February 2023 review


The first Saturday of the month saw 69 members running at 10 different parkrun locations. Only 34 of those were at their home parkruns making it the first time that Porthcawl and Maesteg have gone ahead but we’ve had more runners elsewhere. This was largely due to 19 members running at Minehead parkrun where a load of our female members were staying for an 80’s weekend. There were also 9 at Llanishen parkrun whilst further afield Chris Roberts was at Upton Court and Abbie Lumsden reached UK parkrun tourism status by running her 20th different venue at Clumber Park alongside Jay Howells who recently ran his 50th different venue.

The second Saturday of the month saw 53 members running at 12 different venues. A slight reduction on recent weeks mainly due to some other events that day including the Winter Warmer events, Hoka 10K/Half and a Gwent League fixture. Jay Howells continued his series of milestones with it being his 100th parkrun. I volunteered as a tail walker just an hour or so after finishing a 24 event. Jamie Verran was in Victoria Park in Glasgow where he ran a PB of 18:56 becoming the 13th current member to run under 19 minutes for a 5K. Other tourism included David and Bev Sheard at Pontefract. Claire Goldsworthy ran her 200th parkrun, all of which have been at Porthcawl, whilst Nick Harris became only the second member to run 400 parkruns. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg having been pipped at the line by Nicky Bennett a week previous by 1 second.

The third weekend saw 67 members across a massive 15 different parkrun venues. The largest attendance was at Maesteg for their 200th event which was also Rhodri Thomas 100th parkrun. Jacob Tasker was back finishing almost 3 minutes ahead of the second placed finisher with a 16:51. Our parkrun tourists included Gwyneth Steddy at Omagh, Jamie Verran at Pontefract.

The final weekend of the month saw 70 members across 15 different parkrun venues. It was a weekend of tourism goals with me achieving my ‘Cowell’ (100th different parkrun event) at Woodgate Valley Country Park, Karl getting his ‘Q’ at Queen Elizabeth parkrun and a group of 6 heading over to Belfast for their ‘Q’ at Queens parkrun. Closer to home there were the usual large contingents at Porthcawl and Maesteg where Aled Hughes was celebrating his 300th parkrun. Jacob added another first finish at Maesteg.


The first weekend of the month saw a clash between the latest West Glamorgan XC fixture and a trail championship event at the Reverse 10 miler. At the XC we had our best turnout in quite a while with 22 in attendance although ladies, I do need to point out that it was 17-5 on the male/female split. Nicky Bennett finished 6th overall whilst our first lady was Carys Cronin. Special shout out to Arwen Rees who became our youngest female runner at a cross country event.

At the Reverse 10, Jacob Tasker won in a club record time of 54:49 knocking nearly 7 minutes off the previous club record. It was also Jacobs 4th win in as many weekends. Gareth Richards broke his own over 50’s age category record with a 4 minute PB in 1:04:13. Jade Bazylkiewicz ran a PB of 1:19:39. There were also PB’s for Katie Plimmer and Marianne Patterson who were both close to age category records as well.

The second weekend of the month saw Gareth Richards, Neil Ridley, Ian Lewis and Shelley Evans at the Cardiff Winter Warmer Half Marathon. At the Tough Runner 10K, new member Alex Steddy was first across the line in the 10K followed by another new member, Gavin Howe. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was our first female at the event in which we had 6 OPR member running. In the Half Marathon, Rhodri Thomas ran an outstanding 1:46:46 on a hilly course whilst Emma Loyns was our first female finisher with 5 OPR members running the Half.

Lisa King ran at the Cardiff 10 miler organised by Cardiff Running Events and finished in a speedy 1:17:20. It means in the same month, we’ve seen the 2nd and 3rd fastest ever 10 mile times set by female members of the club with Lisa and Jade. Lisa’s was also a new age category record and less than a minute off the overall club record.

Carol Bartle ran 1:55:46 at the ‘Lets Run Rhyl’ Half Marathon finishing first in her age category.

On the final weekend of the month, Nicky Bennett, Adam Kearns and Toby Kearns represented the club at the Welsh National XC Championships with great performances by all 3.

