It was hot. It had hills. But it also had locals with water.
Lining up for The Wales Marathon, it was impossible to escape the fact that most runners were onto their third endurance challenge of the weekend – I felt like a part-timer just bobbing along to take on the marathon.
If you’re not familiar with the format, Tenby’s Long Course Weekend gives you the chance to take on all the three full-distance elements of an Ironman, over three days.
I hadn’t done Friday night’s swim and I hadn’t done Saturday’s cycle ride, but you can choose what you want to do, and the Sunday marathon was plenty to be getting on with.
Even before the start, it was clearly going to be a hot one. In the first three miles, it felt like my body was just adjusting to the conditions.
There would be no heroics today, and the climb up to the Ridgeway from 4-5 miles was slow and steady.
There was a great atmosphere among the runners – everyone attempting the full Long Course was quietly determined, but also relaxed in the knowledge that the end was getting closer with every step.
It was just a matter of keeping going and I had some good chats, learning a lot about the epic cycle course and the jellyfish on the swim.
I had signed up for the run with the simple aim of just completing the course – I’m not superstitious but I will admit that I wanted to get my 13th marathon done and out of the way.
I felt under no time pressure at all and, given the conditions, that was a very good thing indeed.
Once I had got used to the heat, it was all about taking on water sensibly and seeking shade (where possible!).
The course took us out to Pembroke, where the half-marathon was starting, and so I was focussed on getting to Pembroke Castle.
As we neared there, the number of locals who were out cheering and offering support increased.
And there were many more to come. Some with sponges, some with hoses and some with sprinklers and some offering water as well as fruit and sweets.
Obviously the spray and the snacks were welcome, but it was as much the gesture itself that that I found inspiring – the whole event felt like a team effort – everyone was invested in everyone else getting to the end.
Pembroke Castle came and went, with an excellent feed station, and into the tough second half.
I had been warned about the hills at 15 and 21, and they did not disappoint. But as legs shuffled onwards, some great views and even better camaraderie kicked in.
Manorbier Beach and Castle were highlights – and I will definitely go back to explore there on a day when I can do more than just glance upwards and trudge past.
All the talk among the runners here was that, once we got to 23, then we were back on the Ridgeway and it was mainly downhill to Tenby.
Any uphills were being walked now, and I fell into a great walk-run partnership with Lee who was one of the Long Course stars.
Obviously, you never quite feel as happy as you envisaged when you get to 23, and the thought of “just one parkrun to go” always rings slightly hollow by that point.
But then our chatter turned to the red carpet finish – and that was a huge motivation in those final miles.
It’s a proper way to finish an event and we knew the crowds would be noisy in that funnel.
And as we came off that hill and hit 25 miles, it was nearly done. There was just one climb into the town to be tackled and, with that done, it was all a blur as we went round the town walls.
And suddenly there was the red carpet and there was the finish. It was such a relief to have successfully got round in the heat, and that 13th marathon in the bag.
It was a great day out and wonderful to be part of that atmosphere around the whole weekend.
Thanks to all the marshals and volunteers at water stops – and to all those lovely locals with hoses. And huge congratulations to all the runners, especially all those doing the Long Course!