London Marathon Preview

On 4th of October 2020 the eyes of the world running community will be set on St James’s Park, London. The London Marathon will be celebrating its 40th edition albeit it will be a very different marathon with the event taking place without the championship, good for age and the masses. Due to the ongoing covid-19 restrictions the event will take the form of nineteen and a half laps around St James’ Park for a select elite field.

It’s the battle of the greatest marathon runners in the world that will draw the biggest attention. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge is known for his ‘unofficial’ sub 2 marathon but his official PB stands at 2:01:39. He will finally be lining up against another running great in Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele who has a PB of 2:01:41. It will be intriguing to see whether there is any attempt at pushing towards the 2 hour barrier or whether it is a tactical affair.

The women’s race is equally stacked with marathon world record holder and last year’s winner Brigid Kosgei battling it out against 2019 world Marathon Champion and fellow Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich. They have personal bests of 2:14:04 and 2:17:08 respectively.

It is fantastic to see a strong domestic line-up in the race too including some of Wales’ best marathon runners. Perhaps we should be thanking Dan Nash for that! Listen to him speaking on the Marathon Talk podcast to learn why.

The ladies race commences very early at 7.15am and Natasha Cockram of Micky Morris Racing Team will be lining up. Former University of Tulsa athlete Natasha broke the 21 year old Welsh marathon record last year with a fantastic time of 2:30:49 to finish 5th at the Dublin Marathon. Natasha ran a half marathon PB of 75:25 at the start of the year in Llanelli shortly before lockdown. She spoke to Running Review Cymru following the race about her decision to relocate to Norfolk and concentrate on her running career.  We are very much looking forward to see her returning to racing and attempting to achieve the Olympic standard and reducing the Welsh record further. Welsh athlete Charlotte Arter will be pace making on the day.

Natasha Cockram – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

The men’s race kicks off at a more civil 10.15 and will include a number of Welsh athletes. It should be a great battle between Charlie Hulson of Liverpool  and Josh Griffiths of Swansea Harriers with only seconds separating their personal bests of 2:14:22 and 2:14:25 respectively. Charlie and Josh lie just outside the Welsh marathon all-time top 10 list:

Source – Power of 10

This will be Charlie’s first time in London and only his 2nd marathon attempt following his impressive 2:14:25 debut at Valencia last year. The New Balance athlete recently completed the Cheshire half marathon in 65:52 with his teammates as a final preparation for the marathon.

Swansea athlete Josh is in fine form having recently broken his half marathon PB at the Antrim Half Marathon in 63:08. The Welsh and GB international surprised the UK domestic scene at his debut Marathon in London back in 2017 after he started in the Championship race to go on to finish first Brit and 13th overall to gain automatic selection for the World Championships (also in London).

Josh Griffiths winning the 2019 Porthcawl 10k – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

Josh spoke to running Running Review Cymru recently about the marathon build up and the race itself:

‘Training has gone as well as it could have given the conditions. Having no track access hasn’t been easy but there are worse problems to have! Not having access to massage or any support like that hasn’t been an issue as I never have access to that anyway. I’ve managed to run my highest ever weekly and total mileage in the build-up this time, probably due to the lack of other races, so having that sort of focus all on one event has been good.

Racing will be a bit strange with no crowd but in terms of the elite race I don’t think it’ll be too different. Of course I love having 40,000 other runners there but the elite field always breaks away after about 400m anyway and after that it’s just small groups so I don’t think that will be too different. As for the laps, yeah that is obviously different to a normal London but it’s still 26.2 Miles.

Being a part of such a great field is a real honour, it’s part of the reason I train every day to get the chance to go up against these type of guys, I won’t see much of them after the gun goes off but it’s still a great experience. I’ll be more focused on my own race and trying to achieve my own goals’

Both Josh and Charlie appear to have prepared well and we are excited to see how they perform.

Another Welsh athlete lining up is Cardiff AAC’s long distance specialist Dan Nash. The current bronze medallist from the 50 KM 2019 World Championship finds himself on the start line after  contacting London Virgin Marathon on twitter asking them to consider adding himself and others to expand the domestic field. It’s great to see that London Marathon HQ thought it was a good idea and we hope that they get good coverage on the day.

