08 Jul History of the Cosmeston Relays

Life Member and former Club Chairman CLEM CLEMENT reflects on nearly 30 years of Cosmeston Relay Racing

Wednesday 8th July 2020 should have been the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Cosmeston Relay Race, but what is the history of where we are today?

The event was conceived in April 1991, as a result of the sad death of club member Carol Matthews. Carol died of hyperthermia after getting lost on a stage of a relay race in the Brecon Beacons. However, it was not born out of sadness but an effort to celebrate the joy that Carol had brought to Penarth and Dinas Runners.

Carol was a fabulous runner, though she was a bit of a timid character and liked to run with others.  It was so unfortunate that the relay was such a lonely one across the Beacons without the opportunity to support or to follow participants.

The Club Committee wanted to do something to reflect Carol’s love of running and also to show that relay races can be run safely.  Also, there was a desire amongst the members to do something to support her family; she left a husband and two young children.  So it was decided to hold our own relay race in the safe grounds of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.

Originally named the ‘Carol Matthews Memorial Relay’, it was to raise some money for the Trust Fund the Club had set-up for her children. That ended when they reached maturity, and I believe it was in the early 2,000’s that the event was renamed.  The charity donation aspect of the race, however, continues to this day.

The inaugural event had about 90 teams take part, and they were all club teams; 4 categories – senior ladies and men, and veteran ladies and men. In those days men became veterans at 40 but ladies at 35; age brackets that we carried forward for some time.

It was later in the 1990’s that we decided to make the event more community-based and attach it to the Penarth Summer Festival by adding the ‘non-athletic’ category to attract teams of non-club members, and their imaginative team naming. This gave Clem one of his most embarrassing moments. When, just as he was about to announce the winners at the presentation, Janice and Joanna Hendry handed him the non-athletic team result and without ‘rehearsing’ he simply read out “In third place – Norfolk in Chance” – and wondered why the place erupted! 😆

Numbers dropped away in the late 90’s and, hard as it might be to believe now, the lowest entry was about 35 teams.  But we still loved to host it and those who took part still loved it too.

Towards 2010 numbers started to pick up again. The association with Penarth Rugby Club as a presentation venue was cemented and some clubs, Neath Harriers in particular, made a night of it and were very keen supporters of the event and the Rugby Club bar afterwards, often being the last to leave.

There had been experiments with other venues, such as The Harvester, but the one that sticks in the memory was the Golden Hind on St. Mary’s Well Bay Road (now apartments). Having booked it months in advance and thinking it was in their diary, going to check on the day we discovered it had been double-booked and so we had to share the presentation stage with….a fashion show! 😂😆

Back in those days, only prize winners were calculated on the night and then the full results crunched to get them out by Friday evening. It was very hectic on the night, and there was always that moment during the prize-giving that we feared hearing “What about us?” but that was very rare.

Then about 2011…What was this? We needed to print a result sheet with over 100 places and times for the first leg!  Suddenly there was increasing interest again, with teams now starting to bring tents, picnics and even barbecues.

We had a then record entry of 140 teams in 2014 – this proved to be pivotal moment in the entry and results process and we decided that it was time to move to the next level and go for a chip timing system.  And not any old timing system – our new Race Director, Lyn Evans, persuaded us to go for chipped relay batons.  Most runners hadn’t used a baton since their schooldays, but after a trial run in January 2015, we went ‘live’ for the first time in the 2015 Relay Race.  Lyn, Yvonne Williams and Clem will no doubt recall an evening at Yvonne’s that turned into quite an operation as many lengths of black plastic pipe were cut, rubbed down, labelled and finally ‘chipped’, transforming them into the now familiar P&D batons.  They’ve proved to be very popular and are also used at a few other local relays races these days.

Also in 2015, there was the infamous 2015 Race Flyer.  Clem and Lyn had been exchanging messages about the wording for the flyer. Clem sent his own home postcode to Lyn as an example, but neglected to point out it was just an example and not the actual postcode for the lakes…..

Still it gave us something to do at that year’s Castles Relay weekend as the team pitched in to correct all 2,000 flyers we’d had printed with Clem’s postcode on them!  Here’s a photo of my ‘souvenir’ flyer!

Observant readers might also spot the link to the name of our newest club race, also held at Cosmeston….’The CF64 Winter Race’.  Coincidence, Mr. Evans?

The intervening five years has seen the event continue to grow significantly, to the point where all 250 places sell out on the wonder-web in under 15 minutes – with teams from right across South Wales poised, fingers ready, to ensure that they get their teams in when entries open.

The growth in the number of runners taking part has meant that the charitable donations from the race have also continued apace.  Typically, about half the race proceeds are donated to charity in a proud continuation of the original idea started out nearly 30 years ago.

I know everyone at the club is naturally disappointed to have had to cancel what would have been the 30th running of the race.  I’m sure they’d wish to thank everyone who’s supported the race in the past and are looking forward to welcoming runners again, safe and well, in July 2021.

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