Sospan 10k

A full fortnight late, but finally written!

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I meant to write this sooner. Ideally, I would’ve written it the day after, but since the race was in Llanelli, Alex and I decided to make a weekend of it and have a mini holiday.

The race was on a Saturday, so we drove over to Llanelli on the Friday morning. I’d had to borrow my mum’s Mazda 2 because my blue baby was in the garage having emergency work done on it, so because I was nervous and desperate to not prang the car, it wasn’t the quickest of journeys. I think Alex enjoyed not having to drive for once, though.

We got to Llanelli around lunchtime, but couldn’t check in to our luxury accommodation (Travelodge) until 3 o’clock, so we went in search of food. One seafood platter and one veggie burger later and we still had an hour to go. We decided to explore the town. I dragged Alex into a health food shop, where for the sake of my overdraft I resisted buying just about everything. I walked out with just a Panda red liquorice bar, because I hadn’t had one since I was in school.

We wandered around the market and found a gaming shop with arcade machines. Alex spotted Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and had a go. He did pretty well, too!

Sospan 10k

The Travelodge was exactly as I expected, but it came as a surprise to me that Alex had never stayed in one before. I don’t think he was impressed. I could’ve done with it being several degrees cooler in the building and many degrees cooler in the room, but they did provide a fan, which helped a little.

We spent the afternoon with Liz (Lizitivity), her husband and their almost-7-month-old daughter (our goddaughter). I’d been warned that she would probably cry when she saw me, but she didn’t. I’m not good with babies, but Tabitha seemed happy enough to sit on my lap and we had quite a long raspberry blowing competition. She won. I’m rubbish at raspberries.

Since Liz and I had the 10k the following morning, we chilled out, ordered pizza and had a nice evening catching up. I say that as if we don’t speak every day…

Did I sleep well that night? No. I had difficulty getting to sleep and then staying asleep.

The morning came around, and as usual, I couldn’t get it together. I don’t do mornings. I’m rubbish at mornings. I’d taken breakfast supplies with me, so I forced down a cup of green tea, some strawberries, and a cereal bar. I panicked that I’d forgotten my trainers, when they were beside the bed all along.

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I don’t know what’s up with the time in those screenshots but it definitely wasn’t midnight. More like 8am.

Liz came to pick us up, and since the race started within walking distance of her house we used the loo ‘one last time’ at her house – anything to not use the portaloos – and then walked over to the start.

Being on the Millennium Costal Path in Llanelli, we knew it was going to be a breezy run. The plan had been for Liz and her husband to take turns pushing the baby in the buggy. Unfortunately, her husband had to work, so it was just the two of us running. I was happy to give pushing a go, but when we got to the race venue and it was so flipping windy, Alex volunteered to babysit so we could have an easier time of it for the 10k.

We registered, dutifully pinned on our race numbers and clipped the timing chips around our left ankles. I dithered over whether I wanted to join the portaloo queue, or whether it was just my brain playing tricks. I did not join the queue. I feel as though I’ve missed out on the full race experience really, having never used a portaloo before.

We lined up at the start, towards the back of the pack because we knew we would be doing run/walk intervals (remember how I didn’t train for this?) and I had time for one more wistful glance back at the portaloos before we were off and running.

We’d barely got around the first corner from the start line before the rain started. Freezing cold, driving rain. All I could do was laugh. It was a brief shower and stopped quite quickly, which I think everyone on the course was pleased about. We ran at a quickish pace (for me) and I felt good. I don’t know how far we ran before our first walk break. I wasn’t in it for a time, just to complete the distance. We walked for a bit, ran for a bit. Liz got a stitch, and despite having read a dozen articles over the years about how to run through and get past a stitch, I couldn’t remember a single one!

The sun came out, and on our walking breaks, I took some photos. It’s an absolutely stunning out and back route – I’m very jealous of the people who live nearby and get to run that path often!

