Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Race Review : Bacchus Half Marathon

I am running through a vineyard in a sarong with grapes draped about my person, quietly shedding leaves and looking out for an escaped sheep. As I pause to consume wine and jaffa cakes a Roman taps me on the shoulder and hands me some grapes with the words "I think these are yours".

If I said that this was a rather odd dream I had, you'd be forgiven for thinking that were true, but in actual fact I was taking part in the Bacchus half marathon, an annual event held at Denbies Wine estate where fancy dress is nigh on compulsory and there is wine tasting en route. It was, without doubt, the most enjoyable half marathon I have ever done, worth every penny of the £45 entry fee and an event I'd do again in a heart beat. This is not en event for PBs; if you run for a time you'll likely miss out on all the fun parts. This is most definitely an event to do for the experience, for the fun, for the wine and with friends. The more the better. 
My race posse consisted of my parents, who, to my delight, decided that spending a day in a vineyard wasn't a bad way to spend a Sunday. Although the half marathon didn't start until 11am we were still up early-ish as it was a 50 minute drive away and with the marathon distance event starting at 10 we weren't sure how far away we'd have to park. We needn't have worried, parking was plentiful, free and easy allowing plenty of time for me to register, get kitted up and explore the race HQ. The best part of this is eyeing up everyone's costumes. I decided, after much deliberation, to go as an approximation of Bacchus or "Grape-Lady" as I got referred to more than once. It's the first time I've run in proper fancy dress and despite shedding leaves and grapes around the course I survived without chafing or costume-related injury, possibly as my costume felt a little tame compared with some.
I hadn't arranged to meet friends at the race, although I knew a lot of the twitter gang were taking part so I was pleased to find Lucy at the bag check on my way to the start line and even more so when it turned out we were both planning to take it steady. I was glad of the company. We set off through the vineyard, and out into the town where we met our first water/wine station. These appear approximately every two miles, loaded with biscuits, fruit, chocolates, crisps and sweets as well as water, squash and most importantly WINE! Stopping for a swig, a scoff and a natter so often makes this feel more like a party than a race. 
Enjoying a wine stop with Lucy and Laura
We found existing friends and made a few new ones on the way round. I have never been so well-fueled, and it was an interesting experiment in how well my system reacts to solid food on the go... all good practice for the forth-coming weekend...
Most of the route is on the estate and on trail. There are some long gentle climbs, fields and tracks affording some spectacular views. It also means that you may encounter escaped sheep, mountain bikers and horse riders. Quite how the horses didn't get spooked by us all I've no idea. Also dotted on the course was entertainment in the form of steel bands and bagpipers. This event has it all folks!

My parents managed to get to a couple of points in the second half of the race to cheer me on. In fact they were cheering everyone on... they're getting very well practiced at this, although dad's announcements of "just one more lap to go!" may have been less than well-received... They are on the verge of becoming minor celebrities; I've had comments from friends who recognised them from other events, who appreciate their enthusiasm and encouragement. To all you spectators out there, never under-estimate what a difference your support can make to anyone taking part.  

In reality the route isn't especially spectator friendly; if you want to meet your runner at the start or finish then there are only a few points in walking distance that allow you to also catch them on the course. Mum and dad got a fair few miles under their belts in the name of spectating! As such a lot of people choose to remain in the race village which offers retail therapy, space hopper time trials, food, drink and even spin classes. 
Tucking in to yet MORE food!
The last mile and a half of the course is all downhill, giving us the chance to really stretch our legs and push for a sprint finish. Tumbling over the finish line we were greeted with a handshake from the race director himself who had run as Wonder Woman then presented with a wonderful medal designed by Laurie King, who also designed the finishers technical t-shirts and the water bottles available to anyone who presented their medal at her stand in the race village. Tables laden with cakes and fruit distracted us on our way to the post-event hog roast, free to runners and including a glass of wine. 
Showing off my t-shirt and medal, post clean up
The party atmosphere continued well into the afternoon as runners and their friends and families relaxed with food and wine in the sun. My dad commented that I looked the freshest I'd ever looked after a half marathon, and I certainly felt the best I'd ever felt. I can't really find fault with this event. A huge thank you to the organisers, to Denbies and every single marshal. I hope you got to enjoy some of the wine as well.
This is post-race, in case you can't tell from the look of me... oh and best race number this year... 2014!
Finally a mention for my wonderful mum who was designated tweeter and photographer for the day. She did a sterling job, winning a selection of wine in the DenbiesBigTwit competition for best photo of the day! Truly well-deserved.
The winning photo - well done mum :)
Were you there? What was your highlight? Fancy taking part next year? 

1 comment:

  1. Great report! Sorry I missed you! I loved this one - ran the marathon so I got two goes at the wine stations! :)