Weekend Preview – 8-9th June 2024

This weekend includes a number of huge events with Welsh Castles Relay, Man vs Horse, Pembrokeshire 100, Swansea Half and a few parkruns besides.

Welsh Castles Relay

20 of our runners will take on the 209 mile Welsh Castles Relay which runs from Caernarfon Castle to Cardiff starting at 10am on Saturday morning, with the final leg starting from Caerphilly at 250pm on Sunday.

A brief history of our efforts to participate in Castles. It would have been first suggested 10 years ago when the club had less than 100 members. Over the years, we tried several times to see if there was enough members willing to commit to the weekend and the captaincy team met on multiple years to try and progress but we never managed to actually get to a stage of being confident that we had enough runners to apply for a place. In 2019, we managed to get ourselves a place in Rack Raid – essentially a 1 day version of Welsh Castles which was a big stepping stone towards having some experience in a big multi stage event and some of the logistics that entails. Due to the couple of years of no events covid, we felt that we probably needed another year of just being involved in Rack Raid (2022) before an all out attempt at getting a place in Welsh Castles. Last year, it finally happened. A huge effort by Dawn Hopkins, Nicky Bennett, Dai Kembo and several others resulted in our first actual application being accepted. We were finally in and I think for most of us, we assumed that meant the club would be doing Castles year after year from then on – but it doesn’t quite work like that…

Onto 2024 and 20 runners put their names forward and the application was put in only for us to discover, we weren’t selected. Bitterly disappointed we asked for more information and were told that with a reduction in the number of teams this year, we’d narrowly missed out. Fast forward a few weeks and with less than 2 weeks to go before the weekend of Welsh Castles, Dawn gets a call that a team have had to drop out and we were literally the next club in line. Cue dozens of WhatsApp’s, Facebook Messenger messages and phone calls and somehow over the next 24 hours we somehow managed to scramble enough runners together to accept the place. Of course, this was just the start and a huge thank you to Dawn, Nicky, Niki Puleio and Dai Kembo again who then had to sort out a minibus, accommodation and along with myself, try and slot runners into stages that were suitable for ability and dependent on which day(s) they were available. We got to version 4 and needed one of our reserves to come which was only finalised about 24 hours before the names had to be submitted (Friday 7th June). In the middle of all the chaos, we still managed a very successful day at Rack Raid last weekend!

So onto this years event.

Stage 1: Bethan Moor will start us off with a 9.1 mile stage with 449 feet of elevation at 10am tomorrow. Interesting it’ll mean Bethan has been our opening runner in both Rack Raid and Welsh Castles this year. With our team consisting of 20 male runners in 2023, Bethan will become the first female member to run at Welsh Castles for the club.

Stage 2: Rhodri Thomas returns to Welsh Castles having run leg 19 in our first outing last year. His stage is 10.7 miles with 371 feet of elevation.

Stage 3: Tom Mahoney makes his Welsh Castles debut and is taking on the first of 6 ‘mountain stages’ that are included in the 20 overall stages throughout the weekend. Tom is in great form having got PB’s at both Half and more recently in the full marathon distance. His stage is 12.3 miles with 945 feet of elevation.

Stage 4: Ben Batchelor returns for a second year having run stage 9 last year. His stage is 9.5 miles with 489 feet of elevation.

Stage 5: Jason Griffiths is by far the most experienced of our Welsh Castle runners having run this event multiple times before joining our club and was also on hand to lend some of his experience running stage 8 last year for the club. This years stage is 9.6 miles with 459 feet of elevation.

Stage 6: Martin Beard makes his Welsh Castles debut on the 10.7 mile stage from Barmouth with 696 feet of elevation.

Stage 7: Nicky Bennett is taking on the second mountain stage from Dolgellau with the 10.1 mile route having 1,473 feet of elevation. Nicky ran the first mountain stage (3) in last years event.

Stage 8: Jon Matthews is the newest member of our club running tomorrow having only joined a few months ago. He takes on the 10.8 mile stage with 1,107 feet of elevation.

Stage 9: Sarah Davies is our second lady to take on Castles with the 8.5 mile stage with 325 feet of elevation. Sarah also ran at Rack Raid last weekend and has recently got a 5K PB (which was also a new club age category record) at SSAFA.

Stage 10: Scott Gray finishes off day 1 with the 3rd mountain stage and longest stage of the entire weekend with a 13.1 mile run with 1,112 feet of elevation.

Stage 11: Niki Puleio has taken one for the team by taking the first stage of day 2 which is not only a mountain stage, but starts at 7am and will mean getting up possibly before 5am to get ready and travel the 40 minutes to get there from our last minute accommodation. His route is 10.5 miles with 1,240 feet of elevation. Niki also ran last year when he ran stage 10. Niki also ran Rack Raid last weekend.

Stage 12: Josh Parry returns to Castles having done stage 4 last year. This years stage is 11.2 miles with 505 feet of elevation.

Stage 13: Luke Davis is the only member who will be repeating the same stage he did last year with a 10.6 mile run including 518 feet of elevation.

Stage 14: Aled Jenkins takes on the biggest mountain stage of the lot in terms of elevation with 1,617 feet of climbing over 10.8 miles. Aled recently ran 2:30 at London Marathon to take the club record. This will be his Welsh Castles debut.

Stage 15: Willow Hughes will be the 3rd female OPR member to run Welsh Castles and takes on the second longest stage at 12.8 miles with 495 feet of elevation.

Stage 16: Gareth Jenkins (me!) will take on the final mountain stage of the weekend. Up until version 4 of the team sheet, I was running the final stage (20) but some last minute changes have resulted in me going from possibly the best stage in terms of the distance/elevation/finish support, to one that literally goes uphill constantly for the final 6 miles of the 12.5 miles in total with most of the 1,181 feet of climbing in that second half. I’m not complaining though – running at Welsh Castles has been high up on the list of things I’ve wanted to do ever since I joined the club nearly 12 years ago. I can’t believe it’s finally going to happen!

Stage 17: Sian Price only rejoined the club a month or so ago after a couple of years out and in that time she’s been on the receiving end of desperate messages from me twice already. Sian stepped in as a last minute replacement for Rack Raid and has now done the same again for Welsh Castles. She will be the 4th OPR lady to take on a Welsh Castles stage with a 8.7 mile stage with 407 feet of elevation. There was a bit of panic a few days ago when we accidently had the cut off time at 8 and a half minute miles for her stage but we can confirm all stages have a cut off of 9 and a half minutes per mile.

Stage 18: Jamie Verran makes his Welsh Castles debut having run at Rack Raid for us last weekend. He takes on a 9.1 mile stage with 404 feet of elevation. Jamie has been on form at the shorter distances with two PB’s at 10K in the last couple of months and a 5K PB at SSAFA as well as several first finishes at various parkruns.

Stage 19: Ashley Howells is another making his Welsh Castles debut taking on the 7.7 mile stage with 279 feet of elevation. Ashley recently ran a 50K Ultra in West Wales and regularly runs with the Running Punks as well as OPR.

Stage 20: Jo Jenkins will be the 5th female member of OPR to take on Welsh Castles. In the last minute reshuffle, Jo was our final runner to added and obviously if there’s someone I had to give up the final stage for, then I’m very happy it’s her. Jo is used to the multi-stage events having represented the club three times at Rack Raid. Jo takes on the 9.9 mile final stage from Caerphilly Castle to Cardiff with 207 feet of elevation.

All the best to our Welsh Castles runners this weekend.

Man vs Horse

If you’re not familiar with this event then yes, it is what the name suggests – a race against horses. Not only that, it’s 22-24 miles across a tough multi-terrain course. Last year was only the fourth occasion in 42 years where a runner finished first ahead of the horses. A handful of members have participated in this in previous years including current members, Wayne Hayhurst and Fiona Drysdale. This year, Chris Pratt takes on the event for the first time.

Pembrokeshire 100 miler

At midday on Friday 7th June, Gareth Richards set off on his third 100 mile event having completed the Dragon 100 the last two years in a row. Gareth is actually using the event as a ‘warm up’ and is going to ‘take it easy’ ahead of the Dragon 100 this year (in just 6 weeks time) where he is hoping to dip under the 24 hour barrier having got close in both years so far. The event is run by Run Walk Crawl who a lot of you reading this will be familiar with from the Vale events and they also organise the Dragon 50/100 milers. Nick Harris and former member Jamie Vanstone became the first members of the club to ever complete a 100 miler when they ran together in just under 32 hours on the inaugural Pembrokeshire 100 in 2017. The event didn’t return after covid and this is first year that it’s been back on since 2019.

Swansea Half Marathon and 5 miler

This year, Swansea Half have added a 5 mile option with multiple members taking on one of the distances. Unfortunately I don’t have a start list for this one but I believe Kris Denholm is one of the official pacers and all eyes with be on Jake Tasker who has finished 4th at Swansea Half on two occasions and it’s where his current 1:09 club record PB was set. Katie Plimmer is likely to lead the charge for our female members with the likes of Willow, Bethan and Sian at Castles.

With a packed race calendar over the summer months then good luck to those who may be running at event not mentioned above. Although it may be a reduced attendance due to these events, we will no doubt still have big numbers at parkrun and this weekend, Kris Denholm becomes only the 4th member of the club to reach 400 parkruns.

All the best to all our runners.

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!

January 2024

parkruns

27 members took the opportunity to run an extra parkrun on New Years Day across 9 different parkrun venues. Jamie Verran was the only member who headed across the border with Clevedon Salthouse Fields added to the club record breaking tourist streak.

The first Saturday of the month saw 81 members at a parkrun which includes runners and volunteers. Well done to the 22 club members who headed up with Karl’s Johnson’s parkrun Tours to Pontefract to tick off a Pont(y)(e) for the Full Ponty challenge with lots now having completed it. With Aberfields cancelled that Saturday, we had bigger turnouts at Maesteg where Nicky Bennett was first finisher, and a good turnout at Porthcawl. Jamie Verran was first finisher at Coed Cefn Pwll Du to equal Jake Tasker on being first finisher at 6 different parkrun venues.

On the second weekend of the month we had 81 members either run or volunteer again. Two members ran at Cardiff where they had over 1,000 runners for the first time in 4 years. There were huge turnouts across Wales with over 500 at Porthcawl and over 450 at Pontypridd. Luke Davis was 3rd overall at Aberfields on his 25th parkrun and last parkrun before heading off to the RAF. There were also volunteer milestones for Abbigayle Dee and Claudine Nicholson-Lewis.

The third Saturday of the month saw 78 members run or volunteer (or both) across 12 parkrun venues. We had 24 runners at Maesteg as part of ‘The Runs’ podcast takeover which is co-hosted by Niki Puleio. Jamie Verran ran his final tourist venue at Evesham before deciding to break the streak.

