The year started with the continuation of virtual parkruns. Numbers fluctuated and dropped slightly as we passed a full year of virtual parkrun in late March. We ended up reaching 70 weeks before parkrun returned in England but carried on until week 74 before parkruns returned in Wales. Alun Wylde, myself, Jo Jenkins, Sara Davies, Nick Harris and Sarah Davies were amongst those that ran every single week or only missed one or two. Over the 74 weeks, we recorded around 3,600 virtual parkruns between us averaging just under 50 per week.
On 24/07/21 parkrun finally returned (in England at least) with 7 members popping over the border to get their parkrun fix. In total there were 18 members who ended up going to England before the Wales return with some going on each of the 5 parkrundays that separated the England and Wales start dates. On 21/08/21 parkrun finally returned in Wales and we saw an incredible turnout of 65 runners with 58 of those at our local parkruns of Porthcawl and Maesteg.
Number of parkruns completed in 2021
- Sarah Davies 21
- Dawn Hopkins 21
- Nick Harris 20
- Chris Roberts 19
- Aled Hughes 18
- Kris Denholm 18
- Sharon Pritchard 18
- Chris Pratt 18
- Jacob Tasker 17
- Peter Walsh 17
Since the return we’ve seen a much more even split between members going to Porthcawl and Maesteg. Maesteg has also been a popular venue for milestone celebrations with 45 members running at Maesteg for Dai Kembery’s 250th parkrun and a higher club attendance at Maesteg than Porthcawl for Jayne Bissmire’s 50th parkrun / Halloween. Jo and I chose Porthcawl for our wedding themed parkrun with 47 members completing the course.
Considering we’ve only had 19 parkrun days (in Wales) this year, we’ve seen plenty of milestones…
- 250 – Chris Roberts (after being on 249 when parkrun ’paused’ in March 2020)
- 250 – David Kembery
- 100 – Debbie Bennion
- 100 – Gareth Davies
- 100 – Nige Rees (after being on 99 when parkrun ‘paused’ in March 2020)
- 50 – Nicky Bennett
- 50 – Emma Loyns
- 50 – Jay Howells
- 50 – Jayne Bissmire
- 50 – Rhiannon Whiteley
- 50 – Samantha Thompson
- 50 – Huw Jenkins
- 50 – Nigel Hitchings
- 50 – Neil Price
Dawn Hopkins became the first person in the club to complete the parkrun alphabet by completing a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet and therefore achieving ‘alphabeteer’ status. Sarah Davies followed a few months later in completing the challenge after numerous lengthy journeys to tick off the final few letters. Karl Johnson became the third member to run at 100 different parkrun events and therefore achieve ‘Cowell’ status – named after the first person to do it. A week later Karl ended Shawn and Julie’s 5 year reign as the clubs top tourists by running his 101st different parkrun venue. Dawn and Sarah were easily our most prolific tourists this year as per the stats below.
Number of new parkrun venues visited
- Dawn Hopkins – 17
- Sarah Davies – 16
- Chris Roberts – 14
- Aled Hughes – 7
- Melinda Thomas – 7
Most parkrun tourisms overall as at the end of 2021
- Karl Johnson – 101
- Shawn Cullen – 100
- Julie Ransom – 100
- Chris Roberts – 92
- Gareth Jenkins – 80
- Dawn Hopkins – 77
- Chris Stanlake – 71
- Kris Denholm – 67
- Aled Hughes – 61
- Jo Gamba – 53
Top 10 parkrun times
Jacob Tasker – 15:54, 16:21, 16:36, 16:48, 16:52, 16:56, 16:57, 17:00, 17:04, 17:09 – Jacob actually has the top 16 times this year out of his 17 parkruns. Nicky Bennett is the next fastest with a 17:41. Jacob has finished first in 16 out of his 17 parkruns with his PB of 15:54 at Swansea being the only blip in his 100% first finisher record which was frustratingly to an ‘unknown runner’ who must not have presented their barcode! Due to ‘unknown runners’ not automatically being classed as male (which used to be the case), Jacobs records show him as first male finisher in all his 17 parkruns which include 15 at Maesteg, 1 at Porthcawl and 1 at Swansea Bay.
For the ladies, Emma Morris has the two fastest times by some margin with a 19:52 and 20:06 which were both run at Swansea Bay parkrun. Lisa King is next up with 22:19 whilst Kate Lee is third on the ladies parkrun rankings for the club with a 23:59.
