With this month having 5 parkrundays we saw some huge overall numbers for the month with 347 parkrun finishes across 67 parkruns.
The first weekend of the month saw 58 members running across 12 different parkrun locations. Our leading tourist Chris Roberts added another venue to his list with Crystal Palace. Linda Harris ran her 100th parkrun whilst visiting Newport parkrun. There was a big turnout at Maesteg where several members were celebrating birthdays and Carys Cronin was first female. Newly returning member Dai James was 3rd overall at Porthcawl.
The second weekend was huge. A club record 95 members ran a parkrun beating our old record of 85 on a single Saturday. This came down to several factors – good weather,, Porthcawl parkruns 10 year anniversary celebrations, our latest Zero to Hero graduation at Porthcawl, plus lots of people taking the long Easter weekend to go away and do some tourism. We had 55 runners at Porthcawl which surprisingly isn’t a record but still a huge turnout and included over half a dozen new members completing their first 5K with lots of members coming out to support. Nicky Bennett was also first finisher. There was a presentation afterwards at the Hi Tide where there was a celebration of 10 years of parkrun and where I spoke on behalf of the club having been involved since the start… and because Chris was away.
That second weekend saw Julie Ransom run a parkrun in Amsterdam, Alun Wylde ran at Clermont parkrun in Florida, leading tourist Chris Roberts notch up another new venue, Liam O’Sullivan ran a PB at Brynaman and Jacob Tasker was first finisher at Maesteg.
Weekend 3 saw a big drop in numbers due to the Vale races being the same day but our 46 runners were still spread across 14 different parkruns including Karl Johnson at Amsterdam Bos parkrun. John Burridge clocked the fastest time of the day with a 18:57 at Swansea Bay parkrun.
Weekend 4 saw the numbers return with 81 parkrunners across 15 different events. There was a huge turnout at Maesteg for multiple birthday celebrations including Tammie Baker who despite taking a tumble and having to stop for 10+ minutes, still finished the parkrun. New member Bethan Moor was first lady at Maesteg. Kris Denholm was the only one of our London Marathon runners to get in a parkrun whilst in the big city.
The final weekend of the month saw 67 members across 14 different events. Nicky Bennett was first finisher in Maesteg where we had the top 3 finishers. Jamie Verran was 3rd at Severn Bridge parkrun as he continues both his tourism streak and this month made it a entire year of not missing a parkrun. Despite all the different venues, we only two runners outside of Wales with Adam Kearns at Southampton where they had over 1000 runners and Chris Roberts at Harlow.
The first weekend of the month saw four of our members take on the Great Welsh Marathon. Wayne Hayhurst who I believe first ran the event more than 10 years ago completed the course in 4:20. Alun Job was one of the official pacers and finished in just over 4:45. Heather Morgan ran her first marathon just a year after supporting at the same event whilst on crutches. Gail Newell also ran her first marathon since joining the club. In the Half Marathon, I was the official 2 hour pacer coming in at 1:59:50.
On the same weekend, Jacob Tasker was third at the Forest of Dean Half Marathon in an outstanding 1:13:15 which was part of the British Trail Running Championships. Jade B and Katie Plimmer bagged PB’s at the event whilst Chris Collin, Melanie Thomas and Elizabeth Sim all also completed the course. We had 6 runners at the London Landmarks Half Marathon on the same day. We also had Rob and Emma Loyns at Southampton where Rob ran the Half Marathon in just over 2 hours, whilst Emma bagged herself a PB of 3:56:43 and first sub 4 hour marathon after narrowly missing out in London last year. Impressive considering the past few weeks have included marathons or ultras pretty much every weekend.
Carl Walsh was back in action at the Beast of Beacons 40 mile ultra. Another super tough event with crazy amounts of elevation after doing the Beast of the Blacks 40 miler the previous month. Carl later went on to run the Inca Trail Marathon in Peru which is one of the toughest marathons in the world. It ticked off his 6th different continent in his quest to run a marathon on all 7.
Jay Howells and Toni Howells both ran PB’s at the Manchester Marathon with a first sub 4 clocking for Jay and a debut marathon time of 4:31 for Toni.
Melanie Thomas and new member Rhiain Casseldine-Forman ran the Wye Valley Ultra in 10:21:35.
Several members took on the Pentrych Hill Race. The race is classified as a fell race with a couple of very steep inclines to test the runners over the 7 mile course.
