Sunday saw the first Half Marathon of Run Big Year with the Swansea Half. This was clearly a step up from the 5K and 10K in April. Plus this took me out of my comfort zone by not taking place in Cardiff! So did I prepare well enough and was it a good race?
Things didn’t go entirely to plan the night before. I was visiting the in-laws with the wife and we brought the cat with us. Said cat subsequently got far too excited and kept us awake most of the night by running around and shouting. I’m not the greatest sleeper, particularly the night before a race, but this was the worst night before a race I have ever had. As such the morning saw us grumpy and sleep deprived (apart from the cat who happily went to sleep and by all accounts stayed that way for the rest of the morning).
We travelled on by car to the Landore Park and Ride and from there on into Swansea. It was a grey and drizzly morning, with plenty of disposable rain capes on display. The race pens were due to open for runners to enter from 8:30am but were slow to fill as many people stayed under shelter for as long as possible. The wheelchair start was meant to be 8:50, then 9:00 for elites and wave 1 (sub 2 hour runners) and 9:15 for wave 2 (all the rest). The wheelchair race didn’t start till 9 and the subsequent starts were all delayed accordingly. From where I was in wave 1 pen C we could not hear the race announcer so I don’t know if any reason was given or why this happened. This was a little frustrating.
The race started with a short section round the city centre. Part of this involved a short stretch of cobbles which were treacherously slippery in the wet conditions. I was able to navigate this safely enough and I didn’t see anyone falling, which was a relief. I did hear that one of the wheelchair racers had to switch chairs as the wheels on the one he had been using just couldn’t get a grip on this part of the course. Thankfully the cobbles were soon left behind.
On leaving the city centre we ran down the A4067, AKA Mumbles Road. We stayed on this road for the next 5 miles as it curved round the bay. This section seemed to be largely downhill all the way. My brain flagged this up and warned me to prepare for uphill sections on the way back! Running for so long down one road was odd to me as this was not what I was used to. There was plenty of support along the way, though, with notably enthusiastic volunteer cheering sections calling out runners by name (the names being displayed on every runner’s number). I focused on keeping a steady pace and conserving energy for the way back.
Mile 6 saw us enter the Mumbles before a loose hairpin turn took us on to the Swansea Bay Promenade to head back towards the city. The promenade brought some lovely sea views and by this time the sun had come out as the skies cleared. Around mile 8 there was a chap wearing a Donald Trump mask who was hosing down grateful runners as they passed. I didn’t stop to ponder and kept on going.
The promenade took in a short stretch through woods and threw in a couple of short steep slopes to cope with. At times the path was canted and there were a few sandy patches but generally the surface was good. We continued on towards the marina and had passed Wales’ tallest building, the Meridian Tower, by the end of mile 11. We headed on to the river and over the lock bridge before heading back over the Millennium Bridge towards the city centre.
A short way into mile 12 I decided to kick on but quickly changed my decision once I realised that this section contained the biggest uphill section of the race. The uphill was nothing too horrendous but was energy sapping with 12 and a bit miles in the legs. By the time the finishing straight came around I was feeling pretty drained but still managed to pick myself up for a sprint finish.
My official chip time was 1:56:54.2 which I was pretty pleased with. I had felt sub par and struggled on my last few training runs but training and racing are very different. This was only my third sub 2 hour half marathon and my second fastest overall. If I keep this up then perhaps a PB might be on the cards for Cardiff in October?
I enjoyed the Swansea Half a lot. My usual half is Cardiff, which is a much bigger and busier race. The Swansea race has a nice friendly feel and with the lower number of participants could use routes that would be too narrow for a bigger race. There was good support all along, helped in part by the hairpin route that allowed spectators to stand in the middle watching runners go past on both sides. The hairpin route and long straights means you will see long streams of runners ahead and behind you (unless you’re at the front or back) through most of the race. The route has the potential to catch people out with the constant gentle downhill of the first half lulling you into a false sense of comfort, particularly when the uphill section of the last mile is considered. There are no big hills and the route is generally pretty flat and fast. If you want to try a half marathon you could certainly do a lot worse than picking Swansea.
With that wrapped up all that’s left for me to say is that the next event for me will be the Gauntlet Games in July. On the blog front I will be writing a monthly summary soon and will also look to get some more charity profiles done. Don’t forget that this is all for charity and any donation will be gratefully received here. Goodbye for now.