Sunday saw 12,000 runners take to the streets of Bath for the annual Vitality Bath Half. I was lining up alongside them for my first official half marathon (having done a half Ironman doesn’t count for timing purposes).
What started out as a rainy day down in Southampton turned into perfect running conditions across in Bath. It was cool at the start, with some light cloud cover, which lifted through the race.
Openly, I was hoping to achieve a sub 1:45, deep down, I wanted sub 1:30. Driving to Bath, the anticipation was building. I was feeling genuinely nervous. Our chosen Spotify Playlist was, if anything, adding to the nervous anxious excitement in the car. We parked up and made our way to the start line. With the sheer volume of people, everything flowed very smoothly.
The energy in the start pen was great, everyone was amped to be there. With a few minutes to go a helicopter appears overhead, HM65 from my chosen charity Great Western Air Ambulance. Then the countdown began. And we were off!
I had expected the first few kilometres to be crowded, and they were. I managed to follow the 5 D’s of Dodgeball to get around people and started to settle into a rhythm.
Bath had come out in full force to support. Rounding the bridge and coming onto the lap course the lap course I was greeted by a full carnival atmosphere. Steel drum bands, carnival dancers and pure electricity from the screaming crowds. Energised, I pushed through the first few ‘hills’ on what I was told would be a fast and flat route. Heading out of town I was still feeling strong. The roads had widened and the crowds thinned slightly, but there was not a quiet kilometre to be had. I grabbed a water bottle coming through the 5 mile point, still feeling strong I kept the tempo I had established. I had been following the rhythmic vibrations of my watch tapping out a steady cadence. I shot a quick look at the watch, 4:04 pace at that moment.
Pushing on through to the 10km mark, feeling well within myself. Breathing was under control, heart rate felt under control, but my monitor had failed to pick up… no bother, keep going. First 10km ticked by at around 42 min. this was a comfortable pace, not too far off my PB of 40:19, but I still had some way to go. Half way through, time for a gel.
Coming back through the town centre the crowds grew and noise got really loud. I spotted the GWAAC guys on the side of the road and managed a quick pose for a picture.
Approaching the hill again. This time it feels much harder. The adrenaline from the start had passed and I was definitely carrying a bit of fatigue. Over the top, open up the stride and pick up the pace down the back.
Another water bottle around mile 8 and onward. Over the bridge for the last time. I really needed to focus now, ticking through over the hour mark, I had been out longer than my training runs and my mind was beginning to wonder. I grabbed a Lucozade, looked at my watch again, 5:12 pace. Oops, time to renew my focus and push to the end. Soft focused back on my cadence, one foot in front of the other, feel the flow.
11 miles down, keep pushing. There goes mile 12, I am off the lap course. I see a traffic circle up ahead that must be mile 13, pick up the pace. No, still 1km to go. Push through to the 13 mile mark and round the corner to the finishing straight. I sneak a peek at my time, 1:29:00, I can do it! The legs find a hidden gear, the road opens up in front of me, the crowds are cheering louder and louder, I sprint for the line.
I hit the timing mat and stop the watch, 1:29:59 – sub 90! Euphoria!
I collect my medal, grab a water and sports drink and a goody bag. It is starting to sink in. I achieved my secret goal and set a solid PB. What a day!