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.

🏳️‍🌈 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.

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!

Runner of the Month July 2018: Nina Lindholm

July’s runner of the month is our very own Flying Finn, Nina, who is a British Champion, and competed at a World Championships, but not for running…


How long have you been running: Focused on it more about 3 years ago
Favourite Race: Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and Stuttgart Half Marathon
Favourite Distance: 10k and half marathon
Greatest Achievement: Lots of things in 2018: Synchronised Skating British Champions, Brighton Marathon and representing GB at WSSC 2018.

I’ve always been quite active, but never really liked running until few years ago.

My main sport has been figure skating/synchronised skating since I was about 4-years-old. Alongside all the skating I had to do some running to improve my general fitness, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it! Although I do remember running with my junior team and discussing what we wanted to eat when we got home, so that hasn’t changed!

After I quit my competitive career in Finland at the end of the season 08-09, I felt bit empty. What do I do now when I’m not training 20h+ a week? I moved to the UK for university and kept running and exercising, but not with the healthiest mindset. I wasn’t enjoying it.

After moving to Cardiff I started skating again, representing Great Britain this time. We ran 5Ks with the team and I kept running by myself. At some point I saw a fellow Finnish runner, Heli, post on Facebook about her running training. I mostly ran by myself but asked her who she ran with, as it would be nice to know more people in Cardiff. She introduced me to CDF Runners.

Running with the club has completely changed my view on running, I now look forward to runs and I run because I like it (I still sometimes hate it too, but it’s ok). I ran my first race quite soon after joining (Cardiff Half Marathon 2016) and have loved racing since. I recently ran my first full marathon in Brighton, which was the next weekend after skating at the 2018 World Synchronized Skating Championships. Training for both at the same time was tough but CDF Runners (and the skating family) have been a massive support.

I aim to do as many runs as I can with the club, which has allowed me to run routes I never would’ve even thought about. They also teach me useful life lessons, such as running a mile race (1609m for any Finns reading this) is not pleasant.

Runner of the Month June 2018: Sam Topham

Runner of the Month is your chance to get to know some of our runners a little better. this month is a treat as it’s the extraordinary story of our first ever Couch to 50k graduate!


Hi, my name is Sam and I can officially and proudly say I am a part of CDF Runners!

I had joined a gym the year previously to try and lose weight and try and tone I’d gone a handful of times and decided to cancel my membership as it wasn’t working. I had attempted couch to 5k about five years ago but never completed it so I decided to see if I could find a club that was doing the same Couch to 5K as I knew I would never be able to complete this by myself. Well if I can’t commit to going to the gym by myself then what chance did I have running in the rain and in the cold dark nights! So I did some research and discovered CDF Runners were starting in February so I decided to take the plunge and join.

When I first arrived at my first session on a very cold night in February I never dreamed that I would be able to complete the first session let alone complete 10 parkruns over one weekend but that is exactly what happened three months later.

When I first started the Couch to 5K session, the first week comprised of three sessions which included a brisk five-minute warm up walk, then it alternated between one minute of running and one-and-a-half minutes of walking, then a five-minute cool down walk at the end this was for a total of 20 minutes, by the end of the first session I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry on. But with the support of my fellow runners and the amazing CDF Runner coaches and pacers I was able to carry on.

The Couch to 5K app is for 9 weeks and its aim is to get you running continuously for 30 minutes which I amazingly managed to do and completed my first parkrun in 37 minutes.

Receiving my certificate for completing my first park run and graduation day 🙂

Little did I realise that I would accidently sign myself up for the Parkrunathon, I thought it was to do as many park runs in the month of May not do them all in one weekend!

Maybe it might have helped if I read the back on the t-shirt!

Our first parkrun of the day at Rogiet.

Our last parkrun at Grangemoor, Cardiff!

Final parkrun completed, cannot believe I am still smiling or that I am still standing!

Currently I have raised £300 for The Wallich. CDF Runners adopted The Wallich to be their charity partner and if you would like to donate our JustGiving page is https://www.justgiving.com/teams/cdfrunners

 

My next aim is now to complete a 10K run either in Barry or Cardiff… So watch this space!

Runner of the Month May 2018: David Davies

How long have you been running: since 2012
Favourite race: Severn Bridge Half Marathon and Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Favourite distance: Half Marathon
Favourite time to run: Morning
Greatest achievement: London Marathon 2017

Back in 2012 I was in my fifties, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bordering on diabetes and was five stone overweight; weighing in at 17 stone. I live in Cardiff Bay and at that time I thought nothing of catching the train from the Bay up to town to save me walking.

I work as a minister of religion and when I went to visit parishioners they would offer me tea and cake to be sociable. I always accepted the cake (often a double helping!) and a cup of tea with two sugars. The weight kept on piling on and I often thought that it was odd how the clothes shops changing rooms were getting smaller; not me getting bigger! I went to the doctors for a routine appointment and the doctor turned to me and said “you do realise you are obese don’t you?” and to be honest I didn’t until I heard the words come out of his mouth (looking back it is hard to believe that I didn’t realise I was so unfit and unhealthy).

I joined the local Weight Watchers group in Grangetown and learnt how to eat smaller quantities of food, choosing the healthy option and I started walking. Then I started jogging around Cardiff Bay and decided to set myself a challenge to do the Cardiff half marathon. I started to go to Grangemoor parkrun as part of my training. Once I had completed my first half marathon in Cardiff with a time of 2:45 I had well and truly got the running bug. I wanted to join a club to motivate me to train and improve.

I was very nervous going to the first CDF session but everyone was really friendly, welcoming and sociable. At the first session I ran with Steph Ferry and she gave me confidence and encouraged me to set a good pace. Welcoming new people and being an inclusive club makes CDF something special.

Since then I have done a total of 11 half marathons, raised nearly £5,000 for charity and finally got an elusive sub 2 hour time. I always wear my CDF t-shirt at events to represent the club and I post a picture at the start of the race to the Facebook group; it’s great to see all of the positive comments from other club members when I finish the race.

1Last year I did the London marathon; which was a real step up from a half, but a wonderful experience. I’ve now signed up for the New York marathon in November. I keep up with the CDF news from the facebook group and try to train with them as much as possible. It’s great to see how people improve week on week and I have made many friends both in Grangemoor Parkrun and CDF.

Runner of the Month April 2018: Tor Jones

Your monthly opportunity to get to know a few CDF Runners a bit better. This month we highlight Tor Jones, fresh from a Half Marathon PB.


  • How long have you been running: 8 months
  • Favourite Race: London Landmarks Half Marathon
  • Favourite Distance: 10k
  • Favourite time to run: Mid-morning
  • Greatest Achievement: Smashing my PB in London Landmarks Half Marathon

Back in 2013 I ran my first half marathon whilst raising money for a local hospice back home in Stroud. I swore then i’d never run another!

In 2014 I then moved to Cardiff and thought to myself I couldn’t not run the Cardiff Half whilst I’m here. After much deliberating of actually entering, 3 years later the other half signed us both up for the 2017 Cardiff Half. When I began my training I quickly found that I wasn’t comfortable running alone and with a lack of structure my motivation began to wain; cue CDF.

I joined CDF in the hope that I would feel safer running through the Autumn/Winter months and add some structure to my training. What I didn’t expect to find so quickly was so many lovely people and dare I say it some enjoyment in running!!

Enter the London Landmarks Half Marathon (LLHM) in March 2018. After a few months of consistent running I actually felt good ahead of the race, despite having my training plan interrupted by the snow! I set myself the target of getting close to the time I had achieved in Cardiff (2:23:48).

I’ve competed nationally with trampolining and prefer to stay fit by going to the gym. I’m not a runner… or so I thought. The LLHM was run in a huge personal best time of 2:07:46. I’d somehow managed to improve my half marathon time by 16 minutes in less than 6 months. I have also improved my 5K and 10K times.

CDF are a friendly welcoming bunch, offering structured training with an enjoyable atmosphere. So if you’re looking for somewhere or someone to run with in Cardiff, why not check out their facebook group?

Runner of the Month March 2018: Holly Corlett

How long have you been running: 4 years
Favourite Race: All of them. Love a race
Favourite Distance: The longer the better
Favourite time to run: At winter in the dark and pouring rain
Greatest Achievement: Completing the Isle of Wight Challenge, 106km in 29h50m (without sleeping)

I love being outside and going on an adventure. Back home in mid-Wales, I would spend most days exploring the mountains, forests and rivers with the late, great Bethbo Baggins (my dog). I’m a big country person, so also love a lot of mud and clambering over obstacles.

I was trying to be cool one day, so I joined a gym. I was on the treadmill and the women next to me ran for an hour straight. I was in awe. I wanted to be able to run for an hour, so worked towards that for a couple of months and finally did it. I entered the Cardiff Half Marathon that year. I was absolutely terrified by the thought of running 13 miles but finished it. It was the best feeling.

To cut a long story short (and because I’ve been told not to give you my life story), I joined CDF Runners in October 2016. By March 2017 I had shaved 2 minutes off my 10k PB and 3 minutes off my half marathon PB. By May 2017, I had run my first marathon.

Joining CDF is one of the best decisions I have made. They have provided me with the opportunity to achieve and experience things that I would not have done otherwise. I feel very grateful to be surrounded by such friendly, supportive, understanding, funny and piggy people. Everyone is celebrated within the club and I like that a lot.

Time spent with the CDF family is time well spent. Diolch gang!


Holly is raising funds for the Wallich by running on a treadmill for 24 hours (TWENTY FOUR HOURS) – Sponsor her here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/holly-corlett


Want to be Runner of the Month? Of course you do. Doesn’t matter if you started running last week or last century, we want to know all about you.

Email cdfrunners@gmail.com or let us know in the Facebook group.