MEET UWTSD’s Marlene’s Marvels. They’re entering a 13-mile race and are being mentored by Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas as part of his new TV programme.
Louise Harris, Melanie Lawlor- Fellowes, Helen Thomas, Marlene Tobias and Mel Thomas are among runners whose progress will be tracked in the former sporting star’s new television series, ‘Gareth Thomas: Run For Your Life’.
They will join 100 runners, dubbed ‘Alfie’s Angels’, taking on the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2. Last Saturday (Jul 16), they met with their mentors – Gareth Thomas and former Commonwealth Games athlete James Thie.
Louise Harris, Principal Administrative Officer at UWTSD’s Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, said: “It was a great session, meeting Alfie and Jamie Thie, Eloise the nutrionist and Hannah E Phillips, author of No Run Intended. We also had a small training run which was fun and inspirational, with every Angel being greeted and applauded by all the other Angels and Alfie and his team as they crossed the finish line.
“We are one week into the 12 week training course and lots of progress is already being made by everyone. I was even up at 5.20am this morning to get 3.2 miles in before work – I am a changed woman! Marlene’s Marvels are up for the challenge and we will complete the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2. We are intending to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance.”
UWTSD’s Marlene Tobias said: “I’ve always thought about doing a half marathon, but have never done anything about it. I’ve never run a mile in my life, let alone 13 miles! I saw the advert for Alfie’s Angels and asked the girls if they fancied doing it. They were game, so I sent in a video and got through. It takes commitment to prepare for a half marathon, but we are all dedicated and motivated and are going to give it our best shot. It will also be a very personal achievement for Mel Thomas (my sister) and myself to be able to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance.
“We had a fantastic morning with Alfie and the others at the launch event last Saturday, and it was great to meet all the other Angels who will be taking part. I think the important thing to remember is that this is not a race, but just to cross the finishing line, however long it takes. I’m looking forward to it!”
Having tailor-made three separate 12-week programmes for the 100 runners who will take part in the half marathon, Gareth Thomas and James Thie were keen to speak to the group to motivate them and answer their questions.
Gareth Thomas said: “A lot of these women have very busy lifestyles, like any man or woman, and we have taken into consideration all their life commitments.”
Gareth, who was the first rugby union player to earn 100 caps for Wales, is Team Captain, inspiring, encouraging and supporting the women through training exercises and health regimes.
Alfie’s Angels have varying levels of fitness and face a number of tough goals along their journey to race day. Step one is learning how to fit training into their already busy lives, but Gareth will be on hand, mentoring them through the highs and lows, injuries and victories.
Gareth Thomas added: “Running a half marathon is not an easy thing to do and there’s going to be hard times, especially coming from the position that most of these women are, having never run this distance before. I want to help them because I know how important fitness is; this is one event that could potentially change their lives and I think to be a part of that is massively rewarding.
“I also think the outreach could be huge. There’ll be other people sitting on a chair thinking ‘I could actually be that woman, I could do what they are doing’, because they are normal people who are doing extraordinary things.
“A lot work shifts or nights, have a family, and we set their targets accordingly. We want real, everyday people to watch and think ‘if they can do it why can’t I?’ In rugby, you inspire young kids who want to be like you and that’s a good legacy to leave behind. People usually don’t think they have that power but these runners are doing exactly that by influencing people in a positive way.
“These are amazing people and they will get that sense of achievement and that makes me feel very proud.”
With almost all of the group being first-time long-distance runners, their progress will be captured for a BBC Wales documentary as part of BBC Wales’ returning Live Longer Wales season in the autumn, aimed at inspiring Wales to adopt a healthier lifestyle.