It’s September, summer holidays are over, the nights are getting darker and the weather is getting well rubbish. However September always means one thing: The Cardiff 10k. It was my fourth time running this race, a flat perfect PB course, popular as good prep for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October.
Popular was the word today as I arrived at City Hall to find chaos. People taking selfies, doing lunges and a lot of nervous people. Somehow out of the thousands of runners in a tiny space I found the CDF crew and we organised ourselves for a quick group photo. Then it was a race against time to make sure my bag was dropped (the baggage queue was insane) and try and get to the toilet.
“Are they nice toilets? I’ve never been in one before” the woman behind me asked in the toilet queue. Her face started to screw up as I reminded her how many people have probably used them before her. I then saw Ruth come out of the toilet who quickly said “buzzing”, not giving the lady behind me much reassurance.
I quickly made my way over to the start line, managing to get into the middle using the age old technique of “sorry, my friends over there”. I managed to find Ruth and Liz who were running their first 10k, Maryam (second) and Gaz (marathon runner and triathlete). The gun went and we quickly jerked forward before coming to a direct stop. That’s where the problems started..
Firstly, even though the bibs are coloured due to finish time, there were no actual pens so slower runners were right up at the front with the elites. It took ages to cross the start line only to lead into a massive bottleneck where I spent much of the first 1k trying to take over other runners. The crowd support was phenomenal, running past Cardiff Castle I also saw Lily and Andrew taking photos of the CDF Run Crew. By this I mean, Lily would shout “quick quick it’s…” and Andrew would point and snap. It was lovely to see familiar faces so early on. The route carried on turning right onto Cathedral Road and it was only then I managed to get some breathing space at the 3K mark! The route carried on into the park which provided some much needed shade – the sun was so intense! After a quick right turn onto Western Avenue we headed back into the park.
Just before 5k, there was a much needed water stop. I quickly chucked half the bottle over my head and down my back to hear girls behind me shout “let’s do that” then copying me and screaming. I wondered whether to take any water on but had Mike’s age old advice ringing in my ears “you don’t need water for a 10k” so decided not to. The next 2k took a nice pretty flat route through the park, past the Street Food Circus (the smells were amazing) before coming out of the park back onto the main street. Not before eagle eyed Debbie shouted my name and quickly took my photo!
Again back past the castle (around 7k) where I saw Lily and Andrew again and lots of other supporters. My left leg was screaming stop running, stop running this hurts! I tried to ignore it, wishing I had music to take my mind off the pain (No headphones allowed due to not every road being fully closed). We took a sharp right then looped back on ourselves before heading into the park – nearly 8k.
Again, the support was amazing, the route familiar and scenic. I heard the clock ring 11 which meant I was not at the time I wanted to be. Luckily at this point I ended up behind some Cwm Ogwr Runners with the one runner playing Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen through her phone. They could not have come at a better time, they all ran together singing the lyrics and keeping each other going. One of their members was really struggling and the ringleader was shouting “come on Sarah, we’re not stopping now!”. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I ended up running with them. The leader told me how she was running a marathon and was just looking at it as ’13 water stops’ something I had never even thought about. Turning the corner, I could finally see the finish. My leg was killing me by now and I felt really emotional for some reason. I could see the clock 1:03 and I had a good 400m to go.
Looking around I saw everyone else giving it everything so I started to sprint. Again I heard CDF supporters “Go on SIAN”. I started my sprint finish and promptly sprinted over the finish at 1:09 (I didn’t start until 3 minutes in), not near the target I wanted. I promptly burst into tears, be it because of the pain, because I thought I wouldn’t finish or because it was over. Walking over to CDF supporters Paul and Mik I then continued to sob.
After pulling myself together I found my boyfriend and joined the lengthy baggage queue. Speaking to a marshal about how busy it was he informed me that everything would be changing next year. New course, new meeting point, new everything. I spoke to Maryam who said that Ruth and Liz had crossed the line completing their first ever 10k and felt so proud of them.
This was the fourth year of running the Cardiff 10k and if I’m honest probably my least favourite year. Whether that was because I was disappointed with my time or because of the chaos and crowds I’m not sure. However, one thing I do know is that if you are looking for a flat, well supported race this is it. Hopefully sorting out the course will stop all the crowd/runner problems. I’m sure I’ll be back next year… probably… well it is tradition.
Let’s start with the weather, which was rubbish. Light drizzle occasionally giving way to rain, and humidity that was clinging in a sticky mist in the valleys and woods. Awesome.
The unofficial club motto “running is bullshit” was quite literally the case in the starting area, which was liberally dotted was the stuff. However, the best entertainment was Dhana wrapping her phone in a condom in order to keep it dry (With some skill, obviously not her first time). Bernie was concerned about getting spermicide on the phone and Gerda asked “can it still be used?” We presume she meant the phone.
