The first fixture of the West Glamorgan league was held on a fine but fresh day. I cycled across from home and ran a warm up along the track through the woods following the start of the race route. In wet weather the path floods. Today it was quite dry. No need for trail shoes: I opted for the racing flats which have served me so well this year.
Some turn out, too! Word got round that the start was to be delayed by 15 minutes — agricultural traffic on the narrow Gower roads had held up participants. I stayed warm, shook out my legs, chatted to friends.
It’s a fast, jostling start. I held my place and let others hare off — there would be time to peg them back. Coming out of the initial wooded section the wind was on our backs. I felt lively, quick, comfortable. Now we entered the next forested section. The track becomes less firm, more sandy, winding and lumpy in places. The pace had settled down. I passed Eamonn, Charles, Paul.
On the beach now, running across the slope on soft stand studded with rocks and pebbles. There is no easy line on this terrain. I could see the estuary and the cast-iron lighthouse. Turning the corner the wind slammed at full force into our faces. The exposed mile or so back along the beach suddenly looked a long way. The race leaders were strung out ahead battling the gale.
“Work together boys!”
The advice came from Alan Davies, the V60 wizard from Llanelli.
“Work into the wind together,” he urged, indicating with an arm that I should tuck in behind him.
I tucked in. Alan is too skinny to be a great windbreak; nonetheless, the combination of the shelter he gave and the respite from making the pace made things easier. We were gaining on runners in front. After a minute or so I took the lead, Alan now sheltering behind me. Fighting the wind felt easier now I knew I could loop back.
We caught a Swansea Harrier, James Dean, who’s coming back to full fitness. “Hang in,” I said, but he was cooked.
The echelon had grown as we came to the end of the beach section and on to the marshy path. The headland gave some shelter. I pulled away from the group knowing the race was nearly done. I would be better attacking on the short climb than trying to sprint for the line.
I was pleased to finish in 7th place with a time of 28:46, my highest ever finish in a West Glamorgan league race. The only thing I got wrong was failing to start my Garmin until 4 minutes in.