2019 end of year review

parkruns

I suspect ‘record breaking year’ is going to be used a lot in this blog post and it definitely applies for parkruns. We’ve had more different members running than ever, a crazy spike in causal and obsessive / challenge chasing tourism, and dozens of milestone t-shirts achieved. parkrun accounts for just over 50% of our total event finishes this year so naturally features heavily in this end of year review.

Last year we amassed 2081 parkrun finishes between our members. This year the total was 3005 – almost a 50% increase! We had 240 different members run at least 1 parkrun during 2019 which is around two-thirds of our total members. Last year we had 35 members complete their first parkruns and mainly through the continuing resounding success of Zero to Hero coupled with membership growth across all abilities, we’ve had more than 50 first time parkrunners this year.

Onto our parkrun obsessives and last year we had 9 members who ran 40 or more parkruns with the highest total being Aled with 51. This year, that list of members has not only grown, but most have run even more than last year including Aled who becomes the first member to run 55 parkruns in a calendar year which is the most possible without leaving the UK. This year’s list has 15 members having completed 40 or more parkruns – in brackets is how many they did last year – every single person did more parkruns than last year!…

  • Aled Hughes 55 (51)
  • Gareth Jenkins 53 (49)
  • Nick Harris 52 (48)
  • Chris Pratt 49 (44)
  • Kris Denholm 49 (46)
  • Dawn Hopkins 47 (13)
  • David Kembery 47 (38)
  • Karl Johnson 47 (40)
  • Jo Gamba 46 (42)
  • David Sheard 46 (44)
  • Chris Roberts 45 (41)
  • Gareth Davies 45 (41)
  • Sara Davies 43 (35)
  • Saul Harris 42 (28)
  • Chris Stanlake 41 (30)

What makes the above list even more bonkers is the fact that the majority are also our most consistent parkrun tourists. For those not familiar, there is an unofficial parkrun group on Facebook for those that have run at 20 different parkrun locations or more. It varies from the casual tourist who may have just notched up 20 different ones by visiting different local ones and the occasional one whilst away for the weekend, to the extreme where some do a different parkrun every week even if it requires a overnight stay on the Friday or getting up at 4am to get to one they haven’t done before. Most of the members in the list below fall somewhere in between.

Most new parkruns visited during 2019 (2018 total in brackets)

  • Karl Johnson 35 (21)
  • Dawn Hopkins 30 (3)
  • Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom 26 (24)
  • Sarah Davies 24 (2)
  • Chris Stanlake 23 (10)
  • Alexis Barrett 23 (3)
  • Chris Roberts 23 (17)
  • Paul Barrett 22 (1)
  • James Beynon 19 (1)
  • Jo Gamba 19 (15)
  • Kris Denholm 19 (15)
  • Jayne Powney 18 (14)
  • Chris Bimson 18 (0)
  • Gareth Jenkins 17 (14)
  • Aled Hughes 14 (15)
  • Brett Bonell 12 (3)

Last year 12 members ran 10 or more new parkrun venues. This year that increased to 16 with 15 of those doing significantly more than last year. Whilst the usual suspects have continued to tour and in most cases significantly increased their rate of touring, we’ve welcomed several new ‘uber’ tourists with Dawn, Sarah, Alexis and Paul running together at different parkruns throughout the year. James has joined Karl on many of his parkrun tourism journeys whilst Chris Bimson is now just 1 away from the ‘tourist’ status having only really started touring in the past few months.

In terms of overall parkrun tourism, we now have 9 members who have run at 50 or more different venues, and 23 who have run at 20 or more. This time last year, those figures were 5 and 12 respectively. I can’t end the tourism bit without a mention of Johnson’s tours who have organised trips to Jersey, Bushy (Dublin) and Bushy (home of parkrun).

Now I appreciate this is a bit tourism heavy so also want to note those that are more loyal to their home parkruns. Claire Goldsworthy has run 141 parkruns with every single one at Porthcawl. Nick Harris ran his 250th Porthcawl parkrun earlier this year and has now run 269 times there out of his 309 total parkruns. David Sheard is next up with 245 of his 285 at Porthcawl whilst Chris Pratt and I have also run over 200 times at Porthcawl. We finished the year on a satisfying 7,777 parkrun finishes at Porthcawl from our members since it started.

The club of course has two home parkruns since Maesteg started and have a core volunteer team made up of several OPR members. Many weeks have seen over half the volunteer roles filled by OPR members even when its not one of our ‘takeover’ weeks. Before we get onto our most regular runners, I have to say a massive thank you to Emma Marshal, Stephne Puddy and Michael Brain who between them have volunteered at pretty much every Maesteg parkrun since it started. Emma has also gone on to become a parkrun ambassador. Onto our Maesteg regular runners and this year Adrian Pearce, Niki Puleio and Aled Hughes all ran at Maesteg for the 50th time. We also recorded our 1000th OPR finish at Maesteg this year.

This year saw David Sheard become the 6th Phoenix member to reach the 250 parkruns milestone. We had a huge list of members reach the 100th parkrun including Chris Stanlke, Shawn Cullen, Julie Ransom, Denise Bradley, Saul Harris, Ann Davies, Simon Williams, Fiona Drysdale, Angela Walsh, James Beynon, Dawn Hopkins, Mark Worrall and Peter Walsh. Congratulations also the even bigger list that reached their 50 milestone. A small disadvantage of the club growing so much and the huge increase in participation is that it’s got to a point where to list every milestone would make my blogs longer than War and Peace. I’ll still try my best to recognise everyone on the milestone posts throughout the year though.

Races

This year we recorded 2,663 race finishes between our members compared to 1,823 last year – again, not far off a 50% increase. As with the parkruns, we’ve seen more members running than events than ever before as our membership continues to grow, but also seeing record breaking numbers by some of our longer standing members.

Nick Harris set out to run as many events as possible in 2019 with an eye on the club record for most events of 108. He smashed it with 125 made up of 52 parkruns and a record 73 races. Aled Hughes also beat the previous record notching up 113 events, whilst I became the first member to notch up 100 events in 2 separate years finishing on exactly 100.

The next 4 highest event totals are all by our ladies. Last year Jo Gamba set a new club record for most events by a female club member with 71. This year all 4 ladies smashed that total with Dawn Hopkins coming out on top with 89, just one ahead of Jo with 88, then Sharon Pritchard with 86 and Debbie Bennion with 85. Sharon also set a new ladies record for most races in a year with 51. Sarah Davies, who had the 10th highest total overall also ran more than the previous record with 76 events in total.

The top 10 were as followed (2018 totals in brackets along with where they ranked)

  • Nick Harris 125 (4th – 72)
  • Aled Hughes 113 (9th – 64)
  • Gareth Jenkins 100 (1st – 86)
  • Dawn Hopkins 89 (32nd – 37)
  • Jo Gamba 88 (5th – 71)
  • Sharon Pritchard 86 (25th – 42)
  • Debbie Bennion 85 (16th – 51)
  • Chris Pratt 80 (2nd – 76)
  • David Sheard 76 (6th – 67)
  • Sarah Davies 76

The total to finish 2nd highest in the event table last year was 76 which 10 people achieved this year. Last year 18 members ran 50 events or more, this year 29 members ran 50 or more. Last year we record at least 1 event for 232 different members whilst this years total was 286.

5K

We had a record number of members run 5K races this year with huge turnouts at the Aberavon Run 4 All series consisting of 3 events during the summer months and then another bumper turnout for the Aberavon Santa Run in December. We had higher attendances at the Swansea Bay summer series and SSAFA 5K events as well. The Merthyr Mawr 5K attracted the usual big crowd and of course the end of year finale at Nos Galan where we had a record number of Elite entries with 5 in the men’s race and 1 in the ladies. I don’t think there were too many 5K races between Cardiff and Swansea without at least one Phoenix in the race.

The fastest 5K time of the year went to Adrian Pearce with 18:17, whilst Anneliese Loveluck broke the ladies club record with 20:34.

10K

So many huge 10K attendances with the biggest being 97 at the inaugural Porthcawl 10K. This included more than a dozen Zero to Hero’s who had gone on to complete the ‘Hero to Legend’ course and complete their first 10K. Cardiff 10K was a big draw with 76 members completing the course, whilst the Run Wales series of Cardiff Bay, Newport and Barry 10K also had big attendances.

The fastest 10K time of the year went to Niki Puleio with 37:59, whilst Sian Price was our fastest lady with 45:05.

Half Marathon

In 2018 our members completed 290 Half Marathons between them. In 2019, that rose to 423. We smashed our half marathon attendance record and set a new overall attendance record with 116 finishers ranging from 1:24 to 3:18. At Swansea Half Marathon we had 67 finishers including some of our members volunteering as tail walkers. We also had volunteers in several other Half Marathons including Llanelli, Great Welsh, Port Talbot and Cardiff performing many roles including marshalling, pacing, giving out medals / t-shirts and a whole host of other things. Thanks to Emma Marshall and others who coordinated the volunteers for many of these events.