We lined up and set off at precisely a bit before 2:13pm, immediately up a hill dodging sheep poo. This race really had every kind of terrain: grass, mud, sand, rocks, mud, tarmac, gravel, two feet of water and some mud.
The first major obstacle was a long muddy route through the woods. Looking back it was only about 600m, but i’m sure everyone will tell you it was at least 2 miles. Mud got in over the top of your shoes, and staying upright was a challenge in itself. Plenty of shoes become detached from their owners too! How on earth anyone got through there with road shoes I’ll never know.
Then we were out and into the sand. The path was windy and narrow, and great fun to take the tight corners and crest the hills. It was here Stu took a tumble, catching a root, rolling over and carrying on, gutted he didn’t have his gopro on. One of the big appeals of this race was to run down the biggest sand dune in Europe, which was brilliant! The slightly damp sand meant your footsteps were absorbed easily without slipping on any loose sand. We flailed our way down and back into more woods.
Then followed a flat 3k along the Ogmore and Ewenny rivers, which was surprisingly tough. There were very muddy and wet parts that were completely invisible until your foot squelched into them, not to mention the amusingly abusive marshal with the loud-speaker.
Before the race, the organisers released a gopro video of the course on a beautiful summer’s day, which showed the river as a mere ankle-deep trickle. As it had been raining all day, it was somewhat deeper on the day with a strong current! We leapt down the bank and into the river which came up to the top of most people’s legs, and up to Lily’s chin. It wasn’t far, and despite the drizzle it was a warm day and so most runners found this a lovely cool down, which handily cleaned the caked on mud and sand off too.
After that it was pretty much a straight sprint to the finish via a stone tunnel and stairway, which was the final of a series of fantastic unique selling points of this race.
Then we all took photos of our legs.
Katie, Lily and Bernie all finished together, with a disappointingly unaggressive sprint finish and Dean finished caked in mud after hitting the deck, and received no sympathy.
Everyone had a great time and when grinning like idiots at the end we went to take a team photo, but realised someone was missing.
At first we were joking that she was just a bit slow and was probably loudly complaining about the mud. Then we jokingly thought she may have drowned in the river. Then we starting posting #PrayForGerda on Facebook. We’re all such good friends.
Then the tail runner turned up, and Gerda still hadn’t finished.
We considered, “oh shit, what if she really has drowned?”, to which we decided we could at least wear our club shirts to the funeral as they’re black.
We checked the first aid and marshal stations and there was no indication anyone had gotten injured or had stopped, and we were concerned again. Well, for about fifteen seconds anyway.
News finally came from Stephen Wood, of Cardiff Pegasus fame, that there was a group that got lost. It all made sense, if anyone was going to get lost it would of course be Gerda!
When she finally rocked up, she got a huge cheer from her clubmates, which was returned with “18 FUCKING K” in her… ‘distinctive’ German accent, so of course we fell about laughing again.
Apparently a marshal sent her and a small group the wrong way, who ran a couple of miles before realising they’d gone the wrong way. They didn’t even end up running down the dune, or wading through the river, which was kinda the whole point.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the mud, sand, river and Gerda getting lost, all vowed to run it again next year with many considering the 18 mile Witches Run instead! Great considering for many this was their first ever trail run. Haven’t got the results yet, but we don’t really care, which is the great thing about these ridiculous runs.
Oasis Cardiff and Space4u do fantastic work with asylum seekers and refugees to make them feel welcome in the community and provide vital services that would not otherwise be available. Diverse Cymru run a unique mental health support programme which deals with the particular issues faced by asylum seekers.
To briefly explain their situation, when someone is persecuted to the point where their life is in danger, they are forced to flee their country, often leaving their family and entire way of life behind them. Some come to the UK, because of historic links, language skills or simply because they jump on a boat or truck and this is where they end up. Once they have arrived a made a formal claim for asylum, they are an asylum seeker. Once this has happened the Home Office will send this person to a ‘dispersal area’, such as Cardiff, to wait for their claim. This can take years and years to complete, with the asylum seeker not allowed to work or claim benefits in that time. When (if) their claim is finally accepted, they become a refugee.
A colleague and I had an idea to create a running group for the benefits that us runners already know all about and, luckily, I mentioned it to Oasis who had been planning exactly the same idea and we decided to work together! I then used my link with CDF Runners to help support the group, provide some expertise and volunteers to get it off the ground.
The response has been brilliant, and we’ve had lots of volunteers come forward to help facilitate some simple weekly running sessions. Starting in the middle of Ramadan might not have been the most ideal time to start, but the first session coincided with Refugee Week and we thought it would be best to just get going and start building momentum.
We’ve also collected loads of running shoes and clothes, which has been a huge help, and has enabled many people to start to run or to pick up the habit again after many years. I’ve also been in contact with other local running clubs who have also pledged donations, which is a great demonstration of the running community coming together.
