Saturday, April 25, 2020

Race Report: The Wales Marathon

July 4th this year fell on a Thursday, so naturally, I decided to try to find a race destination where I could take a day off on Friday and make it into a four day weekend.  And because 2019 is the year of international races, I looked across the pond and found a race in Wales!  The Wales Marathon was being held in the southern coastal resort town of Tenby, and was not very well advertised amongst marathon calendars and running sites, likely due to the fact that it was more connected with the triathlon world; now in its tenth year, Long Course Weekend Wales gives triathletes a chance to test their mettle at swim, bike, and run events on separate days, and in distances of their choosing: on Friday, a 1.2 mile and 2.4 mile swim was offered; on Saturday, a 42 mile, 70 mile, or 112 mile bicycle ride; and on Sunday, a 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon.  Over 10,000 athletes were slated to participate in this annual event, centered around Tenby, which lies about 5.5 hours away from London.

I decided to make a tourism filled first two days of my trip, taking on new sites in Southampton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Bath.  My friend Sharon, who I met through fellow marathoner Sally in December of 2018, lived in nearby Amesbury, and was kindly putting me up for these first two nights; Sally herself would be joining us as well. I had seen both of them less than two weeks prior, having met up in the US when Sally completed the Race Across America bicycle relay with her 8-woman team, Mind Over Matter.  For some reason, if I flew into Manchester and then returned from London, the long haul flights were going to be $300 cheaper than if I did a roundtrip out of London, so I made it work using this method.   So, on Wednesday, July 3, I flew from New York City to Manchester on Virgin Atlantic for my flight across the pond, and connected there for a cheap flight into Southampton on FlyBe, a regional carrier based in Britain.

Flying into Manchester was fine, and we landed on time, but we ended up sitting on the tarmac an extra twenty minutes due to another aircraft at our gate. We finally disembarked, and I was one of the first off of the plane, rushing to make my connection.  Manchester is the UK's third busiest airport, with many airlines flying into it, including Boeing 747's (which my Virgin plane was) and other wide body aircraft.  So it was a huge surprise to me that after being bused to a "flight transfer centre" from the terminal I arrived at, our queueing and security area to get to connecting flights was so incredibly small and inadequate.  I had given myself an hour and a half between flights, which should have been enough -- but upon arriving to a line snaking around the small room, I got really worried.  An airport employee was checking boarding passes and assuring folks whose flights were departing in less than an hour that despite the queue, they were going to be fine to make their flights.

Flying into Southampton
That queue barely moved, and as time ticked by, I got more frustrated as several people on flights arriving after mine cut, and I realized they were leaving on flights scheduled to leave at the exact same time as mine. So after raising a ruckus, I was able to move forward in line, and get through the security checkpoint, which I did rather quickly.  I was through the simple UK Border Force immigration line pretty quickly as well, and then ran through the terminal to get to my flight, which turns out, was clear at the other end of the terminal.  I literally got to my gate as one of the last people to get on the plane; I would not have made it if I stayed in that long line and kept to myself!

Southampton's SeaCity Museum
The flight down to Southampton was a quick 40 minutes up and down, and the FlyBe plane was tiny - it was a DeHaviland DHC-8-400, with two seats on either side of a single aisle propeller plane, basically a glorified lawnmower in the sky.  We were treated to some fantastic views of the English countryside, and got to see the many yachts lined up in the rivers and inlets surrounding the Solent and Southampton Water.  After deplaning, and going through the simple airport terminal, I found Sharon waiting for me, and we started our day right off the bat, heading into town in her BMW, going straight to the SeaCity Museum, a museum located in the Southampton Civic Centre's West Wing, dedicated to the city’s maritime history, with two permanent exhibitions: one dedicated to Southampton's connection with the RMS Titanic, and the other to the city's role as gateway to the world. The museum was somewhat underwhelming, catering more to a school-age crowd, so we got through it rather quickly; we went for a quick coffee and tea in the Westquay Shopping Centre across the street, before heading to Amesbury where Sharon's house was, for me to drop my bags off and freshen up after all the hours traveling from the US.

