A half for Jack

I am currently involved in fundraising for the mental health charity MIND.  A friend of mine's son sadly took his own life last year and I thought that a good way to raise money for charity, promote mental health awareness and just maybe help the family and community work through the tragedy would be to organise a group from the village to run the Cardiff Half Marathon in October this year.   The response was greater than I anticipated and 15 of us are running the half marathon and other ideas have formed and now we are organising events at Wick village fete, a casino night and then a charity auction over the next few months.

As part of the fete on saturday (July 15th)  will be running a marathon (approximately) from the end of the pier in Penarth along the Welsh Coastal Path to the Wick fete. The idea  being that fete goers can try to guess how many steps I take and the closest wins a prize. This is alongside other fundraising on our stall. It's a bit of an odd one running wise as I can clearly run the distance but I've been concerned in the run up about heat - daytime in july does not suite me - but it looks like the day will be cool and possibly even a bit of rain. I also will have to pace myself to arrive at the fete around 3-3.30 and so I have given myself around 5 hours. I have a reasonable idea that 12 minute miles should be fine but I will just have to watch pace on the day and speed up or slow down accordingly.

I also intend to film again which does slow me down a little but I think will be worth it again. I enjoyed the documenting of the Preseli Dip Dab and although this run will be in a way tinged with sadness as it would never be happening without Jacks suicide it will also be a way of bringing just a small ray of hope and help into other's lives.  I have a feeling it may be an emotional day all around.

And why is it called Pier to a Pint? Well it starts off on a pier and the last registered step will be when I reach the bar at the fete. I think by then I will have deserved that pint. 

If you would like more information on this or any of our other fundraising feel free to drop me a message and you can donate to the team at  www.justgiving.com/team/ahalfforjack

The Pier to Pint Run

Youtube video
Well the run was delayed as the fete was postponed in July thanks to bad weather but we finally were good to go on August the 28th - bank holiday monday.  Things got a little more involved as we had an official send off from the pier from the leader of the local council plus others. They let us take photos and get some good promotional material and hopefully some more coverage which will help in the fundraising. So although it took a bit of my focus away from the actual run it was all worth it and I still managed to set off at 9.30 with the goal of arriving around 3.30 at the fete. In the meantime the rest of the team were setting up our stall and getting the funds rolling in!

It was a warm day but plenty of cloud cover meant that it didn't ever get too hot for me. I couldn't get my heart rate down for the first few miles - probably a mixture of the adrenaline at the start - I'm not used to setting off with any fanfare and fuss and probably a quicker first mile than I would have liked. But once I settled in I really started to enjoy the day. It became the usual long run routine of managing pace, effort levels and heart rate while making sure I kept to the right route! You can hardly go wrong on the costal path and I was pleasantly surprised at how well signbposted it was. There were a few moments where I was slightly confused, mainly when the path wasn't clearly indicated through a caravan park but I didn't go far wrong at any point.

Being a bank holiday there were a lot of people about - mainly in the afternoon but it was good to run a route I haven't fully done before.  I was feeling good, my preperation was spot on and the few days of rest without running beforehand worked well - I find the sweet spot to be 3 or 4 days now before any long event. I find these days I can judge my fuelling and hydration completely by feel. I know when I need to eat and I just drink to thirst. I knew where I could stop for more water in Barry and I judged the whole thing perfectly.  Barry was probably the hardest part of the whole thing mentally because there were a few miles along busy roads and although the pavement was wide and fine I really don't like the noise of traffic and running on tarmac is never good for my legs. I also slightly misjudged my route as the one I planned took me through the docks and on our recce drive we missed the no pedestrian sign at the entrance to the docks. But as it was a bank holiday and not busy there I had two options, turn around for a few miles of detour or just hammer it through the docks and hope that security didn't catch me halfway though. So of course I took the seocnd option and ended up doing a very quick mile before I could link up with the official route again with no harm done. I'm sure it would have been fine but i didn't want to have to explaion the whole concept of why I was there.

The path is fairly flat for the first half but then began to get lumpy after Barry, I could feel the miles starting to accumulate on the legs and the hills although short were fairly steep and giving me more of a workout. But it was still such a good day to be running and you don't get much more motivation than running for charity. It was kind of odd to have location sharing on as I knew people could see where I was and how I ws progressing. I'm so used to being on my own and doing completely my own thing that having my progress tracked felt like I was never quite as free as I usually am. That's the price you pay for doing community minded events I guess!

