JCP Swansea Half 2016

swansea 2016 before
Before. Was I the only Half fanatic at Swansea?
Swansea Half Marathon, 26th June 2016. Swansea.
During. “Come on Sponge Bob”


I started this review by looking at my notes from last year and noted that I was really impressed with four holes in the bib number to aid pinning to your vest – unfortunately missing this year – but was also impressed with our names printed above the numbers which was great as spectators urged you on.

As can be seen from the “During” photo I wore my quiet, subdued, disappear into the background running vest which stopped everyone shouting “Come on Clive” and had everyone shouting “Keep going Sponge Bob”. Spectators were excellent, by the way, this year – along the whole course again and very vocal.

Tapered well this year and the weather was a lot cooler but still humid under the cloud cover. I made the basic beginner error of starting at the front of my pen, going out to quick, feeling ok so keeping the same pace for ten miles, having heavy and tired legs for the last three point one. A week later the stiffness is just coming out of those tired legs.

One benefit of going out too quick is that I took 12 minutes off last years time (not bad over 13 miles) finishing in 2 hrs 19 min. The downside of the race getting bigger each year is the fact that in spite of going quicker, I dropped from 45th to 55th in the Male Vet 60+ category.

said last year that the goody bag was average but would get better as sponsors came on board and that is exactly what happened. Drinks, banana, energy bars, joint tablets, joint ache cream (used on left knee) and other stuff. Said last year I would do it again and say the same this year. Good and flat with lots of support.

swansea 2016 after
After. Yet another nice quiet tee shirt.









Could be an excellent half marathon – please sort the parking issue.

IMG_0469Car Parking – has to be the first thing said. In its second year this half has grown and, if it grows again next year then parking will be a serious problem. Luckily I was in the area and registered to pick up my number (US=Bib) the day before but many were running from their cars to join the registration queue. .Arriving at 10 to 8 for a 9 o’clock start, as I did, was too late. The queues for the car park were backed up onto the motorway (which was closed to through traffic) and moved slowly towards car parks A and B.

We were told in the pre-race pack to alternate cars between A and B parks but everyone was going for B as it looked closer but wasn’t (could have had a marshall there). By the time I got to A  it was full, the marshalls were running around looking for vacant factory units that didn’t open on a Sunday and parking people there. Then people started parking on the grass and eventually at the kerb side on double yellows.

Some fast runners passed me at about mile 2 and I am guessing they missed the start.

That said, the rest of the race was excellently planned, marshalled and finished. The organisers make a big thing about it being a fairly flat course, which it is, but with one big hill in the middle. Psychologically you are either prepared or scared of this hill as the two slopes before it are sign posted “This is not the hill” When you reach the base of the hill it is signed “This is the hill – honest” and it most certainly was.

For me (finishing in 2 hrs 20 min) my pace was a pretty even 10 minute miling plus change. The mile with the hill in it (7th) was clocked at 12:41 and the following mile, down again, at 9:33. Nobody likes walking in a half marathon but if you were in the group that I was with (see times above) then you soon realised that those around you who were walking the hill were going faster than you running. It is a quick flick of a switch in the brain that says “Ultra runners walk hills” and before you know it you are walking.

From the top of the hill to the finish was mainly down hill with a nasty slope just before the finish labelled “This feels like a hill”

Full marks to the organisers for their pre race info, complete with humour, their marshalling and the finish area. The goody bag was ravished by me with salty crisps and two Mars chocolate covered swiss rolls going down instantly followed by a strawberry drink that I wouldn’t normally touch that went down in one gulp. Bananas could be collected as you went through the goody bag area along with water. The shirt is a tech shirt and is pictured here with the excellent medal.

Will I run this next year – yes, probably, because it is a well run local half in August with nothing else around. There were many running clubs represented this year and I am guessing many more next year so please sort out the parking.

Warning to each and every grandchild of mine. Every time we drive over the new Severn Bridge I will be pointing to the old one and saying “See that bridge over there? Bampa has run across that in the middle of the road!”

JCP Swansea Half Marathon race report

IMG_0447On Sunday 14th June 2015 the second only JCP Swansea (Abertawe) half marathon ‘SwanseaHalf was run by 5000 eager runners. Apparently the inaugural race attracted 3000 runners and the expectancy is for a growth up to around 10,000 in 2016.

