At school, I was told I musn’t run. Now I’m training for the Principality Cardiff Half!
As we gear up for the return of the 2023 Principality Cardiff Half, we’re sharing the stories of inspiring runners taking part, many of whom have picked up life-affirming healthy habits as a result.
A 23 year-old from Aberdare is training for the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday 1 October, despite being told at school that she “must not ever run”.
With a left arm paralysed since birth, the number of operations Rhiannon Barber from Aberdare has undergone is in double figures.
Diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy – a paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the nerves, which often arises during a difficult birth – Rhiannon has undergone more than 10 reconstructive surgeries:
“The surgeries left me not able to walk for a long time. They took muscles and nerves from my leg. And it had a big impact on my immune system so I was often ill.”
But at 16 years old, Rhiannon decided to challenge herself and took up athletics:
“I like to overcome things. I’d never been allowed to run at school so I joined an athletics club. I discovered that I was really good at discus and competed for Wales at UK level.”
Also, on her list of things she shouldn’t do was contact sports, in case she dislocated her shoulder:
“Discus was taken out of the Paralympic Games so I wanted a new challenge, I decided to take up kickboxing. I had one arm tied behind my back and I competed against able-bodied fighters. I won gold at national level within three months.”
Today, her left arm remains partially paralysed. The surgery has meant she has regained some movement but it has also caused cramping and spasms in her legs, which makes her determination to do this year’s Cardiff Half even more admirable:
“When I run, my feet can spasm and I need lots of physiotherapy. I’ve never done long distance running before but training is going really well.”
And the driving force behind her is her Mum:
“I had been her carer since I was 10 as she had developed Encaphilitis Meningitis twice during my childhood. It left her with a brain injury.
“And then, during the first lockdown, she found a lump in her breast. By the time, she was able to be seen, the cancer had already spread to her bone.”
Rhiannon’s Mum, Clair, passed away last year at the age of 46. And the Cardiff Half challenge is helping her to come to terms with losing her:
“I guess it almost as if it’s one big memorial for her. Everything I’ve done since I was 10 has been for my Mum. I’m raising funds for Cancer Research UK and, so while I’m a slow runner, I’ll put myself through my paces for her.”
When she’s not running, Rhiannon who is moving to Cardiff, works in music and performs under the artist name of Rightkeysonly. And, as you would expect, she is pouring her passion and determination into it:
“As a musician with a disability, I want to do everything I can to improve accessibility in music. I’m a beatboxer and a music producer, creating EDM (electronic dance music).”
She has performed at Greenman this summer and has received funding from Arts Council of Wales in her bid to increase accessibility in the music sector.
This year’s Cardiff Half – the twentieth anniversary edition of the race – takes place on Sunday 1 October and is set to raise more than £3 million once again through partnerships with over 90 charities. It sold out in June with 27,500 spaces runners now registered to be on the startline.
As part of its title sponsorship agreement, Principality Building Society, has teamed up with Run 4 Wales – the organisers of the Cardiff Half – to launch the “Healthy Habits” campaign. It aims to encourage people to adopt positive physical, mental and financial habits.
Adding to the event’s international appeal, it is now a part of the SuperHalfs – an international half marathon series including races in Lisbon, Prague, Valencia, Copenhagen and Cardiff. It challenges runners to complete the five race circuit in 36 months in order to earn a ‘SuperMedal’ and other exclusive prizes.
You can donate to Rhiannon’s JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/right-keys-only?utm_source=copyLink&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=right-keys-only&utm_campaign=pfp-share&utm_term=dbb46e9508694f3dbea92aae4ea21fe0