The Bacchus half marathon

Like wine? Like running? Like a bit of dressing up? If you can answer yes to these three questions then the Bacchus is an event that you need to sign up to. It’s held annually at Denbies vineyard in Dorking, Surrey and is renowned for being a bit of a giggle. There are a few options to choose from, a 2.5k fun run, a half marathon and full marathon to choose from. The half marathon being the most popular of the three. The race is renowned for ‘wine tasting’ at the aid stations with 6 out of the 7 aid stations on the course dishing out wines on top of the usual goodies you find at an aid station. So basically an aid station every two miles for the duration of the event, which breaks up the run nicely and much merriment ensues.

The guys from Havant Cake Club have been attending this event for a few years now and organise a group entry and a coach, aka the fun bus, to get there. I think there were in the region of 50 people in this years group in total. The entries organised by Julie Collins-Powell and the travel organised by Jo Lea, thank you so much ladies. This made entering and getting to the event a very simple matter, all I had to do was transfer my entry fee to Julie and turn up at Havant & Waterlooville football club on the morning, pay Jo for travel and get on the coach. It doesn’t get much better than that for organisation!

As the event is all about having fun and fancy dress is strongly encouraged there was a theme discussed and proposed within our group, this year it was space. Having scoured eBay using many different space related search terms for costumes I came to the conclusion that I wanted something that wasn’t available as a ready made costume, I was going to have to get creative. I could have re-used my Star Trek costume that I’ve previously worn at parkrun or gone for a Star Wars costume or one of the other readily available outfits out there, but the idea of being Rimmer from Red Dwarf had really stuck in my head. I love Red Dwarf (we won’t mention the Red Dwarf X series) and Rimmer for me was the perfect choice.

Creating my Arnold Judas Rimmer costume was so much easier than I expected and I think well worth the energy spent on it, it was very unique and received admiring looks and positive comments on the day, I was asked numerous times where I’d got it from. I sourced a selection of iron on Red Dwarf patches and a vintage beige 80’s summer shirt with epaulets from eBay, as well as a tie, belt and some cream combat trousers with legs that zip off from Matalan. The zip off legs were an essential choice for me as I didn’t want to be too hot once we got running. The whole outfit cost me about £20 in total and was pretty simple to both source and put together. The only thing missing was Rimmers trademark H indicating that he was a hologram, a quick trip to the pound shop got me a pack of kids stick on foam letters, a quick coat of silver paint from a spray can I had in the garage and the costume was complete. Fat Rimmer was born!

So with a costume preparations made, monies paid, a modicum of training done I’m ready to take on the Bacchus. Pick up is at 7:30am Sunday morning to allow us plenty of time to make the trip up to Dorking, my pick up point is the last of the morning so the coach is already full of aliens, spacemen and other assorted characters. Within moments of departing a birthday cake appears and a round of happy birthday is belted out, during which a few bottles of wine were uncorked and distributed. You can tell what sort of day it’s going to be when it’s not quite 8am and you’re on a coach with 40 or so people in fancy dress drinking homemade wine! This Is certainly a different approach to running a half marathon that I’ve not experienced before.

We get to Denbies Wine Estate in good time and fine fettle and pile through into the registration hall to collect our numbers, there are runners everywhere as you’d expect, though not in the usual club vests or neon garb that is the norm. There was a fantastic array of costumes on display, the vast majority of people very much getting into the spirit of things. There were Mexicans, minions, Flamingos, Hawaiian shirts, cops & robbers, doctors & nurses, centurions & gladiators, cavemen, Baywatch babes & hunks, zombies, super hero’s and villains, nuns on the run, Super Mario Bro’s and even a team of unicorns with a familiar face from social media, Runners Knees! This is only a brief rundown of the huge variety of costumes, it’s very evident that a lot of people took a great deal of time and effort in creating their costumes for the day. So much fun!

Once registration was done, numbers filled out and timing chips attached, it was time to grab a coffee, or breakfast for some, before seeing the marathon runners off at 10:00am, they get a half hour head start over the half marathon runners and have to do two loops of the course. I had originally been down to down the marathon but an admin issue meant that I was doing the half. I wasn’t going to argue this as I was not marathon fit and, having just come back from two weeks in Florida, over a stone heavier than I was before I left and feeling very unfit. It was also a very warm morning, I was already sweating a bit in my costume before the race had even begun, I think doing the marathon would have ended up being an unpleasant experience for me. So in reality I was exceptionally happy not to be doing the marathon on this occasion. Once the marathon chaps had set off it was time to head round to the bag drop and then head round to the warm up area and get prepared for the off.