Ultra Running

There were a couple of big ultra running events during the month. The first was the 5K24 Challenge which was set up by some local lads connected to Bryncethin Rugby / Community Centre. Past challenges have included a marathon and a 24 hour walk to Carmarthen. OPR member Chris Wonka Williams was also one of the main organisers of the event. The challenge was to run 5K on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours starting at 8am on Friday morning (10th Feb), although you could choose you’re own challenge if you wanted to do less, or just turn up and run one hour or several hours. As for how our members got on – our January Male Runner of the Month, David Thomas decided to run 4.2 miles each hour and lasted for 10 hours before having to unfortunately drop out with injury after just over 40 miles. Luke Denholm ran 13 hours of 5K per hour to notch up around 40 miles. Kris Denholm ran one more hour after Luke at 5K per hour before calling it a day/night. Denise Bradley, who turned up saying she was aiming to do the 14 miles that was on her training plan ended up staying for the entire 24 hours, running in 21 of them, and notched up 50 miles. I set my own challenge of run/walking/generally moving forward in some state for 50 minutes of each hour which resulted in doing up to 5.6 miles in the first couple of hours before that reduced more and more and more to the point I finished with 2 miles on the final run. My final total was 88.3 miles…. and then I tail walked at Maesteg parkrun where Kris was also in attendance. Jo Jenkins and Sian Jenkins also popped over on a couple of occasions throughout the 24 hours to do a few runs with Sian doing 15 miles and Jo doing 12 miles. A number of other OPR members also came along to support.

Brecon to Cardiff saw 6 members take on the 43 mile Ultra. Gareth Richards was our first runner across the line in an incredible 6 hours 24 minutes which is well under a 9 minute mile average! He finished in 11th overall. Carl Walsh, Emma Loyns and Ken Salvatore ran the course together finishing in 9 hours 8 minutes. Then came arguably the best story of all – after having to drop out over 30 miles into the race last year, Leanne Parsons was back and completed the course in 10 hours 37 minutes with one of the clubs ultra running legends Elizabeth Sim alongside her. Fantastic efforts by all.

Chairman’s Runners of the month

Lots of amazing running taking place and all worthy of celebration.  

The first person to catch my eye this month has been on a long and measured journey.  A carefully planned approach to a defined goal.  Seeking a path that was both sensible and optimistic.  Showing a resolve that was unswerving.  A determination that wasn’t going to falter.  I’ve said before how much I hold that in high esteem.  The dream doesn’t have to be big.   Pursuance of it is key.  We’ve seen it here.  Setting a dream.  Believing it’s possible and pursuing the right path to achieve it.  Fitting increasingly long runs into a busy life.  Working to the guidance of a coached plan and sticking to it.  Heeding advice.  Sharing the journey along the way and inspiring others with her efforts.  I’ve certainly been inspired.  The final completion of her epic goal ultra marathon was the victory lap of a process worthy of accolade. I am delighted to honour Leanne Parsons as my Chairman’s female runner of the month for February.   Well done Leanne. 

With no need for introductions my next choice has had a place on the podium before.  Admiration for running prowess can be derived from many parameters.  Including, but not limited to, speed, distance, endeavour, effort.  Sometimes all of the above.  Admirable times over long distance.  Endeavour – daring to push boundaries and test where they flex.  Finding that point and going beyond it.  This can be measured over any of the former two.  For our Zero To Hero this might be running constantly for 5 minutes – an achievement worthy of high praise.  For some it’s much further.   They’ve had a longer journey to get there but once faced those same boundaries along the way.  One such person keeps doing it.  Admirable in all regards.  Where will it end is the thought that comes to mind.  Distances many baulk at driving, never mind running.  A recent event, as described in the accolades for my previous choice, saw a record time being set once again.  A significant placing.  A great training regime with a sensible build up often leads to success and is the key to it.  Incredibly impressive and I’m still wondering what the next challenge will be.   A true before and after story of incredible transformation has produced an athlete of significant pedigree.  Huge congratulations to Gareth Richards, my Chairman’s male runner of the month for February.  Well done Gareth.  Keep pushing!!

