A CARNIVAL atmosphere dominated Newport this morning as 1,200 hardy runners took part in the 2014 Newport Half Marathon, sponsored by Admiral and the South Wales Argus and organised by St David's Hospice Care.

A hockey player, a daffodil and two Spaniels named Dexter and Badger were among those taking part to raise funds for the Malpas hospice, which cares for terminally ill patients.

Cloud cover, a breeze and occasional drizzle proved to be perfect running weather as they set off from Rodney Parade at 9am, with former sprinter Darren Campbell MBE starting the race.

Other sponsors this year included Taylor Wimpey, Wilko, Newport council, Lliswerry Runners and Caerleon Runners.

Speaking to the Argus Mr Campbell said that after living in the Newport area for 17 years it was "fantastic" to support the second Newport Half Marathon, having started the first one last year.

"The support last year was superb and people supported it extremely well," he said. "It's good to get a key sponsor like Admiral and it just shows how powerful last year was. I'm sure each year is going to get bigger and bigger."



Adrian Hadley, deputy chief executive of St David's Hospice Care said the number of runners increased by 200 this year and that figure could "easily" have been higher.

"We are hoping to expand, we need to speak to the council because we would need to shut some roads, but hopefully we would look to grow," he said. "Newport being a city would hopefully want to contend with Cardiff and their half marathon."

Last year's winner Ryan McFlynn, 35, from Malpas, took the title once again with a time of 1 hour 14 minutes 47 seconds.

One of the biggest presences among the runners was 80 representatives of Lliswerry Running Club, which now has more than 400 members in total. Celia and Steve Marsh, who are both members but did not take part this year due to training and injury respectively, were cheering next to the Riverfront Theatre waving a Latvian flag as it matches the club's colours.

They also cheered on Rachael Netherway who ran with her dogs Dexter and Badger, having been given special permission to enter the race with them.

The marshals were out in force handing out hundreds of bottles of water while street performers Caroline Richards and Adie Delaney entertained the crowds with fire batons and hula hoops on roller skates as part of NoFit State circus.

Runners Ian Macrory, 45, from Christchurch, Newport, and Bob Watson, 43, from Wattsville, who are part of a group of eight workers from the Office for National Statistics who run every lunchtime, were hoping to complete the half marathon in under two hours, while Matt and Chris Wreford, who are brothers from Caerleon, hoped for a similar time, having returned to run the Newport Half for a second year.

Also representing Caerleon were Katie Hewitt, 29, who works at the Royal Gwent Hospital, and 29-year-old Kristy Thomas, a mortgage broker, who were hoping to beat their previous best times of around two hours 15 minutes.

Nikki Pullen, a 21-year-old documentary photography student, was running with Declan Mulhall, 21, who is studying animation, to raise cash for the Libra Foundation and the James Hopkins Trust, having already raised £180 from classmates, friends and family, while the O'Brien family from Cwmbran were supporting Llanwern worker Chris O'Brien who has shed the pounds to become second in the district at the weekly Pontypool Park Run.

Wife Vicky said Mr O'Brien had "worked really hard", inspiring colleagues to take up running, and hoped to achieve a time of one hour 45 minutes or less. Also cheering near the Riverfront was the Wood family, mum Deb 41, daughters Olivia, 13, Maddy, 11, and Harriet, seven, from Lliswerry supporting dad Rob, 42, and uncle Stu, 40, with Rob hoping to achieve a time of two hours in his first race.