Spotlight on: Charlotte Simpson

How long have you been running? 
Since 2018. I joined CDF’s Couch to 5K programme as a complete beginner and I’ve been running ever since!
Do you have a favourite race? 
I haven’t done many races but the Cardiff Half will always be important to me as it was the first big race I did.
Do you have a favourite distance to run? Half marathon. That distance is a challenge and finishing always feels like a huge achievement. 
What’s your greatest achievement? Despite having done races and long distances the thing I’m still most proud of is completing the Couch to 5k programme

I still find it hard to believe that I’m a runner and that running is so important in my life. In 2018, I happened to see an ad for the Couch to 5K programme and thought “If my trainers are still at the back of the wardrobe I’ll give it a go”. My trainers were there, so I signed up!

9 absolute queens including Charlotte lined up for a photo under the famous Grangemoor parkrun flyover having just completed their final Couch to 5k run.

I had a couple of motivators for joining the programme. In 2016, I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer at the age of 41. A couple of weeks after diagnosis my partner and I moved from London to Cardiff. Unfortunately the first new year or so of our new life was focused on my treatment and recovery and I was working at home during that time so wasn’t meeting people and felt very isolated. I’d put off trying to do exercise even though I knew it was an important part of recovery, so starting to run alongside other beginners seemed like a good way to socialise and improve my fitness. 

My aim for C25k was to run all of the running parts of the programme without giving up. And I did that, which felt amazing. The support of the volunteers and my fellow newbies was what helped me complete the programme. I was incredibly slow but never made to feel that I wasn’t good enough. I really enjoyed running and being outdoors and after the programme started to go to CDF Monday night sessions and the occasional parkrun. But then my default setting of ‘can’t be arsed’ kicked in and I ran less and less, even though I knew I liked doing it and it was good for me in lots of ways.

Charlotte and Ruth in ludicrously pink Cardiff half tshirts and medal arm in arm looking very proud.

In 2021 I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and had a hysterectomy, which meant I couldn’t work or do anything for 2 months. That gave me plenty of time to think. Having two cancers by the age of 46 isn’t great and I realised that I needed to start looking after myself a bit better. Also that time off increased my feelings of isolation. I knew that there were people at CDF that I liked and who could be potential friends but getting to know people needed commitment and consistency, like running. 

At the start of 2022 I properly committed to running and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Those potential friends have become friends, and other new running friends have appeared. I’ve overcome a lot anxiety about being a fat slow runner and have done races, which I never expected to do. I’ve run half marathons, I’ve done trail running, I’ve beaten my personal bests. Family and friends still seem astonished that I’ve become a runner and so am I, to be honest.

Running has become absolutely essential to my emotional wellbeing and I love it.

Side view of Charlotte running on a tarmac path with grass behind, looking resplendent in her black DF tshirt.

I can’t talk about running without saying thank you to CDF Runners. Being slow and at the back in sessions and races can be disheartening but my clubmates are always supportive and encourage me to keep going and to challenge myself. I recently ran the Newport Half Marathon, the first half I’ve run without friends alongside me which felt a bit daunting. I had run past CDFers who were out supporting along the course but didn’t expect to see anyone at the end because it would take me much longer to finish than anyone else. So when I was on the home straight and the support crew were there cheering me I was so surprised and got such a boost. I had a little cry as I crossed the finish line because it was just so lovely that they’d waited for me and I’m lucky to have running in my life. That’s what I love about this club. 

2024 is supposed to be a big running year for me. I’m going to run my first ultra in April 2025 so this year was meant to be about building distance and strength and learning to eat those disgusting gels. At the moment I’m injured and my plans have quite a set back. But I’m determined to do that ultra if I’m able, even if I walk more than I run. Giving it a go is what matters, and I know I’ll have my clubmates supporting me as I try to get to the start line.

A selfie from Charlotte holding up a chonky Cardiff half medal from 2023. She looks knackered, but in a good way.

Spotlight on: Stewart Harding

How long have you been running? My first parkrun was in May 2012, which is more or less the start of it all
Do you have a favourite race? It has to be Cosmeston Relay for the team and social aspect of it
Do you have a favourite distance to run? I love a mile race for the sheer pain
What’s your greatest achievement? I’m really proud that I’ve been part of the club’s development from day 1 of CDF Runners

While I am the guy who puts these blogs on the website, I want to assure everyone that I was actually asked and haven’t gone rogue! So here’s a bit about me and my running past.

