Tag Archives: running

Setting challenging times for Velindre – a Greek running story, as told by Gwydion Griffiths

There are some avid runners amongst the We Are Cardiff volunteers, so we are delighted to welcome Gwydion Griffiths on to the blog this week. He ran the Athens Half Marathon, and while he might not be sure why he did it, he’s helped raise thousands for Velindre.

The day of the race had come. I had arrived to run the Athens half marathon and I was nervous, excited and apprehensive. I’d never run a half marathon before. Then the questions started. What if I don’t finish? What if I finish last? Does eating too many bananas give you the runs? I got to the starting point, regretting my decision to sign up for this. Looking around, everyone was lean, toned and fit. I was gutted; fortyish, fatish, unfit. I toyed with the idea of taking a few photos of myself with them, spending the morning at McDonald’s, and then picking up my medal after a few hours.

Why had I thought it would be a good idea??

I’ve been raising money for Velindre for years now. Cancer will affect one in two people born after 1960, and that’s sobering statistic. My relationship with Velindre stretches back decades. Just under thirty years ago, when I was studying for my GCSEs, my father was diagnosed with cancer.  Although a little too young at the time to fully understand the implications, I remember being devastated.  However, he received superb care from Velindre and lived to see me, and my siblings, Angharad and Iestyn, pass our exams, go to university and get good(ish) jobs. The cancer returned 12 years later, and this time he lost the fight.

It was a gut wrenching blow to our family, and our mother would be alone in north Wales. She’d made some good friends up there and we visited as often as possible, but she had lost her husband and we had lost our father. Then, three years ago, our mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was another crushing blow. We arranged for her to move to Cardiff to be near her children and receive fantastic care and treatment at Velindre and Marie Curie. She lived to enjoy a nice holiday in Italy, a country that she loved, with me, and spent some quality time with her young grandchildren.

And then 2017 happened. My wife was made redundant in February, my mother passed away in May, after her cancer returned, and then my mother-in-law passed away in August after being diagnosed with cancer. It was a horrible year for us.

Out of adversity, I wanted some good to come, and that’s why I set my Velindre fundraising and running challenge. So, maybe that’s why I ran the Athens Half Marathon – to remember my parents and raise some money for a fantastic cause.

Last summer, I had joined Canton Chargers and Skills running club, who run from Café Castan on Monday nights. Their advice, training and support proved inspirational. I’d also made a new friend, Andy Kreppel, who, despite being a devout Swansea City supporter, became my running partner. Off we’d go every weekend, running up the Taff Trail towards Castell Coch, or down to Cardiff Bay, enjoying chats about football, rugby, work and how much we hated running. One low point was running from Pontcanna to Penarth, about six miles, when it was chucking it down with rain. I was drenched.

Then came the heavy snow. I was miles behind on my training and needed to run. ‘It’s clearing up Andy. Do you fancy it?’ ’No’. He’d cried off like a big baby. So, off I went by myself, running through the snow like Sylvester Stallone about to take on Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, but a much less lean and ripped version. The training was done and I was ready. Of course, a special mention must be given to my wonderful wife who gave me time to go out training and her heartfelt words of encouragement. ‘I bet you feel all pious now, running around Cardiff like you’re bloody Mo Farah’ was a particular favourite.

But running around Cardiff isn’t quite the same as doing a half marathon race in Athens. And that was where I found myself, at the front of the race, surrounded by super fit looking athletes. I did what any sensible first-time half marathon runner would do: I went to the back, where I hoped all the slowest people would be. The headphones went in and I started listening to Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds, Live in Las Vegas. This would put me in the right mood; upbeat, with a fast tempo. I started feeling a little bit better.

Then the tap on the shoulder came. I was busted. I turned around and a very nice Greek racing steward pointed me in a different direction. ‘I think you are in the wrong place. Your number is blue and you need to be with them’. I don’t speak any Greek and assumed that something had been lost in translation on my registration form. I was placed at the front with people who looked to me like elite athletes. I tried to think of something to comfort myself with. I failed to find anything.

To my left, a man had his ankle on top of a metre-high barrier, stretching. I thought, if I did that I’m going to do some serious damage to my groin. I looked to my right. Another man was wearing what can only be described as a hunting vest. However, instead of bullets and cartridges, he had drinks, gels and sun cream in each compartment. He also had that tape on his legs that is supposed to be good for your muscles. All the gear! I had rocked up in Cardiff Blues shorts, a Velindre t-shirt and my old trainers. And then the race started.

