December saw 241 parkrun finishes across 44 parkruns and 29 different locations. New locations visited included Cosmeston Lakes, King George V Playing Fields, Nova Prestatyn, Teignmouth Promenade, Upton Court and The Old Showfield.
We had a record turnout of 16 parkrunners on Christmas Day with most being local (Cardiff, Barry, Gnoll, Newport) whilst Jo and I were in Milton Keynes. Dawn Hopkins ran her 100th parkrun on Christmas Day as well.
Anneliese Loveluck who had only run 2 parkruns prior to December, doubled her tally during the month including a 20:39 at Barry Island on Christmas Day. Our fastest male parkrunner in the month was Niki Puleio with 18:25.
Niki Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg in a week where Ogmore Phoenix members had the top 4 places.
Mark Worrall ran his 100th parkrun at the start of the month at Brynaman whilst Alexis Barrett ran her 50th parkrun at Maesteg.
December brings along a festive band of Santa 5K’s which started with the Cardiff Santa Dash where we had 6 runners. The big Santa Run for the club each year is the Aberavon Run 4 All Santa Run and this year was no different with 26 of us battling against a strong headwind on the way out. Nicky Bennett was 2nd overall whilst Niki Puleio picked up an age category prize as well. We had 12 runners at the Maesteg Santa Run where I was first finisher overall and Jo Gamba was first lady. Neil and Sian Price also ran the Buxton Pavillion Gardens 5K.
The main 5K of December with a mix of seriously competitive running followed by a mass 5K party run was of course Nos Galan. A few of us decided to challenge ourselves this year and mix it up with the super fast boys and girls in the Elite Races. The men’s elite race was up first with Adrian Pearce finishing in 18:56 and Aled Hughes in 19:27. I was next in 21:13 with Nick Harris 22:43 and Chris Pratt 22:45 completing our runners in that race. It was an incredible experience and I don’t think Chris and Nick would mind me saying that the three of us would want to be a bit quicker before entering that race again. Being lapped is almost inevitable for a large amount of the runners on the 4 lap course with the first few coming in at just over 14 minutes!! Despite running well under 20 minutes, Aled just avoided getting lapped running a 19:27. Jo Gamba ran in the female elite race finishing in 25:40.
We had 24 runners in the fun run with Kris Denholm finishing 8th overall in 20:54 and Gareth Richards not too far behind in 21:26. Sarah was our fastest lady and just outside the top 20 ladies in 25:22. Ffion Smith bagged the only PB of the night with a fantastic 37:35.
A less commonly run distance but a couple of fast ones to choose from in December. Nick Harris notched up yet another event with the Rogue Runs Mallards Pike Night Race. We had 12 runners at the Glynneath 5 miler on Boxing Day where Aled was first of our runners back in 32:53. Keith Coleman, Stephne Puddy, Jamie Puddy, Helen Griffiths and Laura Worrall all bagged themselves PB’s.
A few days later 8 of us headed down to Pontcanna Fields in Cardiff for the ‘Old Father Time’ 5 miler. The only mass participation road race I know of locally that’s only for veteran athletes (over 35). It had been on my list for many years and this was the first year I ‘qualified’ to do it. The super flat 2 lap course coupled with great running conditions made for some spectacular times with 7 of our 8 runners getting PB’s. I was the only one not to PB but was over the moon to get within 20 seconds of my PB which is something I haven’t managed at any distance for over 2 years.
Niki was our first runner back in a sub 30 time of 29:58! A new club age category record and agonisingly just 1 second off the overall club record (or 2 seconds to beat it). Adrian Pearce ran a new club age category record for the 45-49 category with 30:33. The PB’s continuing with Neil Price, Aled Hughes, Gregg Harris, Jo Gamba and Sian Jenkins.
Leanne Puleio ran the Valencia 10K on the first of the month coming in just over the hour mark with a 1:02:27.
We had 10 runners for the final trail championship race with a few of those opting for a fresh air / run away your hangover approach after the club Christmas Party the night before. Aled was our first runner home ahead of Luke Jones and David Sheard. Denise was our first lady followed by Sarah Davies.
The Celtic races organised by Run Walk Crawl saw 10 of our runners take on the Half Marathon, whilst Gareth Richards did the 20 mile option, and Emma Loyns and Kris Denholm took on the 32 mile Ultra. Emma and Kris were joined by former (and hopefully future) member Lorna Domachowski who was doing her first Ultra after concentrating on the minor task of training and completing a couple of Ironman’s in the last couple of years. The races were pretty hardcore with the Half Marathon containing around 2,300 feet of elevation – that’s close to the elevation of Snowdonia Marathon but packed into half the distance. The Ultra had 5,500 feet of elevation so around double that of Snowdonia Marathon but over tricky off road terrain and with a few more miles added.
