Dewi Griffiths and Mo Farrah posing with their awards after running The Vitality Big Half. in March 2019. Pic: Getty Images.

Dewi Griffiths Finds Balanced Approach As He Hits The Road Towards London . . . Then Tokyo

Dewi Griffiths was the coming man in 2017 as he produced a stunning world class marathon time in his first attempt at the distance. Then, the problems started. But now, as he tells Owen Morgan, Wales’ leading distance runner is on the way back.

Welsh marathon champion Dewi Griffiths is on the road to recovery – a journey he hopes will continue on the streets of London in April and ultimately lead to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The Swansea Harrier has endured a nightmare six months during which he questioned whether he would lead a normal life again, let alone make a return to international athletics.

A mystery illness robbed the Carmarthenshire farmer of his place on the Great Britain team at last autumn’s European Championships in Doha and left him feeling continuously fatigued.

This, after he had battled his way back from a long-term hip injury, which meant he missed out on representing Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia and Great Britain at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin later that year.

But now there is light at the end of the tunnel after some “outside of the box” thinking by Welsh Athletics physiotherapist Adam Rattenberry helped identify a balance problem which had left a string of specialists baffled for months.

Speaking from a Welsh Athletics training camp in Spain, Griffiths told Dai Sport he is targeting the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11.30 at April’s London Marathon, which is also the Great Britain team trial.

The Swansea Harrier said: “I seem to have turned the corner and I’m slowly building momentum. I’m definitely going in the right direction and hopefully by the time London comes around I’ll be able to give a good account of myself.”

Having not competed since he finished third at the Asics London 10K last July, Griffiths blew off the cobwebs on New Year’s Eve at the Nos Galan 5K in Mountain Ash where he finished 15th in 15:18 – more than a minute outside his best.

But the time and finishing position were irrelevant. Griffiths was just happy to be back, toeing the line in a competitive race again.

“There was a good atmosphere and I enjoyed being back in the camaraderie and back in that environment again. It was nice also to just draw a line in the sand to see where I was. You can’t hide in a race.

Dewi Griffiths leads the way at the 2017 Welsh Road Relay Championships. Pic: Paul Stillman.

“Since then things have been going well. I’m building momentum now and progressing weekly.”

Turn the clock back a couple of months and Griffiths wasn’t sure he would ever compete again.

The 28-year-old said: “I’d rather have been injured than what I’ve been through. With an injury, even if it’s a serious one, you’ve got a timescale.

“With a stress fracture, for example, you can jump on a bike or you can go in the swimming pool within a couple of weeks, so you can see progress from that and you can maintain fitness like that. But with this, I wasn’t allowed to do anything . . . I couldn’t do anything.

“I went for a couple of months without doing anything, not even just having a normal day. That starts playing games with you, psychologically.

“Those doubts start creeping in. Whereas with an injury you’ve got a plan in front of you as soon as you get injured, there’s always a timescale.

“You can see the next six months straight away, but with this, we took a month off to see if it made any difference and it didn’t make any difference at all. Then we took another month off to see if that made any difference, it’s that kind of thing.

“Psychologically, it’s not a nice place to be, really. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. You doubt whether you’ll ever be right again and get to the same level.”

The year had started well for Griffiths. He ran 61.44 at the Chevron Half Marathon in Houston before winning a seventh Welsh cross country title in February and finishing fourth in the Vitality Big Half Marathon in London behind the likes of Mo Farah in March.

At the London Marathon in April, he won the Welsh marathon championships and clinched a place at the Doha World Championships by clocking 2:11.46  as the third Britain home in what was the fastest race in the event’s history.

Griffiths looked on the way to recapturing the form which had seen him run a blistering 2:09.49 on his marathon debut in Frankfurt in 2017.

But after the Asics 10 in July, the Swansea Harrier wouldn’t compete again in 2019 as the mystery illness took hold, leaving him fatigued and suffering from headaches which meant he was unable to train, let alone compete.

Dewi Griffiths with long time coach Kevin Evans.

By September, Griffiths was forced to withdraw from the upcoming World Championships as he continued to search for an answer to what was causing the problem.

Then, in November, came a welcome breakthrough, as Welsh Athletics physio Rattenberry suggested Griffiths should see a vestibular physiotherapist to investigate whether balance problems were at the root of the problem.

“Adam Rattenberry, the Welsh Athletics physio, had a friend who was a vestibular physio, said Griffiths.”I had seen specialists but they couldn’t find anything.

“Adam said it maybe something wrong along those lines. We went outside the box and she diagnosed me with the balance issue.

“That was causing extra strain on my body, so I probably picked up every bug that was going and eventually just put myself in a hole. Within a couple of weeks that issue had settled and since then I’ve had no problem.

“I guess when I first had the problems it was hard to diagnose because there were so many things going on at the same time. But once everything was settled, you were down to the root of the cause, which was essentially my balance was out.

