The 35th Vitality Bath Half Marathon on Sunday morning will see a capacity field of 15,000 runners started by Sharron Davies MBE, in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage city. The flat, two-lap course that straddles the picturesque River Avon, plus the enthusiastic crowd and carnival atmosphere always produces personal bests and great excitement.
The Battle of the Bands will see nine local groups compete for runners’ votes on the course but the day’s biggest winner is likely to be the lead charity, Macmillan Cancer Support. Last year a record £2.1 million was raised, making it the largest single-day fundraiser in the South West.
Nigel Gates’ inaugural victory in 1:03:01 in 1982 signalled two decades of success for home runners, followed by African domination of the top step of the rostrum until London-based Paul Martelletti (Run Fast, 1:05:28) last year.
National cross-country champion, Jonny Hay (Aldershot, Farnham & District) is among the favourites for the men’s trophy, as he strives for an Olympic marathon debut in Rio this summer.
Joyce Smith clinched the first women’s title in 1982 (1:11:45) and Cornwall’s Emma Stepto, then aged 44, was the 2015 champion (1:13:48). In an open field, Hayley Munn (Winchester) and Tracy Barlow (Thames Valley Harriers) will be chasing a podium place but the biggest cheers will be reserved for local favourite Rebecca Hilland (Team Bath) in her first competition of the year.
Bath Half Marathon entries closed several months ago. Entries for 2017 open on Monday, March 14 and an early response is essential to secure a place.
Full details are available at the race website.