2023 review


2023 saw 3,365 parkrun finishes (up 582 on last year) across 733 events (up 62 on last year). Our members visited 210 different parkruns (up 18 on last year) around the world including Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, USA, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Poland.

2023 saw our parkrun tourism obsession grow with more members than ever running whilst on trips away or seeking out certain letters or numbers for the parkrun alphabet or other different parkrun challenges. Karl Johnson offered tourism trips that varied from North Wales to England to multiple overseas parkruns. Kaye Pedler, Huw Jenkins and Melinda Thomas went on a parkrun adventure that saw them run in Malaysia and Australia. David Sheard started the year in Australia whilst another member, Martin Beard ended the year with parkruns there. A number of members took the opportunity to get some extra parkruns in by visiting countries where they had additional ‘special day’ parkruns not on a Saturday – usually for a national holiday.

Of course, it’s not all about tourism and we continued to have big numbers at our home parkruns of Porthcawl, Maesteg and now Aberfields. The launch of Aberfields headed up by Jay Howells was a huge achievement and significant for our club with a parkrun now in the valley where the club was formed. In fact the first meeting to discuss starting the club took place in the Berwyn Centre which stood just a few hundred metres away from the start line, and our first training session was actually on Aberfields. Our biggest attendance of members at our home parkruns were 57 at Aberfields for the inaugural in August, 55 for the 10 year anniversary run of Porthcawl parkrun which also coincided with a Zero to Hero graduation, and 35 at Maesteg for multiple milestone celebrations back in April.

Maesteg parkrun has continued to be a bit of a recruitment hub for our club just as Porthcawl was in the early days with multiple new members being signed up after seeing our runners or being approached at one of the events.

Number of parkruns completed in 2023

  1. Nick Harris – 56 – new club record
  2. Jamie Verran – 55 – every UK parkrun day plus one extra overseas extra
  3. Brett Bonnell – 54 – every UK parkrun day available
  4. Saul Harris – 53
  5. David Kembery – 51
  6. Gareth Jenkins – 50
  7. Sharon Pritchard – 50
  8. Tom Mahoney – 49
  9. Aled Hughes – 49
  10. Linda Harris – 48

This is the first time we’ve had 7 members reach ‘Gold Obsessive’ for completing 50 parkruns in one calendar year and easily our highest combined top 10. Interestingly Nick tops the standings for 2023 but did actually miss a parkrun on the morning on Snowdonia Marathon but made up for that with three extra overseas parkruns this year on special (non-Saturday) days. In doing so, he took top spot for most overall parkruns for the club and is now one ahead of me on 449 parkruns after I’d held top spot for the past 5 years. Jamie Verran has continued his remarkable record of not missing a parkrun since his first in April 2022 and is closing in on the club record of 96. Others who ran 40+ parkruns which gets them a ‘silver obsessive badge’ on the parkrun challenges but didn’t make the top 10 include Melanie Thomas, Chris Pratt, Jo Jenkins, Chris Roberts, Sarah Davies, David Sheard and Alison Allen. Jo Jenkins became the first female member of the club to reach the 250 parkrun milestone and this year has overtaken Bev Sheard to have completed the most parkruns whilst a member of the club.

This year we’ve seen plenty of milestones…

  • 250 – Jo Jenkins
  • 100 – Brett Bonell
  • 100 – Jay Howells
  • 100 – Nicky Bennett
  • 100 – Rhodri Thomas
  • 100 – Nicky Bennett
  • 100 – Toni Howells
  • 100 – Tom Mahoney
  • 100 – Nige Rees
  • 100 – Carl Price
  • 100 – Sian Jenkins
  • 100 – Melinda Thomas
  • 100 – Huw Jenkins
  • 100 – Rhiannon Whiteley
  • 100 – Liam O’Sullivan
  • 50 – Jamie Verran
  • 50 – Emyr Bissmire
  • 50 – Claire Dunbar-Bowen
  • 50 – Carys Bissmire
  • 50 – Max King
  • 50 – Kierran Spiers
  • 50 – Bethan Moor
  • 50 – Wayne Randall
  • 50 – Fiona Evans
  • 50 – Laura Worrall
  • 50 – Ben Batchelor
  • 50 – Kevin Raymond

parkrun tourism

Gareth Jenkins became the 6th member to achieve ‘Cowell Club’ status by running at his 100th different event back in February. Jamie Verran obliterated pretty much every club record going for parkrun tourism by visiting 55 different venues in one year – it’s likely there are only a handful worldwide that have matched or beaten that number this year (feel free to investigate this Jamie!).