The warm up area was very amusing, we were stood next to a very hairy version of the Spice Girls having a little boogie to the tunes being laid down by the DJ, including a rendition of ‘If you wanna be my lover….’, yeah, slam that body down and wind it all around… The lovely Mrs Cole from our group got in on the action too joining in for a boogie and chucking out some spectacular moves! Not your average Sunday by any stretch of the imagination. I spot a familiar face from social media, Susie Chan, dressed as Mario of Super Mario Bros fame, so popped over to say a quick hello. She’s an amazing lady, well worth a follow on social media, I’ve got to admit I was too star struck to ask for a selfie, maybe next time!

After a brief round of the official PT instructor led warm up session, you know, the ones I hate where they attempt to get the cramped together crowd doing star jumps and other such exercises that require more space than you have available, we make our way around to the start en masse. There’s a short countdown accompanied by the thunderbirds countdown on the PA and we’re off, the race has begun! The first corner is a bit of a bottleneck in the middle with people flowing round the outsides, so as is the norm for me I skip off round the outside, lose everyone I strarted with and head off at my own pace. Less than 1km in I spot a few others from our coach and tag along with them. Not even a mile in to the course, as we are running through the vines, I lose my first H, I’m already sweating profusely enough that the glue has met its match and given up the ghost! I’m sort of relieved as I had been concerned about ending up with a white H mark sunburnt on my forehead, I have replacements but make an executive descision to leave them in my pocket till later. Fortunately the first of the many aid stations has arrived, it’s time to sample the delights! It’s a bit of a crowded affair, being the first stop within a mile or so of the start that’s a given, so I grab a shot of wine followed by a cup of water and I’m on my merry way. I’ve now completely lost everyone I was with, but spot a couple of friends from Bosh, Max and Vanessa, who I’ve run with before at other events and join them as they’re always entertaining, even without wine and fancy dress. Wine consumed and new running buddies secured we are heading off out of the vineyard and onto a segment of pavement/road running down through the town. What a sight it must be for the locals, hundreds upon hundreds of fancy dress clad runners descending on them! It doesn’t take long to get through this section before we’re headed back off road and on to the next aid station.

This stop is slightly less hectic than the first, with runners thinning out a bit, but it’s still heaving. There are a couple of different wines on offer here. Shot glasses are obtained, wine quoffed, costumes admired and some more water consumed. There were some chocolates and other bits and bobs on offer, but I didn’t feel the need to consume anything solid at this point and to be honest I’m not a big fan of chocolates. It’s turning into a really hot day, sun beating down with little shade at this aid station so it’s time to get on the run again. We thank the wonderful volunteers who are servicing the thirsty runners and giving up their day to ensure we are fed and watered and trot off on our slightly merrier way. Hopefully the volunteers didn’t get too surnburnt being stood there all day.

I must point out at this stage that one of the “Boshettes” I’m running with, Vanessa, is dressed as a cowgirl, complete with pistol and cowboy hat. The pistol is, quite naturally, one of the water variety and is used, often mercilessly, throughout the duration of the run. Given that things are warming up it’s an inspired choice of costume, the hat ideal in these conditions and the water pistol welcome relief. Far more sensible than my shirt and tie, at this stage I’m already questioning the wisdom of that decision. We happen across a field with some donkeys in it, whilst they are quite cute and enjoyed being petted we have the serious business of a race to run and wine to drink so on we must go, without a trusty steed!

After what seems like a very short amount of time, with only one toilet break in between, and a bit of banter with a group of waiters and some nuns and police, we are at the next aid station. They feel like they are coming thick and fast. This aid station is very well stocked, with a nice cheeky rosé on offer as well as a healthy supply of snacky bits. This has now mentally become a race where the tactics are to run as fast as possible between the aid stations and then try not to spend to much more than maybe 10 minutes there drinking wine, eating pretzels and cake and having a laugh! On on, on we must go, out of this aid station and then onto the now slightly hillier course.