In 2011, I had a moment a lot of us have had when they looked at a photo of themselves and thought “Oh that’s… bad”. In my case it was a photo from a wedding, and the reality of my miserable post-university office job absolutely smashing packets of biscuits hit home. In order to improve this, I thought getting back into football would be good. Let’s just say I won the ‘Most Improved Player’ two years in a row, and it gives you an idea of just how low my starting point was!

When I eventually realised that there is a lot less at stake when running and no one shouts at you for being shit, I focussed on that instead. I had been to Cardiff parkrun on weekends when I didn’t have a match a few times already, and then started to occasionally run there and/or back, and even took the crazy step to run during the week too! I then started looking at races, with two 10ks in my first fairly sporadic year of running and then kicked on to fifteen races in my second including the most of the local ‘big’ races and smaller ones such as the Murder Mile and a few trail races. This sort of racing calendar set an early template for my future running endeavours.

Stewart wearing an old England football shirt looking very tired on the last stretch of Cardiff parkrun.
One of my first running photos at Cardiff parkrun, October 2012

I started to hesitantly look for running clubs in December 2014, despite having the wary attitude that I think most new runners have about them. I remember my very first impression of the then Nike+ Run Club was seeing a photo of everyone at a Christmas meal and thinking “Oh for god’s sake, not another team night out”. I’d previously played football and cricket and despite not being bad clubs, I had to work really hard to be ‘in’ and it just never really worked out for me. Also, I was crap at football and cricket. Looking at that photo I was pretty sure that would never be me as I just didn’t have the capacity to spend all that energy on trying to fit in again.

Well, as it turned out, it really wasn’t that bad! It was very relaxed, people were friendly and chatty and there was no obligation to go every week, or run fast if I didn’t want to. It really didn’t take long before I felt I was a part of the core of the group, and my social circle, which up to then had been about 3 people outside of work (having lived in Cardiff for 7 years), increased to at least 30 people and more almost every week. It was a social explosion for me, but never forced or faked and no rowdy nights out were needed. We were much more tea and cake than pie and pints, which suited me perfectly. We’ve been on group running holidays together around Europe and I met my girlfriend, Holly, here after many long runs and adventures together. Of course as it turns out, I’m also now helping to organise the Christmas meals and other social events.

Holly and Stewart running on a gravel path and both smiling, probably because it's slightly downhill.
Holly and Stewart still managing to enjoy an ultra

Because I’m definitely the kind of person who just can’t help getting involved, I set up our twitter account and designed our first website when the name CDF Runners’ came around in 2016 to help people to find us and stay up to date. I’ve answered the emails, set up Instagram, admined the Facebook group, written guidance, helped write the club’s ethos, been on the committee since the start, and loads more besides. I’m honestly not saying this to blow my own trumpet, but just to show how much the club means to me and how much I want it to continue and thrive.

I’m not quite sure what type of runner I am these days. I love racing, hitting a new PB of 23 races in a year in 2022, but it’s hard to pin down a favourite distance or type of race. This year has already included fells, trails, canicross, a road 5k and a couple of mile races with some very silly ultras to come.

Stewart running covered head to toe in mud, with a climbing wall in the background.
The Chepstow Steeplechase, note the mud up to my shoulder. It was DEEP.

A particular memory that sticks out is running the Chepstow Steeplechase obstacle race. Holly and I hit the front of Wave 1 straight away having determined that everyone else looked like they were there to enjoy it and have a bit of fun. I threw myself at the climbs and crawls and found myself in the ludicrous position of leading from the start to cross the finish line first, after hauling myself through genuinely chest deep mud, twice. Convinced I had actually won an event I waited 10 hours for the official results to come through, only to discover that all the good runners went in Wave 2 and I had finished 9th. What made it worse was that Holly won the female race…

I’ve been asked about my favourite races a few times recently and my answer is that I like the stupid races. The ones where someone says run up that mountain and back, or find these 16 checkpoints, or through a load of mud. I’m really up for anything, and I’m passionate about supporting small race companies and clubs where I know my entry money isn’t being spent on t-shirts and Facebook advertising. Of course this has had the unfortunate effect of when I recommend races to people they will assume the race is too crazy for them and run in the opposite direction!

