This month saw 206 parkrun finishes by 106 different members across 35 different parkrun venues.
As well as the usual South Wales parkruns, tourism included Ashton Court, Bedford, Brighouse, Buckingham, Burgess, California Country, Cirencester, Dartford Heath, Exmouth, Great Dunmow, Greenwich, Groe, Highbury Fields, Parke, Rushcliffe, Seaton, South Sheilds, Victoria Dock, Woking and Woodhouse Moor.
This month saw Aled Hughes reach his ‘Cow’ or ‘Half Cowell’ meaning he has now run at 50 different parkrun venues. Chris Stanlake ran his 100th parkrun whilst Sara Davies ran her 50th.
There were 26 PB’s in the month with Gareth Davies, Julie Ransom and Megan Apsee all notching up 2 each. The other PB hero’s this month are Andrew Hughes, Chris Bimson, Dawn Apsee, Deborah Dong, Deborah Edwards, Fiona Randall, Frances Hughes, Laura Worrall, Leanne Puleio, Maria George, Michelle Alexander, Paul Iskander, Paul James, Phill Iveson, Rachel Jones, Ruth Thomas, Sharon Pritchard, Sian Thomas and Stephanie Iveson-Holmes.
Just one 10K race with only 1 club entrant this month with Julie Ransom completing the Margam Pursuit 10K in 1:06:14.
The rearranged Reverse 10 saw Neil Price lead the club home in 1:09:31 with Lisa Pinney next up in 1:32:40 and Kayley Griffiths in 1:41:19.
Chris Richards took on the Pendine Half Marathon which is entirely run on the beach. Martin Beard, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion completed the inaugural Kite Trail Half Marathon – a hilly trail race starting in Llanharen.
The biggest Half Marathon of the month was at the Great Welsh Half where myself and Denise were official pacers running 2 hours and 2:30 respectively. Liz Davis bagged herself a new PB with a 2:02:09 whilst Jamie Puddy continued his excellent run of form with a 2:18 PB despite a tough headwind from mile 5 through to 11. Rebecca Newton finished just ahead of Jamie in 2:17.
Incredibly, we had more Marathon finishers than 10K, 10 miles and Half Marathons put together this month.
Starting with a not so normal marathon, Steven James took on the Beacons Marathon which included almost 5000 feet of ascent. To put that in perspective, Snowdonia Marathon is 2800 feet. The terrain was also very tricky resulting in a 5:50 finish that I’m sure is still very respectable.
We had 6 runners at the Great Welsh Marathon with more official pacers from the club. Chris Pratt paced 4:15 and Kris Denholm paced 5 hours.
Anneliese Loveluck was running her first road marathon and obliterated the female club record finishing in 3:13:56 to finish in 4th place overall. What is even more incredible is that the London Good For Age qualifying time for her age category is 3:53 so she has qualified by almost 40 minutes. Some other stats I later found out included that Anneliese set the fastest marathon time by any Welsh Female in her age category this year, and no other Welsh female in her age category has run a faster marathon time in the past 18 months. At the time of her result, she was also ranked in the top 100 female marathon times in Britain for any age category this year.
The amazing running continued at the Great Welsh Marathon with Wayne Hayhurst knocking an incredible 40 minutes off his Marathon PB with a 3:25. Dai James ran just outside of his marathon PB with a 3:38 whilst Hannah Knight completed her first ever Marathon in 5:51.
Anticipation for the London Marathon had been building for weeks, but quietly (not usually a word associated with this person), Sarah Littlewood was plotting her own marathon on the same day in the much quieter and more beautiful setting of Stratford upon Avon. Sarah finished in 3:57:33 to become only our 5th female to ran under 4 hours in the history of the club, and only the 3rd to run a sub 4 on her debut marathon. The time also meant she set a new club age category record in the Female 35-39 category.
Onto the big one. The London Marathon. Normally I start a tracking post on the morning of the marathon, but such was the excitement in the build up, I started it on Friday evening and screenshot good luck messages from all over Facebook and photos of our runners at the expo to create a London Marathon memories post that they could all look back on. Jayne Bissmire had heavily contributed to the exciting build up with ‘Featured Phoenix’ write up’s on each of our 17 runners. Despite 40,000 runners, plenty of our runners were spotted on the live coverage and finish live coverage once the main coverage had ended.
As for the race itself, Niki Puleio led the club home in an outstanding 2:59:51 becoming only the second member in the history of the club to break 3 hours. Kris Denholm was next up and smashed his marathon PB with a 3:45.
Sian Price became the 6th female member of the club to break 4 hours with a 3:55:47 and in the process, took the age category for female 35-39 within an hour of Sarah Littlewood claiming it. It also means that Sian is the first member ever in the history of the club to have a complete sweep of all the distances within an age category with records at 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon.