As we passed the starting line, I remember thinking to myself, ‘only another 13 more miles to go’. Within the first mile, I was overtaken by hundreds, if not thousands, of runners. I didn’t mind. I hadn’t set my Strava App deliberately. I didn’t want to know how slow I was going—it’s not a sprint, it’s a half marathon, was my motto.

Then, at about two miles, the noise! There were huge speakers blaring out techno music. Bang. Bang. Bang. If I was in a nightclub it would have been amazing. But I wasn’t. I was running 13 miles around the Greek capital city, and I needed to focus. Then, at about four miles, the African drums came, spurring me on. Boom, boom, boom to the beat of my feet; every stride taking me closer to my goal.

I plodded around for what seemed like ages, and then I saw it, like an oasis in the distance. The finishing line. Off I went, foot down on the gas. Give it my all; don’t save anything for the swim back. I saw the clock — I’d smashed it. About 60 minutes off my target time. I’d nailed it! Unbelievable. And it was. ‘Bravissimo, bravissimo, one more lap to go’ shouted the nice Greek racing steward as I approached.

I was gutted. I was halfway. So, off I went again. ‘Tough times don’t last but tough people do,’ ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’ and other such clichés raced through my head.

Round the corner, up the hill, down the hill, up another hill, down another hill. Bang, bang, bang Dalek music. Boom, boom, boom African drums. Past the collapsed Corinthian columns of the ancient temple and the old Olympic stadium.  Then, with a mile to go, in went the headphones again. Big Black – Kerosene. Nothing like some classic ‘80s Californian Anarcho punk to drive me to the finishing line.

I did it. I’d completed my first half marathon, in Athens, the birthplace of politics, philosophy, democracy and drama. The birthplace of the Olympics. A city I’d always wanted to visit since seeing photos of the Acropolis as a child.  The race itself took just under three hours (it was hilly) but the journey and all the training had taken about nine months.

None of this would have been possible without the support of the incredible Andrew Morris and Kylie McKee, and the amazing team at Velindre Cancer Research based in Cardiff. A charity that does fantastic work and is close to my heart.

About two years ago, I came up with a simple idea that I hoped would raise thousands of pounds for Velindre. Like most good ideas, it was born in a pub. I’d gone to watch Cardiff Blues record another rousing victory at the Arms Park and went for a few beers with two mates afterwards. I explained to James and Illtud that there were about 660,000 schoolchildren in Wales. If I could get them all to wear red and donate £1, that would raise a lot of money. They thought I was nuts. Undaunted, I ploughed on. I’d worked out that if 10 per cent of the schools took part, that would raise £66,000 and one per cent would raise £6,600. And thus, Wear Red for Wales and Velindre was born.

I trialled it during the glorious Euro 2016, asking 13 friends if their kids’ schools would ‘Wear Red for Wales and Velindre’ when Wales took on England on that sunny Thursday afternoon. All the schools agreed and we raised £3,500. Then I took the idea to Velindre. They liked it, and in 2017, through Velindre’s hard work, about 80 schools and companies took part and raised £20,000.

In 2018, on the eve of the first Six Nation match, Velindre had received 344 registration forms: 185 from schools, 139 from companies and organisations such as the Welsh Government, and 20 from individuals. They all took part in Wear Red for Wales and Velindre 2018. Each person had donated £1 – and we just heard the total amount raised is now in excess of £100,000!

Next year’s date for Wear Red for Wales and Velindre has been set for Friday 1st of February 2019, when Wales open the Six Nations, taking on France in Paris. It’s easy to take part, just get your work, school, university, club, gym class, pub, choir, or whatever, to Wear Red and donate £1 per person. You make the difference. Please donate at Velindre’s website.

Gwydion Griffiths, lives in Pontcanna, Cardiff with his wife, eight-year-old daughter and two cats. Having previously worked for S4C and Cardiff Blues, he now works in Business Marketing for the Welsh Government. A season ticket holder at Glamorgan Cricket, Cardiff Blues and Wales football he can be spotted plodding around Llandaff Fields and is thinking of participating in another fundraising race.


Cardiff Bay 10k … run Cardiff, run!

A photo essay of this year’s spring Cardiff Bay 10k. Well done to all you runners! All photos by photojournalist Kerry Elsworth.

Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.

Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Kerry_Elsworth_Cardiff_10k_ - 03Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Kerry_Elsworth_Cardiff_10k_ - 07Kerry_Elsworth_Cardiff_10k_ - 08Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.Kerry_Elsworth_Cardiff_10k_ - 12Cardiff Bay, Wales. 2nd April 2017. Athletes take on the Cardiff Bay 10k run.


Running real fast … Cardiff half marathon 2016!

What an incredible day for a half marathon! The weather is banging, and record numbers of you turned out today to run the Cardiff Half Marathon, which is one of the flattest and fastest in the UK.

Congratulations to everyone that took part!

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People who have run the race before will be familiar with the mountains of water bottles strewn across the streets, but this year’s race was one of the greenest yet with more recycling bins than ever before, more signs, and for the first time an army of environmental champions there to help people recycle properly and make sure the maximum amount of materials are recycled. Brecon Carreg’s water bottles are also smaller for the first time (which is a brilliant move – it’s not easy to chug down that much water on mile ten!).

In terms of the impact of recycling at the event, according to Recycle for Wales, if every Cardiff Half runner recycled one 500ml water bottle, enough energy could be saved to power these famous Cardiff Half route landmarks:

  • Power the Principality Stadium’s floodlights for three years
  • Operate the Cardiff Bay barrage for 48 hours
  • Provide the Millennium Centre with electricity for nine hours
  • Make sure Cardiff Castle stays regal, and keeps its electricity going for 55 hours.

Although the best bet is always to bring your own reusable water bottle, the plastic bottles that are recycled on the day will be transformed into a number of different products (including clothing – as well as new bottles!). The peels from the bananas handed out to runners at the end of the race can be used to generate energy, which could charge a range of household items. FACT: just one banana peel can create enough electricity to fully charge two smartphones. Where’s my banana charger?

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Cardiff Uni put together this awesome little video of things to look out for while running around the city

The numbers of runners turning out today wasn’t the only record thing about the race. Kenyan runner Shadrick Korir set a new Cardiff Half record in his first run ever outside Kenya (finishing the race in an eye watering 1’00’54!!). Viola Jebchumbah won the women’s race with a new record of 1’08’14, and there was even a new Guinness World Record set today!

Yes, that’s right – Batman and Robin stormed the course in under 71 minutes, to set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon run in fancy dress. Yes, there’s a record for that!


Some of our other favourite tweets from the day:



Well done to ALL who participated in today’s run. Remember, there are only three kinds of winners: those who start the race, those that finish, and whoever happens to come first. You’re all winners to us!

Now go celebrate with a pint and get those feet in some ice, yes?

cardiff half marathon

(photo from Helia’s half marathon effort in 2015)

Inspired to sign up for next year? Everything you need is on the Cardiff Half Marathon website.

For more information about the Run Refuel Recycle campaign, and to find out how you could win a £115 voucher from Cardiff-based specialist running shop, Run and Become, head to www.RunRefuelRecycle.org.uk

Thanks to photojournalist Chloe Jackson-Nott for all the great pics of the race this year.


Cardiff Half Marathon – a first-timer’s experience

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015

(photo by Marc on Flickr)

Hello! My name is Helia. We may not have met before, but I write most of the stuff on this site. When there’s no author given on an article, then it’s me. I ran the Cardiff Half Marathon this year. I was a first timer. It was amazing, and hard, but mostly amazing.

So I wanted to give you a peek into my first half marathon experience.

Also, a warning – this race was hard. Like, really hard. There were a lot of swear words that came into my head or out of my mouth at various points. I try and keep swearing off this site as much as possible, but in order to keep true to my experience, fruity language is ahead. If you’re of a sensitive disposition, or get grossed out easily (because there’s some gross stuff too), better go read something else. I recommend ordering and then reading The 42b, THE DEBUT WE ARE CARDIFF PRESS BOOK, a collection of short stories about a fictional bus route around the city.


That’s me, by the toilets. Photo kindly taken by Tom Betts.

The last race I did was the St David’s Day 10k a couple of years ago, which I did in a Totoro onesie. I sort of feel like unless you’re a pro athlete or super serious about running, fancy dress of some kind should be compulsory. This time I did it in a rainbow coloured bustle, and tried to pick an outfit that would make people’s eyes bleed. I think I succeeded, although I did realise afterwards that I’m basically wearing Eddie’s outfit …

eddie and patsy

Cardiff Half Marathon is one of the largest road races in the UK, and the UK’s second largest half marathon. That’s a big deal! It’s the largest road race in Wales, and also our largest multi-charity fundraising event.