Interestingly, there’s yet another different runner to the 5K and 10K best times of the year for the Half Marathon distance with Ryan Evans coming out on top with a 1:24:50 at Cardiff Half Marathon. Our fastest lady was Anneliese Loveluck with 1:32:33 at the Merthyr Half Marathon.

Marathon

Yet another increase on the previous year with 129 marathon finishes compared to 107 the year before. Now I can’t mention marathons in 2019 without mentioning our chairman, Chris Pratt, who set himself a goal of running 19 Marathons (or longer) in 2019 which he achieved with 18 marathons plus the Vale Ultra. We had a record 17 runners at the London Marathon and an incredible marathon attendance record of 45 finishers at the Snowdonia Marathon.

76 different members completed a marathon this year which is also a record. 24 of these were ran their first half marathon this year.

The fastest male and female marathon times of the year are simply outstanding. Niki Puleio ran 2:59:51 at London Marathon and then ran 2:58:11 at Valencia Marathon. That Valencia time is roughly 6 minutes 48 seconds per mile or 8 and a half back to back parkruns at 21:06 pace. Anneliese Loveluck ran 3:13:56 at the Great Welsh Marathon. I did some research at the time and found that for her age category, that time was not only one of the best in Wales, but one of the best in the UK and beyond. A Good for Age time for London Marathon pretty much guarantees you a place if you run within this time at another marathon. It is notoriously hard to achieve and anyone who does achieve it can only do so through an incredible amount of hard work. Niki is a phenomenal athlete and his 2:58 is 7 minutes within the Good for Age time for his age category… Anneliese’s 3:13 is 35 minutes inside the qualifying standard for her age. Absolutely mind boggling performances by both.

Ultras

Guess what – another increase, albeit a small one. 45 Ultra marathon’s completed by our members compared to 41 the year before. No doubt largely thanks to the Infinity Running lapped events which Kris Denholm and Steven James used to notch up a few ultras this year with Mike Brain joining the party in the last event of the year. Kris and Steven ran 8 Ultras in total this year which averages out a one every 6/7 weeks!

We had a record 17 complete the Vale Ultra whilst at the other end of the scale, Nick Harris and Steven James both completed Ultras exceeding 100 miles!

Bridgend County Running League

I wrote a Facebook post about our season back in September after the last fixture so have copied that into this blog as it covers everything from an absolutely amazing season…

BCRL review and stats 2019

Last year we finished runners up in the league. This year we finished runners up in the league. However, I really wanted to post some stats to show that although we may have finished in the same place, the progress this year both in terms of top finishers and participation has been incredible.

For those that maybe aren’t up to speed with how the scoring works, we want to score as few points as possible. Whoever finishes 1st overall gets 1 point, 2nd gets 2 points and so on. The top 15 runners for each of the six BCRL clubs score points, whilst anyone outside of the top 15 runners for their club scores a minus 1, therefore helping the team to score as few points as possible.

Top 15

This year saw our strongest top 15 runners ever. Last year we had a combined total of 19 top 20 overall finishes over the 6 events. This year we had 28 including 6 of the top 20 runners overall at Ogmore Castle and Newbridge Fields. This makes a huge different as these runners will score 20 points or less.

Another big factor is where our 15th finisher places. If they are 90th then they’ll score 90 points, if they are 70th, they’ll score 70 points so it makes a big difference. This year, in 5 out of 6 events, our 15th scorer finished in a higher position than last year. We set a new record at the Ogmore Castle where our top 15 all finished in the top 51 places overall.

This year, we had 26 different runners make up our top 15 throughout the 6 fixtures. The commitment of our faster runners was incredible this season with our top 10 (Gareth Battle, Adrian Pearce, Ryan DEvans, Paul Smith, Niki Puleio, Dai James, James Littlewood, Neil Price, Aled Hughes and Wayne Hayhurst) only missing 9 fixtures between them.

Our star find this season was Gareth Battle who was our first Phoenix finisher in 3 of the fixtures.

Participation

The best thing about BCRL is that every runner counts. If you don’t finish in the top 15 runners for the club then you score minus 1 point which helps the team score as few points as possible which is the aim.

This year, in all 6 events we had higher attendance than the corresponding fixture last year. At Ogmore Castle we smashed the club record with 114 Phoenix finishers whilst we even managed 69 finishers at our own fixture in Blackmill. We maintained our record of having the largest number of runners in every BCRL fixture since it began 4 years ago.

In total we had 523 finishers this year compared to 436 last year. We also had our highest number of different members completing a fixture with 177 members completing at least 1 fixture.

Ever Presents Hall of Fame

We all know that injury, childcare, illness, work, volunteering and a whole host of other reasons may result in members not being able to attend every fixture but I really want to give a shout out to the record number that attended 6 out of 6 events. These were…

  • Adrian Pearce (top 5 Phoenix in all 6 fixtures)
  • Paul Smith (top 6 Phoenix in all 6 fixtures)
  • Aled Hughes (top 8 Phoenix in all 6 fixtures)
  • Gareth Jenkins (top 15 Phoenix in all 6 fixtures)
  • Luke Jones (top 15 Phoenix in 5 out of 6 fixtures)
  • Gareth Davies (top 15 Phoenix in 2 out of 6 fixtures)
  • Nick Harris (top 15 Phoenix in 1 out of 6 fixtures)
  • Keith Coleman
  • Mike Nicholson Lewis
  • Jo Gamba
  • Paul Barrett
  • Christopher Bimson
  • Steph Iveson-Holmes
  • Sara Davies
  • Alexis Barrett
  • Cath Griffiths
  • Nicola Cornock

A Team Effort

We also had an amazing amount of volunteers this year including members helping out at other fixtures and not just our Blackmill one. We’ve also had more supporters than ever coming along whether it be injured runners coming along or family or friends of members.

Well done to everyone who ran their first BCRL fixture this season and hopefully they’ve proved to be a positive experience and good stepping stone to entering other events.

Final Standings

Last year we finished 2nd in 3 fixtures, 3rd in 2 fixtures and 4th in the other. This year we won the first fixture at Ogmore Castle and then finished 2nd in each of the remaining 5 fixtures.

Bridgend AC were the only team to finish above us in any fixture this year.

We may have finished second overall in the league final standings again but I don’t think there’s any doubts from the stats in this post that we’ve made huge progress this year.

Last year we finished on 3116 points, this year we’ll finish on around 2601 (final calculations may be a few points either way).

It’s really worth pointing out that in that Ogmore Castle fixture, purely based on the top 15 scorers, Bridgend scored less. However our record turnout at the and the subsequent minus 99 points for all our runners outside of the top 15 meant we won the event which just goes to prove that every runner really does make a difference whether you are the first Phoenix across the line or the last.

On behalf of the captains and vice captains, I want to thank every member who has contributed this year.

Other events

There were so many that I couldn’t possibly mention them all but some highlights included increased participation in the Cross Country Leagues – both West Glamorgan and Gwent. In the Gwent League we fielded full teams in both the men and women’s races for the first time in the Llandaff fixture and followed it up with full teams in the Pembrey fixture. Denise Bradley, Jo Gamba, Ryan Evans and Adrian Pearce all got called up to represent their region in the Welsh Inter-Regional XC championships in November 2019.

The Vale 18 miler had an incredible record 37 finishers from our club with many taking on their longest distance ever and certainly longest trail distance.

The club competed in the Rack Raid relays for the first time. A review of the 100+ mile relay event can be found on the following link http://www.ogmorephoenixrunners.co.uk/rack-raid-2019-review/

The Rabbit Run at Merthyr Mawr had 44 finishers and we won several team and individual medals as it was part of the Welsh Athletics trail championships. The men won team Gold and Bronze whilst the ladies won team Silver whilst there were also several age category winners as well.

There were plenty of fun events with Cosmeston and Cottrell Park relays injecting something a bit different to usual proceedings and of course the annual Bridgend Beer Mile which is something completely different again.

Jo Gamba, Nick Harris and I did the Cardiff CPR challenge taking on 5 events over 2 days which add up to a marathon distance whilst Liz Sim did a similar event in Portishead.

The Infinity Running events have become a firm favourite with many in the club with their events offering anything fro 3.3 miles to ultra on a pretty much monthly basis at reasonably local venues.

The club trail championships again proved popular with plenty of running putting on their trail daps to run through every type of terrain on offer. We’ve also seen a record number of people completing the road championships which admittedly did include a lot of the big events.

The first day of 2019 saw members complete the 18/19 Festive Four with Tammie Baker, Gregg Harris and Adrian Pearce among the winners of various prize categories. The end of 2019 has over a dozen members sign up for 19/20 Festive Four.

Biggest attended events of 2019

Most of these will have been mentioned above but just to show the incredible attendance at events this year yet again – here’s the top 5 with where they rank in the biggest events in the clubs history in brackets…

  1. Cardiff Half Marathon 116 (1st)
  2. Ogmore Castle BCRL fixture 114 (2nd)
  3. Porthcawl 10K 97 (3rd)
  4. Llanilid Loop BCRL fixture 92 (6th)
  5. Newbridge Feilds BCRL fixture 85 (10th)

What will 2020 bring?

