February 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

A great start to the month with 63 runners making it the second highest attendance since October. Neil Price clocked the fastest time whilst Claire Dunbar-Bowen set the fastest female time in the first 5K of a longer run.

We hit 70 submissions for the second virtual parkrun of the month with the help of the Valentines relay encouraging people to get out there. Most of us would have experienced some snow on our run but also up to minus 8 wind chills making the amount even more impressive. Rhodri Thomas clocked the fastest time whilst Melanie Thomas reclaimed the fastest female time after a few weeks of others taking that title.

A small drop in week 3 back to 58 which is still way higher than we’d seen in previous months. Kris Denholm led the way with a 20:13 to start his ‘Marathon of a Weekend’ whilst Sian Price ran a speedy 22:29. Also worth a mention is Gareth Davies who having broke his foot a year ago which meant no running for several months, has steadily improved his times and ran 21:50 which is back towards his regular parkrun sort of times as well as being a ‘qualifying time’ for the Phoenix Flyers.

Back up into the 60’s for the final weekend of the month with another improvement for Gareth Davies with a 21:41. Sian Price made it two weeks in a row as our fastest female time submitted.

Welsh Athletics Virtual events

The Welsh Road Relays 5K period started in mid December but the orginial period to complete the event was extended to mid January. Philippa Rees was first in the W70 age category with a time of 1:05:48 whilst Judith Jeeves was first in the W60 age category with 29:24. Sarah Davies set a fantastic time of 23:53 for first in the W45 category. A PB time of 20:55, making her the fastest current female member in the club earned Sian Price 2nd in the W35 category. Carl Walsh, set the fastest time of any OPR member with 18:19 for 4th fastest in the M45 category. Steven James ran one of his fastest 5K times with a 19:22 for 5th in the M40 category. There were several other great performances with many more OPR members submitting times as well.

The Welsh Athletics Winter Virtual 10K was set for the final weekend of January and again Carl Walsh clocked our fastest time with a 42:44. Ken Salvatore was first in the V50 category with 48:03 with fellow Phoenix member Chris Pratt second in the same category and Chris Richards 4th. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was 2nd in her age category with an impressive 48:38. Leigh Forman, who also ran in the 5K relay, was 1st in the W55 category whilst there were also times submitted elsewhere by Jamie Bevan who clocked his best 10K time and Nick Harris.

The Welsh Athletics next event in their series of Road Relays was the 5 miler with Carl Walsh making it a trio of WA virtual events where he topped our club’s times with a 35:27. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was next up with 38:24. We had 11 runners altogether including Ken Salvatore, Chris Pratt, Jamie Bevan, Paul Barrett, Melinda Thomas, Kaye Pedler, Leigh Forman, Alexis Barrett and Huw Jenkins.

There was an impressive turnout of 18 runners for the Welsh Athletics 1 mile virtual event. Rhys Young ran 5:40 to finish 5th in the senior category (under 35) with some Elite level competition included. Ken Salvatore was 3rd in the M50 category with 6:13 whilst Claire Dunbar Bowen was 3rd in the W45 category with 6:59. Several doubled up using the mile as part of their ‘Marathon of a weekend’ challenge.

OPR Valentines Relay

After the success of last months sunrise run / photo challenge, the race committee came up with a Valentines Relay for this months activity. The idea was that you put your name forward to run / walk 5K and were put into a draw to be randomly allocated a team. You were then encouraged to get in touch with your teammates meaning you might get chatting to or encouraging members you may not have messaged or spoken to before. The idea was participation and encouragement rather than a serious competition. 60 members signed up to make 15 teams of 4. Although it wasn’t about the times, I’m still going to congratulate Team 3 consisting of Garry Jones, Jamie Bevan, Louise Foster and Stephanie Dyke on being the fastest team. Incredibly, despite adding 4 randomly selected members times together, there was actually a tie for second team with both teams having the same time to the second. They were teams consisting of Karl Johnson, Liz Davis, Sally Littlehales and Phill Iveson who drew against a team of Chris Bimson, myself, Melinda Thomas and Gareth Thomas. Great fun had by all with many of the runs being done whilst it was snowing and dozens of supportive messages and selfies posted on Facebook.

OPR Triple Crown weekend

With Wales playing England for the chance of the Triple Crown on the final weekend, Sarah Davies suggested to the race committee that we did a challenge to do 3 walks or runs over a 4 day period with a minimum of submitting a 1 mile, 2 mile and 5K activity to make up the triple crown of activities. A huge amount of members got involved on a glorious weekend of weather.