You should see the timelapse of it being set up. It’s siiiick!

The course record was smashed in the men’s field in 2013 when Loitarakwai Lengurisi – in his first race outside of his home country of Kenya – recorded a time of 61:51. That is one and a half hours FASTER than I was!

British athlete Susan Partridge still retains the course record in the women’s field with her time of 71.10 in 2012.

With a record entry of 22,015 entries and 15,984 finishers, it is only pipped in size by the Virgin Money London Marathon and the Great North Run. Thousands of runners raise money for charity by getting sponsored, with more than £2.3 million raised this year for 800 charities and good causes!

All this is awesome.

I started running recreationally a couple of years ago. Not much, just a few kilometres at a time, mostly to try and sort out a long-term sleeping disorder I’d had – long term, as in, as long as I can remember, it taking hours to fall asleep. And what do you know – it worked!

So I carried on running, recreationally. In 2012, someone told me I should try a race. At that point I was running between 3-5 kilometres, a couple of times a week. So I decided to run the Cardiff St David’s Day 10k (in a Totoro onesie), raising money for Macmillan Cancer Research. It was really hard – doubling the distance I normally did. And it was HARD. It was really, really hard.

I found running incredibly difficult when I started. I could manage to run for about 30 seconds and then have to stop and walk for ten minutes. If you had told me, when I first started wheezing around Hamadryad Park, that in three years time, I would run THIRTEEN MILES, I’d have told you, in no uncertain terms, to go stick that somewhere dark and terrible and lock it in there along with all of our scariest and worst nightmares and throw the key in the sea and we would never speak of it again.

But guess what?

I did it. Here’s what happened.

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(photos by Chloe Jackson-Nott)

CARDIFF HALF MARATHON – 2015 – a first timer’s experience

So, I’ll try and break the race down for you, as much as I can.

7.00am – Alarm goes off. It’s a f**king SUNDAY. Wake up, swear a lot, press snooze.

7.20am – Drag ass out of bed. Go make porridge (because that’s what runners have for breakfast, isn’t it?). Someone told me to drink coffee as soon as I wake up to try and force out a poop before I start running. Make a double espresso and neck it.

8.20am – I’m walking from the Bay up to the castle, where the start of the race is. Holy crap. Town is full of fit people in lycra, who look more prepared than I am. Have I brought enough jelly babies? Did I bring safety pins? Where do I put my bag? I don’t feel like I need to poo yet but heavens I’ve got the caffeine sweats. ARGH.

8.30am – Find the baggage drop off place. It’s just behind the museum, and it’s huge – and very thoroughly organised by number. Am very impressed by this.

8.32am – I wander back through thousands and thousands of anxious / happy / serious looking people. Lots of them are wrapped in binbags. I wonder if this is a style things, but then I realise they’re all wearing those things to keep warm. SMART. I’m cold. And have anxiety sweats. Or maybe caffeine sweats. There’s definitely sweat.

8.35am – I bump into a friend! Tom Betts runs Chapter Moviemaker and does a million other things and is a very nice guy. I find him hanging out by the toilets. That makes him sound weird … he’s not … he’s not hanging out, he is in the queue, waiting to use the toilet. I still don’t need to poo, but decide to try and squeeze some wee out. Not much comes out.

This is Tom. Apologies for the smeary picture. I’m very sweaty already.

Tom Betts Half Marathon

8.55am – I shuffle into the ‘yellow pen’, which is for people who are expecting to run for longer than 2 hours 15 minutes. This seems like the biggest group of people. The super sharp shooters are in pen one by the entrance to the castle, and they set off at 9am exactly. The other groups shuffle forwards and are set off at different intervals, to try and get everyone around the course without too much congestion.

9.10am – Everyday I’m shuffling … forwards! We’re shuffling! There’s music! They play the Manic Street Preachers and the Stereophonics through LOUD speakers right next to us. There are thousands and thousands of people around me. We all move forwards together, like a giant liquid mass of humans, spilling around the huge roads that are normally just for cars and buses.

9.20am – (Cardiff Castle entrance) We’re off! We run through the gates. There’s music! People are cheering! (from this point on, I’m going to write in terms of distance, as it’s easier than way. For reference my finishing time was 2 hours 33 minutes, so you can just imagine how long everything took yourselves).

