Presentation Night Review – 2021 awards

Best Senior Female / Most Improved Female – Emma Morris 

Those that have been in the club a while might remember Emma being a member back in 2017 until the start of 2019. Emma took some time out of the club after the birth of her first child before getting back into running soon after. A quick message around this time last year to ask if she fancied re-joining and pointing her in the direction of our fabulous membership secretary, and within a couple of days Emma was back in the club. Her times prior to her break were pretty quick – a 23:32 5K, a 49:30 10K, a 1:48:58 Half Marathon. During her break from the club these had improved significantly with a 5K of 22:30 and a 10K of around 46:00. However, the past year has seen Emma step up another level and go from one of our fastest female runners to our fastest current female member across multiple distances. Emma became the first female member in the clubs history to run a sub 20 with 19:52 at Swansea Bay parkrun. There was also a 42:19 at Swansea 10K and a 1:38:28 at Swansea Half. Despite limited events, Emma paced 5 times at 10K events and for me, one of the most amazing facts is that she now paces 45 minutes for 10K – a time that only the top 10% of our male runners would feel comfortable to pace. I think there’s even more to come from this super speedy lady so look forward to seeing what’s next. 

Contenders: After winning Best Senior Female for both 2017 and 2020, Sian Price is always one of the main contenders for this award. Sian got agonisingly close to being the first female member to run a sub 20 when she ran 20:01 as a ‘go for it training run’ when events still hadn’t returned in Wales. Unfortunately injuries heavily impacted her chances this year but she remains one to watch – particularly as she moves to the Veteran category from next year. Carys Cronin and Deborah Edwards notched up PB’s at both 5K and 10K during the year with Steph Iveson-Holmes getting a 5K and 5 mile double. Rebecca Newton focussed on the longer distances with huge PB’s at both Half Marathon and Marathon. In fact, Rebecca was our only senior female (under 40) to run an official marathon in 2021. Looking ahead to this year and it could be one of the most competitive years yet for Best Senior Female will all the girls I’ve already mentioned plus new member Sarah Wilkes (sub 21 5K), plus Kirsty Evans, Jo Jenkins and Kate Plimmer who are all part of our Rack Raid teams. 

Best Veteran Male – Niki Puleio

 This was Niki’s sixth award in his time with the club. He won the top prize of Runners Runner in 2017 along with Most Improved Male that year. In 2019 he was again a double award winner picking up Best Veteran Male and Best Photo which captured his epic pure elation running towards the finish of the London Marathon in what was his first sub 3 marathon finish. In 2020 he won the Outstanding Achievement award for setting another sub 3 marathon time which actually put him in the top 10 overall marathon times for Welsh runners in that year. In this years presentation night (for the 2021 awards) he won back the Best Veteran award with a clean sweep of the fastest veteran times across all distances. At 5K he ran 17:47 at the Welsh 5K series in Pembrey as well as setting a new parkrun PB of 18:05 at Cardiff parkrun. At 10K, he ran 38:00 on the undulating Richard Burton course. At Half Marathon distance he ran a 1:25:00 at Dorney Lake despite challenging weather conditions on the day. Just to cap it off, Niki ran two sub 3 hour marathons on consecutive weekends in October 2021 with a 2:55:57 at Berlin Marathon followed up with a 2:58:37 just one week later at the London Marathon. 

Contenders: Last years Veteran Male winner Gareth Richards was close to retaining his title with his 5K and 10K bests during 2021 being just seconds behind Niki whilst his Half Marathon time (which was also a huge PB) was just 62 seconds off Niki. Gareth also ran a marathon PB of 3:18 as well as multiple other long distance achievements with ultra’s, running 26 marathons in 26 weeks around the Bridgend area and smashing PB’s across all distances. It was a similar story for Neil Price at the shorter distances with PB’s at 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. In his final year as a Veteran rather than a super vet, it was hard to count out Carl Walsh who as well as posting some impressive times across all distances, also ran a crazy amount of official marathons and ultras during the year. There was also Paul Smith who became only the third member in the clubs history to run a sub 3 hour marathon which was achieved at Newport Marathon just a week after a ‘pace-testing’ 1:28:02 at Swansea Half. 

Best Super-Veteran Male: Keith Coleman

 A huge cheer went up when Keith was announced as the winner for this award. Sometimes the ones that don’t post on the club pages or quietly go about their running can go unnoticed in their efforts, but fortunately the extensive stats and results we keep can help towards recognising the work that has gone in. Anyone who follows Keith on Strava would have seen throughout 2021 a committed, structured, determined and consistent approach towards his training. Huge runs around the Garw valley and mountains, tempo runs and speed sessions. The hard work paid off. At 5K and 10K, Keith ranked in the top 3 in the veteran category with times of 20:24 and a 10K PB of 42:12 at Terforest 10K. At Half Marathon he actually ran his best time of the year for the virtual club championship with a 1:36:59 and followed that up with an official 1:38:24 at Llanelli Half. He also smashed his PB to clock the fastest Super-Vet time of the year with a 3:43:14 at Newport Marathon. 

Contenders: The super-vet male category might actually be the most stacked and competitive age category in the club. It includes two former Runners Runner winners with Kris Denholm and Chris Pratt, whilst we also have the likes of Jason Griffiths, Kevin Raymond, Ken Salvatore, Gareth Davies, Wayne Randall, Simon Harrison, Phill Iveson, Chris ‘Wonka’ Williams, Chris Roberts, Simon Harrison – plus multi award winners Dai Kembo and Mark Worrall just to name a few. To get in the top 5 times would require a sub 21 at 5K, sub 46 at 10K, sub 1:47 at Half Marathon and a sub 4 at Marathon. I’ll be over the moon if I’m anywhere near those times aged 50+. Just to add to the competitiveness of this category, another double award winner, Carl Walsh, joins the list from this year and Gareth Richards will join next year. Going back to 2021 contenders and there were all of those listed plus more. A special mention has to go to Wayne Randall and Ken Salvatore who both ran PB’s at 5K ,10K, Half Marathon and Marathon featuring in the top 10 times in this category at every distance.  

Best Super-Veteran Female – Denise Bradley 

Our most winningest (yes, that is a word) member notched up her ninth(!) presentation night award with the Best Super-Veteran Female which she also won in 2016 and 2019. Denise won her first award way back in 2014 as Most Improved Female and has since won Club Runner of the Year, three club championship awards and was third in the Runners Runner voting in 2018. As for the most recent accolade, Denise spent much of 2021 focussing on her goal of running her first ultra… or should I say ultras? The race in question was the Race to the Stones 100K which Denise chose the two day option meaning it was an ultra marathon distance of 50K on the Saturday and then do it all again on the Sunday. Whilst Denise wasn’t the fastest at any distance in her category, she was still amongst the top 3 at 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. Denise was also the only one in her age category to run a distance of marathon or above. Denise also continued her love of off roading running with races including the Rabbit Run, Sodbury Slog and Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run placing well in all. Denise also ran more races than any other female member in 2021. 

Contenders: Fiona Drysdale posted some great times during the year as she mainly concentrated on the shorter distances of 5K and 10K. Last years winner of this award, Carol Bartle was arguably the fastest in this category with multiple sub 2 hour Half Marathon finishes including a 1:52 a Swansea. This category is also full of enthusiastic and fantastic runners like Judith Jeeves, Heather Morgan, Stephanie Dyke, Sharon Pritchard, Debbie Bennion, Denise’s fellow ultra finisher Fiona Evans, plus parkrun regulars Claire Goldsworthy and Bev Sheard and former Runners Runner second place award winner Sian Jenkins. Apologies that I’ve just outed you all as being 50+. 

Best Veteran Female – Lisa King 

Lisa joined the club during the Winter 20/21 lockdown and was one of the first in the club to do official events when they restarted (initially in England only). It was a bit of a surprise to say the least when this previously unknown runner to me suddenly posted times of 45:10 at Gloucester 10K and 1:39:39 at Sheppardine Half Marathon for not only two of the fastest times of the year, but two of the fastest female members times we’ve seen in the history of the club. Unfortunately injury and illness heavily impacted Lisa’s year but she did return in December with a 22:19 at Tremorfa parkrun which was the fastest female veteran time of 2021. Lisa was a regular at Flyers sessions throughout the year including some super tough sessions like Golf Club Hill which anyone who’s done the Ogmore Castle BCRL race will be familiar with. 

Contenders: Aside from the ‘Anneliese years’, Claire Dunbar-Bowen has dominated this age category and picked up the award in 3 of the 5 previous years so was again one of the main contenders. This is another category where there could be so many winners. Emma Loyns ran multiple marathons and ultras, Sarah Davies ran her first ultra and ran the most events during the year of any member, Melanie Thomas had a breakthrough year with great times across all distances including a virtual marathon. Rosie Salvatore smashed her PB’s at 5K, 5 miles and 10K and won 2 club championship events. Melinda Thomas and Kaye Pedler battled it out for the club championship putting in great performances event after event and even getting virtual PB’s in the process. This category also includes past award winners Sian Thomas, Liz Davis and the 2018 Runners Runner winner Tammie Clemett. 

Most Improved Male – Nicky Bennett 

Nicky followed up his Best Senior Male award from the 2020 awards with Most Improved Male this time round. This is an extremely tough category to win, but arguably even more so for someone like Nicky who had already posted some of the fastest times in the club before the year started. How much more was there to come when you’ve already run 17:20 (5K), 37:34 (10K) and 1:36:25 (HM)? Well if we ignore Mr Tasker, how about beating all the previous club records which had stood for over 4 years with a 16:26 (5K), 34:18 (10K) and a 1:17:59 (HM). A phenomenal year of running from Nicky and it was pretty clear how much receiving this award meant to him when he was announced as the winner. Whilst I might be able to tell you all the stats and can look at what people are doing on Strava, it’s only the individual themselves that know how much hard work and dedication has gone in to achieving those times and improvements. A monumental effort. 

Contenders: Basically anyone who achieved a PB during 2021 was in contention but those with PB’s across multiple distances included Wayne Randall, Ken Salvatore, Gareth Richards, Anthony Kavanagh and Keith Coleman. Each achieved a PB at 3 or 4 different distances. 

Best Newcomer Male / Phoenix Hero – Carl Walsh 

Starting with Best Newcomer – having known Carl before he joined the club, I knew what we were in for. If there’s a running event happening – he will be at it. Whether it’s a 1 mile relay event or 40 mile Ultra over the some of the toughest mountains in the Brecon Beacons, you’ll often see Carl on the start line. In 2021 he notched up 26 races – 10 of which were marathons and 4 of which were ultras. That total alone of 14 is more than races than any other club member completed last year. Not to mention he was injured for the best part of the last 2 months of the year so the totals would have been considerably higher. Carl has thrown himself into being a Phoenix Runner wearing his kit proudly at all these different events, attending Flyers sessions, running ultras with other members of the club, tail walking at events, and always supportive of others. 

The Phoenix Hero award was a new award that really could only go to one person after his recent decision to book a one-way flight to Ukraine to fight in the war. Although things didn’t work out in terms of Carl joining the foreign legion, he spent several weeks on the Ukraine/Poland border helping thousands of refugees. Carl quite rightly received a standing ovation from everyone present on the night as he went up to collect his award. I haven’t forgiven Chris for inviting me up to present the club championship awards straight after the very emotional moment. 

Club Championship Winner / Club Championship Cup Winner / Best Female Newcomer – Melinda Thomas 

Melinda Thomas became first person in the clubs history to win 3 awards in their first full year with the club. The virtual club championship is designed to give everyone a chance of winning but I will let you in on a secret… ultimately the winner ends up being the person who has consistently improved throughout the championship, getting better with every event. This was the case for Melinda who ended up winning both the main ‘points’ / ‘league’ competition and the cup competition by producing excellence results right until the end of the championship. This was also a huge factor in Melinda being considered for and winning the Best Female Newcomer for her enthusiasm to get involved and keep producing ever more impressive results. 

Club Championship 2nd place – Kaye Pedler 

Interestingly Kaye didn’t win any of the 8 fixtures, however, her consistency across all fixtures paid dividends and resulted in her finishing second overall with a last event showdown against her running-buddy Melinda. Kaye even achieved a PB in the final event to give herself the best chance of winning but Melinda’s lead was too much and she also achieved a PB to ensure she held on for the overall win. 

Chairman’s Award – Pippa Clark 

This was a new award in which the Chair nominated someone for dedication and commitment to the club. Pippa has been a member since 2016 and I believe has been in the captaincy team now for around 5 years having put herself forward for the role within a year of joining the club. Throughout that time Pippa has been an integral part of putting teams together for cross country fixtures, Bridgend League fixtures and Rack Raid as well as numerous other events. Pippa is also one half of the stats team along with myself and trawls through the results pages keeping tabs on 200-300 members and where and when they are running at events so we can record and publish the results. 

Spirit of the Phoenix – Fiona Evans 

Fiona is one of our longest serving members having been part of the club for 8 years. A significant proportion of that time has been spent on the committee helping with all sorts of things in the background to ensure the smooth running of the club. Fiona also stepped in to help Dai Kembo with our ever expanding range of kit and merchandise which include a complete re-branding from the old club name and logo to the current Ogmore Phoenix name and logo. With membership hitting a high of around 350 members at one point, being in charge of all those requests and orders is no small task. More recently, as well as continuing her multiple roles, Fiona came up with the idea of the Phoenix Calendar and photo competition that has encouraged members to take photos on their training runs and capture some of the incredible scenery we witness on our running adventures in all weathers and across all terrains. 