Number of new parkrun venues visited in 2023

  1. Jamie Verran – 55
  2. Melanie Thomas – 24
  3. Lee Dunbar-Bowen- 22
  4. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 21
  5. Dawn Hopkins – 17
  6. Karl Johnson – 17
  7. Linda Harris – 16
  8. Chris Roberts – 16
  9. Jay Howells – 16
  10. Nick Harris – 15

Most parkrun tourisms overall as at the end of 2023

  1. Karl Johnson – 131
  2. Chris Roberts – 129
  3. Dawn Hopkins – 121
  4. Julie Ransom – 120
  5. Shawn Cullen – 112
  6. Gareth Jenkins – 104
  7. Kris Denholm – 86
  8. Sarah Davies – 85
  9. Chris Stanlake – 76
  10. Jo Jenkins – 74

The overall top 10 contains the same 10 as the end of last year with very little movement apart from Dawn climbing from 5th to 3rd. Interestingly, of that top 10, only 3 made the list for most tourisms this year – probably as a result of their nearest events not yet done (NENYD) being at least a 3 hour round trip.

Top 10 parkrun times

Jacob Tasker has the fastest 6 times of the year with 15:55, 15:56, 16:28, 16:33, 16:40 – Jacob only ran 11 parkuns this year, finishing first overall in 9 of them. Those 9 first finishes includes 5 different venues including course records at Aberfields and Coed Cefn Pwll Du plus beating his own fastest time of anyone in the club at Maesteg. He also finished first overall twice at the highly competitive Cardiff parkrun where he ran his two fastest times. Nicky Bennett picked up the most first finishes this year with 14 (11 at Maesteg and 3 at Porthcawl). Nicky clocked 16:42 and 16:46 (both at Porthcawl) for the 7th and 8th fastest OPR times this year. New kid on the block, Angelo Doria finished first overall in 4 of his 8 parkruns and had the next fastest time after Jacob and Nicky with a 17:15 at Porthcawl.

For the ladies, Bethan Moor clocked the fastest parkrun time of the year with 22:03 at Porthcawl just one second ahead of a 22:04 PB for Claire Dunbar-Bowen at Aberbeeg. Carys Bissmire ran a faster 5K than both in a race this year but her parkrun PB was 23:08 at Swansea Bay this year. Similarly, Katie Plimmer ran faster 5K race times but her parkrun PB was 23:35 at Porthcawl.


Top 10 parkrun volunteer credits in 2023

  1. Stephne Puddy 68
  2. Chris Stanlake 58
  3. Karl Johnson 58
  4. Alison Allen 52
  5. Greg Allen 50
  6. Angela Parry 37
  7. Sian Jenkins 34
  8. Rhiain Casseldine-Forman 28
  9. Rhiannon Whiteley 27
  10. Judith Howells 25

Top 10 Total overall parkrun volunteer credits

  1. Alison Allen 284
  2. Stephne Puddy 270
  3. Greg Allen 258
  4. Karl Johnson 230
  5. Mia Allen 144
  6. Chis Stanlake 142
  7. Rhiannon Whiteley 141
  8. Angela Parry 130
  9. Freya Allen 116
  10. Rhiain Casseldine-Forman 104

With the Allen’s joining the club, they now dominate our top 10 volunteer counts overall with their fantastic work at Bridgend junior parkrun in additional to Saturday parkrun volunteering. Stephne Puddy’s 68 volunteer credits in a single calendar year is a new club record. With us already having Karl Johnson, Stephne Puddy, Sian Jenkins being parkrun Run Directors at the start of the year, we’ve now added to that list – Jay Howells, Liz Davis, Chris Stanlake and Claudine Nicholson-Lewis who have all taken on the role since Aberfields started in August. New member this year Rhiain Casseldine-Forman has also been a long time Run Director at Market Harborough juniors. Aberfields parkruns volunteer roster is regularly filled with OPR members and has been a significant change in how many of our members are now regular parkrun volunteers. Jay Howells, Toni Howells, Chris Pratt and myself just missed out on the list for most volunteer credits with over 20 each in 2023. Sharon Pritchard and Sian Jenkins are likely to become our next 100 time parkrun volunteers. A huge thank you to all the volunteers.

