The Llanelli half marathon was held on the 25th September this year. It’s a coastal course starting at the Parc Y Scarlets stadium, running out and back again. It runs partly along closed roads before hitting a hard packed mixed gravel and asphalt coastal path.
Not the kind of trail and terrain I am used to, but a fun and exhilirating event regardless!
Llanelli Half Marathon Goals
Going into this event I have been on the fence about pushing for a new personal best or not. I have had a very slight ‘presence’ in my right hamstring for a number of months now, and on faster runs it does sometimes make itself more prominent. On a 1 to 10 scale of pain it would only be a 1 or a 2, but it has been worrying.
I had agreed with myself ahead of time that I would try keep a higher cadence (with shorter stride), and slightly lowered pace. My half marathon goal was therefore 1:35:00. (2 minutes slower than my then current Strava PB).
However, once I was about 6km into the race, I was feeling really good, and I couldn’t help moving up my goal to coming in under 1:30:00 – that half way point to a 3 hour marathon pace.
My standard training plan continued for the weeks ahead of the Llanelli Half Marathon. I didn’t really adjust it much for any specific focus on a fast, flat route. Lots of hill reps, with a fair bit of ‘easy’ running sprinkled in, as well as some speed intervals were what I did on a weekly basis this past month. I did add a little more road running focus in for the last week though.
Tapering only started a few days before with no running at all for the 2 days leading up to the event.
I personally don’t think that carb loading would help too much on a half marathon distance, but never-the-less I do enjoy a good carb-rich meal the night before a race. I was also conscious to keep my hydration up the few days ahead of the race too.
On the morning, I ate my standard breakfast cereal, had a coffee, and drank half a liter of electrolytes slowly over the 1-2 hours pre-race start.
There were a good 600 or 700 people running the event, but on arrival I could already start picking out the awesome people of the running punks collective.
We ended up forming an informal grouping among the crowds, and it was great catching up with familiar faces (as well as meeting so many I’ve interacted with on social media but never met in person).
I was really happy that a warm up routine was kicked off as it meant I didn’t have to be anti-social and wander off to do a small warm up myself.
After the group warm up, we all had a bit of a jog around the main stadium.
The Llanelli Half Marathon Race
Working my way to my designated starting area, I picked out the 1:35:00 pacer (they were carrying flags with their pace times on their backpacks).
The starting line was crowded but full of energy. A short 10 second count down and we were all off at 9am sharp.
Immediately I stuck with a group of about 7 or 8 of us running in formation with the 1:35:00 pacer.
I quickly set into a tempo pace. Not too fast to start with, and comfortable to maintain. My Garmin HRM chest strap was keeping me informed of heart rate data with good accuracy, and my focus was to keep heart rate just below the start of the Zone 5 area on my watch display.
The initial few kilometers were on the main road (which had been closed off to vehicles). It was nice to run in the middle and not worry about traffic.
Our small collective mostly stuck together, and it felt really good to run in what felt like an almost perfect synchronisation with the others. At points our cadence all matched perfectly and the sounds of our shoes hitting the tarmac all blended together perfectly.
Around the 6 or 7km mark I slowly started peeling away, ahead of the 1:35:00 pacer. My body felt good, my pace was consistent, and I felt like I could push harder.
Half Way Point
Towards the half way mark I upped my pace slightly. There were also some small lifts and dips in elevation along the coast and that had already pushed my previous tempo pace slightly into threshold every now and then.
At the point both sides of the race group (those coming back from the half way point, and those on their way in) started passing eachother. It was so uplifting and a lot of fun to see other running punks pass by. We shared hand slaps and shouted words of encouragement to one another as we passed.
I committed to pushing harder and seeing if I could catch the 1:30:00 pacer as I was starting to get glimpses of him every now and then.
Slowly, I applied just enough pace to start closing in the distance on the 1:30:00 pacer. By the time I hit the 15 or 16km mark I was very close, just a couple of hundred meters off. Closing the gap even further, I finally managed to catch him, and stuck with the small group (3 or 4 of us) like a magnet. Locking pace, I held this position for the next 3-4km.
Confirming time was looking good to break 1:30:00, I kept pushing in the final kilometers. With less than a kilometer to the finish line, and the crowd and loudspeaker noise growing in the distance, the pacer shouted some words of encouragement to us to push ahead.
The final 500 meters or so had me increasing my cadence and stride length a fair bit to ensure I hit the finish line in the 1:29:00 region.
Thankfully my efforts paid off and I was able to finish with an official chip time of 01:29:41. Goal surpassed!
I was very happy with an overall position of 41 out of 645. I honestly thought there were many more ahead of me.
Have you ever changed your goals in the midst of a race? What were the deciding factors for your pivot? For me it is confidence in current condition as well as a bit of competitiveness in breaking my own personal records.