The final Saturday saw a massive 87 members run or volunteer (or both) across 12 parkrun venues. We had 27 members run at Aberfields for Jamie Verran’s 100th parkrun which saw him end his record breaking tourist streak whilst breaking new records in the process including having the shortest time period from debut to 100th parkrun. It was a shame there happened to be a couple of other super fast runners in attendance as Jamies time of 19:06 would have been quick enough for first finisher at Aberfields most weeks but he had to settle for 3rd. Elsewhere, Sarah and Dawn travelled to The Old Showfield parkrun whilst another tourist group of Vickie, Darija and Satera were at Eastville.

Races

The year started as usual with the Kenfig Prince of Wales race on New Years Day. This used to be a compulsory fixture in order to complete the Festive Four, however, this year runners were given the option to do Old Father Time instead which went ahead on New Years Eve. It meant a reduced turnout at Kenfig but still 10 members from our club with a few of us checking our phones to see if we’d got in through the Marathon Eyri ballot. Carl Walsh and Danny Ridley finish together as our first Phoenix runners across the line followed by myself. Jules Esmond was our first female finisher just ahead of Alison Allen. It was also great to see Ria Ross and Caryn Hicks completing their first Festive Four at the event.

The first XC (Cross Country) fixture of the year took place at Margam Park with an impressive 18 members taking on the course. Jake Tasker took the overall win with a solid performance by our men’s scorers. Trail queen Jade B was our first lady with Katie Plimmer, Jules Esmond, Sarah Davies and Melanie Thomas scoring for a great performance for our ladies team as well. Caryn and Ria also ran the event showing some remarkable progress and dedication to the club and running in general since coming through our Zero to Hero program last year.

We had 9 runners at the infamous Riverbank Rollick as we approach 10 years since myself and Richard Lowcock James were the first members to take on the course – just to note, I’ve never gone back! However, it’s a popular choice with our trial lovers. Carl Walsh and Emma Loyns were our first male and female runners back in that one.

18 members took on the CF64 Winter Trail race which was the first fixture in this years club trail championship. Jake Tasker was first overall and it was another 18 minutes until we saw our next finisher which was Jade who picked up the maximum amount of points for the first fixture.

The was at least one less muddy and / or hilly event in January with the Lliswerry 8 – another event I’ve only done once but is very popular with our members. This year saw 14 members complete the course including a phenomenal time of 44:22 from Nicky Bennett which is the fastest time on that course by any OPR member ever, by some margin. In fact, Steve Holloways time of 46;49 and Kyle Blackmore’s 47:11 were also quicker than our previous fastest time on the course which was 47:13 from Kyle last year. Melinda Thomas was our first female finisher in a race where the men heavily outnumbered the ladies.

At the Chepstow Running Festival, Wayne Hayhurst ran the 10K event. Danny Ridley and Ceri Jones ran the Half Marathon with Emma Loyns one of the official pacers, coming in at only an impressive 3 seconds under the 2:20 pacer time.

Festive Four

New Years Day saw the final event of the latest Festive Four series with a presentation after Porthcawl parkrun in mid-January. Well done to the 18 OPR members who qualified for the t-shirt by completing 4 events over the festive period and particularly well done to our ladies who outnumbered the men with 15 of those 18 qualifiers. A huge congratulations to Tammie Clemett who won the Seasons Best ‘Green t-shirt’ category – this was given to the runner who improved the most on their best time of the year coming into the competition and Tammie peaked at the perfect time with some 2023 best performances in those events. Julia Esmond narrowly missed on a top 3 position in the same category. Denise Bradley was 3rd overall in he Age Graded Results.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

January – into a new year – a year of positivity and passion!

My first choice is no stranger to accolades.  Capturing the hearts of our members on many occasions.  True grit.  It’s a word I use a lot – because I hold it as a great measure and demonstrator of resilience.  Courage and determination in spite of difficulty.  Determined to achieve their goal, no matter how much reaching that goal challenges them.  It’s a trait that holds favour with many who are inspired by seeing it happen.  2023 was a good year for many and my choice here is no exception for whom it went out with a bang.  The competition that many of us take part in to keep us engaged over the festive period is a regular draw for some and each year they give their all.  One year it spelt disaster for one in our midst with an accident during one of it’s events that shelved running for a considerable time – but the story of the return from that won our praise and it has continued to do so.  A story that has many chapters still to be told and each accompanied with a characteristic smile and a determined effort.  The Festive Four saw a significant placing for my first choice, the last event of which crept into the new year.  Always humble about her achievements, but always working hard to record great results.  Absolutely delighted to award my January 2024 Chair’s Runner of the Month to Tammie Baker. Keep up the good work Tammie and keep showing us how it’s done!

My second choice is someone I remember meeting on his first training session with the club up in the valley.  We’ve played cat and mouse on many races in the past and have a number of finish approach photos that show us neck and neck, literally, as we approach the line!  That hasn’t happened for some time as continued improvement for my second choice has shown times tumbling – and while not all about speed – it is a benchmark by which improvement can be measured. I’m always captured by those who juggle busy lives with the ability to train.  Family commitments can so often conspire to derail a training programme and it can take a lot of juggling to make everything work and stay on track.  It takes that extra bit of focus – finding the time when possible to sneak in runs to keep the momentum up.  Again, a humble character who just gets on with it – rocks up and gets the job done notching up impressive performances with a smile and encouragement for all those around him too.  Again, delighted to award my second Chair’s Runner of the Month for January 2024 to Wayne Hayhurst.  Well done Wayne, look forward to catching up soon at a race where you’ll be way ahead of me from the start line!  Keep it up. 

2023 review

parkrun

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.

Volunteering

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

10K

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

Marathon

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.

November 2023 review

parkruns

The first weekend saw a drop in numbers with 48 finishers from our club across 16 parkruns. Just a week on from his club record breaking marathon exploits in Eryri, Jacob Tasker ran an impressive 15:55 parkrun PB at Cardiff where he was also first finisher. Angelo Doria was 3rd overall at Porthcawl with 18:31. John Burridge bagged his first ever first finisher token more than 10 years after his first parkrun with Aberfields the location. Alison Allen was first lady making it two weeks in a row as first lady across a parkrun finish line with Jo Jenkins close behind.

The second Saturday saw a big increase with 69 of our members running at 17 different parkrun locations. Kaye Pedler, Huw Jenkins and Melinda Thomas were at Presint parkrun in Malaysia which I believe adds another parkrun country to our club list. Aled Hughes was first finisher at Aberfields parkrun whilst Nicky Bennett lead home the biggest turnout in Porthcawl in quite a while as he finished first overall in 16:46.

Week 3 saw 56 runners across 13 parkruns. This week saw Kaye, Huw and Melinda at Varsity Lakes parkrun in Australia. There was a big turnout at Porthcawl ahead of the BCRL presentation which followed the event in the Hi Tide – more on that later. Aled Hughes was again first finisher at Aberfields.

The final Saturday of the month saw 68 runners across 12 parkruns. Kaye, Huw and Melinda continued their parkrun adventures in Australia at Kelvin Grove parkrun where Huw and Melinda were both running their 100th parkruns. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the parkrun they had intended to run as they were heading for one beginning with Y for Kaye to add to the milestones by completing the parkrun alphabet challenge but it was called off ay short notice. Kaye and co weren’t our only international tourists with Jay Howells at Unisee parkrun in Germany. Back home, Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg.

There were several milestones during the month including Jay Howells doing his 50th volunteer stint and both Toni Howells and Julie Ransom reaching 25 volunteer credits

Races

Despite a postponement to the first event which was due to be the first Thursday of the month, there still ended up being two Severn Bridge 5 milers in the month. In what is a very rare occurrence, I was first Phoenix across the line in both events with Nick Harris next up on both occasions. Jo Jenkins was our first female Phoenix for both races with all 3 of us mentioned running quicker the second time round. Kierran Spiers also ran both events with a further 10 OPR runners completing one of the two races.

The big race of the month was the Richard Burton 10K where we had 34 runners. Nicky Bennett was first Phoenix across the line in 35:17 with a 5 minute gap to our next runners – Emyr Bissmire, Connor and Dylan Panting and Davidleigh Butler. Daniel Jenkins was the first of out runners that had completed Snowdonia Marathon just a week before. Neil Ridley and Jason Griffiths also ran both. Our first female across the line was Carole Bartle in 54:12.

Tom Mahoney and Lee Dunbar-Bowen completed the Cardiff Mo Run with this forming part of multiple fundraising events that Tom took on as part of Movember. The Allen family headed to Alton Towers were Gregg and Mia ran the 5K whilst Alison and Freya ran the Half Marathon.

We had three runners in one of the biggest marathon events in the world – the New York Marathon. Niki Puleio continued his quest to not only run all 6 marathon majors, but to also run them in under 3 hours. His finishing time in New York was 2:58:37. Just a week after running his 100th marathon in Snowdonia, it turned out Carl Walsh had a pretty decent back up in case he missed an event with New York! Dan Ridley was our 3rd finisher in the Big Apple.

A few of our mud-loving trail runners headed off to do the Sodbury Slog where we had 8 finishers and many running the course together. Jade was first across the line on the results but very closely followed by Claire DB and Emma Loyns. Melanie Thomas and Simon Poole finished together as did the inseparable Sharon and Debbie. Vickie Blake was our final finisher as she volunteered as a VI guide which must have been a huge challenge in this sort of event.

Cross Country (XC)

November was a huge month for XC. First up was the second Gwent league fixture at Llandaff Fields in Cardiff which is not only also part of the British Series but is also on the World series of XC events. This resulted in some incredible athletes being part of race which was amazing to see. We managed to field enough men and women for the scoring positions with the ladies up first. Bethan Moor was our first lady across the line ahead of Sarah Davies, Fiona Drysdale, Dawn Hopkins and Steph IH. In the mens race, Josh Parry was our first runner home followed by Davidleigh Bulter, myself, Chris Pratt (who had run a season’s best that morning at parkrun), Wayne Randall and Phill Iveson.

A week later it was the Welsh Inter-Regionals. This event requires runners to qualify for their region through the first Gwent League fixture – or in my case in 2015 and 2018 – just say you’re happy to be a last minute replacement if they are desperate! The most we’ve had representing South Wales in a single year is 4 but this year we smashed that with 7 – and all definitely got in on merit! We would have had 8 but unfortunately Jake wasn’t able to make it due to a continuing niggle. It was a second appearance in as many years for Nicky Bennett who was our first finisher in the men’s race ahead of Niki Puleio and Davidleigh Butler. In the ladies race Bethan Moor was followed home by Sarah Davies and Katie Plimmer with all three picking up their South Wales vests for the first time. Having only started running with the club 5 months earlier, Angelo Doria represented South Wales in the U20 race.

