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The Half Marathon with only Half the Participants

Why I did run Bath Half

By Alex Matthews

2020 was probably one of the most controversial Bath Half marathons in history. Despite months of training through the tough winter months (including many blisters, soggy clothes and achy legs), only 7000 of the initial 15,000 participants crossed the start line, with less than this finishing.

So, what happened? 

First of all, I would like to emphasise that the run day itself was probably one of the most miserable days I’ve seen this winter and that’s certainly saying something with the number of storms that have recently swept across the UK. The runners’ area was covered in mud – with the plastic walkway almost creating a seesaw of splashing mud as runners tried to avoid getting soaking wet feet before the race even started. So whatever hesitation a runner would have prior to the race, the weather was undoubtably an encourager to stay in the warmth at home. 

In reality, the main reason for the poor turnout was the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic with the UK was facing rapidly increasing numbers of cases. In light of this, many participants (very understandably) expressed their concerns about running. Bath at the time, had two cases of coronavirus which were contained and were being taken care of by NHS staff (we are all hugely grateful to these individuals). I was quite adamant that the race should not take place in light of this, as: 

  • First and foremost, the race attracts individuals from all over the UK as it is one of the fastest half marathons in the UK – I did not want runners coming in from all over the place, as this stops the virus from being contained, and create more cases in Bath with is only a small city with a limited capacity to cope.
  • Secondly, if in doubt, I think it is always better to play it safe – especially when the lives of the elderly and vulnerable are at risk. 
  • Thirdly, research demonstrates that social distancing is key during this time to prevent spread.

Despite this, I did still run the Bath Half on the 15th of March 2020 for a few reasons: 

  1. I was very aware that many methods of transport had be cancelled due to the weather – this information was given to us by the organisers so I knew the number of people coming from elsewhere would be reduced.  
  2. Secondly, I also knew that coronavirus does not spread easily outside and instead prefers the indoors (this meant there was a very little risk of me and my fellow runners would contract the virus as there is minimal if no contact made during running
  3. Also due to the weather, there was significantly less supporters than in previously years, which was crucial to reduce crowds and consequently reduce spread.
  4. Finally, in terms of sponsorship, I wanted to run so the Bath Cats and Dogs Home, my chosen charity would receive the money I had raised during sponsorship.


I am absolutely no scientist, but I just tried to make the best decision with all the information the event hosts provided me with, combined with my knowledge of the virus, and overall, I’m glad I made the decision to still run.

Why I didn’t run Bath Half 

By Chloe Bester

Rather bluntly, there were two reasons why I initially signed up for the Bath Half. The first was to prove to myself again, the extremities I could push my body to go to. After quitting rowing, I missed the exaltations that come from physically not being able to push yourself any more than you already have.  The second – something more people will be able to relate to – was to raise money for a charity in honour of a family member. This is where my decision to not run eventually came from. I was running the half marathon for family, but by participating I would be endangering my family if I chose to go home afterwards. To me, not returning home wasn’t an option. At this point, I had not been home since Christmas, and did not want to stay apart from my family until the pandemic was over. In my opinion, in times of apprehension, one should always return to family, if possible. I must admit, the situation was made much more complicated by the fact that my family live abroad, and the window of opportunity to fly home was quickly closing. 

I am immensely disappointed I didn’t get to run the Bath Half Marathon. As a very active person, I see running the Bath Half Marathon as a must if you are to embrace all Bath has to offer whilst studying here. However, I have decided to embrace a bad situation. I am choosing to use this moment as a benchmark. I have estimated how fast I was meant to run the half marathon this year based on my training. I intend to beat this, when I do hopefully manage to run it in fourth year. See you at the finish line of Bath Half 2022!

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