Cardiff Half Marathon 5th October 2014

So the short block of 6 week’s training since getting back off holiday was done & it was time to see where I’d managed to get my fitness to! My PB was 68:08 from Hinckley 2013 when I was in good shape but in between marathons so I expected a PB today.

With the race being the British Championships & starting to be recognised as a relatively fast course with good depth the plan was to get stuck into the race & concentrate on racing well which should bring the time along with it.

A 9am start, so with clear skies overnight it was a bit fresh for my liking during the warm up but I was feeling good & relaxed. There were plenty of familiar faces during the warm up so other than the hand full of Africans who would be well out of sight it looked promising that there would be a couple of good groups to run with. With a slightly downhill first mile I planned to ease into the race & look to settle into a group between miles 2 & 3 as the course picked up slightly.

I felt pretty good through 1M in 5 minutes dead but was already some 60-70 metres down on the main pack. By the people in that group I knew pushing on wasn’t an option as they’d be working at sub 65 pace which would be beyond me on current form (Neil Renault who has the same coach as me & will be looking to train with for London next year did push on to that group after a solid run at the Great North a few weeks back). At least this group would give me some gauge, albeit from a distance! So I was already isolated until namesake Toby Spencer went past at which point I pushed on to get on his heels & went with him for the next couple of miles before he picked up the pace to sub 5’s & I had to let him go around 4M from which point I was in no-man’s land but still with a couple of runners in sight up ahead.

Through 10K in 31:30 & the gap seemed to be holding with no sign of anybody joining from behind.  Although I was starting to feel it after a relatively tough part of the course around the Bay I knew I needed to keep holding the pace over the next 3-4 miles which are quite flat & fast before the kick up by Roath lake shortly after 9M but by which point if I could stay in the race I should be fine to keep on pace.

I did pick off a couple of runners which helped & then had Neil in view as the roads opened up. I worked hard to catch Neil before the top of the hill hoping he might get a second wind (shortly after 10M which I went through in 52:05) & we’d be able to work together but I instantly got a 10 metre gap & it was clear I’d be on my own. I knew the next mile was fast before the nasty could of hills at 12M but I felt good to be able to pick up my pace slightly & after a good 12th mile I was making good inroads to a small pack up the road.

I went past Matt Gunby just over the top of the cemetery hill & with a mile to go it was just a case of focussing on the four in front to close the gap as much as possible. I did close the gap down to just 13 seconds at the finish but was never in a position to catch them.

The finish was about 300 metres after a sharp left turn, & after a quick glance up to check where the line was I realise there was still a slim chance of dipping under 67 minutes. The last 20 seconds were like something out of a nightmare as the seconds kept ticking by while it felt as though I was ‘sprinting’ at about 10 minute mile pace!

A quick chat with a few other runners before collecting my kit & doing a warm down back down the course to cheer Jo in. then back to the elite athlete’s buffet where somebody had the results online already & I was able to confirm I’d scraped it by the skin of my teeth with 66:59! All of a sudden the minute reps & regular 30 second efforts seemed worthwhile!

I was delighted with my time, & very happy with how I’d raced considering I’d been alone for the majority of the race. Especially happy with the final third of the race. 16th overall, 12th Brit & a PB much closer to where I want it to be. I feel already that with a few more weeks I’d be looking at going through 10K in 31 & holding that pace.

This is the 4th or 5th consecutive year we’ve been to Cardiff for this race & it gets better every year. I’d recommend it to anybody looking for a big city race through from elites to fun runners. There’s good support all along the course, it’s fast although not pan flat & takes in some good views of Cardiff (the start is by the castle). They certainly do a proper job of taking care of the elites & hopefully that will result in the depth of quality increasing further over the next couple of years. After grabbing a bite to eat at the impressive buffet laid on we headed back to our apartment via The Cricketer’s for a couple of celebratory Peroni’s.

Media shot of the start, there is an after shot of me enjoying a beer somewhere that I’ll try to dig out.

Cardiff HM start

Not long to wind down though, it’s now less than 6 weeks to Leeds 10K & I’m definitely due a decent 10K race this year!

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