On the final weekend of the month it was the turn of the West Glam league with the Gnoll being the venue for this one. With 20 runners, it equaled our biggest XC turnout this year. Impressive performances from Nicky Bennett, Kyle Blackmore, Niki Puleio, John Burridge and brand new member Oliver Edwards in our male scoring positions against tough opposition. For the ladies it was Jade, Claire DB, Sarah D, Katie P and Fiona Drysdale. Well done to Sarah who was the only member to run all 3 XC events in the month. Also a shoutout to Caryn Hicks who completed the Gnoll as well.

BCRL presentation

Around 20 of us headed to the Hi Tide for the BCRL presentation after Porthcawl parkrun on the 18th November. Well done to our individual winners in various age categories –

Under 20’s Female: Willow Hughes (1st), Freya Allen (2nd)

45-49 Female: Claire DB (1st)

60-64 Female: Denise Bradley (2nd)

Under 20’s Male: Luke Davis (1st)

Senior Male: Jacob Tasker (1st), Nicky Bennett (2nd)

35-39 Male: Dai James (3rd)

45-49 Male: Geriant Lewis (1st), Aled Hughes (2nd)

60-64 Male: Kevin Raymond

Plus of course – BCRL Club Champions – OGMORE PHOENIX RUNNERS (1ST)

Over to Chris for the Chairs Runners of the Month

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many runners develop within the club.  Many come to us to start their journey and some to continue it. A few were here right at the start, when the club started.

One of my choices for November has battled with injury and the impact that has on focus and motivation.  It’s such a hard journey when serious injury prevents you from being active – especially when you were very active before and had aspirations for performance improvements.  Performing well, setting club records.  Focused and committed.   Then injury strikes and worsens to the point where it prevents continuation – leading to operations.  But, not one to be undone, there was a measured return from it.  There was a new found focus.  You know how much I value a comeback – and use it as inspiration for my own running.  It was a steady process – but there was a process and it was followed.  Runs were slowly building from just a few hundred yards.  Steadily it came back.  Tentative steps but definitely making progress.  Soon enough the distance returned and times were starting to tend to those from the past.  In November, a first place finish at parkrun came – marking a milestone that hadn’t previously been achieved.  An accolade to the patience and hard work to return.  I am delighted to award my first Chair’s Runner of the month for November as John Burridge.  Well done John!  A great journey back that has inspired others – including me!

Newcomers aplenty during 2023 and many were getting stuck in straight away.  League events and relays – nothing presents a barrier to participation for some.  Not only getting stuck in but also performing with first finishes and impressive times being notched up.  Living away from the area but travelling in for training sessions and local races shows a focus on being part of the club.  League races representing the club were also accompanied by representation at regional level having being selected to run for South Wales.  When new members join and get stuck in straight away it’s becomes infectious – others see it and it inspires them to get involved and we all applaud such fabulous dedication.  It is with a great deal of admiration that I award my second Chair’s Runner of the month for November as Bethan Moor.  Well done Bethan and keep inspiring others!!

October 2023 review

parkruns

The first Saturday of the month saw 65 OPR members running across 14 different parkrun venues. Angelo Doria and Nicky Bennett had a photo finish at Maesteg for first and second overall respectively and given the same time of 19:50. There was the first proper attempt at Jacob’s Aberfields record with the first place runner coming in at 16:47 at the event where we had 13 runners. Johnson’s tours headed to Pont y Bala in search of achieving the Full Ponty challenge. That included Jamie Verran who definitely takes the crown for least amount of parkruns to complete the challenge.

The second Saturday saw a huge turnout of 76 runners across 15 parkruns. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was first female overall at Llanishen parkrun. Chris Pratt ticked off a new tourist venue at Oakwell Hall whilst Liam O’Sullivan and Rhiannon Whiteley were at South Manchester parkrun. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg. After Porthcawl leading the way for OPR finishers in week 1, it was back to Aberfields on week 2 with 25 of our runners completing the course alongside mostly OPR volunteers. A medical emergency just before the start of Pontypridd parkrun resulted in a very late start for a few of our runners who headed there for their 10 year anniversary run. A huge well done to Karl Johnson and his team who dealt with the emergency and were still able to put the parkrun on.

Week 3 saw 55 runners across 12 parkruns. Jay and Abbi had a break from Aberfields as they visited Woodhouse Moor parkrun which I believe was the first parkrun set up outside of London 16 years ago. Bethan Moor ran a speedy 22:04 at Cardiff parkrun. Jamie Verran ran a parkrun PB of 18:47 at Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester. Dylan Panting was first finisher at Aberfields beating his brother Connor by 1 second and Saul Harris who was just 10 seconds further back to claim a first ever first three finishers at the event.

The final Saturday of the month saw 56 runners across 16 parkruns which is remarkable considering many regular parkruns were running Snowdonia Marathon that morning. Due to the marathon, it was the first time (since the same marathon last year) that our newly crowned most parkruns leader Nick Harris missed a parkrun. He’d actually done 55 over that period due to the extras on Christmas Day and New Years Day as well as getting in a couple of overseas parkruns on their bonus days. Our parkrun tourism events leader, Karl Johnson headed to Newtown whilst Linda Harris along with Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom ran Nant y Pandy parkrun before supporting at Snowdon. There was a surprise Phoenix gathering at the newest ‘Q’ parkrun with Jo and I bumping into Paul, Alexis and Melinda who had also decided on that venue.

Races

There were several 10K’s in month with Satera James running the River Ness 10K which is part of the Loch Ness Marathon weekend where Ashley Howells ran a PB of 4:54. Sarah Davies ran the Red Warrior MT 10K where Jade B was first female in the 10 mile race which also included Claire and Lee Dunbar-Bowen. Jay and Abbi ran together at the Nidderdale Way 10K.

By far the biggest event of the month was the Cardiff Half Marathon where we had 82 finishers. Nicky Bennett ran an incredible 1:13:54 and Angelo Doria ran 1:16:01 for two of the fastest Half Marathon times in the clubs history. Jacob eased his way round in 1:19, not wanting to overdue it before Snowdonia Marathon later in the month. Despite an unusually humid day for an October race, there were PB’s for Aled Hughes, Chris Richards. Katie Plimmer, Dawn Wright, Tammie Baker, Ben Batchelor, Judith Jeeves, Kate Atkin, Lucy Howells, Huw Jenkins and Laura Worrall.

After also pacing at Cardiff Half, Emma Loyns went on to pace 2 hours at the Royal Parks Half where Dawn Hopkins also ran. We also had an oversea’s Half Marathon with Gareth Davies running the Palma Mallorca Half whilst Sara Davies and Ben Davies ran a shortened 10K version.

Dai James ran a speedy 3:16:33 at the Chicago Marathon. Carl Walsh notched up more marathon plus events with the Swindon Ultra Trail and the Gower Ultra Bach where our July Runner of the Month, Angharad Hinam ran the Gower 50 miler just 12 weeks after her Dragon 100 mile heroics. Sarah and Dawn ran at the Grand Canal Canter Half Marathon with Dawn bagging herself a marathon PB of 5:04.

Cross Country (XC) events

October saw the return of XC as the club set out to improve attendance in the Gwent League whilst continuing the great turnouts and performances in the West Glam league.

First up was the Gwent League at Pembrey. The ladies were up first with Katie Plimmer and Dawn Hopkins running for the club. Kudos to both of them as Katie had her first marathon just 2 weeks after this event and Dawn had run 10 miles a few hours before the XC event which started early afternoon as she prepared for her marathon event. We had a few other ladies signed up but unfortunately they were caught out by the medical emergency and late start to Pontypridd parkrun that morning which meant they couldn’t make it to Pembrey on time. Angelo Doria was next up in the Men’s Under 20 race with a really strong performance which has earned him a spot on the South Wales team for the Welsh Inter-Regionals in November. Finally it was the Men’s race with 7 members of the club taking on the 9.15K course. Jacob Tasker finished an impressive 8th against some of the best XC runners in Wales including overall winner and Welsh International Dewi Griffiths. Nicky Bennett was next up followed by Steve Holloway, Niki Puleio, Scott Gray, Wayne Hayhurst and myself. The result put the men’s team 2nd overall in Division 4 whilst the ladies are 15th in Division 3.

The first fixture of the West Glam league was also at Pembrey and just a week after the Gwent league event. Despite that, and the race selling out in record time, the Sunday morning rather than Saturday afternoon start time did draw in 18 of our members with full mens and womens teams for this fixture. With Jacob sensibly resting ahead of Snowdonia Marathon, it was Nicky Bennett who was our first runner back and 6th overall. A very strong performance by our men with newly rejoining member Kyle Blackmore, Steve Holloway, John Burridge and Jamie Verran making up our scoring place with Connor Panting and Aled Hughes just seconds behind. Sarah Davies, Fiona Drysdale, Denise Bradley and Jules Esmond made up our female scorers. Between the two events, we’ve had 26 members represent the club at XC this season which is a great start and hopefully with lots more to follow.

Snowdonia Marathon / Marathon Eryri

Whilst Cardiff Half may have been the biggest event of the month in terms of runners, the entire marathon weekend for Snowdon is hard to beat in terms of one of the best events of the year. The 29 runners only make up part of the weekend with more than a dozen supporters heading to Snowdonia on the 4-5 hour trip and many staying in the same hotel in Caernarfon. Jo Pratt and Emily Harris (with support from others) set up and manned the now famous, and staple of Marathon Eryri, Phoenix Corner from well before the race start until the final runners came in.

The race itself takes on many forms for our runners. Quite a few (slightly bonkers runners in my opinion) have run their first marathons there. The vast majority run it for ‘fun’ and it’s definitely up there as one of the most scenic and friendliest marathons. We’ve had a few attempts at quick times with a handful of sub 4 hour clocking’s over the years and some super speedy performances with a 3:15 from Niki Puleio in 2017 and a 3:02 by our then multi-club-record-holder Neil Jones in 2018 – but there was a special buzz about this race with Jacob Tasker taking on the course. We wondered if he might the make the S4C coverage if he was in amongst the top few… well, yet again, he exceeded all of our expectations and lead for pretty much the entire first half of race which meant he was very much a big part of the highlights program – even giving a cheeky smile to the camera as he seemingly floated up Pen y Pass in the early stages. Jacob went on to finish 4th overall in a club record… yes, an overall club record despite it being Marathon Eryri… in 2:35:24. That’s an average of 5:56 minutes per mile on a course with well over 2000 feet of elevation. I did a bit of research and found that his time would have won it in most previous years which is absolutely unbelievable.

There was also another significant milestone and achievement being made in the race with Carl Walsh running his 100th marathon/ultra to become the first Ogmore Phoenix member to join the 100 Marathon Club. Injury and subsequent surgery meant that the milestone was much later than Carl had originally planned, however, he was delighted to line it up so that his 100th would be at that event which he’s done more times than anyone else in the club. A monumental achievement.

