This month saw 245 parkrun finishes by our members across 52 parkrun events and 34 different locations. parkrun tourism appears to hit an all time high with 15 different Welsh parkruns visited whilst across the border our members completed parkruns at Market Harborough, Minehead, Dartford, Henley Wood, Plymvalley, Stonehouse, Somerdale Pavilion, Finsbury, Eden Project, Winchester, Northampton, Hamstead Heath, Heartlands, Telford, Churchfields and Bushy.
Further afield, Gwyneth Steddy ran at Omagh parkrun in Northern Ireland, Chris Roberts ran at Amager Fælled in Denmark, whilst Tim and Philippa ran at Toolern Creek in Australia 5 times during the month.
December was a busy month for parkruns with 5 Saturdays plus an additional chance to run a parkrun on Christmas Day. This year we had a record 9 runners on Christmas Day across 5 different locations including Chris Roberts who ran at Bushy parkrun which was also his 50th different parkrun venue. Incredibly, there was a parkrun UK record attendance of 2011 runners at Bushy parkrun that day. I also ran my 50th different parkrun in December with Aberbeeg being the venue for mine. There are now 5 of us who have reach ‘Half-Cowell’ status.
Other highlights in month included Adrian Pearce being first finisher at Maesteg on 2 occasions bringing his total number of first finishes up to 6. Porthcawl broke their attendance record twice with 458 on the 22nd and 499 on the 29th. Those parkruns were included in the Festive Four which I’ll come onto again later.
Tammie Baker, Claire Taylor, Rhiannon Sian and Sian Jenkins all capped off an amazing year of running with further improvements on their parkrun PB’s during the month. There were several other PB’s during the month including one of the other side of the world with Philippa Rees bagging herself a PB whilst parkrunning in Australia.
With plenty of Santa / Elf / Reindeer runs to choose from over the festive period, the one that our runners are drawn to is the Aberavon Santa Run 5K. Chip timed, Santa outfit included and a goodie bag including mini Christmas pudding. It was the 5th edition of the run and my 5th year of running it. This year saw 27 of us head down the coast with many doing parkrun first despite horrible cold, wet and windy conditions. Despite the weather, I think most still enjoyed the run.
As it has been in each of the past 6 years that the club has been going, Nos Galan provided the final race of the year for our members. Simon Williams was our sole representative in the Elite race and finished in 21:55. We had a record 29 runners in the ‘fun run’ with Aled Hughes finishing 2nd overall in 19:56 and several other high position finishes with Kris Denholm 8th, Gareth Richards 23rd, myself in 24th and Chris Pratt in 32nd out of 912 runners. Jo Gamba was our first female finisher and 17th female overall out of 485. There were PB’s on the night for Wayne Randall, Rhiannon Sian, Natalie Aryal and Ffion Smith.
This rarely run distance saw 2 events in December with the main one attracting 17 runners at the Boxing Day race in Glynneath where Anneliese Loveluck smashed yet another female club record with a 32:30 clocking. In the same race Adrian Pearce ran the fastest club 5 mile time of the year with 30:59 which claimed him the veteran club record whilst Steve Loveluck also set a club age category record in the over 50’s (super-vets) category.
Fiona Evans, Denise Bradley and Helen Griffiths ran the Old Father’s Time 5 miler in Cardiff between Christmas and New Year. This race only allows over 35’s so I’m looking forward to finally being allowed to run next year.
The Cottrell Park Christmas Cracker 10K saw 30 members take on the multi terrain course including the infamous Bunker Hill that also forms part of the relay section that many of us tackled earlier this year. Gareth Richards was our first finisher just ahead of myself. Liz Sim was our first female finisher just ahead of Emma Winch and Emma Loyns.
A rarely run distance but Keith Coleman completed the Llandeilo 10 miler on New Years Eve in 1:23:58.
Only one marathon runner in December and unsurprisingly it was Elizabeth Sim. This was her 9th race this year at marathon distance or further which is the most of anyone in the club during 2018. Whilst most of us were last minute Christmas shopping or wrapping presents just 2 days before Christmas, Liz was running the Portsmouth Marathon which she completed in 5:09:48.
