Cardiff Cross Challenge Run Report

By Sam Blaxland

If there’s something I’ve learnt from a year of attending CDF sessions, it’s that this club doesn’t do things by halves. Whether it’s Cosmeston Relays, parkruns, Pride events, or travelling all over the country to watch and cheer on club-mates, CDF is surely cementing its reputation as a big and conspicuously noisy gang of runners and friends. Of course, all rules have their exceptions!

And so it was last weekend, on a very autumnal Saturday, when a grand total of four CDF members – me, Debbie, Stewart and Trevor – turned up for the Gwent League Cardiff Cross Challenge at Llandaff Fields! 

Sam, Debbie and Stewart standing in their running gear and trail shoes
Sam, Debbie and Stewart pre-race

In all fairness, I had only decided to go on a whim, because it’s a stone’s throw from my house, and I wasn’t injured after Cardiff Half. I wasn’t particularly relishing the idea of running nearly 10k as part of an event that I worried might bring back memories of unpleasant school PE lessons. 

Indeed, on arrival, the feeling of being a slightly disorientated school-boy was overwhelming, with a lot of people milling around looking like they knew what they were doing, when I didn’t know where to go, what to say, or how to organise myself. I was handed an envelope (“what’s this for?”) at the registration tent and, having thought I’d already paid, was told to hand over four quid (“I don’t carry cash!”). I didn’t quite understand that, in normal circumstances with a big club team, all the finisher chips are put into one envelope so that the results can be collated.

The central path of the park flanked by club tents, gazebos and runners
The tent and gazebo game is on a whole different level

Naturally, all of this became clear very quickly, but it’s a reminder that new people at new events sometimes have no idea what is going on and can feel a bit intimidated as a result. A friendly or welcoming face, and a polite explanation, goes a long way – an attitude that CDF excel at I should add!

Anyway, the course: if anyone knows Cardiff parkrun’s ‘alternative to the alternative’ route, then this broadly follows that. It traces the perimeter of Llandaff fields, but to make up some extra distance, it cuts into the centre of the fields with a few hairpins and twists. There’s a short but sharp hill near the beginning, which inevitably leads to a downhill section, but the rest is pretty flat. There was even a log to jump over. I really enjoyed the course, and found the winding and the turns (and the log jump) fun; it was disorientating enough to take my mind off the fact that, for the senior men at least, you had to do three laps of all of this.  

There were plenty of Senior Women running, including our very own Debbie, who put in a sterling performance having already done the parkrun that morning. What a hero! Once the male under 20s had finished it was the turn of Stewart, Trevor and I to give it a go. 

 

By the time we started, a couple of sections had turned into that infamous no-man’s-land bog that can sometimes be associated with cross country. That’s actually an exaggeration, but it certainly was properly muddy and difficult to pick up any pace over. Thankfully, most sections were completely manageable, and nothing a pair of trail shoes couldn’t handle. 

The field was competitive and I spent a lot of the first lap fighting for space, but once it opened out a bit – and once the bulk of runners had surged ahead – it all got a lot easier. At parkrun and various races, I’m not used to being in the bottom third, but that’s a testament to how good the standard was here. I finished 366 out of, perhaps, 550 runners, and just avoided being lapped by the winner. Some of the front-runners were truly amazing.  

Thanks are also due to Mike who was on hand to provide support and good-natured coaching. As I was about to begin my second lap, someone I knew shouted a word of encouragement. I waved a quick thanks for this, and immediately heard, from Mike in the distance, ‘Stop smiling Sam! You’re not trying hard enough if you’re smiling!!’. Naturally, this only made me smile more! 

For a run I entered on a whim, I was elated after finishing. This was a varied course, with a good atmosphere that offered something different to do on a Saturday afternoon. 

Sam approaching the end of a lap with a big grin on his face
“Stop smiling! You’re having too much fun!”

So, a word of encouragement for all CDFers thinking about taking part in up-coming cross country runs this season, or this same event next year: definitely do it.