Mile 1  – (Ninian Park Train Station) Seriously? this is EASY. I’m conscious of not running too fast, as there are many miles of this left. There’s something nice about being contained within a giant wash of humans, all moving at roughly the same speed, in the same direction. We run past the Castle, past the Millennium Stadium. Just after the one mile marker, we run past Cardiff City Stadium. There’s warmth coming off the other runners. There are people cheering. Kids holding out their hands for high fives. It’s a nice vibe!

I’m overwhelmed by how many people are running for good causes. Wearing them on their bibs. I will end up running nearly the entire race surrounded by people running for Alzheimers UK. I pass people running for the Refugee Council, Velindre, Ty Hafan, MacMillan Cancer, Battersea Dogs Home, Mind, Multiple Sclerosis, Barnado’s.

Between Mile 1 – 2, I pass some amazing fancy dress: the entire cast of the Mario Kart computer game (complete with karts), a couple of Minnie Mouses, some superheroes, and a Welsh army squadron – who are all running in their army boots, wearing 22kg rucksacks on their backs. I am in awe of their stamina and high five them on the way past.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015

(Photo by Marc on Flickr)

Mile 2 – (Penarth Road, north end) Penarth Road is weird. It’s a sketchy place, long, stretches of car dealerships that are so ridiculously expensive, how can anyone in this city possibly afford one? They’re near the stadium though. Maybe they’re for the Cardiff City players? They are selling cars worth more than the average house in Cardiff just a few streets away from a part of the city with the lowest literacy rates. There’s a crazy gulf between those in poverty and the guy in the blue Lamborghini I see driving around Cardiff sometimes, that is so loud it sounds like it has an industrial manufacturing plant for an engine. Poverty, wealth, injustice, welfare. All these things pulse through my mind in no particular order as my feet thud along the tarmac.

Mile 3 – (Penarth Road, south end) God, Penarth Road goes on forever. Will it never end?? And some of the industrial units are so bizarre. There’s one on the right hand side of the road that has a giant vinyl sticker of a colossal baby on it, with no explanation about what is in there. It’s weird.

It’s at this stage that I realise I’m having trainer issues. I had a bit of a sore left foot last time I ran, so I decided to wear my ankle support today. But it’s rubbing and the last thing I want is a burst blister and a foot soaked in blood without even being a quarter of the way round the course. I take it off and carry on running.

I also treat myself to my first jelly baby of the run. It is extremely difficult to consume this jelly baby. It’s powdery on the outside and seems to be absorbing all the moisture from my mouth. This is not the kind of sugary treat I was hoping for. It takes about 600 metres before I’m able to make the thing disintegrate enough to swallow the thing. I had brought 13 of them in my fanny pack (I prefer the American term for bum bag, because fanny is just a great word); one for each mile. At this rate, it is doubtful I will get through them.

This mile goes up the last part of Penarth Road, leading to the Cogan Spur, where you have the interchange for Penarth, the Vale or back to Cardiff Bay. It’s a long hill with a slow incline. I haven’t done my left trainer back up tight enough and it’s getting on my nerves. I try my hardest to ignore it, but I just can’t. At some point I will have to address this. I decide to run for as long as I can until I can’t bear it anymore. Tiny things become unbearable over long distances. I’ve also had a nuclear wedgie since we started running, but I’ve just had to accept there’s nothing I can do about that unless I make a toilet stop.

Mile 4 – (Penarth Marina) We’re into Penarth Marina now. There aren’t that many people through the marina. It is at this point the trainers get too much. I have to stop twice to tie the laces, because apparently running has limited all my basic motor function apart from leg movement.

When we reach the roundabout by the Custom House, there’s a band playing! This is great! and then we round the corner to get onto the barrage, and someone has a SOUNDSYSTEM and they’re playing mother-effing REGGAE! The vibes are good, the scenery is beautiful, and the MC is dropping sick rhymes while incorporating health and safety advice, telling everyone to mind the speed bumps, irie irie.

Mile 5 – (Cardiff Bay barrage, east end) The barrage is my usual running route, so running over it doesn’t take much concentration, which is nice. We take a different route once we reach the east side of the barrage – instead of going past the Dr Who experience, we are ushered onto some old docks road, round the back of the BBC, past these big sheds with blue doors and tram lines on the ground. It feels like a sneaky little treat, a private tour, just for us.

This is the only part of the race I take pictures of. The sky is hazy and grey, with what looks like a layer of thick mist laying across the water in the distance, with sunshine dancing above it, peeking through in places. It’s beautiful. Lots of other runners get their phones out and take pictures of this part too.

