Membership boost

With an incredible spike in membership numbers over the past few months I thought I’d write a little bit about where we started and where we were just a few months ago and some of the reasons why I think there’s been such an increase.




I won’t go through the whole story as there’s another blog post here that goes through how the club started in more detail. After setting up the club in August 2012 we officially signed up for affiliation to Welsh Athletics in January 2013 with 20 members initially signing up. Of those 20 there are 8 of us that have remained members ever since – me, Kelly, Aled, John, Helen G, Helen D, Matthew, Anthony W. In June 2013 another 7 members were signed up although the only one of those that remains is Nick. Two more signed up late in the year meaning we eventually got to 29 members by the end of the first year.


2014 – the first six months


Its hard to believe now but just a year ago with affiliation due in April for the uptake was worryingly low. For various reasons (new jobs, family commitments, injuries) quiet a lot of the original members didn’t renew their membership and at the end of April 2014 we had just 22 members with Dai C and Dai K becoming the only new members. The Couch to 5K sessions I was involved in helped make a difference and in June 2014, seven of those who attended the sessions joined the club. Around this time, Richard LJ, Lorna, Fiona and Kevin R also became members amongst others brining our total up to a record 34.


2014 – the second six months


A huge recruitment drive commenced and we targeted friends made through parkrun who were unaffiliated and signed up Heather and Richard Garratt and Chris Pratt amongst others. A couple more Couch to 5K attendees officially joined, plus Liz Davis who had just found out she’d got into the London Marathon. Rhys, Maria, Jackie and Ceri followed along with Frances and Gareth Samuel. This took our membership over the 50 mark by the end of 2014.


2015 so far


Again, it’s inevitable that on renewal, a few will choose not to for various reasons so in terms of returning members we had 38 with another regular parkrunner Chris Roberts being one of the first new members. Couch to 5K had provided a few members in 2014 but with an influx of members from outside the valley, it was decided to look at setting up a new beginners / improvers club on Pandy Park. The new club coaches were to take it on with help from several other members and Zero to Hero club was created. Within weeks, we had several new members, most of which now attend both Zero to Hero and club sessions. More followed plus a couple more regular parkrunners and by the start of May we were up to a record 60 members. Other new members included Helen LJ, Alicia Thomas and Ann Davies. Then just in the past week or so, Dai Power, Melanie Thomas, Gail Pritchard, Fiona Drysdale, Neil Jones, Neil Harris, Dave Evans, Christie Coleman, Katie Wood and Amanda Pallister have all officially signed up. As at 24/05/2015, we have 72 members!


Quick recap


April 2013: 20

Dec 2013: 29

April 2014: 22

Dec 2014: 52

April 2015: 38 (returning members)

May 2015: 72


The formula to success


There a number of reasons for the massive increase but I think the main ones in no particular order are…


1. Being an all-inclusive club – having something for everyone whether your starting out running for 30 seconds or are an ultra runner doing 30 miles.


2. Social media – I’ve joined a lot of other running clubs facebook groups but I don’t think any come close to Cwm Ogwr for information, tips, stats and mostly just friendly banter.


3. Parkrun – I think most people we asked were thrilled to be asked to become a member of an affiliated running club even if they couldn’t necessarily make training sessions. Members chat before the start, warm up together, often run or pace each other, and unless someone has to rush off for other commitments, the vast majority stay at the finish line to cheer the rest of the runners in. A post run coffee has also become part of the parkrun morning for many of us as well. Our parkrun stats (number of runners / number of runs) are now not far off the biggest clubs in the area.


4. Zero to Hero – we’ve probably had close to 20 members through this. Kevin and Dai K with help from several other members have created a friendly, encouraging group that accepts all abilities with fantastic results for the attendees (and our membership).


5. The coaches – the club paid for Kevin, Dai K, Kelly and Aled to go on Welsh Athletics coaching courses and our sessions have improved substantially compared to just a few months ago. It shows in the results of our members as well as huge increases in attendance at training where we’re regularly having record numbers turning up.


