In what has been a very difficult year for everyone it has been extremely frustrating for athletes not to be able to partake in running races especially when other sports seem to be returning and moving forward at a faster pace in Wales. We’re sure that most runners have, at some point, questioned the point of all their training with a race nowhere in sight. Hopefully the new year will bring in some hope of normality but with the Gwent League already cancelled in its entirety for 2020/21 it might be that we need to wait a bit longer. Despite the limited ‘real’ racing we thought it would be interesting to look back at the excellent performances that have been achieved in the first few months of the year and in selected races since. We will look at the best performances by Welsh athletes over the 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon. It is a testament to the athletes that they have been able to achieve these great times during the challenging and stressful circumstances.
*Please note that virtual races or races that don’t have an official licence are not included as they are not recorded on Power of 10 / RunBritain.
5km (Track and Road Combined)
There were some really fast times posted over 5k in 2020 with four Welshmen running sub 14 minutes. Dewi Griffiths of Swansea Harriers was the fastest running 13.43 at the Podium 5k in Barrowford with his teammate Jonathan Hopkins the second fastest running 13.54 at the fast Armagh 5k. Dewi was only 3 seconds off Roger Hackney’s Welsh record. James Hunt and Nathan Jones, both of Cardiff AAC ran personal bests to break 14 minutes for the first time. Scotland based Kristian Jones of Swansea Harriers ran 14.10 at Fife. Other impressive age group results were 14.18 for Osian Perrin (under 20) and 14.21 by Andrew Davies (vet 40).
There were also some impressive women’s results. The standout performance was a 15.16 clocking on the track from Melissa Courtney-Bryant at the Ostrava Golden Spike. She had a brilliant year on the Diamond League Circuit with the highlight a 3rd place over 1500m in Stockholm. On the roads the top 4 times were all set at the Podium 5k in March and August respectively. Bronwen Owen (Leeds City) ran a PB of 15.45, Charlotte Arter (Cardiff AAC) ran 15.53, Jenny Nesbitt (Cardiff AAC) ran 16.02 and Clara Evans (Cardiff AAC) ran 16.21. Late in 2020 Beth Kidger (Brighton Phoenix) ran 16.24 at Haywards Heath.
Charlie Hulson (Liverpool Harriers) was the fastest Welshman over 10km in 2020 running 29.14 at Chichester in February. 2nd fastest was Paul Graham of Pontypridd Roadents with a breakthrough PB run of 29.38 at the Speedway 10k in January, his first time under 30 minutes. James Hunt (Cardiff AAC) ran a PB of 29.43 to win the Lisburn 10k. Vet 40 Andrew Davies (Stockport) was fourth fastest in 30.14 with Rowan Axe of Cardiff 5th in 30.16. Lloyd Sheppard (Cardiff) running as an under 17 ran a fantastic 30.56 at the Speedway 10k in January. It must be frustrating for talented youngsters like Lloyd not to be able to race more regularly in 2020 and to build on early season performances.
The majority of the women’s top performances were run in early season 10km events before the pandemic took hold. Jenny Nesbitt (Cardiff) was the fastest with a superb 32.42 personal best in Valencia. United States based Rosie Edwards was joint second fastest with 33.30 at Mesa, Arizona with Bronwen Owen who ran a personal best of 33.30 at Partington. Fourth fastest was Cardiff AAC’s Clara Evans in 34.02 over in Lisburn whilst Anna Bracegirdle (Salford Harriers) was 5th in 35.11 at the Podium 10k in March. Under 17 Eden O’Dea of Deeside AAC ran a brilliant 36.36 in the Twin Piers 10k and we understand that this is the best time in the UK this year for an under 17.
Kristian Jones of Swansea Harriers was the fastest Welshman over the half marathon distance running a PB of 63.05 when representing GB at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland. Teammate Josh Griffiths also ran a PB of 63.08 in Larne, Ireland. Third fastest was veteran 40 Andrew Davies proving that age is no barrier running 65.51 in Siddington where Charlie Hulson also ran 65.52. Dewi Griffiths ran 65.53 at the early season Big Half in his return from injury.
On the women’s side Charlotte Arter was well clear in running a world class 70.00 at the Barcelona Half Marathon. Clara Evans had a brilliant run to score a personal best of 72.21 at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon which sealed her a GB vest at the World Half Marathon Championship in Poland. US based Emily Kearney (Wirrall) also ran 72.21 for a personal best in Hardeeville, SC. Also in America, Rosie Edwards ran a PB of 73.25 in Indianapolis. Meanwhile closer to home, Natasha Cockram of Micky Morris Racing Team ran a fine 75.27 at the Llanelli Half Marathon.
Whilst marathons were few and far between in 2020 a few did manage to take place including a covid secure London Marathon where a number of top Welsh athletes competed.
Josh Griffiths ran a personal best of 2.13.11 to finish third in the British Championships at the London Marathon and to go 6th on the all-time Wales marathon rankings. This helped Josh win Welsh Athletics Male Athlete of the year. Charlie Hulson was the second fastest running a big personal best of 2.13.34 at the London Marathon to go 9th on the all time Wales marathon rankings. Vet 40 British marathon record holder Andrew Davies ran 2.17.12 at the Bedford Autodrome Marathon and in the same race v45 athlete Martin Green of North Wales RR had a superb race to secure a PB of 2.28.11 and to smash the 2.30 barrier. V40 Jamie Vanstone of Pontypridd (Roadents) had a big PB of 2.38.48 at the Dorney Lake Marathon.
Only four welsh women completed a marathon in 2020 so we are going to give all of them a mention! Natasha Cockram had a fantastic run to win the British Championships at the London Marathon. She ran 2.33.19 in difficult conditions. She was disappointed to not push towards the Olympic qualifying mark but it was still a cracking run under the circumstances. Debby Saunders (V45) of Run4all Neath ran 3.16.50 at the Dorney Lake Marathon whilst Leigh James (V35) of Bridgend ran 3.24.52 out in Seville. Bethan Apglyn of Penarth & Dinas Runners ran a PB of 3.40.52 at the Running Grand Prix at Goodwood.
Hopefully in 2021 we will have a bit more to write about!