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Monday, 8 October 2018

Race 2 of 4 - Cardiff half marathon

I awoke on Sunday morning to perfect running conditions for the 15th Cardiff half marathon, a bright day, dry and cool, you can't ask for better race conditions.

My day began as usual with porridge for breakfast, a couple of cups of tea and make sure I had all my kit together before driving into Cardiff with Michelle and Sharon who were running their first ever half marathons. They began training for this a year ago as previously they had not run before and both took part in their first race, the Cardiff 10K just a few weeks ago. 

From there it was just a short walk to the race village which was buzzing by 9 AM and I met up with a few others from the club for a photo, and before I knew it, it was time to head off to my green starting pen. I wished Michelle and Sharon the best of luck and left them to go to their yellow pen. 

Standing in the pen with fellow club member David, we chatted whilst waiting for the start and then the lead group were on their way and our group walked forward to the start line, one minute later and we began moving again, and as the start line drew ever closer so the pace picked up and I crossed the line and burst into a good trot, trying not to go off too fast but also trying to keep in touch with David, but that plan failed and he went off too quickly for me so I let him go and kept to my own race plan.

What was my race plan you ask? Well, it had been my intention to go for a sub two hour race. Last year I also attempted this and was thoroughly disappointed with my 02:01 finish. After last weeks race at Cheltenham where I finished in 02:03 I was doubtful that a sub two hour finish would be on the cards but, no two races are ever the same and we can feel like pants one week and buzzing the next. So I had set up my watch as usual to show me my estimated finishing time and I was trying to keep that at around 01:55. At times in those first few miles it was showing times in the 01:40's and so I had to back off as I didn't want to burn myself out at this faster pace so early on.

The miles seemed to quickly go by and before I knew it I had completed five miles and was crossing the barrage down at the bay. My watch was pretty steady at about a 01:56 finish and my pace felt comfortable at that, being around the 08:50 minutes per mile, which I knew was where I needed to be for a sub two hour finish. 

I knew the crucial point was going to be the 10 mile mark heading up the eastern side of Roath Park and where the road takes us up a bit of an incline, (you can't really call it a hill, not as I know hills anyway). I reached the roundabout at the top of the park and I was still feeling OK. My pace on the incline had slowed, understandably, but the next mile was either flat or on a slight decent and my watch quickly had got back to showing 01:57. It was at this point that I began wondering if not only would I get my sub two finish but, was I on for a half marathon PB also? I couldn't remember exactly what it was but I thought it was about 01:58 which I got at Stroud last year. 

Then came a steepish hill at the mile 12 marker, then once over the brow I had that final push down Cathays Terrace and keeping 01:57 showing on my watch. I hit the hump on the penultimate turn, pushing my weary legs as hard as I could and as I was running down the hill on the other side I could hear the PA system commentary which spurred me on and I tried to accelerate, knowing that I only had a few hundred metres left to run but, I felt a cramp twinge in my right calf so I backed off the pace as the last thing I wanted was to have to pull up with cramp at this late stage in the race. 

Around that final left turn and the finish line was in sight and I was feeling good. My pace was good and I felt stronger at that point than I remembered I had been the year previously. I stopped my watch as I crossed the line and it showed 01:58:05. Was it a PB? I wouldn't know until I reclaimed my bag and could check my phone.

I stopped and chatted with fellow club mates who had already finished and those who came in after me before collecting my bag. I checked my phone and noted that my Stroud PB time was 01:58:14 so yes, I had managed to knock a few seconds of my PB. Shortly afterwards I received a text message giving me my official chip time as 01:58:01, so I was extremely happy with that.
My Polar watch time

I walked over to the race village where I had arranged to meet up with Michelle and Sharon who were both running for the NSPCC. First to come home was Sharon in 02:17 and then Michelle in 02:29, both great achievements considering that they only began running twelve months previously.

Sharon & Michelle
Next Sunday is race 3 of 4 in Palma Majorca, and I can't wait for a few days of warm temperatures. This race I am just going to treat as a fun run and I will probably make a video along the way. Michelle is coming with me and she will be running her 2nd 10K race whilst I run the half marathon. Then the following week is my final road half marathon for this year at Stroud, which is a PB course. Can I possibly improve my time and manage a 01:57 finish or less? We shall see.

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