Salisbury Cathedral
Even with the coffee jolt, I was tired enough to fall asleep on the 45 minute ride to Amesbury, and after another cup of coffee, it was enough for me to rally for the rest of the day. After freshening up, and a change of clothes, we headed into Salisbury for a late lunch at the New Inn, a traditional 12th century pub, where I enjoyed a nice dish of fish and chips with a cider! We then walked over to the expansive cathedral close of Salisbury Cathedral, a well known Anglican cathedral, regarded as one of the leading examples of Early English architecture. Since 1549, Salisbury Cathedral has had the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom, at 404 feet tall. Also at the cathedral is the best surviving of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, located in its octagonal-shaped Chapter House.

Interior of Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury was also the site of two unfortunate incidents that grabbed the headlines in 2018, the first being the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in March, by a Novichok nerve agent in the park near The Maltings shopping centre; as well as a hammer attack in October on the glass case that the Magna Carta was kept in inside Salisbury Cathedral, when a would-be thief tried to steal it.  We parked in the car park right behind The Maltings, which had been cordoned off for months after the incident, but nowadays was in operation as if the incident never happened; and the protective glass casing was exhibited alongside the document inside the medieval Chapter House of the cathedral, taking its place in the narrative and legacy of the important document.

Stonehenge
After our trip through Salisbury, we drove out to the famed Stonehenge, taking the A303 carriageway south of the monument. Almost immediately, we encountered slow moving traffic, which to Sharon was a daily occurrence on this road, since Stonehenge is easily viewable from the road.  With our timed ticket reservations set for 5pm, we arrived shortly thereafter, parking in the car park adjacent to the visitors' centre, and then took a shuttle bus out to the stones themselves. We arrived to a massive line of people waiting to board buses back to the visitors centre who had already completed their self guided tour of Stonehenge.

At the Stonehenge Visitors Centre
Armed with an audio guide, Sharon and I made our way around the grass pathway laid around the stone circle, just a short distance away.  When it was first opened to the public, it was possible to walk among and even climb on the stones, but the stones were roped off in 1977 as a result of serious erosion.  Today, visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stone, and limited special tours to be able to walk within the stone circle can be booked, but need to be done many months in advance. The shadeless plain of the site with the sun shining bright overhead and my exhaustion starting to set in led us to complete the loop of Stonehenge fairly quickly, and we got a shuttle back to the car park roughly half an hour after we arrived. By then, that massive line was gone, and we were back to the visitors centre to check out the exhibits there before leaving to head back to Amesbury.

I took a quick hour long nap, and woke up to Sally having returned back to Sharon's place having spent the day running errands in the week since returning from the Race Across America. Sally had arrived the night before, and would meet us for dinner; we walked from Sharon's place down the paved pathway into the small town centre, where we enjoyed a nice Italian meal at La Lupa. We closed the restaurant down that evening, and headed back to Sharon's place, where we had a nightcap with some delicious red wine from the Napa Valley that Sharon had purchased after enjoying the bottle we shared at our first meeting when she visited New York City during the Christmas holiday season in 2018. It would be a minor way of celebrating the US Independence Day holiday that was occurring back home!  The wine was perfect; it helped put me to sleep quite well after a long day of touring!

