Race Review : Bacchus Half Marathon

Or does a unicorn shit in the woods?


Far back in the ancient mists of time, before I joined #UKRUNCHAT, I bailed on a lot of races. One such race was Bacchus, a half marathon or full around the Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey. Effectively our version of the Marathon du Medoc.

It was 2013, my second year of running, and running solo at that, and I was not prepared to run without music. Something I am comfortable with now. Shame, as the Gaultier le Male sailor outfit was quite special.

Ahoy. Pull up a bollard and take a seat.

It did mean that Bacchus joined the ever-growing (at the time) list of DNSs, a list of races that I MUST complete at some point or another.

The Now

I do not know how it happened. But I was suddenly signed up for Bacchus half this year with a group from UKRUNCHAT including, but not limited to, Jenni, Emma, Melissa, Ciara (who later had to pull out), Lou, Mike, James Surname, Tim Superman, and Jo Frazer-Wise. And the Twitter DM group for the Bacchus Marathon and Half turned rapidly into a 1970s BBC sitcom. It did not take long before the horn jokes started because it was decided (based on a UKRUNCHAT poll) that the team would dress as unicorns.


That’s right, unicorns. I had originally suggested we go as London Underground tube stops. This would have been hilarious. You could go as Barking (in a straightjacket), or as Shepherd’s Bush (Hairy), or as an Angel, or the Blackfriars, or ABBA (Waterloo), a leg (Neasden – Kneesden), you could let your mind run away with you. But alas that idea was poo-pooed. It came down to bees (with one person, either the slowest or the fastest, being the bee keeper) or unicorns. It was put the vote and the rest is history.

This race, not that it will be a race in any shape or form, comes at a rough time for my spread sheet. I have conditional formatting on it showing good times in green, going through multiple shades of green, into yellowy orange for mediocre ones, to red for bad ones. Having run Race to the King as my slowest marathon in the last couple of months, and my slowest 10K, the Spitfire 10K with Emma, Eleanor and Sarah at the RAF Museum race, it was now obvious that Bacchus will become my slowest half marathon. On my poor spread sheet the last races in all three tracked distances will be red. Red. RED!

But surely this is not about time. There is wine (supposedly) at the checkpoints. We are running trail. We are running without music. We are running as a herd… No! Hold that thought. A collection of unicorns is not known as a “herd”, it is known as a “blessing”. Yeah? Fo reals? And am expecting the free flowing booze to slow down proceedings quite a lot.

Dude, I am like, so totally drunk

The Costume

After the Bowie race, and the Alice in Wonderland Caucus race, Punk Run and Spitfire 10K, after Bacchus and then a Santa Run 2016 will have been the year of having fun, running in costume. But after the slowing of times for two of these, I need to start taking my running seriously. So outside of the February Bowieathon 6 hour ultra, no costumes in 2017. This is the last time, goddammit! You heard it here first folks.

In the DM group images were passed fast and often. Rainbow leggings, pink vests, flowing manes, and the inevitable horns. I had my costume idea pretty quickly. In my head it was a goth evil unicorn. The Fallout Boy Unicorn. I gave the costume a name. Darth Sprinkles.

I wanted something I could wear to the shops

The Route

I am not sure how useful this route map is. I know it is one lap for the half and two for the full. I am guessing we get wine and water tables every 2 miles, as there are only 7. I looks as if it mostly trail, as the squiggly red line is not on the roads or paths. So hopefully the weather will hold off. I don’t think anyone wants to see 9 soggy drunk unicorns covered in mud.


How I/We Did

It started well, this one. I met up with half of the herd pretty quickly. Emma, and her friend, and Mikey were already there when I got my racepack after a farcical packet pickup. Ok, this is how stupid this was, and was one of the very few areas for improvement – imagine a room with queues of people, multiple queues, say a dozen all queuing towards tables. You can only see the queue, not the tables. On the wall above the people at the tables are the words “Packet Pickup”. What do you do? You  find the shortest queue and patiently wait til you get to the front of the line.

You see that would be wrong. Why? Because when you get to the table, finally, you find that each table has a small subset of the packs, it is by surname, so Ra to Sm had mine, and was not the queue I was in. Having the letters high on the wall above the tables would have made more sense and made things go a LOT quicker.


But whatevs, as they say. Not sure who “they” are but am sure it is they who say it. And then, once we had our packs, dropped off bags and met up with the rest of the herd (Moosenshoes and her posse) we went to the start for a warm up I did not take part in, and a series of jumps until we got it right.

And then we were off…

How best to describe the Bacchus Half marathon? It was trail mostly, with a few road bits. It was very hot. There were a few fallers. I saw Ickle Pickle. I SAW Ickle Pickle fall!!! I saw Ickle Pickle dancing to the Proclaimers. No one needs to see that.

I gots the moves, bitches
I gots the moves, bitches

The going was good for most of the run, with a soggy grassy stretch in the last 5K, and only a couple of hills. From the last checkpoint it was ALL downhill and mostly on path and I loved it.

Most people dress up, and when I say most I mean it. It reminds me of going to the Goodwood Revival. If you do not go to the Goodwood Revival in costume you WILL feel like the odd man out. If I went to Bacchus in my regular running gear I would have felt the same. Unless I was running the full, which would have been insane. This is NOT a course to run a marathon on. So massive kudos to Mikey for doing that. You are a braver man than me, sir.

What unicorns? These mother effing unicorns.
What unicorns? These mother effing unicorns.

The atmosphere is amazing, everyone is out to have fun. You see the most amazing creativity and camaraderie out there and especially at the 7 checkpoints.

The checkpoints were great. It is not always possible, especially with a large group, to keep together. But with a checkpoint every 3KM you can always catch up with each other. And when you do there is wine! And biscuits. Sausages at one. A pick n mix candy selection at another. There was a band at a couple of the stations, bell ringers and at the first one Morris Dancers.

Which one's Morris?
Which one’s Morris?

It was never going to be fast. It was going to be slow. I figured around 3:15 but that need reevaluation when Jen started dancing at the fourth stop after a couple of glasses of demi sec. And in the end we came in at a red in my spreadsheet three and a half hours. But whatevs, it was fun.


The Bling

A little disappointing to be honest. Nice tee though.

I was not a fan of the hog roast. The first chunk I had was unedible. The second I didn’t fancy. You get a food and drink voucher. I lost mine on the course. I was given food, which was grim, and the dick at the drink table refused to be charitable, so I ended up having to pay. They did have a self-service ice cream machine, which was awesome.

In Summary

I am hoping the obligatory race photos look good. Sussex Sport Photography was in residence and I have had a lot of joy with them. I am hoping that because it was such a good race. The memories are fresh now, but really, it was such a fun event. I could see myself doing the exact same thing again.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE BACCHUS HALF? – Absolutely. Without a doubt. Stay at a hotel in Dorking, to save you a train journey on the worst line in Britain, eat at the Rialto Italian restaurant and sleep in (the half starts at 10:30am)

WOULD I RUN BACCHUS HALF AGAIN?  – Yeah, with the right people going too. It is a group race, not a solo event for me.

WOULD I SUGGEST DRESSING UP? – What do you think?


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