December 2023 review

parkruns

December saw 334 parkrun finishes across 72 events. That’s our second highest ever number of parkrun finishes in a calendar month with the highest month being January 2020.

The first Saturday of the month saw 59 runners across 14 different parkruns. Tourism included Darija Keenor picking up a Y for the parkrun alphabet at York and Martin Beard starting a month of Australia parkruns with Cairns parkrun. He would go on to do Airlie Beach, Logan River in Australia before running at East Coast parkrun in Singapore. At Aberfields we had the first male and female finishers with Aled Hughes and Sarah Davies. Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg. Jamie Verran ran his 50th different parkrun venue of the year at Mallards Pike.

The second Saturday saw 44 runners across 14 different parkruns. Aberfields was cancelled for the first time since due to the course being mostly underwater. Attendance was also down due to lots of members doing the Aberavon Santa run that morning. Of course, a few done both.

The third Saturday saw 53 runners across 12 different parkruns. We had another double at Aberfields with Aled Hughes and Jo Jenkins our first male and female finishers. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg. Johnson tours took 8 members to Quakers Walk with some ticking off their first ‘Q’ for their parkrun alphabet whilst others were getting their third of the rarest parkrun letter in the world (apart from X of course).

The fourth Saturday saw a massive 84 runners across 15 different parkruns – just one short of our club record. 31 members were at Aberfields were Rhiannon Whiteley and Liam O’Sullivan were running their 100th parkruns. There were also big local attendances at Porthcawl (23) and Maesteg (15). Aled Hughes was first finisher at Aberfields whilst Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg.

Christmas Day means an extra parkrunday and saw 22 members take advantage of this across 10 different venues. Jamie Verran even sought out a new parkrun venue to continue his streak of running a different parkrun venue on every occasion in 2023.

The final Saturday saw 72 members running across 15 parkruns. Bethan Moor was first lady at Maesteg. Johnson’s Tours took 6 members to Five Arches parkrun.

Races

5K

21 members took on the popular Aberavon Run4All Santa Run where Aled was our first runner across the line in blustery conditions and Tammie Baker was our first female. Several of our members also did the Maesteg Santa Run where you can do anything from 1 lap to the usual 4 laps of the Maesteg parkrun course for free with a medal and chocolate at the end!

The big 5K of December is always Nos Galan which see’s the ridiculously fast (Elite Races) to the just ridiculous costumes in the Fun Run including me dressed as a beer bottle and Jo as a flamingo which both got a lot of attention from the crowds. In the Elite Men’s race we had a record 8 starters with Jacob finishing 6th overall in a time of 15:49 on a wet and windy course. Steve Holloway run an impressive 17:55 followed by Aled in 18:32. In the Elite Ladies Race we had Carys Bissmire who ran 23:46 and Katie Plimmer who ran 24:48. Finally, in the Fun Run we had 16 runners led home by Chris Pratt in 23:18 and our first lady was Alison Allen in 26:19.

5 miles

A rarely run distance but a couple of opportunities during the festive period to clock a 5 mile time. We had 4 at Glynneath 5 miler which was resurrected at short notice after being cancelled at one point. Denise Bradley was first in her age category at that event. This year the Festive Four competition allowed a choice between the New Years Day Kenfig event (4 miles with a lot of sand) or Old Father Time (5 miles on pancake flat tarmac) – funnily enough, Old Father Time was quite popular this year with 18 members going for that option. Nicky Bennett was our first runner back in 28:40 – a PB and just 31 seconds off Jacobs overall club record. Sarah Davies got a PB with a 40:45 and Tammie Baker who had a brilliant month of 5K times added a 5 mile PB with 45:31.

Other Races

Nicky Bennett and Niki Puleio headed to Telford for a 10K event with both clocking super fast times of 33:33 and 38:02 respectively. Danny Ridley took on the Limitless Trails Half Marathon and Seven Sins 7 miler during the month. Carl Walsh ran the Celtic Trail Ultra Marathon in slightly better conditions than the previous year when a lot of the course was covered in snow and ice. Fiona Drysdale was our only runner at the Blaise Castle Gwent XC fixture. Fiona represented the club in 8 XC events for the club during 2023 across the West Glam and Gwent Leagues which is the most of any member when just counting league events.

The two big other distance events in December were the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run and the Porthcawl Lions Boxing Day run. At the Pudding Run we had 25 runners with Jacob finishing first overall whilst we had our biggest turnout in several years at the Lions race with 35.

Over to Chris for Runners of the Month.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

As the year draws to a close – it’s fabulous to see all the fantastic running endeavours of our members.  Near and far.  Short and long.  Fast and slow.  It doesn’t matter what you achieve – you have all pursued your dreams.  You have battled with challenges and some have fallen by the wayside and we hope we’ve done the best we can to pick you back up and support you along whatever journey you take.  Your goal is your goal and we salute you for setting one and striving for it – whatever it may be.

To close off I will pick two more runners from our fold who have made noted efforts.

Firstly one who floats so often under the radar, but is a constant.  Quietly working away at events that are often unseen.  A propensity to attend league events that many don’t.  Not because of breaking records or winning trophies (although they have come from her endeavours) – but for just taking part.  Often treading where others don’t – the far flung corners of our region and beyond to represent the Phoenix.  Gwent league seems to conjur up a fear – somehow bringing an elitist badge that doesn’t actually do it justice.  It’s for everyone and there are those who attend them all – or at least all those they can make.  Also tackling unusual events that inspire.  I personally have been inspired by race choices made that are a little unusual and this year, for the first time, I’m racing against horses as a result!  For the inspiration and awesome commitment to participating and representing the club, I award my first Chair’s Runner of the month for December to Fiona Drysdale.  Keep up the good work Fiona and keep inspiring us with your focus!

My second choice is fairly new to the club and I remember having several discussions before that was the case about the merits of being within the fold.  It took a bit of cajoling (not from myself) but eventually he relented and blue kit was ordered to accompany the miles.  It didn’t take long before the club bug took hold and for it wasn’t long beofre every time I went to training I’d see this face.  With a leaning towards the trails it became obvious there was a passion there and it’s passion that we like to see.  Not fearful of hills, distance or terrain – he was in for everything – and throws everything at it.  Merits in the trail championship show there’s also prowess there and while that’s admirable – it’s the dedication as much as anything that we applaud.  I am very proud to announce my second Chair’s Runner of the month for December as Lee Dunbar-Bowen.  Well done Lee – look forward to seeing you on many trails (and roads for the training miles) lots over the coming months!