The return of parkrun has seen a few members step into core volunteer teams whilst the likes of Stephne Puddy and Emma Marshall continue their regularly weekly volunteering roles and have both now exceeded well over 100 volunteer credits each. Karl Johnson started as co-Event Director for Pontypridd parkrun and is now well on his way to joining the volunteer 100 club whilst Sian Jenkins has joined the core volunteer team at Maesteg as one of the Run Directors. Dozens of other members have volunteered at our local parkruns whilst Judith Howells even did some volunteer tourism earlier in the year. A huge thank you to all the volunteers.
There were only 3 events at this distance that OPR runners attended this year with some spectacular performances. Jacob Tasker set a then club record of 16:18 at the Welsh 5K series in Pembrey with Niki Puleio setting a new PB of 17:47 in the same event. Nicky Bennett set a huge new PB and what would have been a club record prior to this year with a 16:26 at the Whitchurch Race for Victory 5K with Emma Morris setting a then PB of 20:43 in the same event.
Top 5 fastest
- Jacob Tasker – 16:18
- Nicky Bennett – 16:26
- Niki Puleio – 17:47
- Neil Price – 18:57
- Emma Morris – 20:43
OPR members ran in 24 different 10K events this year with 132 finishes and 34 PB’s. Emma Morris our most prolific 10K-er with 6 events to her name. In England, some races were permitted from late March / early April, so Lisa King was one of the first members to run at an official race when she ran the Gloucester 10K at the start of May. The Richard Burton 10K saw our biggest attendance with 29 finishers closely followed by Cardiff Bay 10K with 26 and Newport with 24.
Top 5 fastest males
- Jacob Tasker – 33:07 – new overall club record
- Nicky Bennett – 34:18 – also inside the club record going into this year
- Gareth Richards – 38:48
- Neil Price – 39:49
- Neil Ridley – 40:28
Top 5 fastest female
- Emma Morris – 42:19 (new age category club record and also ran 44:31 whilst pacing 45 minutes at an event)
- Lisa King – 45:10
- Carys Cronin – 47:17
- Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 47:20
- Fiona Drysdale – 51:36
OPR members somehow managed to squeeze in 31 different half marathons in this year with 108 finishes and 21 PB’s. Lisa King again being the one to start us off at Sheppardine HM back in April. Llanelli Half Marathon had the biggest attendance with 17 followed by Swansea with 16. Jacob finished 4th at the Swansea Half Marathon to further cement his place as the clubs fastest runner.
Top 5 Fastest Male
- Jacob Tasker – 1:11:14 (club record by over 7 minutes)
- Nicky Bennett – 1:17:59 (inside the old club record)
- Niki Puleio – 1:25:00
- Gareth Richards – 1:26:02
- Neil Price – 1:26:36
Top 5 fastest female
- Emma Morris – 1:38:28 (new age category club record)
- Lisa King – 1:39:39 (new age category club record)
- Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 1:46:52
- Carol Bartle – 1:52:08
- Rebecca Newton – 1:56:12
OPR members ran in 20 different marathons this year with 51 finishes and 18 PB’s. Incredibly Carl Walsh ran in 10 of these events including marathons in Denmark and Iceland and would have run more had it not been for a injury in the latter part of the year. Interestingly, despite the pandemic, we actually had marathon finishes in 6 different countries. Some incredible performances this year with Wayne Randall knocking over an hour off his previous best marathon time with Peter Walsh and Rebecca Newton not far off having one hour improvements as well. Ken Salvatore reduced his time from 4:35 to 3:58, Anthony Kavanagh from 4:44 to 4:12, Keith Coleman from 4:01 to 3:43 and Gareth Richards from 3:30 to 3:18. Jay Howells ran 3 marathons during October with PB’s in two of them. Niki Puleio ran two sub 3 hour marathons on consecutive weeks in different countries (Berlin, Germany and then London, England).