I think about how lucky I am, to have this as part of the route I usually run. It’s amazingly beautiful.

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Mile 6 – (WMC) I have been averaging 10 minutes a mile so far. That’s not bad. We run past the Senedd, then through the Oval Basin, where there are many peoples cheering us on. It’s great! For my day job, I work in Ty Hwyel, and outside the front of the building some of the security guards are standing outside cheering people in. They don’t seem keen to lock palms with someone as sweaty and gross as I am, but I run past and force them to high five me.

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(photo by Chloe Jackson-Nott)

Somewhere around Miles 5 and 6, I start getting a nagging feeling. In the toilet department. Except it’s for the kind of toilet trip that only women need. Seriously? Right now??

Okay. So I have some options. When I ran past work, I could have asked to use their toilets. But for some reason, I ran past, and then I just didn’t want to go back. Sh*t. SH*T. It didn’t. There must be toilets soon, right?? There must be …

And sure enough, just round the corner, at the roundabout by the A4232, there are three cubicles and what looks like a relatively short queue. I decide to stop and check. If it was just peeing, I’d have gone by the trees, like ALL THE BOYS were. But I didn’t fancy having to mop anything up using leaves and berries, so I waited for the toilets.

Ten minutes go by. Thirteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES. What are people doing in there?? I think of my morning double espresso … and then realise I know exactly what they’re doing in there. I could run on … but I have no idea how far the next lot of toilets are. And I have much, MUCH respect for Kiran Gandhi, but I am not ready to be that woman yet. (Note I said yet … )

Anyway. I get into the toilet, and THERE’S NO TOILET ROLL ANYWAY, so my lesson is learned that next time I’m going native and rolling with the leaves and berries option. Luckily, it is just the beginning of things and not serious enough for leaves or berries or to be shoving the empty cardboard centre toilet rolls in my pants. So I pee. Very little comes out. I am dehydrated. I drip dry, then carry on.

Mile 7 – (halfway along the a4232 from town to the bay) The toilet debacle has left me deflated. I’m off stride. I’m feeling tired. I’ve lost my mojo. This stretch of the run is along a boring and long dual carriageway. There are not many people here. There’s a bit of a hill towards the end of the wide road … the second hill of the course.

But you know the best bit of going up a hill? RUNNING DOWN THE OTHER SIDE. It feels like this is an amazing epiphanic moment of clarity and realisation for me. Looking back, I realise it is merely an appreciation for the function of physics on one’s body.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015

(Photo by Marc on Flickr)

Mile 8 – (West Grove, Cathays) Getting to the Mile 8 marker is amazing. From a pretty gross and boring stretch of road, we reach the Newport Road City Road Junction! And there are hundreds of people! More kids to high five!

My feet are starting to hurt. Like, they really hurt here. I’m getting tired. Eight miles is the furthest I’ve ever run prior to today, so every step from here on is unchartered territory. I have no idea what is to come. Apart from another five miles. That’s definitely to come.

There’s another band here! A brass band, who are playing at the side of the road that cuts through from Richmond Road to City Road. I have no idea what that’s called. It’s amazing! And I see someone I know! We high five! I get moving again!

Further down Richmond Road, in front of Varsity there’s another band – this time, with a guy singing. He runs alongside a girl in front of me, with an arm round her, serenading her. She has been looking really tired up to this point. She smiles at the guy, they high five, and she ups her pace. See?? Your support really helps us!

Even the Baptist Church on Albany Road are getting involved. Volunteers – including the priest – are outside, handing out cups of water. Respect to the clergy.

Further up Albany Road, I bump into another friend and We Are Cardiff contributor, Neil Cocker. He did not know I was running this race, and is very surprised to see me. ‘How are you?’ he asks. ‘I’m f**king tired!!’ I say. ‘Can I do anything to help??’ he asks, again. So I opt for a sweaty hug (which I’m sure he loved), a high five, and I go on my way.

Mile 9 – (Top of Wellfield Road, Roath)

I run around a large corner. There are HUNDREDS of kids here in Roath shouting support and holding out tins of sweets for the runners. Three adorable small girls shout at me as I run past them. ‘Go Rainbow Lady!’. I am obviously being affected by the endorphins and all the other chemical things going on in my body and the physical strain, but I start feeling a bit emotional.

