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Oooh ! A new running event.

I can’t remember how I found out about this one but as soon as I saw it I have to say it was a must-do. Who could refuse a start-up event that starts and ends in Wales and involves running over the Severn Bridge ? I couldn’t.

Well, it would also involve an excuse for visiting’s trickiest English county – the not-really-a-county-or-is-it City of Bristol. Another reason for going then.

We decided to stump up a few of our air miles to get a room in the Mercure Holland House in central Bristol for a couple of nights (it was a Bank Holiday weekend after all). The race was scheduled for Sunday so we were fine with spending the whole day there and coming back on Monday.

We drove down in Kas’s car on Saturday lunchtime, Kas having run parkrun in the morning. We stopped at a random service station for some lunch on the way – Membury or Leigh Delamere – and got to Bristol in good time for a bit of a chill in the hotel before going out for dinner. We had a bit of a stroll around before getting thoroughly lost trying to find our way into Cabot Circus to the local Zizzi’s. We should have looked at the photo on Wikipedia then. It’s clearly in shot. We had our usual collection of spaghetti bolognese and pizza, and then we walked back home for a relatively early night. After all, I had to be over the other side of the Severn Bridge at some awful time of the morning and there was some breakfast to be eaten beforehand.

We began race day with as hearty a breakfast as I could manage in the time allowed and we jumped into the car to make our way (surprisingly quickly) up to the Severn Bridge before it was closed for the event.

We parked up in an industrial estate to the west of the bridge and made our way up a steep grass bank onto the event area. There were a couple of other Redway Runners there, but not many.

As it was a first event, they suffered the usual problem of not having enough toilets, but thankfully I managed to time my bicycle rotation to suit and I was ready in time to get up to the start point. This proved to be halfway along the bridge, nearly under the western tower of the main bridge.

One thing you don’t notice when you’re driving over suspension bridges is the slope. When you’re running, you do notice it. The first stretch was uphill, followed by a mile of quite sharp downhill running off the bridge into England.

Once on dry land the route went north of the motorway around Elberton and thereabouts over roads which were narrow and generally “agricultural” in nature. We were warned at the start that there was a hill at about halfway, and we ran up a big one at about 5.5 miles so I assumed that had been it, until, that is, I got to the bottom of the “proper” hill. It was one of thse where I immediately stopped running and started walking. No way I was going to be getting up there at running speed. After a busy August I was feeling rather unfit anyway and was starting to struggle.

By the time we got back out onto main roads I was having problems. I was still going at a decent speed but starting to tire, and by the time I got to the end of the bridge I’d had enough. The mile up the English side of the bridge was more than my legs could manage and I ended up having to slow to a run-walk strategy. All of this meant a rather disappointingly slow 2:03 finish. I’m not sure what I was expecting but after a run of sub 2 hour halves I certainly had that in mind. It was getting painful towards the end though.

After finishing I devoured all edible contents of the goody bag and got a bad neck carrying the rather substantial medal before jumping into the car and doing a cache in my first new county of the day, Zetec, in Gwent.

Back to Bristol then for a quick wash and brush up followed by a walk over to the Floating Harbour, where we failed to find a cache (as it was inaccessible due to some re-paving) but then found a decent looking waterside pub, where we sat outside (with jumpers on) whilst eating some well-earned sandwiches and crisps and beer.

So what to do from here?

We’re always up for a bit of “active” history or geography at Gardner Towers, so we decided to walk along to the SS Great Britain to see what was up. It was really quite interesting. The kids marvelled at the (small) size of the cabins and beds and we also got to meet the real Mr Brunel, or at least that’s what he told us, and he did have the big hat and everything.

Once we’d finished upstairs we descended into the room beneath the boat, where the temperature and humidity are somewhat akin to a sauna, because apparently it’s good for the hull. Down here there was a great view of the business end of the ship. Or, at least, a restored and replaced business end.

All of this was very interesting but it wasn’t, to be honest, ice cream. The weekend had officially been designated as “holiday rules”, and hence at least one ice cream a day was on the cards.

We walked halfway back along the quayside and grabbed some from a kiosk before continuing our way back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel it wasn’t quite late enough to give up, so we jumped in the car and drove up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge for a nosey. There’s not much parking and in trying to find somewhere we ended up taking the car over the bridge. We walked back and did the earthcache at the bridge and then crossed it on foot to do another cache and have a quick walk up to the observatory building.

As we were walking back to the car we saw a sign announcing that we were crossing into North Somerset. So I checked for a nearby cache and there was one on a sign about 30 yards further on. Cha-ching ! That’ll be another county done then. That made three new counties done in a single day.

After this we headed back to the hotel and got tidied up (again) to go out looking for dinner. We couldn’t be bothered to walk far that evening (or, technically, I wasn’t able to walk far) and anyway we’d promised the girls we’d try to find a Sunday roast, so we mooched around the harbour area until we found a reasonable looking pub diner. We found one after walking probably three-quarters of the way around a loop. It was a decent pub though, and they had beer. And they had roast dinners. Several of those then.

After dinner we retired for another fairly early night and then got up in the morning to have a somewhat longer and more filling breakfast than we’d had the previous morning. And that was more or less it for the weekend, aside from having to drive home to Milton Keynes, which we did both quickly and uneventfully. It was just as well we did, because when we got home we had to pack up the car again for a week and head up to my folks house in Measham, where we were spending the final week of the kid’s summer holiday. Kas stayed at home to get some proper work done. I took mine with me.