The Richard Burton 10k.
A famous quote from the legendary actor could be applied to this race for me.
This is a race that has enjoyed over a quarter of a century of events and is literally on my doorstep and yet I have not completed, or attempted to complete it even once – until now!
As the headteacher of a brand new school less than a mile from the start of this race as well as a newly signed up member to the local running club, Port Talbot Harriers, I was determined to enter. It was a last minute thing after racing Snowdon marathon the week before but I felt good, the weather forecast was fantastic so I made the short trip to Cwmafan for the start. Cwmafan is a small village nestled in the steeply wooded lower end of the Afan valley. The rows of tightly packed terraced houses line the valley floor and the local community come out in force for this race. The packed car parks gave an insight into the popularity of the race and this was underlined at sign on where I picked up my number amongst almost a 1000 others. An army of local volunteers from the community and local sports clubs ensured a slick, stress free sign on and I was soon stripped off and warmed up ready to head to the start.
The first part of this race, I had been warned, was very narrow so I cheekily headed under the tape to take my place towards the front of the field. It was a bright, cold day perfect for running so was hoping for a good time. Looking round I knew many of my fellow competitors and was pleased to see many of my new clubmates – hopefully I would be able to keep up with many of them.
As the starter went we all sprinted off along a straight, spectator lined road before twisting through some of the terraces and heading back on ourselves for the long, slight drag up the Afan valley. I was pleased that I had started towards the front as the course narrowed quickly as it turned onto a cycle path for a short stretch and then back onto the main road. It was fantastic that the main road was closed so that as the parade of runners snaked up the valley all we had to concentrate on was our mile splits. The road climbed gradually so that you weren’t aware that you were climbing and as we hit Pontrhydyfen, the birthplace of the race’s namesake, a short, sharp climb took us across the famous viaduct. It was here you could see those behind you and check out where you were in the race. I was pleased with how things were going and was looking forward to the second half of the race.
The return leg headed down the other side of the valley on a fantastic traffic free path. The gradient was surprising as it headed back down the valley so you were able to use this downhill to your advantage. I was sure we hadn’t climbed this much but certainly wasn’t arguing as I was able to keep my pace up. Regular glances at my watch and some high speed maths gave me the goal of sub 39 minutes so I pushed on trying to keep on target. Once back on the valley floor there was a flattish mile to the finish, again lined with supporters. The temperature had risen and my pace was dropping and I really looking forward to the finish. Back onto the main road I knew there was less than 800m to go and with surprised pupils and parents recognising their head teacher running past I used this to eek out the last drops of energy from my legs. I could see a clubmate about 20 metres ahead but just didn’t have the legs to catch him. Coming down the finisher chute and glancing at my watch I was pleased to see a time that I hadn’t seen for about 10 years!
Chatting to fellow finishers analysing their times I was pleased to have taken part in this gem of a race. 10k is a tough distance, one that I usually shy away from for being too short but the buzz I got from this race underlined just how special this race is and exactly why people keep coming back to it year on year. I stayed to see the rest of the participants in before heading the short distance home thinking how lucky I was to have races like this so local. Its place amongst local clubs as a club champs race was cemented I am sure and I look forward to seeing it continue to be a Welsh favourite for another quarter of a century!