Severn Bridge Half Marathon

A volunteer’s race recap

I’m not a fan of 6:30 alarms, but Sunday’s was surprisingly easy to get up for. Hooray – Severn Bridge Half day!

This time last year I had just marshalled the 2015 Severn Bridge Half Marathon, and I was raring to get training and run the 2016 race. Yes, despite the fact that I was suffering with a prolonged chest infection, I firmly believed I was going to kick that and get my running back on track so that I could enter.
No. Life and my body had other plans.

There was no way I was going to miss the race though. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the bridge’s opening, and the half marathon was going to be something special. So what if I couldn’t run it? I could have just as much fun marshalling and supporting the runners.

So for this notorious night owl, Sunday’s early alarm wasn’t so bad. I quickly got ready, being as quiet as possible so I didn’t wake my sleeping fiancé, and I was out of the door and programming the satnav by 6:50.

A travel mug of coffee was very, very necessary.

Of course, I didn’t have enough petrol, so had to stop off. The first garage wasn’t open and the second had no unleaded. Third time lucky…

Despite the stops and a bit of congestion on the slip road to the car park, I made it to the St David’s Hospice Care marshall meeting point on time and met up with some familiar faces. I’ve volunteered for a few local(ish) races over the last year, as well as parkrun, so it’s always nice to see people and have a chat. Volunteers for this race are usually from the charities that the race supports, and as St David’s means a lot to me personally, I love to help out on their team.

We were given our assigned spots, maps and contact numbers, then myself and four others set out for the 10-mile point at Pwllmeyric. I don’t know the area, so I was relieved that someone else was driving. With an hour to go before we expected the first runners through, we settled down to wait.

The two ladies I was sharing a stretch of road with were from Fairwater running club, and we chatted for a while. Several people in cars and on foot stopped to ask what time runners were coming through so they could see friends and loved ones, and it was lovely to see support from the local community who came out of their houses to watch, too.

The first runners came through shortly before 10 o’clock. By that time I’d moved to my corner, where I was directing runners to turn for the loop. The Loop. The one where they had a camera set up to make sure no one avoided running it and check that people were adhering to the strict ‘no headphones’ rule. As a side note: I don’t understand why you would miss out part of a course. You’re cheating yourself. Surely you can’t be proud of your time or achievement.

The views from my little corner:

Anyhow, the lane was closed to vehicles, so there was a young guy from the traffic management company also stationed at that corner, which was nice. I had some company and also didn’t have to deal with any irate drivers who weren’t happy about the road closures. That was the only thing I had been dreading, after some verbal abuse when I marshalled the Newport Half back in the spring. Big credit to the people who stopped to ask about the closure on our corner yesterday, they found alternate routes without a single complaint.
I didn’t catch the traffic guy’s name, but we had a bit of a talk and I think he enjoyed watching the race. I know I did!

Once the main body of runners started to come through, I clapped and cheered them on. Some were chatty, some struggling but still smiling. They had just come from a water station and I could see a lot had poured water over themselves. It was warm, and apparently the course was tough this year, due to some changes that had to be made to the route.

I cheered especially loudly for the runners I knew or recognised. Every time I saw a vest from a local club I shouted for them – Pont-y-Pŵl, Parc Bryn Bach, Fairwater, Lliswerry, Islwyn. There were several Vegan Runners, and I recognised two Cornelly Striders who had run the Sospan 10k earlier in the summer. I also saw two UKRunChat vests – I’d love to know who those runners were!

The minion’s guide runners did a great job of guiding – I doubt s/he could see much in that suit!

A few people came to stand on that corner and cheer at various points throughout the morning. One runner stopped to see her supporter, before carrying on.

By the time the last people came through, my hands were aching from clapping. Can’t complain though, these people had completed a tough 10+ miles and had just under 3 left to go!

Once the road was open again and the empty water bottles and gel packets picked up from the road (thank you to the water station volunteers from Winston’s Wish), we all got back in the car to drive to the finish. We walked about 400 metres of the course from the car park, and sympathised with the runners who, after 13 miles, had one final incline before the finish line. That’s cruel!

Things were winding down at the finish when we got there. Runners were sitting on the grass, clad in their new bright red 2016 race shirts, eating and drinking and freshening up. Some were getting well-deserved massages. The volunteers were given race shirts and there was a tent set up for us to have tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake. Oh, that was good cake!

I stuck around for a bit to see the last few finishers, and chatted with a couple of people, then as it started to spit with rain I walked back to my car with one of the other volunteers.
It was a fun day, and being a part of it so that those 4000 people could run was so rewarding. The cake was a nice bonus! Thank you to the organisers for making it an enjoyable event to marshal, and for making us feel welcome and valued.

Afterwards I checked out the #SevernBridgeHalf hashtag on Twitter and saw people raving about how much they’d enjoyed the run. Congratulations to you all for getting out there, and for all your personal achievements on Sunday!

The only problem is that it’s given me runner’s envy (and some definite clothing envy – so many gorgeous leggings whizzed past me!) and now I can’t wait to get my body sorted so I can run again.

Maybe this time next year I’ll be lining up at the start of the 2017 Severn Bridge Half Marathon…


Did you run it this year? How did you find it? I’d especially love to know how the new route compares to last year’s course. Leave me a comment – or if you’ve blogged about it leave the link, I’d love to read it!

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