Full results for the Commonwealth 24hr Championships, Mountain Running Championships and 55k Trail Running Championships are available here.
It’s just as well that Richie Gardiner didn’t give up on his dream to represent Wales at a major championship because after four near misses he helped himself to two gold medals on his Commonwealth debut.
Gardiner led the Welsh team to an historic 1-2-3 podium finish, and team gold, in the final event of the three day Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Marathon Championships in North Wales.
Having seen John Pares win the men’s title in the 24 hour race in Llandudno on Saturday, the 38-year-old Gardiner bided his time before powering through the field to pick off the early leaders and win the 55K Trail title in the spectacular Newborough Forest on Anglesey.
A Welsh champion at every distance from 10K on the track up to the marathon, he led team mates Andrew Davies and Nat Lane into the medals as they each picked off England’s Hugh Lobb in the final lap as he fell to pieces over the sandy beaches on the course.
The Aberdare police sergeant almost quit the sport that has been at the centre of his life for the past 30 years after failing by two seconds to qualify for the Welsh team that went to Delhi for last year’s Commonwealth Games.
But while he switched back to his former club Aberdare AC from Cardiff, he never carried out his threat to throw his running shoes away and bring to an end a career that began as an eight-year-old in his home town.
“Having got so close, so often to making a major championship I thought about quitting. It had always been my dream to represent Wales on a major stage and when I failed by two seconds to make the marathon standard last year it was the last straw,” admitted Gardiner. “But I decided to look for a new challenge and ended up making the Welsh team for these Commonwealth Championships. I knew that at my age I had to make it count having been picked and I am absolutely elated at having brought home the gold medal.
“It was so late in the day I took the lead. It was a slow burner of a race for me as I settled in over the first two of the 10K laps and then started to work my way through the field.”
Kenya’s Geoffrey Tum set off at an incredible pace and although a Zambian runner followed him everyone else held back. The two Africans were seven minutes clear of Gardiner in fifth after two laps, but when both came to a grinding halt on lap four the Welshman, who had worked his way past South Africa’s Amon Mismango, suddenly found himself in second place. Now the target was England’s highly accomplished marathon runner Hugh Lobb, who held a 4 min, 15 sec lead over his Welsh rival after three laps.
That was when Tum limped out of the equation and Gardiner began to eat into Lobb’s lead. He took more than two minutes out of him on lap four and went into the last lap two and a half minutes down. By the end he had turned that deficit into a 4 min, 39 sec winning advantage over fellow Welshman Davies as he struck gold in 3 hrs, 29.54 mins.
“You have to respect the distance, 33 miles, and the different terrains on which you are running, and I knew that if the Africans had gone off as quickly as they did they might suffer for it,” said Gardiner. “All of a sudden they were struggling and initially I thought I could aim for bronze. Then I got into the silver place and I thought that that was going to be.
“I know just how good and experienced a marathon runner Hugh is, but I started to get some times from the side and then I could see him in the distance. That’s when I knew he was in trouble and I realised I could catch him and move into the gold medal position.
“Now that’s when the nightmares start. You take the lead with three miles to go and begin to wonder if you can hold onto it. “I kept telling myself to relax, relax and I was able to keep it all together. It was a fantastic feeling coming up to the finish and winning and this is one of those races that justifies all the hard work that I’ve put in over my career.”
The icing on the cake was the second placed finish from Davies and Lane’s battling run for third. That gave Wales the team title and a second gold of the day on his major championship debut for Gardiner.
In the women’s race England’s Emma Gooderham won by more than 12 minutes from Scotland’s Angela Mudge, with Australia’s Kirstin Bull taking the bronze medal.