October 3, 2017
As I made my way to Paddington on Friday morning I wondered if I had seriously lost my mind. I was making my way to Cardiff for the weekend to take part in what would be my third big race in as many weeks.
I was exhausted. Physically and mentally.
The train was delayed, but when it finally arrived I had been upgraded to first class which was a result.
As Wales’ largest mass participation event, with 27,300 participants across a weekend of races I’d had my eye on this half marathon for a while. So when a bunch of my welsh based Clubhouse Members said they were doing it, I thought why the hell not.
I would be staying with an old Uni friend Sarah who was also running the half, and I knew she would take care of me. But I did feel broken. My back was still playing up after spending a lot of my time last weekend at DisneyLand Paris with a 4 and a half year old on my shoulders.
Plus I had blisters…and not even from running. I had worn a pair of new converse to take Rose to school on Monday…and the 10 minute walk had shredded my heels…so I was now in flip flops hoping they would heal by Sunday.
My mood on the train was one of apprehension.
Oh and just to make things a little more interesting, up until the day before I didn’t even have a place in the race…I had somehow managed to put the date in my diary and not actually book my half marathon place…and by the time I realised it had sold out (For the first time in its 14 year history…just my luck). Luckily the race organisers were sympathetic to my dilemma and sorted me out.
The weather forecast was grim too…in fact a severe weather warning had been given for the weekends race….gosh what a miserable precursor for a race report, I had wondered if I was actually meant to run this one.
But once I arrived in Cardiff things started to look up. I found a lovely little vegan cafe for lunch and bought myself a couple of new jumpers on the high street before Sarah came to pick me up.
Saturday consisted of popping into town to pick up my race number, and an afternoon spent in the cinema watching “Goodbye Christopher Robin”…and then we arrived back to Sarah’s house to find the most EPIC Lasagne cooked by her lovely husband Goff.
Perfect race preparation.
I awoke before my alarm on race day and got myself ready before heading into the kitchen for breakfast. Porridge with honey, and later a banana. The weather was grey and a bit damp, but no sign of the heavy rain and winds that I had been dreading.
The start was at 10am on CastleStreet, and we drove in with some of Sarah’s running pals, hanging out in one of their places of work close to the start line. It was all very civilised.
As we made our way to the start line a lovely lady stopped me to say she follows me on my Facebook page, which is always nice…and a reminder of why I do these crazy things.
I was in the yellow wave so said my good byes and good lucks and then waited in the shadows of Cardiff Castle. The atmosphere was great, really friendly and the organisation of the various starting groups was excellent, so it wasn’t long before I was across the start line at all.
The first two miles I ran far too fast as I got caught up in the crowds and the other runners around me, everything hurt and I seriously wondered if I would be able to finish the race…what had I done? The route wasn’t the most inspiring, a long industrial road…but I knew we were heading towards the bay so I would just need to be patient.
I was testing new bluetooth headphones from Sudio, I had debated all weekend whether to take them with me because of the weather, but I am glad I did as the lastest pop tunes kept me motivated as I focussed on simply putting one foot in front of the other.
By mile 3 I was struggling….I reached the 5K mark in under 40 minutes, so it’s hardly any wonder, considering I’d run a half exactly 7 days ago, and done a Tough Mudder just 7 days before that…I wanted a sign above my head that told people those details, you know so they didn’t look on at me as someone who just hadn’t done any training.
As well as having legs like lead, I was also overheating, after deciding to wear a baselayer…big mistake.
As we approached Cardiff Bay I knew it had to come off, but where could I strip? There was nowhere discreet, so in the end I stood by a wall and took it off before putting my vest back on. I got a cheer as I re-entered the race.
I was getting a lot of support along the course in my Walking is Part of the Race Plan vest, but it was my superhero leggings which were getting most of the attention. These were also new, and although I had tested them briefly at a circuits session earlier in the week I had no idea how they would fair over 13.1 miles.
But turns out they were perfect.