The club has genuinely changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful to those that welcomed me and do my best to return that kindness. I’ll keep on looking for new races and encouraging people to run cross-country, or up a mountain, or to push themselves in a mile race, and I’ll keep on supporting this fine club to give all those new runners the opportunities that I had.

Spotlight on: George Watkins

George sitting on a rocky outcrop looking over to his gorgeous white collie who is admiring the views.

How long have you been running? I did a Santa Run around Liverpool when I was about 9 and have been sucked into this madness ever since.  

Do you have a favourite race? Cardiff Half. Ever since I was at university, I’ve loved the hungover students being baffled about what’s going on around them.

Do you have a favourite distance to run? Surprisingly, it used to be cross country! Now, the shorter the (much, much better). Usually 400m or less. I’ll settle for a 5K. Don’t ask about the state I tend to be in after races.

What’s your greatest achievement? Breaking 1:30 at the Cardiff Half last year for the first time. It felt like a huge mental block that had been so frustrating to get past.  

TW: discussion of mental health.

Running has been a strange experience for me. It’s been both the bane of my life and the thing that’s kept me going through some of the most difficult parts. I remember picking it up at school not long after my mum did her fifth London Marathon and loving the chaos of cross country. I used to compete all around the South West, before moving across to track.

We didn’t have a proper track at my school, but we did have white paint in a loop on a very lumpy field in the middle of Dorset. I was often the only one interested, so I used to run with my coach standing at one end with a stopwatch. I qualified for county 800m, and after a brief stint taking it seriously, I realised I wasn’t as quick as I had hoped. I decided rugby looked fun. For a few years I ended up playing as a winger with a 12 second 100m time with absolutely no ball skills. After utter carnage and a lot of frustration from my teammates, I took a break, only running with my dog (an all-white border collie called Will) when I could.

The break from sport coincided with a difficult journey with my mental health that’s led me to doing what I do today, working for Mind, the mental health charity. One evening I remember having what I later realised was a panic attack. I ran out the house and started running around the field next door, where we would walk our dog. My mum came with me and we jogged until I felt the anxiety subside. I dropped out of school and remember running being the furthest thing from my mind until I came to Cardiff for university in 2015.

I started jogging, and was amazed how much I had missed it. On a whim in 2016 I signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon, and despite being terrified, managed to run it in around 1:45, which I was over the moon with. This became a yearly habit that was never serious, including this wonderful photo that looks like a Renaissance painting.

But after a particularly difficult time of it with my head, I took a break again. It’s difficult to talk about, but I had a brief period of feeling suicidal. I managed to get help and used that energy to run for Cardiff University’s mental health research services and Samaritans, also signing up to support the National Centre for Mental Health. I felt like I’d found a purpose. And running was the obvious thing to help me get better.

George smiling as he approaches the finish line of a race in a sunny park.

And then, after graduating in 2018, in 2019 I started coming to the odd CDF session. We would do the same 7K loop to the top of the park and round, and every week I remember pushing myself even more. 2019 saw the year of my PBs, where I managed to get to 3:00 for 1K, 18:15 for 5K, 39:50 for 10K and 1:36 for a Half. By the end of the year I had a knee injury from wearing the soles of my shoes down to paper thin for the Half. That’s how much I’d been loving it.

After a stint away playing tennis and running elsewhere (traitor), I decided to come back to CDF, after coming back to our training sessions. I had forgotten about the sense of community and how wonderful and welcoming everyone is. After coming to the Monday and Wednesday sessions, I knew it just made sense to come back. A particular shout out to Liz, Rich and of course Michael, who have been so supportive throughout.

This last year has certainly been the happiest of my running life. My PBs are coming back gradually, and I’m feeling stronger and stronger. Sadly, I lost my childhood dog I used to train with last year, so coming back to CDF felt like the perfect time for me. For the Manchester Marathon this year (my first crack at it), I drew a small tattoo of two dog ears on my wrist for a bit of added motivation. It certainly helped when I was overtaken in the rain as we plodded through Altrincham by a guy juggling the whole way round.