It’s not often we have a smaller turnout for a race than a previous year but given it was the morning after the club Christmas party, then it’s not too surprising we had a few less at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run. That said, we still had 24 members take on the tough multi-terrain course and I believe we were the most represented club at the event. Niki Puleio led our members home with the Lovelucks up next and adding more age category trophies to their collection.
I had a last minute call up to wear my South Wales vest for a second time at the Welsh Regional Cross Country Championships earlier in the month. The course consisted of 3 undulating and very muddy laps around Llandrindod Wells against some of the best runners throughout the age groups in Wales.
Boxing Day saw the annual Porthcawl Lions race which had to be shortened to around 6K due to a road traffic accident which happened as the front runners were heading towards Rest Bay. Niki Puleio was our first runner back with Sian Price our first lady.
This annual competition consists of runners signing up to run 2 5K’s, either of the Boxing Day races or Old Fathers Time 5 miler and the Prince of Wales Kenfig race on New Years Day. There are 3 scoring systems including simply the fastest overall, age graded scoring and most improved whereby runners times are compared to their ‘season’s best’ parkrun time for the year.
I know technically this should be the January update blog but Tammie Baker’s further improvements over these events bagged her second place in the most improved female standings. Adrian Pearce finished first in the age graded standings and 3rd in the accumulated time standings, whilst Gregg Harris finished 3rd in the most improved classification. Well done to all the Phoenix runners who completed the series.
Chairman’s Runners of the Month
The final month of the year. Most are winding down to enjoy the festivities. Just to make sure that we don’t over indulge there’s a friendly competition open to local clubs which encourages participation in 4 events over the festive period. Accolades are on offer for sheer performance as well as recognising those with impressive achievements weighted to their age and those who show big improvements over their year of running. Although the last compulsory event in the series is on the first of January the majority of them fall in the last month of the year and surround the time when a lot of us are tucking in to mince pies, large cooked dinners and maybe a little tipple. If you’ve kept abreast of proceedings you’ll note that we had significant finishes by a couple in the club. One has already been honoured this year and continues to excel. The other smashed one category with a clean victory. A relatively recent addition to the club joining through his attendance at Maesteg parkrun and being wooed by the members there. His running has impressed many since before joining and now he is a member we’re looking forward to big things from him over the coming months. He likes his tough off road events and has recorded admirable times in those that he’s attended. With a very sociable nature too he’s fitting in nicely with the club culture. I am very pleased to award my Chairman’s male runner of the month to Adrian Pearce. Well done Adrian, looking forward very much to what 2019 holds for you!
We’ve had many come through the ranks this year – through our massively popular and, dare I say it, very successful Zero 2 Hero programme. From complete non-runners to heroes in 10 weeks. parkrun for graduation and from there most never look back. Continuing their journey with regular parkrunning and signing up for events, steadily increasing the distance, to enter new territory that they would previously never have dreamed of before. I love it when I see that glint in someones eye – when you know they’ve discovered the joy that running can bring. Then, when it takes hold there’s a determination to improve. It was never the goal, but it slowly becomes the goal. Three personal best times recorded during December for one. Steadily improving. Steadily discovering what her body is capable of doing. Dismissing each run as though it’s worse than the last but crossing the line seconds ahead of the previous run with elation. I’ve run back many times to run in with her and share in that joyous moment. I’ve always had a penchant for running back after a run to meet our back runners and encourage them in – it’s amazing what a bit of moral support can give when they most need it. If I say it’s a biased choice you’re likely to know immediately who I’m talking about, but it’s the kind of endeavour I want to celebrate. I know from experience that she hates the cold, she hates the rain and she hates running. Hated (past tense) – she’s learning to love all three! I saw her stop 400 yards short of the line on her first parkrun in tears – embarrassed that she’ll be seen as last. But she finished! She’s continued, pushed on further and has improved week on week. A complete change in character. A new sense of determination and focus. She now looks forward to parkrun and races with a nervous excitement that says she has well and truly caught the bug and as a result the performances are improving! I am delighted to award my Chairman’s female runner of the month to Ffion Smith. Well done Ffion – keep it up!