|Cardiff swans completely unaware that 15,000 runners are pounding past them.|
This weekend is becoming a favourite family annual trip. We do Cardiff, have pizza, watch the X-Factor on the hotel TV, fall asleep ridiculously early and wake up to scoff a hotel breakfast. Then I run for a bit while Brian and the kids watch, hang around and do stuff and then we all go home.
Last year I dithered over entering the half marathon and by the time I did city centre hotels could not be had for love nor money - unless you were a single smoker which as a non-smoking family of four we weren't. This year I didn't dither and I booked the whole thing way back when, including the room in the Premier Inn having seen Lenny Henry on TV promising comfy beds and a good night's sleep.
Admittedly parking was costly but for the convenience factor it was worth it. The car, hotel and John Lewis were all cheek-by-jowl with just a short walk down to the Bay area for the start of the race.
The hotel was lovely which came as a huge surprise. Last year's Express by Holiday Inn was a bit University Hall of Residence by comparison. The room was quiet and comfortable - especially the beds which were a double and - hallelujah! - TWO singles. My children hate sharing a double and it usually involves some kind of bed swapping in the wee small hours. They didn't budge out of the Premier Inn beds and neither did I having fallen asleep somewhere towards the end of the X-Factor when Tesco Mary sang something soporific.
Breakfast was good too, properly good, so Brian ate two.
R6 said, surveying the room: "Can we come and live here?"
The pizza the night before was good too. We had planned on Pizza Hut but Pizza Express was but a short escalator ride so we plumped for that instead. We were attentively waited on by friendly staff. H8 knocked her knife on the floor and a clean one magically reappeared seconds later. I like restaurants with that sort of service. It had proper front of house too and the food was lovely. I'm sure the bambinocinos contributed to the kids' good night's sleep.
Race day was sunny and cold - perfect conditions. A happy crowd of runners walked in an orderly manner to the start, queued and ran. The race with a field of of 15,000 runners is like a tube train emptying at rush hour through an underpass at running pace. An interesting experience but you get used to it.
I ran the 13.1 miles in two hours 17 minutes and nine seconds which is eight minutes faster than last year. If I could have found those two extra minutes to finish in two and a quarter hours I'd have found them but I spent too much time looking at the view from Cardiff Bay barrage and dodging slower runners.
I collected my medal and goody bag and even found the jumper I threw at a tree just after the start. The 'tree' turned out to be a whopping street lamp which proves just had madly hallucinogenic the start of a half a marathon can be. I was convinced it was a tree...
I was proud of my time though. I ran the first three miles in a burst of enthusiasm in 27 minutes which is an unheard of turn of speed for me. If I had kept it up I might have caught up with Chris who was in her usual position which is in front of me. I narrowed the gap this year though - if I do the same next year I might just catch her up...