Dan Nash at the Welsh Road Relays – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

Dan has a PB of 2:18:51 from Brighton last year but there are good signs that he will significantly lower this at London. The Cardiff Met PhD exercise physiology student has been using his scientific knowledge to assist his training as well as training in small loops of Bute Park, Cardiff to simulate the lapped race conditions at London.  Dan spoke to Running Review Cymru ahead of the event:

“With just a few days to go, the excitement is really building! I am one of those runners who loves to race, and I’ve really been missing that adrenaline-rush over the last few months. Having said that, the lockdown actually worked out quite well for me. I picked up an injury after setting a PB at The Big Half in March and couldn’t run for 7 weeks. Normally after an injury, I’m always in a rush to get fit for the next race. However, with all the races being wiped from the calendar, I really took my time to build my training back up. This seems to have paid dividends, as I have managed to put together a really consistent block of training and I’m feeling in the best shape of my life!

My overwhelming feeling going into the race is gratefulness. While so many other runners are continuing to have their races cancelled, I have somehow managed to fluke my way into the highest profile race in the world! Am I really going to be standing alongside the likes of Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele on the start line?! Whatever happens on the day, I’m sure I’ll have some amazing memories of what will be a very unique race.

Dan will feel at home as he is joined with his fellow Cardiff AAC teammate and England International Josh Lunn in the race itself whilst Matt Clowes and Jake Smith also of Cardiff AAC will be on pace making duties.  

Welsh marathon running is exceptionally strong at the moment with four guys running 2.14 marathons last year. One of these, Swansea Harriers’ Dewi Griffiths was originally scheduled to run London but unfortunately had to withdraw due to a niggle. Hopefully he will be back competing soon to try and push for Olympic qualification. V40 British Record holder Andrew Davies has decided to give London a miss to concentrate on mountain running. It would be great to see all of our great marathon runners together in one race. Wrexham Marathon 2021 perhaps?

We would like to wish them all good luck and we cannot wait to see how they all get on. If you wish to watch the races unfold there will be live BBC coverage.

Epic Welsh Runs – Porthmadog, Borth y Gest and Morfa Bychan coastal run

Starting Point: Circular route so you can start anywhere along the route (Porthmadog, Borth y Gest or Morfa Bychan).

Type: Circular

Length: Long loop – 10 miles; Medium Loop 6 miles;

Elevation Gain: Long loop 500 feet; Medium loop 430 feet;

Terrain: Road, trail, sand but road trainers should be sufficient.

Facilities on Route: Toilets in Porthmadog, Borth y Gest and Morfa Bychan (seasonal)

This is one of our all-time favourite running routes and one we try and complete every time we are up in Porthmadog visiting family. The long route is 10 miles and there is a medium route of 6 miles but really you could tweak your run quite easily to be shorter than 10 or 6 miles if you wish. The routes are a combination of quiet roads, trails along the amazing Wales Coast Path, about 2 miles along Black Rock Sands and some pavements alongside the A497 back to Porthmadog.

We start our run by the fire station in Porthmadog. If you want to you could park in the Leisure Centre car park which is nearby. From the fire station cross the road just after the roundabout and run down a single lane track with Bodawen Care Home on your left.

Credit – Google Street View

Continue running down this lane adjacent to the grounds of Ysgol Eifionydd and parallel to the Porthmadog Bypass. Turn right after about a mile when you see Clwb Chwaraeon Madog and continue along a quiet road past Porthmadog FC’s Y Traeth football ground and a level crossing. After about half a mile and as you come back into Porthmadog you will need to make a sharp left turn onto Cob Crwn, a walking route around the flood defence system of Porthmadog. Continue around the embankment until you come to Porthmadog High Street. Cross the street and run past the Ganolfan Centre on your right hand side and the harbour on your left hand side. Continue through the harbour area keeping the harbour to your left. Keep bearing left, past Madoc Yatch Club and continue for a few minutes passing numerous boat yards. At the end of this road you will need to bear right up a sharp climb that brings you into the stunning colourful seaside village of Borth y Gest.

Borth y Gest Beach: Credit – Running Review Cymru

After reaching Borth y Gest continue along the promenade and through the car park aiming for the coast.

Views across the Dwyryd Estuary towards Harlech – Credit Running Review Cymru

Once you are on the coast you will be able to follow the Wales Coast Path signs for a couple of miles. This follows narrow in places but well defined trails.

Trails between Borth y Gest and Morfa Bychan – Credit Geraint Evans

Once out of the woods take a second to admire the views across the Dwyryd Estuary with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.

The Wales Coast Path signs should direct you from Borth y Gest to Morfa Bychan along well defined trails, passing a number of picturesque coves and Porthmadog Golf Club. This part of the run is probably the highlight with long range views towards Harlech across the estuary.