6. Word of Mouth / friends of members – by creating such a friendly, encouraging atmosphere, Cwm Ogwr has gone from a small new club in the shadow of some of our more established local clubs to one that stands alongside them. We have had several members join through the recommendations of others and are regularly complimented by other parkrunners and club runners on creating such a great club. We have numerous members who live nearer other local clubs but have chosen to join us.


The club’s 5 miler last weekend has only helped enhance our reputation with glowing reviews by other club runners and a number of new members as a result. It’s a really exciting time to be part of the club and I’m honoured to be the chairman. A massive thanks to every member, the committee and especially Kelly Owen who’s idea it was to create the club has done a huge amount since day one.

April 2015 review

Appreciate there’s been several detailed blog posts this month already but still plenty of other things going on this month that weren’t included in previous posts. It’s been a record breaking month so there’s plenty of milestones and stats included, plus, practically every member could be my runner of the month. There’s also another runners profile and a look ahead to a busy month of May.


April 1 – 25


The month started with the record breaking attendance at Porthcawl Parkrun 2 anniversary with no less than 29 Cwm Ogwr runners including over a dozen Zero to Hero members running the distance for the first time in an official event.


April 4th – Cwm Ogwr record at parkrun
















A week later saw 14 Cwm Ogwr members battle windy conditions with only Frances Samuel getting a PB time. Chris Pratt had to miss the parkrun due to illness which also meant not being able to complete a 5K on his 50 x 5K challenge which he’s completed the past 3 years. He was understandably gutted but after a few days rest has decided to continue the challenge.


April 11th parkrun
















That day was also the Vale Coastal Ultra with Dai Cappell running the 30 mile race and Richard Lowcock James running the 18.5 miler. It’s inspired several other Cwm Ogwr runners who are keen to give it a go next year.


The parkrun achievements on the 3 weekend were somewhat overshadowed by the Manchester and Llanelli marathon efforts the day after but there were brilliant PB’s by Chris Roberts, Liz Davies and Dermot Nolan. Liz smashed her PB by over a minute to jump several places in the rankings and is the clubs 7 fastest female at 5K.


Impressively, 5 of the 8 marathon runners turned up to training on the Tuesday after for an ‘easy’ session up the Planka. There were a few moans and groans stretching the still sore and aching muscles but good effort by everyone.


The final parkrun of the month seen plenty of little battles between club members and some impressive times all round. With London Marathon the next day, some of the front runners were away which left Kevin, Nick and Dai C all battling it out just outside the top 10 and finishing in that order with times ranging from 20:03 to 20:33. There was another close race behind with myself, Dai K and Chris R (in that order) finishing only 30 odd seconds apart with yet another PB for Chris and second fastest times this year for myself and Dai. It meant there were six Cwm Ogwr runners under 22:30. Chris has now got 7 PB’s in the last 4 months and has gone from 19 to 13 in the club’s 5K rankings. There were also quick times for Richard G, Chris P and Denise who might even have been on for a PB had her shoelaces not come undone. There were brilliant PB’s for a few of our new runners including Dermot Nolan, Rhian Nolan, Jayne Kembery and Tracey Kembery.

