The standard is very high at the top end, but the ability range is broad. It’s also cheap as chips – and the effort justifies chips, or a pint if you’re like me. It might be a bit confusing when you first arrive, but most events are regardless, and anyway, some of us now know how it works! For fans of the fluffy four-legged-friends there was also a range of lovely dogs to spot and say hi to in the crowds.

If you haven’t done cross country since school (like me), then that very particular smell of freshly churned up earth will certainly prove nostalgic. And even though it’s hard work, I firmly believe that the concentration required to pick your way through muddy tracks makes the time fly by. 

And in future events we need to be there in numbers large enough to make our presence felt – and so that the announcers start saying our club name correctly…


Cross Country is open to CDF members, with fixtures on the following dates:

  • 9 November 2019 – Pembrey Country Park, Llanelli
  • 7 December 2019 – Blaise Castle, Bristol
  • 8 February 2020 – Chepstow Racecourse
  • 1 March 2020 – Singleton Park, Swansea

Please check out the events in the Affiliated Members Facebook group, or email hello@cdfrunners.co.uk to find out more.

CDF Training Plan October to December 2019

Hey everyone!

Last week Run Leaders Rich, Nina, Matt and Zoe sat down to draw up the next block of training (we had Adam along as well for quality control – if he made a face when we suggested something, we knew we were on the right track); with this block of training we’re trying to give you some interesting and challenging sessions on a Wednesday night to keep you going for the rest of the year. It’s a 10-week schedule that’ll take us to 11 December 2019, and on the 18th we’ll have our annual seasonal fun cavalcade before breaking up until the new year.

We’ll be splitting the sessions over two locations – Lloyd George Avenue and Museum Avenue – to try and keep things varied and interesting. 

We’re also not assigning specific dates to a session – we’ll take a look at what the weather’s going to be like and pick something appropriate; for example, if there’s rain scheduled we’ll look at something with a low recovery time between sets. The sessions will be as follows:

Museum Avenue

  • 200m reps
  • 2x Circuit sessions
  • Individual fartlek
  • Relays (teams of three)

Lloyd George Avenue

  • Long junction reps
  • Junction based pyramid session
  • Individual and team fartlek
  • Split distance session
  • 2-junction reps

The session will usually be decided on a Monday and announced on our Facebook page as soon as we can.

Rather than look at specific distances, during the winter we try to use the natural breaks in the roads to set the distances for each session. The principles remain the same as the sessions we ran during the summer – we’ll split the groups by levels of ability, but give everyone the platform to push as hard as they want to on that night. 

CDF Training Plan July-September 2019

Hey everyone!

Nina, Matt and Rich have been beavering away working on a plan for the Wednesday training sessions that’ll take us up to the Cardiff half-marathon.

Again, we’ve tried to mix things up, making sure that we’re not repeating too many of the sessions we’ve done over the last session block and we’ve included three circuit sessions to take advantage of being in the park because after this block, we’ll be back on Lloyd George Avenue.

Here’s an overview – we’ll have the full details of each session on our Facebook page the Tuesday beforehand:

17 July 2019 Circuits (pairs work)
24 July 2019 400m reps
31 July 2019 Pyramid session (time)
7 August 2019 1km reps (pairs)
14 August 2019 Circuits (7 exercises, 30/15 split)
21 August 2019 Fartlek (Baker-inspired version)
28 August 2019 800m reps
4 September 2019 Fartlek (big/small loop, partner work)
11 September 2019 Circuits (HIIT)
18 September 2019 300m reps
25 September 2019 1k / 800m / 600m / 400m / 200m
2 October 2019 Taper session / kicker run

 

🏳️‍🌈 Cardiff Running Pride 🏳️‍🌈

We had such a fabulous time at the Pride Cymru Parade in 2018, that we want to do it again, and this time we want YOU there too.