The final weekend before Christmas also saw the final Infinity Running event of the year with the Turkey Trot. Rhiannon Whitely and Sharon Pritchard completed one 3.3 mile lap for the ‘5K’ distance. Nick Harris led 6 members round 2 laps of the course for ‘10K’. Aled, Liz Davis, Jamie Puddy and Pippa Clark completed 4 laps for the Half Marathon. With Chris Pratt having a well earned couple of months off marathons, there was unusually no Phoenix marathon finishers however, Michael Brain did go one lap further than that to record just shy of 30 miles in 6 hours and 10 minutes.
There may have only been one in month but it’s a pretty impressive one. Niki Puleio ran the Valencia Marathon in 2:58:11. His second sub 3 hour marathon of the year and yet another PB. Would you believe though that he was actually a little bit disappointed as the qualifying time for New York Marathon for his age group is 2:58:00 so he missed out by a small margin but is hoping he might still get a place.
39 members took on this years Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run with its Big Dipper Sand Dune, mud, fields, forestry, beach and multiple river crossings all packed into around 6 and half miles. James Littlewood was our first runner back in a speedy 54:41 whilst less than a minute separated Keith Coleman, Wayne Hayhurst, myself and Dai Kembery who came in just over the hour mark. Our first lady was Denise Bradley. 7 of our runners had a great time as they ran the course together posting videos of Christmas merriment at the mulled wine and mince pies aid station and could be heard before seeing them come into view at the finish with them singing various Christmas songs.
The third fixture of the Gwent Cross Country League saw an understandably lower attendance given it’s Saturday afternoon start a couple of weeks before Christmas but Samantha Thompson and Fiona Drysdale stepped up to represent the club.
Brett Bonell, Claudine and Mike Nicholson Lewis completed the tough Narberth Night Nobbler event whilst we had 18 runners at the Porthcawl Boxing Day run.
The Club Christmas Party
After putting on a spectacular Christmas party in 2018, it was always going to be hard to top that this year, but I’m sure most people would agree that somehow the social committee did it again. Tickets sold out well in advance for the mask themed event, and one of the first surprises of the night was our chairman storming into the room as who else but, The Mask – Jim Carrey’s character from the film complete with yellow suit and the green mask. There were huge O P R letters lit up which proved the most popular photo opportunity. An OPR selfie frame with accessories. The magnificent hog roast was back. There was even a huge birthday cake made for a couple of members celebrating their birthdays on the day of the event. There was an alternative raffle, a huge hamper, St Nick was back with keepsakes for attendees, plus table and other decorations galore which were almost all entirely hand made by members of the social committee. The randomly selected VIP’s for the night were treated to multiple privileges throughout the night, plus there was the latest distribution of milestone t-shirts for those that had run 50/100/150/200/250 events for the club. There’s probably so much more but I think just from what I’ve mentioned and remembered, it was another hugely successful event put on by our social committee and I’m sure plans are already in place for the next event.
A great end to the year from elite races to festive fun runs and everything in between. Unlike in November when I surprised him by making him the runner of the month, I’ll now hand over to our chairman to choose the December runners of the month.
Chairman’s Runners of the Month
Approaching the end of the year didn’t dampen spirits. There aren’t events in abundance but they still can be found – as has been proved by lots of members!! Weather worsening. Christmsa approaching. Many, many factors can get in the way and focus changes for many.
One incident in December won’t have escaped anyones attention. Man down. One of our midst suffered an accident at Maesteg parkrun that resulted in an ambulance being called with some urgency to attend the situation. In the meantime the patient needed to be sheltered from the elements. It was a cold day and, being in shock, could succumb to the elements as well as being physically worse for wear. For one, instinct kicked in. We’ve heard of a similar story earlier in the year that also warranted mention. With a cool and calm head instructions were given at the same time as my chosen runner gave up her run and lay down next to the patient to act as a shield and provide warmth until the emergency services arrived. Many who have this natural disposition to help will not accept the plaudits however much they are justified. Sometimes it’s not just the running itself that warrants recognition. I am absolutely honoured to announce my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month as Deb Griffin. Well done Deb and thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty!
I feel this accolade has been a long time coming for one. A long running career often results in a slow tail off with advancing age. For some there are peaks and troughs along the way. Some find a run of form, often accompanying an increase in participation at events and, inevitably, increased training. My male runner has attended a huge number of events this year. It’s been mentioned before that runners who have run a long time don’t often see personal bests and when they do happen they are special and show an extra level of commitment not made before. Combine that with consistent training the improvements have come. Recent commitment to provide focused coaching also seems to have provided motivation for self improvement too. As much as this is for achievements in December it’s for an excellent year of running. Participation, performance and club commitment all rolled into one. I am delighted to announce my December Male Runner of the Month as Aled Hughes. Well done Aled. Keep it up.