So here, for posterity, are some gold-plated photos of my run in Bath.
This first one must be near the beginning. I deduce that because it was the first one in the series.
We are still in the city here, as you can see from the buildings in our background.
I must have seen the photographer here... there are several in a row where I am grinning broadly and I can't imagine any reason why except for the photo op! You will notice from these pictures that I, and most of the people around me, have green bibs. The bib color signifies our starting wave, which is based on our estimated finish times. The white bibs are the fastest groups, then the greens, then the oranges. You can see, in the pictures, that most of the bibs around me are green. This is encouraging, because at least I was relatively holding my own! In the second photo I did, however, spot a speedy orange bibber at the left front, as well as, what's this, a white bibber behind me in the the third shot!
I never wrote a real race report for this run because, from a racing standpoint, it was a real disappointment to me. But now, a month later, the scars have pretty much healed—although I still don't like to think about my time—and I can remember it in a more positive light.
There were a few things about this race unique to any run I've ever done (other than the excrutiatingly slow time).
First, and definitely coolest, I got to see the front running racer (and probable winner) go by with all his entourage. This happened because the race was essentially a double loop. About a mile or so after the start in Great Pulteney Street, we did a big loop through town, which took us to about 10K. Then we repeated the town loop, and finally traced our original steps back to the finish line, at the same place as the start. Somewhere during the first town loop, we heard sirens and megaphones directing runners to keep left; then on the right we were passed by a vehicle carrying the time clock, followed shortly by the lead runner. He was quickly on his way, never to be seen again (by me).
The other new experience I had was something I'm sure other people have seen in other races, but which has been uncommon in the rather modest, sedate runs I've done in the past. That is, of course, runners relieving themselves by the side of the road. Mostly men, although I'm sure I also saw a few women ducking off into the bushes. There seemed to be certain spots along the way—all outside the town center—that were magnets for peeing runners. I suspect there is some kind of a tradition relating to this race, and perhaps the regulars take pride in marking the side of the road as they go!
There were, by the way, porta-potties along the route, all of which had some kind of line when I passed them. So not everybody was willing to drop trou in public!*
Unlike the U.S races I have done, the water stops were stocked not with paper cups of water, but small bottles instead (just like the elites). The stations alternated between water and Lucozade, which is a Tang-like orange bottled sports drink. I had actually started the race carrying my own mini-bottle of water, so I bypassed the water stations until after I threw away my empty bottle. I'm not crazy about carrying a bottle—I think it slows me down, although I do it when I'm running at home—but it was a warm day and I was loathe to give up my water. In fact, a while after I ditched my bottle I became quite thirsty, enough that I was desperately awaiting the next station. That happened to be a Lucozade station, which I took happily, hoping not only to quench my thirst but perhaps get a boost from the sugar in the drink! I kept that bottle until I traded it for a new water bottle sometime later. Since they were providing whole bottles, the stations were not as frequent as they might have been if the water was only provided in little cups. In fact, I think the water station where I got my bottle might have been the last one in the race.
It was a sunny, warm day, and since the race didn't start until 11:30—delayed from 11:00 due to difficulty clearing traffic—we were running in the height of the day. What is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen? I had left the hotel a little past 9:00, wearing a jacket, but by the time we actually started I had taken the jacket off and tied it around my waist. I wished, desperately, that I would see my parents on the route so I could throw it at them and be done with it, but of course, with hundreds of people lining the street, that didn't happen.
The crowd support was fantastic. The papers said hundreds of viewers (and 15,000+ runners), but I felt like there were thousands stretched along the miles. In the more central town parts of the race, the crowd was packed many deep. Only in the most remote stretches were there few observers, and even there we would be cheered by a handful of people every few feet or so. Many of our supporters were children, and every time one stuck out his or her hand I slapped it as I passed. I figure that I was slow enough that the fractions of seconds it would take to high five someone (or a lot of someones) would not make a major difference to me!
Despite the huge number of runners I never felt sardine packed. I was able to run at my own pace easily (unfortunately that happened to be a slow pace). The sardine situation happened only after we crossed the finish line and were ushered into the exit area to pick up our goody bags and make our way to the street. The goody bags included our medals, t-shirts (size large for everyone, very efficient), and some snacks and drinks. I was not the only person ripping open a granola bar as we shuffled along!
That was pretty much the end of it all. I finally got to the street, met my parents over by the Abbey, got an ice-cream cone then walked back up the hill to the hotel. I was feeling a little mopey and depressed over my performance, so I'm afraid I wasn't very good company. It was after that that I decided not to run Whidbey two weeks later, and take some time before doing another race.
In the end it didn't take much time. One month after Bath I signed up for Bloomsday, which is coming in just a little more than two weeks. So, we shall see... I am optimistic!
*I maintained my streak of never needing to stop for a bathroom in a race—although this one was a close call because I had mild cramps throughout, but never amounting to anything urgent enough to stop.