Westbury White Horse
The next morning, we enjoyed a quick breakfast, then piled into a taxicab to take us to the train station in Salisbury for our morning trip to Bath, roughly an hour away.  On our way there, we managed to spot the Westbury White Horse, a chalk hill figure on the escarpment of Salisbury Plain, approximately 1.5 miles east of the city of Westbury. It is the oldest of several white horses carved in the county of Wiltshire, dating back to the mid 1700s. The horse is 180 feet tall and 170 feet wide, and has been adopted as a symbol for the town of Westbury, appearing on welcome signs and the logo of its tourist information centre. The horse can be viewed from up to 16–17 miles in all directions. We would spend the day in this historic city, first hitting up Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House for some famous cinnamon buttered bunns (part bread, part cake; a little like brioche) and tea.  The eating house is one of the oldest in Bath, dating back to 1482.  We then headed into town to spend a few hours checking out the Roman Baths.
Eating some delicious cinnamon buttered buns!
At the Roman Baths
The Roman Baths complex compose of the remarkably preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. The city of Bath has unique thermal springs that rise into the site and the baths still flow with natural hot water. Visitors can explore the Roman Baths, walk on the original Roman pavements, see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva, and even have a swig of the water, which has a very high mineral content. The museum collection, located next to the bathing complex, includes a gilt bronze head of the Goddess Sulis Minerva, and other Roman artifacts. The Roman Baths attracts over one million visitors each year – making it one of the most visited heritage attractions in the UK.
Sampling some of the water... don't worry, not that green stuff out in the open!

Some of Bath's beautiful architecture
In the afternoon, we strolled over to see some of the beautiful Georgian architecture that Bath is famous for.  When our train pulled into the city, I remarked how beautiful I thought the stone color was on the buildings in town.  It turns out, most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-colored Bath stone, dating from the 18th and 19th century. Many of the prominent architects of the 18th century, including John Wood the Elder and his son John Wood the Younger, were employed in the development of the city's streets and squares. One of these remarkable areas is the Circus, a historic street of large three story townhouses with an elegant curved facade, forming a circle with three entrances.  Designed by the elder Wood, he created the Circus as an homage to Stonehenge, as he was convinced that Bath had been the principal center of Druid activity in Britain. He died less than three months after the first stone was laid, and his son completed the project to his father's design.

Dressing up in Georgian apparel!
Not far away is the Royal Crescent, a similarly designed stretch of thirty terraced houses laid out in a 500 foot long sweeping crescent. Designed by John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the UK. It was the first crescent of terraced houses to be built and an example of "rus in urbe" (the country in the city) with its views over the parkland opposite. We first visited No. 1 Royal Crescent, a public "historic house" museum displaying authentic room sets, furniture, pictures and other items illustrating Georgian domestic life both 'above stairs' and 'below stairs' (as well as an opportunity to play “dress up!”) and then enjoyed afternoon tea in the beautiful English gardens of the Royal Crescent Hotel, an amazing setting to finish the day in this remarkable city.  There was certainly much more to see, but I would have to do that at another time; we had a train to catch back to Salisbury, then returning back to Amesbury to eventually join friends for dinner later that evening.
Enjoying afternoon tea in a traditional English garden
British chocolates to bring home!
We called for a cab to take us to dinner that evening, at The Wheatsheaf Inn in the Woodford Valley. Joining us was the fabulous company of friends Gareth and Clare (who I met with Sharon when they all visited NYC), Mike and Jane (who I met over London Marathon weekend), and Pete (also from London Marathon weekend, but also who accompanied Sharon during their trip to the DC area for Sally's finish of the Race Across America). After dinner, Mike and Jane drove us back to Sharon's to retire for the night; we had another nightcap, watching the hedgehogs come out for their dusk time mealworm feeding, and then I packed up my stuff so that it was ready to go for my early departure the next morning.  I would be traveling with a brand new bag, full of British chocolates that Sharon bought me as a gift to bring back home to New York!

Arriving in Tenby, Wales
Sally and I left Sharon's at 8am on Saturday morning, as Sally was driving me back down to Salisbury to catch my train.  My morning was a five hour train ride west, from Salisbury to Cardiff, and eventually to Tenby for the site of my race. After arriving at 1:30 in the afternoon, I walked from the train station to the hotel that I booked, the Hotel Belgrave, located right on the Esplanade overlooking Tenby South Beach.  Already I could see the charm of this resort town, with its many pastel colored buildings.  After dropping off my bags, I jogged over to the Tenby Leisure Centre to pick up my race bib, gauging the distance which was roughly a mile outside of the town center, as I saw bicyclists filter through the town after finishing the Wales Sportive, the bicycle segment of Long Course Weekend.  When I returned to town, it was still teeming with people, as the bicycle race was coming to a close.

