Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bath at its best on Half Marathon Day

This wa sprinted in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, March 10

OK, I admit it, I did have the best ‘seat’ in the house but boy oh boy, wasn’t Bath’s half marathon day a fantastic occasion?

As I said in last week’s column/blog, I had both the honour and the privilege last Sunday morning of starting the Bath Half Marathon and, standing on the gantry with my starter hooter on hand, I was able to really take in the magnificence and scope of this remarkable city event.

Even driving into the Bath before the start of the event, you could really sense that the streets were alive with anticipation. The whole town centre seemed to be buzzing and even though it was probably a degree or two colder than most people would like, there was an intoxicatingly warm and friendly atmosphere wherever you went.

As I took to the stage and looked down Great Pulteney Street, I can genuinely say it was an inspiring and moving sight. And it was the contrasts among the thousands of competitors which I really loved.

Right in front of me at the starting line I saw the eager elite runners all totally focused on their stopwatches and barely exchanging a word or a glance at a fellow competitors. And yet just a few minutes later, I was passed by camels, bananas, one or two remarkably under-dressed men and seemingly dozens of people running for a breast cancer awareness charity and wearing large inflatable boobs to make the very dramatic point.

As somebody that has followed sport all my life, I found this contrast to be really amazing. By and large in most sporting events you don’t get top class professionals taking part at the same event as people who are doing it for the sheer fun of the day but that’s what you get at a half marathon. As the elite runners team jerseys moved on, it was a joy to see so many people wearing t-shirts of every charity you can name – and some you probably can’t.

For, and this must never be forgotten, although a lot of people were quite legitimately running for themselves and for personal reasons, so many others were primarily hitting the streets to raise as much money as possible for the concerns that are dear to them. And that is why a staggering £1.4 million was raised last year alone for charity by those who took part in this outstanding community event.

Overall, I came away thinking that I’d truly seen Bath at its best. Apart from the thousands of local people taking part in the main event – and the 1,000+ involved in the lovely family fun run that went alongside – the streets throughout the city were littered with well-wishers urging people on and probably providing a vital boost to people as they hit the various ‘walls’ one would face over a 13 mile trek.

Of course, as I mentioned last week, it did make me wonder if I could do it. I’m not the fittest of individuals (something of an understatement there) and (creak, creak) I’m not as young as I was but then again I saw people whose size, age and general disposition made me realise if they can do it, then maybe, just maybe, I could too.

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