Janaury 2021

Virtual / (not)parkrun

Week 43 of virtual parkrun saw the December male runner of the month, Gareth Richards, run another astonishing time of 18:27 having clocked his first sub 19 last month. Our fastest female was the in form Melanie Thomas who clocked her fastest 5K and 10K’s in the past few weeks. There were 39 runners for the first virtual parkrun of the month.

Week 44 saw our biggest attendance in a while with 51 members submitting times. Kris Denholm set out to prove his outstanding sub 19 5K time on New Years Eve certainly wasn’t a fluke / GPS error / one-off with a 18:33. Whilst Neil Price made it a rare virtual parkrun week with two sub 20’s on the results list. Angharad Hinam ran a speedy treadmill 5K of 24:30 with the in form Melanie Thomas next up for the ladies.

Week 45 saw 45 times submitted and Neil Price topping the results just ahead of Rhodri Thomas who clocked his fastest 5K with a 19:43. Angharad was again the fastest female with another treadmill 5K with Fiona Drysdale up next for the ladies.

Week 46 saw another increase with 53 times submitted despite icy conditions. In a repeat of last week, Neil Price topped the standings, whilst Angharad again clocked the fastest treadmill time with Fiona Drysdale next up for the ladies.

Week 47 saw another increase with 69 times submitted despite cold and windy conditions. This week, Kris Denholm topped the standings with Angharad and Fiona again clocking the fastest times for the ladies.

Festive Four

Well done to Carl Walsh who finished 3rd overall in the Age Graded results with Gareth Davies in 7th. Carl Walsh was also 3rd in the standings in terms of cumulative times from all events / distances run whilst Gareth Davies was 9th and Carl Price was 10th. Sian Price was 2nd overall in the cumulative times standings with Melanie Thomas in 10th. Sian and Carl also featured heavily in the top 3 of all 4 individual events they entered with Sian winning the ladies Boxing Day virtual run, and Carl top of the age graded standings in the first virtual parkrun results of the series.

OPR Sunrise Challenge

The club challenges are back! The race committee set us the challenge of setting our alarms early and getting out to do a sunrise run and capturing photo’s from our various locations. The weather was kind (for 2 out of the 3 days anyway) to allow some stunning photos and videos to submitted by dozens of members. Well done to everyone who managed to get out early for that one.

Photo Competition

A photo competition also commenced this month with members encouraged to post their running photo’s to a January specific post with winner being decided for each month of the year.

Virtual training sessions

Current restrictions meant that there were no training sessions to attend in person this month, but the coaches and Lirfs kept us active by posting sessions and suggestions on the usual training days. Emma Loyns also revived her strength classes that had been popular in the first lockdown.

Virtual events

For most this month it has been continuing long challenges from last year. David Sheard completed the Welsh Coastal Path Challenge whilst several more are still going. A few have signed up to new ones like Route 66 which allow other forms of exercise to be included – it’s almost to obvious to even point out that Kris Denholm is already well into that one. Several members also did the annual RED (run every day) January or some chose to change it to exercise every day. If your a member reading this and I haven’t mentioned your virtual event, then feel free to get in touch and I’ll make sure it gets a mention in the next blog.

I’ll include details of the Welsh Athletics Winter Virtual 10K in the next blog as at the time of publishing not all the results are in.

Crazy distance runs

With a lack of official events and it being reasonably quiet on the virtual front, a few have kept going with some high mileage weeks and one off runs into this year. Sarah Davies ran from Tondu to pretty much Margam and back to clock up a marathon distance having apparently set out to do a 7 mile run. Gareth Richards ran marathons on 4 consecutive weekends and got quicker each time with times of 3:28, 3:26, 3:20 and 3:26. The 3:20 one was his fastest ever marathon distance run despite an undulating route to Porthcawl and back.

Steven James ran between 20 and 26.2 miles on 4 occasions during the month with his marathon effort being in the snow. Plus there were several double run days which meant that 20+ mile total was even higher when you include those. I ran a 27 miler taking in Llangenior and then down to Porthcawl and back, and also a 33 miler from Bridgend to the top of the Bwlch to Ogmore by sea and then back home to Bridgend again plus a double run day totalling 20 miles.

I just want to add that it’s easy to pick out these bonkers distances but I really want to say a massive congratulations and well done to anyone who ran their furthest distance in January whether that be anything from a mile to marathon.