If you would like to support this group with donations, we’ll always be looking out for running shoes and clothes, as well as opportunities of free race entries, please get in touch at email@example.com or tweet us@CDFRunners.
My apologies at the lack of blog for the last 2 days, I have been a good excuse, I promise!
I AM AN IRONMAN!!!
I did it! I actually did it!! I swam 2.4 miles in the sea, biked 112 hot hilly miles and then ran 26.2 miles just for good measure and crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face, completely gobsmacked at my time! 13 hours and 16 minutes…I wasn’t last, in fact I was nowhere near last!
Let’s rewind back to Saturday morning… you all have some catching up to do! The alarm goes off at 4.30am. My support crew out of bed before I am! I quickly heat up my breakfast and force it down before my mind has chance to wake up and let the nerves kick in! It almost works…I get my porridge down in super quick time but the nerves come as I am halfway through my banana, those last 3 bites of banana were not easy to swallow but I shovel it down. I will need all the fuel I can get for today. I get my shorts and sports bra on, pull on my hoodie and flip flops and get ready to leave! I turn around and my support crew are all there, decked out in printed t-shirts ready for their day of cheering me on! They look fantastic and I am really touched by their efforts, I mean them coming out here was already amazing but I can truly say my support crew have been the best! We head down so I can go and pump up Channing’s tyres and do last minute transition checks. All too soon we are stood at the top of the beach and I am getting into my wetsuit. I might look calm on the outside but my inside is going into a panicked melt down…I am not sure my 12 visits to the toilet this morning were enough (the red lantern of priority was mine!!) I look out over the sea and give myself a little talking to…I can do this!!! Big hugs all round from the support crew and I make my way down to the water for a quick dip prior to the start.
I dunk myself in and remind myself that it is the same sea I swam in the other day, nothing has changed except a few more people will also be joining me for my morning swim! My support crew get a great spot on the little run-through between swim laps so I know where to look out for them and I walk to take my place at the start. It’s here that I note being a female competitor pretty much makes you rarer than a unicorn. There are far less pink swim hats to orange ones. I feel pretty special at this point! I also feel pretty sick with nerves! The klaxon goes and we are off! I get into the water and tell myself to relax, I only need to swim and I can do that! I mostly avoid the bun fight, stick out to the right and relax into my rhythm. I am doing this, I am on the swim of the Ironman course and I am doing it!! The first lap goes by without too much trouble and I am soon running through the “Australian exit” to my second lap, high-fiving Mark and getting cheers from Lisa and Ian on my way through…a quick glance at my watch shows me that my time is on track too…I get back in for my second lap and as the field has spread out a bit now, I can stick closer to the rope. I get a kick to the face at the first turn but it doesn’t faze me, I am on my second lap and over halfway through the swim…woohoo!!
Calm and relaxed I finish the swim and run up the beach, my watch suggesting a time of c1hr 17mins. I grab my transition bag and head into the tent. Wetsuit pulled off (I pretty much covered myself in glide this morning so it would slide off easily), vest on, feet rinsed, socks and shoes on and a good scoop of aseos cream (this is a real thing!! I thought it was a joke too! Utmost be Spanish for ass butter!!) shoved into my shorts and I am ready to go. I run out of the tent, deposit my bag and shovel a banana in. Then head for Channing where, to the cheers of my support crew, I quickly load my vest with my gel bottles, race belt on, sunnies on, helmet on, and me and Channing are on the move to the bike mount line. And having spent about 7 minutes in transition, we are off!!! I am on the Ironman bike course with my good friend Channing! Let’s go and enjoy our day together, riding around Lanzarote! Heading out of Puerto Del Carmen, some of the cross winds are pretty brutal but me and Channing settle into a good rhythm and get going. It’s a lovely day, windy but the wind keeps me cool. Every half an hour I take a good swig of gel from my bottles (caffeine on the hour, regular on the half hour), I keep drinking energy drink from my drinks bottles and I also nibble on an energy bar every hour, it’s crazy how quick the time passes just by remembering to do all this!
