By Owen Morgan
Cardiff AAC’s Matt Clowes overcame blustery coastal conditions and a strong field to run away with 2018 Llanelli Half Marathon on Sunday.
Clowes, originally from Stoke on Trent, led from the start line outside Parc Y Scarlets to head the 2,500-strong field home in an impressive time of 1:05.14.
The 28-year-old, who raced extensively on the American university circuit before moving to Cardiff, finished almost two-and-a-half minutes clear of the rest of the field.
The fast, flat out and back course, which took in large sections of the Millennium Coastal Path, proved perfect preparation as Clowes gears up for his first marathon, despite a strong headwind during the second half of the race.
Clowes said: “It was really good. I thought we were going to get away with the conditions seven miles in, but the wind was pretty strong out there. A tough day, but I was glad to get the win.
“I’m doing my first marathon at London this year, so I’m just trying to build towards that now and hoping for a fast time there.”
In second place behind Clowes was Commonwealth Games -bound Andy Davies, who was using the Llanelli event as preparation to represent Wales in the marathon on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
Davies, who represented Great Britain at last summer’s World Championship marathon in London, set out to run the 13.1 mile course at marathon pace, aiming to finish in a time of one hour and eight minutes.
The Stockport Harrier, who is based in Welshpool, did even better, posting a time of 1:07.42 – over four minutes ahead of the third place male runner Joe Beech, of Brackla Harriers, who clocked in at 1:11.55.
Davies was delighted with his performance and like all the elite competitors had a special word for the spectators out on the course and his fellow runners.
“It was all preparation for the Gold Coast, so I was going for marathon pace. It was a little bit tough because it was quite exposed on the way back.
“The atmosphere was fantastic though, not just from the spectators but the people running as well on the way back, saying ‘well done Andrew’. It was really good.”
Now his sights are set on Australia: “It’s a special occasion running for Wales. We don’t get a chance much these days because it’s usually British teams. It’s just going to be brilliant putting the red vest on again. I know there’s a lot of Welsh people living out there so hopefully the support will be there as well out on the course.”
Caryl Jones, another member of the Welsh marathon team heading Down Under, was the first female athlete home in a time of 1:14.26.
The 30-year-old from Tavarnspite, Pembrokeshire, who will be competing at her first Commonwealths, was thrilled with her performance.
Jones said: “I’m really pleased with the race. I was given a task by my coach and I executed it really well, so I’m happy with that. I’ve just done a 100-mile week, so it was just a training run really, although a hard one, obviously.
“The course was amazing, and the other runners coming in the other direction were all shouting for me and I can’t thank everyone enough for encouraging me.
“When the wind was against you on the way back and people were shouting for you, it certainly helped.”
Commenting on the upcoming Commonwealths, Jones added:
“I’m looking forward to going out there now. I’ve got a task to do, I’ve got to represent my country to the best of my ability and at the moment training is going in the right direction, so I’m happy.”
The second woman home was Cardiff AAC’s Clara Evans, who finished in a time of 1:16:55, with Natasha Cockram, of the Micky Morris Racing Team, third in 1:17.54.
The mass participation Llanelli event was once again a huge success overall, with runners aged from 17 to 78 taking part with entrants coming from as far afield as Germany and Holland.
Race Director David Martin-Jewell said: “We are absolutely delighted to have almost doubled the number of runners from 2017 to 2018. It’s fantastic to see the response we have received not only from local runners but from runners further afield.
“With a strong elite field for 2018 we knew there would be tough competition for last year’s winners, Josh Griffiths and Carys-Mai Hughes, and we are absolutely thrilled that both records have been beaten by Matthew Clowes and Caryl Jones.
“I would like to thank each and every one of our 180 or so volunteers who have helped us create a special day. Without the help of the volunteers it would be far more difficult for us to hold events such as this.”
The full result can be found here: http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/Results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=6182