We had the pleasure of catching up with Wales’ pre-eminent long distance runner, Swansea Harrier Dewi Griffiths to see how he was adapting to the current circumstances and the lack of racing. Asics runner Dewi is considered to be one of Britain’s best marathon runners having run 2.09.49 at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2017. He also boasts impressive personal bests of 61.33 for the half, 28:27 10km road, 28.16 for 10000m and 13.33 for 5000m on the track. Dewi is an all-round athlete having represented Great Britain over the cross country and in the mountains as a junior.
Thanks for taking time to chat with us. First of all how are you adapting to the Covid19 lockdown?
It’s been a weird time on the whole. I guess luckily living on a farm there’s always something to do so it helped me to stop dwelling on things for too long. It’s been difficult not being able to see Ffion my girlfriend as well as not seeing close friends/family and Kevin [Evans] my coach during this time.
From a training point of view as a distance runner you get used to training on your own and as long as you got a decent path or road you can do the majority of your training. I have missed going to the track and having that weekly social component with the group as well as well as that lung busting sessions.
Before COVID19 kicked off you were making a solid comeback having had a difficult 2019 with illness. What were your main goals for the 2020 and did you feel that you were getting back to your best?
My main goal was the Virgin Money London Marathon in April and to secure a spot in the Great Britain team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. I needed to finish 1st or 2nd Brit across the line as well as achieving a sub 2:11:30 clocking. I guess we’ll never know how the last 6/7 weeks pre London would have gone but I was slowly building some momentum in training. You never know how things are going to turn out with the marathon on the day but Kevin recons I’d have done it. I’m a bit more realistic, I think I could have done the time but maybe the hard part would have been finishing in the top two as a few Brits were going well start of the year.
In terms of getting back to my best I think I missed so much in 2019 that I probably needed two marathon cycles before I would get back to the times I think I am capable of. With the whole COVID19 next time I race I’m hopeful of being back to my best again.
How have you adapted your training during COVID19?
When the whole lockdown happened in March we were in the middle of lambing at home on the farm so didn’t have time to over think things at the time as I had plenty to keep myself occupied. Chatting with Kevin we both felt staying healthy was the priority for the time being and so for the remainder of March after London Marathon and subsequent potential closed doors Olympic trials were cancelled, running took a back seat and I just ran when I felt like it for the remainder of the month. Both of us felt that I was going to be training for the autumn so there was potentially 6 months before I toed the line again so we kind of just put a simple 6 month plan together – build a base then try to find some speed again by which point hopefully we’d have a better idea of what we’re aiming for and not be in not too bad a shape.
Once the busiest lambing time on the farm had passed in early April I started running again more regularly usually an hour/10miles a day at least 6 days a week and then as the heavy work on the farm decreased I kept building the mileage back up. I think I hit my first 100 mile week during lockdown in early May. I then started easing myself into sessions again and just went with the flow from there. I guess since then I have been aiming for 85/90% of normal week and when we have a better idea of what’s happening hopefully I won’t be more than 6/8 weeks from being at my best. I’ve seen many doing big mileage and really pushing the ceiling on their training during this lockdown which is great to see. For me however, after everything I’ve been through the last couple years with no physio or medical support available I didn’t want to risk picking up a niggle or something so I just wanted to stay in one piece, healthy and consistent and enjoy running for the time being.
Training from your front door every day has its own benefits and changes. The area around me is pretty rolling as they say so it’s ideal for building a strong base and building the strength up in the legs. Having not been allowed to train on the track during lockdown it’ll be interesting to see where the speed in my legs will be at.
How are you coping with the uncertainty about when races will restart? Is there a particular date you are trying to peak for or is it just a matter of keeping a solid base?
Like I said earlier, maybe being optimistic but both me and Kev thought something will be on in the autumn, maybe even the tail end of the track season. It’s always going to be difficult to put on mass races but I was hoping there’d be enough drive to re-start the elite end of the sport in a safe manner even if it would have to be behind closed doors.
Keeping a strong base is the only thing you can do while there is so much uncertainty but once we have something more concrete to aim for I’ll be ready to kick things up a notch and throw in some more speed work to my training to get race ready again. As the people around will testify it’s probably takes a lot to faze me. My attitude has been there’s nothing you can do to change it and that you just need to be ready for when things start getting back to normal again. With trials for Tokyo now moved to next year I have no pressure to deliver fast times this year and can put a plan in place to be in shape for the London Marathon next April.
2017 was arguably your best year running 2.09 for the marathon, 61.33 for the half, 28:27 10km road, 28.16 for 10000m and 13.33 for 5k on the track. These are some world class times, do you think you can better these and get close to some of the Welsh records?
Yes I’m getting closer. Jonesy [Steve Jones] has set the bar pretty high. I still believe my best race is still to be run. I just need a bit of luck to get it out.
Qualifying for the Olympic marathon (whenever that happens!) is very much on the agenda for you. What would that mean for you after the disappointment of missing out on the Worlds last year and the Commonwealths in 2018?
I think every runner growing up dreams of being an Olympian. Once you’ve ticked that box other disappointments don’t mean so much. Yes unfortunately I’ve had to miss out on the Commonwealth Games in 2018, Europeans in 2018 and the World Championships in 2019 in recent years which hasn’t been fun but unfortunately that’s the hand you’re dealt with sometimes.
In 2022 there is the Commonwealth Games, Euros and the Worlds. Do you have any idea what events and champs you would like to target in this busy year?
To be honest I haven’t really thought much past Tokyo. It’s a crazy schedule to be presented with and as a marathon runner I will have to probably just choose one of them. It’ll be difficult to turn down running for Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham after getting injured in the athletes village in Glasgow 2014 and getting injured and not being allowed to board the plane to Gold Coast 2018 I feel I have unfinished business with the Commonwealths.
For those amateur runners that have trained for so long for their 1st marathon or half marathon what tips would you give them given the recent cancellation of most large races?
Running should never feel like a chore and for the time being just try enjoy your running. Explore new routes if you get the chance, I’ve explored more routes and paths in my local area during lockdown than I’ve done in years. The hard work you’ve already done will still be there when the races will be back on so don’t feel it’s all been for nothing.
In a non-COVID world, if you could choose one race to take part in right now, which race would you choose and why?
To be honest I’d take anything right now! I’ve missed that competitive feel as well as race day atmosphere and adrenaline. As we slowly work our way through the summer it would be great to have the usual string of autumn races in South Wales to look forward too. How exciting would it be if we were able to look forward to the Cardiff 10k and Swansea 10km as well as the Cardiff Half Marathon in September/October.
Diolch Dewi. We look forward to seeing you racing again in the near future!