Over the next few weeks 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 first article is by Chris Peregrine, who in 1981 was working as a young reporter for the South Wales Evening Post. Chris promoted the start training tips, wrote pre and post articles for some of the early Swansea Bay 10k’s and took part in the first race…
New frontiers opened up for people of a certain ilk in 1981.
The emergence of the London Marathon in March that year changed the face of fun running forever, allowing glorious amateurs to take their place alongside performers on a high profile stage that was elevated to unimaginable levels over the ensuing years. And the same could be said of the first Swansea Bay 10k, which confidently followed in London’s footsteps that October.
But it is no good organising a mass participation event if no one knows about it. The message had to be got out, and what better way than through the newspaper that continues to serve the community, the South Wales Evening Post? We were up for the challenge.
Partnership working is a buzz phrase these days, but back in 1981 a joined up approach was hardly a default setting. The success of the inaugural London Marathon had pointed to the potential of putting on something which inspired people to push themselves. In Swansea’s Guildhall there was anticipation within the then recreation department that the event being planned would also capture the new mood for running for all. Experienced Swansea Harrier John Collins was brought on board by the council to help Andrew Reid and Dave Flynn with the organisation. There was another man with a pedigree in that department to call upon. Three years earlier Berwyn Price had won gold for Wales in the 110 metres hurdles at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, and he happened to be a colleague of Andrew and Dave’s.
The team had been compiled, and someone was needed from the sponsors, the Evening Post, to spread the word. It was time to get the old Adidas tracksuit and trainers out. While pounding the streets was not new for some people, others, it was felt, needed some guidance as how to approach a 6.2 mile run, so it was decided to pen some weekly training tips. There was a distinct feeling in the build-up that this new thing called the Swansea Bay 10k could be the start of something big. Having kindly informed entrants what physical effort would be required in the build-up and on the big day itself, it would have been somewhat rude not to take my place in the line-up alongside nearly 2,000 others.
So wearing a Post People t-shirt, it was off from St Helen’s down towards Mumbles and back again. I recall posing the question in the next day’s paper as to whether there were in fact two races as runners appeared coming towards me as they headed for home. They were a strange breed, apparently called elite athletes. But in keeping with the branding on my top, I gallantly decided to run with people I was more familiar with, Post readers, not that the conversation flowed as the miles were clocked up. The finishing line was good enough to make an appearance at some point, and it was a short while later that I remember thinking, ‘They’re onto something here’.
Commercial Writer, South Wales Evening Post, WalesOnline