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Half marathon returns to Swansea after two-year break

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There were moments of anticipation, excitement, and joy at this year’s JCP Swansea Half Marathon event.

Runners took to the city’s streets to participate in the seventh edition of the race, which is traditionally held in June. They braved the 13.1 miles in slightly cooler conditions which were perfect for running.

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After Hayley Davies, CEO of JCP Solicitors, set the runners on their way, she said: 

“It was fantastic to see everyone back at the start line and enjoying such a wonderful event for the city. It is always inspiring to see others taking part, whether it’s their first event, a personal challenge, or raising money for charity. Today was an extra special day full of emotions for everyone as it marked the return of the biggest running event for the region.”

The JCP Swansea Half Marathon was last held 28 months ago in June 2019, and last year was set to be the greatest event the organising team had ever staged.

Managing Director of Front Runner Events, David Martin-Jewell, said: “It has been such a challenging time for us as event organisers, but we have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the event could run as smoothly as possible. We are thrilled to have been able to deliver the JCP Swansea Half Marathon and hope that our runners loved being back to experience race day once again!”

The events sector has been one of the most severely affected industries during the last 18 months, so it was important that the event was just right for everyone involved. There were some changes as to be expected in a post-Covid-era, with everyone asked to register a negative lateral flow test result before participating. There were also a few changes to the route this year, but it remains one of the flattest half marathon routes in the UK.

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Just over 3,000 runners attended the event, which had previously attracted a field of 6,000 from all over the World. Many chose to run virtually this year in their own towns or cities wearing their official race number and were still part of the excitement online.

The elite field remained competitive as always, with wheelchair record holder Richie Powell shaving a few seconds off his record time that was gained in 2016 and finished the race in a staggering 60:54. He was followed by Ron Price in 2nd and Leslie Hampton in 3rd for the wheelchair racers.

Samuel Goodchild of Cornwall AC won 1st place in the men’s race in a time of 1:09:28. 2nd place was taken by David Green of Rugby & Northampton AC, in a time of 1:011:09 and in 3rd place was Michael Roderick of Tri Hard Harriers achieving a time of 1:11:22.

The women’s race was equally competitive, and 1st place went to Commonwealth Games and Team GB athlete Sonia Samuels in an impressive 1:14:09. 2nd place went to Georgia Holden Edwards in a time of 1:19:59 and 3rd place went to Hayley Munn of Rugby Northampton AC in 1:20:05.

Also taking part was Welsh TV presenter, endurance adventurer and athlete Lowri Morgan. She’s well-known for presenting Scrum V and the World Rally Championships and an avid runner that’s not afraid of a challenge. This year was the first time Lowri had participated in the JCP Swansea Half Marathon.

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She commented: “I love running in Swansea, it’s such a beautiful city with an amazing coastline, so it’s an absolute delight to be finally taking part in the event! I’ve wanted to participate since it first started back in 2014, but with it being staged in the Summer, my training has never allowed me to. It’s been a tough time for everyone these last couple of years, so it feels great to be back at events, and this one is certainly one I’ll aim to be back for next year!”

Hundreds of charity runners took part in the event for good causes, raising awareness and much-needed funds for their chosen charities. Since so many events had been cancelled during the last 18 months, fundraising is still taking place for the event charity partners; Maggie’s Swansea, Cancer Research UK, and Diabetes UK Cymru so runners fundraising pages will remain open for the few weeks yet.

Team spirit was in full flow as seven companies took on the Corporate Challenge. There was some stiff competition as the teams at Matthews & Co, HMT Sancta Maria, Brecon Carreg, Carmarthenshire Actif, Arvato Bertelsmann and Swansea University were unable to beat off the team at JCP Solicitors.

Other keen runners were sporting their club vests or wearing fancy dress, including the very special Captain Beany, who makes an appearance at the race every year!

David Martin-Jewell added: “The JCP Swansea Half Marathon is more than just a race it’s about bringing people together to share their challenge and experience. It’s about teamwork, helping the running community achieve their goals in both a mental and physical capacity, providing a platform for charity fundraising and providing volunteering opportunities for people in the city. These are all the reasons we love what we do and hope that we can continue to deliver great events for many years to come.”

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The organising team behind the JCP Swansea Half Marathon, Front Runner Events, continues to work tirelessly alongside their trusty team of volunteers, dedicated sector heads and event partners who all help deliver an event Swansea can be proud of. The team continue to work closely with the founding headline sponsors, JCP Solicitors and long-term partners Matthews & Co and HMT Sancta Maria. The event hydration partner remains to be the Welsh favourite Brecon Carreg.

(Lead image: Front Runner Events)

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Books & Literature

Former Llanelli rugby star hopes to be victorious at The Oval

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After enjoying his fair share of success as a rugby player and team manager Anthony Buchanan now hopes to win big as an author.

