This weekend I visited Bournemouth to support a friend as he ran the Bournemouth Marathon.
I spent 4 years at Bournemouth University studying for my degree and loved my time there. Unlike many of my university friends, I then hung around and really enjoyed living there after finishing the course. Ultimately I moved to Bristol but still hold Bournemouth in high regard and enjoy finding excuses to return – especially when it is sunny. The Bournemouth Marathon Festival has been running since 2013 and I was there for the first one, but at that point in time a marathon seemed a long way from my capabilities so I stuck to the half marathon. In 2016 I had hoped to compete in the marathon alongside my good friend Luke. However, injuries made this impossible and although disheartened I was glad that I could go down and support Luke’s attempts, which meant I was taking on a different role for this weekend.
Getting to Luke’s on Saturday we met Duncan who was also staying at Luke’s and running the race with him on the Sunday. He was suffering with an allergy to the dogs which was not ideal preparation, making his speedy performance on Sunday even more impressive! On the morning of the race Dani and I headed down to Boscombe, taking on the role of spectator, to try and catch up with Luke and Duncan’s partners who had planned to be at mile 7. Parking was quite a pain if you wanted to get near to the finish line which is at Bournemouth pier. We parked up near Bournemouth College and had to pay over the phone, but meant we could add more time later in the day. From here we took a 30 minute walk to Boscombe and got to our location just in time to miss the super fast runners. Soon Luke and Duncan came through not too far apart and looking strong.
As spectators, it was really good for us to be able to catch the runners at a number of points across the course. From mile 7 we made our way back towards Bournemouth to catch them at mile 13 on the cliff top, just before they headed back down towards the promenade. After waving them through here, we were able to follow them down and as they headed off back towards Boscombe pier, we perched ourselves just by the finishing line which they would have to run past to go up a steep incline. Once they had gone past we had to power walk to mile 20 as they once again came back onto the promenade to head towards Sandbanks. At this point, one of the dogs got very tired and required me to carry it the rest of the way to make sure we got there on time. Unfortunately we missed Duncan but stayed long enough to see Luke come down.
With the weather being really sunny and delightful it meant that the beach was quite busy and also the promenade too. This frustrated me as there was no barrier for the runners, so the early runners were left to try and fend for themselves between the sparse marshals with one poor chap being nearly taken out by a dog running off the beach. As the flow of runners became more steady, this was less of an issue as they were more visible but it was a bit unfair. I must say that the marshals did their best but this is something that could and maybe should be looked at. Either by having more marshals or sections of railing spread along the course just to remind everyone that something was happening. There was also very little signage along the promenade to warn beach goers of runners coming and suggesting they keep to certain side.
After seeing Luke off for his final out leg, we were able to make it back down to the finishing straight to catch them both coming into finish. The atmosphere here was really good and plenty of people trying to catch a glimpse of their friends and family members running through. After this we headed down to the finishing area in Bournemouth Gardens which had a lovely relaxing feel to it even with the large crowds trying to reunite with each other.
Dani and I headed down to Bournemouth on the Saturday so that we could go and reminisce about our times in Bournemouth and go to check out the beach. There was plenty of time for us to kill before we went to catch up with Luke. Whilst we were down the beach we were lucky enough to catch some of the junior races which I had not witnessed before. There was such a great mix of abilities in these races but as they came into the finishing straight they all flashed the biggest of grins. Having an interest in sport development like I do, it is really great to see children being part of big events like this and I hope that it only inspires them to stay interested in sport and physical activity. Hopefully the Olympics will have helped this.
Ultimately, for spectators the course is a really good one for catching glimpses of runners as shown by the fact we saw them 5 times on the course. Doing this by walking was also unusual. In Edinburgh, Dani had to catch a train to get into the mix of being able to see me only a couple of times. The last couple of years the weather has been really good with the sun shining which made it a really good experience for spectators.
How did everyone else find the race? Would love to hear the views of runners and spectators!