The Welsh capital had to wait 903 days for the return of the Cardiff University Cardiff Half Marathon, but the nation’s largest mass-participation event made its comeback in style on a significant day for sport in Wales.
The sun shone down on the thousands of runners at the start line outside Cardiff Castle, many of them who had entered before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
After a two-year hiatus, runners enjoyed ideal conditions across the iconic course, which will host another edition of the race in October this year.
From the castle start line, the participants raced through the city centre past the Principality Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium before crossing the barrage to take in Cardiff Bay. From there they headed for the Roath Park loop before a sprint finish in the heart of the city at the Civic Centre.
In the women’s race, a Welsh champion was crowned for the first time in 18 years as Natasha Cockram stormed to victory with a stunning personal best. Cockram, who is now set to star for Wales at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after slashing two minutes off her previous best to take the title in 1 hour 10 minutes 47 seconds. The Cwmbran runner led from the front to beat countrywoman Bronwen Owen (1:14:04) and Elle Twentyman (1:14:58).
“I love coming back to Wales, especially being a home athlete, everyone seems to know me and I hear my name quite often in the crowd, it’s really good,” said Cockram.
“I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of position but I came here wanting to PB which I’ve done, and to win made it extra special. I love coming back to Wales, especially being a home athlete, everyone seems to know me and I hear my name quite often in the crowd, it’s really good.
“The Commonwealth Games have been my dream from a really young age so hopefully I can get selected for that now. It’s been my dream since I started running.”
Southampton’s Mahamed Mahamed led from the off in the men’s race with his younger brother Zakariya and Kadar Omar hot on his heels. Mahamed and Omar kicked on around Roath Park lake before Omar, who fled Ethiopia as a refugee and now resides in Birmingham, sprinted clear in the home stretch to take the tape in 1:02:46. Mahamed and Zakariya Mahamed finished second and third in 1:02:52 and 1:04:05 respectively.
“My aim was to test myself with the best athletes and take the win, so I’m happy to take the win and I really enjoyed the course.
“I really enjoyed the atmosphere and support along the way, thanks to the Cardiff people, the organisers and my coach for training me for this Cardiff Half Marathon.
“I fled from my country when I was 13 because of the political situation and I ended up in a refugee camp with my uncle and brother. I lived there in a tent, life became very hard.
“But I found a home through sport, and sport changed my life. I am always running to forget what happened and to focus on improving. Running is my life and is very dear to me so I enjoyed today.”
Sam Kolek took gold in the men’s wheelchair race, while Mel Nicholls took the win in the women’s wheelchair event.
Thousands more participants streamed across the finish line after patiently waiting two years to savour the moment. Runners who want to take on the challenge will not have long to wait, with the 19th edition scheduled for October this year.
Matt Newman, Chief Executive of organisers Run 4 Wales, said:
“This Cardiff University Cardiff Half Marathon has been 903 days in the making, but it was well worth the wait to see the city come alive with the runners and spectators who make the Cardiff Half a truly special event.
“Together, we showcased just how important sport, and especially mass-participation running is to our country, whilst showing off what our fantastic capital city has to offer.
“A special thank you must go to our partners and sponsors for sticking with us through the challenges presented to us during the pandemic. Without them, we would not be able to stage this wonderful event.”