I run on Ninian Park Road, and past Roath Park Rec. Suddenly everything is getting very emosh. I’m in a delicate state. I see people running who have photographs on their shirts of the people they’re running for. ‘Running in memory of Ollie’. ‘Running for June’. It’s too much for me – all of these people, running for so many things, to try and heal heartbreaks, to try and make positive things come from terrible situations. I can’t deal with it.

I accelerate to run past all these people with photographs on their shirts before I break down.

Up ahead is an energy drink stop. Lucozade Sport or something. I pick one up, open it, drink half and spill half all over my hands. I am now hot, salty, sweaty, AND sticky. This does not make a comfortable running situation or good combo.

Somewhere Ninian Park Road, I pass this guy. The man with the cross on wheels.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015
(Photo by Marc on Flickr)

I’m presuming he’s supporting a Christian cause. And that cross – I mean, you can’t really see how big it is, in the pictures. It is HUGE. I’d love to stop and ask him about his journey, but I need to focus on the journey ahead.

‘Just three more miles!’ someone shouts at me from the side, encouragingly.



Mile 11 – (Lake Road West, North End) I’ve tried not to focus on how much things hurt up to this point. My feet have been hurting a little bit since mile 7, but now my body decides to totally rebel and the pain goes nuclear. Every step is like landing on a hard, spiky surface of molten lava. My feet are BURNING. I have never endured pain like it before. If this had been a normal recreational run, I would have ended it an hour ago. But I haven’t got a choice.

As if anticipating the pain most people are feeling at this stage, I run past a series of motivational posters along Lake Road West.




Also one that said YOU’RE RUNNING THE WRONG WAY!, but I’m not sure that was meant to be motivational, so much.

Roath Lake is a lovely place to run. I’ve never run it before. It’s crazy you can around so much of the city with so few miles. It’s a very compact place.

A child dressed as Spiderman offers me chocolate some from the side of the road. I take it. I eat an erroneous Dextrose energy tablet I found loitering at the bottom in my fanny pack and then smash three jelly babies. I am getting tired.

A little bit ahead of me, there is a man dressed as Minnie Mouse, with a very large costume head. I walk for a while, and I’m walking behind him. He takes the hat off and wipes his head. He is DRENCHED in sweat. He runs for a bit, but then gives up and walks again. I want to give him some words of wisdom, but I’ve got barely enough energy to shovel another jelly baby in my mouth. I’m hot. I’m bothered. My feet are going to fall off.

Trying to pull myself together, I get a bottle of water from a water point and pour it over my head. It’s cold, and it shocks me enough to get me focused and running again.

CardiffHalfMarathon2015_ - 06

(photo by Chloe Jackson-Nott)

Mile 12 – (the top of Cathays Terrace) As the run moves into studentland, there is suddenly a world of liveliness! Everywhere people! On the street! More brass bands! Students standing along the pavement offering chugs of beer to anyone who wants them! Someone somewhere is smoking a spliff! I can smell it for such a long way along the road I wonder whether they’re actually running with it – then I wonder whether I should go back, chug the beer, steal the spliff, get smashed, and maybe I’d forget about how much my feet hurt?

Then I realise. Those are the crazy and deranged thoughts of someone who is 15 years years younger than me. I am not that person anymore, and if I tried to do that, I would never finish the race. I am 35, dammit! I will be sober and suffer and finish this race like a GROWN UP (and then go drink five pints at the Mochyn Du wearing my medal, smug smug smug).

I really struggle on Cathays Terrace. Every step seems to take every ounce of energy I’ve got. There’s no flow, there’s no grace to this any more. I am a desperate, sweaty mess of an animal trying to get through this slow-paced stampede through the city.

I try and focus on what I’m running for. I’ve been raising money for Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), who are are an amazing international organisation who provide front line medical care in all sorts of terrible places all over the world. Natural disasters, warzones, wherever people need help, they bring it. They dealt with the Ebola outbreak in Africa, they have been helping in the refugee crisis, they were there in Haiti – they do so much incredible work, everywhere.

Just earlier this week, on 2 October, a suspected US military airstrike in Kunduz in Afghanistan killed nine Medecins Sans Frontiers doctors who were working at a hospital run by MSF. The hospital had treated nearly 400 people since fighting broke out in the region on Monday. Hearing about their hospital being bombed and so many killed – potentially by ‘friendly American fire’ – is the worst. MSF have just called the bombing as a war crime and are withdrawing their staff now.

War is total crap and unfair and heartbreaking and hearing about things like this sucks really hard.