Runners Runner 2nd place – Mark Worrall 

Another hugely popular choice which is maybe an obvious statement given the award is voted for by the members. One of the most likeable members of the club with an enthusiasm and manner that makes everyone smile. Known to some in the club as ‘Dad’, and I don’t just mean by his daughter Laura. Mark had a testing time with some health issues but like Dai who I’ll come onto later, never gave up. If he couldn’t run, he cycled for dozens of miles. When he could run, he’d be out in the Garw valley notching up the miles. His renewed dedication and commitment to training was rewarded with an incredible finish at the Brecon to Cardiff 44 mile Ultra marathon last August. Not only did he finish – he beat his time from the previous year by over an hour! An incredible comeback and yet another member proving that age is just a number and you can achieve whatever you set out to do. 

Outstanding Achievement / Runners Runner 3rd place – Dai Kembery 

You are in the form of your life, knocking on the door of a sub 20 parkrun, first finishes in the bag, multiple marathons across the UK and Ireland, an ultra marathon finisher and next thing you know, you’re waking up in hospital after suffering a heart attack. This was December 2019. Months of recovery are to follow. Most would consider their running days are over. Not Dai. It started with walking. Progressed to including a minute or two of running. Then 1 mile without stopping, 2 miles without stopping, a 5K without stopping. Progress. Slow progress. It must have been frustrating at times and many of us would have got inpatient and thrown in the towel and asked ourselves ‘what’s the point’. Not Dai. Many of us are guilty of rushing things in running – wanting to achieve that next goal, that next milestone when we’ve only just achieved the last one and are not ready for the next. Not Dai. His slow and steady approach meant that he’s been able to return not only to parkruns and shorter distances, but to train and complete the London Marathon in October 2021. He has lead the Flyers to the most successful period in the clubs history with almost every member who come to those sessions regularly achieving one or more PB’s in the past year and/or achieved new distances. Dai continues to be an integral part of the committee, has continued his role to put an OPR logo on absolutely everything that club members could ask for, volunteers at junior and 5K parkruns as well as the now infamous ‘lead car’ volunteer role at Newport 10K / Marathon. The comeback of the year – the outstanding achievement of the year.  

Best Senior Male / Club Runner / Runners Runner overall winner – Jacob Tasker 

An incredible year for Jacob who burst onto the scene at a Planka training session when sessions returned after the 20/21 Winter lockdown. I wasn’t at the session but it soon got back to me that we possibly had someone just sign up as a member who was something quite special. Once there was an opportunities to do races, Jacob was one of the first to sign up and the times were mind blowing. His first event for the club was in June 2021 at the Cheltenham Half Marathon. Despite it being one of the hottest days of 2021, he ran 1:25:33. In early July 2021, he showed his dedication to wanting to race and represent the club as our only member willing to do the hour plus journey to the Welsh 5K series in Pembrey. He exceeded pretty much all of our expectations with a time of 16:52 with Jacob becoming our first runner in 4 years to run sub 17. Then he returned later the same month and smashed the long standing club record with a 16:18 and finished amongst some of the top runners in Wales at the event. The unfathomable times continued at other distances with a club record 34:17 at the Cardiff Sunset 10K and then 33:07 at the Cardiff Bay 10K. Then came possibly the highlight of a stunning set of results with a 1:11:14 Half Marathon at Swansea where he finished 4th overall. The list of achievements continued with Jacob notching up 16 first finishes at parkrun and becoming the first club member to ever go sub 16 with another club record of 15:54 at Swansea Bay parkrun. He also won the Singleton XC fixture. It’s not just about how quick he is though – Jacob has thrown himself into the club and is one of the nicest, approachable, supportive members of the club. He’s represented the club at XC, is a regular at Flyers training sessions and track, and didn’t hesitate to re-join our club despite what I expect is a lot of interest from clubs around South Wales. A very deserving multi-award winner. 

Contenders (for Best Senior Male): No surprises here that Jacob’s main contender for the Best Senior crown was the previous year’s winner Nicky Bennett (see write up for Most Improved Male). A name many members may not be familiar with yet is Josh Parry who ran 17:21 at Swansea Bay parkrun and could be a future contender if he progresses onto running multiple distances with the club. Rhodri Thomas and Carl Price notched up new 5K PB’s whilst Emyr Bissmire chalked up PB’s at multiple distances. There were also some excellent performances by Peter Walsh who knocked a huge amount off his marathon PB, Jay Howells who ran multiple marathons within a few weeks including a couple of PB’s and another runner in the club who shall remain nameless who ran a 24 hour event, a Backyard Ultra as well as several long distance virtual challenges.

Runners Runner nominations

The following list is of members of recieved one or more nominations for the top prize of Runners Runner

  1. Tammie Baker
  2. Alexis Barrett
  3. Nicky Bennett
  4. Jamie Bevan
  5. Denise Bradley
  6. Keith Coleman
  7. Karen Dando
  8. Sarah Davies
  9. Liz Davis
  10. Kris Denholm
  11. Claire Dunbar-Bowen
  12. Fiona Evans
  13. Leigh Forman
  14. Jay Rhys Howells
  15. Aled Hughes
  16. Steph Iveson-Holmes
  17. Siân Jenkins
  18. Gareth John Jenkins
  19. Jo Jenkins
  20. Anthony Kavanagh
  21. Dai Kembo
  22. Emma Loyns
  23. Emma-Jane Morris
  24. Leanne Parsons
  25. Kaye Pedler
  26. Niki Puleio
  27. Wayne Randall
  28. Gareth Richards
  29. Chris Richards
  30. Ken Salvatore
  31. Rosaleen Lian
  32. Jacob Tasker
  33. Melanie Thomas
  34. Melinda Thomas
  35. Carl Walsh
  36. Rhiannon Whiteley
  37. Mark Worrall

2021 review

parkrun

The year started with the continuation of virtual parkruns. Numbers fluctuated and dropped slightly as we passed a full year of virtual parkrun in late March. We ended up reaching 70 weeks before parkrun returned in England but carried on until week 74 before parkruns returned in Wales. Alun Wylde, myself, Jo Jenkins, Sara Davies, Nick Harris and Sarah Davies were amongst those that ran every single week or only missed one or two. Over the 74 weeks, we recorded around 3,600 virtual parkruns between us averaging just under 50 per week.

On 24/07/21 parkrun finally returned (in England at least) with 7 members popping over the border to get their parkrun fix. In total there were 18 members who ended up going to England before the Wales return with some going on each of the 5 parkrundays that separated the England and Wales start dates. On 21/08/21 parkrun finally returned in Wales and we saw an incredible turnout of 65 runners with 58 of those at our local parkruns of Porthcawl and Maesteg.

Number of parkruns completed in 2021

  1. Sarah Davies 21
  2. Dawn Hopkins 21
  3. Nick Harris 20
  4. Chris Roberts 19
  5. Aled Hughes 18
  6. Kris Denholm 18
  7. Sharon Pritchard 18
  8. Chris Pratt 18
  9. Jacob Tasker 17
  10. Peter Walsh 17

Since the return we’ve seen a much more even split between members going to Porthcawl and Maesteg. Maesteg has also been a popular venue for milestone celebrations with 45 members running at Maesteg for Dai Kembery’s 250th parkrun and a higher club attendance at Maesteg than Porthcawl for Jayne Bissmire’s 50th parkrun / Halloween. Jo and I chose Porthcawl for our wedding themed parkrun with 47 members completing the course.

Considering we’ve only had 19 parkrun days (in Wales) this year, we’ve seen plenty of milestones…

  • 250 – Chris Roberts (after being on 249 when parkrun ’paused’ in March 2020)
  • 250 – David Kembery
  • 100 – Debbie Bennion
  • 100 – Gareth Davies
  • 100 – Nige Rees (after being on 99 when parkrun ‘paused’ in March 2020)
  • 50 – Nicky Bennett
  • 50 – Emma Loyns
  • 50 – Jay Howells
  • 50 – Jayne Bissmire
  • 50 – Rhiannon Whiteley
  • 50 – Samantha Thompson
  • 50 – Huw Jenkins
  • 50 – Nigel Hitchings
  • 50 – Neil Price

parkrun tourism

Dawn Hopkins became the first person in the club to complete the parkrun alphabet by completing a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet and therefore achieving ‘alphabeteer’ status. Sarah Davies followed a few months later in completing the challenge after numerous lengthy journeys to tick off the final few letters. Karl Johnson became the third member to run at 100 different parkrun events and therefore achieve ‘Cowell’ status – named after the first person to do it. A week later Karl ended Shawn and Julie’s 5 year reign as the clubs top tourists by running his 101st different parkrun venue. Dawn and Sarah were easily our most prolific tourists this year as per the stats below.

Number of new parkrun venues visited

  1. Dawn Hopkins – 17
  2. Sarah Davies – 16
  3. Chris Roberts – 14
  4. Aled Hughes – 7
  5. Melinda Thomas – 7

Most parkrun tourisms overall as at the end of 2021

  1. Karl Johnson – 101
  2. Shawn Cullen – 100
  3. Julie Ransom – 100
  4. Chris Roberts – 92
  5. Gareth Jenkins – 80
  6. Dawn Hopkins – 77
  7. Chris Stanlake – 71
  8. Kris Denholm – 67
  9. Aled Hughes – 61
  10. Jo Gamba – 53

Top 10 parkrun times

Jacob Tasker – 15:54, 16:21, 16:36, 16:48, 16:52, 16:56, 16:57, 17:00, 17:04, 17:09 – Jacob actually has the top 16 times this year out of his 17 parkruns. Nicky Bennett is the next fastest with a 17:41. Jacob has finished first in 16 out of his 17 parkruns with his PB of 15:54 at Swansea being the only blip in his 100% first finisher record which was frustratingly to an ‘unknown runner’ who must not have presented their barcode! Due to ‘unknown runners’ not automatically being classed as male (which used to be the case), Jacobs records show him as first male finisher in all his 17 parkruns which include 15 at Maesteg, 1 at Porthcawl and 1 at Swansea Bay.

For the ladies, Emma Morris has the two fastest times by some margin with a 19:52 and 20:06 which were both run at Swansea Bay parkrun. Lisa King is next up with 22:19 whilst Kate Lee is third on the ladies parkrun rankings for the club with a 23:59.

Volunteering

The return of parkrun has seen a few members step into core volunteer teams whilst the likes of Stephne Puddy and Emma Marshall continue their regularly weekly volunteering roles and have both now exceeded well over 100 volunteer credits each. Karl Johnson started as co-Event Director for Pontypridd parkrun and is now well on his way to joining the volunteer 100 club whilst Sian Jenkins has joined the core volunteer team at Maesteg as one of the Run Directors. Dozens of other members have volunteered at our local parkruns whilst Judith Howells even did some volunteer tourism earlier in the year. A huge thank you to all the volunteers.

5K races

There were only 3 events at this distance that OPR runners attended this year with some spectacular performances. Jacob Tasker set a then club record of 16:18 at the Welsh 5K series in Pembrey with Niki Puleio setting a new PB of 17:47 in the same event. Nicky Bennett set a huge new PB and what would have been a club record prior to this year with a 16:26 at the Whitchurch Race for Victory 5K with Emma Morris setting a then PB of 20:43 in the same event.

Top 5 fastest

  1. Jacob Tasker – 16:18
  2. Nicky Bennett  – 16:26
  3. Niki Puleio – 17:47
  4. Neil Price – 18:57
  5. Emma Morris – 20:43

10K

OPR members ran in 24 different 10K events this year with 132 finishes and 34 PB’s. Emma Morris our most prolific 10K-er with 6 events to her name. In England, some races were permitted from late March / early April, so Lisa King was one of the first members to run at an official race when she ran the Gloucester 10K at the start of May. The Richard Burton 10K saw our biggest attendance with 29 finishers closely followed by Cardiff Bay 10K with 26 and Newport with 24.

Top 5 fastest males

  1. Jacob Tasker – 33:07 – new overall club record
  2. Nicky Bennett – 34:18 – also inside the club record going into this year
  3. Gareth Richards – 38:48
  4. Neil Price – 39:49
  5. Neil Ridley – 40:28

Top 5 fastest female

  1. Emma Morris – 42:19  (new age category club record and also ran 44:31 whilst pacing 45 minutes at an event)
  2. Lisa King – 45:10
  3. Carys Cronin – 47:17
  4. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 47:20
  5. Fiona Drysdale – 51:36

Half Marathon

OPR members somehow managed to squeeze in 31 different half marathons in this year with 108 finishes and 21 PB’s. Lisa King again being the one to start us off at Sheppardine HM back in April. Llanelli Half Marathon had the biggest attendance with 17 followed by Swansea with 16. Jacob finished 4th at the Swansea Half Marathon to further cement his place as the clubs fastest runner.