Top 5 fastest Male
- Niki Puleio – 2:55:57 (followed by a 2:58:37 a week later)
- Paul Smith – 2:58:38 (only the third runner in clubs history to run a sub 3 marathon)
- Dai James – 3:06:17 (new age category record)
- Gareth Richards – 3:18:07
- Carl Walsh – 3:33:24
Top 5 fastest Female
- Rebecca Newton 4:21:33
- Melanie Thomas 4:28:11
- Emma Loyns 4:30:31
- Leigh Francis-Richards 5:39:10
- Karen Green 5:48:35
Ultras / Challenges / Crazy Feats of Endurance
In February, Infinity Running put on a ‘live’ virtual event with a challenge of running 4 miles on the hour, every hour until you either run out of time, or simply stop. The event started at 8am on the Saturday morning and at 2am the next morning, 18 hours later, Kris Denholm and I dropped out having completed 72 miles to finish in joint 3rd place. Kris also went on to complete the Run Walk Crawl virtual challenge of running 10 miles, 18.5 miles and 32 miles all the space of a week. He also entered the virtual ‘Route 66’ challenge which involved covering almost 2,300 miles during 2021 which he achieved with running and cycling included. Then in official races he did the Brecon to Cardiff 44 miler and Vale 32 miler as well as more than 30 miles of the Gower 50 before having to call it a day.
In April I took on another Infinity virtual event running 53.7 miles from Rhossili in the Gower to Rest Bay as part of their 12 hour event. In June, I took on my first ever 24 hour event – Conquer 24 – completing 16 laps of a hilly mostly off road 5 mile course to finish on 80 miles and 14th overall. In August I ran 33 miles in one of the Infinity Running 6 hour events. In October I then took on the Narberth Backyard Ultra completing 40 miles in awful conditions on a basically cross country style course. Including training runs for these ultra’s I ended up running over marathon distance and therefore running an Ultra 12 times between January and October.
Another Ultra-crazy member was Carl Walsh who ran the 53 mile Race to the King, the 32 mile Celtic Ultra and the Off The Tarmac Brecon Ultra. That’s on top of his 10 marathons and all this was between April and November.
Gareth Richards long distance exploits are hard to beat. He ran a marathon every week for 26 weeks at the start of the year. Since the return of races he’s ran a huge marathon PB at Worcester and completed marathon distance at an Infinity Running Event. Back in April, Run Walk Crawl did the Vale Ultra virtual challenge where Gareth took it to the absolute extreme deciding to run the three distances (10 miles, 18.5 miles and 32 miles) all in one go, completing just over 60 miles in a single day. Gareth has since gone on to be our first male finisher in the Brecon to Cardiff and Vale Ultras as well as completing the Gower 50 miler and Celtic Trail Ultra.
Our most prolific female Ultra Runner was Emma Loyns who also completed the Vale Ultra challenge back in April over the course of a week. Then when races returned Emma was our first female finisher at the 32 mile Vale Ultra, completed 46.2 miles at the Narberth Backyard Ultra (actually recorded over 50 miles on her watch), and joined Carl Walsh for the Off The Tarmac Brecon Ultra as well as running the Newport Marathon in between these Ultra challenges.
Not content with just doing their first Ultra this year, Sian Thomas and Sarah Davies did both the Brecon to Cardiff and Vale Ultra’s this year. Fiona Evans and Denise Bradley pushed their first ultra to the extreme by doing 2 in 2 days to complete the Race to the Stones 100K with 50K completed on each day. Wayne Randall ran his first Ultra at Brecon to Cardiff accompanied by Simon Harrison, and in the same event Mark Worrall knocked over an hour off the time he’d achieved the year before. Wayne also went on to run the Celtic Trail Ultra which was Jay Howells first Ultra.
16 runners at the Vale Ultra actually made it one of our biggest races this year with several members completing their first Ultra distance.
Longest distances achieved in virtual / race ultra’s in 2021
- Gareth Jenkins – 80 miles – Conquer24
- Gareth Jenkins – 72 miles – Infinity Last Runner Standing (75 miles by watch)
- Kris Denholm – 72 miles – Infinity Last Runner Standing
- Denise Bradley 62.2 miles – Race to the Stones (over 2 days)
- Fiona Evans 62.2 miles – Race to the Stones (over 2 days)
- Gareth Richards – 60 miles – Run, Walk, Crawl virtual challenge
- Gareth Jenkins – 53 miles – Infinity 12 hour challenge
- Carl Walsh – 53 miles – Race to the King
- Gareth Richards – 50 miles – Gower 50
- Emma Loyns – 46.2 miles – West Wales Backyard Ultra (50 miles by watch)
Race and overall totals
Total number of events in 2021 (parkruns plus races)
- Sarah Davies 32
- Chris Pratt 30
- Carl Walsh 29
- Nicky Bennett 27
- Jay Howells 26
- Dawn Hopkins 25
- Jacob Tasker 25
- Nick Harris 25
- Melanie Thomas 25
- Gareth Jenkins / Kris Denholm / Sharon Pritchard 24
Sarah becomes the first female member to ever top the annual most events table.
