It’s the evening of Sunday 21st September 2014 and today I, along with Jodie and Simon, ran the 26th edition of the Bristol Half.
This was a target race for all of us. We’d all focussed our regimes around this race and we all had different goals going into it. Additionally, YTRRC had over 50 runners taking part, so it was a big club event too.
Jodie and I had stayed locally with family the night before, and parked with ample time to spare. Which was good as I was having ‘digestive issues’ and needed a loo stop! Simon was less lucky, and had car issues getting to the start but thankfully he got there in time!
It was a wave start, I was in wave 1 and the others in wave 2, so without much fuss I made my way to the start pen after wishing Jodie the best of luck. As it was her first I was nervously excited for her, with a little fear. I really wanted her to enjoy the experience, but I also knew she was capable of a good time if she wanted it.
The weather was perfect. A clear day, with no wind and the sun was shining. Walking to the start pen, I saw Danny, who I know from parkrun and chatted with him while we waited to get going. This was the first time I’d put a fast time into a race entry form, and I wasn’t used to being so close to the start. It only took 2 minutes from the gun to cross the start line!
The first mile or so was really well supported, but congested. I was bobbing and weaving a lot to make my way through and find a bit of space. I think with hindsight this helped me with my pacing. I had an ‘A’ goal, which I set as my top end pace on my Garmin, and a ”B’ goal for the low end. The first 3 miles I managed to stick with this quite well. It helped that the mile markers matched my watch ‘laps’.
As we left the city on the A4 Portway the crowd started getting sparser. Still quite congested but the road widened and was manageable. After 4 miles or so I saw the lead pack of East Africans running back towards us. And for me, this was when the funniest part of the race was! Though the ‘out and back’ was long and straight (though I have to say I think the ‘out’ was slightly uphill for 3 miles…) there was so much camaraderie. I cheered anyone I saw in a Yeovil vest, and the same was reciprocated back. This helped miles 2-8 fly by! I even saw Rich from the RW forum who spotted me and gave me a yell. Great fun!
I spent a good deal of this portion passing people, and that didn’t really stop happening until about mile 11 when everyone seemed to be similarly paced and the runners were spread a bit thinner.
Anyway, with all this fun I got a bit of a shock as I saw Jodie! Somehow she made it into wave 1! As I passed her she was in great spirits though so I was very pleased for her. Pace wise, I knew I was ahead of even my ‘A’ target by about a minute, and coming back down the partway I managed a sub 7min mile. I felt strong. Then I started seeing wave 2 runners coming down the other way too so I kept my eye open for Si, and sure enough I saw him looking good too!
Not long after this I reached the 8 mile mark and the route deviated from the 10k route. We crossed a bridge and did a long double, double-back going up an actual hill! Wasn’t expecting that! But managed to get through it pretty unscathed, and meant a nice bit of downhill to rest the legs. All in all, the course is not as flat as you think. Ignoring the spikes in the elevation chart below – these occurred when i run through the tunnel under the Clifton bridge, there were 3 or 4 noticable climbs as you progress the course.
As my watch beeped for the 9 mile mark, we came back into the city and I knew the family support would be there. Sure enough they saw me coming and gave me a big cheer! Now, at this point there was a loop around a mile long and I’d see them again. It went around queen square and there was a drum band and some hot air balloons. The problem was, my Garmin went a bit mental. The tall buildings and trees meant my pacing a went a bit wrong. This, along with the fact I was clearly reaching my limit being around 90s up on my ‘A’ goal, meant when I passed the family the second time I wasn’t nearly as comfortable. I had to hit lap on my watch when I passed the 10m marker to reset my pacings.
Mile 11 was my slowest. 7.45. At this point I had 2 options. I could go for it, smash my goal, and hurt in the morning. Or, I could let the pace ease off and make my goal by a whisper. Needless to say, my ego won!
11 to 12 was the toughest mile. Not only was I digging in, but there was a slightly slippery cobbled section, and what can only be described as a totally isolated industrial section. (There was no-one but a string of runners, and it was eerily quiet, save for the panting of runners.
But as I reached the 12mile mark we were back in town. The crowd was back. It was just the city centre ‘one way system’ to go. At this point I had to get my maths head on. I thought this section was the same as the 10k. Looking at my watch, I though sub 95 was on, so I picked the pace up. Unfortunately the course was a bit longer, but I decided to give it everything I had anyway. I’d trained hard and wanted to get the absolute best time I good. I passed the 13m market and sub 96 was on. I dug deep. It was going to be close! The crowd were magnificent and as I rounded the last bend to see the finish gantry I looked at my watch. I had 20s to get there… I gave it a sprint and just dipped under! I couldn’t believe I made it, but I didn’t have chance to enjoy it as I had to lean over the rail to throw up!
It felt amazing, but it was short lived as I wanted to get over and cheer Jodie on. I made my way through the funnel, picked up a nice medal and a medium (yes MEDIUM! Go me!) tech tee. The goody bag however, was rubbish. A Freddo bar, cereal bar and electrolyte tabs just didn’t cut the mustard.
I jogged to the meeting point to greet the family who were all very proud. They’d seen Jodie once and we were expecting to see her again in the next few minutes. And low and behold we saw Simon! I gave him a cheer, he looked good. Jodie was a few minutes behind him and also looked good! The look of focus was in her eyes and I’ve never been so proud!
We then moved on and managed to cheer her on at 2 more points, and she even had a strong finish. Meeting her at the finish funnel was emotional, I was so happy for her! Best of all she didn’t hate the experience!
In the funnel we saw Joe Thomas, of ‘The Inbetweeners’ fame. Not convinced it was him, we shouted ‘Joe Thomas!’ And he looked round and waved! Wish we’d said something cooler and got a photo, instead of sounding like a run wanker!
After the race we wound down. Spent some time with the club and went to Za Za Bazaar for some well earned food. We were all very proud of our achievements in a great, well organised and decently supported race.