At Tenby South Beach
I decided to make a quick visit down to the beach, as research told me Tenby’s beaches were incredible; and it was no wonder that they boast some of the cleanest beaches in Wales and in all of the UK. As Pembrokeshire's main holiday resort, Tenby maintains a high standard for it's beaches, and one can look no further than beautiful Tenby South Beach, with 2 kilometres of golden sand that spans the shoreline from St. Catherine's Island to Giltar Point. The beach is backed by sand dunes and looks out toward Caldey Island.

The expanse of Tenby's South Beach
I ended up going into town to the Sandbar for a late lunch, befriending a family of four who sat next to me.  Sion, originally from just outside of Cardiff but now living with his fiance Chloe in Liverpool, was participating in all three days of events; his parents came out to support as well.  I regaled them with my crazy travel schedule and the amount of races I had run up til then.  I had barely anything to eat that day up til then, so I devoured my delicious Landsker beef burger with melted Monterey Jack cheese, crispy smoked bacon, bourbon bbq sauce, a giant onion ring, and shredded lettuce, and gladly knocked down two delicious local beers from Tenby Brewing Company: Black Flag, a nitro rum porter; and I AM RASPBERRY, a chocolate and raspberry imperial stout!

"La Nossa Signora"
from Harbwr Brewery
I then headed off to the Harbwr Brewery and Tap Room, located behind the Buccaneer Inn, where I met with Jim Cornwell, who I got in touch with a few weeks earlier.  In my search for finding a place to shower after my race (since I would have already checked out of my hotel by then), I sent an email to the Tenby Sailing Club, of which Jim is the secretary. He offered to help me with my predicament, and I found out that he lived just around the corner from the Hotel Belgrave.  We agreed to meet up at the brewery, where he would be coming off of a shift as a brewery tourguide.  It turns out he's a runner as well, planning to run the 10K race on Sunday! After a drink on him (“La Nossa Signora,” a fantastic Milk Chocolate Orange Stout), we headed back to his apartment, where we planned out logistics for the following morning before I set off for my race.

Delicious pre-race fish dinner!
Afterward, it was time for dinner.  Tenby was packed to the gills with people, so there were long wait times; I dropped into Plantagenet House Restaurant, a fantastic seafood restaurant tucked away down an alley next to Tenby's oldest house, parts of which date to the 10th century. After a delicious meal of fresh and locally caught hake steak, coconut jasmine rice, coconut sambal, toasted macadamia nuts, and a spicy curry sauce - honestly, one of the most amazing fish dishes I’ve ever eaten - I headed back to the hotel for some sleep... which was not easy to get, considering there was live music playing a floor below me.

With the race not starting til 10am, I managed to get a decent night's sleep, and didn't even bother to set my alarm. I got myself ready for the race, packed up my things, and checked out of the hotel, making my way around the corner to Jim's apartment, where he was waiting for me.  I dropped my things there, and agreed to a meeting place after the race, and to look out for each other when I approached the 20 mile mark, where the 10K would start at 1:30pm.  I figured I'd be getting there close to that time, if not a little earlier. Then I headed back into the old walled town as marathoners began to assemble in Tudor Square.
My kit for Sunday's big race!
The startline in Tenby's town center
The excitement was palpable; this was the last day of three days of exciting events in Tenby. Granted, many others were quite sore after already putting their body through the ringer - swimming in warm waters that tended to attract unruly jellyfish, and riding their race bikes for miles through notoriously hilly terrain - the run, especially 26.2 miles on two feet, was not going to be too fun. We all assembled in the start chutes, self seeding amongst the pacers who were spread throughout. Then finally at 10am, we were off to the spritely cheers of hundreds of well wishers lining the streets as we made our way northward along the narrow High Street.

