By Owen Morgan
The best of friends will become the best of rivals over the space of two or three kilometres along the leafy lanes and wide avenues of Cardiff on Sunday morning.
Students Ciaran Lewis and Jake Smith live together, eat together, train together, study together and, during the early part of the Cardiff Met University Cardiff 10k, will probably work together.
But during the final stages of the race, the gloves will be off as two of the country’s most promising young distance runners will be doing their level best to beat each other.
Lewis says: “We train every day, mostly twice a day so it’s pretty non-stop with Jake. He’s probably my best friend and I’ll get made fun of for saying that. We eat together, go shopping together and all the stuff like that as well.”
The day of the race will start the same as any other day in the house they have shared with four other runners since last September – Lewis will have Weetabix and Smith will tuck into bagels.
“We’ll have breakfast together in the morning and I’ll probably drive us to the race,” says Lewis, who finished just 14 seconds behind his friend when placing fifth in the Brecon Carreg Cardiff 10K earlier this year, where Smith finished third in 29.34.
“We’ll warm up for the race together as well probably,” adds Lewis. “Even during the race, for the first half anyway, we’ll work as a team to make sure neither of us has all the work to do.
“But then, in the second half, obviously I’d love to beat Jake and Jake would love to beat me as well. There’s never anything negative, but it’s the competitive side of things.
“I’m a bit quicker than Jake over a short distance, so if I can somehow manage to hang on to him for the first nine-and-a-half kilometres, I think it will be in my hands for the last half K.
“But it’s a nightmare trying to hang on to Jake sometimes. Everyone in athletics knows that. He just puts absolutely everything in from the start.”
Smith acknowledges his delight in making life difficult for opponents, but will welcome his friend’s support in the early stages. “I do enjoy making races quite hard, but if there is someone there to help do the work I would love it.”
Lewis adds: “I know that even if I don’t beat Jake I’m going to end up running a fast time. It’s going to be run at a fast pace, which is a win win really.
The Cardiff AC athlete ran a huge personal best of 29.47 when finishing behind his clubmate at the Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K and is aiming to lower the mark even further on Sunday.
“I was still with Jake at seven K,” says Lewis, “Then he put a bit of a surge in and I just struggled with the pace then.
“But I wasn’t targeting that race, whereas I am targeting this one, as is Jake, so it should be a bit closer, but we’ll see.
“I’m hoping to do 29.30 which Jake has already done, but that would be a 17 second PB for me. It looks like it’s going to be perfect conditions, no wind, not too hot, not too cold and the course is super flat and fast.”
The two runners have been friends since they met on a Great Britain team mountain running trip in 2016 when Cardiff-raised Lewis told Smith all about how wonderful his home city was.
When Bermuda-born Smith was making his university choices, he decided to plump for Cardiff on his friend’s recommendation.
The other attraction was that the city is home to former Wales and Great Britain middle-distance runner James Thie’s training group and Cardiff Metropolitan University, where Smith studies sports development, while Lewis is doing accounting and finance.
Ever since Smith headed to Cardiff both runners have been firm friends, but also friendly rivals in competition.
Smith, whose family home is now in Devon, said: ” I first met Ciaran when we both ran for Great Britain in mountain running when we were 16. He was telling me all about Cardiff and James Thie, the coach. I knew of him so I got in contact with him. When I came to Cardiff I loved it.
“The training group we have at the Met is unreal. You’ve got Tom Marshall, Ieuan Thomas, Jake Heyward and all these names training on a Tuesday evening and on a Friday, so it’s really good. Especially during the winter, because during the summer season we’re all doing different distances.
“But when we go into the winter, because we’re not all doing difference disciplines, there are like 30 of us on the track, hitting the exact same reps and it’s really good fun.
“Even when it’s a cold winter’s night we’re working off each other. Since I’ve been at uni my PBs have come down massively, so I think that’s the main reason.
“In the first year at uni, I didn’t live with any of the runners. But now there is a group of six of us living in this house and we’re all runners, we all do different distances but every day we are going for a run with each other. We cook together, we do everything together so it’s a good laugh and it has helped us all improve.
“We make sure all the meals are really healthy. I think we’re different to some other houses. It’s a lot different to my first year at uni!”
Such is Smith’s love for his adopted city, he hopes to settle there and even possibly transfer his running allegiance from England to Wales if and when he qualifies on residency grounds.
“I love living in Cardiff, I think I would like to live here for quite a long time, so if that opportunity comes I’d like to take it,” said Smith.
“I’ll have to see how the next couple of years work out because I only have one more year at uni. I’ll have to see what happens after that. If I do stay in Cardiff I would love it.”
After Sunday, the friends plan to take slightly different routes in their immediate running careers with Lewis targeting a place in Great Britain’s Under-23 team for the European Cross Country Championships and Smith concentrating on representing GB at the World Half Marathon Championships, although they will continue to train together.
But first there is the little matter of winning the house bragging rights and bidding for podium places in what will be a high quality 10K along the lanes and avenues of Cardiff this Sunday morning.
Smith says: “I did the race last year and it’s a really, really good race, it’s fast. The competition is going to be good. Me and Ciaran have been training really well recently so it should be a close between us.
“We work well together, it will just come down to the last three or four ks I reckon. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but it should be a really interesting race.”
With the @cardiffmet @Cardiff10k just over a week away we caught up with @Met_athletics Director & all-round running guru James Thie for some expert advice for all you runners getting ready for the big race.
Diolch @TeamThie, see you on the start line.
Here’s Thie’s Top 10K Tips pic.twitter.com/YA2SApD1fV
— Cardiff Met Sport TV (@CMetSportTV) August 23, 2019
The Cardiff Met University Cardiff 10K starts on King Edward VII Avenue at 10am on Sunday and finishes on Museum Avenue. There is also a 2K run which starts at 9.15am.