5K races

OPR members ran in 21 different 5K events this year with 396 finishes and 23 PB’s. Out biggest 5K (and biggest overall event of the year) was Merthyr Mawr 5K where we had 102 finishers.

Late spring and summer saw the usual plethora of 5K events with 3 SSAFA events, 3 Aberavon events, 3 Swansea Bay events plus the super speedy Race for Victory event in Whitchurch with many PB’s throughout the club.

Top 10 fastest men (measured 5K races only excluding parkrun)

  1. Jacob Tasker – 15:01 (PB and new club record)
  2. Nicky Bennett  – 15:59 (PB)
  3. Angelo Doria – 16:30 (PB)
  4. Toby Kearns – 17:46 (PB)
  5. Aled Hughes – 17:47 (PB)
  6. Steve Holloway – 17:55
  7. Mark Teesdale – 18:15 (PB)
  8. Dylan Panting – 18:20 (PB
  9. Dai James – 18:24
  10. Emyr Bissmire / Jamie Verran – 18:26 (both PBs)

In total, we had 23 men run a 5K or parkrun under 20 minutes this year with 14 of them being sub 19 which is our most ever.

Top 10 fastest women (measured 5K races only – excluding parkrun)

  1. Carys Cronin – 21:57 (PB)
  2. Katie Plimmer – 22:31 (PB)
  3. Willow Hughes – 22:45 (PB)
  4. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 22:48
  5. Jade Bazylkiewicz – 23:03
  6. Sarah Davies – 24:17
  7. Jo Jenkins – 24:31
  8. Denise Bradley – 24:35
  9. Arwen Rees – 24:53
  10. Freya Allen – 25:30


OPR members ran in 27 different 10K events this year with 292 finishes and 52 PB’s. Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion were our most prolific 10K-ers with 10 events each. Our biggest attended 10K events of the year was Porthcawl 10K with 59 members completing the course.

Top 10 fastest males

  1. Jacob Tasker – 31:45 (PB and new club record)
  2. Nicky Bennett – 33:23 (PB)
  3. Geraint Lewis – 35:36
  4. Toby Kearns – 37:35 (PB)
  5. Aled Hughes – 37:36 (PB)
  6. Gareth Richards – 37:48
  7. Niki Puleio – 38:02
  8. Dylan Panting – 39:18 (PB)
  9. Mark Teesdale – 39:21 (PB)
  10. Emyr Bissmire – 39:27 (PB)

Adam Kearns, Wayne Randall and Connor Panting all also ran sub 40 making it the most members under 40 minutes in a single calendar year in the history of the club. Honourable mention for Tom Mahoney who ran a PB of 40:01.

Top 10 fastest female

  1. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 47:11 (PB)
  2. Katie Plimmer – 48:11 (PB)
  3. Carys Cronin – 49:06
  4. Arwen Rees – 53:06 (PB)
  5. Deborah Edwards – 53:08 (PB)
  6. Carol Bartle – 54:12
  7. Liz Davis – 54:50
  8. Fiona Drysdale – 55:10
  9. Angharad Hinam – 55:17
  10. Steph Iveson-Holmes – 56:46 (PB)

Interestingly 6 of our fastest female runners from last year didn’t complete a 10K this year as they concentrated on other distances.

Half Marathon

OPR members ran in 25 different Half Marathon events this year with 168 finishes and 24 PB’s. Our biggest attended Half Marathon was of course Cardiff with 82 members completing the course. Our members took up official pacing positions in many Half Marathons this year with Emma Loyns pacing at the Big Half and Cardiff Half (amongst others from the club) whilst I paced at the Great Welsh Half and Swansea Half. Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion were our most prolific Half Marathoners with 5 events each. Jacob Tasker set a new course record at the Pumsaint Half Marathon.

Top 10 Fastest Male

  1. Jacob Tasker – 1:09:35 (PB and new club record)
  2. Nicky Bennett – 1:13:54 (PB)
  3. Angelo Doria – 1:16:01 (PB)
  4. Steve Holloway – 1:17:22 (PB)
  5. Gareth Richards – 1:24:33
  6. Aled Hughes – 1:26:56 (PB)
  7. Scott Gray – 1:29:03
  8. Toby Kearns – 1:29:14
  9. Emyr Bissmire – 1:30:34
  10. Wayne Hayhurst – 1:31:56

Interesting fact courtesy of his interview on the recently started ‘The Runs’ podcast (co-hosted by the clubs very own Niki Puleio) – Nicky Bennett has now knocked over an hour off his debut half marathon time which was a few years before joining the club.