Running’s been a strange experience, but it’s also something I don’t think I could live without.

Spotlight on: Steph Ferry

How long have you been running? 10 years
Do you have a favourite race? Too many to choose from but Richard Burton 10k will always have a place in my heart.
Do you have a favourite distance to run? 10k (short enough to run fast, long enough to make it a challenge to hold on)
What’s your greatest achievement? Running four marathons when I never thought I’d do one! And of course, running the London Marathon this year thanks to the CDF club place.

I don’t have an inspirational story. I’m one of those awful people who enjoyed PE at school. But enjoy doesn’t necessarily mean “good at” and that’s what my running journey has taught me. In fact, running has taught me more about life than anything else:

You’re capable of more than you think

I joined CDF (then Nike+ Cardiff) nine years ago to building up to a 10k race. Five months later I’d run my first marathon. I would never have done that without the push from the club. I’ve learned that any distance is achievable, it’s just how you approach it. For me that’s 60% vaguely sensible training, 40% grit.

I’ve now run four marathons; Manchester, Liverpool, Paris and London this year (thanks to the CDF club place which was an amazing experience). For me, mental strength has been the biggest lesson – your mind needs as much training as your legs and that’s transferred over to many other areas of my life.

I’ve always had a “give it a go, see what happens” mentality, which coupled with the confidence the first few years of running built for me, has led me to try different things. I competed in the 2017 UK Civil Service Track and Field National Championships in the women’s 100m and 200m (and won gold in both!). I took up strength training not long after my first marathon, which I love, and I’m ever so slightly smug about being in triple figures for my squat and deadlift.

I’ll never run the fastest times, but I can say I’ve run four marathons, 11 half marathons and a whole load of 5ks, 10ks and random distances in-between. Every one of those races has given me something to be proud of whether it’s a personal best or a personal worst. It’s shown me that I can do things that are hard and not give up.

People are brilliant

What got me hooked on running and being part of the club were the people and the community. I’ve met the most interesting people through running that I’d never get to meet in my day-to-day life.

Spending hours on a Sunday morning in marathon training, running with people you may have never met before, hearing all about their lives and their goals, is the biggest inspiration and motivation I could ask for.

Being surrounded by such kind, motivated and positive people has helped with my own mindset. The biggest benefit to me of being part of CDF is I know they will always be there when I need them, even if that’s just for a jog and a moan about life.

Paying it forward is the biggest reward

The part of my running journey that means the most to me is being part of building CDF into what it is today. When we stood in the Nike store all those years ago and heard “sorry, we’re closing the store – no more running club”, a group of us looked at each other and immediately said “we’re keeping this going”.

It took hours of pub meetings and each doing our bit to get the club affiliated and it shows what a group of passionate and determined people can do. We each got our Welsh/UK Athletics Run Leader licenses to be able to run the sessions and CDF as you know it now was born.

I “retired” from the committee about two years ago and I’m so proud of how the club has progressed in that time. I’m still involved in leading some sessions (mainly on a Sunday) and I’ve loved playing a small role in a few first-time marathon runners training over the last few months.

Overall, the most important part about running to me is what it teaches you about yourself. What it teaches you about the good in people. What it teaches you about the mental strength you have – even if it’s been hidden away – that your mind and body can do whatever you want them to do. I’ve made friends for life and I’ll be eternally grateful for the difference running has made to who I am.

Spotlight on: Berni McCarthy

How long have you been running?

I can’t quite remember when I started running but it was about 20 years ago. I ran at night with my cap pulled down over my face so I didn’t have to see anyone. I’m still a bit self conscious about my running and I still wear a cap. 

Favourite race

This is easy – the VOGUM with Pegasus Ultra Running from Porthcawl to Penarth along the Wales Coast Path.

Favourite distance

See above – 40 miles ?

Greatest achievement

Probably 6 ultras in 6 months last year. Just staying uninjured that long is an achievement. It didn’t go entirely to plan and I had to find a second ultra in October in order to complete it but I managed it. My final ultra was a looped race called the Richard Jefferies backyard ultra in Swindon (Google it, it’s small, fun and quirky).

I started slowly and built up to a Race for Life 5k. I remember the first time that I ran for 30 minutes without stopping, what a rush!

