So two days have passed and my legs are still not working completely. Yesterday my knees were stiff, today it’s my upper thighs. Plus I’ve rubbed a nasty blister between my toes which has decided to burst and make me hobble. So I guess that’s the price you pay for half marathon glory, but it was totally worth it!
I was expecting to hate everything about this half marathon. What with the problems I’ve been having with my knee and with the weather forecast and just the fact that training has been lacklustre because of the winter, I was really expecting it to be a horrible mental battle. But you know what? I loved every second of it – even the hard bits near the end. Even with the torrential downpour. Even with the uncomfortable knee since mile 1. I loved it. Loved loved loved it – and I’m flipping proud of myself for doing it!
We drove down to Cardiff with a friend on Friday to hit the expo and pick up our bib numbers. We arrived around lunchtime and Cardiff was rather busy being a bank holiday. The expo was quite good though. Bib pickup did not take long (except for for Gideon who had to queue for about 20 minutes because the 20,000+ bib queue was about 5 times the size of all the others). We picked up some freebies (water, crisps, gels and the saving grace of the weekend – the poncho)! We then wandered round the exhibiting stalls, got a couple more freebies and just took our time looking around for a bit.
It was a glorious day on the Friday – the sun was shining – it was beautiful! However the Saturday could not have been more different. Black clouds – cold wind, rain. We arrived in Cardiff on the Saturday at about 11am. We wanted to get there early to find a place to park as it had been quite a struggle the day before, but actually it was no problem at all on race day. We then took up refuge in the museum for a few hours out of the cold wind and rain to wait until closer to race time.
When it got to about 1pm we ventured back outside. The crowds had really grown by this point and the whole area around the museum and city hall was packed with runners. We got in the queue for the porta-loo at around 1.30 and then it decided to rain a bit (it had held off until this point). The poncho went on – anything to stay dry whilst waiting around. Annoyingly, the queue for the loo was not moving AT ALL. Eventually a bloke from security came along, knocked on all the doors and then proceeded to unlock them all! NO ONE HAD BEEN IN THEM!! We’d literally been standing around in the rain waiting for toilets which were all locked! Who doesn’t unlock the loo’s on race day?!?!?
Anyway, once we had (finally) managed to use the loos we said goodbye to my parents and headed off to our corral. We were in the last corral – the yellow corral – for people with a finishing time of 2.15+. The start line was in front of the castle, but the corrals went round the corner, so we couldn’t actually see Mo Farah and the elite athletes start – but we did hear it.
It was sort of raining a bit at this point, but not too heavy, and we were still wearing our ponchos. I was feeling a bit apprehensive – mainly about whether my knee would hold out – but I was ok, and I was enjoying the general atmosphere. Everyone seemed happy and excited despite the terrible whether, and so I felt happy and excited too! The atmosphere was contagious!
Each of the corrals in front of us went, and we walked slowly round to the front of the castle for our turn. There were lots of crowds here despite the rain. There was a big flame cannon which went off as the gun did – and then off our corral went. I think we probably started between 15-20 minutes after the elite athletes, but I’m not sure because I didn’t get a look at the clock time. Instead I just waved at the crowds and TV cameras with everyone else enjoying myself!
Gid and I stayed together for the first couple of miles. My first mile was 11:54 which actually wasn’t too fast, which was good. It was quite congested so we ran the first few miles without any walking (apart from a small stop during mile 2 because Gid ditched his poncho and managed to take his bib number with it). I eventually lost Gideon in the crowds somewhere between miles 2 and 3.
I’d been feeling a slight discomfort in my knee since mile 1, but it was nothing like it had been last time I had run. It was a manageable pain, that I could run through, especially in those first few miles – so I was pretty happy. I made sure to walk on any downward slopes though, because I knew that was what would aggravate it. This seemed to do the trick on the downhill parts near miles 3 and 4.