OPR at Maesteg parkrun – celebrating 200 events

Since the inaugural in July 2017, we’ve had 226 runners registered under OPR that have completed 2,419 runs at Maesteg parkrun. Just to note that these figures do include some juniors and some former members. At that inaugural, we had 35 runners who were members at the time – 30 of which are still members.

Most parkruns at Maesteg

  1. Aled Hughes 100
  2. Niki Puleio 96
  3. Nicky Bennett 76
  4. Kris Denholm 75
  5. Tom Mahoney 69
  6. Toby Kearns 66
  7. Dai Kembery 59
  8. Peter Walsh 57
  9. Denise Bradley 53
  10. Adam Kearns 51

 Keith Coleman could run his 50th Maesteg parkrun at the 200th event to become the 11th member of the club to run at Maesteg on 50 occasions. 

Highest percentage of total parkruns at Maesteg (for those with over 25 runs there) 

  1. Ben Batchelor (26/27) 96.3%
  2. Tom Mahoney (69/73) 94.5%
  3. Emyr Bissmire (41/46) 89.1%
  4. Jacob Tasker (32/36) 88.8%
  5. Carys Cronin (31/35) 88.5%
  6. Nicky Bennett (76/86) 88.4%
  7. Adam Kearns (51/58) 87.9%

 There’s quite a big drop off after that so it’s mainly these 7 that are the ‘Maesteg or nothing’ runners. 

Maesteg first finishers

  1. Jacob Tasker 32
  2. Niki Puleio 9
  3. Josh Parry 6
  4. Nicky Bennett 5
  5. Gareth Richards 2
  6. Toby Kearns 2
  7. Rhys Williams 2
  8. Kyle Blackmore / Steve Holloway / Kris Denholm / James Littlewood / Gareth Battle / Tom Mahoney / Aled Hughes / Adam Kearns / Jamie Verran

 We also had Neil Jones and Adrian Pearce as first finishers when they were members of the club meaning there’s been around 70 times that there’s been an OPR member first across the line at Maesteg. Most of those have been since parkrun returned after the covid pause with 56 out of the last 69 parkruns having an OPR member first across the line.

Female first finishers

  1. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 4
  2. Carys Cronin 3
  3. Sarah Davies 2
  4. Sarah Wilkes 2
  5. Sian Price / Sarah Littlewood / Juliet Amner 1

 Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Male)

  1. Jacob Tasker 16:12
  2. Nicky Bennett 17:53
  3. Josh Parry 18:27
  4. Niki Puleio 18:30
  5. Gareth Richards 18:57
  6. Rhys Williams 18:59
  7. Toby Kearns 19:07
  8. Gareth Battle 19:13
  9. Aled Hughes 19:16
  10. John Burridge 19:20

 We have another 5 current members who have run sub 20 at Maesteg – Neil Price, Jamie Verran, James Littlewood, Adam Kearns and Wayne Hayhurst. 

Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Female) 

  1. Sarah Wilkes 21:23
  2. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 23:04
  3. Sarah Littlewood 23:29
  4. Carys Cronin 23:36
  5. Sian Price 24:18
  6. Kate Lee 24:37
  7. Dawn Hopkins 24:37
  8. Sarah Davies 24:43
  9. Denise Bradley 24:50
  10. Jo Jenkins 24:52

 Top age grade percentages 

  1. Jacob Tasker 79.63%
  2. Gareth Richards 77.22%
  3. Niki Puleio 75.02%
  4. Kris Denholm 75.02%
  5. Aled Hughes 74.13%
  6. Gareth Battle 74.10%
  7. Denise Bradley 73.78%
  8. Jason Griffiths 73.20%
  9. Keith Coleman 72.15%
  10. Nicky Bennett 72.13%

 Judith Jeeves, Claire Dunbar-Bowen and Sarah Davies would be the next ladies. 

