I’m going to milk this one, I can’t see many more chances to run in world championship races in my life so forgive me for indulging here.
I registered for the IAAF WORLD HALF MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS race over a year ago when it was announced and there were 1,000 discounted entries offered to keeners like me. I didn’t even realise it was over Easter weekend, or think about the logistics of getting to Cardiff, just signed Alex and I up and hoped for the best. Usually we’d worry about qualifying for the world championships, but for the low price of £39 that worry was gone!
I must have liked the IAAF WORLD HALF MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS (OK I’ll stop now) Facebook page and saw a contest pop up to win a camera from the sponsors and a night in a Cardiff hotel on race weekend. It must have been when I was tapering for the ultra and looking for things to do so I entered and a few weeks later got a message I had won! We received a nice and fancy new Cannon camera and a night in the official race hotel. With the race starting at 2pm we could have easily made it a day trip, but it was nice to be able to relax (and with the day-of weather have a post-race hot shower!) for the weekend.
We arrived in Cardiff at 10:56am with race number pick up closing at 11:00am at the expo. Luckily the lovely race organisers had tipped me off that they wouldn’t shut the doors at 11, but just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a huge pre-race rush. We went straight to the expo to get our stuff and had a quick look around. Then off to the hotel where we were able to check in and saw all the IAAF officials, athletes and coaches milling around the ground floor. Feeling pretty smug with our sub-2 hour race bibs we fit right in with everyone.
We hung out in our room that overlooked the first 200m of the course and watched the route fill up with people and the rain showers come and go. After watching the elite women set off we finally got changed into our kit and headed down to the start.
With only 5 minutes before the gun we might have left it a bit late to dodge through the spectators at the start line but we made it in our pen with plenty of time to toss the ponchos and feel the heat from the massive fire shots that went off for each wave.
Wanting to put in a good showing at the *ahem* IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Alex and I ran together at a quick-for-us-at-the-moment pace and tried to settle into the rhythm over the first few miles. There were loads of spectators even with the blustery rain showers coming and going but at about mile 3 it had warmed up enough for me to take my long sleeve top off and throw it towards the guys from the car dealerships who had come out to watch us. Heads up! The route was really well marked and got a bit narrow in places but nothing major and we kept our solid pace going with lots of cheers from the sidelines.
As we ran into the marina and up a decent hill things started to get interesting. I took this picture half way across the coastal part of the course and literally 30 seconds after I put my phone away we were hit with horizontal hail.
I was down to a vest and short shorts by now so I took refuge on the right side of the course cowering beside anyone taller than me. It was such an intense and immediate downpour (sideways pour?) that you couldn’t do anything but keep going. Stopping would only make it worse. I actually felt bad for the volunteers and people cheering. The strong wind and rain continued for a few miles and it ended up that my left side was soaked but right side almost dry. So weird. (Small product plug here, but my MotoG 4G phone got soaked and was totally fine even without any protector or plastic bag. It’s the best cheap water resistant phone out there for any runners looking. I’ve also tested it extensively against boob sweat and it comes out working fine every time)
Running alongside a motorway in the grim weather wasn’t ideal, but it was over with soon and then the end of the race was up and around a lovely park and lake where there were dozens of families out with the kids offering Jelly Babies. Like I said earlier this race started at 2pm and I’ve now learned I should not run through lunchtime. I was STARVING and probably ate my bodyweight in Jelly Babies. Not because I needed the energy, because I was legitimately starving. Near the end of the race the bowls of Jelly Babies had filled with rain water and were becoming a Jelly Baby soup, but I still went in for more.
In the last 3 miles Alex and I just wanted to get it done so we kept pushing the pace running faster than we probably should have but feeling OK and enjoying the tail wind where possible. We finished just under 2 hours and with smiles on our faces thanks to finishing strong even in those conditions. At the finish we quickly got our medals and t shirts (mens and womens fit AND XS – XL sizes all available in lots of quantities!!!) but there were no foil blankets and it really was the one race I needed one. I was surprised as all the big Adidas sponsored events I’ve done (Berlin Half, London, etc) always had them at the finish so I assumed it was a given. That’s my only critique of the race organisation. I put my finishers t shirt over me and shivered the 10 minute walk to our hotel absolutely frozen after we stopped running. It was nothing a hot shower couldn’t solve though and after we had warmed up and grabbed obligatory crisps and chocolate for our post-race hotel lazy stretch we headed out to Five Guys to eat as much as possible.
After a very comfortable sleep at the hotel we were up for the buffet breakfast and spied some other runners walking around slowly back and forth to the pastries a few times. It was such a fun weekend and one of the best races I’ve run. Like I said above I signed up with the early bird pricing, and saw there were lots of offers for England Athletics members and club runners to get in the race for discounted entry. That said, it’s not everyday you get to line up “beside” Mo Farah, Ally Dixon, Lanni Marchant, Sarah Hall, etc. and run a world championship course. To me that’s worth it’s weight in gold (that we all had a chance to win!) On a practical note, for our entry we got a very cool green & red Cardiff dragon Adidas t shirt (with proper sizes and fit!) and a big medal. There were also some crackers, water, gels and bits and bobs in the goody bags but the real value here was the race itself.