I cruised through the latter half, past Aberthaw power station which was a surprisingly long section and being flat tarmac I put in much quicker miles which looking back I shouldn't have done at that point as it derailed me a little as the legs suddenly had a bad patch on the hilly stretch into Llantwit. It was no more than just a bad patch but for a few miles I was suddenly not having the greatest of times. I do sometimes fade at this point in ultras, it just seems to be a common point of my first bad patch and I have enough experience now to not worry about it and grind it out until it passes. Which I did pretty well, I took a few minutes at Llantwit beach to change water bottles, eat and get myself together as there were only around 6 miles left and I know the path here so well I could do it with my eyes closed. The sheer number of walkers was actually the limiting factor on the stretch between Llantwit and Monknash. I had to constantly stop or skip around families clearly oblivious to faster moving traffic behind but on a bank holiday it was to be expected.

Once I hit the beach at Monknash it was just 2 miles to go and of course Wick being on top of a hill meant they were uphill but I was alone again for a while and I could reflect on the day and a job well done. I wasn't sure what to expect when i got to the fete but the reception was amazing and I admit a little overwhelming, I had confetti, applause, a pint waiting and many handshakes. It was as I say a little overwhelming and i'm not used to it. But I was grateful for the support and grateful for all the work the rest of the team had put in on the stall. The money is still being counted but they made a roaring successs of it and there were hundreds of entries into my guess the steps competion - for the record is was 47354 and the distance was actually 27 miles not 26 so kind of an ultra not a marathon. All in all the day was a huge success. I got to do a beautiful long run and we raised money for charity.  You can't ask for much more than that!

The Cardiff Half
Wow - where to start with this one. Well first off I didn't film on the day, it wasn't that sort of day but I do have photos below.  It was really  odd to go to a race with people, in fact a minibus full of people. Our friends and sponsors had done us proud and we had the bus for free and a friends Cafe to get ready in beforehand which took much stress out of organising the day itself.  Although I know I can finish a half marathon fairly easily I had to keep reminding myself that to most of the others this was entirely new and they would be nervous.  The tone was optimistic though, everyone had had long enough to think about it and I think most were in the mood to get the job done. 

Once we got to the starting pens everyone seemed pretty relaxed, as we had strategically placed ourselves towards the back of the race - we were in the last pen to go - the yellow pen and there was a long wait until we then shuffled forwards towards the line. I won't lie this was excruciatingly painful for me to be amongst the large crowds and being stuck with nowhere to go and being forced to wait before running felt very unnatural. But it was a new experience so I sucked it up and just waited for the line. 

Once we got going though things were fine, in fact too fine - the start is just a long straightish flat road and the pace was too high (even though it felt slow to me) for some of our runners - although without the experience how could they know it?  And with the adreanaline kicking in they made the classic mistake I have made so many times and gone out too fast.  After a few miles we started the first walk and this would become the pattern of the race, walking interspersed with jogging. It was getting us there though and there was little I could do but encourage, monitor and keep everyone going.  We had started with 13 of us and some of the younger ones had headed off up the road - as we had told them to do but the core group was still together and that continued for the first half of the race. As things wore on though i could see the effort levels rising in a few of us and knew the second half would be a challenge for them both physically and mentally.

It's impossible to put into words what happened for the second half, it was a mix of encouragement, promises, laughter and dark humour at times which got us through, we had split and were in two smaller groups both helping a struggling teammate towards the line. I was so proud that no-one was left behind (even though they insisted they would be fine alone) the levels of commitment to getting every single one of us to the line were huge. Although I was perfectly fine and able to sprint between groups to check in and bring water I hadn't forgotten that what these guys were going through was no different to what I go through at the end of an ultra, the same physical pain and the same mental games of how do I do this?

But do it we did. I had told them the last mile was free which was a lie, much like the its just around the corner and there are no more hills were lies. Sometimes you got to tell them things to keep them going, I've been in the game long enough to know those tricks. But finally we got to the 13 mile mark and we knew we had to run to the line not walk and incredibly Dan just took off and our group came in together crossing the line for a 3 hour and 10 minute finish - which I was stunned by.   We waited just a few minutes for our last group to make it home and the emotion was clear for all. Two days later and I'm still processing the day. We had so much love and support from people, there were people from the village there who I certainly didn't expect to see on the route cheering us on. The donations flew up by over £1000 that day - we are close to making it to £10000 when all is told I think.

But the day wasn't about money in the end it was about being a community and being there for friends. Helping others through adversity and being part of something bigger than any one individual.

I'll close this post with the message I sent to the group after I got home that night.  I can't say any more than this, I can't say it any better than this.

"I've run thousands of miles and crossed hundreds of finish lines but I will tell you what I have never ever run a more meaningful last mile or been more proud crossing a finishing line that I did today. That was truly special. And it stretches back to the support along the way. There's a saying in ultrarunning that it takes a village to get a runner to the end. Well our village did itself proud and then some. Everyone and I mean everyone who supported, clapped, laughed and cried to the end is as much a part of this as the runners. Right now I am the proudest I have ever been for a group of people>.You have given me more than I ever could have asked. We are friends and we look out for each other. Well done all."