Age Category Records at Maesteg (noting any in the top 5) 

SM20-24 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:36

SM25-29 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:12 / 3rd – Nicky Bennett 17:53

VM50-54 – 2nd – Gareth Richards 19:13

VM55-59 – 4th – Kris Denholm 20:29 

SW20-24 – 3rd – Sarah Wilkes 22:06

SW25-29 – 5th – Sarah Wilkes 21:23

VW55-59 – 4th – Denise Bradley 24:50

VW60-64 – 4th – Denise Bradley 25:56 

Biggest OPR attendances at Maesteg 

  1. 11th September 2021 – 45 (Dai Kembery’s 250th parkrun)
  2. 24th December 2022 – 43 (multiple club milestones / Christmas theme)
  3. 3rd August 2019 – 41 (I think this was the morning before a Beer Mile and everyone was dressed up – not sure what the occasion was though)

Volunteering at Maesteg parkrun

  1. Emma Marshall 179
  2. Stephne Puddy 163
  3. Sian Jenkins 51
  4. Nicky Bennett 35
  5. Kris Denholm 31
  6. Jay Howells 26

Over the years there’s been several OPR takeovers where 20+ volunteer roles have been filled by our members so it’s easily the parkrun that has had the most different number of OPR members that have volunteered there at least once.

If you haven’t been to Maesteg parkrun before, then come along for the 200th celebrations or sometime soon. It’s one of the most friendliest, welcoming parkruns around and you’ll be sure to see a Phoenix or two along the way.

January 2023 review


14 members took advantage of the extra parkrun on New Years Day but despite relatively small numbers, we had runners in Wales, England and at two different parkruns in Australia. Our leader in parkrun tourisms coming into this year, Karl Johnson, ran at Marine Parade parkrun (Weston Super-Mare) whilst David Sheard and Chris Roberts added another Australian parkrun to their resumes having been out there on seperate trips for the past couple of weeks.

The first Saturday of the year saw a bumper turnout of 35 at Maesteg for triple celebrations – Claire Dunbar-Bowen was celebrating an official milestone of 50 parkruns, Aled Hughes was running his 100th Maesteg parkrun, whilst it was my 400th parkrun. We had 71 runners across 14 parkruns with Wales, England and Australia seeing OPR members at one or more of their parkruns again.

The second Saturday saw an even bigger turnout at Porthcawl with 40 in attendance – largely down to the BCRL presentation being in the Hi-Tide afterwards which I’ll come back to later. That weekend saw 65 runners across 10 parkruns and whilst Dave and Chris were back from Australia, we did add another country to Wales and England tourism with Kris and Luke Denholm running at parkrun Zielony Jar in Poland.

Icy conditions meant that finding a parkrun going ahead on the 3rd Saturday of the month proved challenging but 48 OPR members did just that and across 9 different parkruns. Most were at Porthcawl where we had 36 runners where Nicky Bennett added himself to the list of first finishers joining the likes of Jacob Tasker and Neil Price.

The final Saturday saw 64 of our members run across 12 different parkrun venues. Jay Howells and Toni Howells both ran their 50th different parkrun venue at Groe with Jay also running his second parkrun/5K PB this month whilst Toni bagged himself a PB in a very successful day for them both. Karl Johnson ran his 200th parkrun which was a milestone Bev Sheard achieved a week previous. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg where OPR members made up the first seven runners. We had a huge tourism turnout of 14 at Llyn Llech Owain which was part of the trail championship.


New Years Day saw a couple of events with the Kenfig Prince of Wales race where 17 of our runners braved cold, windy conditions on the tough sand dune course. Josh Parry was 3rd overall with Jules Esmond being our first female finisher across the line. Later that day we had 5 runners at the Old Father Time 5 miler. A super flat, fast course around Pontcanna Fields where Aled Hughes was our first runner back followed by Chris Collin, Fiona Drysdale, Nick Harris and Linda Harris.

We had 3 runners at the Rogue Runs Off Road Night Race – a trail race over some tricky terrain with apparently some sharp drops to the side of the path – all whilst running in the dark. Well done to Aled, Melanie Thomas and Dawn Hopkins for getting through that one unscathed.

