Race: Cardiff World Half
I’m far too stubborn for my own good. My body was telling me it needed to stay under the doona with a hot water bottle and a flask of tea, but there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the Cardiff World Half Marathon championships, running in the footsteps of Mo and the world elites.
As I feared, I was exhausted by the time as I got to the start line. I sat on the curb, head in hands, and wondered how the heck I was going to get through the next couple of hours.
But it’s amazing what your body is capable of when asked – much more than the mind thinks. I decided I wouldn’t look at my watch or try to push for a time. I wanted to really listen to my body, and not push myself beyond what was sustainable; more than anything, I was worried I’d pass out and not finish the race. And I had to finish for it to count.
The run itself was brutal. About 4 miles in, going over the barrage, we were sprayed with ice cold salty water, a cruel water feature, whilst at the same time pelted with hail stones and blown about by gale force winds. I was drenched the rest of the way round, my feet felt like their weight had doubled, soggy with water and socks painfully rubbing. The route was familiar in parts, after having run it in October, but it’s amazing how much there is always to see and take in. The supporting crowds were amazing, standing in the rain and cheering us all on. Every time someone yelled “COME ON CHEPSTOW”, I got the biggest grin on my face and it helped me find the reserves for a mini speed spurt. The spectators are the true heroes of the race, they could have gone home after the excitement of the elites and I’m sure some did, but thousands stayed, and must have been freezing, to cheer on strangers and celebrate their achievements.
I’ve got this weird ritual I started fairly recently when racing. I make a small fist with my left hand, kiss it, and touch it to my heart a couple of times. I also find myself doing it once or twice at particularly challenging moments during the race. Symbolically, I’m remembering those I love, those I’ve lost, those I run for.
Fellow harriers checked up on me after the race to make sure I got round okay, and said they were worried I wouldn’t make it, especially when they saw me hobo-ing on the museum steps (funny story for another day, of getting told off by multiple security guards…)!
I was asked why I was still running when I was so sick, I should just go home and go to bed. But I thought again of the reason I’m doing this, raising awareness and money to combat sex trafficking. Choosing to run when under the weather is nothing compared to what those who have been trafficked are made to endure every day. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true: that’s what got me out of bed, and that’s what got me running, and that’s what got me across the finish line. Although my time was slower than Newport a few weeks ago, it’s one of the races I’m most proud of myself for, because the challenge took everything within me to complete. Crossing the finish line, I knew I’d given everything my poor sick body had, and I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness to be able to run the world championship race.