in the tunnel

44. Bath Two Tunnels Marathon

50/50 marathons

44. Bath Two Tunnels Marathon

16th August 2020.

Socially distanced start

This week’s marathon was an actual proper event. None of this skipping around the Isle of Wight, I actually had to go somewhere, on the ferry, off of the Island to take part in the Bath Two Tunnels Marathon. My first proper event since Marathon 23, the Endurancelife Sussex Marathon.

Technically this is marathon 44.5. Last Saturday I set off to do the usual weekend marathon, but it didn’t really go to plan!

The temperatures last week were up to 34 in places. It was sweltering. The kind of heat you expect when you get off the plane in a hot country. Really humid, leaving you drained and sat in a pool of sweat just for thinking about doing something.

My plan was to set off early evening and then run in the cool of the night. Only there wasn’t really a cool of the night to be had! I set off from Newport at about 6:45 pm and headed on a bit of a tour of the haunted spots of the Isle of Wight. I figured that if I was going to do a night run, I should at least make it interesting.

The Island is famous for its many haunted places, it’s literally littered with ghosts and ghouls…. apparently! In my youth, I used to love going on ghost hunts with friends. We never saw anything remotely scary, but there was always someone who knew someone, who had a cousin that would say that they passed Knighton Gorges one night in 1985 and would swear blind there were griffins on top of the gate posts where there isn’t anything normally. Whenever I’ve been there it’s just the usual empty gate posts. For some reason, we loved scaring ourselves.

My route would have passed these places. Had I not bailed out early! My friend Guy ran with me for a bit. We both felt the heat. It was tough to run in. When Guy left me I was starting to struggle. It did get a little bit cooler as the night went on but I think the damage was done. By the time the light had completely gone, I found myself somewhere between Chillerton and Shorewell, lost in a cornfield, feeling rather dizzy and disoriented. I was only 17 miles in, but I knew this wouldn’t end well if I tried to push on. So I decided to call it a day and Caroline collected me. Disappointing, but definitely the right decision to make. When I got home I was suffering.

I can still complete this challenge in a year as I had 2 weeks’ spare. They are both used up now. The first week was back in February when storm Ciara hit.

The Two Tunnels 2020 event site

A socially distanced marathon

So onto this week. I’m currently on the ferry, making my way to Bath to take part in an actual marathon! After 20 weeks of running marathons on the Isle of Wight because everything had been canceled, there is finally an event taking place. This one is The Bath Two Tunnels Marathon. The event is organised by Relish Running. Like all event organisers, they have had a rough ride. But somehow they managed to get the approval for this event to take place, albeit under strict socially distanced rules. So it won’t be the same as other events, but I’m quite intrigued to see how it works and very much looking forward to a change of scenery. On the plus side, the hot weather seems to have broken a bit, so, fingers crossed there’s no need to pull out of this one?

I loved the opportunity to go on a bit of a road trip, this year was originally planned as an opportunity to travel about between races and use the camper for what it’s made for. Things haven’t worked out as originally planned, so it was a bit of a treat to get off of the Island and stay somewhere in the van.

I had booked in at a place called Pitch Perfect Camping. What a little gem of a campsite! Quite busy with families, but not unpleasantly so. It made for a nice peaceful evening.

My race didn’t start until just after 10:30, so I had the luxury of a bit of a lay-in. I woke up with a splitting headache. Not a great start. With the absence of alcohol the previous evening, I can only assume that I may be slightly dehydrated.

Once packed up, I made my way towards the race start. One of the measures in place was that no cars could park at the race start so we were directed to a park and ride where a bus would take us to the start. I was worried about getting on the wrong bus, but once on board, it was clear that everyone else on board was also going to the event.

The site itself was exactly like any other event, apart from the lack of people. They had planned the day so that different distances were spread out across the whole day, and every competitor had a designated start time. So there was never a time where there were the usual clusters of people.

When the time came for the marathon to start, everyone was called over and had to stand by cones that were laid out to ensure social distance. Masks were compulsory at this point. One by one, each runner was called up and set off at 5-minute intervals. Nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced, but essential measures for Relish Running to gain the approval to go ahead.

Devonshire tunnel entrance
Coming out of the first tunnel

Tunnel one – Devonshire Tunnel

The weather was overcast but very warm. The humidity was overpowering. I set off at around 10:30 and was already a puddle of sweat! The route was pretty simple. It had been adjusted from the usual route to avoid any possible congestion. We ran along a cycle track (familiar territory). This would have been the old railway line. The first tunnel on the route was the Devonshire Tunnel. Devonshire Tunnel is on the closed Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway mainline, between Midford and Bath Green Park railway stations, below high ground and the southern suburbs of Bath, England, emerging below the northern slopes of Combe Down village. It’s about 409 meters in length.

Entering the tunnel was pure refreshment. The air was so cool, a welcome relief from the humidity outside. Once through here there was a brief spell back out in the heat before we entered the second tunnel.

Combe Down Tunnel entrance
in the tunnel
A bridge along the Two Tunnels route

Tunnel Two – Combe Down Tunnel

Combe down tunnel opened in 1874, this 1,829-yard (1,672 m) long disused railway tunnel was once the UK’s longest without intermediate ventilation. The tunnel now forms part of the Two Tunnels Greenway walking and cycling path opened on 6 April 2013 and is the longest cycling tunnel in Britain.

Inside it is pitch black. There are lights, but they are very dim, making it hard to see anyone until they are right next to you. It’s used by a lot of cyclists, some of them bomb through without worrying about lights or any runners or walkers. Most are quite courteous though. As you get near the middle of the tunnel you can hear violin music. It’s oddly spooky! It’s a very long tunnel, it does feel like you’re never getting out, especially by the last lap.

Once through the tunnel, it wasn’t too far before the turn around point. Then we headed back along the same track. In total, we had to complete 4 laps to complete the marathon. I normally hate lapped marathons, but I came to relish going through the cool of the tunnels. I actually felt like it gave me a bit of a surge of energy.

It’s not the most picturesque of routes as you’re either in a tunnel or running along a cycle track. I believe under normal circumstances the marathon route takes in a bit of the surrounding countryside. But the thing that makes this event unique, are the tunnels. I would certainly recommend this event to anyone looking for a summer marathon. The organisation is superb and the marshals are so encouraging along the trail. One marshal, in particular, was lovely and really gave everyone a lot of encouragement. I swear it was the actress Olivia Colman! If not she really did look and sound like her.

This may be my last opportunity at a proper event before this challenge is done, so I made sure I enjoyed it, well, as much as you can enjoy running a marathon!

The finish line
Finished, literally

More medals

Once home, I had the extra joy of being handed another homemade medal from my lovely friend Beverley-Jo Fisher. This was supposed to be for last week, but I blew it, so I was so chuffed to receive it today. There were two packages handed to me by Caroline. I love the intrigue of trying to guess who it might be from. Inside one box was a hand-drawn slate medal with a rather worn looking shoe drawn on to it, quite apt as I have really been going through the running shoes, in fact, I must get a new pair. The second was a picture disc of a 7″ single of Hole in my Shoe, by Neil From the Young Ones! Thank you Bee, I love them both and the lovely message in the card. Where on earth did you manage to get that picture disc from?

Neil Hole in my shoe







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.