May 2021 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

The first Saturday of the month saw 39 submissions with Neil Price topping the list overall and Fiona Drysdale bagging the fastest time for the ladies. The numbers dropped to 31 for the second weekend with Gareth Davies and Jo Gamba topping the male and female times respectively.

A post from our Chair mid month revealed that over the previous 61 weeks since we started doing virtual parkruns, we had surpassed 3,000 virtual parkruns between us averaging over 50 per week. That weekend saw a slight increase back towards that average with 46 times submitted. Neil and Sian Price not only topped the male and female times, but had the fastest two times overall.

The fourth virtual parkrun-day of the month saw 43 times submitted with Neil and Sian repeating their impressive feat of posting the fastest times overall and the final weekend saw 36 runs submitted with Neil and Sian making it a hat-trick of fastest times.


At the Glastonbury 10K, our April Female Runner of the Month Lisa King ran 45:10. The time earned her a second club age category record just one week after her outstanding half marathon time.

At the Worcester Marathon we had 4 members in attendance which makes it our biggest attended race since the Dragon 50/100 in September last year. Gareth Richards completed his first official race marathon of the 20 marathon distance runs he had completed up to this point in 2021, and bagged himself a huge official PB of 3:18:07, knocking 12 minutes off his previous best official marathon time. He was also 14th overall in the race and his time earned him a club age category record. Carl Walsh ran 3:59 in his 58th official marathon. Wayne Randall ran 4:26 to obliterate his previous best marathon time. Chris Pratt ran 4:37 in what was his 41st official marathon.

Carl was back in action again later in the month with the Barry Track Marathon…. yes, track as in 400m running track… 105 laps! He completed the bonkers event (which also has a 40 mile option?!) in an impressive 3:33:24.

Virtual events and challenges

The virtual events continue as we await races and parkruns to return in Wales. This months addition to the virtual hall of fame is Stephanie Dyke who completed the Welsh Coastal Path challenge on the first day of the month after 10 months of logging the miles to reach the target of 870 miles. Many others are at various stages having started at different points throughout last year or this year.

Gareth Richards has continued his marathon running expliots and is now on 22 marathons in 22 weeks. Gareth has already ran 1,000 miles this year whilst I’m due to join him in passing that total within the first week of June. I continue on my ultra running journey and ran over marathon distance for the 8th time this year with a 31.1 mile (50K) route from Bridgend to the Bwlch via Ogmore Valley and then back via the Garw Valley having started at 430am.

There were also some impressive firsts in the month. One of our junior members Katy Griffiths ran Half Marathon distance for the first time with a route starting from the Bwlch and finishing at Newbridge Feilds. The Phoenix members were out in force with more than a dozen different runners joining her for sections of the run, and despite some pretty wet conditions for the end of the run, there were many in attendance to cheer her across the virtual finish line at Newbridge Fields.

Melanie Thomas ran her first marathon distance. The final sunflower relay route from the Bwlch to the seafront in Porthcawl appears to become ‘a thing’ after many choose it for their Virtual London Marathon route last October and then Katy starting her half marathon from there. Melanie decided to go for this route as well and had been training for the distance for many weeks. It wasn’t about the time but if Melanie repeats her 4:28 in an official race then that puts her up with the top 10 or so female marathon times in the club. Again, friends, family and Phoenix members joined in at various points to run with Melanie or cheer her on.

Possibly the most unexpected challenge was from Linda Harris. Undoutably inspired by her son – Ogmore Phoenix legend and two-time 100 mile ultra finisher – Nick Harris, Linda who was only known to most of us as a parkrunner, decided to attempt to complete 50 miles along the coastal path. Not only that, but she chose to start at the starting point for the Dragon 100 in Rhossili which Nick completed a couple of years ago. I did this route for my 12 hour run last month and whilst it’s a specatular route in terms of scenary, it’s very challenging in terms of terrain and elevation. Linda and Nick set off on Saturday morning at 7:34am and finished in Porthcawl, 22 hours and 42 minutes later at 6:16am on Sunday morning. What an incredible achievement. Interestingly of our current members, it’s only Nick himself that has done a run with a longer elapsed time than that. Linda can now claim the longest distance covered by any current female member of the club as well as the longest time from the start to finish of a run.

Miles for Mind

The latest monthly challenge saw dozens of Phoenix setting themselves mileage targets for the month of May to raise funds and awareness for the charity Mind. Well done to everyone who participated whether you reached your target or didn’t quite get there. Picking out a few highlights, Denise Bradley ran/walked an astonishing 248.2 miles as her training ramps up for the 2 day Race for the Stones 100K event. Melanie Thomas clocked up 172 miles whilst many others clocked three-figure mileage including coach Kembo which is amazing to see after over a year of slowly building back up the mileage.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