Sunday 26 April – London Marathon


John, Nick, Kelly and Liz were the four club members taking on the distance in the Big Smoke. It was a first marathon for both John and Kelly, whilst Liz was running her 2 marathon after a 5 year gap since her first, and Nick was running his 4 – 3 of which had been in the last 12 months with the other over 10 years ago. All four runners started from the Blue start with John and Nick bumping into each other in pen 5, Kelly in pen 6 and Liz in pen 7. Unfortunately, pen 5 was probably a little too far back for John and Nick which meant they were held up during the first half of the race and had to weave around the thousands in front – many of which had clearly started to far forward. Despite this, both kept up a reasonably consistent pace and finished with impressive times of 3:30 (John) and 3:41 (Nick) to go 3rd and 4th in the clubs marathon rankings. Kelly had been adamant she was going for sub 4 and certainly set out to do so clocking sub 55 minutes for the first 10K which was faster than my split at the same point in Manchester. Unfortunately as the energy levels dropped later in the race, Kelly found she couldn’t take on food or drinks which severely hampered her race. I had a very similar experience last year and the final few miles weren’t at all fun. However, she showed great mental toughness and determination to keep going and finish in a respectable 4:36. Her words soon after were the inevitable ‘never again’ but it took less than 24 hours before the ballot for 2016 was being talked about and ‘having a time to beat’. Plus there’s the small matter of already being signed up to Snowdonia Marathon this October. As for Liz – her aim was to beat her previous marathon time of 4:59. Her timing splits showed a very sensible approach just outside the 10 minute mile mark for the first half of the marathon leaving enough energy and leeway in the second half to go for a personal best. From 8am I had provided frequent updates on the clubs facebook page with several others keeping up to date with goings on but at around 3pm with Liz about to finish… the tracker froze! We knew she was on for the PB with just 2K to go but were desperate to see it confirmed and it was about half hour before it came back to life and confirmed a 4:51 finish! Really great effort by all our runners and I’m sure they’ll all be back for more.















































Photo of Liz courtesy of husband and professional photographer Andrew Davis who is one of the sponsors for the Cwm Ogwr 5 miler this year.


Tuesday 29 April – Pentyrch Hill Run


Well, it was the hardcore / crazy members of Cwm Ogwr who turned up for this one. Richard LJ having run the 18.5 miler just over 2 weeks ago, me having run Manchester Marathon 9 days previous, but by far the most bonkers – Nick who was running just 2 days after London Marathon. Me and Nick ran this last year and I’d go as far as saying it’s one of, if not the toughest race I’ve done. 7 miles – mostly off road race – 1600 feet of ascent. For comparison, our toughest training route, nicknamed ‘the Beast’ is 1300 feet of ascent over a similar distance. This doesn’t happen very often so I have to mention that I actually overtook Nick for about 5 seconds at around 0.5 miles but he was out of sight in front of me by the end of the first mile. He stormed away somehow managing to ‘run’ the first of the two very steep long hills and walking part of the second which is impossible to run up, and finished just outside the hour mark. An improvement of 5 minutes on last years times made all the more remarkable considering he’d run a marathon just two days earlier. I also did significantly better than last year knocking 6 minutes off my time to finish in around 1:04 (official results haven’t come in at the time of typing this). Richard finished in around 1:10 and a very similar time to mine last year. A rare victory for me over Richard in an off road race although he was quick to point out there was a couple of miles of tarmac. Nevertheless, Richard was very impressed with the race and I think may return again next year with hopefully more Cwm Ogwr members in tow.


One of the smaller hills!






















































To top off an amazing month we actually have a record 22 in attendance at training on the final Thursday of the month. Some camera shy members not in the photo below taken at the end of the session.














Future Marathon Plans


The marathon bug has certainly bitten a few of our members as there’s lots of talk already about which one to do next and maybe another club trip like we did for Manchester. New member Antony is already signed up for the Tenby Marathon, with a couple of others thinking about it (Nick, Kevin). Plus me, Dai K, Fiona and Kelly are already signed up for Snowdonia Marathon. The London Marathon ballot opens on Monday and we’re expecting record numbers of members to try their luck. Edinburgh and Lisbon seem to be the two favourite options for a club marathon trip in 2016. The Vale Ultra seems to have sparked a lot of interest in going beyond the marathon distance. Speaking to the winner of the 18.5 ‘shorter’ course at Pentyrch, he said he knew lots of people interested and wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out quite quickly. There’s also a rumour they are going to increase the entrants to 500 which is quite large for an ultra event. There’s even been talk of trying other Ultra’s exceeding 30 miles.


Milestones and stats


•London Marathon was Nick’s 50 race for Cwm Ogwr – he’s the second person to reach this after me

•John became the 3 member to achieve the ‘Ultimate of PB’s’ (5K, 5 mile, 10K, 10 mile, HM, 20 mile and Marathon) – unsurprisingly the other two are me and Nick

•It was a record month for first time Cwm Ogwr runners which has contributed to 43 different members running an event this year which already beats the total of 38 in 2014.

