Caernarfon Half Marathon

Well that was tough.

There is definitely a lot of work to do before my marathon(s) next year, but for now I am putting my feet up for a week or so, after that hot and a little bit hilly race. I don’t have my official chip time yet, but my Runkeeper App has tipped me over the 2.5 hour mark by a couple of minutes.

But like I said in my previous blog, the time, right now, doesn’t matter. And I have to say that, as routes go, this is definitely one of the more scenic. That was a plus point of the unexpected sunshine, being able to see the lovely views. It had been forecast to rain all morning but there was not a drop to be had and only a few little fluffy clouds. Although there was a nice breeze some of the time, the sun was blazing, especially in the last third.

I was a little put out before starting, having forgotten my Pensby Runners vest, and having brought a virtually empty tub of Vaseline. My usual thick application all over my feet was more of a virtual scrape and a hope for the best. And then I set off for the start line.

We’d scoped out yesterday that our Premier Inn was just a very short walk along the waterfront  and up to the town square by Caernarfon Castle. It’s a town with a lot of character and the castle is impressive. There had been a stronghold here way back in Roman times, then a motte and bailey castle after the Normans took over. Edward I, in the late thirteenth century, had the stone castle at Caernarfon, and many others, built, to stamp his authority over the Welsh.

Caernarfon Castle and the waterfront in the near distance.
A view of the castle from just after mile 9. So close yet so far from the end!

Today, the Welsh are making a bit of tourist money out of it while having managed to retain some of their culture and, in particular, the Welsh language. I love listening to it being spoken, as it’s completely foreign to my ears. A group of runners were chattering away next to me as I waited in the square to queue up, and I felt like I was on a foreign holiday. Then they turned to me, and asked, in perfect English, if I could take their photo.

When we did queue, I put myself very close to the back. There were a few hundred of us, so it didn’t take so long to get over the start line, but I aimed to set off as slow as I could in order to pace myself a bit better than Rhyl.

A lot of the first part was running alongside a rail track, so a little shaded at least, and I got to chatting to a few people who’d joined me in bringing up the rear. There was a woman, performing an admirably disciplined walk/run (Jeffing) strategy who kept going in front of me on her run sections. Another woman who was doing her first Half ever (I’m pretty sure she was well ahead of me at the finish line), and a chap from Bootle, Liverpool, who’d done a Half only a month before, and was feeling a few niggles on his foot, but kept on keeping on.

Steam train pulls in at station.
Bonus timing of running alongside the rail track as an old steam engine pulls in.

This is an aspect of doing a race that I really enjoy. Yes, it can be the culmination of good (or bad) training, and it’s a way to gauge where you really are, but, especially for those who are on their feet for longer than average at the back of the pack, there is a nice camaraderie. I enjoy the chance to say hello to people who are on a similar path, and as the miles tick by, the speaking might be less, but those words of encouragement, from people in the same boat, is uplifting, at least to me.

A nice section of the route, took us along the edge of the Menai Straits with the island of Anglesey on the other side. I was starting to tire, but could see the walls of the castle in the distance. I couldn’t work out where the last 4 miles were going, until someone said, that we were heading away from town again before coming back. Now that was a little cruel.

I knew I’d start to feel it around this point as all my long runs in the last couple of months have been 10 miles or under, and many of them felt sluggish. The extra out and back seemed to hold most of the hills and I decided that I wouldn’t even try to run up them.

All the way along, when I wasn’t talking with people, I had employed my little strategy for keeping the legs moving. ‘One Man Went to Mow’, and ‘Ten in the Bed’.  Some people have mantras, I have these two tedious number songs that I sing (in my head, most of the time) in order to keep the rhythm going. For one thing, it requires a lot of hard work to remember what number you’re on, especially when you’re tired, so it acts as a slight distraction, for another, if you turn your legs over in time with your rendition, they keep a steady momentum.

By the end though, my legs had had enough, and no songs were able to lift their spirits, never mind their cadence. In the final turn towards the finishing line, I heard Anne give me a big shout. She’d managed a morning coffee and teacake as she sketched in a nearby café, before heading for the finish line. I ran the final stretch just so she could get an action shot. She said afterwards, that it felt really emotional watching people give that final push for the end when they were so spent.

Me at the end
Still smiling, just

We’re staying here for a few more days to be tourists in North Wales, but there are a couple of things that I can take away from today, aside from the lovely people I met and the scenic route. I felt quite comfortable to about mile 9 so what training I’ve done is slowly making me stronger. Plus, I added a sachet of Dioralyte (salts and minerals) to my water at 9 miles, and had a chocolate milk drink really soon after finishing. They were experiments to try and stop the headaches I’d been getting after my long runs (especially in the heat) and I think they worked. Tired legs I have for sure, but I feel pretty good otherwise and my feet stayed intact.

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