After the realisation that I couldn’t just turn up to races with such a small amount of training and expect to do well, I started to slowly increase my mileage. However, I had a few niggles as my training progressed. Initially, I started to develop a pain in one shin. I would call this shin splints but I don’t know why it only caused pain in one leg. I eased back, took more rest, and went for shorter, slower runs and the pain went away.
I was eager to experience another race, and decided to enter the parkrun closest to my area – Porthcawl. A parkrun seemed like the perfect way to get some race experience without the pressures of an actual race. I turned up at the Porthcawl seafront (not really a park) for it’s 97th edition of the race. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and the wind wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have a clue what the course was like and wasn’t even sure which way we were heading. I worked out where the front of the race was and squeezed my way to near the start line. The announcer kicked off the run, and it was a really slow start. I felt like I was tripping over the heels of the runner directly in front of me. I needed some space. I moved out wide, and squirmed through tiny spaces to get to the front of the commotion. One guy shouted at me, because I had squeezed a little too close to him. I didn’t think this was necessary, and I was a little put off by his remark. All I wanted was to get in to my stride and I couldn’t do that packed in to such a confined space. At the front I realised I was actually nowhere near the front and one runner had gone off in to the distance on his own. I picked up my pace and tried to chase him down, but after about a kilometre I resigned to the fact that he was getting further away and I was already struggling.
The course in Porthcawl was not flat. It was undulating, which had come as a surprise to me because I was so used to the flat promenade in Swansea. I was overtaken by 3 fitter runners as my initial over-exuberant pace had faded to a more reasonable turnover. I dug in up the hill (gentle incline), and then finished with a fast but unnecessary sprint finish. I was happy with 5th and a time of 18:27 was something to work on in the future. Vicki was really pleased for me and couldn’t believe how much I had progressed from my previous run. It seemed like a big jump to go from 80/98 to 5/156 in a few weeks, but I knew the calibre of runner was very different. My training was definitely paying off but I did not fool myself in to thinking that it was a bigger improvement than it actually was. I enjoyed the event, and it helped keep me motivated.
Stuck In The Mud
A week later and I was ready to go again. It was a local cross country race in Margam park. My week had gone well and I had been for four runs since the parkrun. My preparation the day before was not so ideal. I played 90 minutes for my football team on a boggy pitch, and my legs felt sore and heavy afterwards. On top of this I had a huge binge of sweets, crisps, and chocolate the night before. I woke up on the Sunday morning feeling a bit shit. All that sugar the night before had left me feeling out of sorts. Nevertheless Vicki, her friend Chloe, her yappy Yorkshire terrier Ed and I drove to the park on a gloomy Sunday morning.
Nearly everyone at the event was a club runner from the numerous running clubs in the West Glamorgan region. I registered on the day as a guest runner, and warmed up on the gravel path stretching away from the grand manor house dominating the park. I still felt a bit rubbish during my light warm up, and was starting to get nervous with the abundance of club runners. I thought to myself it can’t go worse than Cardiff.
After a group photograph; some instructions to avoid stray arrows from the archers; and a description of the route; we were off and running up the soft grass. I felt sluggish from the beginning but tried to stay with a pack of runners.
During the first lap, we came across a massive boggy area. Runners tackled the obstacle in different ways. I saw people taking a detour around the thick bog, some were trying to place their feet in the least wet seeming areas, and others were just powering straight through the middle. I chose the latter option, as did another runner ahead of me to less success. As I approached the bog, one man was standing in the deep mud shouting “I’ve lost my shoe!”. I passed the man with one shoe as he was using his hands to desperately try and dig his shoe out. It made me smile. I felt sorry for him but I couldn’t help but find the funny side of the situation.
I passed by the start line after one lap, and Eddie was yapping away. I wasn’t sure if he could see me in the pack or if he has been barking at all the passing runners. Either way, I knew Vicki would be embarrassed by the noise her tiny dog was making. Again, this brought a smile to my face.
I kept at it, and tried to keep some rhythm to my stride. Before long, I was on the final lap and looking forward to the end. I think my pace had dropped even slower and I was coasting a little. I wasn’t being overtaken and had settled in to what I though would most likely be my finishing position. That is until the man with one shoe came storming past me. I couldn’t believe it. He had recovered his shoe and caught me up in the race. That was some effort, but I didn’t have enough to keep with him, and I let him pass me.
I finished the race with another irrelevant sprint finish. There was literally nobody in my vicinity, but I always like to finish with one last effort. I was covered in mud, and felt much better than I had at the start of the race. I really liked the community feel to the race, and kind of wished I had been part of one of the teams competing. My finishing position was 29th out of 140 participants. The race distance is approximately 5.8 miles, and my time was 37:55. I was happy with this and felt like I was improving each time I competed. Although I did decide that binging on treats the night before was not a good way to approach a race. Also it turns out the man with one show, is Raul from the Swansea Harriers. What great spirit he showed to come back and place 25th despite his boggy nightmare.