Runners from all over North Wales defied fierce wind and rain storms to help raise awareness about dementia as they put their best feet forward in the 2016 Gwyrfai Races.
Three races – a junior 5K, adult 5K and a 10K competition – all started at Bontnewydd Community Centre and attracted a bumper turnout despite dismal weather.
They were the climax of a week-long activities programme celebrating the launch of Bontnewydd as a Dementia Friendly Village.
Overseeing the festivities was the 10 strong Hwyl y Bont group of volunteers who work to bring the local community together. They coordinate a varied calendar of events including the annual Gwyrfai races, named after the scenic river which runs around Bontnewydd.
Catrin Roberts, one of the organisers, said this year’s races coincided with the unveiling of the Dementia Friendly Village scheme in Bontnewydd and were an opportune time to highlight the unique needs of people suffering dementia.
The event sponsor was Pendine Park care organisation which runs the award-winning Bryn Seiont Newydd residential home, near Caernarfon, providing highly specialised care for 71 dementia sufferers and people with mental health needs.
Pendine Park provided the trophies for all six Gwyrfai Races winners.
Catrin Roberts said they were hugely grateful for Pendine Park’s generous contribution and everyone was thrilled with the number of runners who lined up on the starting blocks on Saturday.
She said: “With the weather being so terrible we were not sure how many runners would turn up but we were pleasantly surprised. It was great to see such unstinting support both for our community and for the dementia awareness campaign.
”We will be supporting Meilys Smith who works with Gwynedd Council and will be co-ordinating the dementia training.”
Nearly 60 runners came from across North Wales and further afield, including one from Manchester.
Among the enthusiastic racers striding out for the good cause were Catrin’s son, Guto, 14, who triumphed as the first male home in the junior 5K race, achieving a time of 25 minutes, 11 seconds.
His sister, Catrin’s daughter, Alaw, aged 17, was also among the runners, scoring an impressive time of 52 minutes, 28 seconds in the 10K race.
Alaw, a pupil of Syr Hugh Owen School, said she and Guto especially wanted to take part in the races, whatever the weather, to support the launch of the Dementia Friendly Village scheme, as their grandfather, Elwyn Roberts, suffers from dementia.
She said: “We wanted to do as much as we can to help ensure more of the population becomes aware of the needs of people diagnosed with dementia, which drastically changes lives.”
Her words were echoed by Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon constituency, Sian Gwenllian, who also braved the pouring rain to officially start the races.
She said: “The tremendous amount of support for the races is a credit to the hard work put in by the Hwyl y Bont volunteer committee and this year it is particularly heartening to see so many people turn out and help drive home the dementia awareness message. I am delighted Bontnewydd has become the latest cornerstone of the Dementia Friendly Villages scheme.”
Among the runners were a number of people who work in the care sector including instrumentalist and singer Nia Davies Williams who is the resident musician at Bryn Seiont Newydd care home. Both she and her partner, Pwyll ap Sion, donned their training shoes for the 10K race.
Nia, 44, who has previously done a 10K run in Abersoch, said Saturday’s course was one of her toughest yet.
She said: “The strong headwind was the biggest obstacle. It was like running into a brick wall, particularly for the two miles along the Foryd part of the course. But I’m glad we did it and I’m happy with my time of 52 minutes, 34 seconds. It’s not my fastest, but I got back before some girls several years younger than me so I can’t be too bad!”
Dementia nurse Dean Allison, who works at Colwyn Bay Hospital, achieved third placed male in the 10K race. He said he also struggled with the wind, adding: “It is worse than the rain. The rain keeps you cool, but the wind makes it much harder going, as it pushes you backwards. But I’m proud to have taken part and proud to be promoting dementia awareness.”
Overall 10K winner, Ryan Cain, 17, of Caernarfon, came home well ahead of the field in 37 minutes, 20 seconds.
Ryan who has previously represented Wales in the World Mountain Run at Czechoslovakia, is a member of Menai Track and Field running team. He said at Bontnewydd there was one runner he was delighted to leave trailing in his wake – his dad, Patrick Cain.
“We have often taken part in races together. When I was younger dad was always faster than me, but I told him: ‘I’ll catch you up one day,’” laughed Ryan.
His time was praised by Hwyl y Bont volunteers committee chairman, Chris Hughes, who said: “It was simply amazing, given the weather conditions.”
Another proud finisher was 60 years old Eifion Harding, of Caernarfon, who clinched first male place in the adult 5K. He only started racing about three years ago after being challenged to put on his running shoes by members of Caernarfon ladies rugby team who he was coaching at the time.
Trophies were presented to the winners by Mr Gwynfor Jones, from Pendine Park, who also welcomed the launch of Bontnewydd as a Dementia Friendly Village.
He said: “Hwyl y Bont committee and today’s wonderful events have played a significant part in helping raise awareness about dementia, which has for too long been a hidden illness. This is a difficult condition, difficult to recognise, difficult to treat and difficult for families to accept, but by increased tolerance, awareness and us all making small adjustments to our own behaviour it is possible to help those who suffer the devastating effects of dementia and other mental health illnesses.”
As part of its steps to make Bontnewydd more dementia friendly the Hwyl y Bont volunteers hope to arrange special training for local businesses and talks in schools explaining to the children the type of symptoms which can affect the elderly.
Mr Jones presented trophies to winners in each of the Gwyrfai Races:
5K – 1st junior male, Guto Roberts, aged 14 (25 minutes, 11 seconds); 1st junior female, Swyn Edwards, aged 14 (21 minutes, 17 seconds).
5K – 1st adult male, Eifion Harding (23 minutes, 50 seconds); 1st adult female, Einir Wyn Hughes (27 minutes, 31 seconds).
10K – 1st male, Ryan Cain (37 minutes, 20 seconds); 1st female, Carla Green (45 minutes, 15 seconds)