At one stage my chain comes off…it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t riding my bike with oil on me somewhere! I quickly get it back on and get going again! Luckily my hand is easily cleaned by wiping it on my damp sweaty shorts!! Nice!! I then need the toilet. During the race briefing, they promised there would be toilets at every feed station…this was LIES!!!! There were no toilets to be seen. I left my mark on Lanzarote in the Timanfaya national park at the side of the road! Needs must!! The climbs seen easier than when I was here in March, which makes me happy. Clearly those brutal sufferfest workouts on the turbo actually worked and were worth torturing myself for! A quick stop at the top of the biggest climb at Mirador del Haria for a top up of aseos butter and energy drink and bars and I am well over half-way now! I look down at the message on my headset “Go hard or go home” I can do this and I am doing it!! I fly down into Haria and battle up the next climb to Mirador del Rio, that’s the toughest climbs out of the way…and now there is a nice long downhill stretch where I hit 46mph, whilst clinging on for dear life at the cross winds! Soon enough I am heading back into Puerto Del Carmen, I hear Ian shout on one of the last roundabouts where he has set up “Welsh corner” with his flag but I didn’t seen him. I was too focused on getting back as the time on my watch was making me happy that I had smashed the bike course! 7 hours and 17 minutes on the bike! Yes!!! I do see Lisa and Mark though and give them a wave as I fly down through the town, they are exactly where they said they would be!
I nearly run over the man with Channing as he goes to take him from me in transition. I then run down the road, grab my bag and head into the tent to switch to run gear. Helmet, shoes and socks off, another quick rinse of my feet for the leftover sand from this morning, fresh socks, trainers and my cap on and I am ready to run. 5 minutes in transition is all it takes. I am officially on the Ironman run course. I can hardly quite believe it – as Lisa and Mark will tell you! My comments as I see them for the first time on the run were something along the lines of “f*ck me, I am actually on the IM run course!!” I relax into my run and remember Heather’s words of keeping a steady pace and not going off too fast. It is hot. Really really hot. And there is no respite from the sun. Here starts the game of running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people. These are basically the water and feed stations. The volunteers all wear yellow t-shirts and shout various things to you as you are going past “aqua, water, energy, cola, banana, plantain…” I walk through the feed stations so I can drink water, pour a load over myself and grab some ice to carry to try and cool down as I run. The sun is just relentless…I begin to see the yellow t-shirt people as saviours! I love these yellow t-shirt people, they are amazing!! I hate anyone with a blue band and utterly despise anyone with a blue and a red band! A blue band is earned by completing the first lap of the run – 13.6 miles and a red band is earned by completing a second lap 6.3 miles. I continue on…my big toe is hurting and it feels like there is something in my shoe but I won’t let it stop me and the miles are ticking off steadily. I am finally on my way back in on the first loop and I see Ian. He is cheering me on like crazy and that gives me a great boost!
Here are more yellow t-shirt people! Bring on the water, a cup goes over my head and a drink some from a second cup. I then realise that the copious amounts of aseos butter I put in my shorts must still be there. The water mixing with it, now makes white stuff just leak through my shorts and run down my legs! No-one said doing an Ironman was attractive but even so!! I keep running and plodding on. At the next set of yellow t-shirt people, I make an attempt and rinsing my shorts with a cup of water too…that looks slightly better. Ian is on his bike so he continually rides past me and down the road where he stops to cheer me past him and take pictures and then does it all again! This is a great help!! Soon enough (or just over 2 hours later) I am back to running past Lisa and Mark, half of the run complete. I head down to near the finish and collect my first band! I have a blue band!! Hooray!!! Now just 2 smaller laps to go. I head back up and past Lisa and Mark where they hand me 2 energy gels…I get one down and then some water from the yellow t-shirt people to wash it down with. I am fed up of gels now! I carry on to the next yellow t-shirt people and I see they have orange quarters. My love for them increases even more! Water over the head, an orange quarter in my mouth, a quick sip of water and back to running again. Then I see Ian! Every step is a step closer to the end! And so it continues…I pass so many people on the run who are just walking. I am not going to be beaten. I can walk the feed stations but that is it…no matter how much it hurts!!
Finally I am heading down the chute to get a red band! I final lap to go! I can do this! I think I am on for about 13 and a half hours but I am tired. So tired and it hurts. I tell myself to just keep going, keep running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people! It is also great to see Lisa and Mark as I head out on my last lap and say to them “I’ll see you at the finish!!” I am getting cheered by strangers in all languages because I am still running and not walking! One man tells me I am looking strong! Soon I see Ian and he keeps me company with his ride, stop, cheer, ride, stop, cheer…it makes me smile as I hear the ticking of his bike as he comes past me! As I get to the turn point on the final lap, I look at the clock there. It says 12:46:23. If that’s right, I have just under 45 minutes to basically run a park run and come in at 13:30. I can do that and relief washes over me! I can do this! I am going to finish and become an Ironman! I have the biggest smile on my face as I count down the last 3 miles. I even tell myself that I can walk up the 2 short hills on the way back to the finish. But when I get to them, I don’t! I am not giving up now! I ran this far, I will run to the end! The cheers increase as I get closer and closer, I have 2 bands and I am on the last mile! The feeling is amazing, there is nothing like it! I hammer it down the finishing red carpet – there is a great video of me (thanks to my epic support crew)! The biggest smile on my face, “Girl, look at that body” is the song that is playing and I look at the clock 13:16:23…I can’t quite believe it! I have smashed my expectation massively! And I cross that finish line!! What a feeling! The thought of it now, as I re-live it to write this, brings tears to my eyes! I am an Ironman!!! A medal is placed around my neck and a man shakes my hand. I can’t stop smiling. I then get wrapped in foil and head to get a print-out of my time, along with my finishers t-shirt. Reality then starts to hit…I DID IT!! I ACTUALLY DID IT!! I am then crying. So deliriously happy! It’s crazy!