“My body was working overtime to keep my coordination. That, along with the stress of training, meant I seemed to pick up every virus I came across.

“We don’t really know how the balance problem first started, there’s a good chance I picked up a virus or an ear infection at some point. It could have been something as simple as that. It could be something I’d had for a year, a year-and-a-half without even knowing.

Dewi Griffiths is on his way back to fitness. Pic: Owen Morgan

“When I pushed myself, my body probably just said ‘I can’t cope with this anymore, I can’t fight this and everything else’.

Finding the cause of the problem was a huge relief to Griffiths: “It was kind of weird after all those months and all those specialists that it was just a quick diagnosis in the end.

“It wasn’t a major balance issue because I wasn’t falling over or anything, but there was something wrong and it did explain a lot of my symptoms.

“That was the hardest part because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I took a month off and was no better after it, I took another month off, finally started to feel a little bit better, but was no better in terms of feeling ready to run.

“But we’ve finally got to the bottom of it and, hopefully, it will never happen again.”

Now the Carmarthenshire runner is enjoying being able to run again and making the most of some sun on his back in Spain with the Welsh Athletics endurance group.

Griffiths says: “I’m able to do what I want to do when I want to do it in terms of training and that’s been a huge step forward in a really short space of time.

“These Welsh Athletics camps are invaluable. You only need to look at the weather back home, you appreciate it straight away. I’ve been here 10 days now and when I spoke to them back home I think they said it had been raining every day since I left, and I said ‘well, I’ve got a tan’!

“That just shows the difference, a couple of hours on the plane and it makes the world of difference having a bit of sun. It’s nice having that break in the middle of winter. It’s invaluable to have the opportunity.

Dewi Griffiths being interviewed by Gabby Logan.

“Since I’ve been out here, I’ve felt that things are really clicking again and it’s exciting at the moment to see how quickly I am developing.

“I’ve still got another 14 weeks, or whatever it is, to London and it is exciting to see how much I’ve developed in two or three weeks. With a bit of luck, who knows what I can do.”

Griffiths is looking forward to making up for lost time and the disappointment of missing three major championships in the past two years by qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

“You can’t not dream about it,” says Griffiths of the Olympics. “This is the race. The way I look at it, I would happily trade the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and worlds in the last two years just to be in that team for the Olympics. I wouldn’t think twice about it. This is the one everyone dreams of, isn’t it?

But first he must gain the qualifying time in London and finish as one of the top two Britons in the race.

“At the moment, it’s just controlling what I can control,” he says. “I can’t control what everyone else is doing, but what I can control is putting myself in the best shape I can for the day and, hopefully, that’s good enough.


“Run the standard first of all and hope that two people from Britain don’t beat me. There are two spots available at the moment. It doesn’t matter if one person beats me as long as I am the other one.

“The shape I was in last year, I think I could have done maybe a 2:08 or a 2:07, I was in that great shape. Unfortunately, I got ill leading up to the race and I never seemed to recover from it.

“But I am in the position that I know I don’t have to be at my best to run a 2:11. Everyone else in the British field has to run a PB to achieve that standard, so I am in a fortunate position in that sense.

“Obviously, it’s all on the day and everyone can only do what they can do, but I’m pretty positive I can get down to maybe a 2:10 or 2:11 kind of shape and if two Brits beat me then they deserve to be on that plane, don’t they?”

Within that race for the British Olympic team qualifying spots, will be a hotly contested battle for the Welsh marathon title.

The reigning champion will be up against the likes of namesake Josh Griffiths. By contrast, the 2017 World Championship competitor enjoyed an excellent 2019, recording personal bests over 10K, half-marathon and marathon.

Dewi Griffiths says: “Last year’s Welsh championship was probably the strongest in a long time, if not the strongest ever, with myself, Andy (Davies) and Josh on the podium. I think Andy was low 2:15. I think that was the fastest bronze medal at the Welsh championship for a long time, if not ever.


“This year, with myself, Josh and Charlie (Hulson) on the start list, and I know there are a few other Welsh boys snapping at our heels as well, we could go even faster again.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you have to run 2:14, 2:13 just to make the podium in the Welsh Championships. When has that happened before?

“So it’s exciting times for Wales isn’t it? Hopefully, the future is bright because all three of us are still in our 20s and hopefully the best is still ahead.”

Which all bodes well for the Welsh endurance team which will make the short trip to Birmingham for the 2022 Commonwealth Games – another target on Griffiths’ wish list.

“Having made Glasgow and then having missed out on the Gold Coast I definitely want to make Birmingham.

“But like I say, both on the men’s side and the women’s side in the marathon, the team is going to be difficult to make between the lot of us.

“But yes, it is definitely a goal of mine.  Hopefully, I’ll tick off Tokyo en route and then I can look forward to Birmingham in 2022 and do the Welsh vest proud.”



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