Virtual challenges

Another catch up – Denise Bradley completed the Wales Coastal Challenge on the 5th January having started the virtual 870 mile journal on 15th June last year. Leanne Parsons completed the same challenge early this month (Feb 2021) having started around the same time as Denise. Since then Gregg Harris has also completed the challenge whilst we still have a few on their way round. Ken Salvatore completed the Grand Canyon virtual challenge early in the month. Emma Loyns completed the challenge at the end of the month, running the 280 miles in just 8 weeks having set herself a target of 12 weeks.

Several also completed the Newport Virtual Half Marathon on the final weekend of the month.

BCRL – Marathon of a Weekend

The Bridgend County Running League (BCRL) came up with a challenge of running 5 virtual events over 2 days which added up to a distance of 26.2 miles. The events had to be completed at certain times during the weekend and submitted asap afterwards making it an exciting ‘live’ event with a quick turnaround of results from the Welsh Athletics Volunteer of the Year, Chris Jeynes. It started with virtual parkrun at 9am on Saturday morning, followed by a Half Marathon early Saturday afternoon. Sunday then involved a 10K, a 4.5K Cross Country and a mile to finish. There were options for runners to enter in teams of up to 5 or as individuals. Chris Pratt and Kris Denholm were 2 of just 9 men to take on all 5 events themselves finishing in 9th and 6th respectively. We had 3 mixed teams including ‘Heathers Heroes’, ‘We get locked down, but we get up again…’ and ‘Team Clark’, whilst an all male team, ‘Connect Four’, finished runners up in that particular category to Bridgend. A great event with 124 runners from local clubs getting involved and plenty of people passing one another on the way for a friendly wave or shout of encouragement.

World Record Holders!

More than 20 OPR members are now official world record holders. Anyone who officially entered and completed the Virtual London Marathon 2020 contributed to setting a world record for the most finishers in a virtual marathon. It’s likely to be beaten this year with the announcement that they will accept 50,000 virtual places this year alongside the actual event, but we can all claim to be world record holders for a few months at least and have the opportunity to beat it again if we want.

London Marathon ballot

With the odds being very slim of getting in for the October 2021 event given the marathon would already have been at least half full of last years deferrals, it was great news that some of our members did get in. The first one who confirmed their place when the results started coming through on 8th Feb was none other than our Chairman, Chris Pratt. Chris previously ran the marathon back in 2012 but has been unsuccesful in the ballot ever since and was even drawn out as the ‘3rd club place’ one year only for the goalposts to be changed on number of places allocated down to 2 that particular year which meant he missed out. Peter Harrop, Jay Howells, Kevin Raymond and Wayne Randall were also succesful in the ballot whilst we have a significant number of runners who will have deferred their places from last years postponements.

Miles for Mind

Phoenix Knights were back in action again for another monthly challenge raising funds for Mind. Captain Bissmire assembled an impressive crew of 72 Phoenix members and friends of the club to again pledge mileage goals to aim to achieve by the end of the month. Yet again, the majority smashed their targets with impressive efforts by all concerned and fantastic to see many getting back out there regularly despite the changable weather conditions throughout the month which ranged from sub zero temperatures and snow, to 15 degrees and sunshine.

Marathon mayhem

The bonkers mileage continued for several runners. Gareth Richards continued to do his weekly marathon and on week 7 in a row, ran yet another fastest personal marathon time of 3: 12. He did ‘take it easy’ in week 8 ‘only’ running 3:34 before running 3:15 on week 9. Sarah Davies was joined by Leigh Richards-Francis to run her second marathon of the year whilst there were several other members notching up big mileage runs and monthly totals.

Two Podcasts and an Asics Frontrunner

Our chairman Chris Pratt got interviewed for Front Runner Radio a few weeks ago with the episodes being released this month. The podcast is hosted by one of the organisers of Front Runner Events who run the Llanelli, Great Welsh and Swansea Half Marathon events which dozens of our runners have entered over the past few years. I listened to it the day it was released and can highly recommend as a great insight into how Chris went from a non-runner around 10 years ago to becoming chairman of our club and on his way to completing 100 marathons.

What a month it was for Chris – not only did he get a London Marathon place in the ballot and his podcast interview released… he also got interviewed by Holly Rush (former Wales Commenwealth Games Marathon Runner) for the Marathon Talk podcast. For those that aren’t familiar with it, Marathon Talk is the number 1 running podcast in the UK with over 5 million downloads since it started over 10 years ago. Their former interviewees include Paula Radcliffe, Mo Farah, Seb Coe, the Brownlee brothers, and basically every famous runner going. Watch this space for when the episode is likely to be released.