T-shirt in hand, I see a man handing out cans of drink. He offers me a can of coke, which I accept and drink it. It tastes like liquid gold. I try to find Channing but the tears in my eyes mixed with dried on sweat make it difficult to see and a lady helps me. I park Channing further down by bike check-out as I can’t take him until I also have my transition bags which I need to collect from the beach. I just start to step onto the ramp down to the beach (my legs not so happy at this) and I am grabbed into a big by Lisa and Mark…the tears start again and we are all crying! Lisa hands me my phone, which she tells me has been going nuts and I explain I need to go and get my bags. They want to get them for me but they are not allowed. I gingerly walk down to collect them before heading back up to get Channing and then meet them again at the exit. Mark takes Channing and Lisa takes my bags and we head towards the apartment, looking for Ian. I try to call Heather but her phone is off…I leave some form of a blubbering voicemail, I am not even sure what I said! Then I call my tri-wife and just cry down the phone! I make a start on the stair climbing back to the apartment, I need to keep moving because once I stop, I won’t be able to move again! I get up the first set of stairs and then Ian appears! More hugs required! My support crew are very brave to be hugging me! I am soaked in sweat, it is dried onto my skin and clothes, and I probably stink too!! But they don’t seem to care!
I get into the apartment and sink into a chair. They are offering me everything. Strangely I don’t know what I want…my tummy is feeling rather sick. I ask for a cup of tea as I am getting cold and move to go and clean my teeth as the gels and energy drinks have left my mouth feeling furry and sticky and horrible! Heather then calls me…she is at a wedding reception, I start crying again! I am such a girl! She is then crying too! I made her proud!!! Yes!!!!! I sit to drink my tea and try to nibble on some crisps. I don’t want anything sweet. So despite not having cake for what feels like forever, right now I don’t want any! I call my mom to let her know I am still alive and start to read some of the messages I have received. It all feels a bit overwhelming! I am in shock! I still can’t believe it! I am also getting cold and decide I need to have a shower. Lucky Lisa gets the job of helping me out of my kit and into the shower. I think about sitting in the shower but quickly come to the conclusion that if I do that, I won’t get back up again! I wash my hair and all the sweat and grime off my body and then wrapped in a towel I go and sit on my bed. Then I just can’t move. I was full of good intentions to go back down to the finishing line and cheer in the last hour but my body has given up. I pull on my pjs and get into bed. Mark and Ian head out for supplies and I request a bottle of full fat coke, the can earlier being so amazing I want some more!! They also return with pizzas and beer. I start on the coke and then ask for some pizza! Here starts the ribbing that they got 2 pizzas between the 3 of them and now I am eating in, despite saying I didn’t want anything earlier! They give in though and hand me 3 slices. I eat them and then a fourth and drink 2 glasses of coke and my tummy feels a little better.
I can now start reading all the messages and notifications on my phone! All I can say is thank you to everyone for all your kind words and comments. They are amazing!! I still can’t stop smiling! Ian heads out to cheer in the last hour and soon Lisa and Mark head to bed. Whilst I am tired, I can’t sleep! Can you be too tired to sleep? Also, drinking coke before bed probably didn’t help matters! I nod off for about an hour and then wake up needing a wee. I am also hungry. Really hungry! I gingerly hobble to the toilet where sitting down and then getting back up again isn’t so fun and then on to the kitchen to source food. I raid the crisp stash and take a big bowlful back to bed with me, along with a recovery shake. A 3.30am midnight feast for me!! Yum! At 5.30am I am on the move again…back to the kitchen where I obtain rice pudding and rice cakes to take back to bed. This hunger is insatiable! At 7.30am I am making tea and toast, then I have peanut m&m’s!! It’s all so good!
Ian wants to head out and swim a lap of the IM swim course so I offer to go with him and sit on the beach as he swims. The walk down the stairs takes a while but I make it and I enjoy sitting on the beach having some peace and quiet. It’s strange to be at the spot where it all began yesterday morning. It feels like so long ago! I rest my head on my knees and I think I might have dozed off briefly. Ian’s swim complete, we head back to the apartment and I get my Ironman towel (I can use this now I am officially an Ironman) and sun cream and head down to the pool. I don’t plan on moving for the day! Snoozing in the sun and refreshing dips in the pool are all that I need! I try to ignore my hunger as I don’t want to climb the stairs back to the apartment but Ian takes pity and heads up to make us both a giant sandwich! It doesn’t last long!! A day of lazing around in the sun is bliss.