The final weekend of the month saw Jake Tasker win the Red Kite Trail Half Marathon which was the official Welsh Trail Half Marathon Championship Race therefore earning him yet more medals and trophies.
Carl Walsh and new member Danny Ridley took on yet another bonkers long distance trail event with the Black to the Beacons Trail Marathon which included well over 5,000 feet of elevation for his 83rd career marathon.
Liz Sim took on the longest ultra anyone in the club has ever entered. The Thames Ring 250. 250 miles! No overnight accomodation, the clock starts and you have 100 hours to complete it. After amazing preparation and hundreds of miles of training, it didnt go to plan for Liz as she had to drop out after over 100 miles due to not being able to eat/ drink. Lots of us dot watched her progress in absolute awe and have no doubt we’ll see Liz attempting something equally huge in the coming months / years.
We also had by far the fastest race of the year at the Race to Victory 5K around Whitchurch in Cardiff where we had 16 members running. Nicky Bennett became on the second runner in the clubs history to run sub 16 minutes with a 15:59. Toby Kearns ran 17:46 with Aled Hughes one second behind in PB times for both. Dylan Panting and Emyr Bissmire smashed their PB’s with 18:20 and 18:26 respectively whilst it was a similar story for Adam Kearns with his first sub 19 run of 18:49. Carys Cronin ran a PB of 21:57 to become the first female member of the club to run under 22 minutes in over 6 months. Arwen Rees ran a Flyers qualifying PB of 24:53.
We had our usual big turnout at the Vale races with plenty of supporters out in force as well at the OPR gazebo that was set up in it’s usual spot just before the finish line in Ogmore by Sea. We had 5 runners in the 10 mile event where Jade B was first lady for the second year in a row and also 5th overall. Our new Runners Runner, Laura Worrall knocked over 30 minutes off her previous time on the course. We had 19 runners in the 18.5 miler with Katie Plimmer setting a new female club course record with 3:41:25. Linda Harris was our final finisher in her longest official event. In the 32/34 Ultra, we had 12 runners with first time ultra runner Carl Price coming in with a speedy 5:18. Emma Loyns broke 7 hours for the 3rd time and remains the only female member of the club to achieve that. Liz Sim was just 42 seconds away from joining her in that sub 7 hour club. Paul Barrett, Phil Iveson, Kaye Pedler and Jo Jenkins all completed their first ultra marathons.
Newport 10K and Marathon
A day after the Vale races we had 11 runners in the Newport Marathon and 17 in the 10K. The only person crazy enough to be involved in both was Emma Loyns who was pacing 60 minutes at Newport a day (or actually about 15 hours after finishing her 32 mile ultra). In the 10K Nicky Bennett ran an outstanding 33:44 PB which saw him get plenty of airtime on the S4C highlights as he was up alongside the top couple of female finishers that they were following on the coverage. New member Dylan Panting ran a new PB with a sub 40 clocking. Deb Edwards and Nicola Baker also bagged themselves PB’s in the 10K.
In the marathon there was excitement throughout as Aled Hughes was aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon and had been training hard throughout the year. He started alongside returning member Dai James and the two of them went through half way still on for that sub 3 hour time. Dai unfortunately couldn’t maintain the pace but still finished in an unbelievable 3:06:27 – frustratingly just a few seconds shy of a PB. For Aled, it came down to the final couple of miles… his time… 3:00:37! Gutted to miss that sub 3 but nevertheless an absolutely incredible performance and a 28 minute PB from a marathon time that had stood since 2015. There were remarkable debut marathons from the Kearns brothers with Toby coming in at 3:17:42 and Adam coming in at 3:26:42. The rapid improvement from both over the last 12-18 months has been inspiring. In fact, Toby’s 5K splits during the marathon were faster than his parkrun PB just a year or so ago. Martin Beard, Alun Job, Sian Thomas, Liam O’Sullivan and Leanne Parsons also ran their fastest marathon times since being in the club with Wayne Hayhurst our other runner.