Top 5 Fastest Male

  1. Jacob Tasker – 1:11:14 (club record by over 7 minutes)
  2. Nicky Bennett – 1:17:59 (inside the old club record)
  3. Niki Puleio – 1:25:00
  4. Gareth Richards – 1:26:02
  5. Neil Price – 1:26:36

Top 5 fastest female

  1. Emma Morris – 1:38:28 (new age category club record)
  2. Lisa King – 1:39:39 (new age category club record)
  3. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 1:46:52
  4. Carol Bartle – 1:52:08
  5. Rebecca Newton – 1:56:12

Marathon

OPR members ran in 20 different marathons this year with 51 finishes and 18 PB’s. Incredibly Carl Walsh ran in 10 of these events including marathons in Denmark and Iceland and would have run more had it not been for a injury in the latter part of the year. Interestingly, despite the pandemic, we actually had marathon finishes in 6 different countries. Some incredible performances this year with Wayne Randall knocking over an hour off his previous best marathon time with Peter Walsh and Rebecca Newton not far off having one hour improvements as well. Ken Salvatore reduced his time from 4:35 to 3:58, Anthony Kavanagh from 4:44 to 4:12, Keith Coleman from 4:01 to 3:43 and Gareth Richards from 3:30 to 3:18. Jay Howells ran 3 marathons during October with PB’s in two of them. Niki Puleio ran two sub 3 hour marathons on consecutive weeks in different countries (Berlin, Germany and then London, England).

Top 5 fastest Male

  1. Niki Puleio – 2:55:57 (followed by a 2:58:37 a week later)
  2. Paul Smith – 2:58:38 (only the third runner in clubs history to run a sub 3 marathon)
  3. Dai James – 3:06:17 (new age category record)
  4. Gareth Richards – 3:18:07
  5. Carl Walsh – 3:33:24

Top 5 fastest Female

  1. Rebecca Newton 4:21:33
  2. Melanie Thomas 4:28:11
  3. Emma Loyns 4:30:31
  4. Leigh Francis-Richards 5:39:10
  5. Karen Green 5:48:35

Ultras / Challenges / Crazy Feats of Endurance

In February, Infinity Running put on a ‘live’ virtual event with a challenge of running 4 miles on the hour, every hour until you either run out of time, or simply stop. The event started at 8am on the Saturday morning and at 2am the next morning, 18 hours later, Kris Denholm and I dropped out having completed 72 miles to finish in joint 3rd place. Kris also went on to complete the Run Walk Crawl virtual challenge of running 10 miles, 18.5 miles and 32 miles all the space of a week. He also entered the virtual ‘Route 66’ challenge which involved covering almost 2,300 miles during 2021 which he achieved with running and cycling included. Then in official races he did the Brecon to Cardiff 44 miler and Vale 32 miler as well as more than 30 miles of the Gower 50 before having to call it a day.

In April I took on another Infinity virtual event running 53.7 miles from Rhossili in the Gower to Rest Bay as part of their 12 hour event. In June, I took on my first ever 24 hour event – Conquer 24 – completing 16 laps of a hilly mostly off road 5 mile course to finish on 80 miles and 14th overall. In August I ran 33 miles in one of the Infinity Running 6 hour events. In October I then took on the Narberth Backyard Ultra completing 40 miles in awful conditions on a basically cross country style course. Including training runs for these ultra’s I ended up running over marathon distance and therefore running an Ultra 12 times between January and October.

Another Ultra-crazy member was Carl Walsh who ran the 53 mile Race to the King, the 32 mile Celtic Ultra and the Off The Tarmac Brecon Ultra. That’s on top of his 10 marathons and all this was between April and November.

Gareth Richards long distance exploits are hard to beat. He ran a marathon every week for 26 weeks at the start of the year. Since the return of races he’s ran a huge marathon PB at Worcester and completed marathon distance at an Infinity Running Event. Back in April, Run Walk Crawl did the Vale Ultra virtual challenge where Gareth took it to the absolute extreme deciding to run the three distances (10 miles, 18.5 miles and 32 miles) all in one go, completing just over 60 miles in a single day. Gareth has since gone on to be our first male finisher in the Brecon to Cardiff and Vale Ultras as well as completing the Gower 50 miler and Celtic Trail Ultra.

Our most prolific female Ultra Runner was Emma Loyns who also completed the Vale Ultra challenge back in April over the course of a week. Then when races returned Emma was our first female finisher at the 32 mile Vale Ultra, completed 46.2 miles at the Narberth Backyard Ultra (actually recorded over 50 miles on her watch), and joined Carl Walsh for the Off The Tarmac Brecon Ultra as well as running the Newport Marathon in between these Ultra challenges.

Not content with just doing their first Ultra this year, Sian Thomas and Sarah Davies did both the Brecon to Cardiff and Vale Ultra’s this year. Fiona Evans and Denise Bradley pushed their first ultra to the extreme by doing 2 in 2 days to complete the Race to the Stones 100K with 50K completed on each day. Wayne Randall ran his first Ultra at Brecon to Cardiff accompanied by Simon Harrison, and in the same event Mark Worrall knocked over an hour off the time he’d achieved the year before. Wayne also went on to run the Celtic Trail Ultra which was Jay Howells first Ultra.

16 runners at the Vale Ultra actually made it one of our biggest races this year with several members completing their first Ultra distance.

Longest distances achieved in virtual / race ultra’s in 2021

  1. Gareth Jenkins – 80 miles – Conquer24
  2. Gareth Jenkins – 72 miles – Infinity Last Runner Standing (75 miles by watch)
  3. Kris Denholm – 72 miles – Infinity Last Runner Standing
  4. Denise Bradley 62.2 miles – Race to the Stones (over 2 days)
  5. Fiona Evans 62.2 miles – Race to the Stones (over 2 days)
  6. Gareth Richards – 60 miles – Run, Walk, Crawl virtual challenge
  7. Gareth Jenkins – 53 miles – Infinity 12 hour challenge
  8. Carl Walsh – 53 miles – Race to the King
  9. Gareth Richards – 50 miles – Gower 50
  10. Emma Loyns – 46.2 miles – West Wales Backyard Ultra (50 miles by watch)

Race and overall totals

Total number of events in 2021 (parkruns plus races)

  1. Sarah Davies 32
  2. Chris Pratt 30
  3. Carl Walsh 29
  4. Nicky Bennett 27
  5. Jay Howells 26
  6. Dawn Hopkins 25
  7. Jacob Tasker 25
  8. Nick Harris 25
  9. Melanie Thomas 25
  10. Gareth Jenkins / Kris Denholm / Sharon Pritchard 24

Sarah becomes the first female member to ever top the annual most events table.

Most Races (not including parkruns)

  1. Carl Walsh 26
  2. Neil Ridley 14
  3. Wayne Randall 13
  4. Jay Howells 13
  5. Chris Pratt 12
  6. Denise Bradley 12
  7. Sarah Davies / Nicky Bennett / Fiona Drysdale / Gareth Richards 11

Dominated by two newer members of the club who I have no doubt will be claiming milestone t-shirts every year from now on.

Overall most events

  1. Gareth Jenkins 626
  2. Nick Harris 573
  3. Chris Pratt 449
  4. Aled Hughes 397
  5. David Kembery 378
  6. David Sheard 329
  7. Chris Roberts 306
  8. Kris Denholm 287
  9. Denise Bradley 268
  10. Dawn Hopkins 260

Overall most races (not including parkruns)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 274
  2. Nick Harris 232
  3. Chris Pratt 172
  4. Aled Hughes 151
  5. Denise Bradley 132
  6. Dawn Hopkins 129
  7. David Kembery 117
  8. Shawn Cullen 111
  9. David Sheard 108
  10. Niki Puleio 107

Jo Jenkins, Alun Wylde and Mark Worrall also ran their 100th race for the club this year and claimed their milestone t-shirts at the club Christmas party.

Club Championship

With uncertainty about races again this year, I set up another virtual club championship with handicap scoring allowing everyone a chance of winning. Distances ranged from just 1 kilometre to Half Marathon.

Dai Kembery took an early lead with the best score in round 1 (5K time trial) before Huw Jenkins top overall top spot with a win in round 2 (1 mile time trial). Huw maintained top spot in round 3 (1K time trial) which was won by Jonathan Tidball. Round 4 saw Melinda Thomas win the 10K time trial and leap to the top of the standings. Neil Ridley won round 5 (2 mile TT) and Nicky Bennett won round 6 (Half Marathon TT). Melinda maintained her top spot improving her chances of winning with consistent top 10 finishes in each of those rounds. Rosie Salvatore won the final two rounds which were the 5 mile TT before ending as we started with a 5K time trial which catapulted her from 46th to 14th overall.

The final standings saw Melinda win with an incredible 490 points out of a possible 500. With the best 5 scores counting, hers were made up of a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Kaye Pedler was second and despite not winning any rounds outright, she scored top 10 finished 8th or higher in 5 of the rounds. On the final event, Jacob Tasker took third from Huw Jenkins who had been in contention throughout. Jacob posted some absolutely crazy times and unsurprisingly would have won every round had it just been based on quickest times. His times in order of distance are listed below…

  • 1K – 2:57
  • 1 mile – 4:42
  • 2 miles – 10:25
  • 5K – 15:54
  • 5 miles – 27:28
  • 10K – 34:17
  • Half Marathon – 1:11:44

Club Training in 2021

This year has seen the club provide more sessions than ever. Emma Loyns continued her strength classes on a Monday which have grown in numbers to sometimes being the biggest attended session of the week. Touring Tuesdays have continued with a mixture of effort and mile sessions. Wednesdays now consist of a new Power Plodders session as well as Flyers and other club sessions. More recently we’ve seen the return of track twice a month as well where many of the sessions have come together. Thursdays have continued back at our original home in the Ogmore Valley. Then there’s been trial Sundays as well the social Sunday run as well. Also not forgetting our junior section which meet on Mondays. We’ve had a number of new Lirfs this year as well as Liz Davis and Vickie Blake moving onto their coaching qualifications. A huge thank you to our Lirfs and coaches for their dedication and time.

Other club activities in 2021

Whilst restrictions meant this presentation night had to go ahead online only, we did get to celebrate in style at the end of the year with the Christmas Party. A massive thank you to the social committee for putting on a brilliant evening.

The Phantom Phoenix continues to keep us guessing. Our Insta queen, Jayne Bissmire celebrated our 1,000th post on Instragram by creating a spectular OPR logo made up of hundreds of photos chosen by members. Our Twitter and Facebook pages also continue to keep members up to date. The first ‘captains log’ update was sent towards the end of the year which is set to be a regular feature in the coming months. There was also a monthly photography competition with the winning photos being used for the 2022 Ogmore Phoenix calendar.

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

Our Running Club – the stats – 2012-present

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 9 year anniversary I thought we’d have a look at the incredible stats that we have accumulated over that time.

21,825 results have been recorded from 550 different members (past and present) from 3,194 events. In total the club has been represented at 915 different events.

Longest Standing Members

Aled Hughes, Helen Griffiths and I attended that first meeting and are the only three ‘founding members’ remaining in 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 608
  2. Nick Harris 550
  3. Chris Pratt 425
  4. Aled Hughes 375
  5. David Kembery 360
  6. David Sheard 314
  7. Chris Roberts 289
  8. Kris Denholm 268
  9. Denise Bradley 248
  10. Richard Lowcock James 245

After Denise, our top females for number of events are Dawn Hopkins (241), Jo Gamba (236), Liz Davis (224) and Bev Sheard (215).

Total events top 10 (races only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 271
  2. Nick Harris 227
  3. Chris Pratt 164
  4. Aled Hughes 147
  5. Dawn Hopkins 126
  6. Denise Bradley 122
  7. David Kembery 114
  8. Shawn Cullen 111
  9. David Sheard 106
  10. Niki Puleio 103

After Dawn and Denise, our next top female for number of races are Jo Gamba (98), Fiona Drysdale (85), Sharon Pritchard (84) and Helen Griffiths (84). If races before joining the club were included the I would be on 286 and Chris Pratt would be close to 200, however, Carl Walsh would probably beat that with his races for his previous club.

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. Gareth Jenkins 93 in 2016
  7. Dawn Hopkins 89 in 2019
  8. Jo Gamba 88 in 2019
  9. Sharon Pritchard 86 in 2019
  10. Debbie Bennion 85 in 2019

Carl Walsh is way ahead of the rest for this year and will no doubt be featuring in many of these top 10’s in a few years.

Longest race distances run

  1. Steven James 106 miles – London to Battle 1066 Ultra – July 2019
  2. Nick Harris 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  3. Jamie Vanstone 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  4. Nick Harris 100 miles – Dragon 100 – May 2019
  5. Steven James 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  6. Elizabeth Sim 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  7. Gareth Jenkins 80 miles – Conquer24 – June 2021
  8. Wayne Hayhurst 62 miles – London to Brighton 100K – May 2017
  9. Anneliese Loveluck 60 miles – Dare Valley 12 hour – September 2019
  10. Carl Walsh 53 miles – Race to the Kings – June 2021

Incredibly not making the list we have a further 67 finishes ranging from 40 miles to 52 miles as well as Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans who ran 100K (62.2 miles) split over 2 days recently. Including the Vale Ultra and all other Ultra distance finishes, the number of Ultra finishes is 171 from 62 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 18
  2. Steven James 13
  3. Gareth Richards 10
  4. Nick Harris 10
  5. Elizabeth Sim 9
  6. Jamie Vanstone 7
  7. Simon Harrison 7
  8. Wayne Hayhurst 7
  9. Chris Pratt 6
  10. Brian Cotton / Dan Clark / Gareth Jenkins 4

32 current members have run an Ultra with 13 of those doing more than 1.

