“All runners are tough. Everyone has to have a little fire in them, that even in tough times, can’t be turned off.” Shalane Flanagan.
This quote sums up my experience of last weeks race to the T. A battle but one I was determined to win.
Arriving late into Cardiff on Saturday night, the air was cool after a very unseasonably warm day. Tomorrow was looking very similar, I felt nervous, doubt started to fill my head and I was questioning if I’d hydrated/prepared myself enough for this.
Thanks to Charlie, our air b&b was only an 8 minute walk from the start and meant that our morning wasn’t an early one. After a pretty good nights sleep, breakfast was quite literally forced down mine and Kyles throat, as nerves started to take over. Charlie had already left for some pre race miles, so we packed up the car and headed over to meet her at the VIP area in Cardiff Castle, right outside the start line.
I had no goal in mind but to just have fun, and even though the race was a total car crash, I did have fun. I followed Charlie’s plan of 9 minutes running and 1 minute walking, which was actually the right decision, given the weather conditions. The sun was beaming down on us, the sky was bright blue and it was warm!
Due to a technical glitch with the communication system, we were delayed by about 20/30 minutes, however, with such warm weather, the fear of getting too cold whilst waiting to start wasn’t an issue.
As we got started, I knew in my gut this wasn’t going to be easy. From mile 2 I had a headache, so we slowed our pace and I tried to get into the rhythm of our run/walk. At this point, I was extremely thankful I had Charlie by my side, as I knew she was going to play a massive part in getting me through this race. We made a joint decision to walk the water stops, take on what liquids we could and then go again. This worked really well, especially for the final miles, as it gave me something to focus on and get me through.
As we headed away from the city centre, down towards Cardiff Bay, we passed a beautiful marina before crossing the barrage to Cardiff docks. This was probably my favourite part of the route, along with the incredible crowd support to pick me up, I actually found being by the water the total opposite and really quite calming.
Passing the docks, I remember how loudly I told myself I was nearly half way, but the race remained a battle and my head was pounding. Coming away from the bay, the route heads back towards the city but detours north around a beautiful lake and residential area. This is where the real battle began. Taking a shot block from Charlie, I prayed my stomach would hold out and it would give me the boost I needed, and for a short while it did, but I was mentally still struggling. We past mile 11, now we were on the other side of the lake, it was hot and the only thing keeping me going was Charlie telling me how long it was until the next walk break. We passed a few runners who had collapsed on the side of the road due to the heat, my stomach turned, and I just hoped that they would be okay as the paramedics quickly attended and relieved members of the public who were taking care of them.
Now don’t be fooled by the supposedly “flat and fast course” it is described as, because there are a few surprise hills along this route! Savagely placed just before mile 12, which I have no shame in admitting that we walked, and the other, 400 metres before the finish. Here we pushed towards the finish line and what a welcome we had. We smiled for the camera and finished in just over 2 hours. I was beyond happy to be done and extremely thankful, and grateful, to Charlie for sticking beside me, supporting me and getting me round.
Now, Cardiff half may have chewed me up and spat me out the other side, but I actually loved this race and I can’t recommend it enough! The crowds were incredible and it was so well marshalled and supported.
On our drive home, I discovered the SuperHalfs. A series of 5 half marathons that includes the Cardiff Half that takes place in October, Prague, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Valencia. You have 3 years to complete all 5, and I’ve definitely started thinking about attending a few this year!
I’d love to hear what races are on your bucket list!