Cardiff Half Marathon
1 October 2017
In February of this year I set my Half Marathon personal best at Watford (a tough hilly course) in 71.09. I’d run a really good race, but knew that if I trained well over the summer I could break 70.
The Cardiff Half Marathon has a good reputation for a fast half marathon. I chose it partly because they had 18 who went under 70 in 2016 and partly because they agreed to give me an elite place. We were due to spend the weekend in Cardiff as a family, but we decided it was best for my wife and daughter to stay in Bristol to spend time with family. I got to Cardiff mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked into my Air BnB apartment right in the centre of the city. It was more expensive than I would have liked to have paid, but it was incredibly convenient; they even had BT Sports so I could put my feet up for the afternoon.
Since getting back from Menorca in mid-September I’d been struggling with a cold, almost everyone in the office had one! Unfortunately, running 90 mile weeks and getting up at least once in the night to feed a baby doesn’t with recovery. I definitely still wasn’t right on the morning of the race, but it was the best I’d felt in a couple of weeks.
I jogged to the elite hotel to pick up my bib. There had been a bit of a mix up and unfortunately I didn’t have a fancy bib with my name on it, just a number. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed. It was a brilliant experience in the elite area; surrounded by international professionals and a lot of famous faces from the British club running scene such as Dewi Griffiths (who’s in the top 10 for most distances this year), Josh Griffiths (the fastest Brit at the London Marathon) and Charlie Hulson (English National Cross Country Champion in 2015). I was able to see how they prepared for the race, I think the main thing that struck me was how relaxed they all were.
I arrived at 8.45, but after a decent warm up round the Millenium Stadium the time flew by and we were soon being ushered towards the start. It was an incredible feeling to run out onto Castle Street in front of 20,000 other runners and loads of spectators, after the favourites were introduced to the crowd the countdown started and we were off.
To run a sub 70 I needed to clock 5.20 per mile which would take me through each 5km in around 16.35. I was really conscious of going off too fast so tried to hold myself back, I chatted to a few other guys around to try and find people to go with. The first part of the race took us west and past the Cardiff City Stadium, it then heads south towards the River Ely. It was pretty flat, but windy and I felt quite comfortable. During the first of a few inclines we hit the 5km point, I looked at my watch and was surprised to see 16.46; already behind time. I was in a group with Tom Roberts (Meirionnydd, in North Wales) and Harry Lupton (Charnwood AC) and we were taking it in turns to lead. The second 5km was my favourite of the whole course. We headed downhill to Penarth Quay and across Cardiff Bay Barrage with Cardiff Bay to the left and the huge River Severn to the right. It was great to run along Roald Dahl Plass (a huge public space) with the amazing Millennium Centre to our right. We went over the 10km timing mat and I looked at my watch; 33.10 – much more like it! We’d done the last 5km in 16.24 and we were bang on schedule.
The course stayed flat and had some decent long straights through residential areas; this is where it started to get tough. Tom asked me to take the lead, but I just didn’t have the energy to go any quicker to get in front of him. I dug in and tried to at least run side by side so he didn’t have to do all the work. At this point I remember thinking how nice the course was, we had hit Roath recreation ground to our right and cross the 15km timing mat. I no longer had the energy to look at my watch, but Tom was pleased to report we’d gone under 50 minutes. I couldn’t do the maths in my head, but I thought we still had a shot. A few minutes later we got to Roath Lake and 10 miles (or one parkrun to go as I like to think of it in my mind). Unfortunately, this is where our pace started to drop, it was a slight incline but nothing two bad; we can’t have slowed that much as we over took the 2nd and 3rd placed women, who are both professionals from Kenya. I was finding it really tough and trying to ignore the fact that we were about to come to a sharp incline and focusing on the downhill on the other side. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t enjoy the hill! At the top I tried to really go for it, but I just had nothing left. We got to the 20km timing mat and I knew the game was up. I looked down and saw 1.06.57. I’d have to run well under 3 minutes for the last km. I’d love to say I ran a heroic last km, but I was out of gas. I got round the last corner and looked upto the clock just over 100m away, it was already saying 1.10 so I jogged down the home straight and tried to enjoy the moment.
I finished in 70.38, not the sub 70 I wanted, but a big PB of over 30 seconds. Tom had finished 11 seconds ahead of me and we shared a nice man hug. I staggered past the winners who were being interviewed by the media. John Lotiang from Kenya broke the course record to take the win in 60.43 with Edith Chelimo also from Kenya winning the woman’s race in a superb 65.50 that puts her in the top 10 in the world ever! The British star of the day was Dewi Griffiths who’s taken another big chunk off his PB to come 4th in 61.33 and run the 12th best half marathon by a Brit ever.
I chatted to a few guys in the elite area, but needed to crack on to get back to my family. I jogged past the castle and thought it would be stupid to not put my head in to have a look. I’m delighted I did, because despite the rain it was beautiful in there.
On the drive back home I had a lot of time to think about my performance. It’s easy to be disappointed when you don’t meet your aims, but I deliberately set aims to push myself. If they were easy there wouldn’t be any satisfaction when you achieved them would there? 70.38 is still a huge personal best and isn’t that why I run anyway? I run to be the best I can be and see what I’m capable of. Not every race is going to go my way and I should be very proud to run a great time, particularly when not feeling 100%.
Would I recommend the Cardiff Half Marathon? Yes definitely, it’s really well organised event that is relatively flat with good road surfaces. The course is nice with plenty to see and the crowd support is excellent.
So what’s next for me? The big one is the San Sebastian Marathon on 26 November, I really can’t wait. I set my PB at London this year in 2.33; let’s see if I can crack 2.30. I’m also doing the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k at the start of November which is a really quick race attracting great runners from across the country; that should be fun.