Well, as I write this post on January 5th, we’ve just seen our biggest ever amount of parkrun finishers on the first Saturday of the year as well as record breaking figures on New Years Day at both parkrun and the Prince of Wales Kenfig event. A sign of things to come? Will I be writing the 2020 review saying all the records have been broken again?! I look forward to finding out.

Well done to every single member who have trained with us, represented us in parkrun or races and / or volunteered during 2019. What an incredible year.

Weekly Waffle – 8th December 2019

Again, It’s been a while since the last update.  

The “weekly waffle” is swiftly becoming monthly and that defeats the object!  

The idea was always to review the weeks antics while still fresh in the mind!

Without any further ado…

We’ve parkrunned (if that’s actually a word).  Here, there and everywhere!  Home and, as always, away.  Tourism always on the increase.  We’ve seen the Big Community Relay golden baton, now nicknamed BattyMcBatonface, be collected from afar and returned to Porthcawl for it’s final official week and now being chaperoned around all the local parkruns.  We’ve seen epic PB’s and huge turnouts and gritty performances.  The beauty of parkrun is there’s no pressure.  Whatever your goal, it is accommodated.  It fits perfectly with our ethos and hence we turn out on Saturday morning in our droves.

A big group headed east to cross the Bridge over the River Severn.  Donning face paint and bright colours they enjoyed a race with a fantastic atmosphere that typifies the kind of event we all enjoy.

A couple headed to trails in the capital to complete a half marathon.

Our event count record breaker notched up another event and despite the name he he wasn’t terrified by what Twmbarlwn threw at him.  

The annual event series, again in the Welsh capital, that raises awareness of mens health issues drew a number to take part in the 10k race around Bute Park.

Another ultra around the Gower resulted in an incredible result for one half of a couple while the other recorded an equally impressive result in a 10k at the same location supported by a canine friend.  The variety of events we take part in continues to grow!

A slog around Sodbury saw trail enthusiasts clock up an impressive set of results to further their standings in the annual championships.

Another ultra attracted two of our number to the Beacons as they went OTT and got a bit lost causing much hilarity and added extra interest to a race that saw both recalling their stories and photos of a great day with enthusiasm.  It doesn’t have to be about racing to reap the rewards of an event!

Another local event in a series that our members have come to love saw record numbers stand on the start line ahead of multiple loops of the course with multiple distances covered.  A great deal of fun was had by all.  Another event clocked up on a challenge for one.

One raced 10k to the moon and clocked up a fantastic result.

A double marathon for one, back to back, and joined on the second day by another member, saw a challenge target almost reached!

A popular club 10 miler drew significant numbers down west to Pembrey with mightily impressive results recorded.

A small group travelled north to tackle a hilly half and came away with stories to tell.


Cross Country league fixtures saw very impressive team effort from the Phoenix.

Some of our number were selected to represent South Wales in a fixture in Brecon.  Another reason for the club to stand proud.

Just one headed east for the second running of the race to cross the River Severn in the same month.

Gloucester was the destination for a trio to complete a 10k.

As the end of the month arrived another marathon marked the end of a challenge to complete 19 in 2019.  An enjoyable event that heralded the start of a well earned rest!

A 10k under dark skies was the target for one notching another event on his impressive tally.

Overseas events are something we see on occasion and this time Valencia was the destination for a couple with both setting significant PB’s over two distances.  

And then to today.  With the festive season finally upon us we saw a big crowd head down to our local beauty spot in Merthyr Mawr for the annual Pudding Run.  Always a great race.  Always a great atmosphere and a lot of fun.  With the Big Dipper climb to start it’s a toughie with a huge mixture of terrain and always loved by those who take it on.  Stories of mulled wine and mince pies accompanied those of the run itself.  Mutual support between clubs crowning the enjoyment of the day!

For a month where the nights draw in and moods can dip we saw a great deal of running!  Excellent running too.

A huge well done to all.

We are approaching the season of good will.  As I like to do on many occasions I ask you to please remember those in our midst who are unable to run with us at the moment.  At this time of year they should be foremost in our minds.  If there’s someone you haven’t seen at training, a race or parkrun for a while please drop them a message and check all is OK.  Reach out.  

We are a week away from our annual celebration of the festive season and the party preparation is almost done.  A time for us to sit down together as the Phoenix Family for our Christmas Dinner and share in an evening of entertainment and fun.  An evening not involving running – even though  it is running that brought us together.

Keep running.  Keep smiling.  Keep looking out for each other.

Laters.

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

November 2019 review

November saw our members notch up 209 parkrun finishes across 56 parkruns. parkruns added to the 300+ venues our members have completed included Sheffield Hallam, Knowsley, Dalby Forest, Watermeadows, Lydiard (formerly named Swindon), Rotherham, Erddig, Northala Fields and Oaklands. We also had some international tourism with Lisa Jenkins running at Amager Strandpark parkrun in Copenhagen.

Highlights in month included 13 members plus a few friends of the club going on Karl’s latest ‘Johnson’s parkrun tours’ to the home of parkrun at Bushy. It turned out that they went in a week that Bushy had the biggest attendance of any parkrun in the world with 1,328 finishers. Usually a couple of South African parkruns top the attendance figures each week. There were multiple official and ‘arbitrary’ (for anyone who listens to the With Me Now podcast) milestones with Louise Bennett running her 50th parkrun, Karl running his 150th parkrun, and Dawn Hopkins running her 50th different parkrun venue.

Nick Harris ran his 300th parkrun during November whilst Ffion Smith reached her 50th parkrun milestone.

Other highlights in the month included Neil Price being first finisher out of the 342 runners at Porthcawl on the 23/11/19 with the fastest time of any member this month with a 18:49. Aled Hughes was second finisher for the 5th time during the month, whilst I made it 3 times as second finisher (at 3 different parkruns), and Nicky Bennett was second finisher for the second time with a PB of 19:37.

5 milers

A rarely run distance saw 23 members at the Severn Bridge midweek night race early in the month. A great event which had something for everyone with some fast competitive running at the front end and a party atmosphere throughout the field with face paints, glow sticks and plenty of head torches and hi-vis. Aled Hughes was first Phoenix back in 14th place overall and 1st in his age category. Unbeknownst to most of us, there was also a team competition where Aled, Luke, myself and Simon Harrison made up the first 4 OPR male finishers to bag ourselves 3rd place in the team standings.

Later in the month, Nick Harris was the only Phoenix at the second event of the series.

10K

We had a record 48 runners at the Richard Burton 10K where Paul Smith was our first finisher with 38:37. Nicky Bennett grabbed a PB of 42:24 whilst there were also PB’s for Jamie Puddy, Toni Howells and Stephne Puddy.

November isn’t usually a month that’s popular for 10K’s but we had members at quite a few this year. Debbie Bennion and Sharon Pritchard ran the Botanical Gardens 10K. Anneliese, with her dog in tow completed the Gower 10K. We had 5 runners at the Cardiff Mo Run. Dawn Hopkins ran the Race the Moon 10K in London. Tyler Howells and Bethan Denholm ran the Gloucester 10K, and Nick Harris notched up another event with the Cattle Country Dark Skies 10K.

10 miles

Another distance that has very few events drew 19 members to the Pembrey Multi Terrain 10 miler. Wayne Hayhurst led the club members back with a 1:11:25 PB on the testing course that really does have a lot of different surfaces and plenty of sand. New member James Dennison was next up also bagging himself a PB. The PB’s continued with Paul Barrett, Emma Loyns, Tyler Howells, Sarah Davies, Catherine Robinson, Jane Collins, Anna Clough, Alexis Barrett and Sara Johns.

Half Marathons

Adam Rowe and Kirstie Edwards completed the inaugural Tough Runner Cardiff Trail Half Marathon. A hilly, off road half not to be confused with the Cardiff Taff Trail Half Marathon which is very flat and on tarmac.

We also had a few members head up to North Wales for the Conwy Half Marathon where Denise Bradley managed a sub 2 hour run on the undulating course with Sally Littlehales, Emma Marshall, Stephne and Jamie Puddy also completing the course.

Marathons

I’ll come on to the Infinity Running event in the next section which mainly leaves me with Chris Pratt’s latest marathon exploits. Chris ran his first double marathon weekend with races on Saturday and Sunday run by Phoenix Running Events – this is a real company and not something Chris made up to get more marathons! Nick Harris joined him on the second day which I’m sure was welcome company for Chris on his first back to back marathon weekend. He then completed his 19 marathons in 2019 challenge at the Greenham Common Marathon.

Infinity Running – Bonfire Bolt

The feedback from the Infinity Running events has always been glowing ever since they first started a year ago. I first attended one in January this year and was straight on our Facebook pages to recommend it to our members. Chris Pratt has now done 7 marathons at their events which has obviously been a huge bonus in allowing him to do so many of marathons close to home and I’m sure will feature heavily in his future marathon plans.