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The leaders began coming past, and we played ‘spot the running club’ and ‘spot the race t-shirt’. As well as lots of clubs local to the area, I spotted a lot of runners from Parc Bryn Bach, which is near where I live. I also saw a few Liswerry and a couple of Islwyn vests, a familiar face or two, but no Pont-y-Pŵl runners. Lots of people proudly sported their Swansea Half Marathon shirts from the previous weekend, but I don’t remember any other race t-shirts standing out.
What? I like t-shirt spotting!

The runners heading back towards us cheered us slower runners on, and that was a great boost, although I felt I should have been the one saying ‘well done’ to them!

I was in a fantastic mood, and my positivity probably made Liz want to kill me. All the way through, I kept setting us goals and landmarks to run to, then suggesting we go a little further. I used terrible phrases like ‘we can do it’ and ‘not much further’. I said we should imagine Jillian Michaels was yelling at us to keep running.

At the hill (it’s not a big one, in comparison to where I run, but on a flat course and with no training it felt like a bloomin’ big one!) there were Teletubbies cheering for us all. Liz and I were very tempted to stop for a photo with them, but we carried on.

By about 3k, the chip timer around my ankle had really started to chafe. That’s my one and only gripe about this race, especially as I’m still sporting a scab from it. Had I known the chips were anklets, I would have worn ankle socks or wrapped a buff around to prevent the possibility of chafing. Alas, I didn’t find out until the day, when I was buff-less and wearing trainer socks.

The course turned around at about 4k, where there was a water station. Little bottles with sports caps – perfect! We stopped to walk for a bit after grabbing water, because I cannot run and drink at the same time.

After 5k, we did a lot more walking than running. A couple of times Liz suggested I go on ahead, as she was having some hip pain, but I refused. We signed up to do it together, so I wasn’t going to leave her. There was a photographer midway along the route, and we posed for him (“Look happy, he’s got a camera! Look like we’re having fun!”) but although he had looked like an official photographer, his photos didn’t seem to make it onto the website with the others.

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Honestly, the whole 10k seemed to me to take no time at all. I loved it. The walking breaks meant that I could take in the scenery, and it was so nice to just be out there together. We spoke to a few of the others who were at the back of the pack with us, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Around 2k from the finish, we saw Alex standing at the side of the path to cheer us on. We stopped for Liz to say hello to Tabitha and give her a kiss before we pressed on to the end. One more little out and back section, and we were almost there. I suggested we run from the top of the last rise down to the finish line, but Liz was hurting and urged me to go on ahead. I still felt as though I had energy, so this time I went for it despite the guilt of leaving her behind. As it turns out, I thought I had more in me than I did and went too fast. By the time I rounded the corner to the finish, I realised my mistake. Too late. People were cheering. A man with a microphone was announcing that I was just coming to the finish. Never mind that he misread my race number and thought I was someone called Nadine… There was a photographer. Couldn’t stop with all that going on.

I crossed the line, and a very nice lady put a medal around my neck. “Run into the medal!”
I pushed ‘stop’ on my watch, but the damn thing didn’t stop. I didn’t find that out until about 6 minutes later…
I accepted a bottle of water and a banana, then turned around to cheer Liz on as she came across the line. We drank our water, Liz ate my banana (I’m not a fan unless they’re in smoothies or cake) and we lay on the grass to take photos with our medals. I was a good girl and stretched because I didn’t want to be driving home the next day in pain.

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Fabulous medal!

Alex and I headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change. We drove over to meet up with Liz and her husband again and opted for a meal at the baby-friendly Brewer’s Fayre nearby. For the life of me I can’t remember what I had to eat, but I do remember the lovely glass of rosé that went with it.

The following day I looked up my chip time (nothing to get excited about, but nice to know, and an automatic PB since it was my first 10k) and looked at the official photos.

My finish line photos are awful. Worst photos ever. Not even the funny kind of bad.

Anyway. It was a great day, superbly organised by the Sospan Road Runners. The support from the marshals and spectators along the course was great. I will be back next year to run the whole distance.

Liz has also blogged about this and the Kolor Dash we did a few weeks ago – you can read her post and see her photos here.