Table of Contents:
What is the Bacchus Race
What is a half marathon / a trail half marathon
Race Day Atmosphere
Go Batman Go
The post-race roast
What is the Bacchus Race?
You’ll see it marketed as the Bacchus Wine Half Marathon & 10k - yes you read that right - wine. The race is based at the Denbies Wine estate in the South Downs so you get to sample a little bit of the wines grown in the very vineyards you’re running down.
“a real running race with all the trappings of a professionally organised event: an accurate, well-marked course, fabulous medal, chip timing and full medical support, but in many ways the running is the least important part of the day”
Other than the additional wine the race was organised the same as every other running race - numbers, chip timers, marshalls and mile markers galore. Although it did have more aid stations than most, more on that later.
Costumes optional? Technically yes, but the entire photo library is full of the wackiest costumes so it’s very much recommended and encouraged.
So why did I do it?
The race appeared on my mum's Facebook feed I think, and she decided it would be great fun as long as she wasn’t running it. Me and my brother both enjoy running and so said we’d do it on the condition that she picks the costume. The 10k was unfortunately sold out as we booked the race in August for September - better late than never eh. Otherwise we would have 100% done that.
For me personally, I have a big race coming up next year which I am slightly petrified of. And because I do official runs very rarely, nerves hit me very hard. I get dry mouth, set off too fast and generally panic a little bit. So I figured the more I can run official races and get over the craziness that is the starting line the better.
And it’s all fun. With no cut off time so you can crawl it if need be.
What is a trail half marathon?
A half marathon is a run with a distance of 13.1 miles / 21 km. The trail part just means it is run not on surfaced or paved roads, often through forests / countrysides / mountains etc. It really depends on who you ask as to whether it’s harder/ easier or nicer to run a paved or trail half marathon. Some people love the outside nature of a trail run with the views, unknown terrain and fresh air whereas others love the predictability of paved surfaces.
To trail or not to trail?
I personally love both trail running and road running. Trail running gives me the ability to run outside in the fresh air, and I love being outside. But the terrain tends to be hillier - and therefore more difficult, and as someone with weak ankles that can be a challenge.
It’s a personal choice - or you can have the best of both worlds and do both.
Predictable nature of route
Easy to get to
Can wear a wider range of running shoes
Maybe increased injury risk depending on terrain
May prefer trail running shoes and equipment which can be more expensive
May not be most accessible
Normally running through a city centre (a pro and con)
Maybe increased injury risk depending on terrain
Not a complete list but some of my thinking on trail vs. non-trail races.
I should preface this by saying that I booked the Bacchus race about 4 weeks before it was due to start. Mostly because I hadn’t heard of it, but also because I had a run scheduled for the week after and wasn’t sure about the recovery time. But then we looked through the gallery and… well the costumes all looked too great to pass up.
Booking Process: Super easy, book through the website,
Price: Half Marathon - £63, 10K - £38 - with this you get a medal, finisher’s t-shirt (only for the half marathon) and a hog roast and drink all included. This is a fairly standard price and sometimes you don’t get the t-shirt for this.
Bib Number Delivery: Although I booked quite late my number arrived the week before the race all in good time. I had expected to pick it up on the day.
Race Day Information: With the bib number arrived a booklet with “how to get there” information, frequently asked questions and more.
Deferral?: One of the standout features of the race was the ability to defer up to 24 hours before - especially useful given the week of the race saw a crazy heatwave in the UK.
Getting there: Denbies is very easy to get to, with train stations and buses nearby. The organisers did email / put in the FAQs that they recommended given the wine nature of the course to get public transport. We drove as those running weren’t driving, and parking was clearly signposted with wardens guiding us.
Once parked up and ready to go, we made our way on the - surprisingly long - walk to the start line. It was fairly busy with people in all manner of getting into their costumes. So already a great atmosphere.
Once you reach the Denbies main building, there was a tent with tables and benches, should spectators wish to camp out here. From here you can buy tea, coffee and similar foods and drinks. We got into costume, pinned our numbers and were good to go.
Race Day Atmosphere: 10/10 everyone was in a great mood!
Race Day Nerves: a little high as we arrived to temperatures of 32 degrees celsius!
The race itself!
A preface here that I have been fortunate(?) enough that I have run a half-marathon twice before - so I know it’s something I can somewhat do. And I’d trained for it. So I was excited to head off.