The former Llanelli and Wales star has been shortlisted for The Sunday Times Rugby Book of the Year 2022 award following the publication of his biography, The Buck Props Here.

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His unique rugby journey didn’t begin until the age of 22, when he chose to turn his back on a highly promising career in football as a goalkeeper, but led to playing for Llanelli and representing Wales in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

On retirement he became an administrator and helped transform the Scarlets into a European powerhouse before serving on the International Rugby Board and overseeing the selection of referees at the last Rugby World Cup.

His story has been ghost written by former Evening Post reporter, Geraint Thomas, who notches up a unique hat trick of nominations having previously been shortlisted – in what is seen as the Oscars of sports books – after ghost writing Glenn Webbe: The Gloves Are Off (2020) the biography of the former Bridgend and Wales wing, and Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback (2017) alongside the former Llanelli, Wales and Lions star.

Former Evening Post reporter, Geraint Thomas who has ghostwritten Anthony’s biography

The pair, who are up against former Wales centre Jamie Roberts, Irish stars Keith Earls and Willie Anderson, as well as This is Your Everest: The Lions, The Springboks and the Epic Tour of 1997, and The Flying Prince: Alexander Obolensky, will attend a gala dinner in The Oval cricket ground London on Thursday to find out if they have won.

There will be further Welsh representation on the evening with Alun Wyn Jones on the shortlist for Autobiography of the Year 2022.

Buchanan, who is donating his share of the book’s royalties to securing the rugby pitch in Ystradgynlais for future generations, said: “I feel humbled to be in the running for the best rugby book in Great Britain and Ireland, but my story is not just about an individual, it encompasses the momentous shift in Welsh rugby, from the old amateur days to the introduction of European rugby, professionalism and the regions.

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“I would like to thank Geraint Thomas for encouraging me to tell my story in the first place and for weaving all that has happened into such a compelling narrative. He’s done such a wonderful job. So many people, who have read it, have contacted me to say how much they enjoyed it – and they weren’t all Scarlets supporters!”

Thomas, who trained as a magazine journalist in Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and went on to complete an MA in Creative and Media Writing at Swansea University, said: “To be shortlisted for a third time obviously feels great and, I guess, is quite an achievement, not just for me but also my publisher Y Lolfa, who have always shown faith in me.”

Thomas, who had a spell playing for Bridgend in the early 1990s, added: “It helped that I played in the same era as Bucks and have a good knowledge of the Welsh rugby landscape. But what really makes the book so enjoyable is the how Buck has recalled the banter and humour which used to be the real reason we played the game.

“People ask me which is my favourite book, but, to be honest, I really enjoyed working on all three. Writing a book is a bit like having children only the hard work comes first and then you experience the pleasure of seeing them enter the world – and if they are popular that’s even better!”

The Sunday Times Book Awards take place on Thursday 27 May 2022

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Charity

Swansea student in triathlon challenge for Heart Research

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A student at University of Wales Trinity St David is taking on UWTSD Swansea Triathlon on 28-29th May to raise vital funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and put a positive spin on what’s been a tough time for her family.

Sophie Taylor, originally from Cardiff, who is studying a BA in Product and Furniture Design at the university’s Swansea campus, decided to raise money for the BHF because her sister Hollie’s partner has a heart condition and is grateful for the medical research and treatment which has enabled him to live a happy life.

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Alex Martin, who now lives in Abergavenny and is originally from Hereford, found out he had congenital heart disease just before his 24th birthday during a medical examination when he was in the process of joining the army.

Alex was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, and the discovery meant he couldn’t sign up. But thanks to progress in science, surgeons were able to replace his heart valve, giving Alex a future with his partner, Hollie.

Alex says, “From a very young age I’ve always wanted to join the army, however, this was turned on its head at the age of 23. After undergoing an army medical check, it was discovered that I had heart valve disease and I had to have open heart surgery to replace the valve. Through the diagnosis and surgery my girlfriend Hollie has been my rock. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and our relationship has never been stronger.

“When Sophie approached me about doing a triathlon last year, I was super excited for her. Like everything, it was postponed, and here we are less than 2 weeks away from Sophie attempting her first multi-sport event. It was made even more special when she told me, that she wanted to do it for me! When I say, ‘me’, I mean on behalf of me for the BHF. I thought, ‘what a lovely idea,’ and was more than happy to help in any way possible. Be it training advice or letting her use my kit for the big day. I could not be prouder of her and cannot wait to see all the hard work pay off on race day.

“Without people like Sophie doing events like this and raising money for the BHF who knows where I would be. So, thank you Sophie – Now let’s go and smash race day!”

