After a new PB at Cricklade Half last month, I had a feeling my next race might be a new PW. It was the Bath Skyline 10K organised by Relish Racing. The first in a series of 4 races, a key selling point was the great medals – a set of 3 interlocking medals if you complete 3 races with a single extra medal if you only run one or as your final fourth medal.
The race was supposed to be based at Bath University’s Sports Training Village. However due to last minute changes everything was down at the start line with only toilets available in the Sports Training Village. These changes were posted on Relish Racing’s website but nowhere else. There were people wandering around before the race who obviously didn’t know where they were going. Fortunately it’s easy enough to spot and follow other runners on occasions like this, and one family stopped me and asked if I knew where they could register. Maybe an email to all entrants would have been a good idea?
Down at the start we were told we were being split into two starts – men and then women, again at the request of the University. I could overhear groups of people who’d been planning on running together discussing this and they were obviously upset.
At five past eleven most of the men (and a few speedy women I think) set off and then about 10 minutes later a whistle blew and the rest of us set off. Well, the people at the front set off, the rest of us shuffled forward slowly towards the start line, shuffled slowly over the start line, and finally managed to slowly start to jog. This first part was really congested as there were several hundred runners all trying to run along a very narrow path. We all came to a halt as the route took a sharp right turn after a bridge, and as we entered the woods we stopped and queued at every steep section up and down, at every muddy section and at every narrow section.
Things only really improved on the second lap when the runners had spread out. Then I had a chance to run at my own pace and yes, I confess, I did still walk up the steep climbs in the woods but I did my best impression of a mountain goat on the steep descents. I also had a chance for a better look at my surroundings.
For a race called “The Bath Skyline 10K” I had been hoping for glorious views down over the city of Bath. What we actually got was the back of the University accommodation blocks (concrete), followed by some woods (nice), the edge of the golf course (bemused golfers), and finally a section with a view as we ran past Sham Castle (great but would be even better if it wasn’t foggy).
I was pleased with my own running as I managed to push on where there was space, and ran all of the slopes (apart from the really steep bits in the woods) including both accents of the long steady slope up from Sham Castle. I passed several people here so I’m sure the hill training I’ve been doing paid off.
I headed for the finish line, pleased with how I’d run and keen to get my hands on the first medal of the series. I crossed the line and – oh look – a queue. I could see the Race HQ tent ahead so I was confident I’d soon get some water and my medal. After waiting and shuffling forward, more waiting and more shuffling I reached the tent only to discover that the queue actually made a U-turn, doubled back on itself, and then made another U-turn before finally reaching the promised land of the tent. It took at least 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue and finally grab a cup of water and a couple of slices of orange. I was then told they had run out of the first medal in the series, confusingly given another medal and a chocolate bar, and told they’d post the proper medal out later. I was really cold and fed up by this point as my warm top was back in the car and I’d been waiting all this time just in sweaty running clothes.
As I quickly walked back to my car I was feeling quite disgruntled about the whole race. I rang my daughter because I was now going to be late collecting her from a friend’s house, and when she asked how it had gone I told her I’d have to have a think about it..
So after a couple of glasses of wine on Sunday night and several days to think about it, I’m finally feeling slightly mellower about the race. The shuffling and waiting on lap one meant I actually managed to run negative splits over the two laps of the course (by nearly 3 minutes) – something I’ve never managed before. Parts of the route were lovely, and I’ve never raced on such steep hills before so I did feel pretty hardcore (for me!) The atmosphere was good with plenty of smiling faces and encouraging marshals. I believe the problems could be solved fairly easily with a few little tweaks to the organisation of the race. I’ve made my suggestions below:-
1. E-mail any last minute changes of venue, registration and start details so runners can make the appropriate arrangements before they arrive.
2. If you aren’t allowing people to register on the day then you know exactly how many runners there could be, and therefore how many medals to bring.
3. If you separate out bag reclaim from the finish line funnel of water /chocolate /medal collection then runners will be able to clear the area more quickly and won’t be stood waiting for over 20 minutes for a drink of water.
4. Chip timing is really reasonable nowadays, and would mean runners could start off in more and smaller waves whilst still recording an accurate race time. This would help reduce the queueing on the first lap resulting in a smoother race all round. The problem of running negative splits I’d have to solve on my own!
Having already entered all four races in the series, with my mellower head on I think I’m looking forward to the next race next month. I’m interested to see what the ‘B’ course is like (apparently it’s harder than the ‘A’ course we ran on Sunday). It will be interesting to see if the organisation is any better by then. Watch this space …