Name: Dai Richards
Age: 49 going on 90
Family: Wife Hayley, Children: Simon 15, Dale 18 Victoria 21, Laurie 23
Background: grew up in Port Talbot , lived a while in Swansea & Neath, currently living in Glynneath,
Profession: Owner of a Sporting memorabilia company specialising in rugby & Welsh sports memorabilia www.rugbyrelics.com
Sporting background: Soccer, badminton, sqaush, rugby, running, triathlon, cyclo cross, mountain biking, fell running, quadrathlon, orienteering
Honours: Represented Wales at senior level in cyclo cross, triathlon, mountain running, duathlon, mountain biking & marathon kayaking
County champion: 5000 mts track & cross country.
Welsh champion: triathlon, mountain biking, duathlon, aqauthlon, & orienteering.
European & World veteran champion: quadrathlon
Out of all the sports you have conquered, which do you regard as the toughest?
For the sheer physical exertion and post event aches and pains I think mountain running is probably the toughest sport I’ve done. It’s 100% effort, there’s the actual lung bursting effect of running uphill (usually from the start), then the jarring of the legs running downhill not to mention the occassional tumble or twisted ankle and for 4 days after a race you can hardly walk. But if mountains weren’t meant to be run up, why did God put them there ?
What and where is the toughest terrain that you have encountered?
The New Zealand Coast to Coast is probably the hardest race I ever did which also included the toughest terrain. As the title suggests it goes from one coast in NZ to the other. It starts off with an easy 800 metre run off the beach, then a 35 mile cycle on roads followed by a 20 mile hill run, the trouble being there are hardly any paths and it’s 10 miles up a river bed with lots of rocks and lots of water and it’s more like hopping and scrambling, then it’s a 5 miles of tripping over tree roots running through the bush then it’s back to a river running downhill this time, jump on your bike again for another 14 miles followed by 49 miles in canoe, all downhill thankfully but with some bumpy bits to wake you up and surprise surprise another 56 miles on the bike is next followed by a gentle 200 metres run, soft sand of course, onto the other coast, A fun day out if ever there was one, your are only 12 hours older but a lot wiser and the run was definitely the toughest terrain I’d ever experienced.
What is your proudest moment in sport?
My proudest moment was actually as a spectator. It was when my daughter Victoria won the Welsh under 18s slalom kayak title at the age of 12 competing on the Tryweryn in Bala. There was a huge stopper (standing wave) on the course and she got stuck in it, my heart was in my mouth, then she dug in deep and found the strength to drag herself out of the hole and went on to win the competition. I was a seriously proud and relieved parent on that day. My personal moment was winning the 1000 metre peaks race. A run from the beach at Abergwyngregyn to the top of Snowdon via the 3 other 1000 metre peaks in Wales, a total of about 25 miles with 8000 feet of climbing. I was a member of the territorial army and we used to compete against other territorials and the regular units, I only entered twice and won on both occasions As a proud Welshman, it was standing on top of the highest point in Wales knowing I beaten the best that the British Army could offer that gave me my proudest moments
Are you still competing?
Good question ! – Not really, I call myself semi-retired. I trained hard almost continously for 17 years (1983 – 2000) and there were many sacrifices I had to make to realise my ambitions. After I won the world championship I had to ask myself. Do I keep it going or is there more to life. With a wife, 4 kids, a mortgage and a business to run the choice was really made up for me. I wanted to spend more time with them and help them in their chosen careers and sports. Three have since gained international honours themselves, Victoria (slalom kayak), Dale (cyclo cross & orienteering) and Simon (orienteering). I don’t compete seriously any more, but I still train every day and for old times sake I like to do the odd event, one triathlon a year, the occasional running, swimming or orienteering event and I meet up with my old TA buddies annually and we run the Welsh 1000s again in the civilian category, Strangely, this year my time would have been good enough to win the military section.
Was there a certain training regime that you undertook to keep yourself so fit?
When I was at my peak I’d train on average 3 – 6 hours a day alternating between 3 sessions one day then 2 the following day. This I’d continue for twelve days then take a well earned and needed two day break. My podiatrist once introduced me as the man who’d make Paula Ratcliffe’s training regime look like a stroll in the park. I also raced a lot, sometimes more than 50 races a year but I always took care near a big race to try and get the preparation right. It’s not how much you do, it’s what you do that counts. I did most of my training using a heart rate monitor. My resting pulse dipped to an all time low of 29 in 1998. Train smart and race hard was my motto.
Are there any other sports that you have ever shown promise and ability at?
I loved ball sports as a kid, soccer, rugby, cricket, squash, tennis and I had all the skills but when it came to speed of the mark and sharpness I just didn’t have it what it takes. I progressed in my late teens to playing a good standard of club squash and rugby at junior club level. I was selected for the district XV and may have squeezed in one or two games for a first class club if I’d have been lucky, but in hindsight I am thankful that I dislocated my shoulder, had to pack in rugby and my sporting career took a different direction. It was only years later that I realised my muscle make up just wasn’t suited to these sports.
What was it that made you start-up Rugby Relics?
As a youngster I was always collecting things, postcards, stamps, comics and then one day we were out collecting for the bonfire on Nov 5th and someone gave me a Wales v England programme to burn, “that’s to good to burn” I thought and that was the start of my rugby memorabilia collection. My collection grew and grew when I started doing triathlons I needed money for a new bike so I started to sell my duplicate programmes to raise money. I soon realised that I could turn it into a business and applied for a government start up grant. Eighteen years down the line we are still going.
How do you see Rugby Relics developing in the near future?
We’d like to do more with Welsh sporting memorabilia and the history of Welsh Sport. We have a sister website www.sport-wales.com that is wholly dedicated to Welsh Sport, there are soccer cricket, golf, rugby league, cycling, athletics and boxing collectables available for sale as well as memorabilia from many other sports. I’m keen to work more on the history of Welsh sport and I’d love to open a Welsh sporting museum. Our collection provided the majority of exhibits for 125th Anniversary of the WRU exhibition in Neath.
What advice would you give some of our younger readers thinking of competing in outdoor sports and how would they get involved?
The first rule of any sport is to ENJOY it. That doesn’t mean you have to have a smile on your face as you are doing it or you should be thinking ‘this is a nice thing’. The harsh reality is most sport is hard work. But………. you can ENJOY the challenge, ENJOY concentrating and the focus required to do well, ENJOY the effort you put in. ENJOY the accomplishment of completing a task or finishing a course. ENJOY learning about yourself. ENJOY the company of like minded individuals before and after. Sporting competition and training can be a social occasion as well. Go along to your local club and have a go, most sports have ‘come and try it’ sessions. Or just turn up and have a go. If you want to do something be determined and do it ! Don’t let other people put you off and don’t let initial disappointments put you off either. The world is full of people who think they know you better. They don’t ! If you think you will be good at something then you will be, keep trying and you will succeed ! But most of all ENJOY it.
Please take note that this interview took place around nine years ago but has now been updated to include a link to Dai’s brilliant new book Understanding the ORIGIN & EVOLUTION of Sport – Volume 1