March 2023 review


The first Saturday of the month saw 65 members in attendance across 9 different parkruns. Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg where OPR had the top 3 spots and returning member Dai James was first finisher at Porthcawl with John Burridge just a few places behind in 6th. Keith Coleman bagged himself a PB at Aberbeeg, whilst our top tourist Chris Roberts added another venue to his growing list with Great Notley.

The second Saturday was 65 members again but this time across 12 parkruns. David Sheard ran at Roma Pineto parkrun in Italy whilst we had runners at Finsbury and Guildford parkruns as well. Stephne Puddy was agonisingly just 1 second off a PB with a superb 29:12 at Riverfront.

The third Saturday saw 69 members across 13 parkruns. It was the second Saturday in a row we didn’t have a first finisher at Maesteg which is a while since that’s happened. Our furthest travelling tourist was Chris Pratt at Brighouse.

The fourth Saturday saw 50 runners across a massive 16 different parkruns. Niki Puleio was first finisher at Maesteg with Luke Davis 3rd across the line.


The month kicked off with Rhayader Round the Lakes where Jacob won the 30K event after winning the 10K last year. He didn’t have it all his own way in this one and only went into first place in the final couple of miles. There were also superb runs from Niki Puleio who was second in his age category and Kris Denholm. Katie Plimmer ran an outstanding 50:55 PB on the bumpy course and was 9th female overall.

On the same day coach Kev, Emma Loyns and Carl Walsh completed the tough Ras Dewi Sant marathon. A day later it was Newport Half Marathon where Steve Holloway ran 1:17:22 for a marker as the fastest half marathon time so far this year. Particular well done to Denise Bradley, Sharon and Debbie who ran after attending presentation night the night before.

A week later it was the turn of the San Domenico 10 and 20 miler. Niki Puleio ran the fastest 20 mile time in the clubs history beating Neil Jones time from the same event 6 years ago and knocking 2 minutes off his own previous best 20 mile time. Gareth Richards ran 2:15:05 which is the fastest 20 miler by anyone over 50 in the club by over 10 minutes. Aled Hughes ran 2:19:14 as his preparation continues for Newport Marathon. Kris Denholm finished in 2:53:59 which is under 3:50 marathon pace rounding off some excellent times by all. In the 10 miler, Jacob Tasker was first in 55:00 missing out on breaking his own club record by 11 seconds. Katie Plimmer ran a 1:26:53 PB for her second 10 mile PB this year. Ian Lewis and Helen Griffiths ran together coming in just over 2 hours.

On the same day it was the Kenfig Sands fixture of the West Glamorgan League. Despite a few of our runners being at other events, it was still a strong performance by both our men’s and women’s teams. Nicky Bennett was 9th overall with Steve Holloway, Toby Kearns, Gareth Battle, John Burridge and Emyr Bissmire making up the scoring places for the men with a further 8 of our male OPR members running. Carys Cronin was our first female followed by Sarah Davies, Arwen Rees, Melanie Thomas, Denise Bradley and Fiona Drysdale. Just a few miles away there was also a new 10K event around Margam Park which Karl Johnson, Leanne Parsons and the newly crowned Runners Runner, Laura Worrall completed. A busy day of races also saw Martin Beard and Claire Dunbar-Bowen complete the Surrey Half Marathon either side of 1:44, and Elizabeth Sim complete the Welsh Coastal Runners 20 miler in 3:15:59.

Last and certainly not least on that weekend, we had Emma Loyns and Carl Walsh battling the brutal 40 mile Beast of the Blacks Ultra in the Black Mountains. The race included almost 10,000 feet of elevation with much of the high ground covered in snow.

A week later (19th March) saw the final fixture of the West Glam XC league with 8 women and 9 men running for the club. Nicky Bennett finished in 6th overall and was followed home by Niki Puleio, Emyr Bissmire, John Burridge, Dylan Panting and Daniel Jenkins. For the ladies, Jade B was first across the line followed by Carys Cronin, Sarah Davies, Denise Bradley, Marianne Paterson and Arwen Rees. In the final standings, the men finished 4th in Division 1 which is the highest our club has ever finished in the league. The ladies finished 6th in Division 2, avoiding relegation and ready for a strong performance next season. Fiona Drysdale and Jamie Verran both ran in all 5 fixtures.

We had 37 runners at the Cardiff Bay 10K. Nicky Bennett ran a PB of 34:08 and was our first finisher across the line. Toby Kearns, Gareth Richards, Aled Hughes, Dylan Panting and Emyr Bissmire all ran sub 40 in times ranging from 37:35 to 39:20. There were PB’s for Jay Howells, Alun Job, Ceri Jones, Toni Howells, Rhys Davies, Terri Leigh Roche, Leanne Parsons and Laura Worrall, whilst it was a first event for the club for Kierran Spiers parents Sianed and Sam.