Soon it is shower hour, then time for a quick toast with some bubbly before heading out for dinner! We are going for steak and chocolate cake! Yum!! I finally put my finishers t-shirt on and we start the walk to Lomo Alto. First things first, I have the 85 stairs to go down. It turns out that walking down them backwards is the way to go! The 10 minute walk takes me about 25 minutes, I am on a go-slow this evening!! I order a cocktail and then prawns and mushrooms followed by steak! I can’t wait!! I devour the prawns along with the cocktail. This is bliss! Then the steak arrives…I have been waiting for this! Another round of drinks also arrives! I make a start on my steak…but oh no! Tiredness is kicking in. It hits me like a freight train! I can’t even finish my steak. I am no longer an invisible ironman…I am a yawning tired mouse…
I don’t even have chocolate cake…we walk back (the support crew taking the mick out of my tired sorry state all the way back) I crawl up the stairs, pull my pjs on and as soon my head hits the pillow, I fall asleep!
First up was the Saturday 9am run at Pontypridd where we helped towards another of the largest ever attendances. Optimism was high and Tom brashly set out to finish in third just outside his PB. Diane and Bernie also ran PBs, perhaps forgetting about the other 28 MILES they would have to run over the next two days. Then it rained.
The heavy rain stopped on the journey to this course, and the humidity kicked in hard. The day started warming up and those wearing jackets quickly regretted it. We also learnt early on not to trust Mike with his directions after he went the wrong way, and then shouted at everyone else to “help” them go the right way. We also learnt not to clap small dogs through the finish line as they get scared and have to be carried by their owners instead!
3. Bryn Bach
Halfway there for the first day! When the distraction of the very cute goslings had passed, we wandered over to the other side of the lake to start. However, Bryn Bach has recently changed the direction of its run which moved the start line. We knew about the new direction, but not the new start! This meant reaching the finish line and then running another 200m to complete a full 5k. The runners were as impressed with that as you can imagine… This was also the spot for lunch, which varied from fruit and nuts, to sandwiches, to chips, beans and a pasty. Nice.
This run was prefaced with a 10 minute explanation of the course from Mike, which, predictably, went wrong at the first corner as Tom and Ryan decided to go a different way. We made our way around (just) but congratulations to Lily who managed to throw up three times in one run, which may be a ‘throw and go’ record for a 5k.
Final run of the day was in the beautiful grounds of Tredegar House which was hosting a folk dancing festival! Unfortunately this meant walking past delicious smelling coffee and burger vans on the way to the start. Following another lengthy, overly detailed description of the course, we set off creaking and aching through the park. The addition of sand to a few hundred metres of the course is understandable due to the sheer numbers of runners Newport parkrun gets, but completely unwelcome to 17 pairs of tired legs.
At the end, we collapsed into a heap and waited for Kolade who had got himself lost. Some half-hearted stretching occurred, but we were more interested in getting back to the cars to sit around and eat the copious amounts of food that had been brought along. This didn’t last long as we were hit by another hard shower so we bolted for home instead!
The start of day 2, and as it turns out, one of the hardest runs due to the tired legs that took some time to warm back up. We were joined by Laura’s dog Jet whose unique diagonal running style gave us something to smile about. Great to see some new faces join us that couldn’t make Saturday too.
7. Barry Island
To baking Barrybados next and after dashing to the toilets, a solid feature of every run as it turned out, and a little bit of playing on the climbing wall we set off determined not to be broken by ‘Heartbreak Hill’. While it didn’t break any hearts, it probably strained a few calves. Luckily, we had Mik on hand who had met us at Grangemoor on his bike and then cycled to Barry Island to offer more support. Our applause for every finisher echoed around the covered promenade, confusing a number of passers-by who were trying to enjoy the sun.
Next to a windy Porthcawl where it felt like we walked an extra parkrun to get to the start line! Porthcawl always feels like a long parkrun with its sweeping bends along the coast and long gentle slopes, and after 35k felt even longer.
This was our lunch stop, and instead of bringing sandwiches like yesterday, most runners decided to go to a local cafe and order sandwiches and drinks, which of course set us back by about an hour from the much slaved over schedule. Props to Adam for shunning simple, safe food and going for ham, egg and chips instead. We were all looking forward to seeing it again on the pavement at the next run…
Gnoll was a late addition to the aforementioned schedule, after Mike went there and decided what we needed was an extra 40 miles to drive and yet another 5k. Worryingly, cars were queueing at the gate when we arrived and upon offering £2 for parking, we waved through by the youthful attendants. Finally, some fame and recognition from the public! Even better was meeting up with Gnoll Run Director Graham, who explained the complicated course and even ran on ahead to direct us at the woods. There was also a huge children’s fair taking place, which made the park sections extremely difficult to navigate! I’m pretty sure we managed it without flattening any toddlers.
