15 May 2024

Snowdonia half marathon: torture with reward

I hadn’t done a half marathon for a while. I had become quite comfortable in the 10k races. But then I won a race voucher in the Bangor 10k. What race to use that for? It had to be a race of the same organisation, of course. And I settled on the Snowdonia half. It’s a beautiful race in a suitable part of the year. I'm not sure how much longer they can call it that though; the National Park is now officially called Eryri.

I had done some longish training runs. Running short distances with a lot of uphill only trains your heart and lungs, and not your legs! At least not for half marathon purposes. But my training runs had never been more than 14 km.

On the day I drove to Llanrwst (alone, as Marjan was elsewhere) and parked, as had been recommended, by the local school. The start was a bit of a distance away, so I just left everything I wasn't going to bring with me on the race in the car, and went straight to the start. There I got my race number. I also wanted to go to the loo, but I saw the size of the queue, and I decided to go for a little warm-up run instead. The outskirts of Llanrwst are very wooded! I was sure I would be able to find a suitable copse for a wee. And I did. And then I went back to the start. I wanted to start quite close to the front!

the Llanrwst bridge

Ready to race!

At the start. Notice all the snazzy shoes!

The horn sounded and we were off. The race goes up quite soon, so I was in my element. And it is a road race, but a very beautiful one! I was enjoying it. It was a bit hot, but not unbearably so.

After about 3 miles I realised I was having a lovely runner’s high. Excellent! The weather was beautiful, the area was beautiful, and I was feeling great. All good. And after while, Llyn Geirionydd came into view. It is quite pretty.

I had a little bottle of water with me, but it was such a hot day at that two of the water stations I actually accepted a bottle in addition to that. 

From the FB page of Daniel Hill: me after some 3 miles 

We ran around the lake, and then for a short while, the road was used in both directions. I was running past the stragglers still making their way to the lake. I was happily thundering along, and I saw some expressions of disbelief in the people coming the other way. I suspect some people had seen me at the start and didn't think I was going to be so fast.

We then ran towards the second lake: Crafnant. Still very beautiful! And I decided to eat my gels. I had brought some; I don't normally use them, but I had won them in an earlier race, and this was an excellent opportunity to use them. A half marathon is enough to run yourself short of sugar, but with these gels, that is not going to happen.

From the Run Wales FB site: Llyn Crafnant

At some point I suddenly heard laughing behind me. What was so funny? And then I saw I was being caught up by the bloke with whom I had battled it out over the last kilometre or two of the Trawsfynydd race. He thought it was funny the same thing might be happening in this race. We had a little chat. Then I left him behind again. I was still on a roll!

Towards the far end of the lake it was getting quiet. For quite some distance, I could see no runners in front of me, and not hear any behind me. I suppose it was a good sign.

What wasn't such a good sign was that around the 10 mile sign, I started to really feel my knees. If I run, it is fairly standard that my right knee feels a little bit out of alignment; something on the outside of the knee doesn't feel quite right. But that never gets bad. But now it was getting bad. And my left knee was joining in!

I could also start to hear people behind me. The Trawsfynydd bloke, and a chap in a green shirt, approached, and then overtook. And then we hit the infamous last hill. Normally that is where I shine! I have no problem whatsoever to run up hills of that size and steepness. But now my knees felt like they were not going to hold my weight. I had to walk little bits. It was frustrating! I had all the breath in the world, but still couldn't get up the hill. I suspected it wasn't going to get better when I got to the top.

If I can barely run I can take pictures!

Me and the bloke in the green shirt

Indeed it didn't! My knees were still protesting. I tried to jog, but especially on the fairly steep downhill bits I just had to walk. Frustrating! This is where everybody else accelerates like the clappers. I was starting to get overtaken by loads of people. Two separate ladies who overtook me asked me if I was okay. It was very kind of them to ask!

I sort of hobbled onwards. Not far now! And I was overtaken by a swift woman just a meter or two before the finish. But she looked young. Not my category! And that was quickly proven; the bloke with the clipboard at the finish told me I had won in my category. Wow! In spite of the knees!

I collected my T-shirt and medal, and went to congratulate the Trawsfynydd bloke. This time he had beaten me. And then I went back to the finish to cheer other runners on. And drink lots of water! And admire a little bloodhound who seemed to think it was a bit too hot in the sun…

It had taken me a bit less than two hours, and two and a half hours after the start they would do the medal ceremonies. I stood on the side next to a lady with elaborate glitter in her hair. I had seen her early in the race! I thought it was quite charming. I didn't ask about the environmental credentials of the glitter; I hope that was exemplary. But either way, it looked very cheerful.

Then the ceremony started. Glitter lady had come second overall! And the woman who had won gold I had seen at the start; she looked really fast. And I was proud to get a medal and a voucher for being the fastest woman over 45, at 1:57:44. I can pay for my next race with that voucher! Which race will that be? This same race next year?

After the ceremony. Pic kindly taken by Silver Glitter lady

I hadn't been comfortable these last 3 miles, but it could have just been a lack of long training. I remember one of my early training runs for the marathon. My legs really didn't want to collaborate anymore towards the end of the run. But I just trained more, and all was well. I suppose it is worth finding out if my knees are really too old for the half marathon distance, or whether I am still completely fine as long as I properly train. But I suppose I have a bit of time to think about that.

When the ceremony was over I had to rush back to my car. The organisation had warned that the school where I had parked (on their request) would close its gate at 13:00. I didn't want to end up locked in! So I briskly walked back, chucked my clobber in the car, and drove off. I got through the gate at 12:58. Only when I got home did I take off my running shoes. And then I was ready for a sizable lunch and a lot of water!

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