And so it was that I found myself in the first start pen of the Bath half ruing my optimism of injury free training from last November, and watching the majority of the second pen trot by towards the start line. As I saw just one or two really keen members of the third 2hr plus pen come into view I stepped into the flow and set off to execute my 'plan'. My plan, though sadly not an especially swift one, was to run conservatively, aim for a negative split, and importantly finish with enough in me to run again as soon as possible getting into a marathon training plan I had had drawn up for months.
The first 5km were spent keeping a firm eye on holding my pace down just below my marathon pace to ensure a solid foundation for the run (and increase my chances of staying injury free). I got to enjoy the fantastic views of the huge and colourful field snaking around what is generally a very pretty course. I was in pace with a joggler (a runner juggling for the whole race) but he wasn't it seemed enjoying the best first phase and I left him behind.
The second 5km was the fastest, following on from the slowest - under-shoot / overshoot / hang on seemed to become the pattern, and one that was reminiscent of my Berlin marathon pace blocks in many ways. I was enjoying the free speed of the down hills and trying to work a bit on the ups, it is classified a flat course but does roll a fair bit to keep your legs interested! I took two gels in this phase but ignored that drinks stops as I knew I was well hydrated and the cool weather with fine rain was helping to keep thirst at bay. Around the 10k mark was where I'd pulled out of my only other previous attempt at the Bath Half and going through there feeling good was a huge mental lift. The noise around the course was amazing, and in spite of the rain the crowds were simply brilliant.
The third 5km was where I began to feel this was looking like a good plan, and where I mentally had to dig in a bit to stay on track (especially round those gentle up hills). I took two more gels towards the middle of this section and found that I'd taken too many in a short space of time as I suffered a few stomach twinges towards the 15km point. Again the crowds were fab, even if I did ignore the one or two that noticed I was in a sub-2hr bid but clearly not on for that type of time. I could project my likely time at this point and though it would be no where close to my bid projection I was chuffed that I was doing so well off of such a shaky start to my 2014 training.
The fourth 5km marked the toughest phase and towards the end the brightest phase. I had to work into the fourth quarter, pushing to maintain my pace and engineer a potential negative split race. Towards the end of it I could feel the finish line pull and was lifted by my eagerness to finish strong. I took a bottle of water through this phase and tried to drink, but didn't get much though being out of practice with bottles and spoilt by the cups provided in Berlin. At this phase I was reeling in quite a lot of runners, and trying to keep pace with a couple that were clearly on a strategy. I see-sawed with another couple running for TIP (Time Is Precious) and hoped that they would finish well as they were clearly working really hard together as a team. I hadn't heard of the charity but was lifted by the sentiment of its name.
The final km was fun, no really (!), I actually felt I could ignite the burners a bit and clawed back runners hand over fist. I know that this is really annoying to fellow runners but I could feel my plan had worked to a tee and was enjoying it. I tried in the last 300m to really open out and run like a 'proper' runner, and frankly yes I am sure I looked a prat, but it was fantastic to feel I was moving and was likely to get a great start on my marathon training from it. I crossed in 2:06:14 which is taking me back to where I was time wise almost ten years ago - not that I care as this run had become part of another marathon race attempt.
My wife met me afterwards with fresh dry clothes and we made really short work of heading off home thanks to the superb race organisation. The t-shirt, medal and bag were really good, and I came away with a huge desire to go back another year and look for a time more reflective of my best in future... one where my training has gone right and put me in the start pen confident of hitting a goal.
...oh, and that negative split? Near enough a full minute - BOOM :-D
As a footnote, this summary about the impact of the race was part of an email newsletter from the organisers:
"The runners who work so hard have once again raised incredible amounts of money for charity are a real inspiration to us. In the last thirteen years the Bath Half has raised over £12million for charity, making it the largest single day fundraising event in the South West and one of the biggest fundraisers of its kind in the UK. We anticipate that over £2million will have been raised for charity at Sunday’s race."