Top 10 fastest female

  1. Jade Bazyliewicz – 1:46:56 (PB)
  2. Carys Cronin – 1:51:31
  3. Emma Loyns – 1:52:04
  4. Carol Bartle – 1:53:56
  5. Gemma Richards – 1:57:56
  6. Rosie Salvatore – 1:58:57
  7. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 1:59:23
  8. Jo Jenkins – 2:03:12
  9. Alison Allen – 2:04:18
  10. Elizabeth Sim – 2:04:24


OPR members ran in 25 different marathons this year with 96 finishes and 31 PB’s. We also had marathon finishes in 8 different countries mainly due to Carl Walsh’s adventures (more on that later). Some highlights include Jacob Tasker leading Marathon Eryri (Snowdon) for the first half and eventually finishing 4th in a club record time of 2:35:24 – a time which would have won the race in most years. Niki Puleio ran the second and third fastest times of the year with a 2:54 and 2:58 at Boston and New York respectively as he continues his quest to run all the Marathon Majors in under 3 hours. Paul Smith ran a sub 3 at London Marathon with a 2:59 whilst Niki made a 3rd appearance in the top 6 marathon times of this year with a 3:03 at the same event. Aled Hughes agonisingly missed a sub 3 at Newport by 37 seconds but worth pointing out it was a 28 minute PB! There were remarkable marathon debuts by Toby and Adam Kearns at Newport Marathon with 3:17 and 3:26 respectively whilst Emyr Bissmire ran 3:16 at London on his marathon debut. Ken Salvatore ran a 3:55 PB at Berlin. With Dai James running at Chicago, we had runners in 5 of the 6 Marathon Majors this year.

Claire Dunbar-Bowen was our fastest lady with a 3:46 at London and ran the first half with Emma Loyns who ended up with a PB of 3:53 just a few weeks after running a sub 4 marathon PB at Southampton.

Aside from those already mentioned, there were PB’s for Chris Richards, Kate Lee, Rob Loyns, Stephne Puddy and Shelley Evans at London this year. Our biggest marathon of the year was Marathon Eryri (Snowdon) with 25 runners where aside from Jacob’s incredible run we also had Gareth Richards running 3:26 and Daniel Jenkins knocking 16 minutes off his time from the previous year with a 3:37. Katie Plimmer ran her debut marathon with a 4:43 having run the majority with Emma Loyns who picked up and helped several Phoenix runners along the way. Ceri Jones and Melanie Thomas also ran their debut marathons at Snowdonia.

Other highlights include Kaye Pedler finally ticking off that Marathon PB she desperately wanted with a 5:18 at the Long Course Weekend in Tenby where there were also PB’s for Deb Edwards and Sian Jenkins. There are to many PB’s to list them all but a special mention to Heather Morgan who returned from a long term injury to complete the Great Welsh Marathon.

Top 10 fastest Male

  1. Jacob Tasker – 2:35:24 (PB and new club record)
  2. Niki Puleio – 2:54:38
  3. Paul Smith – 2:59:00
  4. Aled Hughes – 3:00:37 (PB)
  5. Emyr Bissmire – 3:16:10
  6. Dai James – 3:16:33
  7. Toby Kearns – 3:17:42
  8. Gareth Richards – 3:26:24
  9. Adam Kearns – 3:26:42
  10. Daniel Jenkins – 3:37:08

Top 10 fastest Female

  1. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 3:46:07 (PB)
  2. Emma Loyns – 3:53:50 (PB)
  3. Kate Lee – 4:10:40 (PB)
  4. Carol Bartle – 4:10:56 (PB)
  5. Angharad Hinam – 4:37:36 (PB)
  6. Liz Sim – 4:38:05
  7. Katie Plimmer – 4:43:16 (PB)
  8. Sian Thomas – 4:43:21 (PB)
  9. Sarah Davies – 4:50:25
  10. Denise Bradley – 4:56:49

Ultras / Challenges / Crazy Feats of Endurance

From 26.2 miles to 100 miles – there were some exceptional feats of endurance this year with many taking on multiple long distance challenges.