Back to the race results and Gareth Richards ran 3:26 for by far our fastest over 50’s time on the course. Daniel Jenkins also ran a brilliant 3:37. We had some amazing Phoenix spirit in action with our marathon/ultra queen Emma Loyns joining first time marathoner Katie Plimmer, picking up several Phoenix along the way and finishing in 4:42/4:43 with Chris Richards, Jason Griffiths and Chris Pratt all following with a few minutes. Ceri Jones completed his first marathon alongside his regular parkrun running buddy Rob Loyns in 5:11. Despite having done multiple ultras, it was finally a first marathon for Melanie Thomas who finished in 5:51. Vickie Blake was our final runner with Phoenix Corner still standing with many of our runners staying to cheer her in as she crossed the line in 7:45. Apologies I haven’t mentioned all 29 runners – well done to all of you.

Chair’s Runner’s of the Month

Seems very apt to have chosen this pairing for celebration this month.

Both performing exceptionally well on a stage that isn’t commonplace.

A first outing at a tough distance for one and only the second for the other but both making an impact on the back of an impressive training block.

Trust the process.  That phrase that many of us live by as a mantra.  It’s the work on the build up that seals the deal.  Following good practice allows us to rely on the benefits it will bring.  It gives us the best chance on the day of reaping the rewards.  When the process has been followed we must trust in it.  Hold onto the confidence it brings and tackle it head on.

26.2 miles.  It’s a long way in anyones book and the first time you take it on there is always trepidation.  All the preparations in the world will not pave the way for the day that is to come and every time you tackle it – it will be different.   Don’t respect it and it will make you pay.  Respect it and you will be rewarded with the endorphins released as the finish line is crossed and the kudos that completion brings.

For my first accolade I celebrate a first.  The first time that 26.2 miles was completed.  Not just completed, but mastered.  The groundwork prepared for success and the process led to an admirable time on a tough course.  Marathon Eryri so often has a sting in the tale for many who take it one – but provides the ultimate honour.  Pride of conquering something tough but magnificent.  An excellent time set, a proud completion trusting in a well worked and managed process.  With the utmost respect I am delighted to announce my first runner of the month for October as Katie Plimmer.  Well done Katie – a hugely admirable performance laying the groundwork for many more exciting endeavours to come.

My second almost goes without introduction.  Did you watch the TV coverage of Marathon Eryri?  Have I given it away already?  Smiles.  Waves at the camera.  Cheeky grins to the commentators riding parallel to proceedings.  Thanks to the marshals as he passed.  Not commonplace in those who lead the charge.  To lead a race of such calibre on the second tackling of the distance is incredible.  To lead it for more than half of the race is additionally incredible.  To be within a number of minutes of first place finishing and then to finish 4th, in a time that would have won it last year, is beyond incredible.  All with incredible grace and modesty.  I don’t think you will be unaware that my second choice for October runner of the month is Jacob Tasker.  Incredible.  Simply incredible.

But what I really love about this story is that both Jacob and Katie remained after they had finished the race and waited several hours until the very last Phoenix came down the hill and rounded the bend.  Not only an admirable performance for both – but with the commitment and dedication to their fellow club members to stay and cheer every single one of them home.

Both, I salute you.

September 2023 Review

parkruns

The first weekend of the month saw 69 runners across a club record of 20 different parkruns! There was an even split across Aberfields, Porthcawl and Maesteg whilst 22 members visited 17 other parkruns which included Angela Parry at Wexford Racecourse parkrun in Ireland. Jacob was first finisher at Maesteg with a 16:52.

The second weekend saw 61 runners across 16 different parkruns. With several of the Maesteg regulars heading up the Ogmore Valley to try Aberfields, it was left to Tom Mahoney to continue the clubs streak of always having at least one runner at every Maesteg parkrun since it started. Interestingly 15 of the 16 parkruns which had OPR runners were in Wales with just one marginally over the border at the Forest of Dean.

Week 3 saw 62 runners across 13 parkruns with Aberfields our most popular venue yet again both in terms of runners and volunteers and where Adam Kearns was first finisher. There was a bumper turnout for the Wales Cowfest event at Pontypridd parkrun hosted by Karl Johnson and his team – for those wondering, it was for members of the UK parkrun tourists Facebook group who have cow-print products in honour of the first person to run at 100 different parkruns – Chris COWell.

Week 4 saw us fall just short of our recent record of different parkrun venues in a single day with 77 runners across 19 different parkruns. Our three local parkruns shared 57 of our members with Nicky Bennett taking the first finishers token at Maesteg and Aled Hughes taking the first finishers token at Aberfields. Jamie Verran was also first finisher at Gloucester North making it the first time we’ve had 3 first finishers on a single parkrun day. Kierran Spiers celebrated their 50th parkrun with their home parkrun of Riverfront being the venue for the milestone. Some interesting tourist venues that weekend with Karen Dando at Medina on the Isle of Wight. Then Sarah Davies, Melanie Thomas and Dawn Hopkins had a fun trip to Belfast to pick up another Q for the parkrun alphabet with Dawn now not far off completing the challenge twice and Sarah only a few behind. Dai James was even further afield finishing second overall at Clermont Waterfront parkrun which is by far our most visited USA parkrun due to it’s proximity to Disney World – although I’m sure those who’ve done it will want me to point out it’s still a 40 minutes of so drive from Disney.

The final Saturday of the month saw 64 runners across 15 parkruns. Not too many PB attempts with Cardiff Half Marathon the next day although Jamie Verran did run close to his parkrun PB with a 18:58 at Groe. Sarah, Mel and Dawn were off on their tourism travels again with University Parks the venue this time. Nick Harris broke his streak of doing every Aberfields parkrun to date by running at Queen Elizabeth parkrun in Portsmouth, leaving Laura Worrall as the only club member to run the first 7 Aberfields parkruns. I believe there’s possible one or two others that have either volunteered or ran at all 7 so have been at all in some capacity as well.

Races

10K’s

September is always a big month for 10K running with both Cardiff and Swansea bookending the month. At Cardiff we had 26 members running with an impressive 9 PB’s which included a sub 40 for Wayne Hayhurst plus PB’s for Adam Kearns, Claire DB, Lee DB, Steph IH, Terri-Leigh, Paul Harris, Karen Dando and Julie Greenman. At Swansea we had 13 runners with 3 PB’s including an incredible 33:23 from Nicky Bennett. Adam Kearns notched up his second PB of the month and dipped under 40 minutes for the first time whilst Jamie Verran got a PB of 42:17.

Away from the super fast flat road 10K’s, Kris Denholm ran the Hillbilly 10K and we had an impressive 17 runners at the Llantwit 10K which takes in some of the coastal path.

Marathons and Ultras

Carl Walsh had another busy month starting off with the RIDUM which is a 30 ultra marathon hosted by Pegasus events company along the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway. He was joined by Danny Ridley and Antonio Antoniazzi in completing that event. Carl and Danny also Beacons to Blacks Marathon with an eye watering 8,000 feet of elevation which is close to the equivalent of climbing from the railway station to the summit of Snowdon three times!

Ken Salvatore was in Berlin to take on one of the Marathon Majors and absolutely smashed it with a PB of 3:55:12 running in the same race where the women’s world record was set and following in the steps of Eliud Kipchoge. Rosie signed up for volunteer duties on the day making her possibly our first international running volunteer.

Seven weeks after my Dragon 100 mile finish, some last minute changes of plans meant I was available for the Loop-a-thon event hosted by Albany Road Runners. I did this charity event last year when they ran it for the first time and finished on 50 miles (by my watch) having run 16 loops of the 5K course around Roath Park and the lake. Just like last year, it was scorching on the day but I exceeded my expectations to get one more lap in this time finishing on 53 miles after 11 hours and 11 minutes before I decided to call it a day.

Other Races

We had a rare 10 mile event in the month with Chris Pratt, Denise Bradley and Dawn Hopkins heading to Oldbury for the 10 miler that forms part of series of events in that area.

There were several Half Marathons in the month with 8 members taking on the hilly multi terrain Pumsaint course where Jacob Tasker smashed the previous course record with a 1:18:48. Emma Loyns was the 2 hour pacer at the Big Half. Wayne Hayhurst and Gail Newell were our only runners at Llanelli HM which is by far our lowest attendance at the event but did clash with several other events and was just a week before Cardiff Half.

We had 9 runners at the Roman Run with many using the 16 mile course as a perfect training race ahead of Snowdonia / Eryri Marathon. A week later saw another chance to train on the hills with the Beast of Bryn. We had 5 runners in the 7.5 mile event whilst we had 10 runners in the 15 miler where Jacob bagged himself another course record as he continues his preperations for Snowdon.

Back on the flat, speedy tarmac, we had 14 members head down to West Wales for the Welsh Road Relay Championships. Nicky Bennett, Toby Kearns, Josh Parry and Angelo Doria teamed up for the Senior Men’s A Team finishing as 19th team overall in an extremely competitive event. Adam Kearns, Jamie Verran, Max King and Emyr Bissmire formed a super fast ‘B’ Team finishing as the 26th team. However, the ladies did even better with Bethan Moor, Jules Esmond, Carys Cronin and Willow Hughes finishing 13th team in the Senior Women. Gareth Richards and Chris Richards were part of what should have been a 3 person Masters team but someone who will remain nameless was a no show but the boys still got to set a time regardless.

BCRL

The final BCRL event saw us head down to Merthyr Mawr Lane for an out and back 5K down to Candlestone car park and back. An excessive amount of reminders resulted in an incredible turnout of 102 OPR members running the event. Our third biggest attendance ever and biggest since 2019. With other clubs also turning up in big numbers, we still needed big performances from our top 10 men and women and they absolutely delivered. Jacob added another BCRL victory with a time of 15:36 meaning that with OPR members had a clean sweep of having the overall winner in every fixture for the second year in a row. August’s runner of the month Angelo Nico Doria ran a PB of 16:30 whilst there were also PB’s for Lee Dunbar-Bowen and Paul Harris. Another strong performance from our top 10 men and women alongside the incredible turnout resulted in our club retaining our BCRL club title after a close fought battle throughout the year with Bridgend and Porthcawl regularly in the mix as well. A huge well done to everyone who participated this year.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

The unsung heroes.  The ones who head out of the door even when life puts obstacles in their way.  Many of us feel that too and so often we empathise.

Running is a healer; a way to keep the body fresh.  Exercise releases endorphins which are known to be big stress relievers and improvers of well-being, and we thrive on what they provide – the balance.

The battle between the pressures that weigh us down and finding the desire to exercise is very real to many of us.  Motivation often ebbs away and that all-important mojo, to which we refer, departs.

Climbing that hill can be a big challenge.  The hill that exists in our minds down the passageway to the front door.  It doesn’t require trail shoes or poles – it’s not a lung buster that tests our legs to carry us over the top.  It’s a feeling.  It’s a desire.  The pressures of life replace gravity and it takes all our inner strength to reach the top to be able to benefit from the slope on the other side that leads us to the front door and beyond.