Brett Bonell completed his first marathon in 4:51 with another marathon debutant, Natalie Aryal finishing just behind in 4:52. Shawn Cullen got inside the 5 mark on his first marathon with a 4:56 whilst Sara Bayliss finished in 4:57. Another marathon debut PB was claimed with Ashely Howells finishing in 5:01.
Helen Griffiths, accompanied by Denise Bradley, smashed her marathon PB by 44 minutes with a 5:04. Rebecca Newton continued the PB’s with a 5:10 whilst Rhiannon Sian smashed her marathon PB by 11 minutes with a 5:12. Gary Piper bowed out from marathon races with a brave 5:48 after multiple injury issues heavily hampered his training resulting in Gary confirming this would be his last marathon more than 30 years after his first.
The final four were yet more first time marathoner with Lisa Jenkins finishing in 5:49, Claire Taylor 6:02, Vickie Blake 6:08 and Lousie Bennett 7:17.
We also had more than a dozen club members supporting in London including some that travelled up that morning. The ones at home followed on the tracker and my tracking post which ended up accumulating over 1000 comments. Thanks to Jo Gamba for helping me keep up with everyone’s progress so I could post updates as soon as they appeared.
April was certain a month of long distance runs with 37 members running the Vale 18 (nearer to 19) miler. Dan Clark was our first finisher in 3:27 which saw more than a dozen members complete either their longest run to date, or longest trail run. Almost everyone who had run the course before beat their previous best times with weather conditions perfect for most runners with the wind behind the runners and cool conditions… although it did get a bit warm at points and some runners still got sunburn.
We had a further 14 runners in the Ultra with Steve Loveluck leading the runners home. More than half of the runners were completing their first ultra including Steve, Adrian Pearce, Emma Loyns, Sara Vowles, Louise Foster, Emma Williams, Nige Rees and Adam Rowe.
The support on the course and particularly at the end was bigger and better than ever. Runners plus supporters must have exceeded 80 members of the club on the day with many joining the party at the finish line where there was enough food to last us all a week.
Other races in the month included 9 members taking on the Gilwern Grunt. A tough multi-terrain course with a very interesting finish that is so steeply downhill that runners are resigned to sliding down most of it. On the final day of the month, we had 5 runners at the Pentyrch Hill Race. Another tough, fell classified race with 7 miles of constant hills. Adrian Pearce was followed by Aled Hughes in both of these events whilst Sarah Davies and Fiona Drysdale were our first ladies home in the respective races.
What a month. 76 finishes in races of 18 miles or more and barely any races under Half Marathon distance albeit still huge attendances at our home parkruns and plenty of parkrun tourism. Well done to everyone who represented OPR this month and good luck to Chairman, Chris Pratt on another tricky choice for his runners of the month below.
Chairman’s Runners of the Month
Just like last month this has been a very arduous task. So many amazing achievements throughout the month. First time marathons and PB’s left, right and centre. Incredible that we had 76 finishers at races of 18 miles or more in length!
I’ve always maintained that these choices will depend on entirely different criteria, but sometimes fast running outshines everything else and I have to turn to it for my choices.
In terms of female achievements I have chosen this person before but even when I scribbled down all the names from this months accolades I couldn’t avoid choosing one. It has been over a year since she was last honoured, however. It will be difficult to conceal the person concerned as soon as I start listing the reasons. Top 100 female marathon time in Britain for any age category this year. The fastest marathon time by any Welsh female in her age category in the last 18 months! She has exceeded her good for age qualification time for the London Marathon by almost 40 minutes. There are very few words I can add to that. It is quite simply an amazing achievement. She finished the marathon in 3:13:56. I was running the same event and pacing other runners to 4:15 and every time I passed her she was totally focused but making it look like it was a walk in the park!! Absolutely outstanding. I have no hesitation awarding my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Anneliese Loveluck. All I want to know is, what’s next?
Again for fantastic running performance this is for someone that I have never actually awarded anything to in the past. He has been credited by our statto for his achievements however. There’s always been a target in his mind. He ran a formidable run at Snowdonia Marathon Eryri last year hitting 3:15 on a tough course. But that was never going to be enough. He trains with conviction and has a dogged determination that always sees him relentlessly pursue his goal. Heading up to London he had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. Tracking him he went out clearly targeting the objective from the off and it all fit into place. That photograph of him 600 yards from the line knowing that the goal was in the bag was one of sheer delight. To experience that feeling of knowing you have achieved something so significant, whether it be completing a 5k or smashing your sub 3 hour target for a marathon is euphoric. The picture captured it all in one instant. A very humble and supportive runner who admires everyone of all abilities while targeting his own phenomenal targets and smashing them. 2:59:51. Those numbers will be etched on his brain… until the next goal is set!! Again no hesitation in awarding my Chairman’s male runner of the month to Niki Puleio and again I have to ask, what’s next?