Known locally as 3rd beach – Credit Running Review Cymru

**If you want to cut the run into a 6 mile loop then turn right the first time you see the golf course and continue past the clubhouse of Porthmadog Golf Club. From here turn right and run on the pavement back to Porthmadog. It is quite undulating!**

Turn right to do the 6 mile loop. Continue along the coast for the 10 mile loop. Credit – Google

If you have followed the Wales Coast Path signs correctly then you will have come around the headland to arrive on Black Rock Beach, a 2 mile long golden beach which is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. You will need to run the whole length of this and it is normally quite firm although you may have to navigate a couple of rivers coming down into the sea along Black Rock sands but it’s all good fun!

2 miles of Black Rock Beach – Credit Geraint Evans

Continue running across the beach towards Criccieth Castle until you come to the furthest vehicle entrance onto the beach (yes vehicles are allowed onto the beach so please be careful as you run). Pass the portacabin and the toilets on your right and hand side and then make a left turn onto a single track road.

Come up from the beach and turn left before following the road around – Credit Google

This single track road is called Treflys and will connect you back with the A497 main road. It is a hilly but enjoyable section with nice views. It’s generally very quiet and peaceful but you may get the odd car using it as a rat run to the beach. Follow the road until you come to the A497. Once you reach the A497 then simply run along the pavement back to Porthmadog. It is about 2 miles and slightly downhill back to the town.

Food and drink facilities are aplenty in Porthmadog so don’t forget to check them out. Some of our favourites for a post run coffee include Siop Coffi TH, Siop Fawr Portmeirion Café and the Big Rock Café. If you want something a bit stronger then The Australia Pub run by local brewery Mws Piws / Purple Moose is a great pub that does good food.

Strava Link for 6 mile loop

Strava Link for 10 mile loop

Epic Welsh Runs – Wales Coastal Path (Cliff Hotel, Gwbert to Mwnt)

Cardigan Island from the Coastal Path

Starting Point: Entrance to the Cliff Hotel, Gwbert

Type: Out and back

Length: Just under 8 miles /12.8 km

Elevation Gain: 1135 ft / 345m (less if you don’t climb Foel y Mwnt)

Terrain: Trail with a small section on the road

Facilities on Route: Toilets and a beach shop in Mwnt

If you are lucky enough to be staying in the Cliff Hotel in Gwbert or anywhere else in the beautiful Gwbert or Cardigan and you enjoy running then this is a cracking little route with spectacular scenery that is not too difficult to navigate. An 8 mile out and back route along the Wales Coast Path in south Ceredigion, this is a spectacular route, mostly above sheer cliffs overlooking the blue waters of Ceredigion Bay. The route is very well defined and in the summer can be done with road trainers. We would imagine that trail shoes would be required during wetter seasons.

Start from the archway of the Cliff Hotel and turn left directly up quite a steep hill for about half a mile. This is probably the hardest part of the run so do persevere! Unfortunately you cannot run directly along the Wales Coast Path directly from Gwbert due to private land so a short (but hilly) detour is required. Once past the entrance to the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park take a left turn (its well signposted) to enter an agricultural field. The well signposted route continues around the edge of the field for around another half a mile before turning west down towards the coast.

Wales Coast Path – Gwbert to Mwnt

Once down adjacent to the cliffs the route is fairly flat with the exception of when the route has to go down and up around pretty sea coves. The trail is quite narrow but well defined and maintained and ideal for running. After about 3 miles from Gwbert the picturesque beach of Mwnt comes into view with Foel y Mwnt overlooking the golden beach.

Descend down into Mwnt – a chance to pick up some speed. You could turn terminate your run on the actual beach but we couldn’t resist passing the beach and climbing Foel y Mwnt (250 ft of climbing) where we had amazing 360 degrees. It looks much higher than it is, but it is steep and you end up walking most of it but it’s worth the effort when you get to the top.

Top of Foel y Mwnt looking back towards Cardigan Island

Also don’t miss the chance to see Eglwys y Grog (Holy Cross Church) a Grade I listed whitewashed stone church that has its origins back in the 13th century. Grade I listed buildings are described as exceptional, and usually of national, interest and there are less than 500 in Wales. Others include Cardiff Castle and Caernarfon Castle.

Eglwys y Grog (Holy Cross Church)

From Mwnt you simply retrace your steps back to Gwbert along the Wales Coast Path, finishing with a very nice downhill half a mile. If it’s a warm day continue your run into the Cliff Hotel grounds, down the side of the hotel, through the golf course and onto the clifftop. From here you can venture down into beautiful coves where it’s possible to enjoy a cool down in the sea!

