Race report: Cardiff Bay 10k

The CDF gang pre-race photo

It was a beautiful spring day. Almost too beautiful, I thought, as I squinted at the blue sky with typical British pessimism.

While the winter months are spent complaining about the cold and the wet, I join a woeful troupe of fair-skinned runners in greeting sunshine with suspicion. Is is going to be too hot? Will I burn? Do I have enough water? I should've brought sunglasses/a hat. MY MOUTH IS DRY ALREADY.

Either way, there was no going back. Today was the inaugural Cardiff Bay 10k, a new race morphed from a highly successful 5-miler held in the Welsh capital each year. The 10k-upgrade was an instant attraction and sold out quickly.

Soaking up the atmosphere (and finding a place to stand)

Despite the bright sun, I was really looking forward to this race. After weeks of half marathon training it was nice to have something less consuming and within my hometown.

On the steps of the Senedd

Before moving to west Cardiff last year, the Bay and the barrage were my old running haunts. I still run along Lloyd George Avenue and Mermaid Quay regularly with the CDF Runners, but it had been a while since I took in the sights of the barrage, Severn estuary and Penarth.

If nothing else, the warm sun and blue skies were contributing to a fantastic atmosphere. Roald Dahl Plass, the steps to the Senedd and every inch of walkway transformed into a sea of runners laughing and chatting excitedly.

Marveling the crowds alongside the iconic Pierhead building

The start

After the obligatory long, paranoid wait for one last pee-stop, runners divided into their designated pens. As I had been training at a very slow half marathon pace, I wasn't confident I'd done enough training to go faster, despite the wonderful feeling of taking on a race that was flatter, shorter and on tarmac. So I headed to the 'yellow' pen for a 75 min-ish estimated time.

Passing through Roald Dahl Plass at the start was magical. I've watched several races on this stretch and run it solo too many times to count, always taking in and enjoying the architecture and bright lights. You can't help feeling like you're taking centre stage running through the Plass. Race day was a hundred times better, with the shouts, claps and cheers of the crowd, full of adrenaline and fresh legs at the start of a new adventure.

The magic comically wore thin fairly soon when not even the wide lanes of Lloyd George Avenue could handle the sheer volume of runners. The entire two lengths of LGA (up one side, down the other) remained bottle-necked. Some pushed and elbowed their way through, or darted in a cross-cross in front of others in a bid to inch forward. This led to some ill-feeling, a bit like a traffic jam that everyone wants to get out of as quickly as possible.

Rushing and pushing wasn't for me. If I had a target time, I'd have moved closer to the start line. Instead, I accepted it would take a while for the route to clear and chilled out.

It finally happened as we entered the industrial units around Porth Teigr. This was probably the most boring part of the route but I enjoyed the shade and after the buzz of the Plass it felt relatively peaceful. Reaching the road to the barrage, we were greeted with a water station, cheers and the lovely views of Penarth and the estuary glinting and sparkling in the sunlight.

The spirit?

One thing stuck with me throughout. As much as I enjoyed the race, it felt a bit... unfriendly. The crowds were doing a great job of cheering and the volunteers were all lovely. But there felt a lack of camaraderie among the runners.

Aside from myself and one other runner, no one around me was thanking the marshals we passed. I found this astounding and hadn't encountered it before. I always felt the unwritten rule is to thank people who are volunteering their time to help keep you safe and encourage you on your challenge.

No one seemed to chat much either, which I've grown used to when running at that pace (running flat-out for a PB is a different matter). While in the industrial part of the route - which was nice and wide - the woman next to me loudly scolded a man in front for being in her way. This was so baffling and so unnecessary, I felt my spirits dampen even further.

Maybe most people were thanking the marshals and maybe most runners were coming together to encourage each other, strangers bonding over the shared challenge and joy of running. Maybe I just didn't happen to hear it on this occasion. Maybe my experiences just seemed heightened in contrast with the recent Forest of Dean Half Marathon, where I spoke with so many different people and felt an entire community will me on to the finish. Every race is different, after all, which is why we sign up to them.

The theory

As we approached Lloyd George Avenue once again, my thinking erred towards the differences between races. I theorised that the Forest of Dean Half probably had a) more runners with race experience and running etiquette, and/or b) people running solo, taking on their own personal challenge. This may be why I found the course so friendly.

Perhaps the Cardiff Bay 10k didn't have the same spirit because a) there were more people running with groups of friends (so probably didn't feel the need to talk to strangers), and/or b) the city 10k was more accessible to more people, which is awesome but may account for why so many runners didn't know to thank volunteers. 

The finish

Crossing the finish line back in the Plass was great though. I left my philosophising behind and enjoyed the atmosphere. The crowds were fantastic and friends cheering me on spurred me to a sprint finish.

We loved the race bling! One of my favourite designs

The sunshine stuck around for the rest of the day in Cardiff, and so did the atmosphere in the Bay. With so many pubs and restaurants around, runners were spoilt for choice for post-run carbs and celebratory pints. Pizza, Peroni and laughs with friends restored all faith and really made it a brilliant day.  

Not-so-much love for:
A lack of camaraderie, politeness and gratitude to volunteers.   
How over-subscribed the event was.
The lack of toilets (as always, at every darn event).
Ordering a small t-shirt only to find they've run out, and getting a men's medium which is like a dress on me (as always, at every darn event).

But I did love:
The start/finish atmosphere.
The flat, pretty route in my beloved Cardiff.
The awesome race medal.
The friendly volunteers.
The large CDF contingent and my brilliant friends.
Post-run food and booze so close to the finish line.


Popular Posts