for Saturday morning with the chap who runs the Lamp Post while checking in on Friday, thinking I’d have had a few brews the night before, so at 9:30am I sat down for breakfast, ordering the obligatory full English. Now, on their website they boast about “serving the best breakfast in the City” and having had the odd full English last summer on the walk I was somewhat disappointed when the single rasher of bacon, single small sausage, single egg and half a tomato was placed in front of me. I know there are places that serve a better breakfast in the city – I’ve eaten at them – so this definitely did not constitute the best breakfast in the city, not by a long way. That being said, it was cooked ok and tasted ok and was by no means the worst full English I’ve ever had. No, that honour still firmly belongs to The Royal Hotel Jedburgh; it’s going to take some damn awful cooking to win that prize!
Anyway, breakfast was eaten and the sights and sounds of Bath lay ahead as there was nothing to do other than wander round, chill out and try not to think too much about Sunday.
After a little wander round to get my bearings – it had been a while since I last visited Bath – I went and had a look round the Roman baths again, not having been there since taking my wife and the girls down one weekend. Grabbing the audio guide (I only did that because there was some new audio notes from the travel writer Bill Bryson) I made my way round, snapping away with my camera enjoying the baths and the history.
Feeling a bit hungry a place for lunch was soon found: delicatessen cafe Gourmet Scoffs. They served a mean sandwich with proper thick sliced bread and a decent bowl of chips. It was complete chance coming across this place but since being back I’ve found out that they won four Taste of the West medals for their food: two gold, one silver and one bronze. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Still feeling in an historical mood a visit to the abbey was definitely in order. It is a stunning building with some amazing stained glass windows, especially the west window. One thing it’s definitely worth doing if you visit the abbey is – and this may sound a little stupid – look up! The 16th century ceiling is stunning and I’m sure a lot of people don’t take the time to look up and appreciate it. You could try and bend over to do this, as I did while taking photos, or you could stand and look at the mirror they had set up to make it easier for people. I took photos of the ceiling using that too but to be honest, I preferred the ones I took bending over backwards, but I guess that’s just me?
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering round, taking in Victoria park along the way and stopping in the Hop Pole pub for a nice refreshing pint, which was the first step on the slippery slope as I ended up drinking more than I planned before race day, having a beer with dinner – pizza at Solo Pizza, sitting outside trying not to get too cold as everywhere was so busy – followed by more beer at the Raven pub, as recommended by Stu.
All in all a great day out and lots of fun had, even if I did end up drinking a little bit more than I’d planned. I guess we’d see how that affected me in the morning wouldn’t we?
Sunday, the day of the 30th annual Bath half marathon and the reason I was there. I’ll admit that I was somewhat nervous as I got myself ready, not helped by the fact that my training hadn’t ended as I’d hoped and I felt a little unprepared. For the final few weeks before race day I’d tried to run but due to various colds and such like I’d failed miserably. Not a good way to get ready for a pretty long run that’s for sure.
Breakfast was a little earlier than yesterday. The race started at 11am and I had to be making my way to the start by 10am so I didn’t want to be hanging around, ending up rushing at the end. The breakfast was pretty much the same as the morning before – additional mushrooms though – and shortly after 9am it was time to make my way to the runner’s village in the really rather cold morning air. It didn’t take long to get there and I made my way to the charity tent and to the St. Mungo’s stand, the charity I was running for, to meet the people there and, as it turned out, to have my photo taken.
It wasn’t long before it was time to make my way to my allotted starting block and wait for the race to start. It was cold and keeping warm during that forty or so minutes was a bit of a pain but I tried my best and tried to ignore it, listening to some chilled out tunes courtesy of Dub FX on the MP3 player I’d brought to help me concentrate during the race and before I knew it the big countdown started and the race started – time to get serious!
I knew roughly what pace I wanted to run but it can be difficult to run your own race when you’re surrounded by so many people, all running at different speeds. It’s all too easy to get swept along and run at too fast a pace increasing the chance of failing to finish. I did my best to ignore everyone else and used the music to help [almost] count out the pace as I ran. Even though I’d missed the last couple of weeks of training I’d put in quite a few miles’ worth of training which really did help me to keep to my own speed…phew!
I’ll admit it, even though I seemed to be hitting my pace bang on the money, the first few miles were tough. It took a while to really get warmed up and in my stride but I was doing well and looked to be on track for a 2 hour finish by the time I’d reached the 4 mile marker. Things pretty much continued along these lines almost up to the 10km marker which was when the lead runner – 22 year old Edwin Kipkorir – came flying past everyone, having only a couple of miles left to do! He eventually went on to win the race in a mind blowing 64 minutes! Amazing stuff.
Anyway, back to us slow-coaches. By the time I reached the 8 mile marker my pace had slowed a bit so unless I could pick up my pace a bit the 2 hour target was now out of reach. I’d gone into this hoping to finish in that time but in reality I was just hoping to get round in one piece, running all the way; no walking! So I plodded on, legs aching a bit by now.
All the memories of the London marathon came flooding back, where I hobbled the final five or so miles
Around the 10 mile mark, having concentrated on the road ahead so much throughout the race, I jarred my left knee on a pothole. I didn’t spot it in the throng of all the runners and it put my knee out quite a bit. All the memories of the London marathon came flooding back, where I hobbled the final five or so miles in order to finish. Fortunately I could still run, even if it was at a slower pace again – but it was running nonetheless! I stubbornly pushed on, drinking a good couple of litres of Lucozade being handed out over the final few miles.
I made it to the finish line in 2 hours 13 minutes and 46 seconds. Okay, it was slower than I’d hoped but to be honest I didn’t care. I’d made it round the course, running all the way, and I’m pleased to say at no point was I completely out of breathe. Yes, my legs were pretty much shot by the end of it but all the training I did manage to get in really did pay dividends on the day.
One thing I did take away from this run was the fact that I hit the 10km marker in 59 minutes which was a good sign for my next run, the Bupa 10000 at the end of May in London.
Here’s the official completion certificate showing my finishing time. I paid for a digital download of the official photos, certificates etc. a lot of which have been posted in a photo album on here – check it out in the photos section for 2011.
Once I’d collected my medal and goodie bag I headed over to the St. Mungo’s charity stall again to check in and have yet another photo taken. We had a little chat but knowing my legs were beginning to seize up, I said goodbye and headed back to the room to get cleaned up and changed. It was a slow and somewhat painful walk but I got there and got myself sorted out.
After checking out it was time to head to the Raven for a celebratory pint – well deserved I think you’ll agree? Once that was out of the way I had to get something to eat as I’d not eaten anything other than a banana since breakfast and my stomach was telling me it wasn’t happy, so back to Scoffs it was for a Bath pasty and chips. The pasty was delicious and exactly what I needed to give me the strength to get home.
The train was absolutely jam-packed and I was so grateful for reserving a seat for the homeward journey. I’m sure I would have made it back standing all the way but trust me, it was a lot nicer being able to sit and chill out for the return train journey. As you can imagine, the thought of walking up from the station was not a nice one so I ended up getting a taxi, something I normally hate doing, but this time it was definitely the right thing to do.
It was an absolutely amazing weekend and definitely another one of those things I’ll never forget. I’m proud of the fact that I managed to run round the entire course without any breaks or walking any of it, even with a crook knee at the end of it.
Because of the knee though I’ve now decided that the thought of completing another full marathon is probably not a good one. It’s a shame to come to that realisation as I really would have loved to have had another crack at the London marathon, running all the way, but the knees just aren’t up to it any more – if they ever were?! I guess I’ll just have to find some other crazy things to do now instead? Watch this space!!