I’ve been inspired by many over the last few years who have battled that mountain and found the way the other side.  We have seen challenges the likes of which none of us knew how to deal with and we, as a group, have done wonders to pull each other together.  Reaching out and looking out for each other.  It’s what we do.  Please keep doing it.

Sorry for rambling but I want to celebrate two people who have inspired me hugely this year for their endeavours.  

My first is such a core element of our club with a true heart of gold.  I’ve seen the ebbs and flows in her running and seen her determination that brings her back to it every time it falls away. Trying to find the right path to maintaining motivation and staying out there.  Helping others often does that and self-driven recent incentives have lit the fire under others to come back into the fold searching for the same end goal – to return to running.  A selfless contribution that has had the effect it so often does – self motivation.  Give and you will receive back – often tenfold – or more.  Providing the mechanism for others to find their way back onto the path ignites the flame to keep going.  I’ve seen the troughs and ridden them with her and I’m seeing the peaks outweigh them now.  So often we are unaware of the inspiration we are imparting on others.  Many will never know the impact they have – so often silently made – on the journey of others.  It is this that is pure magic.  We have many within our midst who cast that magic powder – but this month I want to celebrate my first Chair’s Runner of the Month as Siân Jenkins.  Keep inspiring Siân and keep getting out there and showing the world the power of running!

My second choice for this month has been a true inspiration in so many ways.  Just finding the strength to lace up the trainers and head out of the door has been a very real challenge, but with the support of a great friend and that of family and the wider circle of friends, he has done just that.  Trainers to run.  Helmet and bike to cycle.  Signing up for races so the challenge will draw him out.  Giving him a target to head for.  Keeping the body active with training miles and parkruns and heading to start lines of races – each of which results in another finish line crossed and another boost.  It’s on the increase too.  More miles are being covered – with positive outcomes.  More consistency and planning heading towards goals being set.  Utilising the healing power of activity to keep pushing forward and gaining balance.  Not only hugely inspired by the endeavours of this choice for my Chair’s Runner of the Month, but those who remain close and keep encouraging this journey to flourish.  My choice is Paul Harris.  Paul, you have inspired us all with your determination, keep it going my friend.  We are all very proud of you.

August 2023 review

parkruns

The first Saturday of the month saw 56 of our members complete parkruns across 14 different parkrun locations. An impressive total considering I don’t think many of us escaped getting absolutely drenched. At Maesteg, OPR made up 3 of the top 5 overall with Claire Dunbar-Bowen the first female finisher and 10th overall. At Porthcawl, new member Angelo (Nico) Doria was first finisher overall in an outstanding 17:48. On the parkrun tourism front, Sally Pensom was in Bangor, Northern Ireland, Jamie Verran was 2nd overall at Aberdare parkrun, whilst Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom ticked off a ‘U’ at University Parks in Oxford.

The second weekend of the month saw 68 runners across 14 different parkrun locations. Angelo Doria was our fastest runner of the day with a PB of 17:15 as he notched up another first finish at Porthcawl. Plenty of targeted tourism this week with Nick and Linda Harris at Oaklands, Kaye, Melinda an Huw at Jersey Farm, and Karl at Upton Court which I’m sure were all parkrun alphabet related trips. Sarah, Melanie, Dawn and Darija were at Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve which is the newest Welsh parkrun to come online.

The third weekend was a momentous occasion. After first being considered pre-lockdown several years ago and seemingly being ‘any day now’ for the last 18 months, it was finally the inaugural Aberfields parkrun. The heavy downpours before the start and unseasonably cool temperatures for the middle of August didn’t put off 180 runners turning up to run with 57 of those being from our club. It felt a bit like a BCRL event with our runners making up 12 of the first 20 runners across the line including Jake as the first finisher, setting the course record at a hard-to-beat 16:28. Claire Dunbar-Bowen can claim the club ladies course record with 24:23. We actually the first two and final two finishers with Angelo the second finisher whilst Karen Dando and Rhiannon Whiteley came in as the tail walkers. There was a huge cake to celebrate at the end before a load of parkrunners headed over to a packed Wyndham pub for breakfast.  A huge well done and congratulations to event director Jay Howells and a whole host of people that have volunteered as Run Directors and regular volunteers in the future.

On that third weekend, we actually had 31 runners elsewhere making it 88 runners across 7 parkruns. Karl ticked off an ‘I’ at Isabel Trail whilst everyone else was at local or South Wales parkruns.

August Bank Holiday weekend we had 83 runners across 15 different parkruns. We saw a sign of things to come with a relatively even split of members across Aberfields (23), Porthcawl (19) and Maesteg (17) with 24 tourists heading elsewhere. Johnson’s tours took 7 members to University Parks in Oxford with many chasing that ‘U’ for the parkrun alphabet.

Races

5K

The final Aberavon 5K of the 2023 series took place on the first Wednesday of the month. Gareth Battle was our first finisher in 18:53 with Aled finishing in 19:04, Mark Teesdale in 19:08 and a new PB for Wayne Hayhurst with 19:12. Aled finished third in the veterans category for the series but unfortunately only first place received a prize. Jo Jenkins ran her best time in almost a year with a 24:31 which also meant she finished 3rd in her age category for the series. We had 24 members at the event with 12 completing all 3 races in the series.

The Podium 5K is probably the closest we get as a club to an ‘elite’ only event. Jacob was the men’s race which was only for sub 16 runners! The first 4 runners finished in under 14 minutes. Jake smashed his 5K club record again with a 15:01. Incredibly he was ‘only’ around 50th out the 60 finishers going to show just how crazy fast the runners in that race were. There were also A and B races – you know – for those slow coaches that can only run sub 17/18/19 – I am of course joking and would love to be able to run these times myself. Nicky Bennett ran 16:11 whilst there were PB’s for Dylan Panting, Connor Panting, Scott Gray and Adam Kearns on a very successful night for some of our Flyers.

The Sunday before the Aberfields parkrun inaugural there was a trial run with OPR members making up 27 of the 66 runners and made up most of the volunteers.

The final 5K of the month was a new event in Swansea by Tri Hard Harriers which 7 of our members completed including a sub 40 a for our reigning Runners Runner Laura Worrall.

10K

We had 26 runners at the Barry 10K with Dylan Panting our first runner across the line in 40:37 followed by Tom Mahoney and Wayne Hayhurst. Jamie Verran bagged himself a PB of 43:27 in his first 10K for the club. Our first female finisher was Dragon 100 finisher Angharad Hinam.

Bank Holiday weekend saw 4 of our member take on the Narberth Nobbler 10K whilst we had 5 at the Severn Bridge 10K event.

Other Races

Three members took on the ‘Murder Mile’ race with Jacob Tasker smashing the course record.

Angelo Doria proved he has the speed over the longer distances as well with a 1:18:29 Half Marathon which is the fastest debut Half Marathon in the history of the club. Danny Ridley, David Sheard and Gregg Harris also completed the event.

Carl Walsh notched up another marathon with the Menddips Hill Marathon and also completed the Beast of Llangattock 32 mile ultra as he continues he quest to reach his 100th marathon/ultra at Snowdonia / Eryri Marathon at the end of October.

BCRL

The penultimate BCRL event saw 76 runners take on a tough course at Heol y Mynydd. The course had been changed to previous years which included a brutal incline that apparently only a handful of runners actually managed to run, as well as various terrain but also will some fast downhill sections. Jacob picked up his 12th BCRL win and 5th of this year which almost certainly means he’s won more BCRL fixtures than any other runner in the history of the BCRL. Our 18 year old superstar Angelo Doria was second overall and we again had a really strong top 10 in the men’s category. Our ladies were equally if not more impressive with another excellent top 10 backed up by big numbers picking up minus points to help the cause. Our club won the event putting us in a really strong position going into the final fixture as we attempt to retain our team title from last year.

Another incredible month and it’s over to Chris for the Chairman’s Runners of the Month.

To set markers in the sand and show improvement over them and then keep beating times is mightily impressive.  When this just keeps running on and on over an extended period it’s worthy of celebration.  It’s not just event times – it’s the consistent and persistent attitude to the training.  The dedication to getting out there and not resting on laurels.  Making improvements takes some focus.  When there’s consistency to training the improvements come.  More PB’s and regular sharing of progress.  Positivity abounds and it’s infectious.  Others feed off it and it inspires people to head out themselves.  Something I’ve lauded previously with others.  Sharing the whole story too – the highs and the lows can help others to understand their own peaks and troughs.  I’m sure we’re going to see a continued journey along the same path for some time.  Keep the focus going Laura Worrall – my first Chair’s Runner of the Month for August.  

It’s happened before, and I’m sure it will happen again.  A new member joins and bursts onto the scene with some gusto.   Taking many of us by surprise and causing us all to sit up and take notice.  It can be for many reasons – not always speed.  There can be many reasons for having an impact.  When first (or thereabouts) finish positions become the norm and prizes are collected for podium finish in competition, heads are turned.  Whether running for free in non-competetive events good times are recorded and directly transpose to events that scoop rewards.  Snapping at the heels of our fastest runners and with youth on his side, it’s no doubt we’re going to see progression here.  A marker has been set at a number of distances and I’m sure we’re going to see those times tumbling over the coming months.  Although we are saying a temporary farewell while academia beckons, I’m sure we’re going to see much more from this young man for years to come.  My second Chair’s Runner of the Month for August is Angelo Nico Dorio.  Well done Nico – keep up the excellent work!

11 years of our club – the stats report

On Monday 20th August 2012, around a dozen of us met in the Berwyn Centre in Nantymoel to discuss setting up a club in the Ogmore Valley and our club was formed.

To celebrate our 11 year anniversary I thought we’d have a look at the incredible stats that we have accumulated over that time.

31,018 results have been recorded from 570 different members (past and present) from 4.374 events. In total the club has been represented at 1,087 different events.

Longest Standing Members

Aled Hughes, John Burridge Helen Griffiths and I attended that first meeting and are the only four ‘founding members’ who are still currently members of the club.

Other long standing members who have all been heavily involved in the club since the early days include Nick Harris, Denise Bradley, Liz Davis, David Kembery, Richard Lowcock James, Kevin Raymond, Fiona Evans and Chris Pratt who all joined within the first 2 years.

Most Events Records

Total events top 10 (races and parkruns combined)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 757
  2. Nick Harris 711
  3. Aled Hughes 557
  4. Chris Pratt 548
  5. David Kembery 471
  6. David Sheard 435
  7. Kris Denholm 402
  8. Dawn Hopkins 399
  9. Chris Roberts 377
  10. Jo Jenkins 355

Since last years post, Aled has overtaken Chris P into 3rd place, Dawn has overtaken Chris R into 8th overall, and Jo Jenkins has recently overtaken Denise to pop into the top 10.

