Nine ACT traineeship learners are amongst the 100 rookie runners trained up by rugby legend Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas to tackle this year’s Cardiff Half Marathon with Alfie’s Army.
The army consists of a hundred young people aged 17-21 who are tasked with completing the 13.1 mile run on Sunday 1st October.
Our learners taking on the challenge are: Kayleigh Owen, Lena McGhee, Teigan Henry, Thomas Watts, Liam Roche, Lauren Parsons, Jaden McKenzie, Chanel Mitchell and Laura Morris.
We spoke to some of the learners to find out how they have dealt with the training and how they’re feeling before the big race on Sunday.
Chanel Mitchell is working towards a level 1 traineeship in Customer Services and is currently on placement in Ocean Park House café.
Liam Roche is studying towards his Health and Social Care level 1 traineeship and is on placement at Castleford House Care Home.
Jaden McKenzie is studying towards a level 1 traineeship in IT and currently looking for a placement.
Lauren Parsons is also on her way towards her Health and Social Care level 1 traineeship. She is on placement in Busy Bees Nursery.
What motivated you to apply to Alfie’s Army?
Chanel Mitchell: “I didn’t take it too seriously at first but my friend suggested I do it. I didn’t expect there to be such support from Alfie and the camera crew. They must have been funded a lot of money to provide us with all the equipment.”
Liam Roche: “I wanted to do it for my own personal achievement to see how far I could push myself. I was a bit wary at the start I didn’t really know if I should apply […] I didn’t really want to do it on my own but then Tom said he’d do it with me.”
Jaden McKenzie: “I’m not healthy. I’m not fit. I’m a lazy person and now I’ve gone quite healthy and I want to run. I stopped smoking […] and I can run fast and far now.”
Lauren Parsons: “I just thought it would be different and something out of my comfort zone as I’ve never done anything like it before so I just thought why not?”
How have you found the training programme?
CM: “They took us to the half tough mudder. […] It was really fun. I loved it. I’m feeling really nervous but I have the support from Alfie and the others.”
LR: “It’s been tough. I haven’t been able to do too much because of my legs but I’ve been trying to get a lot of cardio in, so swimming and things like that.”
JM: “I’ve had some ups and downs but it’s been good. They eased us in gently and told us what to do and answered any questions we had.”
LP: “It’s been alright. I haven’t been sticking to it as much as I’ve changed the days a bit […] but apart from that it’s been good. The first thing we did was a relay 5k but they broke it down.It’s got easier but it’s still difficult as it’s such a new thing to me.”
What was Alfie like to train with?
CM: “He’s an amazing person. He’s nice, he’s very motivational, he’s warm-hearted and he’s very understanding. If you’re struggling he won’t have a go at you, he won’t judge you he’ll help you through it. The team is really supportive. I felt more support from that team than I’ve felt in my entire life.”
LR: "He pushes and motivated you quite a lot. He’s a really nice bloke and you can tell he really genuinely cares how you do in the marathon."
LP: “He was really nice and down to earth. He was kind and he would push you to do things but if you were struggling he’d slow you down. Everyone has been really supportive.”
Has doing this boosted your confidence in other parts of your life?
CM: “Yes definitely! I am a really confident person but it helped me help others in a way, because when you’re rolling around in mud and you’re sweating and feeling really uncomfortable it’s not about how you look or how people see you, it’s about having fun. That was one of the main things I liked about it.”
LR: "I think it just keeps your fitness level up. I took it on to see how my fitness would cope doing running. I like to think I’ll keep up running but it’s hard to keep motivated."
JM: "I feel healthier and feel good about myself."
LP: “I was already confident but I feel a lot more confident now, especially with running as before I hated it and would be so embarrassed to run.”
Would you recommend this experience to others?
CM: “I would recommend my whole family to do it because it’s really fun. It’s really good for building friendships and bonding.”
LR: "Yeah they would enjoy it. It’s good fun!"
LP: “If I can do it anybody can and that’s a promise! The experience was amazing and I just want to finish it on Sunday.”
Tune into BBC Wales on Wednesday 27th September at 9pm to see their journey to the Cardiff Half. Good luck to Alfie’s Army and to all the runners taking part in the run on Sunday 1st October!