I have to start with Carl Walsh who ran 12 marathons and 14 ultra marathons this year to join the prestigious 100 Marathon Club. For those not familiar – the 100 Marathon Club has been around for many decades and celebrates runners who have run 100 official Marathons or further. Carl becomes the first OPR member to achieve this and purposely lined it up so his 100th would be at Marathon Eryri. His 101st wasn’t a bad location either with it being New York Marathon just a week later! Carl’s commitment to long distance running is unmatched in the club with him averaging a marathon or more every other weekend and often does several weekends in a row. Not only that, many of those 100 have been tough, off road, big elevation marathons and ultras in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains. There’s no easy way of getting into the 100 marathon club but Carl has probably done it the hard way! His journey to 100 marathons have taken him around the world and there are plans in place for him to complete a marathon on every continent with most already ticked off.

In February, I participated in a local charity event where I ran 88 miles in 24 hours before going to parkrun. I continued to find ‘different / bonkers’ ultras as I participated in Fallout which was a new variation on Escape from Meriden and having to run your own planned route as far away as possible whilst chased by a ‘radioactive cloud’. I completed my second 100 miler with my 3 year build up to finally enter and complete the Dragon 100. I then went on to run over 50 miles in another charity event around Roath Park Lake in Cardiff. I’ve said I’m retired from Ultras now having run 50 miles or more on 11 occasions in the 3 years I’ve been doing Ultra-marathons which is currently the most of anyone in the club.

Gareth Richards ran the Brecon to Cardiff 44 mile Ultra back in February before going on to complete the Dragon 100 from Rhosilli to Cardiff Bay for the second year in row. Incredibly, he was only a few minutes slower than the year before despite spending most of the 3 months leading up to it injured and barely running at all. As mentioned earlier, Gareth later went on to run the Snowdonia Marathon in 3:26.

Our most prolific female endurance runner was Emma Loyns who after running 10 marathons or ultras in 2022 for charity, did another 9 in 2023. In May she took on what I would argue is easily the toughest ultra anyone in the club has attempted – the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 100K – a 64 mile race with 21,000 feet of elevation. To put that in perspective, Marathon Eryri has 2,500 feet of elevation. Not only that, UTS is over severe technical terrain with inclines so steep and uneven that it can take up to 40 minutes to complete a single mile in parts. To add to this, the temperature on the day of the race was pretty much unheard of for Snowdonia and unfortunately that meant Emma had to call it a day but only having still completed 50K and a crazy amount of elevation. Incredibly, Emma picked herself back up and entered the Dragon 100 miler – a huge step up in distance as Emma’s previous longest race completed was a 50 miler last year. Emma completed the Dragon 100 becoming one of only two current female members of the club (at the time of writing) to complete a 100 mile race.

Other fantastic ultra distance achievements this year saw Denise Bradley complete 50 miles in the same charity 24 hour event I participated in at the start of the year. Kris Denholm called it a day after 44 miles and David Thomas who ambitiously set a goal of 100 miles and was on target for the first 7-8 hours had to pull out having completed 40 miles. Denise also went on to complete 100k over 2 days at Race to the Kings to complete the ‘Race to the ___’ series of ultras. Dai James also completed that 2 day event having run both Brecon to Cardiff and the VOGUM earlier in the year. Melanie Thomas completed 3 Ultras around the 30-40 mile distances with new member Rhiain Casseldine-Forman joining her on all three.

Our biggest Ultra of the year was yet again the Vale Ultra where Carl Price ran an incredible 5:18:40 in his debut ultra for one of our fastest Vale times ever. Kaye Pedler and Jo Jenkins completed their first ultras on the day.

A couple of noteworthy comebacks this year with Leanne Parson returning to Brecon to Cardiff where she had dropped out having completed over 30 miles the year before to complete it this year. Angharad Hinam provided the most intense, nail-biting performance of the year at the Dragon 100 – a race where she was pulled out in a previous year having not met the cut off and also had to withdraw from a short notice in another year due to injury coupled with cancellations due to COVID. This year she unfortunately got lost again but thankfully with the help of her coach (and former member) Steven, she got back on track and made it to the ‘half way’ checkpoint in Kenfig with just minutes to spare. In fact, they told her she didn’t have time to change and had to just continue to avoid being pulled out of the race again. Special permission was given for Steven to assist her for a section of the race to get her back on track and incredibly she reached each of the checkpoints with less than 30 minutes to spare throughout finishing just 20 minutes before the 34 hour midnight cut off with myself and Emma waiting for her along with Steven, her husband, Jo Jenkins, Heather Morgan and Rob Loyns who had all supported throughout the 34 hours.

