Inspirational Runners and Record Breakers Push Fundraising Over £20 Million
The Wizz Air Cardiff Half Marathon returned in style today, pushing fundraising efforts past the twenty million pounds mark since the event first descended on the capital in 2003.
Ahead of race day, event organisers Run 4 Wales reported that fundraising figures for this weekend’s race stood at an incredible £2.3 million. This year’s incredible efforts have comfortably broken the £20 million milestone with the sum expected to soar even higher over the coming days, supporting more than 100 charities including NSPCC, British Heart Foundation, Mind, Prostate Cancer UK, Shelter Cymru and Alzheimer’s Society.
Reclaiming its traditional autumn date for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, runners took to the start-line outside Cardiff Castle amid blue skies and sunshine – a far cry from the deluge earlier that morning.
Among the fundraisers at Wales’ largest multi-charity fundraising event were Penarth’s James Linney who was running for Velindre. With racquet in hand, he crossed the line in 1:46 achieving a Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon while bouncing a tennis ball:
“I came up with the idea of combining tennis and running – my two sporting passions – and here I am, trying to raise money. I’m just happy to support a local cause. The atmosphere here is amazing – the support on the course has been incredible with people shouting. It’s the best race!”
While Caerphilly firefighter Lee Prescott crossed the finish line, having completed the entire route in 45lbs of full fire kit and breathing apparatus:
“I’m doing it for Motor Neurone Disease and for a family friend who really isn’t very well. I’m just trying to help raise money for research. I’ve raised over £1500 so far and I did it in 2:46. I’m glad it’s finished! The crowd are brilliant – when you’re tired and you’re lagging, the kids pick you up with the high fives and the jelly babies.”
Run 4 Wales CEO Matt Newman said:
“It’s always such as fantastic atmosphere at the Cardiff Half. It’s a showcase of everything that is brilliant about Wales. It’s evolved enormously since it first began in 2003 but one thing remains the same and that’s the friendliness and the support right around the course. Our volunteers – our Extra Milers – have turned out in their hundreds and we owe a huge debt of thanks to them.
“Of course, our focus will soon turn to preparations for 2023 which will mark the 20th anniversary of the Cardiff Half so runners can expect something very special on 1 October next year and entries will go on sale in a matter of days.”
Cardiff grandmother Linda Hassell, 66, was raising money for the British Heart Foundation after granddaughter Aria underwent heart surgery when she was six days old. Together with her daughter Ceri Ross, Linda has raised more than £1000.
Wizz Air Senior Commercial Manager Freddie Brodermann said:
“It’s our largest event we sponsor across our network and we love it. It’s an absolutely electric atmosphere and of course we’re delighted to have helped paint Cardiff Wizz pink.”
The event attracted more runners than ever before from outside of Wales and overseas. Adding to its international appeal, the race is now part of the Superhalfs series which was launched earlier this year. It includes races in Lisbon, Prague, Copenhagen, Valencia and Cardiff and challenges runners to complete the five races within 36 months to earn a SuperMedal.
Of course, the event is a competitive elite event too. The Wizz Air Cardiff Half Marathon has been certified with a World Athletics Elite Road Race label and featured its strongest field to date.
It was a double win for Kenya in the men’s and women’s races. Geoffrey Koech stormed over the line to win the men’s elite race, finishing just one second outside of the hour mark.
Sprinting across the finish line in 1:00:01, he was happy with his performance. It was a short wait before his compatriot Beatrice Cheserek won on her event debut in 1:06:48 ahead of race favourite Viola Chepngeno.
Newport’s Natasha Cockram – who represented Wales at this year’s Commonwealth Games – was the first Briton home in the women’s race finishing in 1:13:11. She had planned to compete at the London Marathon but a bout of Covid scuppered her plans:
“There was no way I was going to be marathon ready so soon after Covid. Obviously today was a lot slower than back in March but I’m happy to come out here and win the domestic part of the race. There were some fast girls up at the front but happy with that at the end of a 100-mile week.
“I love returning here – it’s home and the crowds are amazing. It was all a bit of rush, I only decided on Friday to come but I am so glad I came.”
Carmarthen’s Dewi Griffiths was first British man home in a finish time of 1:04:15.
“After the first 400m, I realised, “this is why I love this race”. You get so much support as a Welshman all the way around and the crowds really kept me going when it got tough.”
In the elite wheelchair race, Mel Nicholls of Worcester, who competed on the track at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, powered home in 1:00:19:
“I love coming back to Cardiff. It’s the friendliest event I go to. I love coming back to Wales. I was ready for the wind and the rain all week but the weather’s been amazing.”