The 15th year of the Cardiff Half Marathon acted as the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships. The event was packed with talent and numbers, but there were three important pieces of advice demonstrated throughout the 13.1 miles.
#1 Execute an Individual Race Plan
In the men’s race the story was dominated by five Africans competing against the Australian Jack Rayner.
However, even from the early miles the four Ugandans and Kenyan struggled to settle. They frequently exchanged positions, veered across the road, and accelerated suddenly only to soon be rejoined by the lead pack.
They could have been forgiven due to nerves, but surprisingly this erratic behaviour continued throughout the race. Despite the Africans’ impressive mile splits their surges and glances over to one another were a constant distraction. As I watched the televised coverage I imagined the coach of the Ugandan athletes confused and annoyed; they appeared to run with a lack of composure and self-assurance.
I wonder whether the team title (which they won emphatically with their four runners finishing in the top six) was their priority because they had used up all their reserves, unable to respond to Rayner’s timely surge over the final section.
Rayner’s strategy of staying at the back of lead pack, concentrating on a smooth rhythm and not getting drawn into competitors’ tactics secured him the win.
#2 Stay Focused throughout the Race
In contrast to the men’s race, Juliet Chekwel lead almost from the start line, never looking back and pacing herself consistently. After each 5km she dropped only 3-4 seconds per mile on her overall average pace. She ran alongside top male club runners for long stretches, then later by herself.
Like Rayner though, the Ugandan focused on her own race, pumping her arms across the body in a powerful lifting motion, which reminded me of a boxer practising uppercuts. Her head was still and relaxed, with her mouth slightly open, taking advantage of her lofty stride.
As Tanni Grey-Thompson, the decorated former paralympian, observed during the race Chekwel was “running on feel”. This performance was all the more astonishing because it was the longer distance race she had completed. Her running future appears bright.
#3 Running is a Demanding Sport
Sadly, soon after the event finished news broke that two runners had passed away. Two men under the age of 35 lost their lives, with cardiac arrest the causes.
Although these men had varying training histories, it remains true that regardless of athletic experience death is always a possibility during exercise.
Running is highly impactful and requires the heart to work efficiently and in synergism with every other system in the body.
This tragic news should remind us to never take the challenge of an endurance event for granted and that, if and when we feel pain in our chests during running we should seek medical assistance immediately.