(Ham, egg and chips thankfully stayed were they were supposed to)
We finished at Cardiff, not only because it’s the granddaddy of Welsh parkruns, but mainly because it’s pancake flat! It was great to meet up with a few extra runners who managed to make it down to run with us as part of their normal Sunday long run. The course is very familiar to everyone, so we were spared the usual rambling description and set off. Some of us even got followed by a police van around the playing fields in what appeared to be the slowest chase in South Wales Police history. Waiting for us at the end was recent C25K graduate Liz with her amazing cakes, followed by a bit of a stretch led by Dan.
Obviously, we then went and had a massive KFC to celebrate. We’re pretty big on proper running nutrition.
Congratulations to everyone whether they ran or walked a single run, up to the 12 members of the 50k club. There were lots questions about whether this would be an annual event, to which the answer was usually a resounding NO, but ask us again in a few weeks, and perhaps we’ll think about it…
Take 16 CDF runners, one easyJet* flight, a stash of ‘British’ tea bags and the wonderful city of Madrid. What could go wrong?
We arrived. We got to our beautiful apartments. Then, within an hour of arriving, Carl shouted “ENGLISH” at a Spanish waiter. We had a good start.
We’d travelled to Madrid to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon. For a few of our runners this was their first full marathon. There were nerves and excitement waiting for the months of hard work to pay off.
On our first full day we made our way to the race expo to collect our numbers (mainly thanks to Amber, our former Madrid resident who became travel guide and translator for the entire trip).
The following day we ran with a local club, the Lactic Acid Junkies for a warm up before the race. A big thank you to their leader Rob who not only took us along some picturesque routes, he put up with our whines of, “is that another b*stard hill?!”. Not to mention the best part of running with the LA Junkies; they finish every run with Mimosas. We love Madrid!
Now, as many readers will know, pre-race nutrition is key. We take this very seriously. Red wine, cheese, tapas and ‘volcano cocktails’ are all important elements in the diet of an athlete. And we followed this rule closely. It’s hard in a city like Madrid not to take advantage of the local food on offer…or walk 10 miles a day before running a marathon. The things we know we shouldn’t do but do anyway.
So, race day. What an atmosphere. Thousands of runners in the middle of this magnificent city, bands playing along the way. It was a fantastic course with so much to take in but the hills were tough. It’s safe to say though that every single one of us loved the experience, no matter how difficult it was at times.
On a side note, before the race we had an email stating, “Race supporters on roller blades are medical staff. Do not be alarmed if they spray coolant on your legs”. We thought this was a translation error. No, they’re a real thing. And they’re stupid and annoying. Not only do they stop immediately in your path after weaving in and out of several thousand runners, they also spray said coolant alarmingly close to the skin of their ‘victims’ (although very few other people seemed concerned by this lackadaisical approach and potential burn risk).
Most importantly we all finished our races and after months of hard training, we couldn’t be more pleased.
Congratulations to Mike, Mik, Amber, Leah, Richard and our friend Brian for completing the full marathon. Also to Carl, Steph, Rich, David, Shaun, Kem, Paul, Howard and Tom who completed the half marathon course. Not forgetting our CDF cheers squad of course, Ella, Matt, Josh and Jade.
A special mention to Honard Honk (aka Howard) who, at the time of writing, has been running for 108 hours 12 minutes and 34 seconds at an average pace of 04:35 min/km**. Last spotted striding past the Bernabéu, we’ve been informed that Honard is in a state of delirium, aggressively listing Spanish craft ales at passers-by. If found, please do not approach.
We spent the rest of our time taking in the sights, eating, drinking even more and generally being tourists. We had one last run with our new friend Rob on Tuesday and it was time to come home.
So there we are, Madrid Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, done! It’s wasn’t just a race; it was a holiday with a group of great people. The one thing we have at CDF Runners is a fantastic social community. We train hard but we have just as much fun and we’re always there to support each other.
Trips like this, yes are about achieving your goals but swigging prosecco from the bottle in a park while watching the sun go down is just as much a part of it.
These aren’t just great clubmates, they’re friends.
*other airlines available!
**Not really, he ran the half marathon but his chip time is still ticking over as we speak.
I started running with CDF Runners on February 1st 2016. I knew the group from a friend of mine who is a fast runner. I used to play basketball in the past and since I came Cardiff in 2013, I have started my Masters studies and I have not done any kind of exercise. I gained weight, felt depressed and I think that was a sign of homesickness as lots of students experience when they study abroad.
