The Bath Skyline Race is a popular running series held on 4 occasions over the Winter by Relish Running Races. The February event is the last in the series and to mix things up a bit they decided to hold a night version of the race the night before the day race. Being a fan of night races I couldn’t resist entering and was even willing to give up my Saturday to make the trip across the Severn Bridge to England.
With it being the first night race and a very different type of race to the daytime version, starting numbers were a lot lower with 78 opting for the 10K and 10 opting for the 5K races. In comparison, the previous month’s daytime race attracted 368 for the 10K and 28 for the 5K.
I ensured I arrived early so that I gave myself enough time to warm up, get mentally prepared and most importantly physically (i.e. use the toilet!).
I’ve learnt, both from advice and experience, that it’s best that I start as near to the front as possible so that I get the best possible start and avoid being boxed in. I ensured I started right on the line with other runners that were clearly going to be doing well in the race.
At the gun some shot off into the dark but I resisted trying to keep up and ran at a pace that I was comfortable with. The first 1K or so is on a tarmac path with a small incline that’s nothing difficult. By the 1K mark I was in 10th place and as the path headed off-road I was quickly heading away from those behind. I was close behind 9th and 8th place so made sure I kept them in my sights.
This section of the route was familiar to me despite it being pitch black. Back in July last year it formed part of the Very Long Half Marathon also organised by Relish Running Races. It follows the edge around Bath Golf Club before entering a wood for a tricky, speedy descent. Luckily it wasn’t too slippery but there were rocks and tree roots to contend with.
Leaving the wood the route heads along the edge of the golf course again until it reaches a short, but steep incline. At the top is a long, fast descent through a field with the lights of Bath illuminating the sky in the distance. Being relatively free of obstacles I was confident to keep up some speed on the descent and a cursory glance behind revealed that I was still stretching ahead from the runners behind me.
At the bottom of the hill I found myself gaining on the 9th position runner who appeared to be slowing down. I used the flat terrain to speed up a little to overtake him with the hope that he may slow down further once I had passed him. The tactic worked and he dropped back. Field turned into muddy track used as access to the golf course and with an embankment on one side and a wood on the other it was very dark which made it hard to judge where the muddiest sections were. I tried in vain to stick to the least muddiest sections, not to avoid getting dirty but to maintain speed, but it proved pointless and at times I felt I was actually avoiding the cleanest sections.
The end of the track turns into a welcome section of tarmac which descend down to a path that leads for a brief pass by of Sham Castle, another field and then another downhill wooded section to an entrance road to the university.
The road was a long climb back towards the start and I still had 8th place in front of me (1st female) who was around 10 seconds ahead of me. At the top of the hill you head for a trip around a car park (to help make up the total length of the lap to 5K) and then onto the start/finish line where those doing the 10K head back out for another lap of the course.
Let’s Go Round Again
With the 8th position still in front of me I headed out for lap 2 at a slightly slower pace than the first lap. Although at this point I didn’t actually know I was in 9th, I had a good feeling that I must be in or near the top 10 and this helped me maintain my pace. I was determined to finish as high as I could and knew that if I maintained my pace, and remained upright, I should be able to finish in a good position.
Reaching the 6K marker where the route heads off-road into the golf course I got a little confused by the positioning of the arrow which lost me a few seconds and 8th position moved further ahead. Speaking to her after the race I learnt that she also got confused by the sign.
As I progressed around the golf course perimeter I was losing sight of her and before long I was running alone with nobody in front or behind me. A potential downside to running alone could be that you start to slow down but my determination to finish in a good position keep me running at a good pace.
Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of 8th position and then on the final long climb I could see that she was about 30 seconds in front and too far to contemplate trying to catch. With about 400 metres to and unsure exactly how far other runners were behind me I didn’t want to end up blowing up and losing a position or too.
I crossed the line in 48:41, 28 seconds behind 8th position and 39 seconds ahead of 10th position. This was the best position I had achieved in a race and was delighted. Looking back at the start of the race it was interesting to note that the 10 or so that started at the front were the ones that finished in the top 10 positions.
Race Analysis and Route