Race Report by Jenna Pogue
This weekend Jo and I found ourselves in Wales for the JCP Swansea Half Marathon. The race was voted the UK’s best half marathon at The Running Awards in both 2017 and 2018 but we actually only ended up down there because Jo’s husband suggested going to see The Killers in Swansea that weekend. Of course the first thing we did was check out the local running opportunities. Google suggested Swansea Half and only Simon went to the concert!
After an early breakfast overlooking Port Eynon Bay we drove 15 miles to Swansea where the race village was located outside the historic Brangwyn Hall. All the important things were expertly organised (plenty of porta-loos, easy-to-find baggage lorries, well signposted start pens) and there was a great atmosphere down at the start line. Runners were clearly excited about the race with lots of selfies being taken and the Welsh national anthem sparked an impressive sing-along.
At 9am, 5000+ runners set off through the city centre and onto the closed road that runs along the coast of Swansea Bay. Although temperatures were already rising, I can’t complain about the weather. Having a clear, sunny day for running along this glorious front was fantastic. The streets were full of noisy, enthusiastic supporters and I loved seeing the motivational signs, my favourite being ‘Touch Here for Power’. The first half of the race travelled towards the Mumbles – a picturesque village with some lovely shops and cafes plus the church where my brother got married almost 30 years ago (I only vaguely remember it as I was so young at the time!) The supporters remained out in force along the route and there was plenty of banter and encouragement amongst the runners as the temperature crept into the mid-twenties. I won’t tell you how one runner described her own personal level of sweatiness.
At mile 7, as the Mumbles pier and lighthouse approached, the race turned back the way it came, this time via a foot/cycle path. This brought runners closer to the sandy beach and views across the water all the way to Ilfracombe but there still wasn’t much of a ‘sea-breeze’ (unlike every other time I’ve been here!) Thankfully, there was a lady with a hose pipe, a family handing out ice pops (heroes!) and we picked up a good tip about pouring a little water inside our caps to keep cool. Unfortunately, we did see a few people overwhelmed by the heat but the St John’s Ambulance crews, race-makers and other runners all seemed to be doing a great job of caring for them.
The last few miles headed towards the Meridian Tower which is Wales’ tallest building. It’s height and the curve of the bay made many doubt the distance home – one runner was shocked to hear it was still 3 miles away despite looking like it was around the corner! The race came to a close in the Swansea Marina after crossing the River Tawe twice via the Lock Bridge and The Millennium Bridge. At this point we’d travelled through 4 fully stocked, well-staffed water stations, 2 gel stations and been spurred on by hundreds of ‘race-makers’- the volunteers who gave up their time to help us all keep putting one foot in front of the other. The route was completely flat and virtually straight so the PB potential was high but regardless of time people were crossing the finish line smiling and cheering. Except Jo. Jo was crying. I think she can be excused though as it was her first half marathon and they were happy tears!
In the finish pen, we were treated to a lovely technical t-shirt, a big chunky medal and a goody bag that contained snacks, hand cream, lip balm and muscle rub. There was also a large race village but Jo and I chose to stand in the shade taking selfies before heading off for a drink with our family of supporters.