From just a few of us attending those first few events, Phoenix members attendance has grown and grown to a point where for this event we had an incredible 40 members running at the Bonfire Bolt event in Margam. We covered every distance from 1 lap for a 5K up to Kris Denholm completing his 7th Ultra of the year with 10 laps and 33 miles completed. Highlights included Sarah Littlewood running a huge PB of 1:52:21 in the Half Marathon (4 laps). There were 5 who completed the marathon distance with a real mixed bag of experience. Paul Barrett ran 4:19:23 to beat his Snowdonia time set in his first ever marathon just 2 weeks before by over 30 minutes. He was accompanied by Luke Jones who has previously run a 3:06 marathon back in 2013. Next up was a marathon debut for Jay Howells who clocked an impressive sub 5 hour time of 4:55. Chris Pratt, marathon extraordinaire, was up next and no doubt enjoyed having significantly more Phoenix company than in some of his other marathons. Our final finisher of the day was Tyler Howells who completed his first ever marathon in 6:03.

Cross Country (XC)

A huge month for XC with fixtures in the West Glamorgan League, Gwent League as well as Phoenix members representing their region in the Welsh Inter Regional Championships.

The first XC race of the month was the second fixture of the Gwent League at Pembrey Country Park. As male captain, I was delighted to see us field a full men and women’s team for the second fixture in a row. The ladies went off first with an undulating 7.2K course consisting of 2 laps of grass, trail and some sections of sand. Fiona Drysdale was our first lady back, followed by Sarah Davies, Jo Gamba, Steph Iveson Holmes and Dawn Hopkins to make up our 5 scorers. Ann Davies, Samantha Thompson and Tammie Baker made up a total of 8 OPR ladies finishers. The men’s race was a 9.9K course with an extended version of the 2 laps the ladies had raced earlier that afternoon. I was the first Phoenix across the line followed closely by Simon Harrison. Nick Harris, Phill Iveson and David Sheard completed the scoring for the men’s fixture.

Due to a top 15 finish in their respective age categories and regions, Denise Bradley and Adrian Pearce were called up to represent South Wales in the Welsh Inter-Regional XC Championships in Brecon. Some gaps in the West Wales team allowed Ryan Evans a spot in their team as he had run for them previously whilst a member of Swansea University’s running club. Then there was a late call up to the South Wales team for Jo Gamba who had run in both Gwent League fixtures which were being used to determine places for the championships. The Inter Regional Championships were held in Brecon with the ladies race being a 6K course with 1 medium lap and 2 large laps. Both Denise and Jo did themselves and the club proud with gritty performances in the wet, muddy conditions on the undulating course. With the men going last after all the junior and senior ladies races, it meant they had the worst of the mud for their 9.6K, 3 lap course. Again, both our runners did us proud even if Ryan was running for a ‘rival’ region.

The second West Glamorgan fixture was a familiar route for many of our club members as it took in much of the same course as the Kenfig Sands BCRL fixture except with the added bonus of an extra mile or so in the middle section. Paul Smith was our first runner back followed by Steven James, Keith Coleman, Kris Denholm and James Phillips who made up our 5 male scorers. The ladies team included Sian Price, Claire DB, Liz Davis, Fiona Evans and Samantha Thompson as the scorers. 18 members ran in total making it the 4th XC fixture across 2 leagues where we’ve fielding full men and ladies teams.

Other races

Lets start big with a couple of Ultra’s this month. Steve Loveluck completed the 34 mile Gower Ultra – this is different to the Run Walk Crawl Ultra but every big as tough taking in steep climbs over technical terrain. Liz Sim and Steven James joined forces to complete the 34 mile OTT Ultra in the Brecon Beacons which they did amazingly to complete having got lost very soon after the start which resulted in them ending up a couple of miles behind the tail runner who they then had to catch up with.

Nick Harris completed the Twmbarlwn Terror – a 7 mile off road race organised by Fairwater Runners Cwmbran. 6 runners took on the Sodbury Slog – a slightly bonkers off road race which includes the ‘sheep dip’ and ‘pig trough’ sections.

The Grand Slam club

Paul Barrett, Emma Loyns and Sarah Davies both completed a 2019 Grand Slam of PB’s by ticking off a 10 miler to complete a set of PB’s at each of the ‘standard’ distances – 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon. Only a handful of members achieve this each year. The first to complete the Grand Slam this year was Stephne Puddy who completed it with Snowdonia Marathon. Alexis Barrett has come agonisingly close with only a Marathon PB missing which she was only 50 seconds off in Snowdon.

We have plenty on 5 PB’s out of the 6 distances. Adrian Pearce and Wayne Hayhurst (5 mile PB required), Hannah Knight, Sian Jenkins and Jay Howells (10 mile PB required), Dawn Hopkins, Steven James and Tyler Howells (Half Marathon PB required).

Now this is normally where I’d hand over to Chris to do the Chairman’s Runner of the Month… however, I’m going to bend the rules slightly and I’m going to do it myself (with agreement from female captain, Pippa) this month… you’ll see why…

Captains Runners of the Month

For many runners, the goal of running a marathon is the ultimate. Many of us will have watched the London Marathon growing up in awe of these seemingly normal everyday people who have trained to run 26.2 miles. All of us will have started off struggling to run for a mile and the thought of running 26.2 of them would have seemed inconceivable at the time. Many of us have taken that journey and steadily built up to 5K, 10K, Half Marathons and eventually completed a marathon. It’s a huge deal. You’d struggle to find many runners out there who wouldn’t be telling all their friends and family about an upcoming marathon and the resulting stories from having completed it. Running a marathon is not easy. Now imagine setting yourself a goal of running 19 of them… but not 19 over a lifetime…. 19 in one calendar year… 19 marathons in 2019. That’s what Chris Pratt, my male runner of the month, did on Sunday 24th November. A remarkable achievement and in the end he actually did it all in 38 weeks having not started until March of this year and finishing with over a month to go.

Onto the female runner of the month and this is a lady on a mission. Not content with running a Half Marathon PB and Marathon PB in October, this lady went on to complete a Grand Slam of PB’s within the space of just 8 weeks by adding 5K, 5 mile and 10 mile PBs during November. Her time of 41:11 at the Severn Bridge 5 miler beat her previous best which set on the super flat and fast Cardiff Bay 5 mile course over 4 years ago. She followed that up with a 10 mile PB at the Pembrey Multi-Terrain race, beating her previous best time (which was on the same course) by almost 7 minutes. To top it off, she finished the month with a parkrun time of 23:17, knocking 33 seconds off her PB and claiming one of the fastest times by any lady in the club this year. All this whilst also training for an upcoming Ultra Marathon, taking multiple sessions per week as one of the club coaches and balancing a busy family / work life. This months female runner of the month is Emma Loyns

Weekly Waffle – 3rd November 2019

It’s a month since I last reviewed the week…

Time and tide wait for no man and busy weekends have prevented it being completed.

A lot has happened in that time so I’ll try and catch up quickly…

(and hopefully won’t miss anything out!)

As per usual we’ve done our usual plethora of parkruns!  Here there and everywhere.  parkrun celebrated it’s 15th birthday!!  We’ve had milestones.  We’ve had extreme tourism.  We’ve had lots remaining local to enjoy the comfort of their home runs.  We’ve heard the stories and we’ve seen the pictures.  We’ve had some who followed major events to support and snook off to add an extra one to their parkrun totals.  The obsession continues and grows!

We’ve seen consistent training numbers despite variable and deteriorating weather.  We’ve not been deterred from getting the miles in.  Zeroes became heroes and continue to become legends.  We are all filled with pride as we observe and nurture their journeys while developing our own.

We’ve had races by the bucketload covering a multitude of distances.

Cross country season has kicked off and great numbers have attended the first fixtures placing the club well for a good season of racing.

We’ve had ultras with a particularly popular one drawing several west to complete once again.  The addition of other distances attracted others to join in the “fun”.  All came back with great stories to tell.

Of note, we’ve had marathons aplenty with a trip north crossing two borders for some to follow the banks of a loch steeped in myth and legend.  A monster may hide under the surface but that didn’t deter our intrepid runners from completing the tough miles to the finish in the ancient cathedral city.  The miles were completed far away but the Phoenix spirit transcends distance and carried far from everyone at home to wish them well.   Another northern destination drew one in for a picturesque setting around a remote lake.  A walled city on the River Dee was the destination for two others covering the 26.2 miles.  

Multi-loop courses were circumnavigated by many once again!  A number of distances covered and all with great commitment and determination.

A half in North Wales was completed by one on the same day that the second biggest half marathon in the UK came to the Welsh capital.  It’s a race in which we’re always represented in significant numbers with this year being no exception.  116 made their way around the course while many joined them for the journey.  Caerdydd never disappoints.  An amazing atmosphere draws the Phoenix out every year.  Not only running but volunteering also.  Cameraderie and support on the route.  Nerves turning to excitement and through hard work to elation on the finish line.  

Some headed to warmer climes to tackle two distances alongside some of our neighbouring clubs on their annual tours and came back full of great stories of running under the sun – something we all miss at this time of year!

