Anyone that knows me, will know that I’m not a good long distance runner. I’ve never been good at it, I always preferred sprinting! However I feel it’s good for fitness and I definitely find it challenging. Having recently completed a number of Obstacle Course Races in 2014 and 2015 (all of which were 10 km) I felt that it was time to step it up in 2016 so I signed up for a half marathon at the start of the year.

The Conwy Half Marathon is unique in that it includes a lot of uphill running up the Great Orme, which on it’s own is 207 m of elevation, so it was certainly one of the more challenging courses to run! I signed up for the event at the start of the year, safe in the knowledge that I had 11 months to prepare and get my running fitness up so I could complete the event. In January I was highly motivated and running regularly, to the point where I thought I should reign it back in a bit so I didn’t burn myself out at the start of the year. I ended up REALLY reigning it in to the point where I didn’t run with any regularity at all until July, where I started to become a little anxious about the task ahead.

Training started again, and I started to get some quite good times (for me) averaging around 57 minutes for a 10 km run.  Initially I just wanted to make sure I completed the course, but now I started looking at whether I could get a good time, which to me was a sub-2 hour time.  I started increasing the distances of my runs to 12 km, 14 km, and then nearly 16 km and I looked to be on track for getting the time I wanted.

Long-term issues and injuries

One of the difficulties I’ve had with long distance running is all the injuries and ailments I pick up!  A lot of these were treated/prevented by getting the proper corrective running shoes I needed and learning to run properly (I know that may sound strange). Initially the main problems I had were shin splints, but after finding ways of treating these, other weak parts in the chain started cropping up with my ankles, knees and hips! It definitely sucks getting older.  A big issue I had was with what turns out to be quite a common running issue – IT Band Syndrome.  This caused a lot of discomfort and swelling behind the back of my knee and made it very difficult and painful to run.

I took a few weeks break, but in the build up to the half marathon I had signed up to Tough Mudder North West 2016. During this event my IT Band issue was playing havoc, but due to the stop-start nature of the OCR I was able to get around the course. However at about the 8 mile mark, I managed to wrench/twist my knee while running though some muddy terrain. I thought I was out of the event, but I managed to hobble the remaining 4 miles to the finish line.  Things were not looking good now for the half marathon.

After a few weeks rest I tried running again. It was hard work.  Times were very slow, and it was taking over a week to recover from each run. I was being told by everyone not to take part in the event, that I was risking further injury, and that there was “no point” in taking part. However I was already committed to running, and I just went in the mind set that I would finish the course and get past the finish line – even if it ended up taking 4 hours to complete!

About 5 days before the event I decided to have one last “assessment” run.  It was dark, raining, cold and late at night.  I ran 12 km in a semi-respectable time but picked up a sprained ankle probably from a slips on some wet leaves! The following morning my ankle was swollen and I couldn’t put much weight on it. D’OH.  I decided to just rest it up, and continue to ice it and try and rehab it as much as I could before the big day.

Race Day

On race day, it was a cold and early start.  The rain was pouring down and I thought it was going to be a miserable experience!  I was held together with my special trainers, corrective insoles, ankle support, knee brace and painkillers! However the weather brightened up and walking from the car park to the finish line my injuries and niggles all felt OK. At the start line with my friend Steve, we started to pick up the pace as the crowd started to thin and I could feel my ankle start to swell under the impact of the run. I started to slow down and reduce my stride length to try and help – Steve gave me a look as though he thought I was going to pull out of the race – but I waved him on as I didn’t want to affect his time on the day.

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The run was very hard. I ran for the first 6-7km, but the pain in my knee and ankle was significant. I found the best thing to do was run for as long as I could bare it, and then walk for a bit. Once the pain had subsided I could then run again. This meant I never really got into a rhythm during the race. I found when I ran I was running at a much quicker pace than I would to try and make up for the time I had lost while walking.  I’m also competitive, and so I identified people along the way as “markers” that I wanted to beat.

In true vlogger style, during the run I was filming the amazing scenery with my GoPro. There were some beautiful views at the top of the Great Orme and I even had a run-in with some mountain goats.  I was in no rush, as I had almost resigned to the fact that I was going to get a slow time.  At about the 15 km mark I realised that it was still very possible to get a sub-2:30:00 time (under normal circumstances) which sounded quite respectable.  I picked up the pace as much as I could and cut back on the filming, but I was fighting a lot of pain!  On the final 1 km stretch, I saw one of the pace makers carrying a 2 hour 30 minute sign, and I did what I could to make sure I finished ahead of him.  When I crossed the finish line I immediately got an SMS text message saying my official time was 2:30:18!  I didn’t quite beat it, but I was really over the moon.

For now I’m hanging up my running trainers; I’m not convinced it’s good for me!  I will likely take part in a few more OCR’s, but as for straight running on the road I think I will start to reduce this significantly now.  I would like to try a half marathon again in the future, and hopefully try and beat this time if I can run without any injuries!  I will think about it, and possibly take part in a closer/flatter course like the Manchester or Tatton Half in 2017.

If you’re interested, here is my video of the day below!