We had 14 runners in the race this year with a mix of first timers and a couple on their 3rd time around the course. Paul Smith ran 2:59:00 which was less than a minute off a PB but a second sub 3 in as many marathons. Niki Puleio who ran 2:54:38 in the Boston Marathon just 6 days earlier and only flew into the UK the day before the race, ran 3:03:09. His average time for the 2 marathons in the same week was 2:58:53! First time marathoner and recent ‘Most Improved Male’ winner, Emyr Bissmire ran 3:16:10 to put himself up with the Kearns brothers on the impressive marathon debut front. Claire Dunbar-Bowen and Emma Loyns ran together until just after halfway and bagged themselves PB’s of 3:46:07 and 3:53:50 respectively. Claire’s time being the fastest female marathon time of a current club member whilst Emma’s PB is mind-blowing when you consider she ran a marathon PB just 3 weeks earlier and ran a 32/34 mile Ultra just 8 days before the event. Kris Denholm was just a couple of minutes off his PB with the club with a 3:48. There were huge PB’s for Chris Richards, Kate Lee, Carol Bartle, Rob Loyns, Jonathan Tidball, Stephne Puddy and Shelley Evans with our final finisher being Andrew Hughes.
The Bridgend County Running League returned with a slightly earlier start in the year than usual and a change in the order with Sandy Bowl as the first fixture. We had a phenomenal turnout with 95 members including several first timers to the league and including a couple of the recently graduated Zero to Hero’s. Conditions didn’t quite suggest late April as we stood shivering at the start and had strong winds and rain during the race itself. Despite that, there were amazing performances throughout the field with dozens of members running their fastest 5K times along the way on the 5.1K course. Despite Jacob taking it easy (by his standards), we still had the overall winner with Nicky Bennett claiming first place extending our run of having the first finisher to the last 8 BCRL fixtures. With a change to the scoring it meant our ladies made a bigger contribution than ever and there were some superb runs throughout with Sarah Wilkes our first female finisher. In the Team scoring, Bridgend finished first with our club not too far behind and then Porthcawl in 3rd in what is shaping up to be a very close and exciting season.
April also saw the club’s AGM where it was great to hear the chairman’s report which highlighted many of the successes over the past year including of course that BCRL win. Lots of thanks given to all the elected members and volunteers. The only change in roles was Nicky Bennett becoming Male vice-captain with Nick Harris stepping down after several years as part of the team. Nicky has played a massive part in getting the club into Welsh Castles for the first time and has also rallied the troops for XC over the past couple of seasons so will fit into the role perfectly.
What a month – 8 different marathons in 4 different countries – 4 different ultra marathons – 10 year parkrun celebrations – Zero to Hero graduations – 95 runners at the first BCRL fixture – a Welsh Championship win – super fast 5K PB’s. This month saw a massive 263 race finishes which is our highest since May 2022 which included 2 BCRL fixtures.
Chair’s Runners of the Month
Running consistently well at distance is tough. It takes time, focus and dedication. It means keeping your body in a state where it can just go again and again. Big challenges require big commitment. Sometimes there are sacrifices due to avoidance of things that might upset the balance and prevent the completion of a challenge – especially when it’s something that’s been shared and for a cause. Last year was like that for one of our midst and it was completed with focus. It’s often the case when running through a purple patch that we hanker to extend it. While running in form, there’s a desire to keep that form and continue as long as we can. Such has been the case here with additional long distance events appearing on the calendar long after the ultimate finish line has been crossed. Long distance completed with smiles and jumps. New times being set at ultras and marathons just weeks apart. Endurance on display and admired for every step. Huge well done to my Female Runner of the Month for April – Emma Loyns! Well done Emma – keep up the good work! I’m writing this is she builds up to a bigger, longer and even more challenging endurance event with sights on even more on the horizon! Fabulous!
What can I say? We’ve admired distance and now it’s time to look at another metric for measuring success. Time. It’s not the be all and end all of everything but it’s the most celebrated common denominator. We all run for different reasons and I’m a huge advocate of celebrating every element of endeavour – as is demonstrated by the spread of this award. However, I always will also consider time and performance as one measure when it particularly catches my eye. Even more so when it makes someone jump for joy with their own achievements. I’ve seen it many times where injuries have been respected and allowed to heal – giving the body a suitable period of recovery. When sensibly observed it often leads to a stronger return. Focused. Committed. Working hard to achieve – whatever they themselves class achievement to be. In this case it’s times and they are starting to tumble. First place finishes. Breaking new ground and setting times that many of us can only dream of. Incredible impressive stuff. Huge well done to my Chairman’s Runner of the Month for April – Nicky Bennett! Huge well done Nicky – keep pushing and keep inspiring us with your commitment!