Doing the full Bacchus marathon felt a bit like being stuck at work while all your mates are at a party.
Don’t get me wrong – I had a great day and really enjoyed it, but the half-marathon certainly seems to be the main event.
The whole event has certainly got atmosphere and, with its offer of wine at all the water stops, it gets lively at Bacchus from early on.
On your way in, you will be sure to see all the outfits making their way towards the main building at Denbies Vineyard, just outside Dorking in Surrey.
Gangs of Romans, Bumblebees, Unicorns and Cluedo characters (Mrs White, Miss Scarlett etc), mingled with those dressed as Sherlock, Kermit, a cricketer (complete with pads and bat) and Hulk – to name but a few of the many, many costumes on show.
Every run has its fancy dress runners of course, but the percentage here is off the scale.
I had been expecting this carnival of costumes – and everyone was exchanging smiles and banter – but what I had not realised was how many people were doing the half and not the full.
When I got to the registration list, I was surprised to see only 200 were in for the full, compared to columns and columns of half runners (and the final number of marathoners was actually nearer 150).
I was a bit bemused to get the race t-shirt at registration, as I had nowhere to put it, so I wandered around as I got my bearings for the day.
The Vineyard was a great base – it was a sunny day but so nice to be able to be inside – and I had the chance to meet some of the UKRunChat gang as we all got ready.
As always, it was great to meet new people and then, proving the point immediately, @runningmiker came to the rescue to store my t-shirt in his bag until afterwards, and let me steal some sun cream too.
By this time, it was time to get outside for the start and we were off!
I was in the 10am wave which had the marathon runners and the first third of half runners.
We set off between the vines and it was everything I had hoped for – a fine day, lively banter and beautiful surroundings.
Three miles in and it was the first water stop, complete with a fantastic view and a brilliant live band. There was wine on offer but I had decided to abstain for the first lap. I had decided this was the only sensible policy as I definitely wanted to sample some of the wine (or there was not much point choosing Bacchus over other events), but I feared going too early could lead to problems.
So while others dallied at the station, I set off again, enjoying some lovely paths and up some challenging climbs, with the wine stops and the tremendous bands providing great support and encouragement for the next seven miles.
Passing St Barnabus church at the top of Ranmore at 10 miles was a highlight, even if it was followed by a tricky off-road loop. And then you head back down the hill for a fantastic finish at the Vineyard for the hog roast. Or that would have been the case had I not been heading off around for the second lap.
As half-marathon runners wooped and danced round the corner to the finish funnel, the marathoners were sent off on a sharp left turn. It immediately got a lot quieter on the course and a sudden downpour was a bit of a surprise too – the second lap was proving a different challenge altogether.
I had a bit of a walk at 14 miles to send a few tweets about Children’s Cancer Awareness Month that I had been planning, and then it was off again. The first water stop at the top of the hill at 16 miles was my first sip of wine – I had a moment’s hesitation before drinking, and then got on with it.
Although it wouldn’t be my first choice, I don’t particularly mind a lapped course – there is something familiar and encouraging about passing small landmarks or sights again – the bridge under the railway, the gate, the tree you have to clamber over. On the second lap they are there to be ticked off and, as you know you have done them already, you already know it’s achievable.
And of course, this time I could enjoy the wine – the Surrey Gold, the Bacchus, the red one, the fizzy one…forgive me if I did not take down all the names.
By this point I was starting to catch up with some of the half-marathoners from the later waves, which made for entertaining chats at the stops but it definitely made me wonder if I was doing the event in the right way as much wine was clearly being enjoyed!
Carrying on, I was delighted to be back at St Barnabus at around 23 miles – my family (who had been at mile 4 and mile 11) were there, which was lovely.
It also meant I was at the top of the hill and, one small climb aside, it was nearly done and then I had the pleasant surprise of bumping into @bigcarlrunning as well – a quick chat was all I could manage at this point though!
This time, the last two miles were far, far more enjoyable knowing that this was the finish. It must be one of the best ends of a race around – a fantastic road all the way from the last wine stop, winding down the hill amongst the vines – a tremendous feeling even on sore legs.
Then it’s round the corner and over the line…and into a free hog roast with drink. @runningmiker was there to cheer, which was great – and his mum who had just done her first ever half was there too!
With our “well dones” completed, I found my family and wandered into the food/drink tent. I had not expected to walk into a full-on rave and fair play to the folk who were dancing – particularly the man doing an extremely energetic Running Man manoeuvre.
Sadly I was not quite able to join – I was seeing the scene through the glazed eyes of a tired runner, and we found some nice quiet seats outside instead – I don’t know how everyone else feels after events, but I need a bit more time before attempting proper conversations let alone dancing (I quite like the funnel systems of big events for this reason – it gives you some time to compose yourself before meeting people!)
I enjoyed the hog roast and, with that demolished, I wandered back inside and saw Helen (12 Marathons/@_FatGirlsCanRun) and Michelle @whiffenpuff waving me over wildly to the UKRunChat table again – thank you to them all for their company and support!
Overall, a great adventure. I am very happy to have done the full, but maybe it’s best to do the half and do it properly with the wine!
Other than that, there was a lack of toilets out on the course and I have heard some registration issues, but the unique atmosphere has to be seen to be believed!