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I have demons with Cardiff. I love the city as a visitor but as a runner, it has previously let me down badly. I ran the Cardiff half marathon last year as a culmination of the summer’s training and put all of my hopes into this event being the one for me. I ended up having a blow out at mile 10 where I simply had nothing left in the tank to carry on, running too fast early on at a pace that I simply was not accustomed to. I also ran the Cardiff Santa Dash later in December; the course was short by 0.3 miles and we also had to run down some steps! Who the hell puts steps in a bloody running course?! As I said, demons in Cardiff.
After watching the London Marathon earlier this year, Elsa and I decided to enter the Cardiff 10k as part of our half marathon training for the Great Birmingham Run (it’ll always be the Birmingham half for me!). The months flew by and 10k quickly became an increasingly unfamiliar distance to race. Sitting somewhere between the speed of a 5k and the endurance of a half marathon, it requires skills of both to succeed.
I tend not to like following a rigid training schedule, preferring a slightly more adhoc approach of swapping in certain runs and distances based on how I feel or want to run that day. Saying that, my staple week consists of the following:
- Monday – strength and resistance training/rest
- Tuesday – a tempo run covering anywhere between 5k and 10k
- Wednesday – strength and resistance training/rest
- Thursday – speedwork consisting of fartlek, intervals or race pace training
- Friday – strength and resistance training/rest
- Saturday – Parkrun 5k race
- Sunday – long, steady run that increases in mileage each week
I will move my weekly runs around to suit my schedule and mood, but if there is one failing of my approach is that too many of my runs are classed as a hard effort. Anywho, the above schedule is geared towards my half marathon training rather than shorter distances, but the speedwork and weekly races have helped immensely with 5k and 10k distances.
My previous 10k PB as part of a much longer run was 52:46; a decidedly average time for a decidedly average runner. This was not race pace nor targeted so I knew I had the potential to shave a few minutes off to take me into the high 40s in terms of minutes. Based on the excellent McMillan Running Calculator, I worked out that I had the potential to run a 47 minute 10k based on my then current 5k PB. After my recent leap in 5k ability, I was pleased but didn’t want to overcook it again in Cardiff so I budgeted a conservative 49 minute finish based on a negative split strategy of 25 minutes for the first 5k and 24 minutes or less for the remaining 5k. Race day tends to get the adrenalin pumping and it’s always easier to chase other runners to get that slight boost.
The gang (Lis – my other half, Elsa – my running buddy, and Iain – Elsa’s other half) all made our way down to Wales for the weekend of the race. I, like a fool, had over trained the week before, choosing to run my furthest distance ever (14.35 miles), so I was run down and had cold-like symptoms, where my body was clearly fighting off minor infections from my work colleagues.
Race day came and my shoes for the day consisted of my Nike Flyknit Racers. I absolutely adore these shoes because of their insanely low weight and up to this stage, I had only ever run Parkrun races in them and nothing further, so this would be an extended endurance test for them. I would train in them more often as well but given their relative fragility, I wouldn’t want to run in them too often because I anticipate they may only have up to 300 miles of life in them before they need replacing.
We decided to park at St David’s 2, which we knew would be far enough away from any major concerns of road closures or similar. Others had the same idea and as we got closer to the start line, more and more runners and race numbers appeared.
The weather was pretty much perfect for racing, with blue skies, minor cloud cover and a slight breeze. We arrived at the runners’ village with me joining the toilet queues several times and then warming up with some quick, short strides of no more than 50m and some stretching. I had to go to the toilet one last time and foolishly joined the queue with the most women, causing me to reach the starting pen later than I would have liked and being caught up amongst slower runners.
The gun went off and we were off! I was cautious to stick to the plan of 8 min miles for the first 5k (25 minutes) and then cranking up the speed for the second half at 7:44 minute miles or faster. Consciously slowing yourself down in a race is hard, especially when you have the adrenalin and energy stored inside you. It also doesn’t help that since March, I have not raced in anything but 5ks where the strategy of going out fast and hard usually nets positive results. The volume of people made it tricky to pace correctly and I ended up having to take some early corners wide, slowing me down further.
The pace settled down a little after Cardiff Castle, though I was still noticeably faster than most people around me, overtaking constantly and never being overtaken. We entered the first park section of the course (roughly half way), which granted us some shade from the sun and our only water stop on the route. I took a bottle and had a few sips and then poured the rest of the water over my head to cool me down. The chill of the water certainly woke me up and I was surprised I did not feel the need to take on much liquid. I noticed a guy running barefoot and had a quick chat with him to wish him well, helping to take some of the monotony away. As we passed the halfway point, I upped the pace as planned but decided to increase it to a comfortably hard pace. I was still overtaking people all over the place and nobody seemed to be running alongside me. On the return to the finish area, I felt I had to concentrate more to maintain pace and form and started picking runners in the distance to catch up to. We then turned into another park, which caught me off guard and the pace had definitely increased again, with runners around me remaining more constant than before. Continuing to overtake, we finally reached the home stretch where Lis and Iain were waiting. I fired off a few Mobots and they actually managed to get some good photos of me!
The finish line felt like it was miles away, despite only being 200m or so. I was running at full pelt by this stage, registering immediate paces of around 6:10 per mile. Crossing the line, I had to collapse and sit down for a few minutes next to the barriers and crowds to collect myself. Checking my finish time, I was elated to find I had not only met my minimum budgeted time of 49 minutes, but I had blown it wide open by finishing in 46:41. Returning to Lis and Iain, I shared my good news with them and ran back towards the final corner to wait for Elsa to cross whilst cheering plenty of other runners on. Notable mention goes to Mr and Mrs Potato Head, running as part of the Toy Story team who I cheered out to, only to reply back to me with “I’m mashed!”
Elsa finally showed up and I ran with her, convincing her to steadily pick up the pace, stage by stage until we were within spitting distance of the finish where we fully opened up the throttle. Sadly, Elsa missed her PB by a minute or so and this would have been too much to reclaim by the end of the race.
A well-deserved finishers’ breakfast was had by all, followed by a debrief back at the farm. In a moment of madness, I decided to register to run in the Bath Half Marathon. I had full intentions of running the Silverstone half marathon again, though due to popular request, Lis would rather I raced a different spring half marathon, not only for experience for me but also for her as a spectator. Bath is one that I’ve always wanted to race and features an interesting course where it’s two laps, though prone to overcrowding for the runners that finish within peak time. I’m surprised by how expensive Bath is, costing £41 per entry if you don’t belong to an athletics club, coupled with an overnight stay and travel to get there and back. I’m looking forward to the event, though I wonder whether I should aim to PB it or approach it with caution in light of the London Marathon.
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