The Bath Half is a fast and flat course filled with cheers, love and jelly babies

August 10, 2017 // Rachel Ellis

Like Rome, the city of Bath is built in the valley within seven rather large hills. Maybe the Romans had a thing for hills. Or perhaps they just liked Bath’s warm spa water. Maybe they simply had a eye for a rather beautiful spot! Whatever their reason, we think they chose well – the seven hills and the green and pleasant vistas they offer to our residents and visitors, are one of the things that make this a very special city.

It is therefore pretty surprising to many of our runners that the Bath Half turns out to not be a hilly half at all. It is actually a flat – and very fast – half marathon course, and one that many of our runners return to year after year – hunting down their next PB. This year 36% of returning Bath Half runners told us that they had run a personal best ‘PB’ time. This is one of our favourite images from a few years back showing just what a PB at the Bath Half looks like!

Sometimes PBs in Bath can look like this too…

Of course many of our runners aren’t here for a PB – some are running because they have set themselves a challenge of running a half marathon, some because they signed themselves up after a surge of spectator enthusiasm last year, and some because they have a cause or a charity close to their heart.

For all of our runners – the PB hunters, the runners just wanting to survive the day, the runners who want to raise some money for charity, and the runners looking for a great experience – the flatness of the course is always welcome.

We manage to pull off a flat course in Bath by looping through the city twice, straddling both sides of the river Avon, thus avoiding having to run up any big hills! Although for some runners the two laps may be a turn off, many runners tell us that they like the two lap course as it means the spectators are ever-present around the whole course. The Bath Half is famous for its lively atmosphere and brilliant supporters, who are always on hand with plenty of cheers, love and jelly babies:

The two lap course also gives our runners the chance to see the magnificent elite athletes who run the Bath Half each year. This image is a really fantastic snapshot of the atmosphere  and the spirit of the Bath Half – the main field applauding the elite athletes as they pass them on their second lap of the city.

Elite endurance athletes, who know a thing or two about racing, will tell you that the secret of a PB lies in achieving negative splits, the art of running the first half of a race conservatively before pushing on for a faster second half. They often prefer lapped courses because there aren’t any nasty surprises on the second lap! 

There is also a chance to see the brilliant bands, who play for our runners, not once but twice! Here are the 2017 Battle of Bands winners, Batala Bristol, doing their Samba thing in Green Park!

This week we spoke to a local bunch of runners who all know each other through local ecology firm, Biocensus. They are typical of many of our Bath Halfers – they come back year after year to run the Bath Half and they have raised thousands of pounds for charity. This year they all managed a PB too.

We asked them why they like to run in Bath:

Rich Young (pictured second from right)
I’ve run the Bath Half four times and what more could you want from a half marathon? Flat course, brilliant crowds, stunning start and finish, great views, and supportive camaraderie with the other 12,000 or so runners. I’ve run my PB on this course (and my Personal Worst too…but that was a lack of training) and am going to have another go at sub 1hr50 in 2018.

Tim Hounsome (pictured second from left)
My first half was the Bath Half where obviously I got a PB, since then I’ve run quite a lot of half marathons and the Bath Half five times – three were PBs.  As a result of following the Avon valley the course is flat and fast. Although last year it was 7 seconds too slow. Or maybe I was 7 seconds too slow. I was aiming for a sub 90 half and yep, missed it by 7 seconds. I’ve moved on from this crushing, soul destroying disappointment though. 7 seconds. About the same time it takes to write something unpublishable, or, maybe “sub 90 in 2018?!”

Susie Berrill (pictured left):
I did my PB last year at the Bath Half, then ran another personal best again this year. This year’s PB is thanks to a lovely person near Victoria Park, who was handing out jelly babies just as I was about to flag. I’d gone off too fast at the start and certainly needed something to get me through the last couple of miles!

We look forward to welcoming Susie, Rich and Tim, and all our 2018 runners to the start line in March, and we look forward to seeing some more PB celebrations on the finish line too!