If you’d asked me whether I wanted to run another half marathon immediately after finishing Cardiff 2015, I’d have said no. That’s not when I was asked, though. Almost as soon as I’d signed up for the 2015 event I got emails inviting me to pre-register for Cardiff 2016: a one-off, a world championships, limited places, sign-up now for a time-limited price of just (!) £50.
Still, I enjoyed training over the winter. If I was going to compete in a world championships I wanted to run at my best. By now, I know what that takes.
Just a week before the race I ran my first ever parkrun, in Swansea. I wanted to test my speed and, examining recent results, reckoned I might have a chance of winning. Unfortunately Richard Copp showed up at the start line; I wouldn’t be close to him again until I got the chance to congratulate him at the finish. I ran the course pretty much alone, coming in 2nd with a time of 17:52. I’ve gone faster but was pleased enough.
On Monday I felt a cold coming on. Tuesday and Wednesday I was feverish and struggling for breath. By Friday I’d recovered enough to contemplate running. The forecast for Saturday was gale force winds and heavy showers. I was going to run. I had to run. When else would I get a chance to compete in a world championships? On the day, despite a glowering sky and gusting winds, the rain held off as we queued at the start line. The organisers had issued disposable plastic jackets. With 5 minutes to go I balled mine up and threw it to the side. Rhydian sang live, badly. After a trumpet fanfare the elite athletes emerged from their private warm up area inside Cardiff Castle. Mo Farah, Geoffrey Kamworor, Dewi Griffiths. With these legends up front, how could I fail?
The first few miles went well enough. The weather could definitely have been worse. I’ve never had so many athletes around me at a 6 minute mile pace. After the mid-point, when I should have been cruising, fatigue set in. Legs and lungs ached. The wind whipped into action, then the rain. Just before the hour — the time when the winners would be sizing up the finish — the skies opened. I was drenched by icy water in seconds. A gust of wind punched over one of the water-bottle tables placed alongside the road and sent it skidding across the tarmac. Plastic boundary tape snapped and thrashed. I kept going, painfully aware that my reward, at the finish line, would not be the time I wanted. Runners passed me on both sides. Raul, an indomitable Swansea Harrier friend, caught me with just over a mile to go. He bellowed encouragment and I stuck with him, finally limping over the line with a time of 82:42. I had wanted to go faster than 80 minutes; that’s what I’d trained for.
The winner, Geoffrey Kamworor, ran a blistering time of 59:10, almost a minute ahead of Mo Farah. An astonishing run in those conditions, even more so when you learn that he fell over at the off and, lucky not to have been trampled in the starting stampede, had to slalom through elite club runners to regain his proper place at the front.
I am not running the Cardiff half again.