If that all isn’t enough – Chris also found out this month that he was selected as one of Asics ‘Frontrunner’ Team. Just 5 people in the UK are selected for the team from 2,600 applicants. It’s an amazing opportunity to run some big races, test out Asics products and plenty more. Look forward to seeing what it brings over the next year.

Last Runner Standing

Steven James, Kris Denholm and I participated in the Infinity Running Last Runner Standing. This involved running 4 miles on the hour, every hour, untl you can’t do any more. We started at 8am on Saturday along with 32 others. Different approaches were taken – Steven did a similar route every hour from his house and back. Kris mixed it up with local outdoor loops and treadmill running. I decided to go ‘out and about’ for the first 9 hours going to Southerndown and Ogmore by Sea before returning home and then a pretty much marathon distance loop to Parc Slip, Kenfig Nature Reserve, Merthyr Mawr sand dunes and back home again. I then alternated between two different 4 mile loops from home and back. It took until 11 hours (44 miles) for it to be whittled down to the last 10 with our 3 OPR still standing and only 2 more dropped out in the next 20 miles. In a dramatic turn of events, the field was halved after 18 hours (72 miles) when 4 of us dropped out including myself and Kris at 2am on Sunday morning. Steven continued and ended up winning on the 21st hour finishing at 4:41am.

Over to Chris for this months Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

What an amazing month!  We are still experiencing very tight restrictions and yet we are continuing to get out there in numbers!  It’s mightily impressive to see.

This month I have been inspired so much by seeing everyone just get out there and get on with it.  That amazing resolve that we Phoenix possess.  We overcome.  My first choice today is one such person.  When life throws a whole heap of challenges our way we do our very best to soldier on.  The last year has seen many things get flung in our direction and batting them off has been a constant challenge.  We have all had different experiences of the crisis.  Our exposure to it has been varied.  Some are thrust into the midst of it and, while still dealing with a busy family household, have to go out and work in an environment where the exposure is great.  Add to that a heavy organisational commitment to the club and then a desire to get out and run is defeated by a bout of illness.  Not one to be defeated, the illness dispensed with and sent on it’s way, my first choice of runner got out there.  Signing up for Miles for MIND, the distance and frequency of the activities steadily increased until a regular pattern was forming.  It’s that consistency that is key – one of my favourite bits of advice – be consistent.  It’s not about heroics, it’s about just getting out there as regularly as you can.  Getting involved in virtual races and challenges along the way, representing the club.  Clocking up the miles to reach the target at the end of the month, all on top of a plethora of other responsibilities.  Battling back to full health.  A commitment that has inspired me massively this month to get out there myself.  I am absolutely delighted to announce my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month as Pippa Clark – with an additional special mention for Eva, who has supported mum in the challenge, sharing many of her miles from this month.  Well done Pippa, thank you for all that you do and keep inspiring us all.

Often in our running their is a hiatus.  Many of us experience it.  A downtime.  A time when other things come along to draw us away or the passion simply subsides.  That word, mojo.  It fades away and we are left stranded.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to come back from that.  The passion is gone that drove us along before, and it takes more than just starting back up again to reignite it.  But sometimes, just sometimes, the fire does get relit.  Something comes along which starts the process again. Getting over that initial hurdle of heading out and then maintaining the habit is what’s needed.  Once it sticks, it becomes easier at each step.  Again it seems to have been sparked by signing up for a challenge.  A challenge compounded by another challenge on top.  Having that incentive to stick at it is so helpful and here it certainly worked. With only one run since the end of November, February was the comeback.  50 miles pledged and 50 miles completed – but not only that but a consistent routine throughout.  Sharing the marathon of a weekend challenge with one other meant a extra commitment that led to half marathon distance being on the cards.  Longest run in a long time.  It was a challenge and I was personally very lucky to be able to share some of the miles on it by pure chance after connecting with him half way round.  The legs have kept moving since and I sincerely hope this is his return to regular running.  It’s hard to start again as many will attest to, but to embrace it like this and see it through is mightily impressive and worthy of commendation.  I am absolutely delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month as Dan Clark.  Please keep it up Dan, you’ve started the journey back admirably – keep it going now you’ve got momentum!

Well done family Clark – you have inspired us all this month!!  Keep up the good work.