Barry, Harry and Paddy at the start of the Cardiff Half Marathon

Barry and Harry Dolman and Paddy McCalister were amongst the six Bournemouth members in action at the Cardiff at the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon

It was a race the captivated the attention of quite a few Bournemouth AC runners toward the end of last year and there was a lot of discussion about entering the Cardiff Half Marathon. There was even talk about arranging a club trip over there at one stage. It’s thought to be one of the fastest half marathon routes the UK and is a huge race with a big field, attracting numerous elites including some of the top Kenyans.

Rob McTaggart had done the race back in 2019 and had recommended it to everyone for a fast half. He had what was probably one of the standout performances of his illustrious history, recording a fastest 10k, 10 mile and half marathon time, all in the space of one race. The culminated in a finishing time of 1:08:56, which knocked a minute off his previous best.

In the end a contingent of Bournemouth AC members did enter and the stage was set. Rich Brawn was also planning to enter but as the year progressed, by the time he actually got round to entering, the race had filled up. He was massively disappointed and thought he’d end up having to find another fast half marathon race at around that time which was going to be tricky.

Amongst those who had signed up for it though were Debbie and Bill Lennon. Debbie was on fire at the time, smashing all her races, winning age category prizes and getting faster and faster. She was down for the Newport Marathon in the Spring so had been training for that. It was then that she started to experience problems where she would suddenly lose consciousness whilst running, resulting in some nasty falls.

In the end she had to take some time off from running and try to suss out what the issue was. Thus both she and Bill realised it wasn’t viable so put their places up for grabs. Rich decided it must be fate and immediately went for it. He was also due to be on a family holiday in the Somerset area that weekend as well so thought it would tie in quite nicely.

The only hurdle was the transfer process which just did not seem to work and every time he tried to complete the transfer form an error occurred. Eventually they called him and he was able to complete the application over the phone though and he was in. Adam Corbin took the other place, joining Barry and Harry Dolman, Paddy McCalister and Matt Brown, who had all previously signed up when entries were available.

After his holiday in Wells in the week leading up to the race, Rich stayed at his brother’s place in Cwmbran the night before the race and travelled to Cardiff from there. That meant he was lucky enough to have his brother Dave and his partner Gabrielle there supporting him, which was a massive help. They got him to the start line at Cardiff Castle with plenty of time to spare and were able to carry his stuff for him.

Before the start, Rich bumped into Adam and then Barry and Harry after that so he knew they were all there. When he got into the start pen, Rich saw Matt and Adam there waiting so they had a chat before the race began and all set off together. He knew they would probably be going slightly faster than him though so he couldn’t risk getting caught up in that. He had to stick to his plan, which was to stay under 5:55 pace. That would get him a time of around 1:17:30 which would be a PB for him.

Coming into some pretty good form, Matt Brown had run a very strong sub 34 minute 10k at Round the Lakes the previous weekend. His half marathon PB is under 1:13 though so he knew he wouldn’t be in shape to challenge that. Thus, his aim was to put in a solid effort but keep it controlled, since he was marathon training.

Adam Corbin was running fast, having recently recorded a parkrun PB of 16:15 at Poole and also putting in a strong performance at the Southern Road Relays. He ran the opening leg in that for the Bournemouth AC A team, completing the 6km course in 20:18. The problem was that he hadn’t done many long runs in training. In fact, he hadn’t really done much over 10k in recent weeks and his mileage had been low, so it was going to be a question of whether he had the endurance to keep pushing hard for the duration of the run. If anyone could wing it off a low volume of training though, it was Adam.

Having started his training for the Valencia Marathon in December, the Cardiff Half would provide a good test for Barry to see whereabouts his fitness was. His best half marathon time was 1:22:44, which he set at the Gosport Half Marathon last November. If he could get anywhere near that at Cardiff, he’d be doing alright.

Having only just turned 17, it was the first time Harry Dolman had been allowed to compete in a half marathon and what an event it was for a half marathon debut. Harry had done virtually no training though in preparation so he wasn’t likely to reach anything close to what his true potential for the distance could be.

Toward the end of last year, Harry had been working on his 10k times though and had managed to get it down to 37:24, which he did at Round the Lakes on Boxing Day.

Paddy McCalister had also recorded his half marathon PB in the same race that Barry did his, with Paddy registering a time of 1:26:54 that day. He’d done some half marathon training sessions in preparation for the race but his training had been very sporadic since he did the London Marathon in Spring so he’d hadn’t really managed to get into any sort of a rhythm. Thus his expectation levels weren’t overly high. He was certainly willing to give it a go though.