The route: my family joked that my apple watch GPS looked like a paperclip - we went up and down the vineyards so many times. As you stay mostly on the Denbies estate but dip into and out of National Trust land it is a lot of back and forth at points but with enough varied views to keep it fresh. As you near the end you’re above the initial set off route so you can see those setting off. As you near the end you reach mile 11 / 12 and realise you’re uphill from where you started - so it’s all downhill right? Aha I wish. Many people commented it’s all downhill, i’ve heard it’s a downhill back to the start - but no. There was a surprising array of uphill segments, so don’t sprint until you see that final corner!
For me ignorance was bliss - I didn’t look at the route beforehand.
The views were stunning - you go up and down the vineyard, among the vines to views of the Denbies hills. And throughout you reach a fair amount of elevation that allows a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Everyone was having so much fun - Half the runners were in character laughing and jogging along. A duo dressed as the 118 guys were shouting hey 118 back and forth across the race to keep track of each other. And a group of butterflies with portable speakers declared himself the music bus for the race.
The aid stations were plentiful - this gave that little reassurance that you could push a little without being stranded. And because of the nature of the race people were staying at the aid stations for a while, no pressure to grab a cup and continue running.
In the middle was a steep vertical climb - and we were not alone in underestimating it, what was a run quickly became everyone hiking and trying to help each other up.
The middle section - the middle section of the route is on National Trust land. This means no aid stations could have been set up here, and we were warned of this beforehand. But it means we had a flurry of 3 aid stations in quick succession - more on that below - before a gap of no aid for a whole stretch before we saw the sign that we’d re-entered the Denbies estate.
As someone who doesn’t eat much on a run, eating throughout was challenging - due to the weather I downed quite a lot of water in one go, and alongside the plentiful array of snacks it meant my stomach was a little confused. I knew I needed water and fuel, due to the distance and rate of water loss through sweat in the heat so kept drinking away. But with the food it was cheese, crackers, brownies, pineapple and even spring rolls! Meaning I ate a little bit out of necessity but mentally and physically it felt weird - normally I’m a sweets / maybe at a push flapjack gal.
When I set off I thought ah I just want to finish, not set a PB - although my competitive nature slightly kicked in of course. As we progressed and hit some steep hills I realised a PB was nowhere in sight. But I was just thoroughly enjoying the run and atmosphere.
Aid / Water stations: These were plentiful and well signposted - with white tents you could see from miles away. They were all stocked with lots of water, wine and snacks of choice. Plenty of cups, and those working the stations were happy to refill bottles and give second or thirds for cups.
Flags / Route: The route was very well signposted, with little flags throughout to guide the way and mile markers in neon yellow. We weren’t going to get lost anytime soon.
Cheering / Course Entertainment: I may be in the minority here but I’m happy for supporters to be at the start / end of the race only. Mostly because I’m a big run / walk fan and to the outsider when you walk they think you’re stopping. I’ve been told to keep going, don’t give up etc. while just following a run 2 minutes walk 1 plan before. This course is one of those with fewer spectators but a great finish line atmosphere - although there was a guy playing the bagpipes halfway through.
The real question - how was the wine?
I’m not a big wine drinker personally, and some people were there purely for the wine. But with the heat I personally found I was just downing liquids, not taking time to taste it. Plus too long at an aid station for me would mean I lose momentum, so I didn’t fully experience it.
Go Batman Go
My brother dressed as Batman, me as Robin we got sung to, shouted out and more as we ran past. Have you ever ran past an aid station to the batman theme song - it's something remarkable.
As part of your entry you get a free Hog Roast and drink at the finish line - beats the usual banana and flapjack. Once you crossed the finish line you separated into lines for Vegan / Vegetarian and gluten free, as well as non-dietary requirements. It was a nice roast to refuel and you got a free soft drink / wine / beer etc. of your choice.
A note here that if you have friends and family watching they will have to purchase a Hog Roast - and at £10 a plate it wasn’t the cheapest.
The Medal: A wonderful outline of Bacchus’ face on a thick silver medal - the design stays roughly the same year on year.
The T-shirt: Just like the medal the design stays the same with the year changed - this year was a classic grey t-shirt. Let’s be honest the t-shirts are for bragging rights not necessarily the look.
The photos: all photos were emailed free to us the next day. Something to note as most races make you pay to download photos without a watermark / in high quality.
I absolutely loved this race and would recommend it should you want to do a race but not take it super seriously.
If there's a race you love, or if you've done the Bacchus Race let me know.