Longest distances achieved in charity / race ultra’s in 2023

1. Gareth Richards / Gareth Jenkins / Emma Loyns / Angharad Hinam – 100 miles – Dragon 100

5. Gareth Jenkins – 88 miles – Charity 24 hour event in Bryncethin

6. Simon Poole – 62 miles – Race to the Stones 100K

7. Denise Bradley / Dai James – 62 miles (over 2 days) – Race to the Kings 100K

9. Carl Walsh – 55 miles – Comrades

10. Gareth Jenkins – 52 miles – Loop-a-thon charity event in Roath Park

Incredibly that means Angharad Hinams Gower 50 doesn’t make the list, Denise’s 50 miler at the charity event, or the members who completed Brecon to Cardiff 44 miler.

Race and overall totals

Total number of events in 2023 (parkruns plus races)

  1. Aled Hughes 93
  2. Nick Harris 92
  3. Sharon Pritchard 89
  4. Gareth Jenkins 81
  5. Jamie Verran 79
  6. Dawn Hopkins 76
  7. Melanie Thomas 76
  8. Debbie Bennion 75
  9. Sarah Davies 72
  10. Emyr Bissmire 71

Sharon Prichard sets a new female club record for most events in a year beating Dawn’s record from last year by 1 event. Aled was well on course for 100+ at one point this year before work commitments meant a reduction in the frequency of races.

Most Races (not including parkruns)

  1. Aled Hughes 44
  2. Sharon Pritchard 39
  3. Debbie Bennion 38
  4. Jacob Tasker 33
  5. Dawn Hopkins 32
  6. Gareth Jenkins 31
  7. Nicky Bennett 31
  8. Melanie Thomas 30
  9. Sarah Davies 29
  10. Katie Plimmer 29

Overall most events

  1. Gareth Jenkins 785
  2. Nick Harris 742
  3. Aled Hughes 582
  4. Chris Pratt 571
  5. Dai Kembo 491
  6. David Sheard 458
  7. Dawn Hopkins 427
  8. Kris Denholm 420
  9. Chris Roberts 390
  10. Jo Jenkins 376

This year saw Aled overtake Chris into 3rd spot whilst Jo Jenkins overtook Denise to make the top 10. Jo is actually the most recent member to join out of the top 10 having been in the club 7 years compared to 8-11 years for the rest. Our top 10 have run 5,240 events between them.

Overall most races (not including parkruns)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 340
  2. Nick Harris 295
  3. Aled Hughes 240
  4. Chris Pratt 215
  5. Dawn Hopkins 209
  6. Denise Bradley 187
  7. Sharon Pritchard 167
  8. Mark Worrall 161
  9. Debbie Bennion 159
  10. Niki Puleio 152

Cross Country

The club continues to participate in both the West Glamorgan League and the Gwent League with separate male and female teams contesting. The men are currently 5th in the top division of the West Glam league after 2 fixtures of the 23/24 season with the ladies in 3rd in division 2 after a successful 22/23 season which was completed back in March with both teams maintaining their current division status.

In the Gwent League we had a great turnout for the men at Pembrey for the first fixture of the 23/24 season whilst at Llandaff we had full scoring teams for both the men and women.

As a result of some great performances in Pembrey which was the qualification event to represent South Wales at the Inter-Regional Welsh Championships, we had our biggest amount of call ups in the clubs history. Bethan Moor, Sarah Davies and Katie Plimmer ran in the ladies race whilst Nicky Bennett, Niki Puleio and Davidleigh Bulter ran for South Wales in the men’s event. Angelo Doria also received a call up for the Under 20’s men’s team.

Fiona Drysdale did the most cross country league events notching up an incredible 8 events this year whilst Nicky Bennett also did 8 cross country events made up of 6 league events plus the Welsh XC Championships and Inter-Regional events.

Bridgend County Running League (BCRL)

153 different members ran at least one BCRL event. We had 592 finishes across the 7 events averaging just short of 85 per fixture. 19 members ran every fixture with a few more only missing one because they volunteered at our own event.

Bridgend were back in force this season and the new scoring system which meant the top 10 men and women from each club counted towards the ‘scoring’ places with everyone else getting minus 1 seemed to benefit other clubs more than us in the early events.