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Sophie and Alex

Sophie says she’s taking on the challenge to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one, “Life so far for my family hasn’t been easy and my mental health has suffered. When we found out about Alex’s condition it was a big strain on my sister and I saw how much it affected her. Myself and Hollie are very close and have always been rather active, but this is one of the biggest things I have ever done in my life. I can’t say it’s been easy juggling my second year at university and training as I have had to balance my time well; but it’s the smile on my sister’s and Alex’s face that will make this all worth it as this is just the beginning of what I want to do for the British Heart Foundation.

“I think Alex is the main reason I am doing this as he’s always been inspiring for me when it comes to sport as he’s always encouraged me to explore in different activities, and since his operation he has been limited to the activities he can do. So this is me doing it for him and showing myself also what I am capable of.

“I just want to give something to those who are battling every day, because if we all did the same the world would be a different place.”

She adds, “Since it was established the BHF has helped halve the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK each year, but sadly every day hundreds of people still lose their lives to these conditions. It’s only thanks to support from people like us that BHF-funded researchers can help create new treatments. £24 could pay for two hours of research by an early career scientist, but every pound helps so I wanted to take on this challenge to do as much as I can for people living with heart conditions.”

Alex’s partner, Sophie’s sister Hollie says, “I could not be prouder of my sister for getting out there and doing something she has never done before. More than anything I would like her to be proud of herself and realise how far she has come. Like many students, Soph has been struggling with her mental health since starting her degree during the height of covid. It really took its toll on her. However, she has used this triathlon as a challenge to help her overcome her struggles.

“When Sophie mentioned she would like to do the Triathlon for the British Heart Foundation, Alex and I were choked by the gesture, as the charity has been of huge support to us and our families over the last few years.

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“In November 2019, Alex was sat in an army medical room unaware that he was waiting to be told that his life was not going to turn out how he planned it to be. The medical uncovered the signs of a congenital heart condition known as a bicuspid aortic valve which caused the dilation of his ascending aorta. Through many consultations and appointments, it was clear that Alex required urgent treatment.

“In October 2020, with a number of setbacks due to the coronavirus global pandemic, Alex finally underwent open heart surgery at the age of 24. Since, his surgery, Alex has made a speedy recovery, and although the dream of an army career has been halted, he is able to live his life as close to normal as possible and looks to join Sophie in her next Triathlon Event, whenever that maybe.

“Both our families have recognised that without the support, research and aid offered from the British Heart Foundation and the cardiac specialist, the outcome of Alex’s story would be very different.”

Jayne Lewis BHF Fundraising Manager said: “We are so grateful to Sophie for supporting the BHF’s research. For more than 60 years the public’s generosity has funded BHF research that has turned ideas that once seemed like ‘science fiction’ into treatments that save lives every day. But millions of people are still waiting for the next breakthrough.

“Today in Wales around 340,000 people are living with the daily burden of heart and circulatory diseases. We urgently need the public’s support to keep our lifesaving research going, and to discover the treatments and cures of the future. It is only with donations from the public that the BHF can keep its lifesaving research going, helping us turn science fiction into reality.”

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To support Sophie, go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophie-taylor91

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Cycling

Minister announces £50m investment to encourage cycle use

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Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is the aim of a £50m investment announced by Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters.

Speaking on a visit to Cardiff-based cycling charity Pedal Power, the Deputy Minister said the money would fund cycling routes and new facilities right across Wales.

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Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “This is a substantial investment and part of our commitment to making cycling easier so people cut the amount of journeys they take by car and travel in a way that is better for our planet.

“Getting people out of cars for short journeys and encouraging them to walk or cycle instead is a huge challenge for us, but one that has to be met if we are to reach our net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

“We need to make sure that we have the right infrastructure and routes in place so that people have the choice of cycling for their everyday journeys – we need to make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

One organisation that is benefiting from this investment is Pedal Power in South Wales.

As part of a series of Welsh Government e-bike pilot schemes, the cycling charity received £0.21m for its ‘See Cycling Differently’ project which is aimed at increasing the inclusivity of cycling by offering a range of e-cycles.

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Thanks to the money received the charity has expanded its e-cycle fleet and is encouraging its users to cycle more.  

Jeff Mayle, Pedal Power use and Deputy Minister Lee Waters

Director of Pedal Power, Cardiff, Sian Donovan said: “Cycling is a fantastic way for everyone – all ages and abilities – to have fun, gain more independence and enjoy a sense of freedom which we know has provided a lifeline to many during the pandemic.

“We were delighted to receive funding from the Welsh Government to help us to continue to remove barriers to cycling so that it can be truly accessible and inclusive for all.”

As part of the investment announced today, all local authorities will receive a minimum of £500k with additional allocations having been awarded based on the outcome of a competitive application process.

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