Random Thoughts on... The Newport Half

This morning, I had a great time, together with most of Lliswerry, running the Newport Half Marathon. This evening, I'm trying to record my thoughts as I sit down with a painfully grazed elbow and sore coccyx.

They say that you get back what you put in, and I can certainly confirm this today. My training for the Newport Half was a bit sporadic - a couple of long runs missed, training sessions dropped due to little things like high winds, feeling a bit poorly and sheer CBA if I'm honest. Other fitness activies took over, but so did thoughts about last year.

My involvement with the race last year was purely based around handing out Jelly Babies at Sainsburys and cheering on those lucky enough to be running. 

This was my first ever winter for training (having had the last two Winters out due to injury, and the previous thirty off because of a general aversion to sporting based activities). I don't operate too well in the cold - I suffer with Reynaud's, and this brings on Chilblains which make life pretty miserable if you don't manage it properly.

I can confirm my thoughts by means of my son. James put in a storming 1:32 at Cardiff, and had the blisters to prove it. His training has been marred in the same way as mine, with the added cross-training of learning to use SPD clips on his Mountain Bike - i.e. bruising and cuts from not being able to dismount properly. James "only" managed 1:36 this morning, though on a positive note, only one foot was badly blistered. Clearly he didn't put enough effort in!

Two goals for me this morning - finish the race without stopping (tick!) and go sub 1:45 for the first time (no tick). After blowing up at the 11 mile mark at Cardiff for the past few years, I was taking this one carefully with a revised fuelling strategy and a careful eye on my split times.
Fuelling was based on porridge at 07:00 and High 5 electrolytes with an expresso at 08:15. During the race, I took on water twice, and a small handful of jelly beans about half way through, just keeping them in my mouth for the taste. No gels this time.

Garmin was set for 4:55 per kilometer, and I wasn't going to go quicker than that. Luckilly, my body was quite enthusiastic with this strategy and never allowed me to run anything like that quickly! A few slow kilometers and I was seriously worried - a master tiler, (I'm keeping things anonymous here), had stormed off ahead of me - he was going under the bridge as I was going over. Was I really that far behind? Over the next few kilometers, I slowly picked up the pace and got closer and closer until I passed him. Joy, I had sped up - checked my watch only to find that he was just suffering from the previous night's rendevous with "Bow". Not as spectacular as the Pontypool 10K last week, when the same anonymous person flew past me going up the hill, only to come to a complete halt outside the Star Inn (obviously a calling). 

Going under the road bridge after Sainsburys, I thought I'd have a go at inspiring the sort of camoraderie that I experienced at the Great North Run. I shouted "Oggi Oggi Oggi", my fellow runners thought "nutter". Never mind, at least we had the bagpiper on our way home.

Before I knew it, I was at the Caerleon loop. I was happy to be at this point because last night, a fellow runner had promised to flash me if I got around the loop before she went in. The thought drove me on a bit, but clearly not enough as there was no sign of her when I exited to return to Newport. Turns out, remembering what she'd promised helped to spur her on, though I was heartened to hear later that she had got prepared for the moment.

At about the 3/4 mark, I saw a now familiar sight when "I only do 5K" breezed past, just casually taking this as a training run for great things at London next month. This has happened a few too many times recently for my liking, but the only way that I can complete is to get back into the training (see point 1 above!)

It was great to see a friend running this morning who was running his first Half. He's pretty fit, from a rowing background and we used to share similar parkrun times, though my Winter training has put pay to that, he surpasses me week on week at the moment. After about the kilometer mark, he passed me putting a good ten seconds between us by the time we got to the Riverfront. I was impressed, and not suprised, not expecting to see him until after the race. I spotted him just at the 11.5 mile mark, stopped. I slowed for a bit to see if he was OK, and he'd cramped up. Didn't take him too long to get going again, to finish in a respectable time, though he was on target for the elusive (for us) 1:45. So familiar to me, having experienced a similar distance breakdown at Cardiff, albeit for a different reason (heat and hydration). I have no doubt that he's smash it in October now, so I'd better do more training for that one.

Luckilly, I kept on moving, passing the stumbling points of previous runs, and trudged my way past the Riverfront once more. Over the bridge, and then the end was in sight... after I'd negotiated a final 400m with a camber that would have made a final-sprint impossible, so I didn't. Before I knew it, there was a kind lady at my leg, removing my electronic tag and I was done. No dizzyness, no need to sit down, just great!

The crowds were absolutely fantastic this morning. Cheering and shouting, with at least one person turning up just to call me on (who I subsequently ran straight past!). Lovely to see the circus acts too - the fire was amazing, and the girl with the hoops looked pretty hot too - though she wasn't hooping as I passed. Lliswerry Runners were everywhere - great to see people with me (Richard), ahead of me (after the loop) and behind. Something even more amazing, was that everyone was putting the same level of effort in - it's pretty personal at all levels - at the sharp-end, it's really about high-competition, but it was great to see everyone giving it their all. So many people going the distance for the first time, including "Princess Nick" with the "Physikcal Fitness" running group amongst others, though rather cruel of his "5K to Half Marathon" team insisting on him wearing the pink shirt. So good too for Badger and Dexter to get an outing, picking up the "tail runner" position - missed them from parkrun, since the "one dog" rule came in.

Great race, great organisation, great people - doing Newport proud! Lovely to have a Half Marathon on our doorstop, and great publicity for Lliswerry - lets face it, everywhere you looked there was Maroon and White! Oh, and I saw a Schnauzer - you know you're going to have a good day when you see a Schnauzer.

Oh, and you're probably wondering why I mentioned a few injuries at the beginning. The run was great, my legs ached a bit, but OK. Walking down the back steps a few hours later, I slipped and landed badly on my bum, back and elbow (taking the skin off completely). Yeah, running can be dangerous, but so can domestic situations. I know what I'd rather be doing!

Nigel.