Well, what can I say. Those who say half marathons get easier the more you do them, are wrong! As enjoyable? Definitely. Worth it? Absolutely.
It was the big Swansea Half Marathon on Sunday and what a day it was… Well, what a 24hours it was. Here’s what led to a brilliant day and a pretty awesome PB being achieved…
The day before the race was a day of panic, packing and piling in the carbs. We had a pretty epic lie in (no Parkrun for me that morning!) then met my sis and brother in law for a lunch of jacket potatoes in a local café. Pretty.Good.
This then led on to preparing everything for the next day. As we were travelling to a different city to take part in the race, we needed to be uber prepared. For my other half, this meant packing a small wheely suitcase full of choice for race day, for me, a duffel bag with exactly what I wanted to take. What can I say? He was pretty sensible. However, I knew in my mind what running outfit would work as I’d been wearing it for my practice runs! (I did cheekily bring another pair of running tights… you never know!)
We left Cardiff in the pouring rain, always a good start with a race on the horizon, and got to our hotel in plenty of time.
We then got all dolled up and went for a pre-race day dinner. Which consisted of A LOT of pasta and A LOT of garlic bread. We went to a family-run Italian in the City Centre and it was amazing. Just what we needed before a 13.1mile run the next day. After we strolled back to the hotel, it was PJ and TV programme ‘How the 90s changed the world’ time. Rock and roll.
My other half was really nervous for the hours leading up to the race bless him. His first Half was last year in Cardiff so he was determined to do even better this time around. He’s very competitive so wanted to completely smash his time last year in Swansea.
After a pretty sleepless night full of butterflies in the tummy, we were up at the crack of dawn eating ‘Just add water’ porridge/Weetabix drinks and watching ‘Traffic Cops’ (Nothing like a bit of pre-7am TV to get the day started). Getting ready at that time in the morning while trying to remember everything you need to take with you is pretty hard work for non-morning people.
We managed to stretch and mentally prepare ourselves before leaving the hotel and walking across to the race village. We walked up one of the most notorious streets in Swansea where night life is pretty rife all of the time. But at 8am, there didn’t seem to be any walkers of shame around. Slightly disappointing I feel.
Around 5,000 people were lined up to race so after one final nervous wee (needed by my other half), we were all set to roll. I set up my music and took a few last minute photos before the starter gun went off. The crowds lining the start line were fantastic, cheering everybody on and getting us on our way. I chose to leave the headphones out for a couple of miles to take in the atmosphere but also, use it as mid-race encouragement when I was flagging.
We made our way through and then out of the town centre, running towards the coast. The strapline for the event was ‘Run from City to Sea’ which was pretty apt. For the first few miles, we were between the 8:57 – 9:09 mark, being closely followed by the 2hour marker. I was taunted by this guy pretty much the whole way around. He was quiet funny. He kept shouting ‘All you guys ahead of me are on for sub 2hours’ next minute, he’d pass us, so we’d speed up. A constant race with the race-marker!
There were plenty of drinks/gel stops though one or two were too narrow for you to continue running through if you didn’t want anything. I picked up some water once or twice because, although it was supposed to be a cool day, it turned out to be pretty warm. There were one or two runners who passed out from the heat so hope they’re ok. I don’t think people were prepared for the warmth. It was really lovely when we got to 7/8 mile mark, and we were by the sea. The fresh air and sea breeze was definitely needed.
My other half was doing so well all the way along. He had his headphones in for the whole race because he said it gave him that lift he needed. I popped mine in when we reached mile 8/9. Needed a little extra boost for the final few miles. Also had a few cheeky Jelly Babies to keep the sugar levels up. These were little godsends!
The way back into the centre threw in a few little challenges; path narrowings, uneven terrain, cobbles and a few little inclines that felt pretty mountainous! Karl was doing so well and we were on target for our 2 hour finish but he slowed a little around the 10/11 mile mark and told me to carry on to get 2hours. I felt really bad about going on without him but weirdly, my legs were going at a steady pace and weren’t happy going slower, faster, one way or the other. I just kept going. I don’t even remember hearing my music playing. It’s weird how you tune out isn’t it?
The last mile or so was hard work. There were hair pin bends onto and off from bridges and a wobbly bridge that made me feel pretty sick. But I managed to hold off on the sickness. The 2hour marker was still taunting me, pulling up to run beside me, then running ahead. I was determined the Flag Man wasn’t going to pip me to the post. 0.5miles to go and I started talking to myself, telling me ‘You’ve only got half a mile to go, keep going’. This, however, turned into ‘Get me to the feckin’ finish line!’