Whether you identify as LGBT+ or someone who just appreciates the importance of showing support to your friends and fellow club members who are, we’d love to get everyone together to march at Pride Cymru 2019. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CDF Runner, unaffiliated, a social runner or a member of any other Cardiff club, 

We know that sport is a huge factor in improving health and well-being, but also that joining a club can be a big step for many people. Running clubs can be intimidating, so let’s all come together to show how inclusive and welcoming we are!

Can we get a member of every running club and group in Cardiff? That’s up to you…

Marching under a Runners of Cardiff banner will be an opportunity to wear your club colours, wave your flags and banners, and proactively show that you encourage LGBT+ runners, and will never tolerate homophobia, biphobia or transphobia.

Everyone taking part will be asked for a £2 donation to Pride Cymru.

The parade is on the morning of 24th August 2019. The time and route is yet to be confirmed but don’t worry, you’ll have time to do parkrun! #parkrunfresh

If you’re a member of another club and want to join the march, please email hello@cdfrunners.co.uk for more details, or if you’re a CDF Runner, keep an eye out on Facebook.

Runner of the Month April 2019: Rich Skyrme

Runner of the Month is back and the first for 2019 is our new Chair and Head Coach Rich.

Runner of the Month is not about who’s the best runner or who has achieved the most, it’s a way for us to share our running stories and learn more about each other.


Oddly enough, my running journey started with a boat.

I’d gone past my 32nd birthday and I’d taken part in Llandaff Rowing Club’s annual Pub and Club Regatta, where they take novice crew and train them up for a race. I’d not really done any sport for about a decade and I was still smoking about 15 cigarettes a day; taking part really brought it home to me how unfit I’d truly become.

This was my running equivalent of a moment of clarity.

Decisions were made; I was going to start running and give up the smokes. Digging out a pair of very old, very cheap trainers that even Sports Direct would balk at before selling, a pair of beach shorts and my most disposable cotton t-shirt I planned out a two mile loop and proceeded to run-walk around it, using the lampposts as markers. It was awful, but I stuck with it.

In 2007 I completed my first 5km ‘fun jog’ event, and then six months later tried my first 10km and almost murdered my feet with the aforementioned trainers. I ran the very first Cardiff parkrun in 2008, and my first Cardiff half-marathon in the same year but the running bug had still to really bite me – I wanted to be better at, but didn’t know how.

My first medal

The idea of joining a traditional running club felt intimidating, but I noticed the newly-opened Nike store was providing a weekly free running club and that appealed to me – something that could help me improve my running but with a minimum of a commitment. The group was pretty small initially but friendly and encouraging; we pushed each other and had fun doing it while being coached by some fantastic athletes.

From here, my running and my general interest in running grew and grew – my times over all distances improved and I completed my first marathon. Inevitably, however and I tried to get faster and faster injury struck – I had problem with Achilles tendon pain, plantar fasciitis and more over a period of several years.

Being injured was rubbish – I found that I relied on both the exercise and community to help cope with day-to-day stress from work and private life and having this taken away really hurt. To try and deal with this, I started volunteering at parkrun to try and give back to the event that I enjoyed so much and took the Leadership in Running Fitness qualification with Welsh Athletics to enable me to help out with the weekly sessions.

Then, abruptly the Nike store closed; I’ll be forever grateful to them and more importantly, the staff who organised the run club (Ieuan, Fran, Emma, Jon, Lauren, Jack, Beth, Charlotte and Kieran) for both their expertise and the principles that still guide us today – that running should be a fun, friendly, inclusive experience open to everyone, be it someone who’s just starting out on their journey to the 20-year vet.

My goals really have changed in the 10+ years since I started running; I’ve realised that I want to be running for the long term and while it’s great to be chasing personal bests, for me to be healthy and enjoying my running is more important for me (that’s not going to stop me trying, though!). Additionally I’ve found I take more now from helping others achieve what they want from the sport – whether that’s finding a friendly place to come and run, having a parkrun to go to on a Saturday morning or working towards a distance or time.

Darth Mannion – Race Report

Race report by Stewart Harding


Wow. What a ludicrous, brilliant race this was.

