Report from our foreign correspondent Richard Smith.
I made an impulsive decision last week to run the Vale of Clwyd Half Marathon, near Denbigh in picturesque North-East Wales. Having not raced this distance for a while, I was plunging myself into the fear of the unknown but fancied a trip out in a part of the UK I’ve not really explored. If my pre-race research serves me right, it was only the second running of the event and followed the perhaps more prestigious Conwy Half Marathon a week earlier. Approx. 125 entrants had registered at the start list so a small field of runners.
Bleary eyed, I made the trek to Llandyrnog, a small village down in the valley (said in my best welsh accent), consisting of only a couple of pubs, a post office, church and school. Thinking its a long way to get lost, I was delighted to see the familiar eye sore of luminous green and an abundance of lycra/combined lunge stretching upon approaching Llandyrnog village.
Having signed up at the race HQ, I made my way to the start which took place in the middle of a football field, and, of course, added to prominent blustery winds, the heavens immediately opened whilst sideways rain transformed into bouncing hailstone. Unquestionably the coldest I’ve been at a race start after Burley Moor 2013.
The first mile was a relatively quick one, but with the elements in full flow, runners had no option but to start steady. Within a quarter mile however, I found myself running alone and experienced the rare novelty of being in 5th position, with a leading pack of 4 gradually edging away into the distance. At around the mile mark, they were completely out of sight and I ran completely alone to the extent that it felt like a training run, albeit with a lot of sheep and strange place names which I couldn’t pronounce.
The whole race was run on tarmac, often bumpy, isolated and undulating country roads. Fortunately the roads were well protected by high hedgerows at either side making conditions more than tolerable after the early onslaught. It was an incredibly scenic route, offering cracking views of the Vale of Clwyd. No ‘killer hills’, but plenty of winding, undulations and two long drags at mile 4, and cruelly, at mile 10-11. It was at this point when I heard the pitter patter of footsteps behind me as a runner from Pocklington came storming past. Booming echoes of Howard Jeffrey’s ‘You shalt not pass!’ turned into a whimper as he passed me with ease. At least he wasn’t Lancastrian.
I clocked in at 1:23:07 (PB) finishing in 6th place which, given the conditions, course profile and lone running made me feel really satisfied. 1st Paul Wathan, Eryri H 1:15:59, 1st Lady Aimi Hannant, Ruthin Tri. 1:30:26. Full results here.