What a Difference The 'Diff Made!

Medal and T-Shirt!
The last thing I do, before leaving the car to make my way to the start of the Cardiff Half Marathon, is to tell Tom that I love him. The horrific attack on ordinary people at the Boston Marathon in April 2013 has added an unspoken, ‘What if?’ to the pre-race nerves and the Cardiff Half Marathon is now the biggest half marathon in Britain after The Great North Run. It’s a chilly morning and the rain starts to fall as I walk to Cardiff Castle and find my timing pen. The atmosphere’s subdued; not quite so much of the banter which often marks the countdown to the start. I wrap my bin bag round my shoulders to keep warm and let go of all those nagging thoughts and fears leaving a clear calm space where I can focus on the race. A klaxon sounds but it’s almost six minutes before I cross the start line – and then we’re off!

The first mile’s over before I know it. I check my watch; 8.59. 8.59? My head tells me I’ve gone out too quickly, but my body feels fine. I settle in and just keep running, enjoying the rhythm of my own pace and enjoying being part of this colourful sea of runners where the waves eddy back and forth. At mile 4 we reach Penarth Marina then the Cardiff Barrage where crowds line the route, cheering and really raising the atmosphere. I’m so used to running alone in deserted country lanes that I rarely consider what a difference spectators can make. As the race winds up through the city, that crowd support sustains and energies my race; it’s exhilarating to see so many people clapping and cheering us on. There are snapshots in my mind that will stay with me; the little boy in the crowd on his dad’s shoulders, nearly asleep but still holding up his ‘Come on, Mummy’ sign, the elderly residents sat in chairs outside their care home waving at us, and a Muslim lady and her daughter offering water to the runners in plastic cups on a silver tray.

By mile 10, I know I’m going to finish the race and probably beat my best time … I’d love to come in at under 2 hours 10 minutes, but how much fuel have I got in the tank? At mile 11 I pick two good runners and try to shadow them picking up vital seconds despite a tricky hill. And then suddenly, I’m running for the finish line. The race clock reads 2:07:55 – I’ve beaten my 2hr 10min goal… but that includes the time elapsed waiting to get to the start so when my official chip time is confirmed at 2:02: 25 I’m absolutely over the moon!

But there was always more to this race than just running. This was my sixth half marathon, but my first for a charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK, the cause that’s so dear to my heart. I have to say I’m overwhelmed and incredibly touched by the support I’ve received not just from friends and family but from many strangers whose kindness often moved me to tears. Your stories of loved ones lost far too soon were with me and my thoughts of my dad as I ran. I’m immensely grateful to all of you whose generosity has enabled me to raise over £600 so far (my Just Giving page is still open here) for Pancreatic Cancer UK who do so much to help increase survival rates for this cruel disease. Many thanks to all of you.

Huge thanks, too, to the organisers and volunteers who made the Cardiff Half Marathon possible and to the spectators who came out in droves to create such an amazing atmosphere.

And finally my heartfelt thanks to my husband, Tom and to my family for their loving, loyal support which gave me wings to fly.

Shattered but happy!


Laura E. James said…
Much respect to you, Chris :-) xx
Chris Stovell said…
Thanks so much, Laura! xx
Jane Lovering said…
What a fabulous time, Chris! I am full of admiration for anyone who can run more than a couple of miles without wheezing and gasping and falling over - and for raising such a huge sum for a worthy cause. Applause all round, I think!
Irish Eyes said…
Well done Chris, I am so proud of you. I am sure there were days when a comfy bed or a roaring fire called you and said forget the training just for today, but you didn't. You got up and out and boy didn't it pay off.
C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S! and you beat your own time. You rock lady!
Clare Chase said…
Congratulations, Chris - so impressive - both the time and the amazing amount you've raised!
Kathryn Freeman said…
I am in awe of anyone who can run that far - and that fast! Well done you, not only for doing the distance so impressively, but raising money for an important charity, too. As Laura says, respect, running lady.
Chris Stovell said…
Thanks, Jane - it helps that I enjoy running... or having run at any rate, but it was a real bonus being able to raise some money too.

I.E. Oh there were so many mornings when I really, really didn't want to go out and because we're in such a hilly part of the world, the first mile is always a killer... but now I'm grateful to the hill training because, as you rightly point out, it paid off in more ways than one. Thank you!

Thank you, Clare - and for your kind support. The donations were a powerful incentive to keep going!

Kate, thank you for everything you did too to encourage and support me, It was much appreciated.
Jan Brigden said…
Well done, Chris. You're a total inspiration. Such a worthy cause. Proud as punch of you, my lovely friend! Xxx
Chanpreet said…
That's fabulous Chris! Congratulations on completing another half marathon and smashing your record. Well done!

Lins' lleisio said…
Wow - what a time, fantastic Chris. Well done. You inspire me.
Chris Stovell said…
Dear Jan, you're very kind - thank YOU for supporting me. Cx

Chanpreet - I can't quite believe it! Very happy with the result.

Oh Lins, you're the inspiration here - all I did was run! The conditions were perfect and I was in a good place so it worked in my favour. Thank you.
Frances said…
Congratulations to you Chris ...what an accomplishment! Your recounting of the race really does take us along with you. You write so well...how on earth can you remember all those points along the way? Of course, I ask this question as a person who will never be a runner and so am totally ignorant of what does pass through one's mind while she's on the move.

I love the photograph of you at the finish line!

Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Frances, but I have 13.1 miles to do nothing but run so there's plenty of time to notice a few things unless the going gets tough. I'm not sure that's my most flattering angle, but I felt very happy! Cxx
Flowerpot said…
That's brilliant Chris - a very big well done! We were all rooting for you even if we weren't there! x

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