One plodded around Ponty.  Others tackled hilly events to clock up their event tally with impressive results.  Margam saw one tackle a 10k and a memorial half was completed elsewhere by another.  An undulating route – as named – was completed with a significant placing by the one who took it on.  

Across the Severn, a 10k in Bristol was the target for two family members running together whilst another 10k in National Botanical Gardens was the destination for two others.

We’ve won and collected significant national awards.  Two for their individual contribution to our development as a club and as athletes and one significant award from our national governing body recognising the significant hard work we have done to move the club forward as a whole.  An incredibly proud moment for the club and an accolade the Phoenix Spirit that courses through our veins.

46 runners and a heap of supporters made the annual pilgrimage north to tackle the might of Eryri.  A marathon that always strikes fear into those who take on the challenges it poses.  Tales of endeavour filled the air on Saturday.  Every single one cheered home by the ever present supporters around the course and at Phoenix Corner.  An amazing weekend away for all who made the journey!

Halloween found it’s way into training and some took on events with a ghoulish theme to mark the occasion as well.

This weekend was no exception for racing and 47 Phoenix went down to Cwmavon to tackle a notoriously hilly 10k named after a world famous actor who was born and grew up in the village.  A challenging route that tested the legs of those who took it on, as it always does.  

Lots going on.
Lots to be proud of.

Running, supporting and volunteering.

It’s been a very busy time of late and time is precious.  Fitting in running and all that the club brings is tricky at times.  It’s a case of juggling.  Spirits are always lifted by sharing good times with fellow Phoenix and observing antics through stories, results and pictures when it’s not possible to be there.

Sparing a thought for those in our midst who are injured.  We’ve seen a lot of them at our walking groups during sessions as well as supporting and volunteering at events.  It’s imperative we keep them involved and making sure they remain part of the Phoenix Family.  If you know someone who is injured, reach out and make sure they are OK.  Look out for each other.

Keep doing what you’re doing guys because it’s working.

A very proud time for us all, but not resting on our laurels it’s time to knuckle down, making sure we continue to thrive as we are and that the Phoenix continues to soar.

On that note I’ll bid you good night and look forward to seeing what the week ahead brings…

As always

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

September 2019 review

parkruns

September saw 268 parkrun finishes across 50 parkruns and 37 different parkrun venues. Some newly visited parkrun venues included Blyth Links, Brynaman, Bushy (Dublin), Dunfermline (Scotland), Omagh (Northern Ireland), Varsity Lakes (Australia), Milford Waterfront and Windy Nook.

Some parkrun highlights in month included Karl Johnson rounding up another 9 Phoenix Runners for a day trip to Bushy parkrun in Dublin. There was a massive turnout of 63 members running at the latest Zero to Hero graduation at Porthcawl despite testing weather conditions.

There were too many PB’s to list as we had dozens of first timer PB’s from our Z2H graduates plus a whole host from improvers and long standing members. Neil Price became the latest runner to run under 19 minutes with a 18:44 at Porthcawl. Denise Bradley got a new PB of 24:10 and set a new club age category record in the process. Claire Dunbar-Bowen ran the fastest time of any female in the club, smashing her own PB with a 22:20 whilst Sarah Littlewood also got a PB of 23:21. The Iveson’s, Phill and Stephanie both scored PB’s on the same day whilst the Salvatores. Rosie and Ken both got PB’s this month.

Well done to all the other runners who set PB’s this month whether it was your first or hundred-and-first run.

Races

10K’s

We had 134 finishers in 10K races during the month with the most popular being Cardiff 10K with 76. Niki Puleio lead our runners home in a PB of 37:59 with Ryan Evans next in 38:39 and then Neil Price setting PB of 39:23. Aled Hughes made it 4 Phoenix Runners under 40 minutes.

The PB list was huge and was as follows… Carl Price, Paul Barrett, Phill Iveson, Chris Richards, Ken Salvatore, Hannah Knight, Rosie Salvatore, Kaye Pedler, Nicola Veasey, Leanne Puleio, Cath Robinson, Jamie Puddy, Megan Apsee, Jane Collins, Sara Johns, Paul Jones, Ann Rice, Frances Hughes, Claire Williams, Joanne Cottingham, Andrea Fry, Sarah Richards and Laura Worrall. Well done to several who were running their first 10K race as well.

Swansea 10K saw 30 Phoenix Runners complete the course and lead back by Ryan Evans and Paul Smith who were under 40 minutes. PB’s included Wayne Hayhurst, Keith Coleman, Chris Bimson, Tyler Howells, Judith Jeeves, Toni Howells, Cath Griffiths, Julie Gale and Annemarie Morgan.

A huge well done to Ken Salvatore, Rosie Salvatore, Leanne Puleio and Laura Worrall who all got their second 10K PB’s of the month having achieved new personal bests in both Cardiff and Swansea.

8 Phoenix ran the ‘Beat the Black Dog’ 10K trail race which started at Ogmore Life Centre which has been a training meeting point for the club since we started in 2012. The event was to raise awareness of Mental Health issues and get people talking.

Several members also volunteered for the event. Cowbridge 10K saw 20 members run the course whilst a further 3 did the 6K option. Unfortunately a missing marshal resulted in most of the participants doing an extra 3K which was a bit frustrating for some but just think of it as extra training and bonus miles / value for money.

Half Marathons

A quite month for half marathons with the two major 10K’s being most runners focus. However, we did have Brett Bonell, Nige Rees and Great North Half Marathon regular Dawn Hopkins took on the 13.1 mile course in Newcastle this year with Brett setting a new PB. We also had Luke Jones, Sarah Davies and Liz Sim taking on the hilly Cotswold Trail Half Marathon.

Infinity Running Events

A double whammy of the increasingly popular Infiinity Running events in month with the ‘Random Run’ on the 8th and the ‘Autumn Run’ on the 22nd. Chris Pratt notched up another 2 marathons whilst Nick Harris and David Sheard ran the marathon distance in the second event. Kris Denholm ran another Ultra, managing 12 laps for 36.3 miles.

At the Random Run there were plenty using it for Snowdonia Marathon training with Karl Johnson managing 10 miles, Fiona Evans ran 16.5 miles and Denise Bradley did 19.8 miles.

At the Autumn Run, it was a welcome return for ladies captain, Pippa Clark who ran 3.3 miles, Liz Davis and Sally Pensom ran Half Marathon distance, whilst there was plenty more Snowdon training being done with Sian Jenkins managing 10 miles, Alexis 16.5 miles, Claire Taylor, Jamie Puddy, Sharon Pritchard, Deb Griffin, Bev Sheard and Paul Barrett running 19.8 miles and Gary Loo running 23.1 miles.

BCRL

The final event of the Bridgend County Running League took place on Rest Bay Beach with a 2.2 mile two lapped course. Niki Puleio lead our club members back closely followed by Paul Smith, Ryan Evans and Neil Price. With some excellent scoring from our top 15 plus 79 members completing the course, we finished second on the night to further secure our second place in the league.

I did a lengthy post on the clubs Facebook page regarding some of the stats from this season which included record attendances at 5 out of the 6 fixtures, by far our strongest top 15 performances in every event and substantially better overall scores for each event.

Other Races

Adrian Pearce, Paul Smith and Aled Hughes teamed up for the Welsh Road Relays. Adam Rowe ran the ‘Beat the Bore’ 8 mile event. 13 members ran the 16 mile Roman Run. Karl Johnson, Tyler Howells, Toni Howells and Jay Howells ran the inaugural Newport 5 miler. Steve Loveluck ran a 6 hour looped ultra and clocked up 36 miles. Anneliese Loveluck was first female overall in the Dare Valley Ultra. A 12 hour event where she managed around 60 miles.

Although it pains me to mention a triathlon in a running club blog, I will make an exception for an Ironman event. Helen Griffiths became an Ironman finisher for the first time whilst Kirsty Evans and Steven Clatworthy completed the crazy feat of endurance for the second time on the challenging course around Tenby and the surrounding area.

Yet another month of huge participation in events and everything from Zero to Hero graduates running 5K to 12 hour Ultra marathons. Over to Chris to Chairmans Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

As the weather starts to turn slightly and we start looking towards the end of the year our spirits are not dampened.  Still out in force at events and still training well.  

Although we are not all about running fast, we still celebrate it.  We have many runners who continue to push themselves to make improvements in performance.  Many of these are runners who have run for many years and start to wonder whether times will continue to fall or holding on to seasons bests will be the way of the future.  When improvements of significance start to come after consistent running for several years it is often a measure of hard work in the background.  A renewed vigour for improvement.  Gaining an understanding of what might have led to times not falling in the past.  I have run with this guy many times and we’ve deliberated the plan of attack in races.  He has known for some time that he often goes out too fast and has learnt to bring that under control and measure the whole distance.  A new thinking.  A renewed understanding of pacing a race.  A desire to beat himself.  With PB’s resulting in dipping under 19 minutes for a 5k and 40 minutes for a 10k this month he is a worthy recipient of this accolade.  You will rarely see a man with such a determined face as he pushes his body to the finish line of a race (even if the expressions often result in a great deal of hilarity from his wife).  I am absolutely delighted to award my September Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Neil Price.  Keep up the good work Neil.