Nine of our runners took on the Lliswerry 8 where new member Kyle Blackmore was our first finisher just ahead of Niki Puleio. Lisa King was our first female across the line. On the same day we also had 14 runners at the popular Riverbank Rollick for roughly 10 miles of mud, mud and more mud before a run through a river at the end. Jacob Tasker won the event in just a few seconds over the hour mark. Jade Bazylkiewicz was our first female OPR member across the finish line with many of our runners running the course together and enjoying the experience – it’s not for everyone that race.

A week later saw Jacob pick up yet another win at the CF64 trail race where we had 6 runners in attendance.

The final event of the month was a West Glamorgan XC fixture at Pembrey Country Park. We had 15 runners in attendance with 12 men and 3 women. Results still to be published at the time of writing. Well done to all those that represented the club.

Finally, on the other side of world, Carl Walsh ran in the First Light Marathon in New Zealand. It’s the 5th different continent that Carl has run a marathon with plans for the 6th and 7th over the next couple of years. The marathon in New Zealand had over 6,400 feet of elevation. To put that in perspective for those that have done Snowdonia Marathon, that’s almost 3 times as much elevation! Good work Carl.

Other Club Activities

This month saw the BCRL presentations at the Hi-Tide after Porthcawl parkrun where 11 of our members collected age category awards – well done to Luke Davis, Kevin Raymond, Gareth Jenkins, Jo Jenkins, Sarah Davies, Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Carl Price, Jacob Tasker, Jade B, Josh Parry and Gareth Richards. Unfortunately Porthcawl were announced as the team winners by mistake (rather than OPR) but this has been rectified on the presentation that has been shared afterwards. Keep an eye out for the 2023 fixtures which are due to be released soon.

The last Sunday of the month saw myself, Chris Pratt and Melanie Thomas attend the Leader in Running Fitness course where OPR member and Welsh Athletics coach Emma Loyns was on hand to share her expertise. Once all the relevant checks have been done then you should see us at training sessions in the near future.

On the final day of the month there was the long awaited return of Zero to Hero with an excellent turnout for the first session and lots of current club members going along to welcome those who took their first steps towards 5K or back towards 5K.

Presentation Night tickets are now on sale for Saturday 4th March. It promises to be a significant night of celebrations with the club celebrating 10 years since it was first formed, our first BCRL win, plus the usual host of awards. Please check your e-mails or our social media pages to find out more about where to purchase tickets.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

Great to be back celebrating the achievements of our members on a monthly basis!  Sorry for the outage!

In true tradition, I’ll choose a female and male runner each month who has done something to merit mention.  It can be absolutely anything – and I’ve said on many occasions it can change month on month.  It’s not all about long miles or speed – although they could be celebrated also.  Anything and everything in between.  First and second choice are not ranked – they are merely the order in which they’ve been written.

My first choice from January is a relative newcomer to the club.  As soon as he showed up at training he had a focus that was unswerving.  Sometimes that’s costly.  Sometimes too much focus in the early stages of a running journey can lead to troubles.  Injuries often strike as the temptation to overtrain overwhelms.  There have been incidents along the road, but now is running on an even keel, so to speak.  Miles increasing with big plans afoot.  Regularly appearing in training sessions photos with a big smile.  Always a warm welcome when you see him.  As the miles increase, the focus seems to as well.  January has been a good month for his running.  Consistent miles, regular training attendance and a determination that is infectious.  Fabulous to see.  I am honoured to award the Chair’s Male Runner of the Month for January 2023 to David Dean Thomas.

My second choice isn’t a stranger to the runner of the month accolade and it was exactly 12 months ago that she was awarded the honour.  I’m always impressed with people who start the year well.  Determination is a powerful attribute.  When it remains and fuels consistency its power is increased.  Life will always make demands on our time and energy.  We so often have to work in parallel with them to get our activities in.  Balance is key.  Mileage and consistency can suffer.  I’m always impressed when that balance is struck and good, quality miles are covered and finished for the month with a beaming smile – something you will so often see here.  Smiling and running consistently towards set goals while balancing real life – what’s not to celebrate. Perhaps also qualifying as a Leader in Running Fitness for the club!  Looking forward to seeing what the year brings for my Chair’s Female Runner of the Month for February 2023, Melanie Thomas!