Sunday morning in West Wales

I’ll leave Mike Donnelly to post the official PRR update from this weekend, but this is my experience of this Sunday’s Half Marathon.

The Great Welsh Half Marathon was an ‘impulse buy’, watching everyone finish the London Marathon on television, I had severe run-envy, having completed the Manchester Marathon a few weeks earlier and not having anything in the diary until after the summer. Some of the Road Runners were committed to running either the half or the marathon, there was nothing in the diary for that weekend, and Llanelli was the sight of my HM PB earlier this year, so why not?

I’d ended up with a few niggles after Manchester, mostly concerning my thigh and hips, but nothing to stop me running. After my experience last year after the marathon I was determined to keep a level of running up so as to avoid too many injuries, so I’ve been using the club sessions to keep my feet turning, even if I haven’t been working to a fixed plan. It’s been a real pleasure over the last few weeks to just run with the club for fun, rather than trying to hit a pace or distance requirement.

So in the last fortnight I’d decided that this run was not going to be for a time or for any sort of stellar performance: the coastline of West Wales is gorgeous, and it would be a pleasure to actually turn up and run the coastal route and enjoy the sights. This immediately removed any pressure to ‘perform’, and meant that I started to look forward to a race for very different reasons from usual – no aim to compete, just a chance to be part of a great event, small but perfectly formed, and enjoy the day.

This was helped by the fact that we had a great turnout from PRR expected. So on the day it was great to see Neil and Gethin, then see Vicki, Jo, Darpan, Tim, Emma, and meet Sophie for the first time. The weather was perfect for distance running, a bit overcast and slightly chilly, but with the promise of clear skies later in the day.

There were only something like 500 runners for both the marathon and the half, so things were somewhat informal, with people being told to get in the pen with 15 minutes to go and then left to figure out where to position themselves. I did my usual, and aimed for a mid-way point that said ‘I’m a real runner, but I’m not ┬áthat sort of runner…’. Maybe it’s because the event is more low-key than some of the bigger events, but it was nice to not have the usual issue of people who have convinced themselves that they are somehow going to pull a sub 1:30 out of the bag and position themselves straight ahead of me, despite training on a diet of curry half and half for the last 6 weeks, only to then spend the next two miles chatting with their mates and blocking the whole lane… <rant over>

It was nice to see Swansea Harrier Matt Rhys at the race, and get a round of applause before race start. As he’d said himself in numerous interviews, his actions were only what a lot of other runners would have done, but he’s done a lot for the image of the running community generally, and he seemed a really nice unassuming bloke.

Race started, and we were off. First leg was West up the coast, and things went very smoothly. I wasn’t aiming for a particular pace but was comfortable with my usual timing (just over 1:40), and enjoyed the first few kilometers as we headed up towards Burry Port. Despite being badged as a ‘flat’ course there are a number of gentle undulations, but it’s nothing too untowards and adds to the character of the race. As we started to head back towards the midway point I started to get some familiar twinges. My left thigh and glute have been a problem off and on for a while, and I began with a pain in the front of my thigh. Nothing too severe, I was happy to work through it and try to improve my posture and stretch my thighs a little. Then I felt a proper ‘twang’ in the side/rear of my thigh and immediately pulled off the track and stopped for a moment, fearing hamstring troubles. A little gentle examination and it didn’t seem that severe, so I applied some pressure to a point at the joint between my thigh and hip which from previous physio experience I knew to be a pressure point for me. Sure enough, after a few moments of pressure, the pain seemed to ease and I was ok to set off again, albeit at a slower pace than previously.

In other races this might have been enough to knock me sideways and destroy my run, but as I’d already got it in my head that today was about enjoying myself, I determined that the pain wasn’t too much, the problem wasn’t too serious, so I’d just drop the pace and carry on.

The onward leg of the run can feel a little soul destroying, as it seems to run on and on before looping back, but in the sunshine it was so enjoyable to run alongside Llanelli. There were no crowds to speak of at any point during the run, but if anything this helped to take the pressure off ‘performing’, so it became a much quieter, simpler run (apart from the cyclists riding through, occasionally shaking their heads…).

So in the end I managed a time of approximately 1:47 (still waiting on the official time), but importantly I enjoyed the run enough to smile throughout, and finished without gasping for breath over the finish line. I’d definitely recommend the Great Welsh Half Marathon for anyone who wants a low-pressure run in lovely surroundings, though you need to be prepared for the ‘undulations’!

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