I could just tell you it’s a 12 mile trail race in the Gower with about 500m of elevation, and whilst i’d already be pretty excited about that, it doesn’t tell you half the story.

The race briefing had a fantastic juxtaposition of the Race Director telling us it was a community race, and that we were raising money for the Wales Air Ambulance, followed by race MC ‘Skillsy’ who said it was the stupidest race in the country, and that “500 of you are going out, and I honestly couldn’t care less if only 200 of you came back”. I already knew this was going to be fun.

Instead of starting in waves, this race uses 6 pelotons, which set off in reverse order, slowest to fastest. Holly and I opted for the ‘Indefatigable’ peloton, so we went 4th in a group of about 30. The unique thing about these pelotons is that you’re not allowed to run ahead of the pacemakers in each one. While most pelotons spread out fairly quickly, not making this much of an issue for most, for the fastest group, the ‘Immortals’, this creates a paced run before a dramatic fast race finish over the last mile.

The opening section through the woods started to get crowded as we caught the tail end of the ‘Inbetweeners’ and so we lost our peloton pacers as we queued for a river.

Yep, we got to run through and along a LOT of rivers, which was brilliant fun. There was a lot of mud too of course, so a good opportunity to cool down and give my trail shoes the only clean they ever get.

We ran to Three Cliffs Bay, which is a beautiful part of the Gower and definitely worth a trip there for a walk at any time. This involved lots of sand, more river crossings, some more mud, a long hill and a slippery clamber through a natural cliff arch.

Not only did we get to run rivers, but at Darth Mannion you get to go in the sea! There should have been three dips, but for some reason, we only did two, but they were hilarious. Of course the sea in these parts is pretty shallow when the tide is in so I ran out and hurled myself face first at the 8 inch deep water only to get a  mouthful of sand and seawater. It’s certainly a unique experience to have to pick yourself up and then carry on running, unable to wipe your face and eyes with anything clean!

After a sandy, energy sapping climb back up the cliff we were rewarded with some spectacular views over the coast.

This is a good time to mention the support out on the course. Not only the marshals, which were plentiful and vocal, but what appeared to be randoms out for a walk would clap and cheer us past, loads of families and kids at the aid stations and other points along the route gave so much support. Everyone we passed was chatting and supporting each other, and laughing at the ordeal we were putting ourselves through.

The most disgusting part of any race I’ve ever done was the ‘Sheep Dip’, which was exactly what it sounded like. A brown, stagnant, pond we had to wade across, touch the island in the middle and get out as fast as possible. My feet immediately sunk in up to my shins in what can only be described as a whole load of shit. It was worse than you’re imagining it to be. 🤢

A sprint down the cliff led us out to the next sea dip, which completely drained my energy, and the climb back up off the beach over the stones started to get hard. I had hoped for another river run to clean the poo and seawater off, but the last river was a bit murky and salty, so no such luck, Darth Mannion is not that kind!

A long hill and then a few short steep climbs got us back up towards the finish for what the Immortals would have treated as a sprint. I was very much in plodding mode at this point, and dragged myself over the hay bales in the final field to cross the line.

Upon crossing the line I was offered a can of Carling. Uh, nah mate, cheers.

That can be forgiven as the next person who came up to me offered me a big cup of soup and bread! I can’t tell you how happy I was to receive this, there can’t be a better comfort food at the end of a tough race. There were ample showers and hot tubs(!) at the end and loads of great food while everyone was cheered in.

The peloton system meant you were never running alone, as there were people to overtake and plenty to overtake you at the same time. While it wasn’t timed, I definitely felt like pushing it when it flattened out as there was always someone to try and catch.

Obviously, i’m going to recommend this hugely as it was such good fun, and so different to anything else I’ve done. It’s like the Rabbit Run on steroids. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but I’d suggest doing it with a group or in a pair so you can spend the whole time laughing together.

I talked about this race a bit more on my podcast ‘Running is Bullshit’.

Podcast linkStravaRace website

CDF Training Plan April-June 2019

Hello everyone!

