Running in Secret

1 GoodGymer made their way in a race in Bath.

  • Jer Boon
Sunday, 4th of October 2020
Led by Jer Boon

The first Secret Run Bath took place today.

This was a new type of event, conceived during a global pandemic, and designed to be as socially distanced as possible. By its very nature, this meant that you didn't really see that many fellow competitors along the way, and there were no GoodGym meetups at the start or finish.

Given all that, I hope you can indulge me, as I write this race report from a personal perspective...

Jer's race

My race sort of got underway a few days before, when I received the text message telling me where to start!

The whole idea of this race is to run between a series of "secret" checkpoints, leading to an ultimate goal of running an approximate 5k, 10k or half marathon distance. As you check in to one checkpoint, you receive a text message telling you where the next one is. But each time it's up to you to find your way there...

My race prep didn't get off to an auspicious start. I've been nursing a badly sprained ankle for the last two weeks, and had already decided I wasn't going to run this event. But undaunted by the rain I set off on my own Secret Hike instead!

I prefer to go old-school when it comes to navigation (not least because I'm preparing for a race across Welsh mountainside, where internet connections won't even be a thing) and arrived at my start point of Green Park with paper map and compass at the ready...

I checked in, and 20 seconds later came my first text telling me my next checkpoint.

"Any idea where Shaftesbury Road Memorial Gardens is?" I inquired of the race marshals. Rather missing the entire point of the event, before quickly adding "sorry, that's not how this works is it!" and getting on to Google.

Ah, righty, it's in Oldfield Park.

Now. As mentioned before, I come bearing map, compass, lots of outdoor navigation experience, no fear of getting lost on the remotest mountains in dark, fog, all sorts of extreme weather... But Oldfield Park is something else. I'll never, ever get the hang of those twisty, turny roads. The wayfinder-defying Mobius streets that seem to somehow join up with themselves in some Harry Potter-esque nightmare. The mindbending one-way systems which even my car's SatNav plots a different route along each time I dare take it there.

I put the paper map away and asked Google Maps for directions...

In the end, it didn't take me too deep into the darkest depths of Oldfield Park, and having checked in to the first checkpoint, and being given my next (Weston Recreation Ground) I gained the confidence to get out the map and compass again. Probably not something that happens too much on the streets of Bath, but it made me feel like a pro...

Thus followed the theme, next taking us 10k runners to Victoria Park and then on to Hedgemead Park.

Despite the social disconnectedness of the event, I spotted a few fellow Secret Runners along the way - sometimes verifying that's what they were by checking out the clunky timing chip attached to their shoe, other times meeting them at the checkpoints as we waited for our text messages to come through, and at other times just because they were a runner looking a bit lost. I even spotted some GoodGymers along the way, some of whom also looked a bit lost...

Because of the rain, combined with numbed fingers, people were struggling a bit with their tech towards the latter stages (I managed to get one photo before my camera stopped behaving itself) and some of the marshals towards the end got into the habit of telling people themselves where to go next.

We finished up going via Kensington Meadows and then finishing with a canal-side run back to Sydney Gardens.

Despite the horrific rain, all in all it was a really good, fun event. A bit like a sort of inner-city orienteering, which a couple of tuning tweaks here and some nicer weather there, would work well as an event in or out of pandemic conditions. Definitely one for the future race calendar.

Report written by Jer Boon

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