24-year-old woman takes on Newport Marathon to make her younger self proud after being told she could never run

A 24-year-old woman from Aberdare will be running the ABP Newport Marathon to prove to herself just what she’s capable of after previously being told to never run.

Rhiannon Barber, who creates dance music under the name Rightkeysonly and campaigns for disability rights within the music industry, also hopes that in doing so she’ll be making her mum, who sadly passed away from cancer in June 2022, proud.

Rhiannon was born with Erb’s Palsy, a paralysis of her left arm caused by injury to the nerves. She has undergone multiple surgeries, taking muscles and nerves from her leg to put into her arm, which meant when she was younger she could barely walk.

She said: “I was never allowed to run at school. I was having surgeries on my arm until I was 16. Nerves, muscles and bone grafts were taken from my legs and put into my left arm and shoulder. I spent a lot of time in a wheelchair and had difficulty walking as my feet would go into spasm.

“I was told that I should avoid running and couldn’t run in school as there was such a high risk of my arm dislocating. But when I was 15 or 16 I wanted to give it a go. I remember collapsing on the floor as my feet were in so much pain and I couldn’t walk for an hour. But I persevered and I remember crying the first time I ran around a track.”


Rhiannon joined an athletics club and discovered she was good at other events like discuss, shotput and javelin. She went on to represent Wales at UK level and then took up kickboxing until the age of 20. But when she stopped, despite her arm still being partially paralysed, she carried on running.

Last year Rhiannon then took on the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon in memory of her mum, Clair, who sadly passed away from cancer aged 46.


Rhiannon had been her mum’s carer since she was 10 years old after she developed Encaphilitis Meningitis which left her with a brain injury.

She said: “During lockdown mum found a lump in her breast but by the time she was seen the cancer had spread to her bone. She was given just two years left to live and died in the summer of 2022.

“I was in and out of grieving and decided to sign up for the Cardiff Half to raise money for Cancer Research in her memory on a whim. I’d never run for more than half an hour before that. It was incredibly hard but I was determined to finish it. My friends and family called me while I ran and all the little kids with their signs and giving out high fives helped keep me going.

“I was so proud when I crossed the finish line. I had a huge grin on my face and felt so euphoric.”


Rhiannon was planning on taking part in a few more half marathons before considering taking on a full marathon in 2025. But then she decided to bring that forward and will now be running the ABP Newport Marathon on Sunday 28th April.

Rhiannon said: “When I go for something, I go all in – and that’s what happened with running. I work inside a lot and needed the excitement of training for something. Signing up for the marathon has given me a focus and training for it allows me to zone out of everything else and get that ‘me time’.

“I’m really looking forward to taking part and crossing the finish line – to do that is huge for me when I look back at where I’ve come from. My dad and friends have said they’ll be there to cheer me around too.”


Matt Newman, Chief Executive at event organisers Run 4 Wales, added: “Rhiannon is such an inspiration and shows what can be achieved with sheer passion and determination. We can’t wait to cheer her around the course as she takes on her first marathon and congratulate her at the finish line.”

The ABP Newport Marathon Festival takes place on Sunday 28th April. For more information visit: newportwalesmarathon.co.uk/