The day after the Bath Trail Marathon last July, I was on a four mile recovery jog home from work. As I came to a railway crossing near my house, the barrier was down and I had to wait for a train to pass before moving on. As I waited, two other runners caught up to me and we got chatting.
It turned out they were involved in an unofficial running group called the Bath Bats. So called because they ran together as a group with headtorches at night on various local routes and always finishing in a pub afterwards.
They seemed really great and it turns out a large number of the group are Ultrarunners including some who have run UTMB and one who has run Hardrock. Damian, who didn’t run last night understandably, has just come fourth at The Spine race.
When two strange men ask you to meet them in some woods after dark in the middle of nowhere, you just have to go with your gut…
For one reason or another and due to commitments and timing I didn’t get to join them for a run for the rest of that year. Most of my running is done alone and I was keen to join them, particularly as I am not overly keen on night runs in the middle of nowhere alone as I expect to get either murdered by a farmer or dogger or gored by a bull.
This weekend is a race I have entered called the Slaughterford 9 (http://www.chippenhamharriers.co.uk/organised_races/slaughterford/ ). It is legendary in this part of the world and whilst shorter than races I usually enter, it looked epic. Nine very hill cross country miles where the winner usually takes under an hour (how?) and most people finish inside two hours. I am focussed on getting faster this year and can only do this by running competitively in shorter races as well as having good solid mileage each week.
It also helps training with other people to push my pace and the Bats certainly did that. Running alone, it is easy to get into a comfortable groove which means you can grind out the weekly mileage but not push yourself as you do running with others.
I am on the round robin group email list from the Bats and when an email came through a couple of weeks ago saying they were running the Slaughterford 9 route by headtorch on Wednesday 22nd January I knew I had to be there.
The Bats have around 40 ‘members’ but some of these (like me) had never run with them and they usually average about 12 runners per session. Last night there were eight of us and I chatted to everyone at some point on the way around. At times I was at the front, at others at the back but we all ran together and whenever the group got too strung out it was called to a halt until we re-grouped.
At the moment, to keep my mileage up, I am running to and from work most days which is about 8 miles in total. Sometimes I go for a longer run after, like on Tuesday where I ran 16 miles in total. Thinking that the pace would be pretty gentle on Wednesday night I ran to and from work yesterday too before I met the Bats at 7:45 at the start of the Slaughterford 9 route.
This was a mistake.
A slow group of runners they aren’t. Whilst I managed to keep up all the way around and was at the front at times, the pace was always pushed and I was really knackered by the end (although tried not to show it!). It was just what I needed and I will definitely run with these guys again.
I am really excited about the race on Sunday. We ran the route in an hour and a half last night and I would like to think I can hit an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday with it being daylight and a competitive atmosphere.
Above all, it was just really nice to run with other people for a change. For such a solitary sport, it really can be social if you make the effort.