Matt and Rich are excited to have been joined on the coaching team by Nina, who’s qualified with an MSc Sports Coaching & Performance in putting together our Wednesday training plan for April – June 2019, and we’re really happy with how it’s come together.

We’re back in Bute Park now and we intend to take full advantage of the variety of green spaces available. We’ve incorporated an extra circuit session into this block, along with a couple sessions which are pretty different to what we normally do – a handicap run, and the bleep test – mixed in with our traditional interval work.

We’ll also be having a focus on the posterior chain during our warm-ups – showing you a number of exercises you can do to both stretch and strengthen this important set of muscles including the calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

Finally, we’d like to give everyone who’s not given one of our Wednesday sessions a go the chance to try them out on a scaled level – so on the dates where we’re be running a circuit session, we’ll also be running a separate introduction to to speed work session as well which will be focussed on runners with little to no experience in speed work.  

If you’ve got any questions, just pop onto our Facebook group or contact us on twitter.

3 April 2019 Pyramid (time)
10 April 2019 1km reps
17 April 2019 Circuit session + Introduction to speed work
24 April 2019 400m reps
1 May 2019 Loop run (partner work)
8 May 2019 800m reps
15 May 2019 Circuit session + Introduction to speed work
22 May 2019 200m reps
29 May 2019 3km handicap run
5 June 2019 Timed fartlek
12 June 2019 1km / 400m / 400m
19 June 2019 Circuit session + Introduction to speed work
26 June 2019 Bleep test

We’ll meet in Moti, Queen’s Arcade as usual, but if you’d prefer to meet us in the park, we’ll be here by about 18:35:

3 Years of CDF Runners 🎂🎂🎂

Happy Birthday CDF Runners!

‘CDF Runners’ is three years old today, or at least the name ‘CDF Runners’ is. The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted the ‘Estd. 2010’ on our logo that hints at life pre-CDF.

We’ve had so many new members and developments recently, perhaps it’s time for a history lesson? Well, gather around and i’ll tell you a tale…

Long before ‘CDF Runners’ was a twinkle in the eye of a Nike marketing executive (we’ll get to that later) ‘Nike+ Run Club Cardiff’ was established in 2010 by the Nike shop in St David’s 2.

There were Nike Run Clubs in cities all around the world, and various members have visited them in places such as Lisbon, Athens and Miami!

Nike staff member and Decathlete Fran Baker founded the club and coached the group for many years. In fact, the club has been lucky to have a number of extremely talented coaches including Welsh 1,500m Champion Ieuan Thomas, Irish 400m Hurdler Emma Peters, Team GB Triathlete Jon Harrhy and Malta’s top 100m and 200m runner Charlotte Wingfield.

Nike+ Run Club Cardiff – February 2011

Despite their elite status and training, it was these Nike staff who gave us our ethos of being super inclusive, supportive and noisy whilst encouraging runners to push themselves.

We’ve also retained the basic structure of running on Mondays and Wednesdays, though Mondays used to be women-only. This changed in mid-2012 and both sessions became mixed with the Monday ‘Recovery Run’ and Wednesday speed sessions we still do today.

The group was relatively small for a few years, without much mass involvement in races and parkrun until 2014 when the club entered it’s first team race, the Cosmeston Relays. 5 teams of 3 entered in brightly coloured Nike t-shirts and a questionable Power Rangers team naming convention.

Cosmeston Relay – July 2014

Cosmeston has become a rock solid fixture for the club ever since, peaking at 22 teams in 2018!

Cosmeston Relay – July 2018

Numbers had started to pick up in 2014, and by 2015 the club had grown significantly. There was more and more interest in races, and we started to become much more organised in terms of travelling together and supporting each other. When a large number were talked into entering the 2015 Manchester Marathon, the Sunday long runs were established. Many runners did their first ever marathon that year, having signed up within weeks of their first session!

It seemed Nike+ Run Club Cardiff was on an unstoppable rise, but in early 2016 we were told that Nike had had a change of policy and the clubs in Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow would have new names and branding separate from each other. We were told we would still have the backing of Nike, along with the free coaching and hosting but only the London shop would have the Nike+ Run Club name from now on.