Total events top 10 (races only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 328
  2. Nick Harris 283
  3. Aled Hughes 234
  4. Chris Pratt 206
  5. Dawn Hopkins 197
  6. Denise Bradley 181
  7. Sharon Pritchard 155
  8. Mark Worrall 153
  9. Debbie Bennion 148
  10. Gareth Richards 148

After Dawn, Denise, Sharon and Debbie our next top females for number of races are Jo Jenkins (138), Fiona Drysdale (130) and Emma Loyns (129).

Most events in a single year (parkruns plus races)

  1. Nick Harris 125 in 2019 – also set the record for most races that year with 73
  2. Aled Hughes 116 in 2019 – became the first member to run all 55 available parkruns
  3. Christie Coleman 108 in 2016
  4. Gareth Jenkins 101 in 2015
  5. Gareth Jenkins 100 in 2019
  6. Dawn Hopkins 95 in 2023
  7. Aled Hughes 94 in 2023
  8. Gareth Jenkins 93 in 2016
  9. Dawn Hopkins 89 in 2019
  10. Sarah Davies 89 in 2023

Aled Hughes is currently leading the way so far this year and is on course to have a third entry in this top 10 when it’s refreshed next year. Just missing out on this list are Jo Jenkins, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion who did 88, 86 and 85 events respectively in 2019.

Longest race distances run (the top 10+ are all now 100 milers so just in date order)

  1. Nick Harris 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  2. Jamie Vanstone 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  3. Nick Harris 100 miles – Dragon 100 – May 2019
  4. Steven James 100 miles – London to Battle 1066 Ultra – July 2019
  5. Steven James 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  6. Elizabeth Sim 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  7. Gareth Jenkins 100 miles – Centaur 100 – June 2022
  8. Gareth Richards 100 miles – Dragon 100 – July 2022
  9. Gareth Jenkins 100 miles – Dragon 100 – July 2023
  10. Gareth Richards 100 miles – Dragon 100 – July 2023
  11. Emma Loyns 100 miles – Dragon 100 – July 2023
  12. Angharad Hinam 100 miles – Dragon 100 – July 2023

Incredibly not making the list we have a further 92 finishes over 40 miles as well. I’ve also run 88 miles (local charity event), 80 miles (Conquer24), 77 miles (Escape from Meriden), 50 miles (Dragon 50) and 50 miles (Loopathon charity event). Wayne Hayhurst, and Simon Poole have done different 100K events (62.2 miles) whilst Denise Bradley, Fiona Evans, Mel Thomas and Rhiain Casseldine-Forman have run 100K split over 2 days. Several other members have done the Gower 50 miler and Brecon to Cardiff (44 miles). Including the Vale Ultra and all other Ultra distance finishes, the number of Ultra finishes is 286 from 71 different past and present members. If virtual events were counted then Steven James would make the list again with 84 miles for the Last Runner Standing event with Kris Denholm and myself completing 72 miles.

Most number of Ultra’s completed (official events only)

  1. Kris Denholm 21
  2. Gareth Richards 20
  3. Emma Loyns 15
  4. Steven James 13
  5. Nick Harris 12
  6. Gareth Jenkins 11
  7. Liz Sim 9 (much higher with those done whilst not a member)
  8. Wayne Hayhurst 8
  9. Jamie Vanstone / Simon Harrison / Chris Pratt

48 current members have run an Ultra with 24 of those doing more than 1.

Most number of Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Chris Pratt 38
  2. Carl Walsh 23 (over 90 marathons or ultras including those before joining us)
  3. Nick Harris 17
  4. Kris Denholm 17
  5. Wayne Hayhurst 16
  6. Gareth Richards 15
  7. Emma Loyns 14
  8. Liz Sim 14
  9. David Kembery / Niki Puleio 13

89 current members have run a marathon with the club meaning around 34% of our current total membership have run a marathon. 67 of those have run more than 1 marathon.

Most number of Half Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 68
  2. Chris Pratt 31
  3. Nick Harris 30
  4. Denise Bradley 28
  5. Dawn Hopkins 28
  6. David Kembery 26
  7. Mark Worrall 26
  8. Sharon Pritchard 25
  9. Liz Davis / Debbie Bennion / Wayne Hayhurst 24

Interestingly these figures haven’t changed massively since last year which maybe indicates a preference for longer or shorter events for some of our most regular race entrants. 161 current members (around two-thirds of our total membership) have run a Half Marathon with the club. 140 of those have run more than one, and incredibly 52 members have run 10 Half Marathons or more with the club.

Most number of 10Ks completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 51
  2. Dawn Hopkins 51
  3. Sharon Pritchard 49
  4. Debbie Bennion 46
  5. Aled Hughes 36
  6. Nick Harris 35
  7. Emma Morris 31
  8. Denise Bradley 29
  9. Mark Worrall / Niki Puleio 28

184 current members have completed a 10K with the club which is around 75% of our membership.

Number of event finishes by distance

  1. 5K / parkrun – 19,609
  2. Other distances – 4,883
  3. 10K – 2,788
  4. Half Marathon – 2,129
  5. Marathon – 654
  6. 5 mile – 419
  7. Ultra – 285
  8. 10 mile – 251

Biggest events by number of members finishing

  1. Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 – 116 finishers
  2. Ogmore Castle BCRL 2019 – 114
  3. Kenfig Sands BCRL 2022 – 98
  4. Porthcawl 10K 2019 – 97
  5. Sandy Bowl 2023 – 95
  6. Planka BCRL 2022 – 93
  7. Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K BCRL race 2017 – 92
  8. Cardiff Half Marathon 2016 – 92
  9. Llanilid Loop BRCL race 2019 – 92
  10. Ogmore Castle BCRL race 2022 – 92
  11. Cardiff Half Marathon 2018 – 91
  12. Cardiff Half Marathon 2017 – 90
  13. Pencoed BCRL 2022 – 90
  14. Sandy Bowl BCRL 2022 – 90
  15. Pencoed BCRL 2023 – 89

In total there have been 54 races where we’ve had 50 or more members finishing. 32 of those are BCRL races with Cardiff Half also making a frequent appearance. Our biggest Marathon attendance was at Snowdonia in 2019 when we had 45 finishers.

We’ve also had 65 finishers at Porthcawl parkrun on 2 occasions – way back on Christmas Eve 2016, and then again in September 2019 which coincided with a Zero to Hero graduation. On the latter date, we also had a record 85 members finishing a parkrun on the same morning and more than 100 members attending a parkrun when including those that volunteered or supported.

Most popular races by number of times club has been represented (excluding parkruns)

  1. Aberavon / Run4All 5K series – 15*
  2. SSAFA 5K (Cardiff) series – 15
  3. Cardiff Half Marathon (including World Half) – 10*
  4. Llanelli Half Marathon – 9*
  5. Cardiff 10K – 8*
  6. Swansea Bay (Paul Popham) 5K series – 11
  7. Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run – 9*
  8. Swansea 10K – 9*
  9. Caerphilly 10K – 8*
  10. London Marathon – 8*
  11. Cardiff 10K – 8*

*club has been represented in every one of these events since we formed or the series stared. Aberavon / R4A series could arguably be 22 as we’ve also done all 7 Santa 5K’s there as well.

Club record progression

Male records

5K / parkrun

First 5K / parkrun result: Ross Jones – Cardiff parkrun – September 2012 – 26:31.

First sub 20: John Burridge – Porthcawl pakrun – May 2013 – 19:59

First sub 19: Neil Jones – Pontypridd parkrun – October 2015 – 18:58

First sub 18: Neil Jones – Cardiff parkrun – May 2016 – 17:41

First sub 17: Neil Jones – Pontypridd parkrun – December 2017 – 16:55

Current club record: Jacob Tasker – SSAFA 5K – July 2022 – 15:01

10K

First 10K result: Gareth Jenkins – Cardiff 10K – September 2012 – 48:25

First sub 45: Gareth Jenkins – Cardiff 10K – September 2013 – 44:17

First sub 40: Neil Jones – Caerphilly 10K – June 2015 – 39:31

Current club record: Jacob Tasker – Caerphilly 10K – May 2023 – 31:45

Half Marathon

First Half Marathon result: Matthew Jones – Great North Run – September 2012 – 1:48:26

First sub 1:40: Matthew Jones – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2012 – 1:39:05

First sub 1:30: John Burridge – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2013 – 1:29:31

First sub 1:20: Neil Jones – Swansea Half Marathon – June 2016 – 1:18:51

Former Club Record – Neil Jones – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2018 – 1:18:33

Current Club Record: Jacob Tasker – Swansea Half Marathon – June 2023 – 1:09:35

Marathon

First Marathon result: Phil Lewis – Budapest Marathon – October 2012 – 4:14:49

First sub 4 hour: Chris Mogg – London Marathon – April 2013 – 3:59:04

First sub 3:30: Aled Hughes – Manchester Marathon – April 2015 – 3:28:27

First sub 3:20: Kevin Raymond – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2015 – 3:18:46

First sub 3 hour: Neil Jones – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2016 – 2:57:43

Club Record: Neil Jones – Newport Marathon – April 2019 – 2:43:07

Fastest current member: Niki Puleio – Chicago Marathon – October 2022 – 2:48:21

Female records

5K / parkrun

First 5K / parkrun result: Elinor Marsh – Cardiff parkrun – March 2013 – 32:52

First sub 24: Helen Davies – Porthcawl pakrun – April 2013 – 23:16

First sub 22: Sian Price – Porthcawl parkrun – November 2016 – 21:14

First sub 21: Anneliese Loveluck – Porthcawl parkrun – October 2018 – 20:41

Current club record*: Emma Morris – Swansea parkrun – September 2021 – 19:52

10K

First sub 50: Helen Davies – Cardiff 10K – September 2013 – 48:31

First sub 48: Heather Garratt – Swansea 10K – September 2015 – 47:51

First sub 47: Josie Bishop – Cardiff Bay 10K – April 2017 – 46:29

Club Record: Anneliese Loveluck – Magor 10K – July 2018 – 41:26

Fastest current member: Emma Morris – Swansea 10K – September 2021 – 42:19

Half Marathon

First Half Marathon result: Helen Davies – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2012 – 1:48:40

First sub 1:45: Julie Webster – Llanelli Half Marathon – March 2016 – 1:44:43

First sub 1:42: Sian Price – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2017 – 1:41:44

Current Club Record – Anneliese Loveluck – Merthyr Half Marathon – March 2019 – 1:32:33

Fastest current member: Emma Morris – Tewksbury Half Marathon 2022 – 1:38:02

Marathon

First Marathon result: Fiona Evans – London Marathon – April 2014 – 4:23:02

First sub 4:15: Lorna Domachowski – Manchester Marathon – April 2015 – 4:12:06

First sub 4 hours: Julie Webster – Manchester Marathon – April 2016 – 3:48:55

Club Record: Anneliese Loveluck – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2019 – 3:13:56

Fastest time from a current member: Claire Dunbar-Bowen – London – April 2023 – 3:46:07

Presentation Nights

Runners Runner Winners Roll of Honour

  1. 2013 – Gareth Jenkins
  2. 2014 – Nick Harris
  3. 2015 – Chris Pratt
  4. 2016 – Christie Coleman
  5. 2017 – Niki Puleio
  6. 2018 – Tammie Baker
  7. 2019 – Nick Harris
  8. 2020 – Kris Denholm
  9. 2021 – Jacob Tasker
  10. 2022 – Laura Worrall

Most main awards won

This includes Runners Runner, Best in age category, Club Championship winners, Most Improved, Best Newcomer, Zero to Hero, Spirit of the Phoenix and Outstanding Achievement. The number represents the number of times they have won in total and in brackets are the years they won one or more prizes.