So good to see events already returned and more on the horizon, especially with many within our midst setting their sights on getting back to crossing a finish line.  In the meantime many are still taking on virtual challenges and setting themselves their own goals to keep up the motivation.  My first choice for this month falls into that category and recently tackled a feat of incredible endeavour.  Keeping quiet about training taking place in the background it was a surprise to many when advertised that it was taking place.  A determination to succeed that was admirable from the outset.  The ambition was to finish, nothing more, but also nothing less!  Perhaps there’s something in the genes as it’s a trait we’ve seen from the same pool on a number of occasions.  Quietly setting slightly larger goals and taking them on over several months.  Increasing distance and time on feet.  Appropriate and measured preparation that should be applauded.  It was a big target but it was always approached with a sensible head.  She had her son alongside her, not only for moral support but for his wisdom having completed double the distance on a couple of occasions.  The plan was always 50 miles along the Wales Coastal Path.  Rhossili to Porthcawl.  Starting where the path wanders up and down as well as hugging the coast.  Particularly testing for the legs.  The impetus was raising funds.  Committing to something like that can be the catalyst that drives training and can also be the inspiration when the going gets tough on the actual event.  That was definitely the case.  A huge distance was covered.  Time mattered not.  This was about achieving the goal.  With determination they kept going through day and night to arrive the following morning, exhausted but elated.  An incredible feat and one that shows the power of commitment and determination.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for May to Linda Harris.  Well done Linda.  Thank you for the inspiration!

Again, this is an accolade being presented to someone who has floated a little under the radar over the last few months.  Occasional posts spotted of miles being clocked up in the background.  Distances slowly increasing but without a clear idea of where it will lead.  Something that’s commonplace with events taking place sporadically and surrounded by uncertainty.  We all know that to run long distance requires commitment to a training schedule.  When there isn’t a guarantee of an end goal it’s often about just keeping the miles up and preventing the body from picking up an injury.  Commitment and focus is required to keep this going.  It’s clearly been shown here.  When the training goes well and a race appears on the horizon, it’s natural to sign up.  Nerves and uncertainty of how it might pan out are to be expected.  Setting out sensibly and then feeling good when the demons usually appear to bring doubt into the equation are a recipe for success.  I was lucky to witness this first hand.  As my own legs faded I watched my choice of runner disappear into the distance, steadily and consistently forging forward.  The outcome was a new best time at marathon distance.  The training had been done.  The commitment was there on the day.  The desired time was beaten with smiles at the finish line!  Good preparation and execution.  All compounding to create a positive mindset for setting running plans for the future.   A great example of what can be achieved when you set your mind to it.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for may to Wayne Randall.  Fantastic work Wayne.  I’m really looking forward to where this leads over the coming year.

Special mention this month to a junior with ambition.  Endeavour that captured the hearts of many of our senior members.  Members who joined the cause to provide support on a journey that inspired.  Last month I acknowledged the support of one who showed enormous Phoenix Spirit to provide a vital role in this journey.  Today I acknowledge the feat itself.  A half Marathon. Special mention to Katy Griffiths for setting a goal, training for it with focus, leading to succesful completion and inspiring many of us in the process.   Well done Katy.  I sense a great number of endurance events taking place in the future…  Events that will be acknowledged with similar accolades to those I post monthly in the future I’m sure.  Keep inspiring.

April 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

The first Saturday of the month saw a boost in numbers largely down to the virtual relay doubling up for submissions. 53 virtual parkrun submissions with many over 5K this week. Gareth Davies and Deborah Edwards submitted the fastest male and female times respectively.

With restrictions lifting, the numbers have dropped in recent weeks with 32 submissions for the second weekend. Neil Price and Fiona Drysdale taking the top spots for fastest times. Back up to 42 for the third weekend with Gareth Davies and Claire Dunbar Bowen at the top. It was a Neil Price and Fiona Drysdale double for the final weekend of the month with 42 submissions.

Races – yes – real ones!

With travel to England now permitted, some of our newer members headed across the bridge for the first official race finishes by OPR members in 2021. Carl Walsh and Neil Ridley ran together at the Shepperdine Marathon finishing in 3:45. It was Neil’s first official event for the club whilst Carl was one of only a handful of members to get a couple of races in during late summer in 2020 shortly after joining.

In the Half Marathon, another brand new member, Lisa King made a name for herself with an outstanding 5 minute PB to clock a 1:39:39. A female 40-44 age category club record as well going straight to the top of the female half marathon rankings for current members and the second fastest in the clubs history.

Virtual events

Whilst we patiently wait for events to re-start in Wales, our members have continued with the virtual challenges.

Wales Coastal Path and LEJOG

Alun Wylde completed the 870 mile Wales Coastal Path challenge with a couple of months to spare finishing in 275th place. Sian Jenkins was next up to the complete the same challenge. Melanie Thomas completed the 874 mile Lands End to John O’Groats virtual challenge in style with a 20.3 mile run which was her longest ever. Melaine also completed the challenge in just 23 weeks.

Virtual Insanity 12 Hour Challenge

Following on from the success of the Last Runner Standing event, Infinity Running decided to set another huge challenge – how far can you go in 12 hours. Orginially set for 2 dates in April, it ended up being a month long challenge that you could do at any point during the month if you wanted to be in contention for the longest distance prize. The event is still open if others want to complete it at some point in the future.

