Several members of North Wales Road Runners, together with dozens of individual athletes, all took part in the virtual London Marathon last Sunday, raising thousands of pounds for chosen charities.
With the original event postponed from last April due to Covid-19 restrictions, and leaving the main race to be re-organised as an “elite only” event, the real heroes on the day were tens of thousands of ordinary people, who braved the elements to complete a virtual marathon on their own patch.
Run over the same marathon distance of 26.2 miles, many athletes began their solo efforts early in the morning, often in the dark, and battling driving rain, plus the remnants of Storm Alex, until the weather gradually improved, leaving a strong gusty headwind to contend with.
The challenge also brought out the best from public support and charitable organisations, with all pulling out the stops to help runners raise much-needed donations.
NWRCC officials John and Kay Hatton turned out to help any virtual marathon runners on Llandudno Promenade, with a welcome water and feed station situated close to the pier.
John set-up his stall with free drinks, chocolate and snacks, from about 8.30am for about seven-hours, offering praise and encouragement to all and sundry taking part.
And friends Joan and Mark Edwards and several others, added their own back-up support to individuals fundraising charitable organisations.
Rachel Morris epitomised the spirit of this unique challenge, admitting she was on “Cloud 9” after finishing her first-ever full marathon. When she finally got her breath back, she explained: “What an amazing day I’ve had, running in the club-top my dad wore when he completed his London Marathon.
“Starting at 6am with my hubby, the conditions were horrendous to say the least, followed by a run around Conwy Morfa with my son Jack on his bike.
“I continued on towards Llandudno with both Jack, and my daughter Mia running alongside me for about 5 miles, before I met my sister and bestie for a power-walk around the Orme.
“After that, I met my mum for the last 10k down the prom, before finishing off the last few miles with my ace fitness buddy Mandy.”
Rachel eventually completed her gruelling challenge with an impromptu ribbon finish at her parent’s house in 7 hrs 23 mins, and praised the generous support, and refreshments given en-route from various well-wishers.
Mandy Owen spent much of the day supporting her husband Charlie Owen, together with fellow club and local marathon runners. She said it was a wonderful day-out, and that it was great to be able to share parts of the marathon with others.
Mandy advised that Charlie had to have a complete change of clothing at half-way as he became absolutely drenched when he first started out at 7.15am. She even ran about 19-miles with the popular local football referee Charlie, who finished overall in 5 hrs 7 mins 36 secs.
Mandy described him as her “absolute hero,” and joined him after work, when he had already completed many miles, but was pleased to be able to jog along, trying to keep up with him.
Stuart Culverhouse said he would have liked to have run a bit quicker but praised the help from his family and support team, and especially from club colleague Steve Poupart, who ran nearly half of the distance with him. Stuart admitted he really struggled after about 18-miles, and said it was really-tough out there, but still recorded a superb time of 4 hrs 2 mins 58 secs.
Kelly Alford and her partner Cai Roberts ran much of their marathon together with Kelly celebrating a marathon PB time of 5 hrs 17 mins, with Cai just dipping under 5 hours in 4.55. The pair also highlighted the encouragement from walkers, other runners, and mentioned the responsive tooting and waving from people and supporters in cars.
Richard Scamans had a superb run completing his own challenging course in just 3 hrs 47 mins whilst fundraising for the NSPCC. He too praised the support from his team en-route and raised £388.70 so far. Richard later said: ‘The weather didn’t turn out so bad, but without support I may not have finished, or most certainly not in the time I did.’
Local event commentator Ian Turner became an instant TV star over the weekend, when he was interviewed live for Welsh television, explaining how he intended to raise funds for the Childline charity by running a series of demanding and repetitive efforts up and down Llandudno promenade.
Ian, who ran part of his challenge with friend Pam Grant, and others, was another runner who welcomed the drink and feed station provided by John and Kay Hatton, and the additional back-up and support from Joan and Mark Edwards.
Experienced endurance athlete Steve Bozier admitted that last Sunday’s virtual London race was a tough event, as he is still recovering from a few injury niggles, but said it was great to see so many other runners completing their own challenges.
He welcomed the fact that so many people were cheering him and others along the way, which he said, gave his own efforts a race-day feel. Steve added that the last 6-miles were very painful, but thankfully he came through without making his injuries any worse. He eventually recorded 3 hrs 45 mins overall.
Local school teacher Cheryl Frost also completed her first ever marathon and praised the support of pupils and their parents along her route, plus the backing of her running colleague Kay Hatton, who ran with her for the first half, and later the father of one of her class, who ran much of the latter part.
Cheryl also welcomed the feed station on the prom, but confirmed her concern at the start of her run. She said the rain stopped after about 10-minutes, but began her quest in shorts, running coat, and gloves, which she wore for the first four miles – just to get warm – before dumping them when Kay stood down later.
Cheryl also faced a very strong wind at 17-miles, and even endured a freezing shower on the prom from a wave as the tide swept in; yet despite all this, she said she was very happy with the result for her first marathon, and was even considering running another! Her finishing time was an excellent 4 hrs 29 mins 16 secs.
Josie Davies said it was number 13 in the bag as she completed her virtual challenge on Sunday. She said it was so different to a usual marathon, but felt good and enjoyed it. She too praised the support of family, friends and running colleagues, including fellow GOG and triathlete Rhian Roxburgh. She also expressed her thanks to John and Kay Hatton’s drink station at the pier and to Joan and Mark Edwards, and especially to family members at mile 21.
Bethan Wyn Roberts completed her run along the prom at Colwyn Bay and Rhos on Sea, and finished in 4 hrs 31 mins. Janine Butterworth ran her virtual challenge in two halves. Her first section was completed in 1 hr 57 mins, with the second half run in a highly credible 2 hrs 10 mins.