For all those reasons I chose to run this race as well. When I registered back in August, even the exact start or finish place was not set. Which made race even more interesting. The only thing I was fearing from the very beginning was the hilly second part of the course.
About two weeks before the race I got a race pack from the organisers containing my bib number (all scrambled in the mailbox) and the race guide with newly set exact start and finish positions. This time there was no marathon expo. Usually the marathon expo takes place few days before the marathon, where participants can get their race packs, find out more about other races, get some free promotional items. One more difference from the majority of marathon races – there was no finishers or any t-shirt included in the goody bag. This raised a lot of discussions as the race entry was rather expensive (£58.30). However if the rumours were correct – this was due to the race having few sponsors, and being run on a low budget.
A week before the race I booked an Ibis hotel less than 10 min walk to the marathon start village and the start line.
On Saturday – the 24th of October I took an afternoon bus to Bristol and walked from the bus station to the hotel enjoying the city I was going to run in the morning. After settling in my and having a short rest and preparing my race kit for the morning I went to check out the marathon start village being half prepared. And then I went to fill up with some some tomato meatballs with linguine.
I called it an early night so I get a good rest. We even had an extra hour of sleep due to turning time back the night before the marathon. What I was really happy about that I was able to get a really good night of sleep and woke up just before the alarm ringing at 6:30 to have an early breakfast – egg and ham sandwich.
An hour before the start of the race I checked out of my hotel and went to marathon start area. It was freezing cold as more and more runners were gathering from different corners of Bristol. It turned out to be around 6.5 thousand participants running the inaugural Bristol to Bath Marathon.
I left my backpack at the baggage collection van to be brought to the finish just before moving to the start line and found a nice position in between pacers for 3:30 and 4:00 hour finish times.
Exactly at 9 am we started walking to the start as the Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor was blazing on the side. The first half of the course was nice and relatively flat. We ran a few streets around Bristol city centre before going north along the Rive Avon and past the Clifton Suspension Bridge. We ran 5 miles along the river before turning back towards Bristol. Before the turnaround I had a chance to see the later to be winner – Adam Holland who was on his way back to the city.
I was impressed of how organisers were able to place distance marks along the course so they were not visible on the way out before returning on exactly the same route back.
We returned and passed the Bristol city centre on the way to Bath and the harder half of the marathon. Around the half marathon mark, we started climbing the first smaller hill (a worm up before the real deal) the steep Conham Hill at around mile 15. With few small inclines and declines, we were on the road going downhill in as steep way as we climbed it. One down, two to go.
At mile 18 we started climbing the second steep, this time Willsbridge Hill. The last and the shortest was the Penn Hill at mile 24. After that there were only smaller hills, that seemed rather easy after “beasts” concurred before. It still took a lot of energy to climb it.
At mile 25 we entered Bath and had a quick stroll up and down around the streets of the city centre before finishing in the middle of Royal Victoria Park on Royal Avenue. While the last part in the city centre of Bath was lovely, I wished the last mile was less hilly. Not steep, but by that time the smallest hill felt tough. At least I knew, the finish was close. I finished the first ever Sanlam Bristol to Bath marathon in 3 hours 49 minutes and 32 seconds.
It was a very well organised marathon (maybe it would be good to have more water stations along the course), and the crowds along the road were incredible. People cheering and giving out gummy bears along the route made those hills and the whole distance much more bearable.