5k became 10k and then half marathons, but after getting up to half marathon distance in 2009/2010, I took a hiatus from running.

I started back at Cardiff parkrun in 2016 and finally reached my 100th on my 6th anniversary last October. All of these different milestones are meaningful to me. I love parkrun as well as ultras – it’s all running and it’s all about the community.

2017 saw me taking on long distance walking and my first major! I walked a marathon distance along the Thames path but within days I was thinking “How much further can I go?” (And I’m still asking the same question). The following year, I went for a 100km walk and in order to train for that, I walked my first ultradistance – the VOGUM with Rhys (Jenkins) and Pegasus Ultra Running.

The following year I progressed to running ultras and haven’t looked back since. And of course when I say running ultras, I mean running a bit, walking a bit, sitting down for a chat and a cup of tea at the checkpoints – all the hallmarks of an ultramarathon.

During lockdown, it was difficult to stay focussed without events to look forward to and just to keep going. So I googled running challenges and came up with doing an accumulator, running the number of kilometres as the date. I started on July 1st running 1km, easy right? But it definitely gets harder and by the end of the month, I was pretty exhausted. It helped massively to have something to focus on. It also taught me loads about being organised which has stood me in good stead for ultrarunning since.

Obviously I needed to try something else new with no events on the horizon. The next challenge was the 4x4x48 – 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours and I got on with my first 4 miler at 4pm on Friday evening. The midnight and 4am runs were done on my very quiet city street with no issues or problems and I finished on the Downs in Bristol on Sunday afternoon, feeling that mixture of elation and exhaustion that running often leaves me with.

Last year, I decided to see how many ultras I could complete from April to October and 6 seemed like the right number! Things went awry right from the start. I had COVID in February which threw my training into complete disarray and I toed the line at the South CANUM in April not knowing if I could finish it… I did! The HOWUM went well but the VOGUM was a nightmare and I had to pull out at mile 23. Half an ultra wasn’t going to cut it so I had to make another plan. But first the matter of the North CANUM and 54 miles. Next was the Loopathon in Roath park on the hottest day of the year. I was up and running by 6am in order to avoid as much of the heat as possible and I managed 30 miles through the course of the day. 30 miles along the Ridgeway in the RIDUM was next, leaving me with an ultradistance to run at the Richard Jefferies. What a glorious day that was – family, friends, weather, food. You could say a perfect ultra

So what’s next? A crazy thought entered my head last year. My sister has been talking about it for a while but I had resisted. But I finally got the bug and couldn’t stop thinking about it either.

This June, we will attempt our furthest distance ever. We will run from Newport to Brecon to Cardiff Bay non stop – 100 miles. Lots of preparation happening now and all my fingers are crossed.

But when I think about what I love the most about all of this crazy running, it’s the community, my pegasus family, my club and all of the wonderful, nutty people that I’ve met along the way. And my favorite thing about running is definitely convincing people that ultra marathons are not beyond their ability.

Well, if I can do it…

Runner of the Month February 2023: George Walker

  • How long have you been running? Since the late 1800s
  • Favourite race: Richard Burton 10k (for the beer and Welsh cakes mainly!)
  • Favourite distance: Half Marathon (long enough to need a good lie down afterwards but not so far as to have less than a 50/50 chance of getting up again!)
  • Greatest Achievement: Coming first in age at the Worcester 10k this year and actually winning a prize! (it also allows me to add the suffix “prize winning athlete” to this year’s Christmas card signature!)

“…so much better than the old days when the only topic of conversation on performance enhancement centred on Deep Heat application (spray-on vs rub-on) and which colour bin bag was best to wear on the start line.”

I first began running after I graduated from university and I shared a flat with a running and health obsessed, ‘clean living’ vegetarian, whose day job was selling cigarettes for Imperial Tobacco(?!). I guess his influence must have rubbed off on me (although not the vegetarian bit – I can still devour my own bodyweight in bacon sandwiches on a good day) and I just decided one day to get out and get fit.

Endless circuits of Roath Park after work became the norm. I then entered a few races, usually 10ks, chasing down the sub-40 minute goal. In those days of course there were no smart watches to keep track of your progress and I distinctly remember finishing a run, only to get into the car and drive the route to work out how far I’d gone and what my pace was.