They are from a brand called Sturdy By Design and I will be writing a full review in a couple of days. (If you can’t wait and just want to get your hands on a pair NOW, click on the link above and use code Run15 for 10% off)
I had so many calls of “Love your leggings” from both women and men, and that really kept me going. At points they did give me superhero powers…well at least I kept telling myself that.
The sections around the bay were wonderful taking us through Senedd, Cardiff Bay Boardwalk, Roald Dahl Plass which was the halfway point and then past the MillenniumCentre, where I stopped to get a picture.
I saw a guy attempting a world record by carrying 100kg (or was it lbs) around the course, and a guy dressed as a clarinet raising money for a Children’s music project in Bridgend…there was also someone dressed as a knight in full body armour out there on the course.
As we headed back into town along some pretty long stretched of dual carriageway I used my music to jeff, the rule was, if it was a track that I liked I had to run for the whole duration, and if it wasn’t I could simply use my 60 second rule….it kind of worked and helped me to run when I didn’t want to.
We had sections of rain, but nothing two heavy and in fact it was a welcome relief. The crowds were brilliant, and didn’t seem to be put off my the damp weather at all. There wasn’t a section of the route which didn’t have spectators…and I saw some brilliant signs.
Miles 8 through to 11 were a bit of a blur, at some point I got a call from Sarah to say she had finished. She was on for a sub 2 hour half, but came in around 2.10 which she was pleased with. I told her I was still 20-30 minutes away from the finish…but even that was a bit ambitious.
I’ve realised I do this really annoying thing during a half marathon where I start strong and then lose it a bit in the middle and convince myself I have blown my chance of a good time, and then pick it up in the final few miles where the support seems to be most inspiring, and then I kick myself when I realise I could have hit my target after all.
This was one of those.
My half marathon times range from 2.17 to 3.23…but my average tends to be around the 2.45 mark…on this occasion I would have loved to have come in under 3 hours…but my wobble around the 2 mile section taking us around Roath Park Lake ruined this ambition.
I did a couple of sub 12 minute miles in the race, but then there were 16 minute miles where I was clearly walking more than running. Looking back at my stats though I think I did OK considering the state of my legs.
I powered through the last couple of miles, there was one bitch of a hill with about a mile to go which I thought was mean…it was short but oh so steep, and I saw a few people being treated by St Johns Ambulance in the last few miles of the course, so I didn’t want to push it too hard.
But as we came up towards the university and museum, and King Edward VII Avenue, where I knew the finishing line was, somehow I managed to find some speed in my legs, and I flew along the finishing strip…enjoying every second of it.
I finished in 3.04.52
I have never felt relief like I did crossing that finishing line. The thing is, I had no pain, no blisters (well no new ones) no chaffing…I was just fatigued. And glad it was all over.
This is a great race. Well organised. Great local support. Interesting route. Its a half marathon with heart, with the event being Wales’ largest charity fundraising event, with over 800 causes represented and £2.5 million expected to be raised….you could feel that this meant so much to so many people around the course.
Under the underpass which took me back to where the car was parked I walked towards what at first appeared to be a big heap of trash, but as I got closer I realised it was two beds made up piled high with crisps, bananas and bottles of water, left for the occupants of these temporary sleeping areas. There were also some pairs of trainers and some good quality jumpers.
It really chocked me up…and did so again when I saw it reported on later on social media.
As I sat in Cardiff station a few hours later, after showering and being watered and fed by Sarah’s husband once again, I reflected on the weekend and realised just how lucky I am to get to travel and review races like this.
It was as I boarded my return train to London that I realised I had done 3 substantial races, in 3 different countries of the world in just 3 weeks…time for a break I reckon.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to the organisers of the Cardiff Half…seriously you guys really got me out of a hole, and also to Sarah and Goff (and their family and friends) for looking after me so wonderfully over the weekend.
No more half marathons for me until next year now…oh but there is the small matter of the beachy head full marathon which is in just 3 weeks now. EEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!!
Thinking of taking part in the Cardiff Half in 2018? Get in quickly entries opened yesterday and the first 5000 to sign up will receive discounted entry. They are more than likely to sell out very quickly again so sign up here.