Almost one year after my disasterous racing experience at the Cardiff half marathon I faced my fears and took on their 10K race. With 5 weeks of solid training under my belt I was desperate to dip under 51 minutes and knock a couple of minutes off my PB. But when the race rolled round I didn’t just dip under my 51 minute target – I freakin’ smashed it! I clocked a finish time of 48:48 and knocked 4 minutes off my PB from June this year.
Eat my dust, Cardiff.
The race was also my Mam’s first ever 10K race after she started running late last year. Her aim was to finish under an hour, which she managed spectacularly in 59:59! But more on that in another post (I think it deserves a post of it’s own).
I’ve been looking forward to the challenge of this race for a while now, but in all honesty I was hesitant about the route. Last year I excitedly signed up to the Cardiff half marathon only to find the route mainly followed a dual carriageway. (Thankfully the race organisers listened to the complaints about the soul-destroying route and changed it for the 2012 race.) I was concerned that the course might be dull and uninspiring again, but I needn’t have worried. The Cardiff 10K route was just lovely. Starting at the Civic Centre, it took us over the River Taff, past the awesome gargoyles on the bridge, through Llandaff Fields, through Pontcanna Fields, past Sophia Gardens and the cricket stadium, through Bute Park, and back to the castle and the Civic Centre to finish. It was a very warm morning, but the parks offered just enough shade for my run to be unaffected. And the scenery in the parks and along the river were just the right kind of distraction – sparkling in the morning sunshine, but very still and calming. The fact the route was flat – pancake flat – was a big help too of course!
The race felt quite small and relaxed; strange considering that this is a fairly established event and that the field was pretty big with 3000 runners. I think that the atmosphere benefitted from a good mix of fundraising teams of friends and slightly more competitive club runners. Unfortunately there were some very basic things missing from the organisation of the race start, for example no signage in the runners village meant that I only found the baggage tent by wandering aimlessly in a circle and no signage in the start area to mark out the pens left me weaving through joggers for the first kilometre. But the PA system worked well and everyone found their way to the start area without difficulty. Also the toilet queues were pleasantly short, and all the volunteers were friendly and helpful. There was a warm up offered by an instructor from a local gym which, though not to everyone’s taste, lifted the atmosphere further and got some good cheers. I didn’t join in with the warm up as I had taken advantage of the closed off roads near the runners village and joined some other runners doing drills and strides. Such a rarity to find room to warm up properly and very much appreciated!
The crowd support was enthusiastic, but sparse along the route. However as we wound through Cardiff’s parks and gardens, Welshies having a Sunday morning wander with their dogs/bikes/children were treated to quite a spectacle and joined in the cheering. There were also lots of runners out on their morning jogs who stopped to lend their support! Although the start and finish had the usual inflatable arches and local DJ commentator, there was a very genuine and ‘uncorporate’ feel throughout the race that I really liked. The course was excellently laid out and the marshalls were friendly and enthusiastic. It was the kind of atmosphere I’ve only experienced at small, local events. The only criticism that I have of the race itself is the kilometre markers only started at 3km, which meant I couldn’t gague my pace until I was almost a third of the way into it (I don’t own a Garmin, so my £20 Casio watch requires some geographical assistance). Also the 9km marker was placed about 300m early and which confused the heck out of me (a 3:21 km split??) and left me unsure of when to squeeze my pace for that final push to the finish.
All in all though, a fantastic race. Welsh Athletics have been upping their game in recent years, ploughing a lot of effort into promoting their flagship races and developing their competition structure. Though there are still some small organisational niggles to sort out with the Caridff 10K (though I’m sure that only regualr racers would have noticed and/or been bothered by these) it was an absolutely fantastic run and now comes with the much sought after Red Head seal of approval.
But that’s enough about Cardiff. Let’s talk about my PB, yeah?
Somebody asked me at work this morning how it felt when I was running (I’m not sure if they were actually interested or if they were just being polite) and I can honestly say that it felt good – tough as hell, but a damn good run. The first 5km felt strong and steady, at the 6km marker my quads were aching, by 7km my lungs were aching, by 8km I started to feel pretty nauseous, by 9km I start to make some rather disturbing wheezing/grunting noises, and as I crossed the finish line and walked towards my spectating stepdad (who was frantically trying to take photos, a little shocked at me arriving 2 minutes ahead of schedule) I could barely form any words and had to have a little sit down. But throughout the race my pace hardly dropped, my legs felt strong, and I loved every second of it. There were moments when I thought I might have to do a little walk, and moments when I could feel my form was weakening and my knees weren’t picking up, but as soon as I noticed these drops in form – mental and physical – I somehow found the strength to pick it back up.
Once I had sat down with a coffee after the race I took to Facebook to tell anyone that cared about my result (I do this a lot. Too much probably. My friends are very patient and put up with my constant running talk. Or they just ignore it.) My favourite comment from a fellow club runner: “You laugh in the face of 8 minute miling!”. Bloody hell, I thought as I read it. I’ve only just been introduced to 8 minute miling, but yeah… I do! I ran an average 7:52 pace for nearly 50 minutes. I really, honestly did not think that was a possibility. Going sub-50 minutes was a goal for next year, something that would require even more sweat and tears in training. But something ‘clicked’ during the race. I knew I was running too fast. My km splits were coming in 10-15 seconds short, but I just couldn’t slow it down. I kept falling back into a pace that felt nothing short of perfect. I am still wondering if it was a fluke or if I will be able to run a time like that again this year. I really hope I can.
I have found a rhythm in my training that works for me at the moment. The 30 minute lunchtime training sessions fit easily into my routine, their shortness suits my childlike attention span, and the variation that they inevitably require has improved the quality of my overall training. Furthermore, designing training sessions to do in these 30 minute lunchtime slots has required me to do more research and learn more about the techicalities of training, such as adjusting the speed I run my threshold reps at and designing an effective weight training circuit. I think that my training has been improved not only by the change to its frequency and content, but also by my improving knowledge and interest in the science behind it all.
So there you have it: the Cardiff 10K is an awesome event and I ran sub-49 minutes. This is a cheerful post isn’t it?! What kind of challenge should I be setting myself now?!
P.S. Apologies for the lack of photos – it was my stepdad’s first attempt at sports photography and he paid more attention to photographing my Mam than me. He did alright though, and his cheering was much appreciated!