Most number of Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Chris Pratt 34
  2. Nick Harris 15
  3. Gareth Richards 13
  4. Kris Denholm 12
  5. David Kembery 12
  6. Wayne Hayhurst 12
  7. Carl Walsh 9
  8. Fiona Evans 9
  9. Niki Puleio 8
  10. Denise Bradley / Aled Hughes / Simon Harrion / Kirsty Evans 7

86 current members have run a marathon with the club meaning around 30% of our current total membership have run a marathon. 62 of those have run more than 1 marathon.

Most number of Half Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 63
  2. Nick Harris 29
  3. Chris Pratt 29
  4. David Kembery 23
  5. Karl Johnson 22
  6. Liz Davis 22
  7. Mark Worrall 22
  8. Denise Bradley 20
  9. Dawn Hopkins 20
  10. Shaun Cullen 19

144 current members (around half of the total members) have run a Half Marathon with the club. 127 of those have run more than one, and incredibly 41 members have run 10 Half Marathons or more with the club.

Most number of 10Ks completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 46
  2. Dawn Hopkins 39
  3. Nick Harris 33
  4. Sharon Pritchard 30
  5. Aled Hughes 29
  6. Debbie Bennion 29
  7. Shawn Cullen 28
  8. Denise Bradley 25
  9. Helen Griffiths 23
  10. David Kembery 23

164 members have completed a 10K with the club. This actually appears quite low but looking at the ones that haven’t done a 10K yet, it’s mostly newer members who haven’t had the opportunity due to lack of races over the past 16 months.

Number of event finishes by distance

  1. 5K / parkrun – 13,286
  2. Other distances – 3,388
  3. 10K – 2,159
  4. Half Marathon – 1,696
  5. Marathon – 482
  6. 5 mile – 344
  7. 10 mile – 295
  8. Ultra – 171

Biggest events by number of members finishing

  1. Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 – 116 finishers
  2. Ogmore Castle BCRL race 2019 – 114
  3. Porthcawl 10K 2019 – 97
  4. Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K BCRL race 2017 – 92
  5. Cardiff Half Marathon 2016 – 92
  6. Llanilid Loop BRCL race 2019 – 92
  7. Cardiff Half Marathon 2018 – 91
  8. Cardiff Half Marathon 2017 – 90
  9. Ogmore Castle BCRL race 2018 – 86
  10. Newbridge Fields BCRL race 2019 – 85

In total there have been 37 races where we’ve had 50 or more members finishing. 21 of those are BCRL races and as per the top 10 list, Cardiff Half Marathon has had 90 or more finishers for the last 4 years in a row that it’s gone ahead. Our biggests 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 – 12*
  2. SSAFA 5K (Cardiff) series – 12
  3. Cardiff Half Marathon (including World Half) – 9*
  4. Cardiff 10K – 8*
  5. Llanelli Half Marathon – 8*
  6. Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run – 8*
  7. Swansea Bay 5K series – 8
  8. Swansea 10K – 8*
  9. Caerphilly 10K – 7*
  10. London Marathon – 7*

*club has been represented in every one of these events since we formed or the series stared. Aberavon / R4A series could arguably be 18 as we’ve also done all 6 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 – Pembrey 5K – July 2021 – 16:18

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

First sub 35 / current club record: Jacob Tasker – Cardiff Sunset 10K – August 2021 – 34:17

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

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

Fastest current member: Dai James – Llanelli Half Marathon – March 2020 – 1:21:36

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 – Goodwood Marathon – December 2020 – 2:55:01

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*: Anneliese Loveluck – Bakewell parkrun – October 2019 – 20:34

*Sian Price has run a faster time (20:01) as part of a virtual event

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: Sian Price – Cardiff 10K – September 2017 – 44:42

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: Lisa King – Sheppardine Half Marathon – April 2021 – 1:39:39

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 – Newport 2018 – 3:46:32

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

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

67 different members have recieved awards over the 8 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 353
  2. Maesteg 130
  3. Pontypridd 108
  4. Cardiff 91
  5. Swansea Bay 87
  6. Barry Island 63
  7. Newport 57
  8. Gnoll 55
  9. Grangemoor 53
  10. Llanelli Coast 50

There have been 357 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 329 Porthcawl parkruns that have gone ahead. At Maesteg we have 100% record with at least 1 member at every one of their 130 parkruns so far.

Total number of parkruns Top 10 – numbers in brackets are total parkruns run including those before joining the club

  1. Gareth Jenkins 337 (337)
  2. Nick Harris 323 (323)
  3. Chris Pratt 261 (330)
  4. David Kembery 246 (246)
  5. Aled Hughes 228 (228)
  6. Chris Roberts 226 (251)
  7. David Sheard 208 (297)
  8. Kris Denholm 182 (259)
  9. Bev Sheard 155 (155)
  10. Karl Johnson 152 (152)

After Bev the top ladies are Liz Davis 142 (142), Jo Gamba 138 (173) and Julie Ransom 136 (136).

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

  1. Emma Marshall 140
  2. Stephne Puddy 110
  3. Karl Johnson 68
  4. Richard Lowcock James 63
  5. Chris Stanlake 56
  6. Rhiannon Whitely 54
  7. Peter Harrop 53
  8. Kris Denholm 51
  9. Chris Roberts 49
  10. Gareth Jenkins 44

This information isn’t as easy to find so apologies to anyone I’ve missed who would make this list. Also have to mention some former members – Maria Lalic has now done 242 different days of volunteering, Maesteg regular, Michael Brain is on 120, and regular Porthcawl pacer, Dave H Evans is on 96 with a significant proporation of each of these being whilst a member of the club.

Top 10 parkrun tourists (number of different venues)

  1. Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom 100
  2. Karl Johnson 98
  3. Chris Roberts 79
  4. Gareth Jenkins 75
  5. Chris Stanlake 69
  6. Dawn Hopkins 64
  7. Kris Denholm 63
  8. Aled Hughes 53
  9. Jo Gamba 48
  10. Jayne Powney 46

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 have remained in joint top spot ever since. 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 100 different venues in just 136 parkruns overall. Sarah Davies could challenge that as she is currently on 37 different venues in just 57 parkruns.

Most new parkrun venues visited in a calendar year

  1. Karl Johnson 35 in 2019
  2. Dawn Hopkins 30 in 2019
  3. Shawn and Julie 26 in 2019
  4. Karl Johnson 25 in 2017
  5. Sarah Davies 24 in 2019
  6. Shawn and Julie 24 in 2018
  7. Chris Stanlake / Alexis Barrett / Chris Roberts 23 – all in 2019
  8. Paul Barrett 22 in 2019
  9. Shawn and Julie 21 in 2017 and Karl 21 in 2018
  10. Shawn and Julie 20 in 2016

A special mention to Callum Denholm (son of Kris Denholm) who ran at 12 different venues in 2020 before the parkrun pause and therefore could have been on course to feature in those top few.

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

  1. Dawn Hopkins – 1 required – U – which she aims to tick off this weekend
  2. Sarah Davies / Gareth Jenkins / Karl Johnson / Shawn Cullen / Julie Ransom / Chris Stanlake – 5 required

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

  1. Gareth Jenkins – on 4 seperate years
  2. Aled Hughes – on 3 seperate years – also the only person to have done all 55 possible in a calendar year
  3. Nick Harris – on 1 occasion

Suprisingly a few parkrun regulars like Chris Pratt, Chris Roberts and Kris Denholm don’t make the list, although all have been just one or two off on a couple of occasions.

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

  1. Chris Roberts – completed in 202 parkruns
  2. Aled Hughes – completed in 203 parkruns
  3. Richard Lowcock James – completed in 210 parkruns
  4. David Sheard – completed in 214 parkruns
  5. Nick Harris – completed in 222 parkruns
  6. Chris Pratt – completed in 258 parkruns
  7. Gareth Jenkins – completed in 286 parkruns

Kris Denholm could threaten my longest time to achieve it as he is on 259 parkruns and still has 3 more to tick off, whilst Jo Gamba and Karl Johnson could threaten top spot as they are on 173 and 168 parkruns respectively with 3 to tick off. Dai Kembery has one number left (35) after 246 parkruns.

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 Gamba – 14th February 2009 at Cardiff parkrun – Jo was in the first 27,000 in the world to sign up for parkrun

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

Name Badge Challenge – running parkruns starting with each letter of your name – Jo Gamba and Dawn Hopkins are the only ones to complete this so far.

Most International Tourisms – Chris Roberts – 7 – Chris ran 5 parkruns in Australia whilst there over Christmas / New Year and has also run parkruns in Denmark and Poland.

Number of different parkruns visited by all members past and present – 354

Number of different parkrun countries visited by all members past and present – 11 (UK, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, Canada, France, USA, Austrialia, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand)

Longest parkrun streak – Aled Hughes – 74 parkruns which included not missing the additional ones on Christmas Day and New Years Day. I managed 61 Saturdays in a row before Aled took the record.

Number of current members to have reached 50 parkruns – 68

Number of current members to have reached 100 parkruns – 31

Number of current members to have reached 250 parkruns – 7

Most runs at Maesteg parkrun – Aled Hughes 59

Most runs at Porthcawl parkrun – Nick Harris 279

Most parkruns only at one venue (no touring) – Claire Goldsworthy – all 148 parkruns at Porthcawl

Other stats

Longest standing coach – Aled Hughes

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

Longest standing captain – Pippa Clark

Most age category records – Kevin Raymond

Most club records – Anneliese Loveluck

Number of members to have run 100 events (parkruns plus races for the club) – 50

Highest number of events without doing a parkrun – Simon Harrison – 70

Number of people to have recorded a result with the club – 550

And finally….

Number of hours spend collecting these stats over the past 9 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 10 year anniversary and hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate the big milestone together next year.

July 2021 review

parkruns

parkruns are back! Well…. in England anyway. Saturday 24th July saw a small group of members travel across the border to get their parkrun fix for the first time since early March 2020. Kris Denholm visited Stonehouse, Sarah Davies and Dawn Hopkins were at Queen Elizabeth in their quest to be the first in the club to complete the ‘parkrun alphabet’, Jay Howells was at the widely regarded ‘toughest’ parkrun in the UK in Woolacombe, Sally Pensom was at Elsemere Port and Toni Howells at Berkeley Green. Chris Roberts finally ran his 250th parkrun after a 71 week wait on a visit to Newent parkrun.

On week 2 of parkruns return in England it was many of the same names travelling again plus a few additions. Jo Gamba was at Milton Keynes parkrun – a parkrun she first ran over 11 years ago and last ran on Christmas Day 2019. Darija Keenor visited Lydney parkrun whilst Fiona Drysdale was at Penrith. Jay Howells and Karl Johnson were at Berkeley Green, Kris was at Thornbury, Dawn Hopkins bagged her ‘O’ parkrun at Osterley and Chris Roberts was at Wolverhampton. We had 8 runners at Ross on Wye with Jason Griffiths running his first ever parkrun and joined for the event by Sarah Davies, Alexis and Paul Barrett, Kaye Pedler, Melinda Thomas, Sian Jenkins and Huw Jenkins.

Virtual parkruns have continued with between 30 and 40 submissions in each of the first 3 Saturdays before the parkrun in England return. Gareth Davies, Fiona Drysdale, Jacob Tasker, Sally Littlehales, Neil Price and Melanie Thomas were our fastest male and female times during the month.

Races

5K

Jacob Tasker took on some of Wales’ best athletes at the Welsh Athletics 5K series in Pembrey. Jacob ran 16;52 in his first official 5K for the club making him the fastest current member as well as closing in on the long standing club record. It’s also the fastest 5K debut in the history of the club.

The next 5K in the series took place just 3 weeks later and after his performance in the previous event, Jacob was entered into the ‘Elite Race’ and obliterated the club record that had stood for over 4 and a half years with a stunning 16:18 finish. In the second race, which was still packed with quality (34 of the 40 finishers ran under 20 minutes), Nicky Bennett finished second overall in 17:23. Niki Puleio smashed his long standing 5K PB by more than 30 seconds with a 17:47 – an improvement almost unheard of by an experienced runner at that level. Neil Price ran 18:57 making it by far the fastest four results the club has ever seen in a single event.

10K

A few headed over the border to partipate in 10K event this month with Martin Beard and Dawn Hopkins running the Bristol Epic 10K and Judith Jeeves at the Otter River Run 10K. Closer to home, Fiona Drysdale at the Chepstow Racecourse 10K. Chris Pratt took part in the Asics 10K in London – one of the largest running events to go ahead since the pandemic began with just under 8,000 finishers.

Half Marathon

Claire Dunbar Bowen, Phill Iveson and Steph Iveson-Holmes in the first running event to take in place in Cardiff this year which was part of a variety of distances on a lapped course. Claire ran 1:47 to clock the second fastest female time this year. Whilst not a member due to her age, a big shout out to Katy Griffiths who completed her first official half marathon.

At the Chepstow Racecourse Half, Nicky Bennett and Neil Ridley bagged themselves new PBs of 1:33 and 1:38 respectively. Carl Walsh followed up a ultra the day before with a 1:50 whilst Chris ‘Wonka’ Williams came in at 1:53.

Rosie Salvatore ran the Bath Trail Half Marathon in 3:28 on a hilly, multi terrain course.

Marathon

Apart from the Infinity event which I’ll come onto later, it was an unusually queit month for marathons. Emma Loyns did however complete the Bath Trail Marathon in 5:37. The course included over 3,000 feet of elevation and ended up being nearer to 28 miles.

