It’s clear that I’ve had my struggles lately, coming back from injury has been hard, really hard, both mentally and physically.

My knee has been ok, then hurt again, before coming back and just deciding that it’s probably never going to be perfect again but I can put up with running on how it is.

The thing that had the biggest effect on me was my loss of performance, strength and fitness. Since injury I’ve done 4 10k races, Great Manchester 10k, British 10k, Alderley Edge Bypass, and London Summer 10k. Middle of last year I had 10k benchmark, 90mins. Unless it’s ridiculously hilly, I should get round in under 90mins.

My PB from the Winter Run was 1:24 and at Limassol in March I managed to run 10k non-stop. Then after Alderley Edge I was broken, I no longer wanted to run, I no longer wanted to be in a bad mood when I woke up with an aching Achilles, in fact at one point I said to my friend “I just want to be normal”, because let’s face it, us runners are not normal.

I’d had a good week, I’d done a 5.5k run on my own in Amsterdam Saturday, raced a 5k in Hermelen on the Sunday and pushed hard. Monday I managed 12.1 out of the really tough, hilly half-marathon course at Canterbury and Thursday I arrived home from work actually wanting to run – something that hadn’t happened in quite a while.

I laced up, went out without a plan or route and just let my legs take me, I could end up doing 1k,5k 10k, who knew?. I ended up doing 6k and breaking my post-injury 5k PB again after doing it already Sunday. I even managed to keep the pace up for another km to make it 6k all sub-9min/km.

Saturday was a gentle Parkrun +2k to make it up to 42.9k for the week (Saturday-to-Saturday) and to give my legs a gentle shake out ahead of Sunday where I was putting a bit of pressure on myself.

The goals for Sunday

1)       Go sub-90

2)       Post Injury PB (1;32.41)

I would usually set a c goal too but I was pretty determined in what I wanted to achieve.

I knew I had sub-90 in my given I ran 6k Thursday all at around 8.30 km’s, but would it be too much post my second longest ever running week and 7k the day before.

Arrived in Cardiff on Saturday, coffee and dinner with Fudgie, Aaron and Vicky before an early-ish night.

The start of the race was (supposed to be) 10am, so plenty of time to enjoy a hotel breakfast and a visit over to Starbucks to meet the other Frontrunners, climb a mound in front of the castle for a photo and go back to my room to drop off my phone and pick up some tissues and a gel (yeah I was taking this seriously), it’s rare that I run a race without my phone or music.

I followed the herd of people to what I hoped was the start area and utilised a small closed section of dual carriageway to do my warm up consisting of running in loops, lunges, squats and a few stretches.

Just as I’d about warmed up perfectly, the best warm up I’ve ever done pre-race they announced the start would be delayed 15mins. By that stage I was tucked away in the pen with no room to wipe my nose, so I just stood there hoping to keep warm and gather some body heat from those around me.

We were eventually underway only about 10-15mins late, plus the 3 minutes it took for me to run over the line. I wanted to run steady and even, I knew my pace target, the course was pretty flat and basically I didn’t want to set off too quickly.

I kept it steady, letting lots of others steam past. I saw Jo, Viccy and Leigh in the first couple of km. Now it’s a fairly easy route to navigate so I was very surprised to see people cutting the corner and going on the other side of the road around the castle. Yes it was congested, but they ended up going head to head with the lead car and wheelchair athletes coming the opposite way. A little bit of tape between the bollards would’ve sorted it out.

But I kept to the right side of the road (actually, the left) and concentrated on my own race. First two were done on perfect splits and it felt easy. Then I remember turning after the Millennium Stadium, but feeling like I was having to really push in the third KM to keep pace.

At this stage normally my head would drop, I’d go into a negative space and I’d hate everything. However, I surprised myself and instead I said to myself forget the 90min goal and focus on a PB (post-injury) which was still well within reach and achievable.

I dropped my pace for the 4th Km up a bit of an incline and planned to maintain it to 5k through the park. I checked my watch just before 6k and somehow I’d managed to run the last KM on my original pace target and it felt easy. Something, about taking the pressure off I assume.

You’ll notice I talk to myself a lot during runs. I asked myself the question, “how much are you willing to hurt”, if you want it bad enough, you’re willing to put the effort in, even if your legs are going to be hurting by the end. I answered yes and at 6k I decided to push on. I got my maths wrong and I thought I was a minute down on pace, but determined to keep going.

7km came and I pushed the pace again, overtaking so many people as I was going, 8k out of the park, just 2k to go and it was really starting to hurt, but I kept asking myself how much do I want it? 9km and I wanted to stop running, I hadn’t got much left, but enough for 1k surely.

I took the double right hander and dared to look at my watch. 2mins to go under 90mins. At that stage I have no idea how quick I’m going or how long it’ll take me to sprint that last 300m.

I cross the line, after a sprint finish where I used up everything my legs would give me, stopped Garmin and wow, I didn’t expect that.

I thought a maximum of few seconds under, maybe 10, so to go 45 seconds under was a huge surprise. And it wasn’t until I checked my splits afters I realised I wasn’t a minute down after all. But I am so happy that I didn’t let my head drop, go negative and decided that I would push on. It hurt, my legs felt it, but it also felt amazing at the same time to be pushing on and actually receiving good feedback from the legs. I also ended up with a huge 45second negative split, I don’t think I’ve ever done a negative split that big before, but that’s what happens when you take the pressure off I guess.

For me I am back under my benchmark from last year, it’s been a long road but finally got there, now it’s a challenge to keep improving, keep pushing and get back under 1:25 (my PB) and continue from there.

I was really pleased with that run in so many way, I had confidence, I was positive and I had the ability to ask a lot of myself and my body responded.

The race is a good one, I can see why it was so busy. The organisation side of things needs improving, people were queuing for an hour to collect bibs, people were cutting the course all over the place in the first few kilometres and the finish was incredibly busy as soon as you stepped over the line.

I would go back and run it again though, it was nice to hang out with some of the frontrunner team over the weekend, I love Cardiff and to be able to go back to a hotel for a shower and change post run is priceless. I would also love to have a go at the Half Marathon out there as well.