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From Bath to Paris

March 9, 2010

On Sunday I ran the Bath Half Marathon, thumping 10 minutes off my PB and generally having a very good race. A lot of runners – from world-class athletes through to ordinary part-timers like myself – choose a warm-up race before a main event to test their fitness and race strategy. The Bath Half was my warm-up. It’s time to prepare for the main event…

So, what lessons can I take from running at Bath?

  • Carb loading is one of the perks of running. And having a ninja turtle’s penchant for pizza just makes it all the better.
    Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margh...
    Pavement pizza anyone? Image via Wikipedia

    But I need to be realistic about what I’m packing away the night before a race. On Saturday I had cheese-stuffed mushrooms followed by a massive pizza. On Sunday morning, I felt like I had a brick in my stomach and despite feeling good all the way round the course, the moment I crossed the finish line I nearly treated the spectators to my last supper.

  • Expect the cold, but know that you will get very warm. Large races take time to start, so there’s always going to be some waiting around. More experienced racers had taken long-sleeved tops with them that they could throw away at the last minute.
  • Keep to the edges for the first few miles until the crowd thins out. 11,000 (seriously, 3000 people just decided to sit it out!) people take up a lot of road, and paces vary regardless of any attempts at seeding.
  • Drink sensibly. This was the first race where I’ve taken an energy drink – I literally just had a couple of sips and tossed the rest of the bottle into a bin. I took the same approach with some water earlier in the race. Just enough to stop me from drying out, but not so much that I was likely to choke on it.
  • Take the start sensibly. For once I didn’t bolt off the start line and burn out at the end. If you run a few seconds slower at the start, you’ve got the whole race to even it out. While I won’t argue that I paced Bath perfectly (there were a couple of slower miles close to the end), I was building speed for the first few miles and my pace was relatively consistent.

One thing I noticed was that the crowds really buoy you through the difficult miles. Bath’s streets were rammed with spectators and their cheers and encouragement really helped me keep going.

Comments aren’t always that helpful, though. As I was running the first lap one kid shouted ‘Hey, nice gloves mister’ (I was wearing a very fetching pair of luminous running gloves). My oxygen-starved brain was working slowly, so it took me a few metres too many to think of some witty retort about accessorizing (my Stroke Association vest was exactly the same luminous yellow). Maybe on the next lap, I thought, before being a little surprised that a man in a wedding dress up ahead had managed to run so fast.

Still, few things live up to the sheer surge of adrenaline as you approach the finish line with enthusiastic spectators. I know the last few miles of my longest training runs have been difficult, but I hope that the big-race atmosphere will help spur me through.

I also hope I’m not nearly sick again – especially since I was in the process of shaking hands with a guy who had crossed the line at more or less the same time as me. On the off chance that you’re reading this – sorry if I was looking a little peaky!

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