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The Bath Hillybillies

Amanda hates freezing cold weather, and she hates steep hill descents, and she especially hates mudslides, so naturally she is drawn to the Bath Hilly Half; a race which those characteristics describe perfectly.

That's runner logic for you.

It was nice and warm in there.

So nice that some runners obviously didn't want to leave and are now in a bit of a hurry not to miss the start!

I miss the start deliberately because I want to take up position well ahead of the runners and I'm not sure how long I'll take to get there. Behind me I hear the two-minute silence for Remembrance Sunday, then don't hear the (I think) Deputy Mayor addressing the crowd, then do hear the singing of the National Anthem. Amanda will later inform me that Doctor Rob has recommended to the runners that they sing as quickly as possible to avoid standing in the cold any longer than they have to.

So, some of the race leaders:

First Fool on the Hill and First Dog.

First Marshal and first actual runner! This is Jared Lindon on his way to smashing the Ultra-10k course record. [What's an "Ultra-10k"? Well it's like a 10k only longer: 12.45 km officially, although I'm impressed if it's really been measured to within 50 metres.]

First Race Organiser and First Really Entertaining Fall. He's actually the second faller overall, but the gold medal winner was far less spectacular.

And First Amanda!

She's unusually far back in the field and has been taking the mud very cautiously. Some of the locals know that they can get out of the mud and onto the much less slippery grass, but the detour is not obvious.

After virtually everyone has come through, I follow one of the back markers along another muddy path, but at least this one is reasonably horizontal.

So to the hill where the Fool on the Hill does his fooling, with the leader of the Half coming up in the blue top.

And for that added fun factor, when you get to the top of the hill, you have to climb over a stile!

Back down the hill and it's yet more mud! But this bit also comes with a steep ramp that some find easier to jump off. Slightly to my surprise, nobody comes a cropper while I'm watching, and even Amanda will manage it without mishap.

I don't wait for her there, though, because I've been told to check out the location of a humongous puddle in previous years. However, I gather that the trail has been 'improved' recently and it's nothing remotely like I was expecting. A few splashes and that's it.

Spot the TV celebrity! Do you recognise Kate Humble? I didn't, so I guess there goes my chance of joining the ranks of the tabloid paparazzi. If Rob hadn't given the game away, I'd still be none the wiser. She's doing the 10k purely in a civilian capacity, but Rob's also managed to rope her in to awarding the prizes.

Some people just fall in the mud, others sit down in front of a mirror and carefully apply it like makeup.

Here she comes on her second descent of the mudslide, but still surprisingly clean.

And here are some cows.

Oh all right, there are runners running past the cows.

The marshal at this point tells me he was chatting to one of the runners earlier and suggested that being lightly built must be a big advantage, not having to haul so much weight up the hills. No, he was told, the biggest advantage a runner can have is the ability to endure pain!

Hmm... do I know anyone like that? Oh yes, all you lot!

Back up that hill. The sun has come out and it looks very pretty, but as you reach the top the wind is absolutely biting.

See, he's enjoying that pain.

And this chap is wondering if perhaps you shouldn't over-estimate it either...

But there's always some who'll break into a jog for five yards when the camera's pointed at them.

The women generally seem more cheerful than the men at this stage. I'd tell these two they're looking good but that's sexual harassment these days, so I'd better not.

This is probably a rare chance for runners to actually see the view without having to worry about tripping over things. Amanda tells me to hurry up and come with her because I'm going to help her down the steep ramp we saw earlier. Fortunately, I can keep up with her downhill.

But back on the flat, that's it, she's away!

Ooh err! When I next see her she obviously has had a very close encounter with the mud.

She comes in for a photo-finish with a guy she's been swapping places with a number of times. I'm standing right by one of the marshals recording the finishers who - unsurprisingly - can't read Amanda's race number, so it's lucky I've remembered it and can tell her.

As you can see, she is just fractionally ahead on the line, but clearly there's a glitch in the system because she will be given a time ten seconds later in the preliminary results. After correction, though, the result will be the remarkable coincidence that her race number - 118 - is also her finishing position.

"I am so cold and wet that jumping in this puddle will not make me any colder or wetter! Now get the heating going full blast in the car!"

So she's frozen, soaked through, knackered, got many and varied bruises including on her bad knee... Good job she's got that runner's advantage!

Love to all,


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