All is quiet where the angels fear
Oh my blood relations the revolutionary spirit is here
The Wild Swans Revolutionary Spirit, 1982. Great single. I love this song.
Swans… Swansea, simple. Any excuse to quote a great record.
Revolutionary spirit, something I believe I am. I like change. Push boundaries. Try something for a boost or change of scene or style. The week building up to the Swansea Half Marathon have been a change for me. Work has made me very tired and disillusioned. It has become so hard to work a 10 shift and then run. At my place of work, we’re desperately understaffed and with an aging workforce it has become very difficult to keep on keeping on. Running is my freedom. My ‘get out of jail’. It eases my body and, more importantly, my mind. Running is my salvation, it is my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday long run best, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love of running would last forever: am I wrong. Sorry W.H. Auden.
This last week before Swansea Half I did something I have never done before a race before: I have taken it easy! I resisted my usual temptation to run every day with hard workouts and tapered. I ran Tuesday at about 10 seconds per mile faster than, hopefully, race pace. I then rested 2 days and then ran an easy 4.5 miles but with a couple of Chariots of Fire miles on the beach. The rest days I worked on strength and conditioning. Not so much resting but I get bored easily.
Saturday was a travel day. A lovely three hour train journey stopping at nearly every Bristol station and a joyful stop seeing the steel works of Port Talbot. We rocked up in Swansea around 1.30pm but couldn’t get into our room until 4 o’clock. Using my trusty Google Maps™ app we set off in search of our overnight lodgings. We meandered around the streets desperately trying to follow the map and eventually found our destination. The exterior looked less than inviting and the huge sign promoting student accommodation did set alarm bells ringing. So Sue and I did what all other weary travellers do, we popped into Wetherspoons for a pint and cheap and cheerless food.
At the appointed time we wandered to Neon 160 (!). I tapped in our PIN and we entered. Jeez, this place was unreal. We went to our room. A bare mattress with no bedding, a table covered in rubbish. A completely unprepared apartment. This was completely unexpectable, so we left to find a better hotel. This, of course, was a busy weekend in June with all the usual shenanigans of a city at this time of year and the added bonus of thousands of runners.
We decided to seek out where the race started as there were two hotels on the the route. The first was the Dolphin Hotel. This looked nice. Asked at reception if they had any rooms for the night. No the receptionist answered. Sold the last one 10 minutes ago but he did check on Booking.com™ if any rooms were available elsewhere. Possibly Morgan’s or The Dragon. The Dragon was nearer so we dragged ourselves there. Please, please, pretty please, do you have a room for the night? No, sorry. We were now in Joseph, Mary and the wee bloody donkey territory. Phone battery was now on 4% and a rapid return home looked our best bet. I sat on the floor and started charging my phone and with one last throw of the dice I tried Expedia.com™. The Village Hotel had a room £145 but they had a room. I gulped and booked it. A 30 minute walk, we were knackered and a half marathon the next day. I tried phoning local taxi firms but nothing so we slowly trudged forward with my phone still at 4%. We asked a couple security guards at a pub if we were on the right track and they suggested going to a taxi rank nearby. The journey was short but the relief when we arrived at our hotel was beyond compare.
A couple of pints and a few more with a group of golfers aided the sleep I already was desperate for and when the alarm went off at 7.30 I felt I needed at least 4 more hours and no running! Bleary eyed I walked the 10 minutes to the start. I’m always nervous before a race and don’t really like conversation and this was easy because I was the only runner I knew. I never used to use energy gels during a half marathon but now I need them. Now I need an energy gel to get out of bed. The start was delayed by 15 minutes, which didn’t help, but once running I eased myself into the job in hand. The race starts with a 3 mile loop within the city where the crowds and cheering was plentiful. I then ran out to St. Helens and past Swansea Cricket Club where Glamorgan CCC used to occasionally play before the upgrade at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. The route was now looking familiar as it was along the Swansea Bay 10k course that I had ran in 2000. Familiar but different with wonderful guard of trees. I reached The Mumbles voted the best place to live in Wales. After recent visits to Newport and, now, Swansea this didn’t surprise me. The village is very pretty and the houses look very expensive. Even the chippy looks like it’s a listed building. Here I looped back to the city along a lovely cycle path following the coastline and that salty smell of sea air. I gazed across the bay seeking out Burnham-on-Sea. The miles ticked along quickly and soon were heading back to the marina where the start and finish would be. With 100 metres to go Sue saw me and shouted out in her usual manner but with fewer profanities. I collected a handful of protein bars, a bottle of water, my medal and tee shirt. Sue greeted me and then off to pay £6 for a beer.