While I’m running, and my feet are in agony, I think about the nine doctors who were killed. I think about how they were just normal people from normal places, who volunteered their incredible skills and experience to go and help in places where you couldn’t drag most people to go.

I think about their friends and families, back home. I think about whether they had hobbies, or pets. I think about beds that won’t be slept in, by them, ever again.

And suddenly the pain in my feet seems totally manageable.

I reach the top of the small hill by the Woodville pub, where I see Eleri, one of my BEST FRIENDS in the world, holding out her arms and shouting for me. We squeeze hands, and she and her boyfriend Geraint scream at me. ‘RUN!! RUN!!!’

So I run.

CardiffHalfMarathon2015_ - 26

(photo by Chloe Jackson-Nott)

Mile 13 – (THE F**KING FINISH LINE!!!!)

As I pull around the final corner, I see the finish line is a lot closer than I was anticipating. I ratchet the pace up several notches and sprint across the finish, just passing a series of gentlemen who are running and carrying a rowing boat.

I run so fast that I think I’m about to vomit when I reach the line. I’m ushered along, in a dazed whirlwind of activity I’m given a bottle of water, and a medal, and a plastic bag full of food, and a banana, and a t shirt. I stumble through the crowds looking for a place I can collapse on the grass, stretch out my legs and call my mum.

Luckily for you, there are no ‘after’ pictures. But there is this.

cardiff half marathon 2015

Oh hells yeah, I did it!

Then later on, there was this. Which is my burning fires of hell feet in a pan full of ice cubes for about an hour.

It really did help, although I screamed like we were getting burgled when they first went into the pan…

cardiff half marathon

Wanna see the course? Yeah you do. Here it is! Cardiff Half Marathon 2015 course

So – you signing up for next year, or what??


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“This year my dad is 25-years epilepsy free – and running his first marathon” – Jane

This week, Jane Cook shares the story of her remarkable, epilepsy-defeating, marathon-running dad Bruce. Read on!

Bruce Cook


My dad is 58 years old and in November last year, he announced that he wanted to run the London marathon in 2014. We all thought he was talking rubbish and didn’t really listen, until he came down the stairs to announce that he had been offered a place in the Marathon on behalf of a Children’s disability charity. Suddenly we realised he was actually serious.

My dad has lived in Cardiff all of his life. When he was a kid, he was racing homemade go-karts on Roath Court Road with a bunch of other boys his age. Trying to show off to his Grandma, he came shooting down the road at speed when one of the other boys pushed their kart in to his path. The karts collided with such force that my dad flew in to the air, and as he came down, he hit his head on the concrete pavement. Three weeks later, he started having epileptic seizures.

For years, my dad tried different medication to control his epilepsy, but nothing worked. He couldn’t get a driving license because he never knew when an attack might come on. Once, he even ended up having an attack and losing control whilst on his bike, and he crashed through the front door of a corner shop on Treharris Street. He managed to roll all the way up to the counter in the midst of a blackout before crashing a heap on the floor. On another occasion, he fell off a train platform in Cornwall and had to be pulled off the tracks.

When I was about three years old, my dad became one of the first people in the world to have a groundbreaking type of treatment. First, doctors cut a circular hole in his skull. Then they fixed electrodes to his brain that would monitor its activity (I am using layman’s terms). Then everyone waited.

A week later, my dad had another seizure, and as a result, the doctors were able to pinpoint the exact area of his brain that was damaged. They set to work in removing the damaged tissue, which amounted to be the size of a human fist. Afterwards, they replaced the piece of skull, and sewed it all back up. For the next few months and years, it was a waiting game – not only to see whether the operation had been a success, but also to make sure that nothing else had been damaged in the process.

Fast forward 25 years, and the date of the London Marathon is just one day off being the 25th anniversary of my dad’s operation – and marks 25 years of my dad being epilepsy-free. Despite the fact that my dad started his marathon training by going for a jog in a pair of jeans and his work shoes, last weekend he (quite unbelievably) completed his first 20-miler. His route takes him all over Cardiff – usually from our house in Penylan, via Lisvane and over to Cefn Onn Country Park, then back home via a couple of laps of Roath Park Lake.

The money raised by my dad will be donated to a charity called Phab which encourages equality and integration for disabled and able bodied children. If you would like to help him reach his fundraising target of £1,600, you can donate via his fundraising page.



Jane Cook is the proud daughter of Bruce Cook, who will be running his first London Marathon this year. Help him raise money for his chosen charity Phab by donating to his fundraising page. The family currently live in Penylan.