I now know the meaning of bittersweet. It’s been a bittersweet kind of weekend. Around an hour or so after I posted yesterday, my eldest cat Spoon had his food and then a short while later lay down and simply passed away. He was 18 so a good run, I guess old age finally got him. At least he died peacefully and with me here with him. This didn’t really put me in any mood to run, I get so attached to my animals I’m heartbroken but I figured as with everything in life it’s the setbacks that make you stronger when you overcome them.
So this morning I buried him and then laced up and got ready to run my first event – The Hoka Trail half marathon at Margam park. The weather was still atrocious with gusting winds, cold and miserable drizzle. I got there about 45 minutes before the start not knowing what to expect and there didn’t seem to be much direction to anything so I just sort of hung around and kept warm. There were still large queues of people registering as we got close to the start time of 10 and the time hanging around dragged but I didn’t feel nervy. Hey after burying your cat first thing in the morning a trail half is easy :p
In fact we got going pretty much on time although no-one could really hear the tannoy announcements (unless you were at the line I guess) everything seemed to be done by general consensus of the crowd following each other like sheep. Once we were underway though I felt fine. I didnt know really what to expect from the course or myself so I decided to keep it fairly easy and just ran the pace I normally would by myself. After a few miles I was still at 10 min per mile pace which was fine by me. I knew i wasn’t pushing too hard. Then the hills started, though the first was a single track with hardly any opportunity to pass, as it was still early in the race and I’m used to hills I wanted to run it but knew I couldn’t waste the energy slowing and stopping continously to pass people, without my usual even hill climbing stride I figured I’d screw myself so I just walked it with the others.
After that the track widened and I really started to enjoy myself. I won’t bore you with details of the whole thing but I felt fine and under control all the way, in fact the more painful parts were me were the downhills which caused me some knee pain because of the impacts. I did enjoy flying the downhills though …. until what’s this? The leaders coming past going uphill! At this point the realisation that I was going to have to come back up the hill I was currently enjoying was a sobering moment.
In fact the long slog back up wasn’t so bad, I picked a lady in front of me who seemed to be doing the same metronomic pace and stride as myself and simply followed her up. Apologies to the lady in question, I just needed a pacer at that point to keep the legs turning over.
Once we were back on the downhills I knew there were around 3 miles to go and opened up the legs to see what I could do. I was pleasantly surprised at myself. I hadn’t been out of breath at any point and the legs felt fine so at this point I felt like I was flying and could run all day …. but to my surprise we appeared to be reaching the end of the race early. Someone on the side called outonly 400 yards to go and I figured they were trying to give us a boost … but it really was 400 yards. Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone it seemed the course had been shortened by almost 2 miles (I’m presuming due to the weather conditions at the top (The mist meant visibility was down to 10 metres or so in places)
So with plenty left in the tank I motored on in for a time of 1.49.21 which meant a dead on pace of 10 minutes a mile which i’m really pleased with! I’m obviously disappointed by the short course but I do know that i had loads left to give and would have easily finished in a good time.
Unfortunately not everyone is as easy going as me it seems as many of the more serious runners were annoyed by the short course and it’s taken no time for the complaints to start on the internet – why they can’t just talk to the organisers I don’t know.
I must admit there were a few things apart from the short course that bothered me. There were no facilities to change whatsoever and no bag drop so I had to leave everything at risk (we all did to be fair) and the organisation overall at the start left a little to be desired.
On the flip side this was a first trail event of this scale for the organisers and they did well to get it going at all in these weather conditions. The people I spoke to on the course seemed to be enjoying it and I did thoroughly and can’t wait to do another. I’ve already dropped a quick email to the organisers thanking them for their time and efforts, i’m sure as with everything it’s a learning curve for them and teething problems can be remedied.
So yeah it’s been a strange weekend, veering between sadness and exhilaration. I’m proud I have this event under my belt and look forward to the next.