  1. Denise Bradley 9 (2014, 2016, 2019, 2021)
  2. Gareth Richards 7 (2017, 2020, 2022)
  3. Niki Puleio 7 (2017, 2019, 2021, 2022)
  4. Jacob Tasker 6 (2021, 2022)
  5. Neil Jones 6 (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  6. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 6 (2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2022)
  7. Nick Harris 5 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2019)
  8. Emma Loyns 5 (2018, 2019, 2022)
  9. Keith Coleman 4 (2016, 2019, 2020, 2022)
  10. Adrian Pearce / Aled Hughes / Anneliese Loveluck / Chris Pratt / Christie Coleman / Gareth Jenkins / Juliet Amner / Kevin Raymond – all received 3

77 different members have received awards over the 10 presentation nights.

parkrun specific stats

Like it, loathe it, or just indifferent to it, parkrun is a huge part of our club with over 50% of all results recorded to date being parkrun finishes. We also have a significant amount of parkrun tourists so I thought I’d share some of the crazy stats and challenges below.

Most popular parkruns (number of parkrundays with at least one club finisher)

  1. Porthcawl 451
  2. Maesteg 225
  3. Pontypridd 158
  4. Swansea Bay 144
  5. Cardiff 119
  6. Grangemoor 99
  7. Gnoll 90
  8. Barry Island 89
  9. Newport 75
  10. Llanelli Coast / Sandy Water 74

There have been 404 events at Porthcawl meaning there have only been 4 parkruns at Porthcawl with no members of the club finishing – all of these were in 2013 and the last time we had no recorded results at Porthcawl was 12th October 2012. Niki Puleio, Chris Pratt and David Sheard were all in attendance that day but weren’t members at that point. I’ll take the blame as I was our only member who was parkrunning that day but went to Pontypridd. Nevertheless, it does mean we’ve been represented at the last 376 Porthcawl parkruns that have gone ahead. At Maesteg we have 100% record with at least 1 member at every one of their 176 parkruns so far – Tom Mahoney saved that record recently when he was the only finisher from the club although we did have a few others volunteering.

Total number of parkruns Top 10 – ranked by number done with club then numbers in brackets are total parkruns run including those before joining the club

  1. Gareth Jenkins 429 (429)
  2. Nick Harris 428 (428)
  3. Chris Pratt 341 (412)
  4. David Kembery 332 (332)
  5. Aled Hughes 323 (323)
  6. Chris Roberts 308 (336)
  7. David Sheard 294 (383)
  8. Kris Denholm 281 (359)
  9. Bev Sheard 221 (221)
  10. Jo Jenkins 217 (252)

When looking at overall numbers including those done before joining club then we also have Peter Harrop (270), Richard Lowcock James (264), Claire Goldsworthy (222) and Liz Davis (211).

Top 10 volunteers (number of different days volunteering – includes volunteering at both the 5K and junior parkruns)

  1. Alison Allen 264
  2. Stephne Puddy 241
  3. Karl Johnson 195
  4. Rhiannon Whitely 131
  5. Chris Stanlake 119
  6. Angela Parry 117
  7. Freya Allen 115
  8. Richard Lowcock James 105
  9. Sian Jenkins 72
  10. Kris Denholm 72

This information isn’t as easy to find so apologies to anyone I’ve missed who would make this list. These numbers have shot up since last year with Rhiannon, Chris, Angela and Richard all passing 100 in that period plus the addition of Alison and Freya plus Stephne and Karl notching up more than 50 in the last year. The numbers will also include volunteer stints done before joining the club. Also have to mention some former members – Maria Lalic has done more than 350 different days of volunteering, Emma Marshall who is on 257, Michael Brain who is on over 100 as well as Dave H Evans with a significant proportion of each of these being whilst a member of the club.

Top 10 parkrun tourists (number of different venues)

  1. Chris Roberts 125
  2. Karl Johnson 121
  3. Julie Ransom 116
  4. Dawn Hopkins 109
  5. Shawn Cullen 109
  6. Gareth Jenkins 102
  7. Kris Denholm 80
  8. Sarah Davies 76
  9. Chris Stanlake 75
  10. Jo Jenkins 72

I was the early leader for parkrun tourism and was the first to complete 20 different parkruns back in 2015 and led the way until mid 2017 when Shawn and Julie took over and were in joint top spot for over 4 years and became the first to reach 100 different parkruns. Karl Johnson breifly held top spot but for the past few months its Chris Roberts who has been top of our tourism table. In the past year, I also joined the ‘Cowell’ club by running 100 different parkrun venues becoming the 6th member to do so. Chris Pratt was also one of our early regular tourists and set himself a challenge of running all the Welsh parkruns in 2015 when I believe there were around 15 or 16. Shawn and Julie have by far the highest ‘tourist percentage’ in the club having run 109 different venues in just 143 parkruns overall. Jamie Verran is heading for all sorts of tourism records and is currently on a club record tourism streak having done 35 different parkruns in a row.

Most new parkrun venues visited in a calendar year

  1. Karl Johnson 35 in 2019
  2. Jamie Verran 34 in 2023
  3. Dawn Hopkins 30 in 2019
  4. Dawn Hopkins 27 in 2022
  5. Shawn and Julie 26 in 2019
  6. Karl Johnson 25 in 2017
  7. Sarah Davies 25 in 2022
  8. Toni Howells 25 in 2022
  9. Sarah Davies 24 in 2019
  10. Paul Barrett / Melanie Thomas 24 in 2023
  11. Shawn and Julie 24 in 2018

Jamie is on the brink of setting a new record in a calendar year and is likely to set an unbreakable number given he’s even done a special (extra) day overseas this year as well and therefore could exceed 52.

parkrun Alphabeteers (members who have run a parkrun starting with every letter of the alphabet)

Dawn Hopkins was the first to achieve this followed by Sarah Davies. Alexis and Paul Barrett in becoming alphabeteers with Paul completing it in just 68 parkruns overall.

Dawn is now on course to complete it for the second time!

We have around a dozen members who are all just a few letters away from completing the challenge.

‘Gold Obsessive’ parkrunners (members who have run 50 or more parkruns in a calendar year)

  1. Gareth Jenkins – on 4 separate years
  2. Aled Hughes – on 4 separate years
  3. Nick Harris – on 2 seperate years
  4. Kris Denholm – on 1 occasion

Surprisingly despite being on more than 300 parkruns each, Chris Pratt, David Sheard, Chris Roberts and David Kembery don’t make the list, although all have been just one or two off on a couple of occasions. Aled Hughes and Kris Denholm are the only members to have run every parkrun occasion available in the UK in a single year (52 Saturdays plus New Years Day and Christmas Day).

Stopwatch Bingo (collecting finishing times ending in all possible numbers from 00 to 59 seconds)

  1. Chris Roberts – completed in 202 parkruns (started before joining club)
  2. Aled Hughes – completed in 203 parkruns
  3. Richard Lowcock James – completed in 210 parkruns (started before joining club)
  4. David Sheard – completed in 214 parkruns (started before joining club)
  5. Jo Jenkins – completed in 216 parkrun (started before joining club)
  6. Nick Harris – completed in 222 parkruns
  7. David Kembery – completed in 256 parkruns
  8. Chris Pratt – completed in 258 parkruns
  9. Peter Harrop – completed in 260 parkruns
  10. Gareth Jenkins – completed in 286 parkruns

Kris Denholm has the most parkruns without completing this challenge and is on 359 parkruns and still has 1 more to tick off (number 9). Since last year, Jo Jenkins and Peter Harrop have joined the list of having completed Stopwatch Bingo.

Some other random parkrun stats

Earliest parkrunner (former member) – Ann Davies – 23rd February 2008 at Cardiff parkrun – Ann was in the first 13,000 to sign up for parkrun and there are now over 7 million registered worldwide.

Earliest parkrunner (current member) – Jo Jenkins – 14th February 2009 at Cardiff parkrun – Jo was in the first 27,000 in the world to sign up for parkrun

Fastest to reach 50 parkruns – Jamie Verran – 47 weeks from 1st to 50th

Fastest to reach 100 parkruns – Nick Harris – 107 weeks from 1st to 100th

Fastest to reach 250 parkruns – Nick Harris – 274 weeks from 1st to 250th

Longest to reach 100 parkruns – Ann Davies – 564 weeks from 1st to 100th

Most International Tourisms – Chris Roberts – 13 – Chris ran 11 parkruns in Australia whilst there over on two separate occasions over Christmas / New Year and has also run parkruns in Denmark and Poland.

Number of different parkruns visited by all members past and present – 404

Number of different parkrun countries visited by all members past and present – 15 (UK, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Canada, France, USA, Norway, Australia, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden)

Longest parkrun streak – Kris Denholm – 92 parkruns

Current ongoing parkrun streak – Jamie Verran – 74 parkruns

Number of current members to have reached 50 parkruns – 109

Number of current members to have reached 100 parkruns – 58

Number of current members to have reached 250 parkruns – 11

Most runs at Maesteg parkrun – Aled Hughes 111

Most runs at Porthcawl parkrun – Nick Harris 329

Most parkruns only at one venue (no touring) – Claire Goldsworthy – all 222 parkruns at Porthcawl

Other stats

Longest standing coach – Aled Hughes

Longest standing committee member – Liz Davis (secretary / general committee)

Longest standing captain – Gareth Jenkins

Most age category records – Kevin Raymond

Most club records – Jacob Tasker

Number of current members to have run 100 events (parkruns plus races for the club) – 73

Highest number of events without doing a parkrun – Simon Harrison – 74

Number of people to have recorded a result with the club – 570

And finally….

Number of hours spend collecting these stats over the past 11 years: I don’t want to even think about it but it’s something I enjoy and will continue to do. Hopefully if you’ve got this far then you’ve enjoyed reading the stats. I’ll do a refresh of all the numbers for the 12 year anniversary – until then, happy running.

July 2023 review

parkruns

The first parkrunday of the month saw 54 members running across 14 different parkruns. It was Nicky Bennett and Toni Howells 100th parkruns with celebrations split between Maesteg and Porthcawl respectively. Our fastest parkrunner of the day was Jamie Verran who was continuing his tourism streak at Sandy Bay where he was 3rd overall in a time of 19:01.

