A summer of socialising can sometimes make it difficult to squeeze in your long runs. I’ve found the best way to combat this, is to make sure that all of your friends, are also runners! Earlier this month, one of my University friends got married in Bristol, so Ellie and I decided to find an Airbnb so that we could make the most of some (albeit slightly hung over!) long run tourism the following morning. Running Bristol, what a perfect way to spend a sunny weekend.
Bristol will always hold a flame in my running heart. In 2008, with NO idea what I was signing up for, I agreed to run the Bristol half marathon to raise money for the hospice that had looked after a friends mum. I had no running shoes, no idea how far a half marathon was, and certainly no watch or any idea of pace. I’d never entered a race before. But I did it, and that was it. I was hooked. So really, running along the river Avon kind of felt like my running had returned home. Older, wiser and with far more miles in my legs, but still a pure love for the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other.
This run did actually have a purpose. Our mission was one of search and rescue. We’d abandoned Ellie’s car, ‘Captain Colon’ as a nod to its poo brown colour, outside the wedding venue the previous afternoon. And as we had no intention of long running all the way back to Bournemouth, we needed it back. Beyond that though, we had an hour and 20 cut off and not a shred of directional awareness between us! Excellent. So, after a quick breakfast of banana and marmalade on toast (I love it when Airbnb’s leave you breakfast options), we headed left out of the flat trying hard to reverse the route our taxi driver had taken only 7 hours previous.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge
We started with a slow, mile long climb up to the Clifton Downs (welcome to Bristol!) and then onwards towards the Clifton suspension bridge. The views across the gorge from the bridge are spectacular. You are 100m above the water and can see right across Bristol. I tried not to think of being suspended above the river Avon as we ran the 400m to cross. I suppose having stood since 1864, you’d hope it’s fairly sound!
Back on terra firma, we tossed the coin and headed left towards Bristol. On another day, with a bit more time, I think Leigh Woods would also have been a great place to explore. The ‘south bank’ of the Avon though has a very urban, green feel to it with a path taking you through the Brunel Open Space full of skate boarders and graffiti’d bridges. Again, with a bit more time, it would have been lovely to continue on towards the comically named Whapping Wharf, which has a really modern vibe and one of my favourite ever cake stops, Mokoko Coffee and Bakery. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.
Oh the hills
As we had a deadline though, we crossed the bridge onto ‘Spike Island’ and sandwiched between Bristol’s two rivers (who new?), followed the docklands back towards Clifton. And then, all hell broke loose! The zig zags. Having run downhill between mile 2 and 3, I knew it was coming, but even Bournemouth’s steepest beach zig zags pale into insignificance when compared to these. According to Strava, and we all know that makes it gospel, the climb was just over 300 feet in 0.3m. That’s a gradient average of 19% (according to my dodgy GCSE maths memory!) Right, or wrong, you can’t argue with the graph, it was hideous!
I was determined that no matter how slow, I was going to run the whole way, and I did. The zig zag path chews you up, and spits you out at a vantage point on Sion Hill. The photo’s don’t really do it justice, but the saying ‘will run for views’ was fairly apt. It’s very leafy and green, but I’m glad I didn’t see the lack of support under the bridge until after we’d crossed!
The South Downs
With another mile to make up, we looped around the South Downs joined by numerous other runners, cyclists, dog walkers and people generally enjoying the fresh air, before heading back to the car.
8.15 miles averaging just under 10mm pace, and most importantly, a cracking appetite for a second breakfast!
The Clifton Pantry
Talking of which, our 1 hour 20 time cap was based on the fact that we were meeting friends for brunch at 10am. Someone had chosen the Clifton Pantry, and it turned out to be a real winner.
You can find it on Waterloo Street, which is full of cutsie, boutiques. I went for the veggie brunch, if you’re wondering.
And sadly, all too quickly, our trip was over. One of my favourite things about staying anywhere, is the opportunity of new running turf. In Bristol, I was lucky enough to share that with a friend, which made it even more fun. To be honest, I really love Bristol, and I’m already looking for another opportunity to explore more of the city, not to mention the coffee shops. Anyone fancy keeping me company for some zig zag hill repeats??
Until next time Bristol!