Over to Chris for the runners of the month…

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

This month we have a coincidence that will become clear as I reveal who they are…

Always remember that criteria for this award changes frequently.  It doesn’t have to be about being fast or doing something crazy – it can simply be someone who shows endeavour.  Someone who puts in that little bit of extra effort enough to get noticed.  Maybe someone who helps out a friend to achieve or whose motivation and support catches the eye.  It is many and varied and fits in with our ethos of being all-inclusive and nurturing all to realise their dreams.

My first choice is most notably with us for the trails.  I think it would be fair of me to say that it was our trail running endeavours which have been the attraction for joining.  Sunday morning sessions.  Yes they are an early start, but they are increasingly popular.  Before we suspended training again, they were becoming even more so.  Regularly full.  Popular, with many regular attendees, but there was one name you’d always find on there week in, week out.  That was the carrot.  The thing that drew them in.  But it wasn’t just attendance that caught the eye, it was joined by notable times.  Engaging with club virtuals, weekly improvements were being noted.  Commitment and focus were also observed.  We’ve seen posts showing times tumbling at distances.  We’ve noted placement in parkrun results and an impressive finish in the Festive Four competition.  It seems that nothing is out of reach and you will see her on many start lists for virtual events that currently dominate the calendar.  I am delighted to announce that my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for January is Melanie Thomas.  Well done Mel, keep up the good work inspiring us all!  Welcome to the club!

My second choice will make clear the coincidence.  I don’t think there was any doubt at some point my that my second choice would find his way onto this list.  It’s happened before where it’s been that an immediate impression was made and this month was no exception on both counts.  There have been fast times and long distances recorded.  This accolade could have been given on previous months performances but I knew the time would come to celebrate the achievements.  Not least, notching up a significant third place finish overall in the Festive Four, which combined a number of events over December and on the first day of the year and recording a result near the top of the list for all of the events.  Alongside this comes support.  The ethos of the club is strong in this one.  Supporting anyone on their journey with words of encouragement whatever they may be doing.  There will, of course, be the odd crazy distance or crazy elevation thrown in for good measure, at the moment on training runs.  Last year he was one of the few who managed to notch up some legitimate race results during the very brief period when events were allowed.  I am delighted to announce that my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for January is Carl Walsh.  Well done Carl, I’m absolutely certain we will continue to see further impressive stuff in the future!  Keep it up Carl and, of course, welcome to the club!

2020 review

parkrun and virtual parkrun

Despite the opportunity to only attend 14 parkruns this year (including the New Years Day Double) our members clocked up 877 parkruns across 63 different parkrun venues.

Dai James became the first of our current members to run a sub 18 parkrun with 17:42 at Porthcawl whilst the Phoenix Flyers managed to get a trip to Swansea Bay organised just in time for Nicky Bennett to record a 17:20 to become the fastest 5K runner in the club. Anneliese Loveluck recorded the fastest female parkrun time of the year with 21:07 at Cosmeston Lakes parkrun.

Several runners achieved ‘parkrun tourist’ status in the first 3 months of the year with more members than ever regularly choosing to go to different parkrun venues and an increasing number doing that on a weekly basis. International tourism included the Littlewood’s in Paris, a group including Sarah Davies, Dawn Hopkins, Alexis and Paul Barrett that went to Poland, and Karl Johnson going to the Netherlands for their first parkrun weekend. That Saturday happened to coincide with the 29th February – the first time there’s ever been a chance to run a parkrun on that date and only occurs every 28 years.

There were milestone celebrations with Jayne Powney, Fiona Drysdale, James Beynon and Mark Worrall all running their 100th parkruns, Spare a thought for Nige Rees who for the last 9 months has been stuck on 99 parkruns whilst Chris Roberts is also just one parkrun from the next milestone t-shirt on 249 parkruns.

The final parkruns of the year took place on the 14th March and from the week after, we started ‘virtual parkrun’ which we kept going for the 41 remaining Saturdays of the year. Numbers were huge in the first few weeks and throughout ‘lockdown 1’ with 60+ runners submitting times to the weekly post put up by myself or Pippa every week. We peaked at 86 for the clubs ‘lockdown 5K’ which I’ll come onto later.

Numbers have dropped throughout the year but in many cases this has been either due to easing of restrictions meaning people had other plans, weather, shorter days or other events. By the end of the year, numbers were around 20-40 each week although there still appears to be a core group who do most if not every week. In fact, there are still 5 members who haven’t missed a week – Alun Wylde, myself (Gareth Jenkins), Jo Gamba, Nick Harris and Nicola Allen. Nicola is actually on course to have done more virtual parkruns (41) than actual parkruns (52) in the next couple of months. Several others have barely missed a week including Sarah Davies, Sara Davies and Tammie Baker.