Feeling unwell in the week leading up to the race, it wasn’t the ideal preparation for Adam. He had hope that that didn’t impact him too much. At first Adam was behind Matt and Rich but he then accelerated and caught Matt up. They went through the first mile and 5:46 and Rich was about five seconds back.

All three of them went through the second mile in 5:44 and Adam and Matt were still together after the third mile. In fact they were still very close to each other at the 10k point, having done the last couple of miles at just over 5:40.

The fourth mile had a hill on it and that was when Rich had to let Matt and Adam go almost out of sight. He doesn’t like to expend too much energy on the hills so didn’t push too hard to hit his intended split pace on that mile. He was soon back on pace afterwards and that was when he reached his favourite part of the race, which was when they went through Cardiff Bay.

Starting to feel really good at that point, Rich latched onto another runner who had caught him up. That guy was going at 5:47 pace and it felt good to Rich so he continued at that pace for the next couple of miles. Then there was a bit of an incline on the eighth mile and he had to let the runner go.

Matt Brown in the Cardiff Half Marathon

Matt started to up the anti with four miles remaining

Adam started to struggle a bit on the ninth mile and Rich went an caught him up. For Matt it was the opposite. He’d got into his groove and really started to accelerate away, posting a 5:36 for the ninth mile.

Beginning to feel terrible, Adam’s pace had started to drop and he slipped to over six minutes a mile pace. He felt like giving up but showed the character to keep going. It made for a difficult last four miles though where he was reduced to hanging on as best he could.

Matt Brown racing the Cardiff Half Marathon

Matt showed his strength and endurance in the latter stages

Matt usually tends to finish half marathon races really strongly and this one was no exception. He posted a 5:39 for his 10th mile, followed by a 5:44 for his 11th, a 5:42 for his 12th and a fantastic 5:37 for his 13th mile.

Matt Brown in action at the Cardiff Half Marathon

Matt surges toward the finish

That put his finishing time of 1:15:28 and gave him a superb negative split. That put him 105th out of 20,096 runners. It was a good solid run which was pretty much exactly what he was hoping for. His average pace for the run was 5:44.

Rich Brawn chasing Roadents

Rich seemed to spend a lot of the time chasing Roadents

Rich Brawn racing the Cardiff Half Marathon

Rich was feeling strong and managing to hit his intended split time on most of the miles

Managing to keep just under six minutes per mile on his 10th, 11th and 12th mile splits, Rich had managed to stay strong enough to see the race out in a pleasing way. The 10th mile was on a slight inline all the way and there was a small hill at the beginning of the 11th mile so that had made it tough to keep the pace going but he seemed to cope okay.

Once he got onto the last mile, he knew he’d done it and the PB he’d been craving was in his grasp. It was an amazing feeling. There was still another hill to get up though, the beginning of the last mile. Then, as he got closer to line, the crowds seemed to get louder and louder. He was almost at the end of his 13th mile but then out of nowhere, this sharp ramp appeared, which at that stage felt quite challenging.

Rich Brawn heads past Lidl

Rich makes one final push after a testing little ramp

As he got to the top he saw Dave and Gabrielle there cheering him on that gave him a massive boost, enabling him to pick the pace up and head to finish. He saw the clock had gone over 1:17 but he didn’t mind that. It was still a brilliant PB and he was absolutely thrilled with it. Crossing the line in 1:17:11, he’d come in 133rd overall and 14th in the M40-44 category. His average pace for the run was 5:53.

Completing his last 5k at roughly 6:15 pace, Adam got the line in 1:18:18 which put him in 160th position overall. It wasn’t a disastrous result for Adam, given that he wasn’t feeling well. It was still a pretty quick time and certainly not one to be too downhearted about. His average pace for the run was 5:55.

Barry and Harry running together

Barry and Harry were running together for the first quarter of the race

Barry and Harry were of a fairly similar ability at the end of last year so they could sometimes run together for the majority of a 10k race. They ran the first four miles of the Cardiff Half Marathon together as well. On the first mile Barry started to push on a bit though and Harry was soon trailing him. That was to be expected really though, since he hadn’t been training much.

Barry and Harry in action

For the first time in a half marathon, Barry had Harry by his side

Getting through most of his miles at between 6:15 and 6:20 pace, Barry was running well and feeling strong. It was only on miles 11 and 13 that he went over 6:20 and they were the ones with the small inclines.

Clocking a time of 1:23:03, Barry finished 312th overall and was 9th out of 1,095 in the M50-54 category. It was only 19 seconds off his PB so an excellent run really. His average pace came up at 6:18.