Weekend two saw 64 of our members running at 13 different parkrun locations. Tourism included Chris Pratt at Sewerby, Karen Dando at Darlington and Vickie Blake at Didcot amongst others which were closer to home. Dai James was our fastest runner of the day with an 18:31 at Porthcawl, whilst Wayne Hayhurst was the latest member of the first finishers club at Maesteg.

A dip in attendance for the third weekend of the month with 48 runners across 13 parkruns which would largely be due to the Rabbit Run which was that afternoon as well as the Dragon 100. Our tourists venturing outside of Wales were Toni Howells at Luton, Rhian Casseldine-Foreman at Market Harborough, and Jamie Verran at Eastville. Having just signed up as a member, our speediest teenager in the club’s history, Angelo Doria was second finisher at Maesteg in 18:16 in just his second ever parkrun after running 18:04 at Porthcawl the week before.

A big turnout on the 22nd with 70 members completing parkruns across 16 different locations despite awful weather for late July. Jamie Verran broke the club record with his 32nd different parkrun in a row eclipsing a record held by Dawn Hopkins. Bethan Moor ran her 50th parkrun having started parkrunning as a teenager. Dawn, Sarah Davies and Melanie Thomas tourism took them to Mount Edgcumbe – a parkrun that required getting a ferry to get to the start. Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg in 20:15 on their 6th year anniversary event. Maesteg must be one of the most inconsistent parkruns in terms of top 10 finishing times as some weeks the entire top 10 are sub 20 with a first finisher of 16/17 minutes and then other weeks like this one, the first finisher is over 20 minutes. Toby and Adam Kearns had the furthest tourism by some distance as they ran Clermont Waterfront parkrun in Florida.

The final weekend of the month saw lots of celebrations with Emyr Bissmire and Carys Cronin having a wedding themed parkrun at Maesteg which was also Carys’ 50th parkrun. Jo Jenkins also ran at Maesteg becoming the first female member of the club to reach 250 parkruns having started parkrunning way back in 2009. Carl Price ran his 100th parkrun at Porthcawl which I’m pretty sure is the first time we’ve ever had 50, 100 and 250 milestones all on the same morning. Dawn Hopkins also ran her 200th parkrun with Blaise Castle her parkrun location. New member Angelo Doria was first finisher at Maesteg in a frighteningly quick 17:38 – only Jacob Tasker has run quicker at Maesteg from our club. A quiet weekend race-wise helped as we had 78 members run across 16 locations which is one of our highest attendances ever.

Races

5K

The start of July saw the second race of the Run4All Aberavon 5K series. 21 members ran the course with Aled Hughes leading the way in 18:41 followed by Gareth Battle and Mark Teesdale both finishing in 18:53. Carys Cronin was our first lady across the line in 23:17. There were PB’s for Teri-Leigh Roche with 29:01 who had run a 10K PB just 4 days earlier, and Laura Worrall in 39:28.

With plenty of flat tarmac 5K’s available during the summer, the Keeper of the Colliery 5K gave our runners something a little different with it’s hilly, part gravelly course. Toby Kearns was our first runner across the line followed by Carys Cronin of the 5 members that ran.

The final race of the Paul Popham Swansea Bay 5K series saw Aled Hughes as our first finisher in 18:36 which secured him top spot in the male veterans for the entire series. Despite being less than 72 hours before his 100 miler, Gareth Richards ran 19:37 with Wayne Hayhurst, Dylan Panting and Connor Panting all finishing just a few seconds back. Sarah Davies was our first female finisher with 16 members running in total.

In the final SSAFA 5K of the 2023 series, Jake broke his own club record by a massive 12 seconds to finish in 15:10. Jamie Verran also got a PB with 18:26 whilst Wayne Hayhurst continued his run of good form and consistent improvement with a 19:27 which was his fastest time in a couple of years.

10K

The second of the month saw what has become one of our most popular races since it’s inception in 2019 – the Porthcawl 10K. We had 59 runners making it the biggest attended 10K since the same event last year when we had 65. Jake Tasker finished 11th overall in a high class field running just outside his PB with a 31:50. Nicky Bennett and Geraint Lewis were our next finishers. There were PB’s for Mark Teesdale, Connor Panting, Tom Mahoney (who agonisingly missed out on a sub 40 by 2 seconds but a huge PB nonetheless) and Ceri Jones. Katie Plimmer followed up her 5K PB a few days earlier with a 10K PB. The PB’s continued with Mike Nicolson-Lewis, Terri-Leigh Roche, Lisa Ryan and Ruth Thomas.

At the Keeper of the Colliery 10K event in Maesteg, Jacob Tasker finished in an outstanding 34:49 on the bumpy course. Katie Plimmer was our first female finisher with 13 members running in total.

We also had the Mic Morris 10K which Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion ran. The race is renowned as a super fast course as it’s almost entirely slightly downhill – however, before anyone gets any ideas, it doesn’t count for PB purposes. David Sheard completed the Cardiff Epic Trail 10K in the month as well.

Other Races

25 members took on the popular Rabbit Run race in Merthyr Mawr. For the second year Jacob Tasker was first overall over 11 minutes ahead of our next finisher Aled Hughes with Connor Panting and Tom Mahoney finishing in under an hour on the multi terrain course. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was our first female finisher. With Vickie Blake as one of the tailwalkers, we had OPR members first and last across the line with several other OPR members also volunteering and supporting at the event. The event was a South Wales Trail Championship race and at the time of typing I think we’re still awaiting confirmation of what individual and team medals may have been won to add to the collections won in previous years.

Marathons and Ultras

Several of our members took on the Tenby Long Course with distances of up to a 2.4 mile swim on the Friday, 112 mile bike on the Saturday and a Marathon on the Sunday. Obviously for this running blog, I’m focusing on the Sunday where Sarah Davies, Paul Barrett, Alexis Barrett and Dawn Hopkins completed the marathon after doing the full swim and bike in the previous days. Kris Denholm was our first finisher in 4:45:58. Deb Edwards, Kaye Pedler and Sian Jenkins all ran marathon PB’s. It was a first marathon for Deborah whilst it was redemption for Kaye who missed out on a PB in Snowdonia by less than a minute last October and smashed it this time by over 22 minutes. Sian’s time beat her previous best set almost 4 years earlier in Snowdonia.

Carl Walsh was racking up yet more marathons and ultras to count towards his goal of joining the 100 marathon club and becoming the first member to achieve that. He ran the 50K distance of the Race to the Stones along with Danny Ridley and also ran the Wye Valley Tunnel Marathon during the month.

New member Simon Poole ran the continuous 100K version of the Race to the Stones whilst Melanie Thomas and Rhian Casseldine-Foreman notched up their 3rd (and arguably 4th) Ultra’s within 3 months with the 100K run split over two days.

Four members took on this years Dragon 100 miler (actually 103 miles). Starting in Rhossili in the Gower, the race follows the coastal path until Baglan and then heads up into the mountains of Afan Forest and Bryn overnight, eventually coming out in Margam Park before heading back to the coast at Kenfig and following the coastal path all the way to the Norweigen Church in Cardiff Bay. Gareth Richards completed the event for the second year in a row and was less than 20 minutes off his time from last year despite having 9 weeks out with injury during April and May. I completed my second 100 miler having done the Centaur 100 last year – this one was 100 times harder and took 5 hours longer. Emma Loyns completed her first 100 miler in 33 hours and 20 minutes. Then, after being pulled out of the race in 2021 and having to drop out just before the 2022 race with injury, Angharad Hinam battled through getting significantly lost early on and only making the half way checkpoint by a few minutes, to eventually finish 20 minutes inside the 34 hour cut off.

BCRL

The first of two BCRL fixtures during July saw us head to Kenfig Nature Reserve to run 5K on the dunes. Bizarrely despite this being our highest attendance at any event in 2022, it was one of our lowest BCRL turnouts in recent years but still outnumbering all other clubs with 62 finishers. Jacob won by a huge margin and several members stepped up and gave great performances with several of our top 10 contenders for the men and women absent. I think we were all a bit shocked that our club won the fixture putting us right back in contention overall. It was also great to see several new members at their first BCRL event including Sian and Sam Spiers.

The second fixture of the month and 5th of the season saw our club host at the Planka. Firstly, a massive congratulations to the race committee and volunteers for putting on another superb event. Somehow we were lucky enough to have the sun shining which was pretty much the only day in the previous couple of weeks that it hadn’t rained. We had 80 finishers with Jacob again winning by a huge margin on the cross country style course measuring a little over 5K. It was one of our best team performances in any BCRL fixture with our top 10 men all finishing in the top 25 overall including new member Angelo Doria who was 5th overall in his first ever competitive race for the club. Our ladies were incredible with our top 10 scorers finishing in the top 37 women overall and beating the leaders going into the event, Bridgend AC. With all our other finishers contributing to the scoring, it meant we won the fixture by a huge margin which moved us to the top of the team standings overall for this first time this season with just 2 fixtures left.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

100 miles.  It’s a long, long way!  When you think about driving it – you consider it a significant distance.  When you think about it on foot, many would shy away from even considering the start line.  There are some within our midst who have the right mindset and resilience to tackle this epic journey.  Whilst many of them have been celebrated in these posts recently for other achievements, one has not.  Someone who has faced this challenge before and it wasn’t to be.  Many would turn away from the challenge at this point, but in this case that is very much not the case.  Back to the drawing board to replan the quest.  To revisit what went awry the first time and address it.  Refocus.  Training once again and following a process that will get to the finish line.  It was a hard fought battle again but there was a dogged determination to succeed.  One foot in front of the other.  Never giving up.  Coming close to the cutoffs but getting there.  Never beaten and marching over the finish line in time to celebrate a victory and demonstrating, like all who take on this challenge, that the body is capable of amazing things.  For coming back to do it again and showing the will to succeed, my first Chair’s Runner of the Month for July is Anghard Hinam.  Well done Angharad – what’s next?

As you know, everything we do revolves around running – but it’s one of my favourite phrases to say that “it’s so much more than running”.  Supporting is big on that list of the extras and we always do it so well – with fabulous supporters throughout our midst.  When someone is injured, they often support.  Many run and support.  It’s ingrained in our own personal constituion.  Not a requirement – but an inbuilt passion for helping others.  Some go the extra mile in the pursuit of helping others.  Selfless acts – jumping in and taking part when team members are unavailable.  Multi-discipline events where equipment is required – collecting it and travelling long distance to fill the gap.  All the while attending events, league and otherwise, and giving it their all. Participation and support and all the while not shouting it from the rooftops – just getting on with it.  It took a long while for this member to succumb to joining – but we’re so glad he did.  Championing others while quickly becoming embroiled in club culture.  I am delighted to announce that my second Chair’s Runner of the Month for July as Peter Evans.  Well done Pete and thank you for your continued support of others and great committment to your running!