As for the ladies, I agonised over this months achievements.  So many worthy potential winners.  I try and avoid repeating people if at all necessary but one event brought me into a dilemma of choice.  I’ll be chastised again by some for recognition of multi-discipline achievements but it still involves running on the back of a significant build up.  Such worthy possibilities and split two ways with very little place to separate so I chose to give it to someone who I haven’t acknowledged before.   For many reasons this athlete is incredible.  An exception to the rule I would say.  It’s not often you find someone who can avoid training until almost the 11th hour and then absolutely smash it!  It’s not the route that would be advocated by our coaches and, indeed, by our very worthy winner either.  With a young family and other commitments, it’s the age old tale of life dictates training patterns and priority always falls with the family and Ironman is an event that requires substantial training in every discipline throughout the year.  One of the toughest Ironman courses in the world it commands respect from everyone who takes it on.  Her second tackling of the event and another successful completion!  Absolutely outstanding.  A huge well done to my very worthy winner of September Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month, Kirsty Evans.  Well done Kirsty, looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Weekly Waffle – 30th September 2019

It’s been three weeks since I last wrote and you know what that means… it’s going to be a long one! 

Bear with…

What a week we started with…

Yet again, there’s no rest for the Phoenix!

New training sessions appear as club development continues and our heroes continue their journeys getting closer to their goals!  

Nerves were bubbling under as the week progressed leading to a big weekend for some…

9am on Saturday brought the usual crowds to our two local venues.  One being hosted by the members of the local constabulary attracting an admirable representation of the club.  Club championships continue to draw large numbers down to the seafront for their regular 5k. Others went further afield this week with three countries of the home nations covered.

Nerves continued to build…

The sun set on a warm sunny day and rose to a cool but still Sunday morning…

Facing the dragon.  A term that’s used to refer to the notoriously tough Ironman Wales.  

2.4 mile swim.
112 mile cycle.
26.2 mile run.
All in one day.

Nerves turned into adrenaline for three of our number who headed out on their quest from Tenby’s North Beach…

While they took on their mammoth journey a group of five headed across the border to take on a half marathon.  For two of them it was their first and, meeting the challenge head on, came out of the experience holding their heads high, proud of their fantastic achievement!

Three others headed in the opposite direction to take part in a relay event giving their all and securing a significant placing and representing the club with pride!

While that was happening the water was replaced by two wheels as the trio in Tenby took to their bikes…

Up north a 6 hour event saw one of our runners reach an epic distance on a tough, hilly course in Yorkshire to scoop a second place finish and all the accolades that come with it!

As that was finishing our group down west were transitioning, two of them almost at the same time, from two wheels to two feet to make their way around the marathon route to complete their epic journey. 

As day turned to night they were still going and many sat on the edge of their seats at home following updates to hear of their heroic completion of what is considered worldwide as one of the toughest!  One coming back after completing Ironman several times, one cementing her double and one completing her first ever!  Absolutely amazing and worthy of high praise not only for the completion but also for the many months of hard training that go into crossing that finish line within the cut-off!

We went to sleep proud in the knowledge that they had all smashed their goals and were celebrating their amazing achievements.

Another week dawned and the weather remained pleasant.

With the successes of our fellow Phoenix still filling our thoughts training numbers were on the rise once again.  

The weekend saw the usual parkrun frenzy with celebrations at one of our home events as they obtained their defibrillator and one of our midst celebrated an unofficial milestone.  The usual tourists made their way elsewhere with one stealing the crown for a run down under.

Sunday brought with it mixed weather as the clouds massed overhead.  Events to the west drew many to their start lines.  Another multi-loop event attracted many with it’s friendly, low-key atmosphere.  All thoroughly enjoyed and provided mutual support for each other as they looped round for a varying number of times.  Cameraderie and support in abundance.

Further west another substantial group took to the flat and fast 10k on the seafront setting a plethora of personal bests and all enjoying the experience.

Our heroes moved one step closer to completing their course as they prepared for their final week leading up to graduation.

Another busy week – as is always the case when it comes to the Phoenix.

As we said goodbye to the week, the words of weather forecasters were ringing in our ears… rain was on it’s way…  Character building conditions!

Despite the conditions people turned up to train.  “If it’s raining, we’re training!” 

A successful midweek recce of the parkrun route on the seafront gave confidence to our heroes approaching graduation day.  

It was during the week that we received notice of a number of significant awards.  The club recognised for all the hard work done by everyone involved with a national accolade.  Not stopping their two of our number picked up further awards for their huge individual contributions to the club.  Phoenix flying high and everyone proud of it!

On Saturday, before many of us woke, a group were making their way to the airport to make a very special trip across to the Emerald Isle to complete a run that shares it’s name with the location of the very first time trial that gave rise to parkrun.  A great time was had by all on a trip that started in the middle of the night and ended right at the end of the day. 

Others, still earlier than a parkrun start, made their way to complete another multi-discipline event, some sharing the load to get the job done in admirable style with one celebrating a birthday at the same time! 

Back to Porthcawl and our heroes inaugural coincided with an international festival in the seaside town celebrating the life of the “King of Rock and Roll”.  Closed roads meant it was a unique course.  All battled the elements in less than perfect conditions to complete their goal with all runners at the finish to cheer and support them on their journey.   The festival had drawn special guests from parkrun HQ who stuck around at the end to cheer all runners home and joined in the group photo to assist with celebrations!

We move on to the last day of the week and several head to a village not too far away for a trail 10k that promised to be something of a mudfest.  Torrential rain on Saturday had done it’s job.  Confusion on the course led to some interesting stories but great fun was had by all!

While all of this was happening one of our award winners spent her first days with our national governing body coaching others to become leaders.  Growing the sport.

Yet again, stories abound.  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s often the story leading up to the moment of glory that tells the tale.  

The months of anguish.  
The hours put in to get the body ready.  
The hours put in to get the mind ready.  
The failures.  
Picking themselves back up again and getting back into it.  
The doubts.  
The fears.  
We all have them.
The grit and determination that win through to put them on the start line and drive them on to the finish.  
This goes whatever the distance. 
It doesn’t have to be long to have a story to tell.  
Whatever the story, everybody loves to share in it.  
Providing support and guidance to make it a smoother ride.  
Phoenix family mutual support doing it’s thing.
Phoenix pride for many reasons.
As someone said to me recently, “keep on keeping on”.
You know what follow…
#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 8th September 2019

The waffle is quickly becoming bi-weekly as Sunday’s become busy – but after a couple of weeks like we’ve had that means reviewing a lot more activity!

We’ve had a wide range of training sessions… We’ve taken runners onto the beach for a very important strength and conditioning session as well as stretching the legs along one of our favourite bits of coastline from Ogmore to Southerndown and back.  Downhill sessions on the dunes for trail mean lots of sand over the last couple of weeks.  All of this as well as the regular tempo and track sessions.   

Our heroes continued their journeys and are homing in on their graduation as they move forward through the programme and wow us with their amazing efforts to achieve their goals!  

In two weeks…

We’ve parkrunned.  A lot.  

Home is Porthcawl and Maesteg and at both locations we’ve turned up in our droves for our free 5k Saturday morning constitutional.  But many, and not just the usual suspects, jumped in a car well before 9am and headed off to add a new parkrun location to their ever expanding list.  We’ve had milestones.  We’ve seen PB’s.  Most important – we’ve seen big numbers. parkrun is something different to everyone.  It is whatever you want it to be.  Some weeks we go for it.  Some weeks we help someone else to a time or to get round.  Sometimes we just purely run for fun.  Sometimes, when injured, we walk it.  Staying connected.  Sharing the experience even if we can’t push it.  So important.  Maintaining sanity. 

We’ve raced.  A lot.

Last weekend one sacrificed a parkrun to chase The Bore along the banks of the Severn.  For the uninitiated The Bore is a tidal wave that happens once a year and travels up the Severn River. While he didn’t quite beat it, it was close and he enjoyed the experience.

A huge contingent made their way to the Welsh capital to cover a flat 6.2 mile route around the streets and parks of the city.  It wasn’t just running though. Some gave up their time to support the event by volunteering and handed out medals to reward the many thousands who were running.  75 club members tackled the distance.  Great effort and spirit was shown by all with fantastic performances and tales of endeavour!  It’s always a good excuse for a bit of a social afterwards too!  A great day and one that will leave lasting memories.

Two headed over the border to tackle a 10 mile route around an “old” English town and came back to tell the tale!

A few headed even further afield to tackle a half marathon event organised by a company that suggested it would be a “tough” event.  It tested them but they all made it to the end recording decent times for their effort!

Midweek races are slowing now that the nights are drawing in but the final race in our local league encouraged another record breaking turnout for this particular feature which involves two loops around a course on the beach while the tide is out.  Cementing our strong second position in the league there were incredible performances and valiant efforts from all those who ran.  As the sun slowly set on the beach, on what proved to be a stunning evening, every single runner dug deep to proudly deliver another amazing Phoenix result.