I set out on the first Saturday of the month and got Jo to drop me off in Rhossili (over 50 miles from home). I then ran/walked for 12 hours along the coastal path (with a few intentional and unintentional detours) until my time ran out as I got to Rest Bay in Porthcawl having clocked 53.7 miles. I held onto top spot in the challenge for a couple of weeks before someone clocked just 2 miles more and then another smashed it with 65 miles completed. At the time of writing, the final results haven’t been published yet although it looks like I probably submitted the 3rd furthest distance.

Vale Virtual

Unfortunately the Vale races which are one of the highlights in the club’s calendar each year had to be postponed for the 3rd time, but this time the organisers at Run Walk Crawl decided to set a virtual challenge over the week leading up to what would have been the race weekend. Options were to run any of the 3 distances – 10 miles, 18.5 miles or 32 miles in one go, the ‘Triple Crown’ challenge which was to run all 3 distances over the course of a week, or the ‘Grand Slam’ challenge which was to run all 3 distances over the weekend the race should have taken place.

Garry Jones, Wayne Randall, Debbie Bennion, Sharon Pritchard and Melanie Thomas all completed the 18.5 mile virtual. Our club made up 5 of the 12 submissions for that distance.

Three runners took on the Triple Crown challenge with Kris Denholm submitting the fastest cumulative time overall with an incredible 8 hours 26 minutes to cover the total distance of 60.5 miles over the 3 runs which is an average of 8 minutes 42 seconds per mile. Ken Salvatore was 3rd with 11 hours 23 minutes, whilst Emma Loyns submitted the fastest female time overall with 12 hours 34 minutes. All chose to do their 32 milers first and then tick off the 10 and 18.5 later in the week.

We then had one runner who took things to the extreme and created his own challenge. How about all 3 distances in one day! That’s what Gareth Richards decided to do clocking 60.5 miles in 10 hours and 26 minutes which would have been quick enough to win the ‘Grand Slam’ challenge. Gareth also continued his run of a marathon every week and is now on 17 in 17 weeks.

Return to Training

Whilst our juniors had been back for a few weeks with great sessions on the sand dunes, Pandy Park, Parc Slip and Newbridge Fields, the week commencing 26th April saw the return to training for the adults. The return saw an even greater variety of sessions than ever before. Monday saw Emma Loyns take her virtual Zoom strength and conditioning sessions outdoors with a session on the beach in Porthcawl with the customary paddle in the sea afterwards for those that fancied it. Touring Tuesday saw club training in Pencoed whilst Wednesday had 3 available sessions with two groups heading out from Ynysawdre and the Flyers doing a lung-busting 8 x 800m session on the Planka playing fields in Nantymoel. Despite taking on a hilly trail route called ‘the Beast’, the Thursday session in Ogmore Vale was the first session to fill up. Then another 2 sessions are due on Sunday with a trail session around Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes and Social Sunday heading up to Ogmore Vale to complete the valley loop.

Over to Chris for the runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner of the Month

It’s been an interesting month, so much on the horizon. Events return! Yes, events. It’s the start of a return. As things return, people get bold and start signing up again. Exciting to see and exciting times to come.

My first choice this month is a new name to us all. Having joined in the new year she has set her stall out early with noticable high mileage training months. Getting involved straight away by making a significant contribution to get us to Phoenix, Arizona, and back, on our challenge. It’s always difficult when we don’t have a measure by which to make a relative assessment, but when someone arrives and notches up a significant club time it’s something that doesn’t go unnoticed. Events have returned and some are seeking them out. Travelling back across the border it was a half marathon on the cards for my choice of runner. The world is seeing big records falling in the athletics world right now and many setting their own best times. This is no exception as a huge 5 minute personal best was set on a warm day. An improvement of 5 minutes bringing a time down to 1:39 is an impressive result! We are uniquely poised to have great recall of all our historical club stats (thanks to statto Gareth Jenkins) and it slips into the records as an age category club record, takes her straight to the top of the female half marathon rankings and it is the second fastest female time in the clubs history! Worthy of accolade and makes us excited to see what will follow. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Lisa King! Keep up the good work Lisa and we look forward to seeing what the year brings as more events appear on the calendar! Well done.

My second choice is a familar face. Someone we’ve known for some time. Always impressing us with both running and support of others. Like many of us, not always a runner. There are many stories within our midst. Some start in early life and the history is long. Some of us come to it later in life, for many different reasons. Running is therapy and so often fuelled by passion and determination. When that takes hold, it can often be infectious and inspiring to those looking on. Encouragement given to them is echoed to others. They become the mentor. When that not only inspires peers, but also family members, it is very special. Our kids are the future. By setting an example we can inspire them to great things. We are seeing that happen here. That passion, enthusiasm and desire to inspire have fuelled a junior mission. Relentless support throughout the last couple of months has led to a run of mammoth proportions. A half marathon that is inspiring us all and the training miles have been selflessly supported by one runner who deserves an accolade to match. We value this level of support – it typifies our ethos and the Phoenix Spirit. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Phill Iveson! A fabulous inspirational commitment – well done Phill, keep up the good work!