Tash Smith always wanted to complete the Virgin Money London Marathon before she was 30. But overweight and by her own admission, often breathless tackling a few flights of stairs, completing 26 miles 385 yards seemed an unattainable target.
Then thanks to the arrival of the JCP Swansea Half Marathon in her home city in 2014, Tash had what she calls her ‘Eureka’ moment. So much so she has transformed herself from a reluctant jogger, with low esteem to an enthusiastic, self confident 29-year-old poised to tackle one of the world’s famous long distance races.
She has also landed a dream job to go with her new found enthusiasm for running. And she is adamant there are more people like her who can transform their own lives with will power and determination.
“If you believe in yourself you can do it,” says Tash who completed 16 races in 2015, raising thousands of pounds for Maggie’s Cancer Centres.
“I have lost two and a half stones since I started running. My body shape has changed significantly.
“Before, I would run up stairs and get out of breath because I was overweight. That doesn’t happen now.
“I find myself wanting to go out for a run whereas in the past I would have had to push myself out of the door.
“I am addicted to running.” laughs Tash, now working with JCP Swansea Half Marathon Race Directors, David Martin-Jewell and Nick Francis as a marketing and administration assistant.
“To have this job is amazing and something I never thought I would be doing a few years back.”
Prior to her half marathon bow at Swansea in 2014, Tash’s running experience was restricted to the occasional Race for Life. “I would just turn up and run.” she confesses.
“I didn’t train as well as I should have done and just winged it after looking up a lot of stuff online.
“But when I heard the Swansea Half was taking place I started to take running more seriously.”
Tash completed Swansea and Cardiff Half’s in 2014, raising money for the Ty Olwen Hospice at Morriston Hospital and Mind. Crossing the line in Swansea in front of family and friends she shed a tear of happiness at accomplishing her life breakthrough.
Spurred on, Tash set her new goals for 2015, raising her fitness levels as her weekly mileage increased.
A new PB of 2hrs 29mins was established at the Great Welsh Half, Maggie’s Swansea benefited to the sun of £1,600 and she’d raced most distances from 5K to 13 miles before expanding her horizons in November 2015. She joined the Run 4All club in Neath and believes others can benefit from similar decisions.
“I was a little scared of joining a running club. I thought it would be very serious and people would be too fast for me. I can get the mileage done but I am not a fast runner.
“However, it doesn’t matter if you have never run before or you do ultra marathons.
“There is a group for everyone and they are all very helpful. I would certainly advise joining a running club. It gives you that extra bit of support and extra bit of push.”
GB international Dei Griffiths and Emma Wookey of Lliswerry Runners were recently named as inaugural ambassadors for the JCP Swansea Half Marathon. As part of their role they have published training tips which can be viewed on the race’s website to help runners prepare for the race on June 26.
Now she’s part of the organising team Tash won’t be on the start line in 2016. However, she’s got ideas of her own to prepare.
“You have got to get out there and put the miles in your legs.” she explained. That doesn’t necessarily mean going out for 15-20 mile runs every week.
“You might only want to do a 5 or 10K. But if you haven’t got the training mileage in, you will struggle on race day. When I first started a lot of people knocked my confidence. And there will be people who doubt you can do the distances and races.
“That can make it harder to get out of the door and do the training. But you can use the negative comments to motivate you and that’s what I did. Someone was quite rude about my training and that I wouldn’t be able to do all the half marathons I wanted to do. It did knock my confidence.
“But I started working with a personal trainer last year. And she said ‘if you find mile 10 tough in your half marathon, just think about that person who said you couldn’t do it and that will push you onto the next mile.'”
Tash, 30 in July, will use her new found mental toughness to conquer any last minute nerves about making her marathon debut.
“I’m sure I’ll have the same felling as I did before my first half marathon.” she adds.
“It is the feeling of the unknown. But if I think of it as just two in a row, I’m sure I will be fine. I was never as glad to see a finishing line as I was after the first Swansea Half. I reckon that might change when I see the finish in London.”
*Entries for the 2016 JCP Swansea Half Marathon on June 26 are open. Go to www.swanseahalfmarathon.co.uk to secure your place now.