To celebrate our 40th anniversary, Nigel Jones, who has been Swansea Council’s 10k Race Director since 1986, will be delving into his extensive 10k archive and speaking to some key people who have been involved with the race over the years.
Our second article is by David Flynn, who was the original Swansea Bay 10k Race Director in 1981…
Following the great success of the inaugural London Marathon in the spring of 1981 the then Director of Economic Development for Swansea City Council, Roger Warren-Evans, proposed that the City Council should stage a mass participation marathon to help promote the city.
Part of my job at the time as Sports Assistant was to organise the Council’s Municipal Championships, including the annual May Day fun run, which I gave a new lease of life to by heavily promoting it as a fun run in the true sense of the word. Being a competitive runner, it fell upon me and my Line Manager, Andrew Reid to look into the feasibility of staging such an event in Swansea.
It soon became apparent that there was no suitable route within the city’s boundaries so we started discussions with Neath Council to jointly hold an event, with a proposed route using the Mumbles Road/Promenade, A4067 and A483 in Swansea and then on to the A483 (Jersey Marine) and A48 in Neath and Port Talbot.
Whilst the feasibility of the event was being discussed in numerous meetings, a ‘Trial’ Half Marathon was held in Neath from the Cwrt Herbert Playing Fields, up and around a very tough course up to Crynant and back to Neath via some back roads.
Needless to say, this course was never used again but was the precursor to the very successful Neath Half Marathon which started at Llandarcy (A video of the 1986 event can be found on YouTube).
Here the story takes a turn and the idea of the Swansea Bay 10k was born.
A group of Swansea Harriers which included myself, Steve “Jock” Seaman and the now sadly deceased Gerry Batty and John Collins were having a pint after a club training night and the topic of the marathon came up and it was felt that there was no real infrastructure suitable to organise a marathon in Swansea, to the scale that the Council aspired to and other distances were then discussed.
John Collins had been a founding member of the hugely successful Gwent Cross Country League (recently renamed the JH Collins Gwent Cross Country League) and Gerry Batty was one of the founders of the popular West Glamorgan Cross Country League, so both had great experience and both Leagues continue successfully to this day. I believe Gerry, who worked in the Land Registry, and was always looking at maps for various training runs and races, suggested an out and back race from St. Helens Cricket and Rugby Ground to Mumbles – a training route regularly run still up to this day.
I reported this back to the Council who fully agreed with the idea and it was left to me to organise.
I won’t go into the details of the planning, but it is worth noting that Mumbles Road had never been closed to traffic before for such an event, but after several meetings with Road Safety Officer Elwyn Davies, father of Stuart Davies (the Swansea and future Wales Rugby Captain) and the West Glamorgan Highways Department, approval was given for the road closure and the work on planning the first Swansea Bay 10k started in earnest.
The route was simple, out to Mumbles on the road and back along the Promenade, but unlike today there was no foot bridge at Blackpill Lido, so the route went around the Boating Lake and onto the pavement to re-join the course.
From the outset the plan was to hold a race and fun run which would stand the test of time by ensuring that the race was of the highest quality like the London Marathon and the course was suitable for all. This was the time of fun runs springing up all over the country, which after initial popularity often disappeared after a few years.
To do this we secured local sponsors, the first being the South Wales Evening Post and then Allux Windows, along with a generous budget from the Council. This offer allowed us to offer generous prize money and pay travel and accommodation costs for invited elite athletes such as other major races.
This strategy worked and top quality runners were attracted to the race from all over the UK and this continues to the present day.
To further bolster the race’s appeal of travelling to Swansea, a Friday night invitational 5k race was held prior to the main event in the second year of the event, around the former St. David’s Shopping Centre. This was short lived due to the demise of the centre.
I was Race Director for the first 5 years of the event before passing the baton on to Nigel Jones, who continues as the Race Director to this day.
David (Dai / Dave) Flynn