Ultras

The big one this month was Race to the Stones. For those not familiar, this is one of (if not) the biggest ultras in the UK. The event takes place over a weekend with a choice of running a non-stop 100K or splitting the 100K over 2 days with 50K each day. Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans decided to not only sign up for their first ultra… but do it twice with the 50K per day option. They completed the 100K in a total time of 15:14:14 after the times from both days were added together. An incredible achievement.

Carl Walsh ran yet another ultra with crazy elevation with the 32 mile Run Walk Crawl Celtic Ultra.

Infinity Running – First Contact

The local events company and friends of the club were finally back in action at Resolven with the usual choice of distances from ‘5K’ up to ultra distance depending on how many laps completed. Temperatures reached almost 30 degrees resulting in it being the hottest temperatures many of us had every run in.

An early slip meant that Debbie Griffin had to settle for 1 lap (5K) and did well to hobble round for that given it happened within the first 1 mile. Leigh Richards-Francis joined her in sticking to 1 lap. Jay Howells and Judith Jeeves completed 2 laps to claim 10K.

The most popular distance was Half Marathon which I completed along with Phill, Steph and Katy who were all running their second official half marathon in 3 weekends. David Sheard and Wayne Randall carried on for an extra lap to clock around 15 miles. Simon Harrison went one further completing around 18 miles in total.

Carl Walsh and Chris Pratt bravely continued to their goal of marathon distance in the blistering heat.

Other races

David Sheard and Ken Salvatore took on Fan y Big trail race around Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons. Leanne Parsons, Sara Johns and Cath Robinson ran 3 laps at the Conquer Cardiff event to complete 15K. Gary Piper and Leanne Parsons took on the Off The Tarmac Brecon Challenge 5 miler whilst Neil Ridley was in the top 10 in the Half Marathon distance.

Club Championship

Better late than never, but this month I started the 2021 Club Championship. The first event was the classic 5K. The scoring again being handicapped and based on each individual against their best time from the last 6-12 months. This year there is also a cup competition for an extra incentive to submit times for each event. The first fixture was won by David Kembery who came out on top of the 76 entries submitted. All 76 were given a place in the second round of the cup.

The second event was a 1 mile time trail which is due to finish on August 1st so an update will be in the next blog review.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

My choices for the accolades will always change throughout the year.  Reasons for selection change from month to month.  That’s something I’ve said before and it will continue.  

Often new runners join the club and catch our eye straight away.  The choice is whether to wait to see what amazing things are achieved down the line or shine a light from the word go.  We’re all about all abilities.  It doesn’t have to be quick and it doesn’t have to be far.  Outstanding can be used to describe effort as much as achievement.  But sometimes the achievement is such that we must celebrate it.  Club records get more and more difficult to break and they have been known to stand for many years, but times they are a tumbling.  We are seeing significant chunks being knocked off at the sharp end.  When this circumstance arises we always wait with bated breath to see what other records will fall as other distances are notched up at official events.  My first experience of this runner was seeing him fly past me at Cheltenham Racecourse at one of the first events of the year, and his first for the club.  I knew then they were quick feet and I’m sure there’s more to come in the near future!  The 5k club record has now fallen.  What will be next?  I’m sure it won’t be long before another one bites the dust!  Maybe even before this gets published…  I am delighted to announce my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for July as Jacob Tasker.  Well done Jacob and welcome to the club – we look forward to what you will achieve as a Phoenix in the coming months.

I’m breaking with tradition for my second choice.  I always celebrate one male and one female, but there’s two I can’t separate this month.  We celebrate lots of things, and endeavour outshines everything else.  No matter how big, it’s the effort – and, as you’ll always hear me say, it’s all relative.   Endeavour can be just heading out of the door for the first time.  It can be tackling a first mile, or the first mile back after a hiatus.  It can be graduating to a 5k or taking that next bold step and completing a 10k.  It is different for everyone and every single one is worthy of celebration.  Sometimes people go further.  Further than they’ve ever gone before.  Pushing boundaries.  Testing the limits to see how far they will flex.  When boundaries are the target, proper preparation is the order of the day.  Time on feet.  Practicing the rituals to get through.  When the distance is very long there are additional factors.  Often necessary to carry quipment to ensure safety.  Some usie handheld assistance to ease the burden on feet and legs.  Amazing what difference can be to stability and endurance just sharing the load across the limbs.  That requires practice.  Fuelling is key to sustainance along such an arduous journey.  Routine practiced over and over to make sure the stomach and the body will endure the distance.  Not one distance, but two.  Over two days.  Not one runner, but two.  Sharing the training miles.  Sharing the hills.  Sharing the laughs throughout the journey but both trusting in their own processes to get them to the end.  Admirable to observe.  The right way to do it.  An example, if ever there was one, of dedication to achieve their goal.  To cross both finish lines in one piece, smiling and having enjoyed the experience as best you can trecking 100km over two days.  Nerves gave way to excitement and we all waited to hear the news at the end of both days.  Both gave it their all and came away victorious having made it to The Stones.  A journey, months in the making.  A story of great training, cameraderie, grit and determination.  One that we applaud and will celebrate for some time.  Full of admiration, I name my Chairman’s Female Runners of the Month for July as Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans.  Well done both.  A huge achievement and one that demonstrated to us all how the process is as valuable as the execution.

Club Championship 2021

Due to continuing uncertainty around races, we will starting another virtual club championship this year.

The championship will consist of 8 events with the best 5 scores counting towards the total. You need to run 5 events in order to qualify for the final standings but you are more than welcome to partipate even if you end up only doing one or two of the events. Anyone who does complete 5 or more will have their names up in lights when presenting the club championship awards in next years presentation night.

I will allow a minimum of 10 days (which will include 2 weekends) for each event to give everyone plenty of opportunity to submit a time. As we’re starting quite late in the year, the events will be run back-to-back between now and finish before the end of October to avoid the winter months / dark evenings.

This year we are also introducing the ‘Club Championship Cup Competition’ which will run alongside the usual points / league table format. More details on the Cup Competition can be found further down this post.

We’re looking into small momentos for anyone who submits times for all 8 events to reward their commitment. The top 3 in the Club Championship will recieve trophies at next years presentation night whilst there will also be a trophy for the Cup winner, so plenty up for grabs.

As per last years championship, the scoring will be handicapped which should result in everyone having a equal chance of winning. More details on the scoring can be found at the bottom of this post.

Event 1 – 5K Time Trial

Event 1 will be a virtual 5K as per the details below

Submit a 5K run/walk which can be run anytime between Tuesday 6th July up to and including Sunday 18th July 2021.

The run must start and finish at the same point to avoid an advantage being gained from finishing at a lower point than you started. Starting and finishing at the same point will result in a net elevation of zero therefore making it fair for everyone.

‘Elapsed time’ will be used rather than ‘moving time’ so I will need access to your Strava / Garmin to check this or a screenshot evidencing this.

The run should be submitted to me as one activity of 5K or 3.1 miles by posting on the Members Only Facebook page or by e-mailling me at garethjohnjenkins@hotmail.co.uk

You may have multiple attempts as long as the quickest is submitted by the deadline.

There are strictly no exceptions to these rules.

Fixture List

Event 2 – 1 mile Time Trial – Monday 19th July to Sunday 1st August

Event 3 – 1K Time Trial – Monday 2nd August to Sunday 15th August

Event 4 – 10K Time Trial – Monday 16th August to Sunday 29th August

Event 5 – 2 mile Time Trial – Monday 30th August to Sunday 12th September

These events will be run under the same rules as Event 1. Remaining fixtures to be announced asap.

Club Championship Cup Competition

This year we are introducing an additional ‘cup competition’ to run alongside the league format.

Round 1 will include every single member of the club (unless anyone opts out). To add a bit of mystery and an extra tactical element, the draw will be made in secret so no one will know who they are up against until the results are revealed. The first round will be Event 1 which is the virtual 5K which runs from Tuesday 6th July to Sunday 18th July.

Therefore it’s crucial that to be in with a chance of progressing, you need to submit a time for the 5K. Submit it even if it’s a walk as there are 128 places up for grabs in round 2 so you are likely to progress whatever time you submit.

There will be 8 rounds in total with some challenges involved in the final rounds giving everyone a fair chance of winning.

The winner will be presented with their trophy at the next presentation night.

Scoring

To avoid the championship being just about the top 2 or 3 runners in the club battling it out, we are running a handicap scoring system which gives everyone a chance of winning. It involves a lot of research, formulas and calculations which I’ll try and explain below for those interested. If you’re not interested then I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s a simple as this -run as fast as you can and you’ll be in with a good chance.

The technical bit – to start off, I’ve allocate each member a 5K time. To come up with this, I’ve gathered members times from the club championship last year, Strava times and virtual (not)parkrun times. Once this baseline time is established then your time for the first event will be compared against this.

Examples

Joe Bloggs is allocated a 5K baseline time of 30:00 based on all the information I have. In event 1, he runs 29:30. Converting it into seconds, his percentage improvement on his baseline time is ((1-(1770/1800))x100 = 1.67%. Results are then based on each members percentage from highest to lowest.

For the second round, each member will have a new 5K time to compare too. If they ran faster than their baseline time like Joe Bloggs did in the example, then this will be their new time to compare too. In this case, 29:30. If Joe had run slower than 30:00 in event 1, then his time to compare to for event 2 would still be 30:00.

The winner of each event scores 100 points, second place 99 and so on. There is no seperate male and female compeition as the handicap scoring means that everyone should have an equal chance so there’s no need to have seperate gender or age categories.

Disclaimers – event 1 will be a bit of a tester for the scoring system as with 230 members, there’ll be a few where the allocated times might not be perfect for a number of reasons – they may not have set a fast 5K time (by their own standards) over the past year or so, they may be new and therefore I have limited information on their capabilities etc. However, this should be ironed out by the next event. It’s a complex system but one which tries to level the playing field to give everyone an opportunity if they give it their all.

Final thoughts

It would be great to see as many members as possible participating. Good luck to everyone who gets involved. The final fixture list is open to suggestions so feel free to let me know if you have any ideas.

June 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkruns

The stats for this month are as follows …

(Week – runners – fastest male – fastest female)

  • Week 64 – 36 runners – Neil Price – Melanie Thomas
  • Week 65 – 35 runners – Gareth Davies – Claire Goldsworthy
  • Week 66 – 41 runners – Jacob Tasker (17:49 – not(parkrun) club record – Claire Goldsworthy
  • Week 67 – 40 runners – Gareth Davies – Fiona Drysdale

Well done to everyone who submitted times and fingers crossed that next months review will be the first blog post in 16 months to include a real parkrun.

Races

With each month that passes we appear to have more race results to report on and there’s actually enough this month to split them into distances as I did pre-pandemic.

10K

Returning member Emma-Jane Morris was back in action in her familiar role as pacer for the ‘Longest Day 10K’. Emma was pacing a speedy 50 minutes – to put it into context – just 7 of our current female members have run under that time. Emma showed her pacing pedigree coming in at 49:56.

Half Marathons

Emma Loyns and Claire Dunbar Bowen completed the Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon which had 1,800 feet of elevation over just shy of 14 miles. Claire had a nasty fall during the race but battled on to complete it with her coach.

At the other end of the elevation scale, Niki Puleio took on the Dorney Lake Half Marathon with just 233 feet of elevation and stormed round to a time of 1:26:09. By Niki’s exceptional standards he was a bit disappointed despite the fact his race was also in very hot conditions.

We had 3 Phoenix runners at the Cheltenham Half Marathon – a tricky looped course with multi terrain to contend with, again on the hottest day of the year so far. New member Jacob Tasker ran an astonishing 1:25:33 to take the club record for fastest ever half marathon debut for the club by some margin and was 13th overall. Neil Price came in at 1:34:07. Chris Pratt joined up with one of his Ascics Frontrunners and came in at 3:21:03.

The final weekend of the month saw Jo Gamba and I take on the Milton Keynes Half Marathon which we were originially signed up for in May 2020. This was one of the biggest running events to go ahead so far this year with over 1,000 runners in the Half Marathon. They’d also had a 5K event before the Half, a 10K the evening before, and a full marathon the next day which I’ll come onto later. Runners were set off in groups of 30 every minute and it was brilliantly organised and felt very safe. I finished in 2:00:08 with Jo coming in at 2:01:42.

Melanie Thomas was another member who made a return to racing this month and like many of the others included in this blog, it wasn’t a gentle return. Melaine signed up for the Black Mountains Half Marathon which had some bonus mileage as Melanie clocked 14.5 miles and also some tasty elevation with 2,600 feet in total.

Marathons

Carl Walsh ran the Black Beacons Marathon which had an eye watering 6,600 feet of elevation. That makes it one of the hilliest marathons in the UK, even beating Snowdonia Trail Marathon which goes to top of Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa as we may be calling it from now on.

Just a week later Carl was back in action running the Cheddar Gorge Marathon with another tasty 3,750 feet of elevation on what was the hottest day of the year so far.

The final weekend of the month saw Carl at it once again! This time it was another trail marathon in the Black Mountains with another 6,000+ feet of elevation and an extra couple of miles thrown in for good measure with Carl recording 29.3 miles. Including the Ultra mentioned in the next section, Carl ran 4 events in the month totalling 136.8 miles and over 21,000 feet of elevation.

Also in action on the final weekend of the month was Kris Denholm in the earlier mentioned Milton Keynes Marathon. The course was 2 loops of the half that Jo and I had done the day before so we were able to find a couple of quiet spots along the route to support on the second lap. Kris’s race didn’t quite go to plan, however he still ran an outstanding 3:47 which is just a couple of minutes off his PB.