Harry‘s split times started to increase from the sixth mile onwards but he’d managed the first 10k in 39:37 so it was a good first half or the race. The second half of it he found much tougher and it was a fair bit slower but he kept going as best he could.

Harry Dolman making his half marathon debut

Harry was remarkably unphased since it was his first ever half marathon and he hadn’t done much training for it

That culminated in a finishing time of 1:28:41 which put him in 605th place overall. Considering it was his first ever half marathon and he’d had very little training behind him, that was actually a pretty decent time from Harry. It takes a lot of runners years before they get under 1:30, but Harry had done it straight off the bat. It would certainly be interesting to see what he could produce if he was in his best form and had a good block of training behind him.

Barry and Harry after finishing the race

Barry and Harry were all smiles at the end of the race

Paddy‘s pace was pretty consistent for the first six miles, going through 5k in 20:27 and 10k in 41:49. He dropped off a bit over the next 5k, completing it at about 10 seconds per kilometre slower. That meant he reached 15k in 1:03:40.

The last 5k was a real battle for him though and he slowed down a lot on the last couple of miles. He didn’t throw the towel in though and kept battling until the end. Finishing in exactly 1 hour 33 minutes, Paddy finishing 924th and was 164th out of 1,512 in the M35-39 category. It won’t go down as one of Paddy’s finest recent performances but it was good to experience a new race in a different city.

Barry, Paddy and Harry at the finish

The BAC boys have given it their best shot and performed admirably

It may also serve as a catalyst for him to get back to a more regular routine of running and if he does that, he can start to build his fitness back up to what it was before when he was at his best.

Dave Long in the Cardiff Half Marathon

Former Bournemouth AC man Dave Long produced a sensational display

Perhaps the standout performer out of everyone was a former Bournemouth AC man by the name of Dave Long. He continued his comeback from Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which he was diagnosed with in June 2021. By January 2022 he was in remission and set about building his fitness back up.

He ran the Swansea Half Marathon in 1 hour 13 minutes in June, then ran a 15:04 at the Home Countries International 5k in August, confirming he was well and truly back to top form. In September he did the Cardiff 10k in 31:32 and he’d been putting in the hard yards in preparation for the Cardiff Half.

Rich Brawn celebrating after the race

Rich celebrates in front of the Welsh dragon

Starting off with a lightening quick 5:07 for his first mile, Disco set his stall out, and he was thirsty for it. The rest of his splits up to mile 9 were in the region of 5:10. He’d produced a 16:06 for his first 5k and then followed it up with a 16:11 for his second 5k and a 16:09 for his third 5k. That was some going!

Rich Brawn outside the castle

It was a very pleasing PB for Rich

The last four miles of course contained some inclines so it was more difficult to maintain pace. He was still looking at around 5:15 to 5:20 pace for those miles though and that culminated in a finished time of 1:08:36. It was a truly incredible run from Disco and considering he’d had start again from ground zero following his treatment, that made the achievement even greater.

Barry sporting his t-shirt and medal

Barry (right) sporting his Cardiff Half Marathon t-shirt and medal

He’d gone over the line in 33rd place and that was in a field where there were at least 14 top class African runners from either Kenya or Ethiopia. So there weren’t many club runners who were quicker than him.

Rich with his mate Ben Butler-Madden

Rich met up his mate Ben Butler-Madden who runs for Pontypridd Roadents

Kenyan megastar Vincent Mutai won the race in 1:00:35 and Disco’s Pontypridd Roadents teammate Fearghal Curtin was the highest placed club runner, taking 8th place in 1:04:13.

Rich was pleased to bump into a friend from his university days, Ben Butler-Madden, after the race. Ben also runs for the Pontypridd Roadents and he completed the course in 1:14:40 which put him in 94th place.

It was certainly a memorable race for the Bournemouth AC boys and one that most of them will reflect on fondly. It didn’t quite go as planned for Adam and Paddy wasn’t at his best but that could be rectified another time. It likely be one that Matt could come to for a PB attempt at some point and Rich, Barry and Harry are all definitely keen to do it again.

Rich Brawn doing the Bolt pose outside the castle

Rich posing in front of the castle

As half marathons go, there can’t be too many better ones in the UK than Cardiff. It’s a very fast course, it’s highly competitive with plenty of top class athletes to battle with and the atmosphere is electric all the way. What’s not to love?

Rich Brawn with the statue of the Welsh dragon

It was a race that Rich has vowed to return to