Anyway, after 3 years of not doing sports, I decided to join the CDF group Couch to 5k. My goal in the beginning was just to lose weight and be healthy, but with time I have seen many of the runners at the group the same age or older. I felt more motivated and I said to myself I can be a runner too! The atmosphere was very motivating, the coaches very supportive as they took my hand from 90 sec run to more than 40 min run without stopping.
Within the group there were runners from all abilities, all ages and I saw them running three times a week and they improved. I really felt motivated to come to every session. When I look back 2 months ago, I couldn’t run more than 90 seconds and now I managed to finish 5k in 38:36.
I’m so proud of myself! Now I’m looking forward to doing the half marathon in October. It’s a massive goal but, why not?
I can do it.
Finally, I’m very thankful for everyone in CDF Runners who inspired me to be a runner by listening to their stories and by supporting me all the way through.
It’s a mouthful of a name for one race, but this was undoubtedly the biggest race any of us had ever run. Just think, if we won we could be a WORLD CHAMPION. Probably not likely, but it was nice to think about it. Then again, the bloke who went on to win it fell over on the start line, so anything is possible.
It was awesome to be joined by runners from our sister clubs in Liverpool and London for a monster team photo!
It was also the first time we got to show off our fantastic new running tops with logo courtesy of our very own Bernie Martin.
The weather forecast was always a bit iffy, but it’s not as if we haven’t run across the barrage in the pouring rain more than once. If anything, this gave us a massive home advantage! However, when the weather hit, it really did hit. By that time our runners were strung out from Roath Park to many poor souls on the barrage itself battling a massive downpour and 40+mph gusts. It was brief but plenty to soak us all through.
Despite this, the weather was unable to stop our runners producing incredible PBs all over the shop. The majority of us ran our best ever half marathon, and nearly all by a big margin. The occasion and attention of the world focussed everyone’s race and pulled us together as a team to smash it.
Whether running solo or in a pace group, everyone’s games lifted to give a brilliant performance spurred on by a soggy but enthusiastic crowd. The jelly babies strewn all over Roath is testament to the crowds generosity (and the clumsiness of tired runners).
It’s not lazy blogging cliché to say there are too may great performance to single out individuals so here is a list of everyone’s times:
Adrien Pilat 1:19:17
Lucy Marland 1:22:29
Tom Martin 1:23:04
Nick Armstead 1:26:51
Brian Dias 1:26:53
Ryan Cullen 1:27:27
Gavin Pugh 1:29:02
Josh Dixon 1:29:14
Jon Harrhy 1:30:21
Dmitri Morozov 1:30:21
Dan Lloyd 1:32:27
Elinor McNamara 1:36:57
Jaime Hindle 1:39:16
Mikhael Puar 1:40:17
Jeremy Edwards 1:41:37
Carl Evans 1:41:50
Stewart Harding 1:42:48
Hannah Roberts 1:43:17
Sarah Fry 1:43:34
Shona Bennett 1:46:58
Stefanie Taylor 1:48:04
Amber Jordan 1:48:59
David Sinclair 1:49:12
Matt Henson 1:50:22
Katie Healey 1:51:25
Andrew Caple 1:52:11
Emma Davidson 1:52:18
Gethin Price 1:53:54
Lee Harding 1:54:07
Leah Jones 1:54:38
Maru Rubiano 1:55:39
Emma McRae 1:56:54
Nicole Brunt 1:57:51
Gareth Key 1:58:16
Sam Evans 1:58:31
Kayleigh Wilding 1:59:07
Richard Chappelle 1:59:37
Caroline Martin 1:59:40
Rich Skyrme 1:59:41
Stephanie Ferry 1:59:42
Sarah Derrick 2:00:37
Huw Phillips 2:01:48
Katherine Rands 2:03:42
Simon Melksham 2:03:48
Dean Bishop 2:04:19
Angela Farmer 2:05:23
Lisa Innes 2:05:24
Gerda Tallon 2:05:51
Mike Haworth 2:08:16
Kemesha Bogle 2:13:00
Kristina Salmane 2:15:28
Laura Parsons 2:16:19
Gaz Pritchard 2:17:31
Hels Dawson 2:18:30
Paul Cole 2:26:12
Sian David 2:27:26
Harry Harnesh 3:07:44
We also volunteered to marshall on the Easter Sunday Cardiff Junior parkrun which was awesome, especially with so many kids standing in the rain cheering us on the day before. We learnt the Cardiff’s record for their 2k course is an unbelievable 6:24 by a 14 year old! Feeling humbled, we went to Coffee #1 for recovery coffee and recovery toast.
The year’s first major is challenge has gone, and we now look forward to the Liverpool Rock n Roll weekend, which sees CDF Runners tackling various combinations of distances of 5k, half marathon, marathon and 1 mile.
There’s still time to sign up and book yourself a hotel, so get yourself on it, it’s going to be MASSIVE.