Three new names were conjured up by Nike and were given to us to vote on. To be honest most of us we were a little underwhelmed by the choices, but ‘CDF Runners’ was chosen over ‘CF10 Runners’ and ‘Cardiff Run Crew’ and we learned to love it in time, and now couldn’t imagine being anything else. One of our runners designed the new logo, which coordinated with the new Dockside Runners in Liverpool and GLA Run Club in Glasgow.

The first big event for our new name was the Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships, and we gathered together a good number of CDF Runners along with representatives form our ‘sister’ clubs from Liverpool and Glasgow.

Cardiff World Half Marathon Championship – March 2016

It was at this time we created a website and twitter account, and they’ve been a huge success in expressing our personality and attracting new runners.

It didn’t come as a huge surprise when just over a year later we were told the Nike shop would be shut down and the club would have to relocate or close down. Faced with this choice, we did what we always do when we have decisions to make, we went to Wetherspoons.

After a session, more than 30 people packed around a few tables and held a meeting to decide what we do next. There was a unanimous decision to continue as a club and to take on the coaching and all the background admin ourselves. A group of volunteers were chosen to take over from the Nike staff to moderate the Facebook group, which was where most of what we did was planned and discussed.

The word that Nike was closing had spread fast, and we quickly received an offer from Moti in Queen’s Arcade, which ticked all of our boxes. After our final run with Nike, we transitioned smoothly to Moti in June 2017 without missing a session.

First Moti session – June 2017

At this time we discussed but resisted the idea of affiliation to Welsh Athletics, as we wanted to keep everything simple and most importantly free. We continued in this way for a little over a year before it was suggested again, but this time with the caveat that we could maintain free training sessions for everyone and offer membership for those that wanted it.

The club remains at it’s core a social running group, but has grown to become so much more besides.

We’ve run Couch to 5k and helped brand new runners take their first steps, which is one of the most rewarding things we’ve done. We’ve inspired people to run their first 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, and ultras. We’ve taught people to swim and cycle and taken part in aquathlons, duathlons and triathlons. We’ve travelled together around Europe to race and holiday together. We’ve taken part in Pride Cymru with our special Pride logos which are now a permanent option for anyone buying a new t-shirt. We’ve helped raise over £3,500 for homelessness charity The Wallich. We’ve helped to create new and lasting friendships. We’ve become more than a running club.

Thank you all for being part of the journey, and perhaps you now know a little more about who we are and where we come from!

CDF Training Plan January-March 2019

Hello everyone! We’ve had the chance to review and reflect on what we thought worked, and what didn’t work in the last couple of training blocks while planning our first set of Wednesday sessions for 2019.

Firstly, the couple of weeks using the Museum Avenue (MA) area was well received so we’re going to be using that a bit more to help mitigate Lloyd George Avenue  (LGA) fatigue.

Secondly, while the benchmark test at the start and end of each block worked in theory, because individual often couldn’t make both sessions it lost its intended impact.

Finally, we’re going to try a split session where there will be two different activities, and we’ll split into two groups and swap over half way through.

We’ve planned up until the Cardiff Bay 10k at the end of March, which coincides with the clocks going forward so the intention the next block will be entirely within Bute Park.

Date Location Details
09 January MA Timed fartlek
16 January MA 500m reps
23 January MA Split 500m reps (2x 250m, short recovery)
30 January LGA Running + bodyweight exercises
06 February LGA Pyramid (1-2-3-4-3-2-1 junction runs)
13 February MA 200m reps
20 February LGA Partner fartlek (2 junction hard, 1 junction easy)
27 February LGA Split session
06 March LGA Running + bodyweight exercises
13 March LGA Split junction running (5 out, 2 + 2 back)
20 March MA Relays
27 March LGA 1 km reps (includes taper option for 10k entrants)

Hope this all makes sense – gives us a shout if you’ve got any questions.

Ryan, Matt & Rich