Running by Tenby's old town walls
We had a nice glimpse of the harbor, before turning left onto White Lion Street and then immediately curving around to Upper Frog Street. We made or way down the supremely narrow street, passing by familiar storefronts I had walked by the day before. We turned left on St. George's Street, just past one of the main intersections within the old town, continuing our way onto Cresswell Street, as we passed by the many colorful pastel facades of buildings along the street.  We then hit the edge of the town, facing the water once again as we ran alongside the Paragon, with beautiful views looking out toward Caldey Island. We curved past the city wall, continuing alongside the Esplanade as we made our way along the coast just past my hotel.  We ultimately turned right onto Victoria Street, and past Jim's apartment where he was out there cheering us on.
Running down Queens Parade alongside houses with the iconic rooftop silhouette
Pastel facades along Trafalgar Road
The course curved again, turning right onto South Cliff Street, heading east before turning left onto South Parade.  We continued northward, as we ran alongside the medieval walls of the old town, and past its crenelated gates.  We finally reached our first mile just as we passed the town's post office, continuing our way north along Greenhill Road. One would think we'd continue on to get out of town, but we still had more mileage to go within town, turning left onto Greenhill Avenue, right onto Warren Street and past the Tenby rail station, and onto Station Road, continuing south.  It's almost as if our course through town was going in knots!  We reached our first hill of note turning as the road curved leftward along Queens Parade, eventually turning left again onto Church Park/Trafalgar Road. We then turned left onto Upper Park Road, heading west, passing underneath the train track viaduct, as we finally emerged out of the town's limits. We hit our second mile before tacking left sharply onto Marsh Road/A4139, where we began our real trip out into the Welsh countryside. Only 18 1/2 minutes had passed since the start, but I knew this would be a flatter section of the race... the real hills were yet to come.

Marsh Road
I ran a bit as we made our way past the Leisure Centre, knowing at least how far that was from heading there the day before.  It was still relatively flat as we made our way out of Tenby, but knowing full well that Wales was NOT flat, the first of the big hills was just ahead of us.  The amount of spectators on the roadside started to peter out just as we veered slightly right as we came to a fork in the road, entering the coastal village of Penally. The route in front of us was a massive hill, taking us from 13 feet above sea level to 291 feet in just a mile. It slowed me down pretty quickly, dropping my sub 9 minute mile pace to just over 12 minutes.  The surroundings were quite pretty though - we ascended past some charming countryside homes, before taking on the canopied lane of Holloway Hill that led us to The Ridgeway.
Holloway Hill
Entering the Ridgeway from Holloway Hill 
Looking out across the countryside
The Ridgeway is the major road that connects Tenby and Pembroke, which runs along the summit across a line of hills between the two cities. One one side, it commands an extensive view of the sea, while on the other, it looks over the vale of St. Florence and the Welsh interior countryside. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, an extensive 243 square mile coastline that wraps around West Wales falls within the territory that the Ridgeway routes itself through, all the way to, naturally, the coast. The route would roll up and down gradually over the 4.5 miles we ran westward along the Ridgeway. I played a bit of leapfrog with a few runners as I resumed my 19:1 intervals, a few of which I was able to converse with, finding out they had participated in the previous two days worth of races, so this final race was taking a toll on their already tired legs. Two in particular, who were running together, were in the British Armed Forces, and looked fairly fit, keeping a pretty strong pace as we finished the first quarter of the race.
Heading west on the Ridgeway
More open expanse on the Ridgeway
Just after the 8th mile of the race, we turned right onto Stephen's Green Lane, heading north through a largely open expanse of land, with a singular wind turbine off to the right of the road.  We only ran  along this road for half a mile before turning left onto Deer Park Lane to continue our westward path toward Pembroke.  Deer Park Lane was a narrow single lane of road, almost a "back road" that wound itself past some secluded homes with extensive swaths of farmland around them. I had surprisingly maintained a regimented pace throughout these last several miles, and it continued on through mile 10 - each of the last four mile splits were just a few seconds above 9 minute pace.  Just after the tenth mile, the road descended sharply, and I gunned it as we made our way downhill through this thickly forested area, passing a few other runners in the process.

