By John Jones
Now in its fifteenth year, the race was started by over 19,000 runners from all over the globe, who were guided around the scenic 13.1-mile course by an enthusiastic local crowd.
To mark the sixtieth anniversary of Cardiff hosting the Commonwealth Games, the event also featured the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships. In the men’s race, Australian Jack Rayner stormed to victory in 61:01, shaking off competition from the Kenyan and Ugandan contingents to smash his personal best by over two minutes.
Despite having only competed in three half-marathons in his career prior to last weekend, and running as a relative underdog in a field containing course record-holder John Lotiang, Rayner was just too strong in the closing stages, and broke away to push the Ugandan duo of Fred Musobo and Timothy Toroitch into second and third positions respectively. Three runners from the home nations also crept into the top ten finishers, with Welshman Dewi Griffiths, having missed out on competing at this year’s Commonwealth Games with a serious hip injury, claiming ninth place in a time of 62:56.
Whilst having lost out to Rayner in the men’s race, Uganda did achieve some glory in the women’s competition, as Juliet Chekwel left the rest of the field in her wake to win what she regards as “the biggest title of [her] life” by a mammoth 79 seconds. England’s Tracy Barlow put in a commanding performance to clinch fifth place, whilst Welsh athletes Clara Evans and Rosie Edwards both placed inside the top fifteen runners. In the team event, Uganda claimed gold again, ahead of Australia, whilst Wales just lost out to their English neighbours in the race for the bronze medal.
However, despite the impressive calibre of this year’s professional competitors, just as much admiration could be felt for the thousands of amateur runners who followed (in some cases) closely behind. Whether they were seasoned striders, first-time plodders or fancy-dressed lunatics, everybody taking part had a smile on their face at some stage of the race, and this was mostly due to the fantastic crowd that lined the entirety of the route. From the booming noise that reverberated around the walls of Cardiff Castle at the race’s start point, to the wall of support that stretched from the Bay all the way to the finish line, the cheers, banners and enthusiasm of the crowd cemented Cardiff’s reputation as an incredible hosting city.
This vibrant atmosphere was also apparent during Saturday’s Festival of Running, where a day of activities, including a Toddler Dash, a family Fun Run and a series of three-kilometre club races saw a range of ages and abilities don their trainers and come together to raise money for a number of deserving charities, including the event’s partner NSPCC.
It was this inclusivity that defined the weekend as a whole. Despite the event making headlines for tragic reasons this week, its organisers Run 4 Wales can be proud of putting on yet another stunning exhibition of sporting prowess, community spirit and, most importantly, fun.