I tend to run much better when I don’t have a time goal. But I had a goal for the Swansea Half Marathon. I told myself I’d only include this race as part of my 30 races for 30 years challenge if I achieved a time of sub two hours. It’s by no means particularly fast or notable, but for me, it would be a challenge and a personal best.
A fast flat course, the Swansea half marathon starts on the streets of the city centre, passing the historic 910 year old Swansea Castle. Making its way to the road that runs parallel to the coast, the route passes St Helen’s rugby ground and Swansea University, and onto the quaint little village of Mumbles, with its iconic pier and lighthouse. Turning around at the end of the bay at Bassetts corner, the race then follows the path next to the beach all the way back past the centre, on to Swansea Marina, along the promenade, crossing the Millenium Bridge over the River Tawe, and back through the city to the finish.
My first half marathon, less than a year ago, took me almost two and a half hours. I’ve run a few more since, and the closest I’d got to the two hour mark was at my previous, and much harder, half marathon in Greece. Given my recent times on shorter races, I knew I “should” be easily able to do it, but at the same time I was also aware I’d have to push myself and make sure I stayed focused and determined the whole way – no room for complacency or quitting.
As soon as I tell myself I need to make a particular time, mentally I fall apart as I beat myself up a bit! So as I lined up, I was nervous, really wanting to make my time and not let myself, my supporters, and my challenge down, and ultimately for a cause that I’m really passionate about. I needed to keep my head and stay focused and remind myself I am capable of this, why I am running and who I am running for!
I ran the first 10km fairly strongly and according to plan. But at the turnaround point, I let myself listen to negative voices, telling myself I probably couldn’t do it, that my legs felt heavy, that it was going to be really close so I might as well give up – basically having a moan and pity party in my head! I tried to challenge those thoughts and remind myself if I kept pushing I was still on track, but as my pace slowed, I knew it was getting closer to the wire.
With just a few kilometres to go, as I was running in the marina, I panicked as the 2 hour pacer guy tried to overtake me. No you don’t mate! I nervously sped up a little and got myself away from him! I haven’t come this far and tried this hard to lose it at the last little stretch! But my legs were listening to those stupid moany voices and just didn’t seem to want to move very much, and a few minutes later, he overtook me again. Looking at my watch, I knew as long as I kept to my pace I should still finish in under two, so I tried to not let it psych me out, and kept going with the pacer in sight.
Those cobbled streets in the city centre which I’d thought were so lovely on the way out hurt to run over on the way back! Just a few hundred metres left and as I turned the corner to the home stretch the two hour pacer guy slowed and came to a stop, “I’m a bit ahead”, he said, as he waved me through. Thank goodness for that! Sprint to the finish and I just about managed the target with my time of 1.59.07. A little frustrated because in the first half of the race I’d been on track for sub 1.55, I tried to congratulate myself for achieving the goal as I stumbled towards the happy giver-outers, took my medal and the awesome fluoro tshirt, and the most disgustingly healthy goody bag you’ve ever seen – who wants to eat kale chips or chia seeds after a run! GIVE ME SOME MINI CHEDDARS!
P.S. The observant or dedicated amongst you might notice that I seem to have skipped races 9 & 10! Fear not friends, the epic Muskathlon and Man Vs Horse write-ups are underway, but I haven’t been able to do them justice yet. I wanted to clear the backlog a bit by posting this blog since it’s written – I know, breaking all the rules by posting them out of order! The others are on their way, promise!