Although only Jacqueline Chang and I ran the Bacchus Half Marathon on Sunday 14th September I thought I’d do a quick write up as it was an event that I was really impressed with and enjoyed a lot. The event takes place at Denbies Vineyard (by Box Hill) and is based on the Marathon du Medoc, so is a fun event with wine available at every aid station and the majority of the half marathon runners wearing fancy dress. As well as the half marathon there is a full marathon and a 2.5 K fun run, so although most of the half marathoners were there for fun, there were some serious runners too.
The original plan had been to get a big group of us together, run at the speed of the slowest person in the group and all wear the same fancy dress theme. Unfortunately a lot of people were either getting in 20 mile training runs before upcoming marathons, not interested in wine, or didn’t manage to enter before the event sold out (which it does every year), so we ended up with just Jacqueline and I running. We’d been too lazy to sort out any fancy dress but after seeing everyone else’s costumes before the race we had a bad case of “fancy dress envy” and will definitely be sorting something out for next year. Jacqueline suggested a theme of “Greek Gods & Goddesses” and after my recent injury woes I could be “Achilles”.
The main part of our race plan was to drink the wine available at every one of the seven aid stations on the course, so because of this we hadn’t driven and very handily the 465 bus route goes from Surbiton to right outside of Denbies Vineyard in 40 minutes (although there is only one bus an hour on Sundays). The race HQ was very impressive, located in and around the main building at Denbies with a huge marquee, lots of tables and chairs, baggage drop, pre/post race massages and a very professional feel with lots of Powerbar banners (their main sponsor). There was a definite fun atmosphere before the start with more people in fancy dress than not, lots in a group theme with some pretty cool costumes (though probably not particularly ergonomic for running in).
The course is mainly trail and fairly undulating although none of the ups or downs were that steep, but there were a lot of them. We’d been told there was one particularly bad hill, but that was a gradual climb that went on for about a mile, which we could have quite easily chugged up but as we were being lazy we decided to walk the final third. The payback is that the final mile of the course is on tarmac and all down-hill so we went from doing 10-12 minute miles (slowness caused by pausing to drink wine) to running an 8 minute final mile, feeling like proper athletes. The aid stations every 2 miles were great because as well as plenty of water and wine available (in shot sized measures, but you could have as many as you wanted) there were gels, fruit, cakes, biscuits, mars bars, jelly beans, crisps and more available. Two of the stations also had live music in the form of Bagpipes and a Steel Band. The marshals were great and very encouraging on the course although they didn’t have a lot to do as I only remember having to cross one road during the whole 13.1 miles.
All finishers got a huge chunky medal and a really nice race t-shirt (white with orange sleeves) which is one I’ll keep rather than giving it straight to a charity shop. Immediately after the finish line there was a final aid station with a huge selection of fresh fruit and cakes, although the piece of stodgy Christmas cake I had was a bad choice on reflection. The race entry was pretty expensive (~£40) but did include a free hog roast and drink (alcoholic if desired), so the majority of people hung around after the race eating, drinking and socialising rather than heading off home straight away. A lot of the competitors seemed to be embracing the wine element of the race as even after we’d finished in 2:18, sat around for a bit, got some food and wandered around the farm shop (which offered a 10% discount for all runners) there were still half marathon groups coming in with the 4-5 hour marathoners. EDIT: I just looked at the results and although we weren’t taking the race at all seriously it seems the majority of competitors were taking it even less seriously than us, because we finished in the top 25% of runners!
So event summary in short – great fun atmosphere; fantastic facilities; wine; hog roast and more wine (or beer) afterwards; aid stations were stocked with all sorts of goodies and every 2 miles; course was very scenic and 95% trail; great t-shirt and medal. Although an expensive event to enter, for a change I felt I really got my money’s worth and I’ll definitely be doing it again next year!