I flipping love Wales! Good things happen in Wales! Friendly people, beautiful countryside, lovely lilting accent and a language that makes me feel like I’m abroad …. it’s just a shame their weather is so bloody awful!!
Despite “drunk applying” for this marathon and then not training for it, I still had high hopes of getting round – it’s a flat course, loads of water stations to run to and the friendliest people on the planet cheering you on, so as we drove over the bridge into Wales on the Saturday the sun was shining and our spirits were high. We knew it would be a tough ask and mentally, the mind was willing even though the body wasn’t ready, or so I thought!
Rocking up to the posh hotel that had been booked for the weekend we parked up and jumped out the car ….. before looking at each other and proclaiming “oh shit” in unison ….. you see, before us stood at least 30 very steep steps … fine for our arrival with a fresh set of legs …. not so fine for the day after a marathon 😱😳
Oh well! Onwards and upwards as some weird and twisted person once said!
Saturday evening saw us taking a wonder into Llanelli Town Centre where the 1980s called asking for its leg warmers back. Strolling through the deserted Town Centre we wondered if there would be any form of life over and above the Seagulls circling our heads and then, low and behold, a small Italian oasis was discovered hiding behind a light blue facade and with laughter and chatter seeping out onto the streets we decided to give it a go. For the next hour, over a huge plate of delicious pasta and a diet coke (yes you read that right! … me! With a soft drink topped up with ice and not JD and most definitely no wine!! …. could the weekend get any more depressing!) …. anyhoo …. for the next hour we talked strategy (plod from water station to water station, don’t think about time), we talked about what we should do if one of us couldnt make it all the way (go get yourself some bling was my response!) we ate good food and we people watched, where the conversation went a little like “oh yeah! Definitely him, not her” and “yep they’re both running – 100%” to “they’re having beer!” And then finally the realisation that EVERYONE in that restaurant looked way fitter than us! And so after a relaxed evening we headed back to the hotel, downed some more water and hit the sack ready to start our 2019 GB & Ireland challenge.
Woken to the sound of gale force winds throwing leaves, sticks and the local sheep at the window, even the strains of Alive and Kicking coming out of my alarm didn’t fill me with any sense of oomph to get out and do this run but never the less, we got up, got prepped, got out the door and promptly got stuck in traffic. Reaching the car park we sat silently in the car with the heating warming our faces and the car seat warming our arses and asked ourselves if we really REALLY wanted to do this … the answer was a resounding ‘no’ but we figured we were here now so may as well give it a bash.
The weather forecast stated a nice 5 degrees ….. but a ‘feels like’ -1… there were gusts of wind up to 20 mph …. only the gusts lasted for the entire time we were out there and standing in the starting pen we all huddled up together like little sheep about to be branded on the ass with a hot iron, until the hooter went off and off we plodded!
Running into the breeze and turning the corner, the wind was behind us and the 1st few miles were flat or slightly downhill … I remember thinking “this is nice but Christ alive I need a wee”. I knew the 1st water stop was only 2.5 miles in and spent all that time looking at possible wee stations cunningly disguised as bushes but spotting the portaloos at the 1st water station I managed to keep my dignity and diligently queued for my place on the throne.
Suitably refreshed we pushed on again, where the route took us off the coastal path and onto some closed roads where we found ourselves making like aeroplanes and doing loop backs around cones .. random but ok … I guess they needed to make up the 0.2 somehow 🤔 We knew this was a looped course and we knew it would be a lonely old course once the runners had thinned out, which they duly did by mile 13 when the half marathon guys finished. Mentally it was going to be a tough ask…. especially as you get to plod passed the finish line no less than 3 times before you’re actually allowed to cross it and claim your bling and I was hoping that the lure of a bit of metal and a t-shirt would help get me passed. The supporters were amazing, they stood around cheering and clapping all of the runners, shouting out the names on the runners t-shirts and this was where our t-shirts came into their own …. we ran to shouts of “well done Chris” “well done Mary / Terry / ‘erry” and “Go! TeamHuntleyMay” … FFS … how hard is it to read our names right! We were hardly plodding at the speed of light!
By mile 16 the ‘water station hop’ strategy had completely gone down the shitter, I was cold, the wind was relentless, my asthma was out of control as the wind hammering my face didn’t allow me any opportunity to breath easy and even my attempt at a bit of lightheartedness was met with a “get your head out your ass” comment from my chief cheerleader / pit stop director / fellow hero / newly promoted running partner and so we battled on for another 4 miles before I threw in the towel at mile 20. The thought of a warm tracksuit, a heated car and 2 paracetamol for the chest pain far outweighed the need for a t-shirt and more bling to shove in my bedside cabinet.
My amazing chief cheerleader / pit stop director / fellow hero / newly promoted running partner (FML he needs a new title! This one is getting way too long 😂) carried on for the final 6.2 miles on his own but I know it was harder for him to leave me there at the side of the road than it was for him to go it alone for another hour or so …. but he did it! He finished that marathon which makes me soooooooo Damn proud of him… and look what he won ….
A well deserved bit of bling, a red T shirt he’ll never wear and the knowledge that he conquered a marathon with very little training…. he’s a 100% my bonefide hero.
Me? Well I can’t lie …. disappointed goes only a small way to describing how I feel about myself, I know I had it in my legs to finish the race, I know that if someone could’ve switched the wind tunnel off and turned up the temperature a few degrees, I could’ve run / walked / crawled to the finish line to claim my bling and feel a little bit of pride in myself. Ultimately I let myself down … more to the point my head let me down, BUT that same head that let me down has also given me a whole heap of positives! Not least the fact that my legs made it to mile 20 and still had more in them, stairs the next day were easy, my fueling in the lead up to and during the race were spot on (despite needing to stop for a wee no less than 3 times due to the cold), I’d run less than 100 miles this year so basically very little training under my belt, the ‘water station hop’ strategy was a good one and would have got me a PB by 5 mins if I’d continued, trying to be light hearted when you’re tired doesn’t work and just gets you a dressing down … but the overriding lesson I’ve learned from the day? I’m more capable than I thought I was and I’ll take this lesson into the next marathon.
And so! As I forfeited the Welsh part of the challenge I’ll need to run Wales again …. I’ve found one …. in July (warm, Welsh rain this time perhaps? 🤔) …. it’s undulating (which means pretty right? 🤔) …. and gives me a chance to get the England and Scotland marathon legs out the way 1st and build on my confidence and ability a bit … but 1st up …. MK Marathon 2019 is calling me and this year it’s my turn to be the chief cheerleader / pit stop director as my awesome running partner gets to run the incredible London Marathon this year. So much excitement, frivolity, whinging and swearing to come, soooo …..
Until next time