Cardiff has such a special place for me in my heart because of the three years I spent there at university. I met some of my best friends there and we have such good memories of our time (amongst the ridiculous hard work and stress, of course). So running a half marathon there just made sense to me. I was never a runner at uni so it was strange going back for a race.
So carrying on from my last post…
The wind was picking up and the rain was just starting as I clustered together in the starting pens with my running club buddies (though some had gone to the super speedy pens – sub 1:30!). I’d lost Matt after seeing my running club and it was difficult to spot anyone when we were all wearing our ridiculous white ponchos (ridiculous perhaps, but definitely grateful for!)
As we stood waiting we heard the male elites announced (big cheer for Mo Farah of course) and after each name huge bursts of fire were sent up next to the castle. For those brief seconds we were warmed by the flames. I had a moment of panic when I realised I needed a wee…but thought “just hold it”.
We jostled about (took a selfie, of course) and then finally we were off! The wind was against us from the start but I didn’t feel it too much. I found a comfortable pace and decided to keep that feeling of effort, regardless of what my watch told me.
I’d separated from my running club buddies but was happy to run at my own pace. I had a brief moment of “damn I wish I had music or something” as I soon found myself a little bored and demotivated. I had a weird moment where I suddenly felt a bit tired and “can I do this?”. I have no idea what came over me but I just felt a bit mentally exhausted, without that actually translating to my body. I gave myself a shake and got on with it though.
(Photo credit: http://www.cardiff2016.co.uk/)
We began running through an area of Cardiff I’d never been before (out of my student bubble I suppose) and it reminded me so much of the Reading Half Marathon. There were residential areas and also industrial bits that just reminded me of the monotony of the Reading course, and the fact that there were always people around me as the entry size was about the same. And similar to Reading, despite the weather, there were a good number of supporters all along the course shouting and cheering. It had a great atmosphere. But every single loo I saw made me want the loo more but I couldn’t bare to stop and faff about.
Before the race, Matt and me had discussed the course and where we thought the wind would be the worst and both agreed it would be around the Bay where there was so much exposure. As I got closer to that area I found the wind was actually behind me, pushing me along. It was amazing! OK it was annoying having my ponytail flap me in my face and it being so gusty but it was great having it behind us. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, when’s it going to turn…
[I bit the bullet and bought my race photos as they weren’t that bad – plus my mum wants some nice ones for her conservatory…haha]
I let my pace increase as the wind pushed me along (it would be silly not to take advantage!). At around seven miles it suddenly (and I mean suddenly) down-poured. Within seconds everyone was drenched. I was actually a bit worried about my contact lenses! I remember hearing people around me swearing and then this Welsh guy goes “come on guys, what did you expect – it’s Wales! This is our summer!” which was funny.
A couple of times during the race my tummy went funny and I had some regrets about the rather large pre-race breakfast. I definitely did not need any gels during that run!
We headed back towards the city and still I felt the wind on my back. I kept a smile firmly plastered on my face as I found that more people cheered when you looked happy. I was genuinely happy though. The pace wasn’t easy but it wasn’t a sustained effort either. The wind was contributing to some easy and tricky moments but overall I felt it was helping rather than hindering.
We got to a lovely residential part of Cardiff that has a beautiful park and lake that, as a student, my friends and I used to walk around (Roath Park). I know I keep saying this, but it just felt so weird to be in such a huge race running those same streets again. I saw the coffee shops I’d been in, saw where the Woolworths used to be that we always went to to buy our cheap pick n mix for the cinema (we were that cheap)… it was just great. It kept me entertained. People cheered my name out as I had it on my vest and I just kept smiling.
Then as we came around the lake the wind hit us in the face. The dream was over and the work was needed to be put in now. I tend to break half marathons into chunks: get to 5 miles, get to 8 miles, get to 10 miles (just a parkrun to go!) and then mile by mile until the end. The last three miles were tough. My legs were tired (mile 10 was actually almost mile 16 after my earlier run) but I kept going. I stuck with a girl who had “Elaine” on her vest and played the game in my head of who got more cheers, Elaine or me. It made me smile more and look at the crowd so I think I won Elaine did well though, a worthy contender.
(Photo credit: @Dan_Nash94)
There was a steep incline at Mile 12 which was tough…but generally the course was flat.
Then the best, but hardest part, of the race. Running through the Cathays area. This is literally where I used to live. Despite feeling tired, I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face. A guy next to me turned to me and said “that’s not fair! You’re still smiling!”. And then I ran past the road I used to live on and, this will sound ridiculous, but I got a bit emotional. Must have been on those endorphins I knew where we were finishing so I knew exactly how far we had to go, because I’d walked that way so many times during university. Past the Lidl I used to shop at, the pub I used to go to, over the bridge (what a bitch at these final stages of the race!) and then past the beautiful university buildings and all those crowds. It was a fantastic way to end the race.
I finished in 1:42:55 (chip time), 159th in my age/gender category and 2498th overall. For a training run as part of a longer run I’m over the moon with that! 7.47min/mile average is not too shabby!
I finished the race and headed straight for the bag drop area as it was COLD. I was soaked through and got very cold very quickly. Luckily I bumped into Matt again as he was heading back from the bag drop (he did a very speedy 1:36 dead). Then we walked back to his hotel and where my car was parked. It was a good job I was with him as I wouldn’t have had a clue how to have gotten there again!
We said our goodbyes and I stripped off my wet vest right there in the street (I had a sports bra on it was fiiiine), got a dry layer on and got straight into the car and headed home. I stopped at the first services back in England after the bridge and dashed into the loo. Finally had that wee I needed!! I got a hot coffee and then back on the road again.
My heating was blasted on full, I had a post-race banana and I had my music up. I sang all the way home in a happy buzz of post-race euphoria. Despite the awful weather I got back to my parent’s in under three hours, but it seemed like no time at all. My dad had picked up a takeaway for me so I had that literally as I got in. Showers can wait!
And then I was completely wired for the rest of the night. The coffee, the food, the buzz… I just couldn’t relax. I was tired and my legs ached but I was buzzing. But I had no alarm set the next morning so I wasn’t worried
Have you ever raced in a city that’s special to you?
Do you prefer the wind behind you or no wind at all?
What’s your perfect race start time?