The aid stations are spaced a couple of miles apart so, regardless of the undulating course, they feel very close to each other. The next stop is actually the half way point in the race, 7 miles in and we’re at the 4th aid station. This one is positioned at the bottom of a hill and has a live band there blasting out a rendition of Kings of Leon…

All the commotion, The kiddie like play

It has people talking, Talking

You…….Your sex is on fire!!!!

This aid station was serving up a bit of sparkling wine, and, my only gripe for the whole day, this one was a bit shambolic. The volunteers there were completely overwhelmed and could not keep up with demand. I think the table layout in a U shape was a bad decision as it created a massive jam of people. Chaos ensued as people started helping themselves as demand was not even close to being met. I grabbed some delicious Madeira cake here and some water and stood back from the maddening crowd to observe.

From this aid station it was all uphill to the next, and boy was it a lovely view from that hill. This picture was only taken half way up to the next aid station, what a spectacular sight on a glorious day. It’s views like this that make you appreciate our beautiful countryside even more. I do love a bit of off road running as you can take a moment, whilst struggling up a 1 in 4 slope, to have a breather and admire your surroundings, you don’t get this sort of thing often during a road race, which are normally fast flat dull affairs. The next aid station, station 5, was a ‘dry station’ with no wine on offer so we didn’t hang around to long there, long enough to neck a couple of cups of lemonade and grab some pick’n’mix. There was a samba band there, but they were on a break when we arrived, there was a kids paddling pool and seaside cutouts there for pictures, but they were overrun by a crowd of runners in Baywatch costumes seemingly in their element, so we swiftly moved on. No pictures here sadly.

We picked up another runner from Bosh on the hill up to aid station 5, Janna, who was running in “WE Run, Hassocks” gear, so our little group of 3 became 4. There was a bit of aeroplaning for the course photographer on the top of the hill before we headed into a nice wooded section of the course and some welcome shade and interesting conditions underfoot, slightly more technical thank the hard park trail paths we’d run on the majority of the way. During the wooded run we encountered more nuns, some bees, some more baywatch life guards and some doctors and nurses. The miles seemingly flying by even if the running times didn’t reflect that! Again, in no time, we were at the next aid station, number 6. There was a fine selection of wines at this station and it wasn’t too crowded at all when we got there, even though we’d been going long enough to start being passed by marathon runners, we were going at a good clip for the less serious half marathon runners. There were some bell ringers here for our entertainment purposes. I think we probably stayed here longer than we should of before heading to the final aid station as we recorded an amazing 28 minute mile here, something to be proud of!

The final aid station had lots of cheese and biscuits available to go with the wine. This was really good, I’d never really considered cheese and wine as a mid-race nutritional option, but on the day it was just the ticket. Again we probably stayed at this one for too long recording another breathtaking 22 minute mile. I’m not entirely sure what happened but our group of 4 managed to get split up here and 4 became 2. Max and I ran the lovely hill down to the finish line together. This section was a lovely downhill where we probably recorded the fastest times of the day, even if a bit of aeroplaning (maybe with accompanying sound effects) took place. There’s nothing like necking a load of wine on a hot summers day and running down a hill in fancy dress with both arms stuck out to the sides pretending you’re an aeroplane and making silly noises, it’s quite liberating and totally the done thing by all the serious runners!

As much as I’d enjoyed the race I was quite glad to see the finish line as wearing a shirt and tie the whole way and running in these conditions was hot hard work. We had done it, we had completed another half marathon and it was a personal worst time by a good hour! I have never run a half marathon so slowly, but equally I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun on a half marathon either. Talk about miles of smiles, this is one experience that will stay with me for s lifetime. Such a great atmosphere, gorgeous scenery and fun filled time with friends and likeminded people.

 Check out the run details below, truly terrible but epically awesome at the same time!

As much as I’d enjoyed myself I was happy to get across the line and find a beer and get some shade and chill out amongst my fellow runners. Seriously happy to get the shirt and tie off too! Luckily there was beer on hand and an accompanying hog roast for all the weary runners! Not sure if the wine had anything to do with it but that hog roast was nothing short of spectacular!

What a fantastic experience, something I can highly recommend to any runner who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and is game for a laugh! Fancy dress is a total must and spot prizes are awarded for this so well worth making the effort.

I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to do it again. Roll on Bacchus 2017!

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