6 days after the North London Half and in the middle of our holiday to Devon, Mr B and I upped and went to Cardiff for the day so that I could take part in the World Half Marathon Championships.
The start time was just after 2pm which was good news given our travel plans but had the potential to be bad news given my inability to motivate myself to run after about 8am. It did make me briefly think back to what happened with after a 10am start time in Bournemouth ( a failed sub 3 and a tough race). Still, this wasn't a PB attempt and the aim of the game was to run it at marathon pace, the theory being that running goal pace on tired legs would be a good part of the training. I'd planned to have a sandwich for lunch but couldn't quite handle it so a my late breakfast and a lunchtime coffee was my fuel.
The weather forecast suggested heavy rain and wind. Never having run a race in bad weather before it was going to be interesting to see how much of a difference that made to things. Again, I was glad it wasn't a goal-race. Amusingly, I was conscious that I wanted to stay under the 1:28 mark - a time which only 5 days previous I'd been unsure I could hit. Just goes to show how much is in your head.
There's so much to say about the start - thanks to Advent Running and Adidas UK I had a VIP place. This meant that I got to wait for the start in Cardiff Castle. This included a cheese and biscuit reception attended by Seb Coe (though I didn't partake in the snacks) and being able to do warmup laps in the grounds of the Castle. Mark, Ben and I went out for our own warmup and just happened to end up running around with a certain Mr Farah. I was glad we didn't have to wait in the the cold all the time though and we sheltered indoors with the national teams whilst the women's race went off.
As as you may have seen in the news, the eventual winner, Geoffrey Kamworor fell over right at the start of the race. This had a knock on impact and meant having to carefully avoid other runners who had stumbled or pulled up In front of me on the start line. I saw one lady stood at the side in tears. It must be heartbreaking, especially for those whose livelihood it is, to get to the very start of a race and then within seconds know that they won't even finish let alone get the chance to put their training to the test. It was a good reminder to keep your head in the right place - focussed , but remembering that there's more to life than a time, a medal, or even just being able to run.
Back to the race itself. After the stuttering start I settled into a good pace and was boosted by seeing my coach Ben from Full Potential fly by, as well as Adam from Advent Running. From mile 2-3 there was an unexpected continual incline. Start-of-the-race legs kept me going and I started to think I should aim for 6:45/mi instead of 6:50/mi. Nothing like a bit of mission creep!
The support was patchy but good and I ended up running next to a lady in a club vest who seemed to be trying to stick to a slightly faster pace that me. I aimed to keep her roughly in view but not try to keep up. It was lovely thinking it would be fine to slow down any time. Racing for PBs is good but with the atmosphere and the pressure off, racing just for the heck of it was great.
Well, so far, so dry. For the next couple of miles we flew by picturesque sites such as Tescos until we came upon a roundabout crammed with supporters, just before heading out to the barrage. The crowd were so great and I was having so much fun that a marshal even commented on the inane grin on my face! It was a bit like running London last year - L, R, wave, smile, L, R, wave, smile, repeat.
As we rounded onto the barrage I found myself saying "wow" out loud. Being out in the middle of the bay was incredible. These moments are the closest us road-runners get to trail-moments. This is my favourite thing about not wearing headphones these days - when all you can hear is the pat pat of the feet around you, the breathing of the other runners and the sights take all thoughts of pacing away. It's like a special kind of running music. I looked down -"current pace 6:01" oops! I know this was probably just in the moment and not my permanent pace but it made me hold it back a bit.
We came off the barrage into a less scenic industrial estate and round a well-marshalled sharp left to take us past the Dr Who exhibition. Maybe a Tardis could get me a world record? Onwards to the bay area and the millenium centre. It was starting to rain a touch and the slope and wooden decking made for slightly nervey running but it was all ok and the crowds were back out in force.
Heading into mile 7 I could happily have stopped but didn't need to. However, I started to get a bit of a stitch. I thought it'd be an interesting challenge to see how I handled it. At mile 8 as it was getting uncomfortable the heavens opened and all thoughts of stitch were long gone. It was hard to see where I was running and I was glad I wasn't wearing more cushioned shoes - would have been like running on sponges.
Apparently we went around a lake for miles 10-11. There was enough water coming from the sky that I didn't notice! Just before mile 12 I could hear a roar from the unseen crowd. Under a railway bridge with huge cheers and round a corner to...a hill. It's just mean to put a short, sharp hill at mile 12. Still, up I went and all the way home. 1:27:19 and very happy with how it felt.
It's not often you get to run through rain as a grown adult, and especially not with loads of people cheering you. So much fun!
Sadly, there was a lot of confusion about the bag area at the end so I had to walk around in the cold and wet for about 45mins trying to find my belongings. This took the post-race glow away a little but it was still a fantastic day. Also, they get huge brownie points for making women's finisher t-shirts in actual women's sizes. The medal is pretty decent too. Thanks Cardiff.