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.