To win the BCRL, it requires getting three elements correct – a strong top 10 men, a strong top 10 women and big attendances for those crucial minus 1’s. We seemed to improve throughout the season in all 3. In the men’s scoring we regularly had about 20 men capable of running sub 20 in contention for those top 10 scoring places and with further recruitment throughout the season including wonderkid Angelo, then we got stronger and more dominant throughout. In the final event, we actually had the top 3 overall with Jacob, Nicky and Angelo capping off an incredible season. The ladies were up against it with Bridgend and Porthcawl having really strong women’s teams, but our ladies held their own and produced some incredibly determined performances throughout the season to keep us in contention. Sarah Wilkes and Bethan Moor both ran in 5 fixtures despite both having to travel 30-45 minutes to each event from their respective homes and battled it out for our first female finisher in those events. Willow Hughes, Katie Plimmer, Carys Cronin, Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Jade B, Sarah Davies were consistently in our top 10 female places in the events they ran. Then we had a huge number battling it out for the final few top 10 places each time with the likes of Jo Jenkins, Fiona Drysdale, Denise Bradley, Jules Esmond, Alison Allen, Freya Allen and Melanie Thomas. Our attendances were incredible with the final event hitting triple figures with 102 finishers at Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K.

In terms of the Team results, we won the Kenfig, Planka and Heol y Mynydd fixtures which as I write this I’ve realised we won probably the 3 toughest fixtures! Bridgend led the way for the first 4 fixtures before we took top spot overall after the fifth event and never looked back.

Jacob won 6 out of the 7 fixtures with Nicky Bennett winning the other meaning that OPR have had the winner of the last 14 fixtures in a row. We also had 10 age category winners.

An incredible season to retain our BCRL title.  Every single person made a difference whether our first finisher or our final finisher.

A huge thank you to everyone who ran, volunteered, organised and supported in our championship winning year. And here’s to making it a treble next year!

Club Trail Championship

This year saw the return of the club trail championship with a mixture of local parkruns, BCRL races, XC fixtures and a variety of distances ranging at local events including the Rabbit Run, Beast of Bryn and Vale races. Some great competition throughout the series with the final showdown at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run. I won’t spoil the surprise and put the final standings as these will be presented at the presentation night.

Club Training in 2023

The club continues to offer a variety of training sessions which continue to grow in numbers. Emma Loyns continued her strength classes on a Monday which has regularly been one of the biggest attended sessions of the week. Tuesdays have continued with a mixture of effort and mile sessions. Wednesdays now consist of Flyers and other club sessions. We also have Track twice a month where many of the sessions have come together. Thursdays have continued back at our original home in the Ogmore Valley where several themed / celebratory runs have taken place this year. Then there’s been trial Sundays which are regularly providing something different. Also not forgetting our junior section which meet on Mondays. We’ve had a number of new Lirfs this year alongside our long standing cohort who keep us motivated and active throughout the year.

Other club activities in 2023

Presentation night saw a very popular Runners Runner winner with Laura Worrall taking the title and becoming only the second female member of the club to win the top prize. The top 3 was rounded out by Gareth Richards – his 3rd top 3 finish without winning it, and last years Runners Runner, Jacob Tasker. After Jacob walking away with most of the awards last year, it was a big more evenly spread this time with no one winning more than two awards and 18 different winners in total. Niki Puleio, Emma Loyns, Gareth Richards and Laura Worrall were all double winners on the night.

June saw a momentous occasion for the club as we competed in the Welsh Castles relay for the first time. This has been a long term goal for the club since we first started the club over 11 years ago. We also had two teams again at the Rack Raid Relays.

The Phoenix gazebo returned to Ogmore by Sea to welcome in the Vale runners. In October we saw the return of the Snowdonia Marathon weekend with over 40 OPR members and supporters travelling up to the event. Phoenix corner was bigger and better than ever with more members than ever staying until the final runners came in.

The Phantom Phoenix continues to keep us guessing. Our X (Twitter), Instagram and Facebook pages also continue to keep members up to date. We saw the return of regular blog posts during the year with a few more to be published soon. Pippa and I have posted almost 5,000 individual results throughout the year with the master excel file I keep now having over 33,000 results.

A huge well done to every member who has participated in training, races, volunteered or simply encouraged others this year.