By Owen Morgan
Former sprinter Olivia Tsim claimed her first Welsh Cross Country title in Brecon on Saturday.
The Pontypridd Roadents AC runner, whose athletics career has been dogged by injuries, was competing at her first
cross country race in more than 10 years.
However, she dominated the 6.89km race from the start and eventually crossed the line in 23:55 to take the senior
women’s title ahead of Lucy Marland, of Les Croupiers Running Club and Martha Owen, of Deeside AAC.
The twisty, undulating course at the foot of the Brecon Beacons was a far cry from 100 and 200m sprints, of Tsim’s
early athletics days.
But in recent years Tsim, who is a parkrun regular, has developed into an accomplished distance runner, particularly on
Now she has successfully turned her attention to cross country – an experience she thoroughly enjoyed.
“It felt really good,” said Tsim. “It was tough – the wind was hard and the hills killed – but I was really, really happy. It’s
only my second cross country in 10-and-a-half years, so, yeah, glad to be back to it.
“I hadn’t done cross country since high school, I was 16 I think when I ran my last one.”
Tsim’s Development with Online Training Sessions
Since then things haven’t always run smoothly for Tsim, who competed as a sprinter until 2016 before converting to the
longer distances away from the track.
But her development has come on in leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons having managed her injury
This has been thanks in part to following the online endurance circuit sessions which were originally set up during
lockdown by Cardiff Met lecturer and successful coach James Thie.
“I’ve suffered with my ankles in the past,” says Tsim. “But I’ve been doing a lot more strength work with James Thie’s
ankle exercise on his online workouts. They’ve done wonders to strengthen my ligaments around there.
“Touch wood, at the moment, I’m managing to run on off-road surfaces a lot more easily.”
It’s on the road where Tsim has been making her name over the past couple of years in particular – during which time
she has lowered her 5k, 10k and half marathon personal bests to 16:20, 33:48 and 73:38 respectively.
Last year she gained victories at the Cardiff Bay, Barry Island, Richard Burton and Caerphilly 10ks. She also set a new
personal best finishing 24th at the Copenhagen Half Marathon.
Asked what’s been behind her recent progression, Tsim said: “Consistency is a huge thing, which comes with not being
injured. I’ve been fuelling myself a lot better too.
“I’ve been doing the strength and conditioning side of things. I am seeing a lot of benefit from that. And just being a bit
more sensible with how much I’m running as well.
“I try and cross train a lot more these days. So I’m not hitting the roads – the tarmac surfaces – often. So that’s helped.”
Challenges Faced by Tsim on the Road to the Lisbon Half Marathon
Olivia Tsim tackles a hill in Brecon. Pic: Owen Morgan
Things haven’t always been so smooth for Tsim, who will be part of a seven-strong Welsh team alongside the likes of
Clara Evans and Anna Bracegirdle, heading to compete in the Lisbon Half Marathon next month.
“As a sprinter you end up picking up injuries,” says Tsim. “Normally it was in drills for me where I’d go over on my ankle,
and then all of a sudden, you’re out for a couple of weeks.
“But there have also been injuries in long distance, I did struggle with stress fractures for a while. It’s very common
amongst endurance athletes.
“For me, I found it was because I was under-fuelling massively, and I wasn’t getting that nutrition. At the minute, I’m
managing to listen to my body and just feeling better.”
Potential Return to Track for Tsim
After the Lisbon Half Marathon, Tsim is considering returning to her first discipline – the track. Albeit at far longer
distances than was previously the case.
“I’d love to get back to track,” she says. “I was sprinting previously, but that was maximum 200 metres. I did my first
track 5k at the end of last season. And I loved it.
“I started track when I was 10 and I finished when I was 22. So that’s like second nature – it’s like home for me. I really
felt that when I got back on the track. So I’d definitely like to come down the distances and give that a go.
“The next step on the race calendar is in two week’s time, in Lisbon for Wales in the half marathon, which I’m really
“But after that I’m also looking forward to being able to reduce the mileage a little bit and focus a bit more on the speed
work again, which is kind of the reason for starting to get back into bit cross country, to get that strength and shorter snappy stuff back in the legs.
“I’ve been quite half marathon focused. I think now, after Lisbon, I’d like to give something else a bit of a go because I
feel like I’ve got a lot more in the bank PB-wise to come off the 5 and 10k and potentially even the 3k.
“I did 3k the week before last. I loved that. Just being able to go out and smash it and not have to worry I’ve gone off a
bit too quick, because that’s the intention when you do a 3k.
“I’m not sure I fancy a 10,000m on the track, 25 lap sounds very daunting to me! You never say never, but I’ll start with
some 5ks and maybe some 3ks and see where we go from there.”