Running

Rhyl Half Marathon

Well, I didn’t realise quite how popular Harry Styles is.

Standing on the platform at Rhyl, yesterday, I heard one young man (late twenties – and, I reckoned, straight) chatting on the phone, moaning about his horrendous train journey thus far, and looking forward to the concert tomorrow night. Then, within three minutes, a group of middle-aged women gathering for a weekend of jollies in Liverpool (and starting the party early) were rating his Manchester gig very favourably. So quite a wide demographic. I ought to have a listen to some of his tunes.

A seagull on the platform
Not Harry, but a seagull on the platform, eyeing up my sandwich.

I haven’t been on a train in ages, and I’ve missed the ability to people-watch, especially at the weekend. It was only a last minute decision, instead of driving, as despite the hike in petrol prices, tickets are still prohibitively expensive, especially for longer trips. But I was awake early enough and decided to jog down to my local station.

Should I have booked to go on this race in the first place?

Given that my last several long runs felt like fails, I knew this might shake my confidence even more. And, heading back home, exhausted and dispirited, I nearly went under a wave of self-pity, but was saved by the weird and wonderful variety of people squeezing into the steel carriages.

I’m glad I’m writing this today, with a bit of hindsight and a proper look at my stats. I feel a bit more objective about the experience. The Half Marathon course, at Rhyl, appears mainly to follow the waterfront to Prestatyn and back. It’s definitely the nicest looking part, as the town centre has a little sad, charity store and betting shop vibe.

It’s a very flat course and known to offer the potential for a personal best if the weather is right. The weather was pretty good, but I got nowhere near any PB. In fact, it was the slowest Half I’ve probably done. So what went wrong?

Firstly, I made the cardinal mistake of starting off a little too fast. I could still talk, in short spurts, but I knew I was at the top end of comfortable. I ran the first 7 miles with two local women who regularly used this route for their training runs. This was their first Half ever, and they were in their late fifties, and I let them go ahead, after the turnaround as I couldn’t keep up their pace. Dispiriting much?!

Secondly, the route was mainly all on the concrete prom, as opposed to tarmacked roads, and it felt harder underfoot. I even started to get cramp twinges midway through. They do say to train for the terrain that you will have on race day, and, aside from being fitter than me, that could be another reason why the Rhyl ladies had an advantage.

Thirdly, enjoying a run-free holiday with the family, is probably not the best preparation for a race, but our little place amongst the pines, at the Center Parcs in Whinfell forest, was very relaxing, or as relaxing as it can be with an exuberant three year old. Alf got to swim every day and get really confident on his balance bike. His three month old, more chilled out, brother, Leo, got happily passed amongst his folks and the two sets of grandparents. We adults also passed around the fizz generously, so although there was plenty of opportunity to run for me, I never got my trainers out once.

Overall, at Rhyl, I averaged just under 11 and a half minute miles, which is slower than my Scottish Half, last September, but a bit faster than all my recent long runs. It does feel a little bit like I’m going backwards but I’m not as despondent as I was yesterday.

The next step, I think, is to get a bit of advice about building in a little strength-training (which is no bad thing given my age) and cross-training to see if I can turn things around in time for Carnarvon in September. Otherwise I won’t be looking at a marathon for my 50th next year.

I have to remind myself that I’m still getting out there, and mostly, enjoying my runs. And it gives me the excuse to, occasionally, hop on a train to see a new place.