Records fall at Podium 5k as racing returns

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After what feels like a lifetime, racing in the UK finally returned with the Podium 5k races on Saturday 8th August. Judging by the tremendously strong fields assembled by the organisers it seems that athletes were itching to get back and to test their fitness following the pause in competition.

The races, taking place in Barrowford, Lancashire comprised a stellar field and the lead entry for the men’s race included 2x World Championship representative and Bowerman Track Club athlete Mark Scott (PB of 13.45 on the road and 13.08 on the track over the 5k distance). Also toeing the line were top triathlete Alex Yee and Welsh star Dewi Griffiths who was stepping down from his usual longer distances.

The ladies race entry was also exceptionally strong with leading entries from British athlete Jess Judd (15.16 on the track), Olympian Beth Potter (PB of 15.28 on the track) and Wales’ Jenny Nesbitt (PB of 15.32 on the track).

Jenny Nesbitt at the Welsh Road Relays Last Year – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

A number of Welsh athletes had made the trip up north including Olympic marathon hopeful Dewi Griffiths, hoping to get back to top fitness. Dewi spoke to Running Review Cymru recently about how lockdown was going and how he was hoping to get back to his best. Other Welsh interest include north Walian Nathan Jones, now representing Cardiff AAC following his return from a scholarship in the United States. Dewi has a PB of 13.33 over the distance on the track whilst Nathan, also on the track has a PB of 14.02.

The ladies race included a number of Welsh athletes hoping to get back to good form after the lockdown. This included the aforementioned Jenny Nesbitt, Clara Evans of Cardiff AAC and Bronwen Owen of Leeds City. Clara ran well last week to run 34.02 at the Lisburn 10k, her first outing after lockdown whilst Jenny won the 5k race at the same event.

There was Welsh success in the men’s sub 15.15 race with youngster Osian Perrin of Menai Track and Field running a personal best time of 14.30. Rob Samuel of Eryri Harriers was the next athlete back running 14.41 just a second outside his PB which he set at the same event back in 2018. It’s good to see Rob running well in 2020 after limited racing in 2019. Paul Graham of Pontypridd Roadents will be happy that he made the long trip up north with a personal best of 14.48, 2 seconds faster than he ran at Cardiff Parkrun back in February of this year.

The women’s race was a super-fast affair with Jess Judd (Blackburn) and Beth Potter (Shaftesbury Barnet) setting the pace early doors. However it was Olympian and professional triathlete Beth Potter that managed to break away and win in an exceptional course record of 15.24. Swansea Harrier Verity Ockenden ran brilliantly for 3rd in 15.37 whilst Bronwen Owen (Leeds) came home as first Welsh woman only slightly behind Verity in a huge PB of 15.45. Jenny Nesbitt (Cardiff AAC) ran 16.02 to narrowly miss out on a sub 16 posting but improving on the 16.13 she posted last week in Ireland, whilst club mate Clara Evans (Cardiff AAC) ran 16.21.

The men’s A race was hugely entertaining with Mark Scott (Cambridge & Coleridge), Alex Yee (Kent AC) and Omar Amhed (Birchfield Harriers) making the early running and going through 3k in around 8 minutes. Mark Scott finally managed to pull away to finish strongly and break Nick Goolab’s British 5k road record in 13.20. 2nd place Alex Yee also broke the previous British record running 13.26, an amazing time for the talented triathlete.  First Welshman home was Swansea Harriers athlete Dewi Griffiths running a big road PB of 13.43 showing that the marathon man still has speed in his legs. Incidentally this was only 3 seconds off Roger Hackney’s Welsh record on the road. Nathan Jones ran an impressive race and managed to break 14 minutes for the first time running 13.59. It will be interesting to see what Nathan can achieve over the next few months after following this promising performance.

Nathan Jones at the Welsh XC Championships earlier in the year. Photo Credit Paul Stillman

Some seriously impressive performances all round demonstrating that athletes have kept themselves in top form during the lockdown. We look forward to seeing more races coming forward in the near future. Well done to the organisers at Podium 5km for what must be countless hours of preparation in order to put on a great show and to Running Live for a brilliant live stream.

Please support our blog partner Antur Supply Co who have provided our readers with a 10% discount on all goods with discount code RUN10.

Full results can be found here and videos of the races can be found on Running Live’s Facebook Page.

Next time I race I’m hopeful of being back to my best

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.

Photo Credit – Paul Stillman

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.

Dewi at the Big Half in 2019 – Photo Credit – Running Review Cymru

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!