I have absolutely no idea how the organisers started looking at starting this race but have imagined the following and I am pretty sure that I am not far off the mark;-

I envisage a group of runners probably sat in a pub somewhere in Swansea, discussing whether or not they could start a Swansea Half. Someone suggests that to attract the usual runners from South wales, The West Country and beyond, it would be a good idea to have the half in the summer as all other halves are in the Spring or Autumn (Fall).

Then they delve into the minor details of what they would improve over other halves, given the chance. Someone says “Whenever I pin my number (bib) onto my vest I worry about the pin going through that very hard paper that the number is printed on and then the pin going through my finger. Why don’t we get the numbers printed with holes in each corner.”

“Good idea” says someone else, “And while we’re at it, I hate tying my chip into my shoelaces, why don’t we attach the chip to the back of the number?”

“Great” says person number three “I have a running vest with my name on it and love it when people call out my name. The vest is a bit old though, why don’t we get the numbers printed with the person’s name at the top?”

And there you pretty much have it. An out and back course, very very flat along Swansea bay, loads of spectators lining the route, on pavements and in bars and cafes.

A good medal in two colours, an indifferent goody bag that will improve as sponsors clamor to get involved and a hot (don’t forget your sun screen) day enjoyed by all.

Registration is now open for 2016 and I for one will be there.

Inov8 Race Ultra Hydration Pack

IMG_0298 IMG_0299

First thing to say about this product, as mentioned in my last post, is that I purchased it from an individual, second hand, on eBay. The sender kindly put a note in the box describing how to do up and undo the catches on the chest straps, writing “because I found it time consuming to work out myself.”

With their instructions I got the hang of the catches straight away and soon realised that the catches had been designed to lay flat and not be bulky or likely to dig in to your body.

I wanted to try it out so took it on my out and back 7.25 mile course. I had bought the vest for longer runs but wanted to try it, firstly, over a short distance because I didn’t want to find a problem ten miles or so from home.

I filled the bladder with two litres of water to judge the weight while running, even though I wouldn’t need that much, and filled one 500ml bottle with Generation Ucan in water. Inov8 call the bottles “flat bottles” which undersells the item as one side is nicely curved to your body to fit snugly – so watch carefully when loading up the bottle to the front strap to get the correct side of the bottle facing your body. The other pocket was filled with almonds, olives and cheese and the spare bottle left at home. One thing to note about the bladder is that it sits in a pocket that has silvered insulation on one side. At first I thought the insulation was to stop my back getting cold from the water but soon realised it was to stop the water getting warmed from my back temperature. Or is it both?

You can probably see from the photo the position of the pockets / bottle holders on the front straps. Excellently, the bottle holder holds the bottle at an angle for easy access and there is a built in red elastic to wrap around the bottle neck to stop it falling out of the pocket. Note also that the two straps across the front have a choice of three anchoring points but I have to admit to using the two anchoring points that had been used by the previous owner and it suited me.

With regard to wearability and comfort while running, my comparison had to be my Camelbak mentioned in my last post. My Camelbak has a waist strap and a chest strap that appears to just keep the rucksack straps from parting and the rucksack falling off. As a consequence the Camelbak, for me, bounces up and down and the noise of the bouncing, water filled, bladder can get irritating. The reverse happened with the Innov8. It was held tight to my body, via the straps and the bladder is so tightly packed that it doesn’t move. There were even times on my short run when I forgot I was wearing a pack. Bottle release, drinking and bottle return were easy, especially with the angled pockets, and the tube mechanism from the bladder appeared to be the same as used on the Camelbak.

The only downside that I could find is that, if I were to use this product on a long run, which I will, and needed both 500ml bottles for Ucan, than I wouldn’t have a pocket for nuts, olives and cheese. I wrote in my last post that I couldn’t wear my Original Mountain Marathon belt at the same time as my Camelbak but with the Inov8 being so high on my back and snug to the fit I think it maybe a pure fluid carrier with the belt holding the food. We shall see.

Would I recommend the Inov8 Race Ultra Hydration Pack to others? Most definitely and I hope to get many years of use out of mine.