Ultra-Marathon

The first weekend saw me competing in the Conquer24 race. This event was open to teams or solo runners to complete as many 5 mile loops in 24 hours. The loops were mostly trail around the stunning grounds of Powderham Castle near Exeter. Each lap had around 400 feet of elevation which to give a comparison, is similar to the 5 mile valley loop. I managed 16 laps in the 24 hours for 80 miles in total on the official results (for transparency Strava on my phone app clocked 78 miles and my watch clocked 79.1 miles). I finished only my 3rd official ultra in 23rd out of 115 solo runners.

Carl Walsh took a break from marathon running on the 3rd weekend of the month… to run a ultra-marathon instead. The Race to the Kings is a 53 mile (double marathon) with over 5000 feet of elevation. Carl completed the race in 11 hours and 42 minutes. Including those he ran before joining the club, this was Carl’s 28th Ultra Marathon!

Other Races

David Sheard took on the Coity Fell Race in Blaenavon. For those reading this that are not familiar with ‘fell races’, a simple description would be that they are events that are normally over rough terrain with significant amounts of elevation. I’m probably not selling it very well but on the upside, walking parts of these races is inevitable, they are normally just a few pound to enter, and there’s normally a beer and/or cake at the end. In this case, the entry fee was just £5 and the race consisted of 920 feet of elevation over just 9K. David completed the course a few seconds under the hour mark and was only the second member at the time of the event to complete an official event in Wales this year.

Jay Howells took on the shorter but no less brutal option at the Black Mountain races already mentioned above in the Half and Full Marathon sections. The 13K race had more than 1,500 feet of elevation in less than 8 miles over tough multi-terrain.

Zero to Hero

A catch up on something that should have been included in last months blog…

Despite the challenges of varying restrictions meaning this years Zero to Hero was mostly virtual, the program continued it’s success from previous years. This year in particular gave an opportunity for those that had for various reasons not run as much during lockdown an opportunity to build back up to the 5K distance with 5 members ‘regraduating’. Also a huge well done to Carly Bevan who had never run before and graduated from the Virtual Z2H at the start of May.

Builth and District Virtual Relay

Such was the success of the virtual relays throughout the pandemic, they’ve continued even though races are starting back up. On this occasion 29 runners covered slots from 5am to 8pm for the 15 hour relay (coach Kev ran twice if anyones wondering why the maths doesn’t work). Kudos to everyone who participated and a special mention for Samantha Thompson who did the 5am slot and Chris Richards who did the 530am twice after mistakingly having done it on the Saturday when the relay was on the Sunday. Carl Price submitted the highest mileage with 4.38 miles for his 30 minute slot, whilst Jo Gamba had the highest mileage for the ladies with 3.69 miles. We finished 18th out of the 20 teams that participated.

Challenge updates

Chris Pratt completed the Welsh Coastal Path virtual challenge having signed up last June but only counting miles from the end of the September onwards. The majority of the mileage being completed this year. Anthony Kavanagh also completed the challenge having also notched up most of the mileage this year. Debbie Bennion completed the Emerald Isle challenge which was a virtual challenge of 360 miles from the most southernly to northernly points of Ireland. Debbie completed the challenge in just 14 weeks.

Gareth Richards continues his marathon per week challenge and is now at the half way point in the year and continues to rack them up with amazing times each week.

Juniors

A quick mention for our juniors who have had the amazing opportunity to train on the Brewery Field for the past few weeks with great attendance week on week. We also had our first official parkrunner in 16 months with one of youngest juniors attending her first junior parkrun in Rogiet.

Over to Chris for the runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Sometimes we see passion wane.  A combination of factors lead to being distracted from the goals.  Other things come along that take priority and, let’s face it, we’ve all had enough of those in the last year to last us a lifetime.  Some fall off the grid and when that happens the desire to press on fades as running moves lower in the list of priorities.

We reach out and hope that they will find their motivation once again and return to the fold.  Sometimes this happens and there is a renewed focus.  Passion builds and within no time they are once again inspiring others with their endeavours.  Remember – inspiration can come through effort as much as achievement.

Both my choices this month have returned to the fold with such passion making it noticable.

My first choice this month has turned full circle.  A new focus and one that is inspiring us all.  From a point of announcing a decision to not renew membership we have seen a change of heart that has been monumental.  Not only rejoining but suggesting and starting a new training group.  Helping those returning to activity to find their feet.  As a major event looms on the horizon that passion is being shared in her own training endeavours to reach her goal.  Distance increasing.  Smiles on photos.  Sharing that focus with others and inspiring them on their journeys.  That is admiral and worthy of applause.  Giving your time for the benefit of others is amazing and it’s often possible to combine it with pursuing your own goals.  My first choice runner is doing just that.  Not only giving time to seniors but to our junior contingent also.  A renewed focus.  A new passion shining through.  Wonderful to see.  I am delighted to announce my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for June as Louise Morris.  Well done for turning things round Louise – keep on doing what you’re doing and inspiring us all in the process.

My second choice has been in a similar boat.  Falling off the radar a little.  Running was sporadic with long gaps in between.  Posts on social media relating to running became less often.  We’ve seen it a lot in the last year and we’ve tried to reach out to keep engaging until some sense of normality returned.  As it did, faces reappeared out of the darkness and we saw an surge in activity.  One caught my eye.  Returning to activity but also posting about it.  Rallying others to hear the call.  Being visible and that visibility giving others a desire to do the same.  Expressing a desire to improve.  A desire to return to more regular activity and then starting to push boundaries again.  As events return getting in on the act.  Achievements don’t have to be measured against others – inspiration often comes from just putting in the effort.  I have been inspired and a huge thank you for some of that goes to Jay Howells, my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for June.  Keep it up Jay – you’re making a difference to many of us with your endeavours.  

May 2021 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

The first Saturday of the month saw 39 submissions with Neil Price topping the list overall and Fiona Drysdale bagging the fastest time for the ladies. The numbers dropped to 31 for the second weekend with Gareth Davies and Jo Gamba topping the male and female times respectively.

A post from our Chair mid month revealed that over the previous 61 weeks since we started doing virtual parkruns, we had surpassed 3,000 virtual parkruns between us averaging over 50 per week. That weekend saw a slight increase back towards that average with 46 times submitted. Neil and Sian Price not only topped the male and female times, but had the fastest two times overall.

The fourth virtual parkrun-day of the month saw 43 times submitted with Neil and Sian repeating their impressive feat of posting the fastest times overall and the final weekend saw 36 runs submitted with Neil and Sian making it a hat-trick of fastest times.

Races

At the Glastonbury 10K, our April Female Runner of the Month Lisa King ran 45:10. The time earned her a second club age category record just one week after her outstanding half marathon time.

At the Worcester Marathon we had 4 members in attendance which makes it our biggest attended race since the Dragon 50/100 in September last year. Gareth Richards completed his first official race marathon of the 20 marathon distance runs he had completed up to this point in 2021, and bagged himself a huge official PB of 3:18:07, knocking 12 minutes off his previous best official marathon time. He was also 14th overall in the race and his time earned him a club age category record. Carl Walsh ran 3:59 in his 58th official marathon. Wayne Randall ran 4:26 to obliterate his previous best marathon time. Chris Pratt ran 4:37 in what was his 41st official marathon.

Carl was back in action again later in the month with the Barry Track Marathon…. yes, track as in 400m running track… 105 laps! He completed the bonkers event (which also has a 40 mile option?!) in an impressive 3:33:24.

Virtual events and challenges

The virtual events continue as we await races and parkruns to return in Wales. This months addition to the virtual hall of fame is Stephanie Dyke who completed the Welsh Coastal Path challenge on the first day of the month after 10 months of logging the miles to reach the target of 870 miles. Many others are at various stages having started at different points throughout last year or this year.

Gareth Richards has continued his marathon running expliots and is now on 22 marathons in 22 weeks. Gareth has already ran 1,000 miles this year whilst I’m due to join him in passing that total within the first week of June. I continue on my ultra running journey and ran over marathon distance for the 8th time this year with a 31.1 mile (50K) route from Bridgend to the Bwlch via Ogmore Valley and then back via the Garw Valley having started at 430am.

There were also some impressive firsts in the month. One of our junior members Katy Griffiths ran Half Marathon distance for the first time with a route starting from the Bwlch and finishing at Newbridge Feilds. The Phoenix members were out in force with more than a dozen different runners joining her for sections of the run, and despite some pretty wet conditions for the end of the run, there were many in attendance to cheer her across the virtual finish line at Newbridge Fields.

Melanie Thomas ran her first marathon distance. The final sunflower relay route from the Bwlch to the seafront in Porthcawl appears to become ‘a thing’ after many choose it for their Virtual London Marathon route last October and then Katy starting her half marathon from there. Melanie decided to go for this route as well and had been training for the distance for many weeks. It wasn’t about the time but if Melanie repeats her 4:28 in an official race then that puts her up with the top 10 or so female marathon times in the club. Again, friends, family and Phoenix members joined in at various points to run with Melanie or cheer her on.

Possibly the most unexpected challenge was from Linda Harris. Undoutably inspired by her son – Ogmore Phoenix legend and two-time 100 mile ultra finisher – Nick Harris, Linda who was only known to most of us as a parkrunner, decided to attempt to complete 50 miles along the coastal path. Not only that, but she chose to start at the starting point for the Dragon 100 in Rhossili which Nick completed a couple of years ago. I did this route for my 12 hour run last month and whilst it’s a specatular route in terms of scenary, it’s very challenging in terms of terrain and elevation. Linda and Nick set off on Saturday morning at 7:34am and finished in Porthcawl, 22 hours and 42 minutes later at 6:16am on Sunday morning. What an incredible achievement. Interestingly of our current members, it’s only Nick himself that has done a run with a longer elapsed time than that. Linda can now claim the longest distance covered by any current female member of the club as well as the longest time from the start to finish of a run.

Miles for Mind

The latest monthly challenge saw dozens of Phoenix setting themselves mileage targets for the month of May to raise funds and awareness for the charity Mind. Well done to everyone who participated whether you reached your target or didn’t quite get there. Picking out a few highlights, Denise Bradley ran/walked an astonishing 248.2 miles as her training ramps up for the 2 day Race for the Stones 100K event. Melanie Thomas clocked up 172 miles whilst many others clocked three-figure mileage including coach Kembo which is amazing to see after over a year of slowly building back up the mileage.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

So good to see events already returned and more on the horizon, especially with many within our midst setting their sights on getting back to crossing a finish line.  In the meantime many are still taking on virtual challenges and setting themselves their own goals to keep up the motivation.  My first choice for this month falls into that category and recently tackled a feat of incredible endeavour.  Keeping quiet about training taking place in the background it was a surprise to many when advertised that it was taking place.  A determination to succeed that was admirable from the outset.  The ambition was to finish, nothing more, but also nothing less!  Perhaps there’s something in the genes as it’s a trait we’ve seen from the same pool on a number of occasions.  Quietly setting slightly larger goals and taking them on over several months.  Increasing distance and time on feet.  Appropriate and measured preparation that should be applauded.  It was a big target but it was always approached with a sensible head.  She had her son alongside her, not only for moral support but for his wisdom having completed double the distance on a couple of occasions.  The plan was always 50 miles along the Wales Coastal Path.  Rhossili to Porthcawl.  Starting where the path wanders up and down as well as hugging the coast.  Particularly testing for the legs.  The impetus was raising funds.  Committing to something like that can be the catalyst that drives training and can also be the inspiration when the going gets tough on the actual event.  That was definitely the case.  A huge distance was covered.  Time mattered not.  This was about achieving the goal.  With determination they kept going through day and night to arrive the following morning, exhausted but elated.  An incredible feat and one that shows the power of commitment and determination.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for May to Linda Harris.  Well done Linda.  Thank you for the inspiration!

Again, this is an accolade being presented to someone who has floated a little under the radar over the last few months.  Occasional posts spotted of miles being clocked up in the background.  Distances slowly increasing but without a clear idea of where it will lead.  Something that’s commonplace with events taking place sporadically and surrounded by uncertainty.  We all know that to run long distance requires commitment to a training schedule.  When there isn’t a guarantee of an end goal it’s often about just keeping the miles up and preventing the body from picking up an injury.  Commitment and focus is required to keep this going.  It’s clearly been shown here.  When the training goes well and a race appears on the horizon, it’s natural to sign up.  Nerves and uncertainty of how it might pan out are to be expected.  Setting out sensibly and then feeling good when the demons usually appear to bring doubt into the equation are a recipe for success.  I was lucky to witness this first hand.  As my own legs faded I watched my choice of runner disappear into the distance, steadily and consistently forging forward.  The outcome was a new best time at marathon distance.  The training had been done.  The commitment was there on the day.  The desired time was beaten with smiles at the finish line!  Good preparation and execution.  All compounding to create a positive mindset for setting running plans for the future.   A great example of what can be achieved when you set your mind to it.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for may to Wayne Randall.  Fantastic work Wayne.  I’m really looking forward to where this leads over the coming year.

Special mention this month to a junior with ambition.  Endeavour that captured the hearts of many of our senior members.  Members who joined the cause to provide support on a journey that inspired.  Last month I acknowledged the support of one who showed enormous Phoenix Spirit to provide a vital role in this journey.  Today I acknowledge the feat itself.  A half Marathon. Special mention to Katy Griffiths for setting a goal, training for it with focus, leading to succesful completion and inspiring many of us in the process.   Well done Katy.  I sense a great number of endurance events taking place in the future…  Events that will be acknowledged with similar accolades to those I post monthly in the future I’m sure.  Keep inspiring.

