Today’s Cardiff Half Marathon was a milestone for me personally as it was the first ever half marathon that I’d taken part in. And what a day it turned out to be with the 15,000 strong field enjoying a gloriously sunny – if a little chilly – day.
My day began with at 6 am with a spot of breakfast. Which on a race day involves 4 slices of wholemeal bread, topped with jam and bananas, and swilt down with orange juice. By 8:20am I was in Cardiff, parked up, changed and raring to go!
I’d arranged to meet Reeso and Huw the Cat for the race and we’d set ourselves a target of a sub 1 hour 45 minute time. This was always going to be a big ask, as we’d need to be running at an 8 minute mile pace for the entire 13 miles.
It’s fair to say that we were like sardines all crammed into Lloyd George Avenue but nevertheless, we took up our starting position just behind the 1:45 race pacer. Shortly after, the hooter went and we were off.
Reeso and I tried in vain to spot Craig Bellamy, whom had blown the hooter (not for the first time I’m sure *wink wink*) but alas he was nowhere to be seen, so we gave the Lord Mayer of Cardiff the Swim Away instead as we crossed the start line.
My running style is such that I don’t like to talk and prefer concentrating on the running rather than what is going on around me. However, Reeso and Huw the Cat in particular fall into the other category – constant chatter and watching everything around them, especially if it’s female and wears lycra!
Having said that, their company was most welcome – in terms of motivation, support and fun. They managed to raise no end of chuckles from fellow runners – especially when they were cheering and applauding the spectators along the course! Yes I know it’s meant to be the other way around.
Not even a resounding “if you talked less, you’d run a lot quicker” from a passing tall, long haired, lycra clad blonde lady deterred them from their incessant chatter.
Still it did them no harm as they both did remarkably well with times of 1:44 and 1:45 respectively – well done guys! In fairness they dropped me around the 10-11 mile mark as I began to feel the pace and I finished in a time of 1:47:20 – not bad for a first attempt I guess.
As this was my first half marathon race, I took a great deal from the experience and perhaps am being too critical of myself in terms of the time. As I was extremely disappointed not to get below 1 hour 45 minutes.
Having said that, what I mentally and physically felt during the last 3 miles and what my Garmin split time actually shows me are two totally contrasting tales.
Towards the end I felt quite literally out on my feet, almost unable to run and felt positively quite sick – to the extent that if it had been boxing, the towel would have been thrown in the ring. Although looking at split times, I can see that whilst I was slowing the pace remained quite steady.
They also illustrate why I blowed up during the latter stages. I was simply too erratic with my pace times during the first 6 miles. This was probably partly down to inexperience but also because of the course.
I should have remembered the hard lessons I’ve learnt over time, in that you should never under estimate factors such as the course, weather, number of runners, lack of vaseline on nipples, etc.
My first impressions of the Cardiff Half Marathon are that there were too many pinch points for the number of runners and often the course was over crowded – to the extent that some parts could be considered as dangerous. Having not done other half marathon courses I can’t compare, so this really could be a feature of most of them. I have little doubt though that this did impact on my pace, especially in the early stages. Still another valuable lesson learnt 🙂
I do have one major gripe though (putting my Victor Meldrew hat on). As you approached the finish line on Lloyd George Avenue (which is where we started) it became apparent that it had been moved to the opposite side of the road!
This sight was heartbreaking and rather than thinking yay I’ve only got to sprint/jog/whatever over the last x kilometres to the finish line, you realised you had to go up Lloyd George Avenue and back down it again. Upon realising this, the mental blow was almost tangible.
Afterwards I asked myself whether I would do a half marathon again – be it in Cardiff or anywhere – and I have to admit, at that stage the answer was a definite NO. The sight of one male runner whom had been wearing a white running top, which was now stained with blood from his chafed nipples, did nothing to inspire me either.
But now I’ve had several hours to reflect and look back (aided by a nice warm bath), I probably will do it all over again actually. Not because I enjoyed it, but simply because I have unfinished business and a 1 hour 45 minute barrier to break!
So watch this space….