Move over Royal Parks Half, there’s a new fave UK half in my eyes…
Ok, so it might help that it was gloriously sunny on race day which was not only great for the runners but meant that the spectators were out in force. (And the last time I ran Royal Parks in 2018 it was torrentially raining!)
Cardiff Half Marathon
I stayed with friends Emma and Kyle in an Air B & B close to the start/finish line, just by the Millennium stadium – the location was perfect if a little pricey (cost of all accommodation seemed to be really high when we were looking – I’d probably just drive down on race morning next time unless I was going for a PB!)
I had 18 miles on my Big Sur Marathon training plan. So after crumpets with honey and a coffee from the petrol station, I set off for 5 miles along the Taff Trail before the start line. Tom lived in Cardiff for 6 months before we moved to Henley. And so I’d run Cardiff parkrun along this route in the past. It was gorgeous and the miles easily ticked by following a 9 mins run/1 min walk strategy.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t updated my address so my race pack had been returned to the Cardiff Half. However, a very kind volunteer (THANKS LEE!) had messaged me to say he would get it taken to VIP for me to collect easily on race morning. It also meant I could use the VIP bathroom – yay!
A pre race loo stop (or two) was essential before starting the 13.1 miles as was my new fave running fuel, a Rice Krispies bar to top up the carbs! Unfortunately, after the elites started, there was a comms error meaning our start time was delayed by 30 mins. People were running around trying to keep their muscles warm and doing wild wees in the bushes. When I have pre-race miles to run, ideally I try to reduce the time between finishing my miles and the race start. But obviously, the delayed start was out of my hands.
My plan was to run with Emma. And it was clear from the start that both of us were feeling kind of bleugh.
We started off too quick in that first mile and so our planned 1 min walk was well timed. It took me about 3 miles into the race to settle back into a rhythm that unfortunately Emma never seemed to find hers (her thoughts, not mine). I love using a Run/Walk strategy for long runs (read more about it here), it gives times to fuel and hydrate, plus it really breaks up the miles particularly if you’re struggling.
The route starts outside Cardiff Castle, past the Millennium Stadium (apparently now known as the Principality Stadium) and out towards Penarth. From Penarth Marina, you run towards Cardiff Bay (where Tom lived!) then north towards Roath Park Lake where you complete a lap of the lake before heading back to the City Centre.
The course was lined with spectators, friends and families cheering loudly with signs, bands playing. And even care home residents playing instruments on their lawn.
I loved the atmosphere and after so long away from big city events, it really hyped me up for the Chicago Marathon in October. (And made me a little sad not to be running the London Marathon!)
There’s a nasty hill that we were warned about at Mile 12. We had *just* done our mile 11 walk break. But there was no way I was running up the steep incline so we essentially had back-to-back walk breaks. Then there was just a little hill up towards the finish line with people unhelpfully shouting for the runners to go for the ‘sprint finish’.
Overall the course profile is mostly flat (aside from that nasty hill near the end). But is a great PB race in my opinion. There were water stations every 5K plus High Five energy gels at Mile 6. And a sports drink at mile 9. We walked through every water station – sometimes in addition to our 1 min walks and sometimes as part of our planned walks.
The finish line had a ‘help yourself’ to water, bananas, Kombucha as well as medals and t-shirts.
I always appreciate when a race lets you pick what to take home to reduce waste. Rather than giving everyone a plastic bag of ‘stuff’ to take home. I did pick up the race tee, mostly so that I could put it on before driving home. As our Air B & B wouldn’t give us a late check out to shower before the drive. We did pick up smoothies and ice-coffees to refuel quickly before I had a big meal at home.
The only downside to this race was that when I’d signed up in 2019 it was going to be the race to kickstart my SuperHalfs journey. The Super Halfs are a little like the Six Stars but including Five European half marathons; Lisbon, Cardiff, Copenhagen, Prague and Valencia but you must complete them all within 3 years. However, they have decided not to count the 2022 Cardiff Half as part of the Super Halfs. And so I’m going to have to run it again for it to count. It’s not a big deal as this one is only 2 hours from Reading. But I’m glad I hadn’t travelled to one of the other races and have it not count!
The next Cardiff Half Marathon is October 2nd 2022 (we were running the 2020 cancelled race!) and is open for entries and is around £44 for entry.