April 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

The first Saturday of the month saw a boost in numbers largely down to the virtual relay doubling up for submissions. 53 virtual parkrun submissions with many over 5K this week. Gareth Davies and Deborah Edwards submitted the fastest male and female times respectively.

With restrictions lifting, the numbers have dropped in recent weeks with 32 submissions for the second weekend. Neil Price and Fiona Drysdale taking the top spots for fastest times. Back up to 42 for the third weekend with Gareth Davies and Claire Dunbar Bowen at the top. It was a Neil Price and Fiona Drysdale double for the final weekend of the month with 42 submissions.

Races – yes – real ones!

With travel to England now permitted, some of our newer members headed across the bridge for the first official race finishes by OPR members in 2021. Carl Walsh and Neil Ridley ran together at the Shepperdine Marathon finishing in 3:45. It was Neil’s first official event for the club whilst Carl was one of only a handful of members to get a couple of races in during late summer in 2020 shortly after joining.

In the Half Marathon, another brand new member, Lisa King made a name for herself with an outstanding 5 minute PB to clock a 1:39:39. A female 40-44 age category club record as well going straight to the top of the female half marathon rankings for current members and the second fastest in the clubs history.

Virtual events

Whilst we patiently wait for events to re-start in Wales, our members have continued with the virtual challenges.

Wales Coastal Path and LEJOG

Alun Wylde completed the 870 mile Wales Coastal Path challenge with a couple of months to spare finishing in 275th place. Sian Jenkins was next up to the complete the same challenge. Melanie Thomas completed the 874 mile Lands End to John O’Groats virtual challenge in style with a 20.3 mile run which was her longest ever. Melaine also completed the challenge in just 23 weeks.

Virtual Insanity 12 Hour Challenge

Following on from the success of the Last Runner Standing event, Infinity Running decided to set another huge challenge – how far can you go in 12 hours. Orginially set for 2 dates in April, it ended up being a month long challenge that you could do at any point during the month if you wanted to be in contention for the longest distance prize. The event is still open if others want to complete it at some point in the future.

I set out on the first Saturday of the month and got Jo to drop me off in Rhossili (over 50 miles from home). I then ran/walked for 12 hours along the coastal path (with a few intentional and unintentional detours) until my time ran out as I got to Rest Bay in Porthcawl having clocked 53.7 miles. I held onto top spot in the challenge for a couple of weeks before someone clocked just 2 miles more and then another smashed it with 65 miles completed. At the time of writing, the final results haven’t been published yet although it looks like I probably submitted the 3rd furthest distance.

Vale Virtual

Unfortunately the Vale races which are one of the highlights in the club’s calendar each year had to be postponed for the 3rd time, but this time the organisers at Run Walk Crawl decided to set a virtual challenge over the week leading up to what would have been the race weekend. Options were to run any of the 3 distances – 10 miles, 18.5 miles or 32 miles in one go, the ‘Triple Crown’ challenge which was to run all 3 distances over the course of a week, or the ‘Grand Slam’ challenge which was to run all 3 distances over the weekend the race should have taken place.

Garry Jones, Wayne Randall, Debbie Bennion, Sharon Pritchard and Melanie Thomas all completed the 18.5 mile virtual. Our club made up 5 of the 12 submissions for that distance.

Three runners took on the Triple Crown challenge with Kris Denholm submitting the fastest cumulative time overall with an incredible 8 hours 26 minutes to cover the total distance of 60.5 miles over the 3 runs which is an average of 8 minutes 42 seconds per mile. Ken Salvatore was 3rd with 11 hours 23 minutes, whilst Emma Loyns submitted the fastest female time overall with 12 hours 34 minutes. All chose to do their 32 milers first and then tick off the 10 and 18.5 later in the week.

We then had one runner who took things to the extreme and created his own challenge. How about all 3 distances in one day! That’s what Gareth Richards decided to do clocking 60.5 miles in 10 hours and 26 minutes which would have been quick enough to win the ‘Grand Slam’ challenge. Gareth also continued his run of a marathon every week and is now on 17 in 17 weeks.

Return to Training

Whilst our juniors had been back for a few weeks with great sessions on the sand dunes, Pandy Park, Parc Slip and Newbridge Fields, the week commencing 26th April saw the return to training for the adults. The return saw an even greater variety of sessions than ever before. Monday saw Emma Loyns take her virtual Zoom strength and conditioning sessions outdoors with a session on the beach in Porthcawl with the customary paddle in the sea afterwards for those that fancied it. Touring Tuesday saw club training in Pencoed whilst Wednesday had 3 available sessions with two groups heading out from Ynysawdre and the Flyers doing a lung-busting 8 x 800m session on the Planka playing fields in Nantymoel. Despite taking on a hilly trail route called ‘the Beast’, the Thursday session in Ogmore Vale was the first session to fill up. Then another 2 sessions are due on Sunday with a trail session around Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes and Social Sunday heading up to Ogmore Vale to complete the valley loop.

Over to Chris for the runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner of the Month

It’s been an interesting month, so much on the horizon. Events return! Yes, events. It’s the start of a return. As things return, people get bold and start signing up again. Exciting to see and exciting times to come.

My first choice this month is a new name to us all. Having joined in the new year she has set her stall out early with noticable high mileage training months. Getting involved straight away by making a significant contribution to get us to Phoenix, Arizona, and back, on our challenge. It’s always difficult when we don’t have a measure by which to make a relative assessment, but when someone arrives and notches up a significant club time it’s something that doesn’t go unnoticed. Events have returned and some are seeking them out. Travelling back across the border it was a half marathon on the cards for my choice of runner. The world is seeing big records falling in the athletics world right now and many setting their own best times. This is no exception as a huge 5 minute personal best was set on a warm day. An improvement of 5 minutes bringing a time down to 1:39 is an impressive result! We are uniquely poised to have great recall of all our historical club stats (thanks to statto Gareth Jenkins) and it slips into the records as an age category club record, takes her straight to the top of the female half marathon rankings and it is the second fastest female time in the clubs history! Worthy of accolade and makes us excited to see what will follow. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Lisa King! Keep up the good work Lisa and we look forward to seeing what the year brings as more events appear on the calendar! Well done.

My second choice is a familar face. Someone we’ve known for some time. Always impressing us with both running and support of others. Like many of us, not always a runner. There are many stories within our midst. Some start in early life and the history is long. Some of us come to it later in life, for many different reasons. Running is therapy and so often fuelled by passion and determination. When that takes hold, it can often be infectious and inspiring to those looking on. Encouragement given to them is echoed to others. They become the mentor. When that not only inspires peers, but also family members, it is very special. Our kids are the future. By setting an example we can inspire them to great things. We are seeing that happen here. That passion, enthusiasm and desire to inspire have fuelled a junior mission. Relentless support throughout the last couple of months has led to a run of mammoth proportions. A half marathon that is inspiring us all and the training miles have been selflessly supported by one runner who deserves an accolade to match. We value this level of support – it typifies our ethos and the Phoenix Spirit. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Phill Iveson! A fabulous inspirational commitment – well done Phill, keep up the good work!

March 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

The increased participation continued this month with 60 submissions for the first Saturday of the month. Gareth Davies and Fiona Drysdale clocked the fastest male and female times respectively. We were up to 68 submissions for the next Satuday which marked a full year (week 52) of virtual parkrunning. Rhodri Thomas ran his fastest ever 5K with a 19:14 whilst Sian Price clocked an impressive 21:48.

Alun Wylde, Sarah Davies, Nick Harris, Nicola Allen, Jo Gamba and myself made it a full year without missing a virtual parkrun with several others only missing a couple.

Another 64 submissions for week 53 with a new name at the top of the list with Alun Job submitting a time of 22:45. We also had a new name as first female with Rebecca Newton clocking a sub 25.

52 submissions for week 54 with Gareth Davies and Claire Goldsworthy topping the male and female times.

Virtual challenges

Grand Slam challenge

After the success of the ‘Triple Crown’ challenge which challenged members to run a minimum of 1, 2 and 3 miles over a 4 day period at the end of last month, this month saw the ‘Grand Slam’ challenge. This time, a week was given to run or walk 5 times ticking off a minimum of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 miles. 27 members completed the challenge with many others ticking off some of the distances. Thanks to Sarah Davies who originally came up with the Triple Crown / Grand Slam idea with the Race Committee helping to promote the idea and keep tabs on the submissions.

Flight of the Phoenix

Another OPR race committee idea was to track our combined run/walk mileage to travel to Phoenix (Arizona, USA) and back – 5,278 miles each way. Week 1 saw 76 members submit their mileage for the week with 1,740 miles in total. Week 2 saw another a further 1,566 miles before 1,670 miles in week 3 saw us just a couple of hundred miles short of our destination. It’s likely that had we tracked the mileage daily then we probably reached destination in around 25 days. In week 4, by strange conincidence it was Emma Marshall’s mileage submission that took us over the 5,278 miles required to travel to Phoenix, AZ and it was Emma who first suggested the idea. A further 1,301 miles were submitted for the return journey with a stop off at Phoenixville, PA on the way back.

Other challenges

Various other challenges continued with Carl Walsh and Debbie Bennion became the latest to complete the 870 mile virtual challenge of the Wales Coastal Path. Debbie also did the Newport and Bath virtual half marathons with several others in the club also completing those virtual events. There are still more than a dozen members doing virtual LEJOG, Wales Coastal Path, Route 66 and others.

Gareth Richards continues his marathon streak and despite abandoning the run on Saturday 13th after 5 miles, he was back in action just 2 days later to keep the weekly run going with number 11. Just 5 days later he returned to his normal Saturday morning slot clocking 3:14 for marathon number 12 of this year and then recorded number 13 with a 3:21.

Presentation Night 2020

Presentation nights have changed a lot of the clubs history – from around a dozen of us in Blackmill junction in 2013 around Christmas time to around 100 of us at a Black Tie presentation night in 2017 and more recently sold out events at various venues around Bridgend County. However, due to the ongoing restrictions, this years event went online.

The OPR Awards Panel made up of a mixture of committee members, coaches and captains decided that despite the lack of races, there was still an incredible amount of running and various achievements to recognise for 2020 and we actually had a record number of awards being handed out. The Panel deliberated for hours, requiring 2 virtual (of course) meetings to decide the winners for the categories that aren’t simply based on stats. Runners Runner was as usual decided by a members vote. And the winner’s were…

  • Twelve Shades of Autumn Photo: Jo Gamba
  • Photoshop of the Year: Shawn Cullen
  • Photo of the Year: Steph Iveson-Holmes
  • Zero to Hero: Karen Dando
  • Male Newcomer: Rob Loyns
  • Female Newcomer: Samantha Thompson
  • Most Improved Male: Dai James
  • Most Improved Female: Sian Thomas
  • Best Senior Male: Nicky Bennett
  • Best Senior Female: Sian Price
  • Best Veteran Male: Gareth Richards
  • Best Veteran Female: Claire Dunbar-Bowen
  • Best Super Veteran Male: Kris Denholm
  • Best Super Veteran Female: Carol Bartle
  • Club Runner of the Year: Gareth Richards
  • Training Club Championship Third Place: Fiona Drysdale
  • Training Club Championship Second Place: Ken Salvatore
  • Training Club Championship Winner: Sarah Davies
  • Club Lirf of the Year: Jamie Bevan
  • Spirit of the Phoenix: Chris Pratt
  • Outstanding Achievement: Niki Puleio
  • Runners Runner 3rd Place: Gareth Richards
  • Runners Runner 2nd Place: Ken Salvatore
  • Runners Runner 1st Place: Kris Denholm

Over to Chris for the male and female runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

March was a relatively quiet month. The expectation of the return to training and the indication that events would soon be on the horizon over the border were catching everyone’s attention.

My first choice is given for a number of reasons. parkrun is an institution that we all love and cherish. Its hiatus has forced us to find our own mechanism to celebrate it’s weekly presence virtually. Week in, week out, approaching 60 weeks now. Some have dipped in and out. A few have been there every week notching up another one. The ever-presents. We have a few. I have chosen one. On top of that she has helped out. Assisting the collation of these results periodically to ease the weekly burden that they bring. A job that has considerable value for those who run. Additional to that consistent weekly routine, she has been a supporter. Supporting her significant other on big challenges. Support crew. Fellow runner. Supporting the miles or popping up every now and again with refreshment and a kind word and a smile. These challenges are so difficult solo. A crew to support is invaluable to soothe the journey when it gets tough. Unswerving support has been given and observed and is celebrated. Phoenix Spirit. On top of that she picked up an award at the Presentation Night for her contribution to the twelve shades of autumn competition that she ironically inspired. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for March to Jo Gamba. Keep running, keep supporting and keep up the good work! Well done and thank you.

My second choice is a very familiar face to us all. A very friendly, warm and welcoming face. Someone with a heart of gold. Supportive to all. His running has been sporadic over the years but lockdown has been kind to some in terms of physical activity. For many different reasons we have had a wide variety of experiences of the restrictions. Some worked more. Some worked less. For many, running became the way to stay sane. The time it allowed provided a platform for consistency. Consistency in running is good. I have been an advocate of it ever since I started. Not only does it lead to improvements, but also, in my experience, builds strength and leads to less injuries when done with care. We’ve been seeing runs of quite significant length shared on a regular basis. Many along with a smiling selfie as accompaniment. Some runs were done in company according to restrictions, but many were alone. An impressive dedication to keeping a routine going through difficult times, being consistent and hitting the miles. I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for March to Mark Worrall. Well done Mark – keep it going now as things start to return and reap the rewards from all the hard work.