•The influx on new runners has also meant Cwm Ogwr members have run 234 parkruns between us this year with a record 66 just this month despite the marathons

•Up until 2 weeks ago we only had 4 current members who had run a marathon, now we have 16.

•Cwm Ogwr members have run more marathons so far this year than 10K’s.

•Chris Pratt will be 7 in the all time Cwm Ogwr appearances list after this weekend despite only joining us 6 months ago – the top 6 are me, Nick, Kelly, Dai C, Richard LJ and Dai K in that order.

•Chris Roberts is yet to miss a parkrun this year (including doing the double on New Years Day) meaning he’s on 18 for the year already.

•Nick is on yet another consecutive parkrun streak with 27 Saturday’s in a row.

•Richard LJ could take Nick’s record of running a parkrun or race on consecutive weekends if he keeps it going for another 6 weeks (currently on 42 weekends in a row)

• At the end of April last year me and Nick had run 41 events between us… this year we’ve run 52.

•Taking age grade percentages into account, the top three marathon performances were Kevin (72%), then Helen (63%), then Aled (61%)

•To equal Kevin’s percentage, a male in the Senior Age Category (up to 39 years old) would need to run 2:54:37.



Chairman’s Runner of the Month – David Kembery


Dai done amazingly in his first marathon to achieve his target of sub 4 hours by several minutes despite training being hampered by injuries. He also ran his 50 parkrun this month just 58 weeks after running his first. Plus, as well as coaching the Zero to Hero club and taking some Tuesday and Thursday sessions, he’s also helped get t-shirts and hoodies printed as well as sorting the Manchester runners out with personalised baseball caps. His polymetric stretching ‘dance moves’ have also kept everyone entertained.


Runners Profile #8


Name:                           Antony Lewis

Joined Club:                  April 2015

Parkrun Age Category:   M40-49

First Event:                    Ever: Cwm Ogwr 5 mile 04/05/14… With Club: Llanelli Marathon 19/04/15

Total races / parkruns:    Ever: 4…  With Club: 1


Breakdown of events with Club:


Marathon:                      1 (PB 4:11:12)


From the beginning


Antony started running early in 2014. Antony’s brother Phil was a member of Cwm Ogwr in 2012-13 and had told him about the club and our 5 mile race which he decided to enter last year. He finished in an impressive 38:50 just ahead of new member at the time, Richard LJ who were both running the loop they’d end up becoming very familiar with for the first time. Antony turned his attention to completing a half marathon with thoughts of completing a full marathon in mind even at an early stage in his running. He ran his debut Half Marathon in Cardiff finishing in an excellent time of 1:44:20. Not bad when my considering my half marathon debut was 2:09:37 and it took me several attempts to get near that sort of time. Another Half Marathon followed in Llanelli in March finishing in 1:46:09. That same month and already well ahead of schedule on the marathon training, he ran the Llanelli 20 mile finishing in 3:10:42.


Joining the club


Having already run up to 20 miles and excellent half marathon times, Antony finally decided to come over to us for a training session. It wasn’t long before we even convinced him to join Facebook as despite having our own website, we are guilty of putting most of our information on the Facebook page. After realising that his training to date would be good enough to run a marathon much sooner than Tenby (in July), he decided to enter the Great Welsh Marathon as his first race for the club. He completed the course in an excellent 4:11:12.


Future running plans


Antony is already signed up for the Tenby marathon. Unfortunately due to work, he won’t be another parkrun regular but hopefully with a few midweek 5K’s coming up he can test his speed as well as endurance.


May 2015


Probably the busiest month of the year race-wise with various club members signed up to Cardiff Bay 5 mile, Aberavon 5K, Preselli Beast, Beast of Bryn and Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K. Then of course there’s the biggest race of the year… forget London Marathon… it’s the Cwm Ogwr 5 miler on May 17. Can’t wait.