I have never ever run in Wales before. At the end of last year I saw a half marathon advertised on Facebook through Tough Runner UK events, which was sponsored by Hoka One One! As a passionate Hoka Racer I organised entry to the race. My mum ended up getting it for me for Christmas. My family will never get their heads around why a gift can be in the form of something seeming to be so torturous. The truth is, as all us runners know, that no matter how hard it is, it’s always damn good fun!
The race took place in the Afan National Park, South Wales. It was about an hour north west of Cardiff which was fab because it meant we could visit some of my wife’s family who live in the capital city. They had just had their first baby and so it was lots of cuddles and catch up in the days leading up to the race. We booked an AirBnb very close to the race so were staying out of Cardiff. The town was quiet and quite run down, but the local people were very friendly and there is a lot of outdoors stuff to do around there. It felt like a lot of the towns there had not had much investment over the years but they are set in some lovely parts of the UK. The house we stayed in was lovely. We had a pool and table tennis table and the whole house to ourselves. The kids reckoned it was haunted, but the pipe work was old and there was a lot of creaking floor boards around. Lots of annoying bed swapping going on over the long weekend!
The day before the race I took a nice jog along the river, which kind of turned into a tempo 10k run. As I wasn’t ‘racing’ the half I didn’t mind doing that, although I knew there was going to be a lot of elevation in the run. That was the main thing I wanted out of the race. Just a standard effort long’ish run with some climbing. On the morning of the race I turned up early which was quite lucky as the drive up to the car park was single track (like serious single track with no passing points). I parked up not far from the start and headed down to pin my race number on. While there I bumped into someone I knew through an old friend which was quite something as we were in the middle of nowhere really. Always nice to see a familiar face. I managed to get a few photos before stripping down to race gear and getting ready to start. The usual calls for faster runners to get to the front were met with not much enthusiasm however a small crowd gathered near the big inflatable Hoka One One start line. It was there I saw Harry Jones (@harryruns on YouTube). As a fella Hoka team member I said my hellos and then we were off!
I watched Harry and some others dash off at sub six minute pace while I settled into the first climb which starts straight away. It was clear early on that the climbing was going to be tough. I soon settled into a good steady pace which was mostly comfortable and had a good chat with a few people around me. Always good to make new friends during events. Not everyone likes to chat but there’s usually always a couple who will. I’ve got chattier the older I get I think, but if I feel someone isn’t wanting to, I’ll quickly stop. The race itself took in some lovely green and brown scenes through the hills of the Afan National Park. We were lucky with the weather, getting just a slight bit of rain at the end of the race. It was very windy however, and cold. Gloves were required. The end of the run, after taking in about 2,000ft of elevation was good fun. You come down a hill that you started on, and go through the finish like with a load of people lined the sides. I got some high fives from some of the volunteers and really had some fun with the finish. 1:38 was my time, which over that terrain as a steady long run was surprising. I had originally wanted two hours on the feet so a 2 hour half would have been fine and probably had moe benefit for my current training phase. After the finish I chilled for a bit and got to chat with Harry and his girlfriend Louise for a bit. Harry had a great race and finished at an incredible 5:53 pace over that whole route. The dudes got legs of steel. The last time I saw Harry was after his UTMB finish in Chamonix last year. Literally, after the finish. He was still covered in dust and looking like needing some sleep. Great running from the Hoka One One Racer – #timetofly
Before I left I visited the cake stall that was outside of the race HQ. They were selling gigantic pieces of melted chocolate and cookie dough stuff. I bought three boxes of it and took it back to the holiday house for the family to consume. After the race it was feet up for some chill reps. My favourite kind of training. Wales was great. I can recommend the event for sure. It’s cheap and well supported and organised. Check out Tough Runner UK events on Facebook or via their website. Wales was great. Loved walking about Cardiff and the surroundings around Afan. It’s great for running and mountain biking, and in fact one of my friends said it was his best place to go biking.
Next stop for racing ….. the 2020 Centurion Running South Downs Way 50 —–>
Happy miles everyone!