After 5 weeks in a row of less participants that the previous week, we finally saw an increase for the first virtual parkrun of the month with 64 submitted times. It was quite a week as well with Rhodri Thomas and Emyr Bissmire both running their first ever sub 20 5K’s and Keith Coleman coming agonisingly close with a 20:05 which nevertheless was still a fastest ever 5K.
A week later, the numbers rose again to 70 with a one-off allowance of submitting a 3 mile time as it was also the weekend of the OPR championship 3 miler. We had a new name at the top of the list with Ken Salvatore running 21:54 for 3 miles. Fiona Drysdale was our fastest lady for the second week in a row. Liz Davis ran her fastest 5K with a 24:29 and Judith Howells ran her fastest 5K with a 31:03.
Since then numbers have remained around 60-70 and we’re now up to week 15.
BaDRelay15 was an event set up by Builth Wells and District running club. The idea was that clubs formed teams to run from 5am until 8pm. Only one runner could be running at any given time and there was no limit on how many runners could be in a team. After the post was shared a couple of times, Chris asked me to see if wanted to investigate as to whether there would be any interest. Initially, I thought we’d maybe get 1 team of say 15 runners doing an hour but in discussions with others we decided that maybe we could get a team of 30 runners running 30 minutes each.
Within a couple of hours of posting I’d not only filled half hour slots for 2 teams of 30, but was starting to see if there was enough interest for a 3rd team as the response was amazing. In the week leading up to the event, I also had a thought about creating a long distance / ultra team. Several people were contacted and Team 4 were established with Steven James, Kris Denholm, Chris Pratt and Simon Harrison all agreeing to 3.5-4 hours each.
Meanwhile Team 3 was almost full and only a few gaps remained overall so with just 2 days to go, I posted on the juniors page to see if we could get a 5th team! Admittedly, it took a lot of messages, tagging and nagging, but with just a couple of hours to go before the teams had to be submitted, we managed to fill all 5 teams with over 120 runners and walkers involved from the ages of 6 to 60 odd.
Whilst I’m not going to mention all 120+ runners, I think a special mention has to go out to Niki Puleio, Neil Price, Ben Williams, Toni Howells, Chris Richards, Nick Harris, Steve James and Helen Lowcock James who were all 5am or 530am starters! To get up that early to run for 30 minutes in virtual event takes some determination and commitment.
Despite my leg not being until 10am, I woke up at 6am as I was so excited to see how people were getting on and start logging the miles. I provided at least hourly updates throughout the day apart from a couple of hours in the afternoon which I’ll come onto. By 9am, we’d already had 32 members that had been out and done their leg including Steven James who completed 27.91 miles in his 4 hour stint for the long distance runners in Team 4. This included our first junior (and youngest member at 6 years old) who became the 3rd of Lowcock James family to complete a leg.
By the time Kris Denholm completed 32.24 miles on his 4 hour stint from 9am until 1pm, we’d had another 32 runners complete their legs including 2 more juniors who formed part of 4 members of the Francis-Richards household who were across 3 different teams.
Chris Pratt was next up for the long distance team with a 3 and a half hour stint and had posted to say he was going to attempt to do the whole run on a 0.2 mile loop outside his house. Chris ran 20.94 miles in his 3 and a half hours which was around 120 laps in quite warm afternoon conditions.
By the time Chris finished and Simon was due to start at 430pm, we’d had 94 runners complete their relay legs including a mother-son combination in the Davis household, 3 of the Clark family, 3 of the Griffiths / Drysdale family and 4 of the Salvatore family.
Simon clocked up 21.53 miles for his 3 and a half hours, whilst the remainder of our runners across all 5 teams completed their legs. Amazingly there was only one last minute drop out which was due to injury and they’d even arranged their own replacement to ensure the team didn’t miss out. By the end of the day we’d also had 3 members of the Iveson – Holmes household run a leg each, 3 members of the Davies household and several Phoenix couples. In total I believe we had 15 households with 2 or more people running.
Our fastest runner of the day was Dai James who was the only person to clock over 5 miles in just 30 minutes with 5.06. Team 1 was intentionally set up as our team to compete against the other clubs with many of our fastest runners, and they accumulated 124.51 miles over the 15 hours which is an average of 4.15 miles for each of the 30 runners and an average of 7:13 minutes per mile. They finished 9th overall in the team standings with just 8 miles separating 4th to 13th. Our next highest mileage was by Team 4 with the 4 long distance runners racking up 102.62 miles. Closely followed by Team 2 with 96.97 miles, Team 3 with 89.4 miles and Team 5 which included some of our amazing juniors with 81.1.
An incredible day and a record attendance for most Phoenix in a single event beating the 116 runners we had in Cardiff Half Marathon.
Run4All Virtual Aberavon 5K
Another popular event with our members that has gone virtual for this year. An impressive 28 of us signed up. Unlike some other virtual events which allow any time over the period of a weekend or even week to submit a time, this had to be run on the Wednesday that the race would have taken place. Adrian Pearce was the fastest of our runners with 18:53 followed by Rhodri Thomas in 20:15 whilst I clocked 21:21 for my fastest 5K of the year. The three fastest ladies were next up with Claire DB cloking 22:47, Sarah Davies 23:42 and one of our juniors clocking 25:04.
Sally the Sunflower Relay
At the time of writing I believe we are now up to leg 75. Things have slowed down a bit although as soon as people are reminded about it then there’s usually a few offers and it picks back up again.
The first week of June was National Volunteers Week and Welsh Athletics asked for nominations from clubs on people they thought should be recognised for their role or a specific idea they had come up with during lockdown. Amazingly, we ended up having a blog post to ourselves on the Welsh Athletics website highlighting just some of the many amazing volunteers in our club.
OPR Championship / Virtual Cardiff Summer Series
Event 4 of the championship was the 3 mile time trial. 65 runners submitted times with the fastest being Nicky Bennett in 17:27 followed by Paul Smith in 17:51 and Niki Puleio in 17:57. The fastest ladies were Sian Price in 20:51, Claire Dunbar Bowen in 21:52 and Emma Loyns 23:04. However, as the championship is worked out using a handicap scoring system, the final standings were very different. Judith Howells came out on top with a PB performance followed by Helen Griffiths. Our female members claimed 10 of the top 12 positions! The top 3 men were Emyr Bissmire, Phill Iveson and Ashley Howells.
Event 5 of the championship was the 4 mile time trial. 47 runners submitted times with the fastest being Nicky Bennett with 23:15. Sian Price was again the fastest female. This time it was Keith Coleman who came out on top so after an Ogmore Valley winner last time, my next medal drop off will be over the mountain in the Garw Valley. After 5 events, Rob Loyns maintains the top spot he’s help since event 2 with Emma Loyns 2nd and Ken Salvatore 3rd.
Phoenix 24 ‘Longest Day’
The Phoenix Running events company (nothing to do with our club) run dozens of events every year mainly focusing on marathons and ultras. They’ve embraced the new normal of only being able to do virtual running events and opened entries for a event that required runners to run one miles, on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours. Amazingly, 26 of our runners signed up for this and interestingly the majority of those runners weren’t regular marathon / ultra runners and it attracted a good range of abilities.
The event started at 8am on Saturday with many using one of the early runs to do a virtual parkrun which helped bump up the overall mileage from 24 to 26.1 – most people ran 1.01 for most other miles to make sure they avoided the dreaded 0.99 recording so over the course of the 24 hours, most made it up to 26.2 miles. Of our 26 starters, 24 finished with the others making it over two-thirds of the way through before calling it a night.
I decided to run a 5K or so every 4 hours after starting the whole thing with a virtual parkrun and ended up running 45.3 miles in total which ranked me 36th highest out of almost 1000 submitted results. Gregg Harris ran multiple 1.5-2 mile stints which meant he ended up on 35.2 miles, whilst Chris Richards also did a few just over the mile to end up clocking 30.4 miles. Samantha Thompson clocked the most miles for the girls with 28.1, and I’m pretty sure would have easily clocked the most elevation of all of us with most of her miles including hills around the valley. Rob Loyns clocked by far the fastest miles with an average of 7:48 for his 27.7 miles.
Dawn Hopkins and Sarah Davies ran quite a lot of their miles together and were joined by Sara Vowles and Chris Richards for quite a few as well. Phil Iveson and Steph Iveson-Holmes were joined by their superstar junior who completed 13 of the miles with them. Nigel Hitchings, Stephanie Dyke, David Sheard, Ian Lewis, Chris Pratt, Jay Howells, Tyler Howells, Denise Bradley, Jamie Puddy and Huw Jenkins all topped the marathon distance over the 24 runs. Claudine Nicholson Lewis, Leanne Parsons and Ceri James were arguably the sensible ones who stuck to the 1 mile every hour to record 24 or 25 miles with a few 0.01 thrown in. Hopefully I’ve listed all 24 that completed it there.
Shawn Cullen continued up to and including the midnight run and clocked 19.2 miles having also done virtual parkrun as one of his runs. Karl Johnson continued up to and including the 2am run and clocked 21.6 miles (including a virtual parkrun for one of the runs).
We also had some amazing supporters. Jo Gamba run 26.3 miles by doing 8am to 10pm and then 6am and 7am but doing extra mileage on 4 of her 17 miles to make up the distance. Philippa and Tim Rees ran 15 and 16 miles respectively by joining in with most of the miles up to midnight and then getting back out for the final mile at 7am. Julie Ransom ran the first 12 runs with Shawn before supporting on the bike for a few more. Shawn and Julie also went to different locations for most of their runs to keep it interesting as it was definitely a mental challenge as much as a physical one. Multiple others joined for a few miles including Abbigayle Lumsden, Toni Howells and Judith Howells supporting Jay and Tyler. Stephne Puddy ran with Jamie for a few of the miles. Emma Williams and Louise Foster appeared at midnight in fancy dress to join some of the Tondu / Aberkenfig crew before joining Denise Bradley at 1am. Sally Pensom also came out to support Denise on her final mile. Other milers included Jayne Bissmire, Keith Coleman, the Kemberys, the Salvatores and Emma Loyns.
The 1000 miles challenge
As an added incentive for people to join in with the miles for the Phoenix 24 or to get some longer runs in, I also set a challenge of seeing if we could run 1000 miles between us in the 24 hours that the Phoenix challenge was on for. To be honest, I thought it was a bit of an ambitious target but we smashed it with 1257 miles run by our members in just 24 hours.
Other virtual events
Yes, there were even more. 6 signed up for the Twister Half Marathon with Adrian Pearce clocking an adjusted time of 1:58 (this was another one of the events were time is deducted depending on elevation gained). Sian Price was given 1:59 and Claire Dunbar-Bowen 2:00 so couldn’t have been much closer between our first three. Sian Jenkins had a time of 3:34 whilst Sarah Davies and I submitted very slow times as this clashed with the Phoenix 24 event so we just included our first 13.1 mile times from that!
Adrian’s Twister effort was also part of another virtual event as he entered the West Highland Way virtual ultra which consisted of running 95 miles over 9.5 days. His combined time was 12:31:37 and he also replicated the 14,000 feet of elevation that the actual event takes in. Sian Jenkins, Alexis and Paul Barrett teamed up to complete a third of the distance each in a total time of 19:22:15 and did the Beast run in Ogmore as their final run to get the mileage and elevation in.
Other virtual events included Julie Ransom doing the Blaydon virtual 6 miler. I did the British Masters Virtual 5K. There’s also been Miles for MSA which a lot of our members got involved with. Dozens of other members are doing the virtual LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats) and this month the Wales Coastal Challenge started.
What a month! Over to Chris for Chairman’s runners of the month.
Chairman’s Runners of the Month
Our strange existence continues. Many are calling it the “new normal”. I’d rather not use the word normal at all in relation to it. I am just thinking of it only as temporary. We yearn for the time when we can be together again. When we are able to share activities as a group. In the meantime we know, in order to remain safe, and ensure that others also remain safe, we have to do our bit. Something I keep reiterating. If we stick together and support each other we will get through this.
There have been many impressive feats during this period of restriction. Virtually travelling all over the country while remaining within the confines of the locale. This month has seen a whole manner of epic virtual events taken on by a large contingent of the club. Great to see.
Celebrate everyone. It’s in our blood. It courses through the veins of the club. As much as we cheer for those who notch up 100 miles in a day, we stand up and applaud those who just get off the couch to run, walk or crawl any distance. There are some who occasionally fall off the radar for a while. Circumstances draw them away from regular routine. The situation of late has taken some into prescribed isolation. In such cirtumstances it is even more difficult to remain active and stay connected. The same four walls being the only surroundings. Some have stood tall and, in spite of being restricted, continued to get their exercise. Not only fulfilling a base requirement but also making a comeback. Signing up for mileage goals and virtual challenges. Targeting challenges that push boundaries once again. Not only that but reaching them with determination. In the face of adversity managing to reach new goals and setting new limits after a prolonged period of absence. Immensely admirable. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Ceri James. Amazing month Ceri, keep up the good work.
Sometimes we get people who join the club with no aspirations at all. Often it’s due to a friend or family member being already within the fold. The old adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Maybe it’s popping along to a social event that spurns the interest to get involved. The desire to run is a secondary thing – or maybe not even that. The words “OK, go on then” are probably the response to being encouraged to sign up. We’ve seen it before, many times over. A couple of casual jogs with family or friends slowly develop. The runs get longer. They start to get quicker. Something natural and underlying is discovered. Then comes the dawn of realisation. A realisation that there is a latent ability. It sparks desire. Desire to go further and subsequently faster. Boundaries are pushed and impressive performances recorded as a result. You can tell this is becoming an obsession when the events being signed up for become increasingly more challenging. The bug has well and truly taken hold. I am keen to see what the remainder of 2020 holds and certainly see where this leads into 2021 when events start opening up again. I am over the moon the award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Rob Loyns. Well done Rob, keep it up.
I’d already written this up and chosen my runners when I realised I couldn’t sign off without another mention. I’ve credited this runner before with the Chairman’s accolade, but the last couple of months have seen a herculean mission completed. A challenge that several are a part of has taken place over time. To virtually travel the length of the UK from South to North. 874 miles in total. All of this achieved in 58 days. An average of just over 15 miles a day! Smashed it and worthy of special mention. Well done Kris Denholm. Incredible stuff.