Alongside Pembroke's Mill Pond
But what must go down, must go up, and it did... sharply yet again.  I caught my breath as we made our way up along the uphill, which was short-lived - soon, the thick woods receded and a residential area came into view. We were now in the town of Pembroke, one of the larger towns in the county of Pembrokeshire, turning off of Golden Lane, as we made our way around a nursery to a slim paved pathway that ran alongside the algae-covered mill pond, a freshwater lake that used to be a corn mill that supplied the town and castle since the 13th century.

Main Street in Pembroke
At Northgate Street with Pembroke Castle further ahead, we turned left to run up the short, but steep hill up to Main Street, where we turned left once again to continue on into the center of the town.  Like Tenby, the buildings were pastel-colored; here, we were finally able to see spectators cheering us on, after running miles and miles with only other humans in our view as the other marathon participants in the race.  There were lots of spectators with their dogs... but not a single one of them was a corgi.  I lamented to the local Pembroke populace that I was greatly disappointed in not having spotted a single Pembroke Welsh Corgi in its "motherland." We would cross the halfway point of our race here in the middle of town, in a little over 2:06.

Lower Lamphey Road
At a small painted-in roundabout, we veered right onto Lower Lamphey Road, where the familiar pastels eventually gave way to more spaced out country homes.  Less than a mile out from the halfway point, we were back in a more rural setting, running on a narrow tree-lined single lane road, passing large fields of open pasture.  We ran roughly parallel to the West Wales railway lines that continued west of Tenby on to Pembroke Dock, which came into view briefly before we turned right onto Freshwater East Road/B4584.  We were now on a wider asphalt road running south through the quiet residential village of Lamphey.

Open fields as far as you can see
My pace had stayed consistent over the last three miles, roughly 10:15 to 10:20 pace.  As we passed the 15 mile mark of the race, my pace had slipped slightly to 10:32 pace, as the scenery changed abruptly to open fields once again, but without the trees that lined the sides of the road.  It was completely open by then, with farmland as far as the eye could see. But it was a gradual uphill, climbing 200 feet over the next mile and a half.  It was clear that the uphill affected my pace, as I was forced to walk quite a bit and my split at the 16 mile mark was 12:59.

Heading east from Freshwater East
It was definitely the toughest part of the race for me, since the views were getting pretty monotonous, and the afternoon heat was starting to get to me. The road curved eastward, turning into Portclew Road as we ran into the village of Freshwater East.  The shimmering surface of the Bristol Channel began to come into view to our right, as we were higher up in elevation.  Once we passed the major intersection of the village, we began a nice descent that would last over the next mile and a half as we made our way down what was now called Jason Road.  The road narrowed pretty drastically at one point, and I returned to some faster splits because of the descent - 10:29 for the 17th mile and 9:21 for the 18th mile, my fastest since the 11 mile mark over an hour earlier.  Shortly after passing the 18 mile mark, we reached the three hour mark of the race.