I was back on the Ultra running trail with another alternative event. This time I was escaping from an ever-expanding radioactive cloud from somewhere near Didcot, near Oxford, in an event called Fallout. It was similar to Escape from Meriden that I did last November where I had to run as far away as I could as the crow flies with no set route. This time involved a lot of mud and waterlogged fields and I eventually got ‘vapourised’ by the cloud after 8 hours having covered more than 36 miles of rough terrain.

On the final day of the month we had 5 runners at the Severn Bridge 5 miler with Aled running 31:10 to finish 1st in his age category followed by Martin Beard, Stephanie Dyke, Deb Griffin and Stephne Puddy.

Presentation Night

March also saw our annual presentation night with around 100 members in attendance at our long standing venue at Tondu Cricket Club. A fantastic night not only celebrating those that won awards, but celebrating our 10 years as a club, our BCRL win and reminiscing over the last 12 months of club activities. Our list of winners were as follows…

Runners Runner first place: Laura Worrall

Runners Runner second place: Gareth Richards

Runners Runner third place: Jacob Tasker

Club Runner: Niki Puleio

Best Senior Male: Jacob Tasker

Best Senior Female: Jo Jenkins

Best Veteran Male: Niki Puleio

Best Veteran Female: Claire Dunbar-Bowen

Best Super-Veteran Male: Keith Coleman

Best Super-Veteran Female; Fiona Drysdale

Most Improved Male: Emyr Bissmire

Most Improved Female: Rosie Salvatore

Best Newcomer Male: Joint winners – Mark Teesdale and Kierran Spiers

Best Newcomer Female: Jules Esmond

Trail Club Championship: 1st Jade B, 2nd Emma Loyns, 3rd Sarah Davies

Spirit of the Phoenix: Laura Worrall

Chairman’s Award: Alexis Barrett

Outstanding Achievement: Gareth Richards

Club Relay Teams

March was a huge month in terms of club relay teams as we successfully applied and got selected for our first ever Welsh Castles relay team. Huge thanks to female club captain Dawn Hopkins for taking the reigns with this one and Nicky Bennett who did a huge amount of the recruiting and legwork to ensure we had enough runners. We also found out we were successful in our application for two teams for the Rack Raid relays. The events are just a week apart in June and there’s still opportunities to be involved in a running or supporting capacity for either or both events.

Over to Chris for the Chairs Runners of the Month.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

As you know, and I share often, the focus for this accolade will change periodically.  Different attributes capture my interest and I celebrate achievement right across the spectrum.

We have many members who ebb and flow with their running.  I think it’s fair to say we probably all do to some extent.  Some more than others.  Life deals us all a different hand and things distract us from the task at hand.  That’s good – we need that.  The importance of aspects of our life change dynamically and it’s important to recognise that.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I’ve used that a few times lately.  It’s so true.  Not just for people, but for running.  When you find it again; properly find it; it fills your heart with joy!   When you see others find it, it’s equally uplifting.  It’s been a while for one such runner.  For whatever reason there’s been a hiatus.  A period where running didn’t factor.  But there’s been a shift.  It’s been noticeable and effective.  I’m always impressed when someone manages to gain control and be so positive about a return that you know it’s going to happen, no matter what.  Positive social media posts accompany just turning up.  There’s no measure of ability here.  There’s no measure of distance or any running prowess whatsoever.  It’s simply about getting out there – turning up – getting to training and celebrating that fact.  It’s about the infectious effect that brings to others who are spurred on to do the same.  I am delighted to award my March Female Runner of the Month to Alica Thomas.  Keep it up Alica!!  You’re smashing it!

Celebrating achievements when there are so many doing amazing things is really difficult.  One I do want to credit and is on a definite purple “streak”.  It’s been a running a while now and the level of randomness and possibly craziness to it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon…  It’s certainly true that when you’re not running long distance you wonder how others do it and maintain it.  Legs sore from a few miles and you wonder how others run a long way and then recover to run again only a day or two later.  It seems alien, but then it’s my long term belief that everything is relative.  You can’t pit yourself against someone doing that – we all have our own goals, dreams and aspirations.  Then a streak takes hold and you start to build and the events get longer and longer and you still feel great.  Injuries come and go – but the strength and fitness you’ve built often allow the body to heal and settle quickly.  Sensible measures through it so that it can continue.  Lockdown for some provided a platform for great running and this is no exception.  Leading in to 2023 has seen a continuation and an event during March saw another event escaping from a location with no fixed route – just a map and his own aptitude to carry him as far as possible as quickly as possible.  A novel way to combine running with on the spot planning and yet another intriguing event on the back of many others.  Long may this streak continue and look forward to seeing what comes next.  Worthy of an accolade as I’m delighted to announce Gareth Jenkins as my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for March – keep intriguing us with events Gareth!