Leading into this weekend we saw one solitary runner tackle a 12 hour event on a tough looped course, recording another amazing result.  Significant positioning in the event and an incredible distance covered resulted in extra spoils for the hard work!  Inspiring stuff! 

A trio headed north to tackle the biggest half marathon in the UK on a day where the sun beat down and record spectators turned out to support.  A great experience for all with stories to tell on their return!

A collection of members headed up the valley to our spiritual home to an event supporting a charity that is working towards a world where people understand and talk openly about depression.  Some volunteered and some ran.  A tough trail route tested the legs but they all completed it admirably.  A very worthwhile day for many reasons.

Others headed down West to tackle various distances over a looped course in pleasant surroundings.  A well stocked checkpoint replenished fuel lost through running.  All picked up their medals as reward for their endeavour.

A group took on another charity challenge that followed a route from one castle to another.  A very worthy cause drew them there but the challenge itself wasn’t enough for some who opted to make the return journey on foot clocking up significant mileage in preparation for longer distances on the calendar in the future.

Two weeks done and they’ve been busy.  

Lots of training. Lots of running.  

Lots of Phoenix spirit on display.

There were a lot of stories.  All special in their own right.  Some were of long distance, some were of fast times.  But just as important are the ones of simply lacing up the trainers and heading out of the door.  Equally important are the ones of those who, unable or not wishing to run, gave up their precious time so others could.  We had stories of mutual support – the Phoenix way.  Supporting each other – often leading to discovery of abilities that some never even thought they possessed.  Being pushed out of their comfort zone.  Reminds us of those three words… Dream.  Believe.  Achieve.

Our ears are filled with pride of everyones endeavour. 

Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing.

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

August 2019 review

parkruns

This month saw our members accumulate 270 parkrun finishes over 60 different parkruns across a record 41 different parkrun venues.

Amongst many others, tourism included Medina (Isle of Wight), Westpark (Germany) and Aviemore (Scotland). We also had members at Barry Island and Billericay parkruns on the same day for all you Gavin and Stacey fans.

The month kicked off with a huge turnout of 41 members running at Maesteg for their 2nd year anniversary run. Adrian Pearce also bagged himself a first place at the same venue later in the month.

There were PB’s in the month for Annemarie Morgan, Tyler Howells, Rosaleen Salvatore, Julie Lewis, Toni Howells, Mike Bright, Chris Collin, Jonathan Loo and Gary Loo.

Chris Pratt became only the second member of the club to reach 300 parkruns whilst James Beynon, Martin Beard, Saul Harris and Fiona Drysdale all joined the 100 club.

We also had members at Barry Island and Billericay parkruns on the same day for all you Gavin and Stacey fans. The month kicked off with a huge turnout of 41 members running at Maesteg for their 2nd year anniversary run. Adrian Pearce also bagged himself a first place at the same venue later in the month. There were PB’s in the month for Annemarie Morgan, Tyler Howells, Rosaleen Salvatore, Julie Lewis, Toni Howells, Mike Bright, Chris Collin, Jonathan Loo and Gary Loo. Chris Pratt became only the second member of the club to reach 300 parkruns whilst James Beynon, Martin Beard, Saul Harris and Fiona Drysdale all joined the 100 club.

5K races

Aled, Nick and I ran the Cardiff Running Events Summer Sizzler 5K whilst the day after Nick and Aled were in action again with 3 others at the Versus Arthritis Swansea 5K.

10K races

The first weekend saw 32 runners at the Barry 10K. Understandably the attendance was a bit lower than the other 10K’s in the series (Cardiff, Newport and Porthcawl) largely due to the Beer Mile being the evening before. There were 6 of us who did both. Other reasons for lower attendance is that the Barry course isn’t the flattest 10K and just like last year, it was incredibly hot and humid.

Despite the conditions, Niki smashed it with a sub 40 time of 39:14 followed by Chris Wonka Williams in 43:57 whilst I can claim first out of the Beer Mile entrants with a 45:50. Our first lady was Claire DB in 48:04 followed by Emma Loyns and Jo Gamba. Elsewhere, Ken Salvatore ran an impressive 56:20 PB.

There were several other smaller 10K’s in month with Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion took on the Llandegfedd Reservior 10K, Chris Richards and Steve Nelson completed the Tough Runner Brechfa 10K and Chris was in action again later in the month at the Narbeth Nobbler 10K.

10 milers

The Brecon 10 miler saw 6 members in action with Adrian Pearce first back in a club age category record of 1:05:55 which means he know has all the records in his age category bar the marathon. David Kembery was next up followed by Brian Cotton. The final 3 all came through with PB’s – Liz Sim, Dawn Hopkins and Jayne Bissmire.

Half Marathons

42 members completed the Port Talbot Half Marathon with Adrian Pearce back first in another age category club record of 1:25:58. Our first female Phoenix was Claire DB in 1:49:29. The PB list included Jay Howells, Anthony Kavanagh, Tim Rees, Chris Richards, Kaye Pedler, Jamie Puddy, Stephne Puddy, Helen Griffiths and Sian Jenkins.

The Narberth Nobbler saw Denise Bradley, Fiona Evans and Melissa Humphreys complete the tricky course whilst we had 12 runners at the Severn Bridge Half Marathon on a very warm morning led back by Luke Jones in 1:47:57 with Sarah Davies the first Phoenix lady in 02:09:45.

Marathons

Bath Two Tunnels Marathon saw Steven James, Liz Sim, Chris Pratt and Jo Kendall complete the course with Liz getting a new marathon PB. Chris was back in action a week later for the Narberth Nobbler Marathon with Mike Bright and Angharad Hinam also completing the course.

Other races

The month kicked off in unusual fashion with 2 very different mile events. First up was the ‘murder mile’ which Aled and Nick took on. A single mile with almost 700 feet of elevation and a constant incline until the last 100 meters or so. The second one was the increasingly popular ‘beer mile’.

The ‘beer mile’ attracted 29 members this year to take on the challenge of a 100 meter run – drink a 330ml can of cider or beer (or new for this year, a 175ml glass of Prosecco) – run 600 meters – drink again – run 300 meters – drink another – run 300 meters – drink a forth time – then a final 300 meters to finish. Aled Hughes clocked a crazy time of 7 minutes and 12 seconds whilst 10-11 minutes was around the average. It certainly doesn’t end up in the familiar order of results we normally see.

Later in the month we would also see a ‘normal’ mile race with Aled and Niki taking on a flat road mile in Butetown.  Niki finished in 5:08 with Aled in 5:40.

Adrian Pearce and Aled Hughes took on the Machen Mountain Race on Bank Holiday Monday which included an eye watering 1000 feet of ascent in the first 2 miles before coming back down.

Multi-events

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Nick Harris, Jo Gamba and I took on the CPR (Cardiff Pentath Running) challenge. This involved running Cardiff parkrun, followed by a 10K in Pontcanna Fields at 12.30pm, a 4.5K Cross Country race on Llandaff Fields at 4.30pm all on the Saturday, and then on the Sunday a Half Marathon at 9am and finishing off with a 1 mile time trial at 1pm. The 5 events add up to exactly 26.2 miles and whilst you get results for all the individual events, it’s the cumulative time that matters. Conditions were very hot all weekend which made the challenge even tougher and there were many hours spent in Tesco café on Western Avenue between events to refuel and hydrate.

On the same weekend, Liz Sim was taking on a very similar challenge in Portishead. The team behind Ben Smith’s 401 marathons in 401 days (worth Googling if you don’t know about this) had set up a series of 4 races adding up to 26.2 miles. This involved a 5K run at 2.30pm on Saturday followed by a Half Marathon at 4.30pm. Then a 10K at 10am on the Sunday followed by 6.2K at 12.30pm to make it up to 26.2 miles.

BCRL

We had 85 members complete the 5th fixture of the Bridgend League at Newbridge Fields. A 3.6 mile race starting and finishing on the running track which was great for supporting at the end and some amazing sprint finishes. Gareth Battle was our first finisher closely followed by 5 other Phoenix all within 13 seconds of each other. Another strong performance by our top 15 and a massive turnout meant we finished as second team on the night and pretty much secured our second place in the league overall.

Over to Chris for Chairmans Runner of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Members out in force at training, August being the second highest monthly attendance of the year.   The warm weather not putting people off for sure.  Warm weather training is always popular!