Manorbier Castle
The views here were outstanding, as we could see rolling hills of Welsh countryside. We turned right onto A4139, then continued our eastward trek on another narrow road for a mile before turning right onto Cob Lane, running between two fields full of hay bales.  My pace slowed again, as the summer afternoon temperatures began to take effect on us.  We were running south, taking the downhill road that curved into Manorbier that passed by the beautiful Manorbier Beach, providing us with one of the most beautiful landscapes in the entirety of the race.   After the beach, we gradually curved into town, with the majestic medieval Manorbier Castle in our sights.  As we made our way past the castle, we could hear cheers up ahead; our 20 mile mark was the start of the 10K race, with their runners assembling to begin their race not long after.  I spotted Jim in the corrals as I passed by.
Running down to Manorbier Beach
21.5 miles in...
We had a tough ascent into the village past low brick walls as we passed the 10K start, probably one of the toughest ascents in the race due to how far into the race it was located; the lovely seaside village's center was crowded with spectators cheering us marathoners through.  As the B4585 road curved out of town, we reached a wider two-lane carriageway, just as the fastest runners of the 10K began to barrel past.  I maintained my forward progress; though the hills of Wales had taken a toll on my legs, I was now less than six miles from a well deserved finish!  The carriageway curved northward, crossing a roadway at the mile 21 mark before narrowing to a single lane once again; it was about half a mile later that we'd pass underneath the archway of the West Wales rail line. We faced a steep half mile uphill that would take us right back to The Ridgeway that we had run along as much as three hours earlier.

Entering Penally
At the Ridgeway, we turned right, and the last four miles of the race would retrace our steps all the way back to Tenby on course that we had run at the outset of the race.  By then, the temperatures were pretty high and the heat was definitely getting to me; my pace hovered around 12 to 13 minutes per mile on these last few miles. Back on the rolling ups and downs, then down through canopied Holloway Hill and we were back in the village of Penally, just outside of Tenby. We merged onto the one open lane of Marsh Road/A4139, while on the other side of the road, car traffic stretched for as far as the eye could see, trying to get out of Tenby.  By then we were only just a little over one mile away from the finish.  With the race having started at 10, this afternoon heat was taking its toll, and I was so ready to be done with the race!
Reaching the 25 mile mark
Marsh Road, heading back to Tenby, tons of cars heading out of town
The last hill!
(Photo by John Perrett)
We passed the Leisure Centre, and soon, the road curving into Tenby lay ahead.  After passing through a roundabout, we turned right onto Greenhill Road, passing underneath the massive arched bridge of the railway line passing through town.  We were then greeted by one last strenuous hill to take us back into the town center.  At the top of the hill taking photos, was John, a friend of Jim's who I met at the brewery the day prior.  He snapped a great photo of me as I struggled my way up the hill, flattening out before we turned left onto White Lion Street, to teeming crowds of people cheering us into the finish.  We were just a block away now, turning right onto the red carpet leading into Tudor Square.  I crossed the finish line in a chip time of 4:40:31, a time I was really proud of, considering the hilliness of the course.  Ultimately, there was 1,400 feet of uphill and 1,400 feet of downhill throughout the entire course.  We were directed through the finish chute that took us back out toward the Esplanade and near where I needed to be to shower and pick up my things at Jim's place. On the way there, I found the perfect photo op spot for my headstand - with the iconic gorgeous pastel colored townhomes in the background - and I quickly asked another passerby to help me with the photo.
Showing off the new bling!
SO HILLY.
Victory Headstand!
I quickly showered and got my things together to head to the train station.  Since I finished just before 3pm, I only had put myself into a strict time schedule after the race because the last train that departed Tenby to head east toward London was at 4:53pm.  It was a 5+ hour trip to get back to London, which included a changeover to another train in Swansea, and unfortunately, I encountered a bit of a delay in Swansea by nearly an hour.  However, British trains rely on their timeliness, and provide the ability for passengers to claim refunds through a "delay repay" scheme if trains are delayed more than a certain amount of time.  Despite the train speeding up through its journey and arriving in London Paddington station only ten minutes late, the departure delay allowed me to get half of the cost of my ticket refunded back to my card!

At Paddington, I caught a train headed to Heathrow Airport, where I would stay for one night at my usual airport hotel location, the Premier Inn at Terminal 4.  The following morning, I'd fly out of Heathrow back to JFK; I lucked out with a gate upgrade into premier economy for the trip home!  Another fun trip to the UK checked off for the year, and my 18th marathon, too!