With the end in sight, I picked up the pace and just kept ploughing on. When I crossed the line and saw the clock said ‘2:01:23’, there was a little bit of me that was gutted… Until I realised that the clock was the time of the race in its entirety, NOT my finish time. I never knew that! THIS display on my watch made me a VERY happy girl… A very happy, emotional and wobbly legged girl waiting for her very tired, worn out and wobbly legged boy. He was not far behind.
I kept a close eye out whilst trying to not hyperventilate and fall over. I felt like I wanted to burst into tears and have a panic attack all at once. Please tell me someone else has felt like this? It’s such a weird feeling. I had it when I did the Gosport Half in November but wasn’t expecting to have it again after this. Mind you, I worked hard!
And so did Karl. He did amazingly well. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He finished at 2:04:15… 16minutes quicker than he did in the Cardiff Half in October! He’s very competitive, as previously mentioned, so I’m not too sure he’s as pleased with his time as he makes out. However, he did awesome and I’m really proud of him. I did try to run over to give him a big hug when he’d finished running but my hobbling wouldn’t allow me the speed needed to give him a special hug. I think I just slumped at him. Here he is still looking pretty cool, wearing our very bright souvenir t-shirt and medal. We quite liked these and thought we’d never lose each other in them!
We were like a comedy act afterwards… Our inability to walk and lack of decision making/directions was mildly amusing. Every waddly step hurt, every time we had to walk up the curb of the pavement, it hurt and having to walk the long way around to the car, hurt even more.
My ever niggling right hip issue has reared it’s head again… Probably down to my still lazy bottom. It did, however, run 13.1miles yesterday so it’s not particularly lazy. I managed to stand up and still long enough to get a photo in my Tenovus Cancer Care shirt with my medal which was pretty sweet. Red faced and run out, me thinks. I saw plenty of other runners wearing the same shirt as me which was lovely. We met one of the fundraisers and he was just inspiring. He’s 3 years clear of having cancer and is doing 2 half marathons this year, raising £3,000 so far! An inspiration if ever there was one. If I get into the London Marathon, I’ll be running for people like him.
When we finally reached the car, Karl treated me to an ice lolly which was bloody fantastic. It made up for the fact everything in the world hurt. We had a few snacks after the run and on the way back home which were much needed. But they didn’t quite cut it.
We ended up in Nandos sharing a pretty massive sharing platter. It was epic. The waitress laughed at us because we were practically dribbling by the time she brought the food over. I think I left it too long to eat. I was feeling pretty nauseous by the time the food arrived but my God, it was worth it. Trying to sit down in the restaurant, getting refills on drinks and generally moving was quite funny.
I am slightly concerned about the hip situation and how it’s back again. I need to get that sorted if I’m planning on running a marathon next year. I’ve started having sports massages every now and again to sort out the niggles and it seems to be working a treat. I’ve got another one lined up on Wednesday which is definitely needed. It’ll sort my DOMs out a treat (which is good because walking up stairs and getting out of chairs is proving difficult at the moment!)
All in all, I did really enjoy this race. Not knowing where we were going was an added bonus. We just concentrated on where everyone else was going. There were a couple of narrow spots that proved difficult for over-taking and getting ahead but I’m sure if they’re a real problem, someone will let the organisers know. Was really pleased to see, however, that they put all the stats on their website so you can see how you did.
I didn’t do too shabby…. It’s amazing to see statistically how well you can do in a race. I’m always just content on making it to the end. This time, I wasn’t going to give up on something that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind at the start, but was very much there at the end.
I’ve done this a few times already but I want to thank my other half for being such a dude. Not just anyone would run two half marathons to keep me company and make sure I wasn’t on my own. He was going to come and cheer me on but I don’t think I would’ve achieved as much without him running by my side. I’m really proud of him and how far he’s come. Cardiff Half 2015 is his next race and my little sister’s first half marathon. Knowing him, he’ll try and beat me while I run with my sis and hopefully help to make her first race a good one.
So, half marathons. Don’t get easier. Are just as awesome whenever you do them. Achieving more than you thought is pretty amazing. Doing it with someone is pretty special. And looking back on it, is even better.
(And yes, this a photograph of 2 very smug, tired looking people after running 13.1miles in the heat and both of them beating their PBs. Because if you can’t be smug about that, what else can you be smug about?)
How did you all do this weekend? Any awesome runs? PBs achieved?