We’ve often said that one of the best things about running has been the people we meet along the way. We rarely go on a trip without meeting someone new or getting to know someone we already know even better. Sometimes it’s just a brief encounter – a short exchange of views or sharing a particular moment in or after a race. Other times there is a connection and we become friends for life.

The runners we meet all have their own story – their reasons for running, their favourite events and their running goals. They come with a wide range of abilities: some enjoy running, for others it’s a bit of a trial, but they have all found something in running that fulfils a need. We’ve met some amazing runners over the years and we always find their stories interesting. We’d like to introduce you to some of these people, and we’ve asked them to tell you a bit about themselves in their own words.

Today being Valentine’s Day we thought it appropriate that our Friday Friends should reflect the romantic side of running. Who better to do that than two runners who actually met mid-race. As you will read, Rhys and Angela did just that and romance blossomed. We had the pleasure of catching up with Rhys and Angela on their honeymoon in New York in November. Naturally they had run a parkrun and marathon too on this trip. Their enthusiasm for running and life in general is infectious. When we asked Rhys and Angela if they would be our Valentine’s Day Friday Friends this came back by return. I don’t think we need to add anything more.

Rhys and Angela Pippard

We most recently saw Rhys and Angela at the 2019 New York Marathon which they ran while on their honeymoon. 

We have known Rhys since 2016 when he was running marathons every weekend while chasing his membership to the 100 Marathon Club. 

He attended my own 100th marathon in Seville and we see him at least once a year at an overseas big city marathon. 

For our Valentine’s Day edition of Friday Friends, Rhys and Angela gave us an insight into their lives running together.

1. WHY WE RUN?

Running brought us together. We met at a South Wales winter fell race, the Craig Yr Allt. Rhys was racing and Angela was marshaling. 

We caught each other’s eye on the mountain during the race, arranged to meet for a drink to chat about our upcoming races a week later, and after four hours without even mentioning running we knew that we were on to a good thing. 

We run because the alternative is worse. It is not always easy, especially with demanding careers, but we both find it necessary for staying sane. It is essential in life to always have something to aim for. Preferably, together. 

2. GREATEST RUNNING ACHIEVEMENTS?

Three months after we first met and were still high with the first bloom of love, we both ran marathon PBs within a few weeks of each other – Angela finishing the 2018 Greater Manchester Marathon in 3:14 and Rhys finishing the inaugural Newport Marathon in 2:55. When we get the chance to train hard again, we will both be aiming to go faster. 

Rhys’s favourite achievements include completing the flat and fast Thames Path 100 in 18:40 hrs, and the brutal Isle of Jura Fell Race in 5:50. Those 18 miles over the crippling Hebridean mountains in 30° heat felt far tougher than a 100 miler. Angela had to take care of him afterwards. It is invaluable to be with someone who understands how much a tough run can hurt. 

3. RUNNING BUCKET LIST?

We both spent years aiming to do the New York Marathon, so we ran it for our honeymoon last year. It was massive, demanding and unforgettable. The perfect way to celebrate a marriage. We even organised a big US parkrun group coach trip to New Jersey the day before. 

Overseas marathons provide a great excuse for international travel and sightseeing. LDWA challenge events offer wonderful opportunities to appreciate the stunning British countryside. And parkruns enable endless opportunities for completing pointless but highly satisfying stamp collecting challenges. 

Running is the perfect way of life for anyone who wants a pastime with more goals to achieve than any of us have years to live. Competitively, we would both like to one day represent South Wales for our age groups at the British Masters Cross Country Championships. XC is the truest form of running. We did not evolve to run on tarmac. 

4. FAVOURITE RACES?

The Maratona de Italia, which was the Enzo Ferrari Memorial Marathon, is Angela’s favourite marathon event to date. The race starts at the Enzo Ferrari car museum, winding through the roads of Modena where the world-famous balsamic vinegar is produced, with the highlight being that the Italian military in their full dress uniform crisply salute every marathoner as they pass the Modena Military Base. A unique event which gives the marathon the respect it deserves. 

Barcelona Marathon was Rhys’s 100th official marathon and the best thing about it was that the Spanish really know how to organise big city road races. Circular routes, showcasing all of their city’s landmarks, with plenty of police marshals preventing pedestrians from getting in the way. They also always provide appropriately slim fitted male and female finisher t-shirts. British marathon organisers could learn so much. British runners should demand better.

5. WHAT YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN?

Nobody talks about protecting your legs but, when training hundreds of miles a month for Spring and Autumn marathons, it is absolutely essential. 

Many runners are injured at least once a year because most run in over-cushioned trainers and consequently heel strike. That is not running; that is jogging. Real runners land forefoot. It is harder for your muscles at first, but better for your body long term. Most running injuries are avoidable and totally unnecessary. 

Running clubs and the media should build greater awareness, but learning proper running form makes the learning curve steeper and injuries sell more shoes. So running happily long term depends upon either the luck of innate physical resilience or embarking upon a challenging journey of diligent self discovery. Just like life.

With Rhys and Angela after taking in a Broadway Show in New York November 2019

Thank you Rhys and Angela. Hope to see you soon at a marathon somewhere in the world. Best wishes to you both. We look forward to following your journey.