February 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

A great start to the month with 63 runners making it the second highest attendance since October. Neil Price clocked the fastest time whilst Claire Dunbar-Bowen set the fastest female time in the first 5K of a longer run.

We hit 70 submissions for the second virtual parkrun of the month with the help of the Valentines relay encouraging people to get out there. Most of us would have experienced some snow on our run but also up to minus 8 wind chills making the amount even more impressive. Rhodri Thomas clocked the fastest time whilst Melanie Thomas reclaimed the fastest female time after a few weeks of others taking that title.

A small drop in week 3 back to 58 which is still way higher than we’d seen in previous months. Kris Denholm led the way with a 20:13 to start his ‘Marathon of a Weekend’ whilst Sian Price ran a speedy 22:29. Also worth a mention is Gareth Davies who having broke his foot a year ago which meant no running for several months, has steadily improved his times and ran 21:50 which is back towards his regular parkrun sort of times as well as being a ‘qualifying time’ for the Phoenix Flyers.

Back up into the 60’s for the final weekend of the month with another improvement for Gareth Davies with a 21:41. Sian Price made it two weeks in a row as our fastest female time submitted.

Welsh Athletics Virtual events

The Welsh Road Relays 5K period started in mid December but the orginial period to complete the event was extended to mid January. Philippa Rees was first in the W70 age category with a time of 1:05:48 whilst Judith Jeeves was first in the W60 age category with 29:24. Sarah Davies set a fantastic time of 23:53 for first in the W45 category. A PB time of 20:55, making her the fastest current female member in the club earned Sian Price 2nd in the W35 category. Carl Walsh, set the fastest time of any OPR member with 18:19 for 4th fastest in the M45 category. Steven James ran one of his fastest 5K times with a 19:22 for 5th in the M40 category. There were several other great performances with many more OPR members submitting times as well.

The Welsh Athletics Winter Virtual 10K was set for the final weekend of January and again Carl Walsh clocked our fastest time with a 42:44. Ken Salvatore was first in the V50 category with 48:03 with fellow Phoenix member Chris Pratt second in the same category and Chris Richards 4th. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was 2nd in her age category with an impressive 48:38. Leigh Forman, who also ran in the 5K relay, was 1st in the W55 category whilst there were also times submitted elsewhere by Jamie Bevan who clocked his best 10K time and Nick Harris.

The Welsh Athletics next event in their series of Road Relays was the 5 miler with Carl Walsh making it a trio of WA virtual events where he topped our club’s times with a 35:27. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was next up with 38:24. We had 11 runners altogether including Ken Salvatore, Chris Pratt, Jamie Bevan, Paul Barrett, Melinda Thomas, Kaye Pedler, Leigh Forman, Alexis Barrett and Huw Jenkins.

There was an impressive turnout of 18 runners for the Welsh Athletics 1 mile virtual event. Rhys Young ran 5:40 to finish 5th in the senior category (under 35) with some Elite level competition included. Ken Salvatore was 3rd in the M50 category with 6:13 whilst Claire Dunbar Bowen was 3rd in the W45 category with 6:59. Several doubled up using the mile as part of their ‘Marathon of a weekend’ challenge.

OPR Valentines Relay

After the success of last months sunrise run / photo challenge, the race committee came up with a Valentines Relay for this months activity. The idea was that you put your name forward to run / walk 5K and were put into a draw to be randomly allocated a team. You were then encouraged to get in touch with your teammates meaning you might get chatting to or encouraging members you may not have messaged or spoken to before. The idea was participation and encouragement rather than a serious competition. 60 members signed up to make 15 teams of 4. Although it wasn’t about the times, I’m still going to congratulate Team 3 consisting of Garry Jones, Jamie Bevan, Louise Foster and Stephanie Dyke on being the fastest team. Incredibly, despite adding 4 randomly selected members times together, there was actually a tie for second team with both teams having the same time to the second. They were teams consisting of Karl Johnson, Liz Davis, Sally Littlehales and Phill Iveson who drew against a team of Chris Bimson, myself, Melinda Thomas and Gareth Thomas. Great fun had by all with many of the runs being done whilst it was snowing and dozens of supportive messages and selfies posted on Facebook.

OPR Triple Crown weekend

With Wales playing England for the chance of the Triple Crown on the final weekend, Sarah Davies suggested to the race committee that we did a challenge to do 3 walks or runs over a 4 day period with a minimum of submitting a 1 mile, 2 mile and 5K activity to make up the triple crown of activities. A huge amount of members got involved on a glorious weekend of weather.

Virtual challenges

Another catch up – Denise Bradley completed the Wales Coastal Challenge on the 5th January having started the virtual 870 mile journal on 15th June last year. Leanne Parsons completed the same challenge early this month (Feb 2021) having started around the same time as Denise. Since then Gregg Harris has also completed the challenge whilst we still have a few on their way round. Ken Salvatore completed the Grand Canyon virtual challenge early in the month. Emma Loyns completed the challenge at the end of the month, running the 280 miles in just 8 weeks having set herself a target of 12 weeks.

Several also completed the Newport Virtual Half Marathon on the final weekend of the month.

BCRL – Marathon of a Weekend

The Bridgend County Running League (BCRL) came up with a challenge of running 5 virtual events over 2 days which added up to a distance of 26.2 miles. The events had to be completed at certain times during the weekend and submitted asap afterwards making it an exciting ‘live’ event with a quick turnaround of results from the Welsh Athletics Volunteer of the Year, Chris Jeynes. It started with virtual parkrun at 9am on Saturday morning, followed by a Half Marathon early Saturday afternoon. Sunday then involved a 10K, a 4.5K Cross Country and a mile to finish. There were options for runners to enter in teams of up to 5 or as individuals. Chris Pratt and Kris Denholm were 2 of just 9 men to take on all 5 events themselves finishing in 9th and 6th respectively. We had 3 mixed teams including ‘Heathers Heroes’, ‘We get locked down, but we get up again…’ and ‘Team Clark’, whilst an all male team, ‘Connect Four’, finished runners up in that particular category to Bridgend. A great event with 124 runners from local clubs getting involved and plenty of people passing one another on the way for a friendly wave or shout of encouragement.

World Record Holders!

More than 20 OPR members are now official world record holders. Anyone who officially entered and completed the Virtual London Marathon 2020 contributed to setting a world record for the most finishers in a virtual marathon. It’s likely to be beaten this year with the announcement that they will accept 50,000 virtual places this year alongside the actual event, but we can all claim to be world record holders for a few months at least and have the opportunity to beat it again if we want.

London Marathon ballot

With the odds being very slim of getting in for the October 2021 event given the marathon would already have been at least half full of last years deferrals, it was great news that some of our members did get in. The first one who confirmed their place when the results started coming through on 8th Feb was none other than our Chairman, Chris Pratt. Chris previously ran the marathon back in 2012 but has been unsuccesful in the ballot ever since and was even drawn out as the ‘3rd club place’ one year only for the goalposts to be changed on number of places allocated down to 2 that particular year which meant he missed out. Peter Harrop, Jay Howells, Kevin Raymond and Wayne Randall were also succesful in the ballot whilst we have a significant number of runners who will have deferred their places from last years postponements.

Miles for Mind

Phoenix Knights were back in action again for another monthly challenge raising funds for Mind. Captain Bissmire assembled an impressive crew of 72 Phoenix members and friends of the club to again pledge mileage goals to aim to achieve by the end of the month. Yet again, the majority smashed their targets with impressive efforts by all concerned and fantastic to see many getting back out there regularly despite the changable weather conditions throughout the month which ranged from sub zero temperatures and snow, to 15 degrees and sunshine.

Marathon mayhem

The bonkers mileage continued for several runners. Gareth Richards continued to do his weekly marathon and on week 7 in a row, ran yet another fastest personal marathon time of 3: 12. He did ‘take it easy’ in week 8 ‘only’ running 3:34 before running 3:15 on week 9. Sarah Davies was joined by Leigh Richards-Francis to run her second marathon of the year whilst there were several other members notching up big mileage runs and monthly totals.

Two Podcasts and an Asics Frontrunner

Our chairman Chris Pratt got interviewed for Front Runner Radio a few weeks ago with the episodes being released this month. The podcast is hosted by one of the organisers of Front Runner Events who run the Llanelli, Great Welsh and Swansea Half Marathon events which dozens of our runners have entered over the past few years. I listened to it the day it was released and can highly recommend as a great insight into how Chris went from a non-runner around 10 years ago to becoming chairman of our club and on his way to completing 100 marathons.

What a month it was for Chris – not only did he get a London Marathon place in the ballot and his podcast interview released… he also got interviewed by Holly Rush (former Wales Commenwealth Games Marathon Runner) for the Marathon Talk podcast. For those that aren’t familiar with it, Marathon Talk is the number 1 running podcast in the UK with over 5 million downloads since it started over 10 years ago. Their former interviewees include Paula Radcliffe, Mo Farah, Seb Coe, the Brownlee brothers, and basically every famous runner going. Watch this space for when the episode is likely to be released.

If that all isn’t enough – Chris also found out this month that he was selected as one of Asics ‘Frontrunner’ Team. Just 5 people in the UK are selected for the team from 2,600 applicants. It’s an amazing opportunity to run some big races, test out Asics products and plenty more. Look forward to seeing what it brings over the next year.

Last Runner Standing

Steven James, Kris Denholm and I participated in the Infinity Running Last Runner Standing. This involved running 4 miles on the hour, every hour, untl you can’t do any more. We started at 8am on Saturday along with 32 others. Different approaches were taken – Steven did a similar route every hour from his house and back. Kris mixed it up with local outdoor loops and treadmill running. I decided to go ‘out and about’ for the first 9 hours going to Southerndown and Ogmore by Sea before returning home and then a pretty much marathon distance loop to Parc Slip, Kenfig Nature Reserve, Merthyr Mawr sand dunes and back home again. I then alternated between two different 4 mile loops from home and back. It took until 11 hours (44 miles) for it to be whittled down to the last 10 with our 3 OPR still standing and only 2 more dropped out in the next 20 miles. In a dramatic turn of events, the field was halved after 18 hours (72 miles) when 4 of us dropped out including myself and Kris at 2am on Sunday morning. Steven continued and ended up winning on the 21st hour finishing at 4:41am.

Over to Chris for this months Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

What an amazing month!  We are still experiencing very tight restrictions and yet we are continuing to get out there in numbers!  It’s mightily impressive to see.

This month I have been inspired so much by seeing everyone just get out there and get on with it.  That amazing resolve that we Phoenix possess.  We overcome.  My first choice today is one such person.  When life throws a whole heap of challenges our way we do our very best to soldier on.  The last year has seen many things get flung in our direction and batting them off has been a constant challenge.  We have all had different experiences of the crisis.  Our exposure to it has been varied.  Some are thrust into the midst of it and, while still dealing with a busy family household, have to go out and work in an environment where the exposure is great.  Add to that a heavy organisational commitment to the club and then a desire to get out and run is defeated by a bout of illness.  Not one to be defeated, the illness dispensed with and sent on it’s way, my first choice of runner got out there.  Signing up for Miles for MIND, the distance and frequency of the activities steadily increased until a regular pattern was forming.  It’s that consistency that is key – one of my favourite bits of advice – be consistent.  It’s not about heroics, it’s about just getting out there as regularly as you can.  Getting involved in virtual races and challenges along the way, representing the club.  Clocking up the miles to reach the target at the end of the month, all on top of a plethora of other responsibilities.  Battling back to full health.  A commitment that has inspired me massively this month to get out there myself.  I am absolutely delighted to announce my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month as Pippa Clark – with an additional special mention for Eva, who has supported mum in the challenge, sharing many of her miles from this month.  Well done Pippa, thank you for all that you do and keep inspiring us all.

Often in our running their is a hiatus.  Many of us experience it.  A downtime.  A time when other things come along to draw us away or the passion simply subsides.  That word, mojo.  It fades away and we are left stranded.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to come back from that.  The passion is gone that drove us along before, and it takes more than just starting back up again to reignite it.  But sometimes, just sometimes, the fire does get relit.  Something comes along which starts the process again. Getting over that initial hurdle of heading out and then maintaining the habit is what’s needed.  Once it sticks, it becomes easier at each step.  Again it seems to have been sparked by signing up for a challenge.  A challenge compounded by another challenge on top.  Having that incentive to stick at it is so helpful and here it certainly worked. With only one run since the end of November, February was the comeback.  50 miles pledged and 50 miles completed – but not only that but a consistent routine throughout.  Sharing the marathon of a weekend challenge with one other meant a extra commitment that led to half marathon distance being on the cards.  Longest run in a long time.  It was a challenge and I was personally very lucky to be able to share some of the miles on it by pure chance after connecting with him half way round.  The legs have kept moving since and I sincerely hope this is his return to regular running.  It’s hard to start again as many will attest to, but to embrace it like this and see it through is mightily impressive and worthy of commendation.  I am absolutely delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month as Dan Clark.  Please keep it up Dan, you’ve started the journey back admirably – keep it going now you’ve got momentum!

Well done family Clark – you have inspired us all this month!!  Keep up the good work.