Most Races (not including parkruns)
- Carl Walsh 26
- Neil Ridley 14
- Wayne Randall 13
- Jay Howells 13
- Chris Pratt 12
- Denise Bradley 12
- Sarah Davies / Nicky Bennett / Fiona Drysdale / Gareth Richards 11
Dominated by two newer members of the club who I have no doubt will be claiming milestone t-shirts every year from now on.
Overall most events
- Gareth Jenkins 626
- Nick Harris 573
- Chris Pratt 449
- Aled Hughes 397
- David Kembery 378
- David Sheard 329
- Chris Roberts 306
- Kris Denholm 287
- Denise Bradley 268
- Dawn Hopkins 260
Overall most races (not including parkruns)
- Gareth Jenkins 274
- Nick Harris 232
- Chris Pratt 172
- Aled Hughes 151
- Denise Bradley 132
- Dawn Hopkins 129
- David Kembery 117
- Shawn Cullen 111
- David Sheard 108
- Niki Puleio 107
Jo Jenkins, Alun Wylde and Mark Worrall also ran their 100th race for the club this year and claimed their milestone t-shirts at the club Christmas party.
With uncertainty about races again this year, I set up another virtual club championship with handicap scoring allowing everyone a chance of winning. Distances ranged from just 1 kilometre to Half Marathon.
Dai Kembery took an early lead with the best score in round 1 (5K time trial) before Huw Jenkins top overall top spot with a win in round 2 (1 mile time trial). Huw maintained top spot in round 3 (1K time trial) which was won by Jonathan Tidball. Round 4 saw Melinda Thomas win the 10K time trial and leap to the top of the standings. Neil Ridley won round 5 (2 mile TT) and Nicky Bennett won round 6 (Half Marathon TT). Melinda maintained her top spot improving her chances of winning with consistent top 10 finishes in each of those rounds. Rosie Salvatore won the final two rounds which were the 5 mile TT before ending as we started with a 5K time trial which catapulted her from 46th to 14th overall.
The final standings saw Melinda win with an incredible 490 points out of a possible 500. With the best 5 scores counting, hers were made up of a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Kaye Pedler was second and despite not winning any rounds outright, she scored top 10 finished 8th or higher in 5 of the rounds. On the final event, Jacob Tasker took third from Huw Jenkins who had been in contention throughout. Jacob posted some absolutely crazy times and unsurprisingly would have won every round had it just been based on quickest times. His times in order of distance are listed below…
- 1K – 2:57
- 1 mile – 4:42
- 2 miles – 10:25
- 5K – 15:54
- 5 miles – 27:28
- 10K – 34:17
- Half Marathon – 1:11:44
Club Training in 2021
This year has seen the club provide more sessions than ever. Emma Loyns continued her strength classes on a Monday which have grown in numbers to sometimes being the biggest attended session of the week. Touring Tuesdays have continued with a mixture of effort and mile sessions. Wednesdays now consist of a new Power Plodders session as well as Flyers and other club sessions. More recently we’ve seen the return of track twice a month as well where many of the sessions have come together. Thursdays have continued back at our original home in the Ogmore Valley. Then there’s been trial Sundays as well the social Sunday run as well. Also not forgetting our junior section which meet on Mondays. We’ve had a number of new Lirfs this year as well as Liz Davis and Vickie Blake moving onto their coaching qualifications. A huge thank you to our Lirfs and coaches for their dedication and time.
Other club activities in 2021
Whilst restrictions meant this presentation night had to go ahead online only, we did get to celebrate in style at the end of the year with the Christmas Party. A massive thank you to the social committee for putting on a brilliant evening.
The Phantom Phoenix continues to keep us guessing. Our Insta queen, Jayne Bissmire celebrated our 1,000th post on Instragram by creating a spectular OPR logo made up of hundreds of photos chosen by members. Our Twitter and Facebook pages also continue to keep members up to date. The first ‘captains log’ update was sent towards the end of the year which is set to be a regular feature in the coming months. There was also a monthly photography competition with the winning photos being used for the 2022 Ogmore Phoenix calendar.
A huge well done to every member who has participated in training, races, virtual challenges, volunteered or simply encouraged others this year.