The Tough Runner 10K saw Anneliese Loveluck set the fastest 10K race time of the year with a 47:48 which was good enough for first in age category and second female overall. Aled Hughes clocked the fastest official 10K of the year with 42:59 at the hilly Margam 10K which included a PB for Philippa Rees.

Martin Beard ran the Bath Skyline 10K on consecutive days, We had several runners at the Winter Warmer 10K in Cardiff where Claire Dunbar Bowen missed out on beating the fastest female time of the year by 4 seconds.

12 members took on the tough multi-terrain Wormshead trail 10K as part of this years club trail championships whilst we had several members at the Pontypool 10K.

Later in the year, restrictions lifted enough for Niki Puleio and Carl Walsh to run the Severn Bridge 10K at the end of August before race opportunities again became mostly virtual.

Half Marathons

Early in the year, 7 runners took on the Hoka Winter Trail HM with Paul Smith being our first member across the line in an incredible time of 1:38:01 considering the course has almost 2000 feet of elevation. Anneliese Loveluck was 1st female overall in 1:45 with Steve Loveluck first in his age category just a minute behind. We also had several members at the Red Kite Trail Half Marathon.

Sara Johns ran the Scandicci Half Marathon in Florence, Italy in a PB of 2:40.

This year did include a couple of bigger half marathons with 17 of our runners joining thousands of others at the Newport Half Marathon where we were led home by Claire Dunbar Bowen in 1:43:43. I was our first male runner across the line in 1:47:24. There were PB’s for Rebecca Newton and Claudine Nicholson Lewis.

A week later we had 32 runners at the rearranged Llanelli Half Marathon which had been scheduled for a month earlier but called off due to storms. Dai James smashed his PB and clocked 1:21:36 which is another club age category record as well as making him the fastest member in the club. What makes the time even more remarkable is that the course was measured 0.2 miles long by pretty much everyone and we had strong headwinds on the coastal section. Next up was Ryan Evans with a 1:24:37 PB and Wayne Hayhurst with a PB of 1:29:27. There were also PB’s for Keith Coleman, James Dennison, Sian Thomas, Stephne Puddy, Kyleigh Lecrass, Cath Griffiths, Leanne Puleio and Heather Morgan. Niki Puleio and I were both pacers at the event whilst several members volunteered as marshals in testing conditions on the day.

Emma Loyns ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Florida which seems bonkers looking back on now as that was just a month before we all ended up in lockdown.

By Sunday 15th March, 90% of events were cancelled so it was possibly with a bit of controversy that the Bath Half Marathon and the MK Festival of Running did continue, Eryl James ran Bath HM in 2:55:07 with Jo and I running the Milton Keynes Half Marathon making it 3 half marathons in 3 weeks. We had another booked for the weekend after but I believe the MK Festival of Running was last event that any of our members ran for several months.


With Newport, Manchester and London being cancelled, there were dozens of members who had started marathon training but didn’t get a race to complete. Restrictions lifted enough for the Bath Two Tunnels Marathon to go ahead in August which Carl Walsh ran.

Niki Puleio was one of those affected by the marathon cancellations more than most. He was due to run London and Chicago marathons which were both postponed (twice), so set about trying to find another which he did with the Goodwood Marathon in December. He finally had a bit of good fortune in between lockdowns to be allowed to attend the event and finished the 19 lap circuit in an incredible PB of 2:55:01. It was later confirmed that this ranked him 9th in the country for Marathon performances this year.


Early in the year, Steve James ran the 40 mile Winter Wychavon Way which he described as a ‘relentless mudfest with ankle deep for at least 35 miles and 2 miles towards the end with knee deep mud’.

The Brecon to Cardiff ultra went ahead in horrendously wet and stormy conditions that led to several members having to pull out during the run for risk to their health. Steven James managed to keep himself warm by running an outstanding time of 7:00:22 for the 44 mile course. Kris Denholm was next in 9:00:58 with Liz Sim, Luke Jones, Angharad Hinman and Mark Worrall all completing the course.

Liz Sim and Steven James ran the 40 mile Millennium Way Ultra together in 9 hours and 18 minutes making it two ultras for Liz and three for Steven in just the first 3 months of the year.

A few of us were very fortunate enough for the Dragon races to fall just before local lockdowns came in during September. I completed my first 50 mile ultra, whilst Liz Sim and Steven James completed the 100 mile event.