Life was pretty good for a while and my running got better; I managed to get my 10k time down to 37:30 and then, Catastrophe No. 1: – my running flat mate moved to Australia, and I got married! Nevertheless, I managed to keep up the training and was lucky enough to team up with an old university friend who moved back to South Wales. He was just getting into some new-fangled sport where you swim, run and cycle in the same race (imagine!) and was happy to become my running buddy. We’d meet up once a week for a long run would always end up trying to out-distance/out-pace each other as a measure of who had trained the most in the week before.

All was ticking along nicely until, Catastrophe No. 2; he moved to America and the children arrived! (there’s a pattern developing here…). Unfortunately, looking after young children and the increasing demands of career meant that free time became scarce, and without the motivation of having someone to run with, I struggled to keep up the training. Eventually I just got out of the habit and my running petered out altogether.

Fast forward 20-odd years to a bright October Sunday morning when I walked down to Roath Park to support CDF member Nina Lindholm, running in her first Cardiff Half Marathon. As I stood at the top of the lake watching all of the runners go by, I was transported back to earlier times and thought ‘I need to do that again’. So, I dusted off my old running shoes, dug out a T-shirt and off I went. Of course, my head thought I could just pick up where I had left off, but my legs were having none of it. In the first few months I did nothing but injure myself, trying to run too fast and too far and getting nowhere, and I almost gave up again, before I really got started.

However, I persevered and entered the Cardiff 10k in 2018 and, after three weeks ‘intensive’ training, I managed to hobble around in 61 minutes. Result – I was back! Not long after that Nina was kind enough to allow me to tag along to CDF and the rest, as they say, is pastry.

For me, joining the club has been transformational and I enjoy running now far more than I ever did when I was younger, and there’s so much more to talk about; smart watches, Parkrun, Strava, GPS, technical fabrics, gels, chip timing, carbon plate cheat shoes, age grading (my particular favourite), podcasts, energy drinks, the list is endless, and so much better than the old days when the only topic of conversation on performance enhancement centred on Deep Heat application (spray-on vs rub-on) and which colour bin bag was best to wear on the start line.

Whilst I’m not sure I’ll ever beat my all-time 10k PB, I have managed to knock quite a bit of my half-marathon PB, completed my first full marathon and superbly mastered the art of falling over on trail runs (Barbed Wire 1 – 0 George). All thanks to being part of CDF.

What do I hate most about running? – well that’s difficult, there’s so much to choose from. Probably the ‘old man hobble’ across the bedroom floor every morning because my feet have mummified overnight.

What do I love most about running – that’s easy, it’s being part of running community again and all of the friends I have made at CDF.

Runner of the Month October 2022: Arren Roach

Arren has been running with us for just over a year now and was awarded our brand new ‘Runner of the Year’ award at our recent AGM. The committee agreed that Arren should receive this award “based on his attitude after joining us last year and attending consistently and quietly improving the whole time!”

Here’s what he’s got to say about his running journey so far…

How long have you been running: Just over a year
Favourite race: Porthcawl 10k
Favourite distance: 5k
Greatest achievement: Running the Cardiff Half Marathon in support of Mind

I joined CDF Runners at the end of summer last year as a way to get fitter and meet new people after the lockdowns. I had tried running before on my own but I’d never been able to keep going for more than a month or so before losing the motivation and giving up.

Running with the club has really helped me to keep the motivation going and run further than I ever could have by myself, throwing myself into a bunch of races like the SSAFA 5k Series or the Healthspan 10k Series.

If someone had asked me two years ago if I could see myself doing anything more than a Parkrun I would have laughed, now I’ve run a half marathon!

Runner of the Month September 2022: Gemma Luckett

How long have you been running: Who knows!
Favourite race: Cardiff Half Marathon
Favourite distance: Half Marathon
Greatest achievement: I was the 100th female over the finish line out of 9324 at Cardiff Half in 2018. This was my first half marathon and I finished in 1 hour and 32 minutes. Still a PB.

I used to run as a sprinter when I was younger with Coventry Godiva Harriers, but honestly had very little interest in running anything beyond 100 meters! I was naturally a quick sprinter so often qualified for regional races but often ditched training and opted to spend more time playing football for my local team.

It wasn’t until my early 20s that my husband decided to take an interest in the local Black Park Parkrun where we were living at the time. I had never heard of Parkrun or run anything beyond a sprint before, but eventually, he convinced me to give it a go. I struggled as if I was competing in the Barkley Marathon, and then my competitive side kicked and I was determined to return and beat my husband. At first, I found going on a run extremely tough. I had to stop loads to catch my breath, I got frustrated that my husband was able to do it so easily and I’m not sure I enjoyed any of it. I never would have known how much the running bug would grip me and become such a natural part of my life in the early days.

For the first few years, I had no interest in competing in anything beyond an occasional Parkrun. I enjoyed heading out on a run with my audiobook but didn’t see myself wanting to put that effort into anything organised. Just as easily as it started, running was then put to the back of my mind as we made the decision to travel the world for 5 months. We had an amazing time, in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand. With limited space in our backpacks, there was no room for a running kit and so I parked it for the short term until I landed my job at the BBC and settled down into life in Cardiff.

CDF wasn’t the first club I went to when moving to Cardiff, I actually decided to run with Les Croupiers for a while and was convinced by fellow runners to give a half marathon a go – despite the fact that I had never competed in anything bigger than Parkrun. I smashed it! I was the 100th female over the finish line out of 9,324 in 1 hour and 32 minutes. After this, I ran a few half marathons until I was injured and mostly reduced my time running to accommodate this.

Finally, after moving offices I made the decision that I would like to move clubs, and as my husband had once run with the Nike Club when he was a student, he made the suggestion to give CDF a go. I joined the club in January 2020 and had a wonderful welcoming few months before the dreaded Covid lockdown happened and I had to take a break from the club and compete in races. During the few years of lockdown, the club was brilliant for keeping me energised and I loved the times between lockdowns when I was able to join sessions and really get to know some of the other club runners.

It was just before the Christmas lockdown of 2020 that I found out I was pregnant and managed to get a last Wednesday speedy run in before the sessions were cancelled and my morning sickness made it impossible to run. This was really difficult for me because I had wanted to remain fit and active throughout the pregnancy but I had to take a short break until this subsided and I was able to do it without hurling my guts up! I loved running through pregnancy. It wasn’t always easy as Rory was a big boy bouncing around in my belly, but it allowed me to feel like I could do anything. A feeling you really need when you are soon to give birth! I listened to my body and made sure to only run when I wanted to and with no races on the calendar due to covid, I didn’t feel any pressure to do any specific distance or training. I stopped running 4 weeks before my due date as the time just felt right, and was gutted that Parkrun resumed 2 weeks before I was due. I really wanted to be running on the first Parkrun since Covid, but I knew it wasn’t meant to be.

And then Rory arrived and running was truly put on hold. I tried to start running 6 weeks postpartum and it really didn’t feel right, so I left it a little longer and started with a few kilometres just looping the estate I lived on. Rory was a really difficult baby and it made it hard for me to find time to run and to feel comfortable going much further than the streets around our house. I would squeeze in a quick 3k here and there but truly I wasn’t going to start getting back into it until months later, when we had a running pram and the Cardiff Half I had signed up for in 2019 was only a few months away.

We started to do the occasional run with the pram, and I began attending club runs once again. It was difficult and still is really difficult to find the time and energy to run when you have a little one who demands so much of you. For me, running is something I choose to do for my wellbeing and mental health, so I had to make it a priority ahead of anything else. We have no family nearby and Rory isn’t keen on being in the pram for too long so it is a constant juggling act between us to find time between myself and my husband to exercise, and we sacrifice other things we enjoy to keep it up. Now Rory is in nursery and I am back at work full time, we have a whole new set of obstacles to stop us, but for me, the Monday night club run is a weekly must to have a chat and spend some time being just me. It really felt like the club welcomed me back with open arms, and challenged me to push myself and get some great times in the Cardiff Half (1 hour 42 at 7 months postpartum and 1 week post covid) and Swansea Half (1 hour 35 at 10 months postpartum) this year. I love that I don’t feel pressures to attend every week but that there is someone always happy to run and chat with me when I do.

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.