About the Half Marathon
Mainly flat with some gentle inclines and several medium hills. Worth mentioning 2 of the bigger hills are in the last 3 miles. Plus there’s more uphill than downhill so make sure you take that into account in your pacing if you’re planning on running this one!
This year Cardiff half was the Commonwealth Half Marathon event and there were over 20,000 entrants. The start was a bit chaotic with everyone trying to work out which way to go to their pens, and spectators trying to find a good spot. I’m sure it’s a very well organised event without the extra capacity and this year was a bit of a one-off!
Again, a little manic. After the finish line, the funnel splits into 2 different directions so if you’ve arranged to meet friends and family at the finish line you just had to hope you picked the right direction! I didn’t remember reading about any of this in the pre-event information but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t included, I could have just not read the pack properly.
We got to the start area about an hour before the race was due to start and it was already heaving. The first 20 minutes when we were getting settled and finding our way was really stressful. There were so many people packed into a relatively small area all trying to work out where they needed to go. It was reassuring that everyone I was with felt the same way and that helped me stay calm (crowds aren’t my favourite!).
After the settling in period, we found a calmer place to stand and wait before it was time for me to get to my pen. I was getting quite cold and should have taken a few more layers with me, especially one to throw away as the race started.
My predicted time put me in the front white pen, but I wasn’t comfortable at taking the first mile so quickly so I moved back into the green pen. That way I could warm up into the race without forcing it to stay with everyone.
The tactic worked perfectly but it did mean a few more minutes getting cold before the start – why oh why didn’t I think to bring a throwaway jumper with me?! Especially as they were all donated to charity afterwards and would go to a good cause!
Nevermind, I crossed the start line feeling frozen and spent the first mile just trying to loosen up and get warm. Thank God I didn’t start in the front pen.
Anyway, it didn’t take long to get warm and I was up to pace in no time. Unfortunately being so cold meant I was a bit out of tune with my body and ran the third mile way quicker than I meant to. At mile 4 I felt a twinge in my hamstring and made a mental note to keep an eye one it.
The first half of the race was uneventful. I tried my best to stay out of the crowds to avoid getting tripped up and pay attention as I made my way through the runners. The support from the crowd was great and the time passed really quickly.
At halfway my legs started to feel tired so I used mental strategies to keep myself in the game. I reminded myself that Dan would be at mile 8 and then there was lucozade at mile 9 so I’d be able to refuel there.
It kept me going and I was banking time on my PB. Beating 1:42:50 was on. I passed mile 9 at 47 seconds faster than my PB and was determined to keep the pace up on what were beginning to feel like jelly legs.
I knew I’d racked up a bit of extra distance as I’d run round the outside of all the corners earlier in race to stay out the crowds and had an extra 0.1 miles on my watch. It would be close, but if I held on then a PB was within reach!
But then the hill at mile 10 came.
I only lost 10 seconds in that mile and still had 37 seconds in the bank.
But there was no downhill for a while after that hill and still some more gentle inclines going up. I could feel my legs didn’t have anything left.
But this didn’t deter me. I was so proud of being able to keep pushing on jelly legs (something I’d never been able to do before) and knew in my heart that if it had been a flat course at this point I’d still be going strong.
Mile 11 I lost 20 seconds. Only 17 seconds in the bank. 2.2 miles to go. My hamstring was really sore now.
Mile 12 I lost 18 seconds and was 1 second behind my PB. I dug deep for the last mile but a nasty hill right before the finish lost me 35 seconds. I knew it was gone, but I owed it to myself to keep pushing.
I picked up the pace and passed through 13.1 miles at 1:43.26.
Unfortunately I had that extra 0.1 miles I’d racked up and came through the line at 1:44:04.
I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Apart from the throwaway jumper at the start of course! I gave more than I knew I had that day, and I personally found that course so tough.
The course had 70ft less elevation overall than the course I ran my PB, but it had a lot of uphill in the final miles and less downhill than uphill. It was only slight but I definitely felt it. My poor hamstring.
I was hobbling at the finish line and had some awful cramp. Luckily I bumped into another runner I knew so it helped me stay positive for that bit longer. But after limping round for 20 minutes trying to find Dan in the chaos that was the finish line organisation, all my sense of positivity had gone and I just needed to have a strop and lie down.
My running journey is all about trying to improve and keep building on what I’ve got. I did that at this race – I stayed positive throughout, I didn’t give up or let emotions get the better of me, and I’ve never done that before! But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed that my time didn’t reflect all my hard work. One race doesn’t define me as a runner, and certainly not one that wasn’t in my favour.
But I still had a little cry in the car on the way home. I was keeping it together until a song came on the radio that I use at the end of tough runs. When I hear it I visualise myself in a race, finishing strong to a PB. And that obviously didn’t happen on the day – which is totally fine! And it’s also totally fine to run with the emotions that come up after a race, and let them out.
This was a great event. I would recommend this experience to anyone as there is so much you can get from this race.
The course and the crowds weren’t for me, but it’s all a good learning experience that’s helping me to get better as a runner. Next goal race is Llanelli Half in February, but I’ll be doing other races between then and now.
Thanks so much for reading and do let me know if you decide to run Cardiff next year x