Lots of events and lots of great performances as well as impressive stories of endeavour making it very difficult to choose from the midst of all the achievements.  As I’ve said before, it’s not always about pure achievement…

Sometimes a story will capture the attention.  We know that running fills a void for many people.  It’s a distraction from the rigours of life.  After a long passage of being away from running, often it’s signing up for an event that brings people back to it.  Training doesn’t always go well but sometimes the event still needs to be done to exorcise some demons.  Guts and determination are something I always admire.  Facing the adversity of the situation and pushing through it.  It doesn’t have to be a long way and it doesn’t have to be quick.  It’s all about meeting the challenge and seeing it through.  One such person took on a challenge against the odds.  Things hadn’t gone quite to plan but it was necessary to stand on the start line and face it head on.   Despite suffering blisters that would scare the more hardy of our bunch and finding it extremely tough, one of our midst dug in and pushed on to the bitter end.  Crossing the finish line not only indicated the end of a tough half marathon but also put pay to many doubts and fears about returning to running and began a positive push forward in life.  I am honoured to award my Chairman’s August Female Runner of the Month to Melissa Humphreys.  Well done Melissa.  Stick with it!  We are very proud of you.

My next choice is someone who has caught my eye on a number of occasions.  Also with a story to tell, my male choice for the accolade is someone who dedicates an incredible amount of time to family.   With a particular reason for doing so, time is incredibly precious.  Taking time out is very difficult but he manages it.  Running is often an aid to dealing with the rigours of daily life.  Not only that but events he does get to we are seeing improvements with two 10k’s completed during August and a new half marathon PB in Port Talbot.  We harbour many members who have stories to tell and it is often those stories that help to shape them into the person that they are.  Caring, thoughtful, dedicated and determined come to mind here.  Not only inspiring with his outlook on life and the commitment he makes to his family but also to the pastime which gives him respite.  I am incredibly proud to announce my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for August to Chris Richards.  Well done Chris. I’m sure there’s much more to come.  Keep on inspiring us.

Weekly Waffle – 27th August 2019

Again it’s been two weeks and a great deal has happened…

Not two weeks since the last one and we find ourselves gathering for another fixture of the BCRL.  Out in numbers once again topping the charts for participation.  Combined with that and excellent running around the Newbridge Fields course and back through the woods for two laps produced another fantastic second place finish!   Phoenix out in force and maintaining their reputation of flying high!

Warm weather training appealed to many and numbers were good despite the racing leading up to the weekend which invariably starts with a favourite 5k event.  It happens every Saturday, without fail.  An unofficial milestone was celebrated locally at one of our home runs.  Large numbers in attendance everywhere with the usual glut of tourists spreading their wings and finding locations far and wide.

The warm weather continued into Sunday as races appeared on the calendar.  A couple travelled west to tackle another Tough Runner event, taming the hills in style.  

Another couple headed to a reservoir to complete another tough 10k route running together to share the load.

A few crossed the border to a historic city to run through converted railway tunnels and circumnavigate the city on canal toe paths to reach their goals.  

A great weekend of running that saw Phoenix rallying together to get the job done in adverse running conditions.  While spectators relish the warmth of the sun, runners tear it.  Energy sapping it can easily turn a race of comfortable distance into a real challenge.  All met the challenge head on and completed the job in hand admirably!

A week done and into the new.

Inspired by the weekends running numbers increased at training with loops around Parc Slip leading into track sessions and combined with our heroes continuing their journey to reach their goal.  As time progresses they get ever closer to their goal.  Leaders and experienced runners turn out in force to support our runners who are making excellent progress.

Friday saw the inaugural event to mark the start of the Pride Cymru Big weekend.  A run that attracted over 100 runners.  A weekend to recognise and celebrate the importance of inclusion and diversity within society.  Something that fits perfectly with our ethos of being all-inclusive.  A few members were in attendance to share in the amazing atmosphere building in to the weekend of celebration.

parkrunday arrived.  Numbers were good but slightly dwindled by the presence of a local and popular 10k race taking in a section of local coastline that we’re all very familiar with.  Many tourists found new locations alongside our usual home runners. For some the parkrun was a part of a two day challenge combining different events to make a total marathon distance.

For one other Saturday saw the start of another two day multi-event challenge across the border organised to raise funds for a very worthy foundation. 

Popular Saturday races sometimes mean quiet Sundays.  Not the case here.  

Early rise for some who headed way down west to tackle a nobbling route of various distances.  All completed the course with stories of hardship to tell.  

Our band of merry men (and a lady) continued their collection of events in the capital to reach their goal and earn the spoils.  

A larger contingent travelled east to target an event that crossed borders.  Two distances.  Two countries.  High above the water they ran.  Looping round and tackling “the hill” they made their way back to cross the finish line to collect their medals and t-shirts.  The sun tested their metal but they all battled through to regale their stories.

Our solitary runner continued her challenge over the border to collect a multitude of medals for her effects presented for display in a unique wooden cube design.  Always nice to receive something different to mark a special occasion!

Two dropped their regular distances to chase a one mile time and both finished with fantastic results.

A bank holiday weekend always attracts extras and as the extra day off arrived two souls travelled to tackle a fell race with impressive vert in the heat and lived to tell the tale with impressive times.

Our muti-discipline contingent were out again to rack up more results at a seafront event.

While all of this is going on our hard working beginners are progressing further through their programme reminding us of how hard work and determination will produce results.  Heroes without doubt.

It never fails to amaze me the diversity of events that we do.  It also fills me with immense pride when we turn up to events and wow others with our huge turnout.  The Phoenix continues to impress wherever we go.  We are noticed and remembered.  This is largely down to our great heart and spirit.  it exudes from us all and is something that people we meet absorb and recall when they see us again.  An experience I have had a couple of times this week.  A positive lasting impression.

Fantastic performances throughout the club with many stories of endeavour.  Hard work and determination seeing many through to cross the finish line despite testing circumstances.

Positivity courses throughout, but when things are good we must take a moment to remember those who are struggling with injury.  The ones who are unable to join us on start lines.  The effect on their well-being can be severely affected by this and we must continue to rally round and remind them that we are here for them.  When they come to mind drop them a line.  A text.  A message.  A phone call.  Just to say you’re thinking of them.

Keep up the good work guys.  

You are all superstars!

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 11th August 2019

Again it’s been a fortnight…

Life got in the way and prevented another weekly review so it’s time to catch up…

Rewind a little and memories will return of sand.  Lots of sand.  It was a Wednesday night and another edition of the Bridgend County Running League.  A fixture that’s loved and hated at the same time drew the Phoenix in significant quantity.  Runners, supporters and volunteers.  Another significant result was achieved with all those who ran being rewarded with copious quantities of cake!

While all this took place our new batch of heroes took the next steps on their journey in significant numbers.  A delight to see.  Between training and racing 130 of the club keeping active on one night!

High numbers up the valley in our spiritual home saw out the week of training but two rounded the week off with a trip to the east to tackle a tough climb very aptly named The Murder Mile and were rewarded at the top with beer!  This led us on to parkrunday where a new club record attendance was set.  Phoenix out in their droves at 12 locations in 3 different countries.  Maesteg, a home run for many, celebrated it’s second birthday with a huge Phoenix contingent taking part in one way or another.  The famous duo fancy dress theme temped several into the party spirit for the morning. 

The afternoon was an annual pilgrimage for many as the ever popular Beer mile drew many to don fancy dress once again for an event that continues to appeal every year.  4 beers, one mile.  More of a challenge than it sounds.  A great deal of fun was had by all as the party continued into the night…

The sun rose on a warm Sunday morning.  

A compact and bijou group followed the A470 north to Brecon.  Starting and ending on a track, 10  scenic miles were the order of the day and impressive results were obtained in the process.

The home of Gavin and Stacey drew large numbers onto the Island for the next 10k in a very popular local series.  Great numbers, great results and great fun was enjoyed by all.

And all the while our heroes continued to push their boundaries discovering new potential they never knew existed.

Saying goodbye to the week and saying hello to another.

The forecast changed.  The heatwave was disappearing giving way to more typical conditions.  Rain.

Training in the week saw a trip to Merthyr Mawr and back and a tough track session that always tests those who take part but, suitable for all, it’s these sessions that make us better.  Meanwhile our heroes continued to develop.  A huge group made their way to Ogmore to tackle the popular and tough climb to Bwlch Y Clawdd and back down.

Midweek events still abound and this week was no exception.  A 5k event in the capital saw a few line up on the start line to record some more events in their calendar.  The following night some also took to the seafront in Swansea once again to complete the same distance event in aid of a very worthy charity.

The weather finally turned and storms lashed the area.  Saturday morning saw a plethora of parkrun cancellations in the locale.  Some managed to find locations that were still running while many were already planning tourism that allowed them to get their 5k fix in.

One completed a tough looped course marathon to increase the total on a personal challenge.  A unique medal was the reward for a successful day.

Despite the weather continuing to test we saw large numbers head down to the local half marathon that always attracts us in large numbers.  Despite the conditions and the hilly profile it produced significant results for those who took it on.  

The weather didn’t defeat our heroes continuing their quests as they bravely fought the conditions to battle towards their eventual goal with guts and determination.  True Phoenix spirit already growing within!

What an amazing two weeks!  

Brilliant to see numbers at training on the rise as well as numbers taking part in events of all distances.  Phoenix spirit shining through in every case.

It’s simple – keep doing what you’re doing and if you need any support then just turn one way or another and you can be assured there will be a Phoenix by your side to guide you through.

You lot are simply awesome!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub