parkrun and virtual parkrun
Despite the opportunity to only attend 14 parkruns this year (including the New Years Day Double) our members clocked up 877 parkruns across 63 different parkrun venues.
Dai James became the first of our current members to run a sub 18 parkrun with 17:42 at Porthcawl whilst the Phoenix Flyers managed to get a trip to Swansea Bay organised just in time for Nicky Bennett to record a 17:20 to become the fastest 5K runner in the club. Anneliese Loveluck recorded the fastest female parkrun time of the year with 21:07 at Cosmeston Lakes parkrun.
Several runners achieved ‘parkrun tourist’ status in the first 3 months of the year with more members than ever regularly choosing to go to different parkrun venues and an increasing number doing that on a weekly basis. International tourism included the Littlewood’s in Paris, a group including Sarah Davies, Dawn Hopkins, Alexis and Paul Barrett that went to Poland, and Karl Johnson going to the Netherlands for their first parkrun weekend. That Saturday happened to coincide with the 29th February – the first time there’s ever been a chance to run a parkrun on that date and only occurs every 28 years.
There were milestone celebrations with Jayne Powney, Fiona Drysdale, James Beynon and Mark Worrall all running their 100th parkruns, Spare a thought for Nige Rees who for the last 9 months has been stuck on 99 parkruns whilst Chris Roberts is also just one parkrun from the next milestone t-shirt on 249 parkruns.
The final parkruns of the year took place on the 14th March and from the week after, we started ‘virtual parkrun’ which we kept going for the 41 remaining Saturdays of the year. Numbers were huge in the first few weeks and throughout ‘lockdown 1’ with 60+ runners submitting times to the weekly post put up by myself or Pippa every week. We peaked at 86 for the clubs ‘lockdown 5K’ which I’ll come onto later.
Numbers have dropped throughout the year but in many cases this has been either due to easing of restrictions meaning people had other plans, weather, shorter days or other events. By the end of the year, numbers were around 20-40 each week although there still appears to be a core group who do most if not every week. In fact, there are still 5 members who haven’t missed a week – Alun Wylde, myself (Gareth Jenkins), Jo Gamba, Nick Harris and Nicola Allen. Nicola is actually on course to have done more virtual parkruns (41) than actual parkruns (52) in the next couple of months. Several others have barely missed a week including Sarah Davies, Sara Davies and Tammie Baker.
The Tough Runner 10K saw Anneliese Loveluck set the fastest 10K race time of the year with a 47:48 which was good enough for first in age category and second female overall. Aled Hughes clocked the fastest official 10K of the year with 42:59 at the hilly Margam 10K which included a PB for Philippa Rees.
Martin Beard ran the Bath Skyline 10K on consecutive days, We had several runners at the Winter Warmer 10K in Cardiff where Claire Dunbar Bowen missed out on beating the fastest female time of the year by 4 seconds.
12 members took on the tough multi-terrain Wormshead trail 10K as part of this years club trail championships whilst we had several members at the Pontypool 10K.
Later in the year, restrictions lifted enough for Niki Puleio and Carl Walsh to run the Severn Bridge 10K at the end of August before race opportunities again became mostly virtual.
Early in the year, 7 runners took on the Hoka Winter Trail HM with Paul Smith being our first member across the line in an incredible time of 1:38:01 considering the course has almost 2000 feet of elevation. Anneliese Loveluck was 1st female overall in 1:45 with Steve Loveluck first in his age category just a minute behind. We also had several members at the Red Kite Trail Half Marathon.
Sara Johns ran the Scandicci Half Marathon in Florence, Italy in a PB of 2:40.
This year did include a couple of bigger half marathons with 17 of our runners joining thousands of others at the Newport Half Marathon where we were led home by Claire Dunbar Bowen in 1:43:43. I was our first male runner across the line in 1:47:24. There were PB’s for Rebecca Newton and Claudine Nicholson Lewis.
A week later we had 32 runners at the rearranged Llanelli Half Marathon which had been scheduled for a month earlier but called off due to storms. Dai James smashed his PB and clocked 1:21:36 which is another club age category record as well as making him the fastest member in the club. What makes the time even more remarkable is that the course was measured 0.2 miles long by pretty much everyone and we had strong headwinds on the coastal section. Next up was Ryan Evans with a 1:24:37 PB and Wayne Hayhurst with a PB of 1:29:27. There were also PB’s for Keith Coleman, James Dennison, Sian Thomas, Stephne Puddy, Kyleigh Lecrass, Cath Griffiths, Leanne Puleio and Heather Morgan. Niki Puleio and I were both pacers at the event whilst several members volunteered as marshals in testing conditions on the day.
Emma Loyns ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Florida which seems bonkers looking back on now as that was just a month before we all ended up in lockdown.
By Sunday 15th March, 90% of events were cancelled so it was possibly with a bit of controversy that the Bath Half Marathon and the MK Festival of Running did continue, Eryl James ran Bath HM in 2:55:07 with Jo and I running the Milton Keynes Half Marathon making it 3 half marathons in 3 weeks. We had another booked for the weekend after but I believe the MK Festival of Running was last event that any of our members ran for several months.
With Newport, Manchester and London being cancelled, there were dozens of members who had started marathon training but didn’t get a race to complete. Restrictions lifted enough for the Bath Two Tunnels Marathon to go ahead in August which Carl Walsh ran.
Niki Puleio was one of those affected by the marathon cancellations more than most. He was due to run London and Chicago marathons which were both postponed (twice), so set about trying to find another which he did with the Goodwood Marathon in December. He finally had a bit of good fortune in between lockdowns to be allowed to attend the event and finished the 19 lap circuit in an incredible PB of 2:55:01. It was later confirmed that this ranked him 9th in the country for Marathon performances this year.
Early in the year, Steve James ran the 40 mile Winter Wychavon Way which he described as a ‘relentless mudfest with ankle deep for at least 35 miles and 2 miles towards the end with knee deep mud’.
The Brecon to Cardiff ultra went ahead in horrendously wet and stormy conditions that led to several members having to pull out during the run for risk to their health. Steven James managed to keep himself warm by running an outstanding time of 7:00:22 for the 44 mile course. Kris Denholm was next in 9:00:58 with Liz Sim, Luke Jones, Angharad Hinman and Mark Worrall all completing the course.
Liz Sim and Steven James ran the 40 mile Millennium Way Ultra together in 9 hours and 18 minutes making it two ultras for Liz and three for Steven in just the first 3 months of the year.
A few of us were very fortunate enough for the Dragon races to fall just before local lockdowns came in during September. I completed my first 50 mile ultra, whilst Liz Sim and Steven James completed the 100 mile event.
The first day of the year saw 24 runners take on the Kenfig Prince of Wales run which was the final event of the Festive Four. Niki Puleio led our runners home just ahead of Adrian Pearce. Our first lady was Sarah Davies followed by Liz Davis. Anne Lalic completed the event and picked up 3rd place in the Festive Four most improvement category where times are compared to seasons bests.
Adrian and Aled took on the Kymin Winter Race – a 4.2 mile fell race. 15 runners took on the popular Riverbank Rollick for yet more mud and mayhem.
We had a great turnout of 22 runners for the Margam Reservoir fixture of the West Glamorgan XC league. An interesting ‘Cross Country’ fixture to say the least with its 2 laps of the reservoir… on tarmac paths. Paul Smith was our first runner back with Aled, Steven James, myself and Kris Denholm making up the scorers for the men. Jo Gamba was our first lady back followed by Bev Sheard, Claire Goldsworthy, Claire Worthington and Stephne Puddy to make up the first 5 scorers. The second and final XC fixture that happened this year was back in February with the Margam Park fixture. Another great turnout with one of our strongest teams assembled for a XC fixutre for the men with Gareth Battle, Nicky Bennett, Adrian Pearce, Steven James and James Dennison making up our scorers. For the ladies, great performances from Fiona Drysdale, Liz Sim, Jo Gamba, Rosie Salvatore and Bev Sheard made for another strong team score.
We had 19 runners for the first trail championship race of the year at the CF64 race around Cosmeston Lakes with the 2019 champion Adrian Pearce picking up maximum points whilst 2018 champion Emma Loyns was first lady back ahead of 2019 champion Sarah Davies.
At the Lliswerry 8, Wayne Hayhurst was our first runner back in an impressive 52:28. Only Neil Jones in his time with the club has run the course faster than that time.
A few runners took on the RogueRuns night race in Chepstow whilst Adrian Pearce, Aled Hughes and Emma Loyns took on the Blorenge Night Race – both very challenging courses without the addition of running them in dark with only head torches to light the way.
Aled, Claire DB, Nick and Sarah D braved stormy weather conditions to complete the latest installment of the Severn Bridge 5 mile series. Claire DB set a new 5 mile PB and club age category record with 39:06.
Liz Davis, Chris Pratt and Kayley Griffiths set the first 10 mile times of the year at the Reverse 10.
The final Saturday of the month saw a presentation take place in the Hi-Tide after Porthcawl parkrun to award the Festive Four and BCRL winners. As already mentioned, we did have one Festive Four winner with Anne Lalic but we really excelled at the BCRL where awards were given to the top 3 in each 5 year age category. Our list included… 1st place in age category Adrian Pearce, Kevin Raymond, Clifford Searle, Sian Price and Denise Bradley. 2nd place in age category for Paul Smith, Garry Jones and Hannah Knight. 3rd place in age category for Ryan Evans and Mike Nicholson Lewis.
Virtual events – weekend challenges
With all races postponed / cancelled from the end of March onwards, the club came up with initiative new ways of keeping members active, especially throughout the first lockdown.
Miles – The first challenge was simple – how far could we run between us all. There were 157 entries over the weekend and we accumulated 848.24 miles.
Elevation – week 2 saw members challenged to accumulate as much elevation gain as possible over the weekend. 126 activities were recorded with 72,824 feet of elevation which is the equivalent of climbing Everest nearly 2 and half times!
Calories / London Marathon – on the weekend that many of us should have been doing the London Marathon, the 2.6 challenge was launched. The weekend challenge was to see how many London Marathon’s worth of calories we could burn off between us using 2,626 as the calorie target per marathon. This time cycling or circuit classes could also be used as activities to count towards the total. 116 activities were recorded over the two days with 83,030 calories burned which using our 2,626 per marathon works out at around 31.5 London Marathons.
Phoenix Travel Agents – the idea was that we promoted our local area through photo’s and videos which could be done tongue in cheek or more seriously. There were some fantastic entries with videos of most areas of the Bridgend county included plus some alternative entries such as Heather Morgan showing the sites of all past and present schools in the Ogmore Valley (of which there were almost 20) and I did past and present races around Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan. Jo Gamba also set up ‘Phoenix Window’ which became a regular selfie opportunity as members ran past our house.
75th anniversary of VE Day – this one had runners encouraged to submit miles to complete the distance from Ogmore to Reims, France and then onto Berlin, Germany. A total of 1350 miles. Additions to the challenge included wearing red, white and blue, drawing VE with your activity trace, and taking selfies with any street names starting with V or E (we discovered that street names starting with V were quite few and far between). Only counting miles that were within the 75 minute limit we achieved 1,186 miles whilst without the limit we achieved an amazing 1,345 miles. Liz Sim also marked VE day by running 75 miles in the first 8 days of the month.
Street Names – the idea was to find street names beginning with O, P and R, and then find ones starting with the letters of your first name. For those that wanted to take the challenge a bit further they could attempt to spell Ogmore Phoenix Runners with a street name containing the letter X being allowed considering there aren’t any locally. Dozens of members got involved. Some even went as far as spelling out Ogmore Phoenix Runners plus their full name. Others bent the rules slightly and used shop or other street signs to help or ones that just included their first names / surnames anyway. All a bit of fun and getting members exploring their local areas.
1000 miles – tied in with members doing the P24 which I’ll come onto later, the challenge was to see if our members could run 1000 miles between us in just a 24 hour period. We smashed it with 1257 miles which beat our opening weekend ‘miles’ challenge by almost 50% which was over 2 days, and almost as much as our VE day weekend challenge which was over 3 days.
Virtual events – monthly or longer
Jayne Bissmire did an outstanding job throughout the year to keep us all motivated with over 100 different runners signing up for one or more of her team challenges. The first was Miles for Mind in May. The Run Around the World challenge was throughout July in which the team ran an incredible 8,138 miles to finish 2nd overall. In October the Phoenix Knights team assembled again for Leave Nothing but Footprints. Then we finished the year with the Run Up to Christmas from 1st December to Christmas Eve. Jayne kept spirits high and runners motivated throughout with regular updates. Some of the challenges involved setting mileage targets and in dozens of cases, members ran their own personal record mileage months with many running 50 / 100 / 150 or even 200+ miles for the first time in a single month.
Longer challenges included LEJOG and the Welsh Coastal Path Challenge. The LEJOG challenge was originially set for runners to attempt to cover the distance from Lands End to John O’Groats (874 miles) in just 6 months – however, they did extend it by a couple of months to allow more to finish. The Welsh Coastal Path challenge is a similar distance but without the time limits and many of our members are still on the virtual journey around the Welsh coastline. Towards the end of the year there was also the Everest challenge where runners had to attempt to run the elevation of Everest over a number of weeks.
Virtual Club Championship
Orginially all fixtures for this championship were to be run during training sessions so like everything else, we needed to go virtual after just 1 event that did go ahead at the track back in January. Details of the events can be found in the monthly blogs so I’ll just remind everyone of the events titles and winners
Event 1 – The Track World Cup – Nicky Bennett
Event 2 – 1 Mile Time Trial – Rob Loyns
Event 3 – 2 Mile Time Trial – Claire Dunbar-Bowen
Event 4 – 3 Mile Time Trial – Judith Howells
Event 5 – 4 Mile Time Trial – Keith Coleman
Event 6 – OPR Lockdown 5K – Emyr Bissmire
Event 7 – Maesteg parkrun virtual takeover – Sarah Davies
Event 8 – Downhill mile – Ken Salvatore
Event 9 – Cheat 5K / Ross Barkley 5K – Sarah Davies
Event 10 – Elevation challenge – Ken Salvatore
Well done to Sarah Davies who won the championship with Ken Salvatore second and Fiona Drysdale in third.
Virtual races were very popular this year with many of the events that were cancelled offering virtual options with the chance to still earn the medal and t-shirt. There were also a series of virtual races where runners could get time taken off their overall running time with the more elevation they ran which myself, Sarah Davies, Adrian Pearce and Sian Jenkins amongst others regularly entered. One of the most popular series was the Aberavon 5K series which went virtual this year with top 3 age category placing for Claire Dunbar Bowen and Denise Bradley.
Earlier in the year, several of us took on the Race to the Stones virtual challenge with some running 100K in the 7 days that it took place. A few took on the OTT Elevation challenge which set runners a target of almost 5000 feet of elevation in just one week.
Welsh Athletics even got in on the virtual racing with some competitive mile, 5K and 10K events which saw times submitted from some of Wales top athletes right through to runners taking on the distance for the first time. Cardiff Running Events went virtual for their usual Summer Series of 1, 2, 3 and 4 mile time trials and such was the success of those, they ended up continuing and doing a 1, 2, 3 and 4 kilometers series and some longer distances as one-offs after that. Even we got in on the act with our own 5K virtual race using the Open Track website to sign up and submit results which was the place to go for virtual events for the most of the year.
Arguably the biggest one-day virtual event was the London Marathon. 30 OPR runners took on the 26.2 miles in our local area with times ranging from my 3 hours 45 minutes to some who walked it in over 10 hours. Several members took on the distance for the first time as well either in the London virtual or others that went virtual this year. Many other members took on the Snowdonia virtual marathon plus there was also a charity event to do a ‘Marathon in a Day’ giving runners the opportunity to team up to complete the 26.2 miles or do the distance within 24 hours but split over 2 days.
Phoenix Running Virtual Events
A company we became particularly aware of was Phoenix Running Events – Chris Pratt had done a couple of their actual races last year but it was their alternative virtual challenges with huge shiny medals that caught a lot of our members’ attention. In June, 26 of us took on the P24 which was a challenge to run 1 mile, on the hour, every hour, from 8am on Saturday morning with the final run at 7am on Sunday morning. A few of us ended up doing more than 1 mile on some of them with many topping up to marathon distance whilst I clocked up 45 miles during the event with Gregg Harris and Chris Richards both doing over 30 miles.
In July, there was the P7in7 which set runners a challenge of running every day from Monday to Sunday at the end of the month with a minimum distance of 1 mile per day. Again, I took the opportunity to challenge myself and ended up doing 107 miles in 7 days with runs ranging from 13.1 to 16 miles each day. Several others achieved their highest weekly totals with many choosing to go for 7 miles each day. The challenge was run again in the 7 days leading up to Christmas with Sarah Davies and others amongst a smaller group who signed up for that one.
In October they ran another P24 except this one had a twist. It was run over the weekend the clocks went back so it was actually 25 hours. Now it’s probably a reflection on how tough the event is that hardly anyone who did the June version signed up again for the October version so kudos to Leanne Parsons and Chris Roberts who I believe were the only ones to do both. A number of other members also completed it for the first time. The company ran the event again in the weekend before Christmas and again on December 31st but I think all of our members that were interested in taking on the event were satisified with their previous attempts and to leave it there! I’m sure it might be popular again should they run it in the summer next year and something I think people would still sign up for even when events return.
The Sunflower Relay
Early in the first lockdown Liz Sim and Steven James came up with the idea of a virtual relay. The idea was that a member would carry a virtual sunflower from one location to another, taking photos along the way of places that might meant something to them, or the club, or just because it was a nice route / setting. Another member would then volunteer to take on the next leg and start from where ‘Sally the Sunflower’ had been dropped off and go onto another location of their choice. It proved hugely popular and we ended up with a waiting list and people snapping up the next leg within minutes or sometimes seconds of the previous one being posted. It ended with more than 20 members joining Liz Sim for part or all of a marathon distance run from the top of Bwlch to Porthcawl for the 100th leg with an estimated 850 miles being run by our members from the end of March to the end of August.
The biggest single event of the year was the Builth Wells and District Relay (BaD Relay) which took place in June. Little did I know that when I volunteered to put a team together that I would end up with 5 teams and 123 members involved. The relay started at 5am and finished at 8pm with most runners doing 30 minute slots. We then had one team of ‘long distance’ runners made up of just Steven James, Kris Denholm, Chris Pratt and Simon Harrison who would run the 15 hours between just 4 of them. We also had 1 team made up of ‘Phoenix Flyers’ who finished 9th overall in the standings. Some teams also included juniors meaning we had runners aged from 6 years old to 60+.
The relays were repeated again in October and this time we had 110 runners across 6 teams with a mixture of 30 and 60 minute slots for most. We again had a competitive ‘Flyers’ team who did even better than the first relay and finished 3rd overall.
The top 3 in the October relay were Run4All, Port Talbot Harriers and OPR, so an idea was hatched that the 3 clubs set up their own relay. This one would be over 2 days with 30 minute slots from 6am to 6pm meaning 48 runners in total. It was done on a first come, first served basis rather than choosing the ‘best 48 avaiable’ which is what the other two clubs said they had done. Another great weekend of running and a third placed finish behind some crazy fast performances from the other clubs.
I have no doubt that there’ll be more of these relay events early in 2021 and again it may be something that continues even when races return.
On top of the vast amount of virtual challenges on offer, some members also took it upon themselves to set their own personal goals. This ranged from first 10K’s to weekly or monthly mileage targets and in some cases more extreme. There are too many to mention but some that stood out include Dai James, Neil Price, Gareth Richards, Kris Denholm and Sian Thomas who all ran their fastest marathon times by just getting out there and doing it (not as part of a race or virtual event). Jo Gamba set herself a challenge of running 20 Half Marathon distances or more in 2020 and ended up doing 30. I was going to do the same challenge and ended up running 61 distances of half marathon or more.
Liz Sim, Gareth Richards, Steven James and Kris Denholm all ran ultra marathon distances of between 30-50 miles – again, just because, and not part of race or virtual event. Steven James ran a ‘Fastest Known Time’ for the Limestone Way 40 mile route. I ran 100K (62.2 miles) in 12 and a half hours for my own personal challenge.
Kris Denholm completed LEJOG, Wales Coastal Path and the Everest challenge, and also ran every day of the year to clock up 3000 miles for the year finishing with an astonishing 18:12 fastest 5K on the final day of the year despite having never broken 20:00 in an official event. Several of us ran 2020 miles in 2020 (averaing around 5.5 miles per day) which included myself, Gareth Richards, Dai James and Neil Price amongst others. Sarah Davies clocked up more virtual events than anyone else on her way to clocking over 2000 miles.
Of course, it’s not just about those about those top 5% of crazy mileage members as throughout our ever expanding membership group there were a huge number who ran their fastest times of the year, longest single distance and / or highest mileage week / month / annual total.
Virtual Training Sessions
The first lockdown meant a lenghty period of not being able to gather for training sessions with sporadic stop / starts since the summer. Throughout those times our coaches and Lirfs have posted on the usual training days to set us a training plan whether it be hills, efforts or sometimes just a bit of fun like discovering a new route or taking some photos on a run. Our Welsh Athletics award winning coach, Emma Loyns, even did some online core strength sessions early in the lockdown period which proved popular with many members.
Jayne Bissmire did multiple posts on some of our ‘key workers’ that we have in the club which was a great insight to a variety of different roles that our members do for their day to day occupations and a nice way to say thank you for their hard work.
Chris Pratt was invited to do a Ted Talk around ‘building a community through running’ which can be found here
Chris also done an hour long webinar for Welsh Athletics on “Creating and maintaining a fun and effective training environment in a community running club” which is a fantastic insight to the history of the club to where we are now. This can be found here
We had a Virtual Quarantine Quiz with our quizmaster Dan Clark back in May with over 50 members involved.
Jamie Bevan has regularly contributed his running poems to our Facebook group reflecting the current situation and often including encouragement and inspiration for us to keep running.
There was also the Phantom Phoenix (who as far as I know still hasn’t been revealed). The Phantom placed stones decorated with Phoenix logos around the county which members discovered on their runs.
The support from our members has been incredible this year. A group of members put themselves forward as contacts for other members to talk to if they are struggling or just need someone to talk to duing these strange times. We’ve also had support from various members with ensuring latest COVID guidelines were adhered to and written up in order for training to recommence.
Multiple members including myself, Debbie Bennion, Steven James, Liz Sim, Jayne Bissmire, Pippa Clark and Chris Pratt were mentioned in a Welsh Athletics article as part of Volunteers Week quite early on in the year but there’s so many others that have contributed as well and since that time.
Chairmans Runners of the Month
Our chairman, Chris Pratt, has continued to award the male and female runners of the month at the end of each of one of monthly review blogs. Well done to the list of winners below…
January – Dai James and Anne Lalic
February – Paul Iskander and Angharad Hinam
March – Nicky Bennett and Claudine Nicholson Lewis
April – Jamie Bevan and Sian Tossell
May – Keith Coleman and Maria George
June – Rob Loyns and Ceri James
July – Gareth Jenkins and Claire Dunbar-Bowen
August – Rhodri Thomas and Fiona Drysdale
September – Steven James and Liz Sim
October – Gary Piper and Kyleigh Lecrass
November – Ken Salvatore and Sarah Davies
December – Gareth Richards and Sian Price
Welsh Athletics Award
What a year! Races and parkruns cancelled from the end of March onwards, in person training sessions off for over half of the weeks of the year, local lockdowns, national lockdowns and firebreaks…. yet somehow our club has still managed to make the most of the situation and still have an incredible year. In a lot of cases, I really believe that many of us have enjoyed our running and achieved more this year than if things had just been ‘normal’. It would have been so easy for the club to essentially ‘shut up shop’ and for the committee and volunteers to take a break but it’s been the opposite. We’ve never had so many members coming forward to support, whether it’s thinking up and sharing virtual events and challenges, helping to provide COVID secure training sessions or being on the end of the phone for support to anyone who needs it.
Whilst I’ve tried to cover as much as possible, this summary doesn’t cover half of the work that goes on behind the scenes with our committee, elected members, volunteers and members. A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed this year whether you’re involved on a daily basis or have just encouraged others or been part of one the dozens of events mentioned.
I think we can all agree the club is very deserving of our Welsh Athletics Award of Inspirational Club of the Year.