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The Caerphilly 10k finishers’ medal
My summer of speed continued yesterday at the inaugural Caerphilly 10k.
I registered for the race several weeks ago once I knew I would definitely be in Wales for the weekend. At only £10 for unattached runners, I was promised a chip timed 10k, a medal and a goody bag; an absolute bargain and you can’t ask for more than that. Of course, being the inaugural race also means there’s potential for a lot to go wrong, though I’m glad to say nothing did and it’s an event I will seriously consider again for next year.
An impressive backdrop for the inaugural Caerphilly 10k
Lis and I arrived in Caerphilly shortly before 9am. There were already plenty of runners about in the runners’ village. The start was positioned in the shadow of Caerphilly Castle, giving the event a certain prestige. We familiarised ourselves with the area, staking out a spot for Lis to spectate and where I would have to go and so on. I remembered to take my beetroot juice shot in preparation for my warm-up, consisting of 1 mile out and back on the course along with some sprints and strides.
The Caerphilly 10k course was causing me some bother during the week, mainly because there was little published information online about the profile and elevation. Nigel Foulkes-Nock of the Lliswerry Runners got in touch with me, describing the course that he had completed in preparation for the race. Nigel’s email actually came as a surprise because he’s the gent that emailed a piece into Marathon Talk that inspired a previous training talk about PBs. Anyway, the profile of the course sounded a touch easier than the Aldridge 10k that I had run recently, so I was expecting a small PB.
After a very long queue for the toilets, I made my way to the starting pen. There were only a few other runners in the starting pen with me, with everybody else participating in the mass warm-up session. Slowly, more and more runners started to filter in. I’m not entirely sure who decided on the spacing for the pace groups, but the space for 39 – 43 minutes was as wide as 29 minutes to 33 minutes! Whilst waiting, I spotted Daniel Luffman from Cardiff Parkrun that I occasionally race with and against. I see him every single time I’m in Cardiff and like Mike Green at Cannon Hill Parkrun, Daniel and I are evenly matched, so much so that our RunBritain handicaps are exactly the same at 7.5. Recently, we both even ran the same 20:00 minute PB at our respective Parkruns! We agreed we were aiming for a 42 minute finish, requiring a pace of 6:45 minutes per mile. The deputy mayor introduced Jamie Baulch to start the proceedings, along with introducing the local elite runners. I recognised the chap in the RAF team vest, having won a previous Cardiff Parkrun I attended. We were counted down from 10, and on the blast of the air-horn we were off!
Daniel and I took off very quickly; I looked down at my watch and we momentarily registered a pace of 5:55! We slowed it down but Daniel was still running at 6:15 pace so I held myself back to run alone, dropping into 6:37 before finally settling down at 6:45 per mile. The course threw a few early ascents and descents at me; not ideal if you’re trying to stay calm during the opening stage. We made our way through the town centre before hitting a steep downhill section out towards the business park. People were starting to overtake me, which I expected to happen whilst everybody found their pace. I could still see Daniel in the distance, maybe 20 seconds away, but decided I would be better off staying at my pace. My aim was to PB with something better than 42:53 and also to finish in the top 10%.
After 3k, I was surprised to see our first water station. Served out of bottles, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was able to have as much as I wanted without any water going up my nose.
Most of the middle miles were forgettable, with dull closed-off roads and fairly industrial surroundings. I noticed a lady walking on the side of the road in Race for Life regalia; she was going to be late for her own run in Cardiff if she didn’t get a move on because it was due to start at 11am!
The course was tough; when it wasn’t hilly, it was windy and when it wasn’t windy, it was hilly. Aldridge was hilly, but free of any wind making for a more pleasant racing experience.
At 5k, we had another water stop with bottles handed out by Sainsburys staff. The course humourously took us past all of the major supermarkets in Caerphilly, either by design or pure coincidence. I had my Isogel to top off the energy levels as I tackled another incline. I’m now confident that I have the skills for the hills, because I was able to overtake with ease. What I have figured out is that I need to learn to drive down hills to take advantage of the lead, rather than using it as a free break.
I settled into a group consisting of a female club runner and a couple of older blokes. Up and down, up and down, we hit the undulating course. We eventually made our way on to the out and back part of the course and I noticed Daniel on the other side, still maybe 20 seconds ahead. I hugged the cone as tight as possible, wanting to run as best a line as I could.
The final kick at the Caerphilly 10k
The group I was in remained consistent until we headed back into town, when we started to break up a little. I ploughed on, passing the 8k marker. My pace had started to nosedive and I was off my target pace by maybe 5 – 10 seconds per mile. After the next hill, I was on the home straight after running past the 9k marker before hitting the high street. The runners around me thinned out and I ran most of the final kilometre alone. I charged up the final hill before descending the other side back towards the finish line. I saw Lis, Jo, Dan and Catrin on the left cheering me on and began the mother of all sprint finishes. I kicked as hard as I could and apparently surprised Dan along with the rest of the crowd. I could hear people cheering all around me, one voice shouting out “go boyo!” as I overtook 3, then 4 people. The commentator also cheered us on, declaring that we had another sprint finish on the table as I crossed the line.
I stopped my watch, registering a 43:04 finish, only 11 seconds away from a new PB. I had to sit down by the side of the finish funnel, receiving a bottle of water from a volunteer. Once I’d regained my composure, I collected a goody bag and caught up with Daniel. There were only 10 seconds between us in the end, giving you an idea of the speed that I’d sprinted the last 200m.
Outstanding organisation and goody bag at the Caerphilly 10k
Making my way back to Lis and everybody else, I checked out my goody bag, which contained:
- A finishers’ medal
- A Caerphilly 10k water bottle
- A drawstring bag
- A wristband
- A Pen
- An energy gel
- A Tracker bar
- A banana
This is possibly the best goody bag I’ve ever received and for only £10 entry. Cardiff 10k only gave me a finishers’ medal for £24!
I found Lis and caught up with everybody, thanking them for their cheers at the end before wandering back to the car park at the train station. We’d thankfully parked at one of the few car parks that was unobstructed by road closures so we made a swift getaway out of Caerphilly.
I was disappointed in my performance, edged out by only 11 seconds. As a consolation, RunBritain Rankings gave the course a 1.4 difficulty and my VSSS score was 0.0, meaning I performed as expected of my ability for the day’s conditions. I also finished 123rd out of 1499 runners, or the top 8% of the field hitting my target of 10%.
The organisation of the event was super smooth, having a high quality feel that is normally reserved for half marathons and not simple 10k races. The entry fee of just £10 and £8 for affiliated runners is an absolute bargain, especially when you throw chip timing into the mix. I don’t know if the low cost is down to Caerphilly council absorbing some of the cost to get the event off the ground, but it was a refreshing change to see a race that wasn’t price gouging me. Will I return next year? Probably, because the race owes me a PB!
Here’s the Nike+ run data for those interested.