It had been raining a little bit so far, but not much. I’d ditched my poncho by this point as I was warm. Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 the heavens opened and it absolutely pelted it down! I saw later on the TV that the BBC coverage of the elites (who had almost finished by this point) actually lost signal for a couple of minutes during this time – that’s how insane the rain went! I was soaked to the skin – but so was everyone else, so it really didn’t matter! In fact I almost forgot my knee was hurting at all because the rain took my mind off it. I was so surprised by my own attitude – the monsoon just wasn’t bothering me. It was what it was, and I just made the most of it by high fiving all the poor children in Penarth who had come out to watch and gotten soaked. At least I was keeping somewhat warm by running – they were just getting wet for the sake of it poor things!
The crazy monsoon had stopped by the time I reached the barrage, but the side wind was pretty extreme on this part. I was glad to be off it. My knee was starting to protest a little more by this point (mile 5 or 6 I think) so I decided to start following my run-walk intervals more strictly. This wasn’t always possible but it did help.
There was a lot of support around Cardiff bay which was good, but then we went around a rather boring part between miles 6 and 7 which was just roads and flyovers. I’ve seen some people complaining on Facebook that they had re-opened the roads here and they had to wait for cars to pass etc. We must have been faster than that because it was all still shut when we went through. That part was a little hard because there was very little support apart from the race volunteers (who were awesome for the whole course by the way – kudos to them for standing out in the rain all day and still having smiles on their faces).
When we got back into the main part of town there was much more support and I was still feeling really happy and enjoying myself at miles 8 and 9. The only slightly difficult part was when we reached Roath park lake. My knee had probably had enough by this point and was starting to really twinge. I had to slow to a walk abruptly a couple of times, so I decided to do the remaining 3-ish miles by reversing my intervals and running for 1 minute then walking for 3. I’d done so well up until this point and I knew I could finish so I wasn’t overly disappointed. Upon checking my watch I was still managing to do 12-13 minute miles this way so I was pretty pleased.
When I finally got all the way round the lake (which seemed to take a very long time) I was starting to flag, but it was only another mile and I knew I could do it. When I rounded the corner to the finish line I got a little emotional – but in a good way – I was just so flipping pleased that I’d made it – that I’d finally reached my goal after the course being cut short at Wine and Dine back in November. And the clock was still showing under 3 hours, which considering I started WAY after the initial gun, meant I must have made pretty good time! I crossed the line with a massive smile on my face – who would have thought!?!
My official finishing time = 2 hours 39 minutes and 46 seconds! I still can’t believe it! For me – that is SUCH a good time for me, especially with the wind and rain and all the knee problems I’d been having. I’d anticipated that it would probably take me longer than that, but to be under 2 hours 40!! I’m still buzzing!
Gideon finished roughly a minute before me in 2 hours 38 minutes and 51 seconds. He slipped on a water bottle near the last water stop which slowed him down a bit which is unfortunate, but he managed to run pretty much the whole course which is amazing! It’s weird that he was only a minute in front of me at the end, yet I couldn’t see him, but at that point I suppose I wasn’t really looking.
I was a bit annoyed, because just like I predicted would happen, they had run out of small ladies finisher t-shirts by the time I finished. I do think that is poor, but actually when I tried on the medium it fitted me fine so I guess I can forgive them.
After the race, we went and got changed (I had to change into my finishers t-shirt rather than my planned hoodie because I’d left it in the car doh) and then my parents drove us back to Swansea for a well deserved cuppa tea and fish and chip shop dinner!
Overall – I really enjoyed the World Half Marathon. I have no idea why, what with the crazy weather, and I still can’t walk properly 2 days later, but it was just awesome! The course support and the marshals were all amazing and that definitely helped to keep me going mentally. I think some of the organisation probably could have been better (e.g. the t-shirts and the toilet situation) but there are always going to be some things that go wrong with such a big race.
We finished and we finished well, and that in itself is amazing and something I’m so pleased with! After the disappointment that was Wine and Dine we have finally achieved our goal of running a half marathon – and I’m already pretty excited about doing it again!