Other races

The first day of the year saw 24 runners take on the Kenfig Prince of Wales run which was the final event of the Festive Four. Niki Puleio led our runners home just ahead of Adrian Pearce. Our first lady was Sarah Davies followed by Liz Davis. Anne Lalic completed the event and picked up 3rd place in the Festive Four most improvement category where times are compared to seasons bests.

Adrian and Aled took on the Kymin Winter Race – a 4.2 mile fell race. 15 runners took on the popular Riverbank Rollick for yet more mud and mayhem.

We had a great turnout of 22 runners for the Margam Reservoir fixture of the West Glamorgan XC league. An interesting ‘Cross Country’ fixture to say the least with its 2 laps of the reservoir… on tarmac paths. Paul Smith was our first runner back with Aled, Steven James, myself and Kris Denholm making up the scorers for the men. Jo Gamba was our first lady back followed by Bev Sheard, Claire Goldsworthy, Claire Worthington and Stephne Puddy to make up the first 5 scorers. The second and final XC fixture that happened this year was back in February with the Margam Park fixture. Another great turnout with one of our strongest teams assembled for a XC fixutre for the men with Gareth Battle, Nicky Bennett, Adrian Pearce, Steven James and James Dennison making up our scorers. For the ladies, great performances from Fiona Drysdale, Liz Sim, Jo Gamba, Rosie Salvatore and Bev Sheard made for another strong team score.

We had 19 runners for the first trail championship race of the year at the CF64 race around Cosmeston Lakes with the 2019 champion Adrian Pearce picking up maximum points whilst 2018 champion Emma Loyns was first lady back ahead of 2019 champion Sarah Davies.

At the Lliswerry 8, Wayne Hayhurst was our first runner back in an impressive 52:28. Only Neil Jones in his time with the club has run the course faster than that time.

A few runners took on the RogueRuns night race in Chepstow whilst Adrian Pearce, Aled Hughes and Emma Loyns took on the Blorenge Night Race – both very challenging courses without the addition of running them in dark with only head torches to light the way.

Aled, Claire DB, Nick and Sarah D braved stormy weather conditions to complete the latest installment of the Severn Bridge 5 mile series. Claire DB set a new 5 mile PB and club age category record with 39:06.

Liz Davis, Chris Pratt and Kayley Griffiths set the first 10 mile times of the year at the Reverse 10.

BCRL presentation

The final Saturday of the month saw a presentation take place in the Hi-Tide after Porthcawl parkrun to award the Festive Four and BCRL winners. As already mentioned, we did have one Festive Four winner with Anne Lalic but we really excelled at the BCRL where awards were given to the top 3 in each 5 year age category. Our list included… 1st place in age category Adrian Pearce, Kevin Raymond, Clifford Searle, Sian Price and Denise Bradley. 2nd place in age category for Paul Smith, Garry Jones and Hannah Knight. 3rd place in age category for Ryan Evans and Mike Nicholson Lewis.

Virtual events – weekend challenges

With all races postponed / cancelled from the end of March onwards, the club came up with initiative new ways of keeping members active, especially throughout the first lockdown.

Miles – The first challenge was simple – how far could we run between us all. There were 157 entries over the weekend and we accumulated 848.24 miles.

Elevation – week 2 saw members challenged to accumulate as much elevation gain as possible over the weekend. 126 activities were recorded with 72,824 feet of elevation which is the equivalent of climbing Everest nearly 2 and half times!

Calories / London Marathon – on the weekend that many of us should have been doing the London Marathon, the 2.6 challenge was launched. The weekend challenge was to see how many London Marathon’s worth of calories we could burn off between us using 2,626 as the calorie target per marathon. This time cycling or circuit classes could also be used as activities to count towards the total. 116 activities were recorded over the two days with 83,030 calories burned which using our 2,626 per marathon works out at around 31.5 London Marathons.

Phoenix Travel Agents – the idea was that we promoted our local area through photo’s and videos which could be done tongue in cheek or more seriously. There were some fantastic entries with videos of most areas of the Bridgend county included plus some alternative entries such as Heather Morgan showing the sites of all past and present schools in the Ogmore Valley (of which there were almost 20) and I did past and present races around Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan. Jo Gamba also set up ‘Phoenix Window’ which became a regular selfie opportunity as members ran past our house.

75th anniversary of VE Day – this one had runners encouraged to submit miles to complete the distance from Ogmore to Reims, France and then onto Berlin, Germany. A total of 1350 miles. Additions to the challenge included wearing red, white and blue, drawing VE with your activity trace, and taking selfies with any street names starting with V or E (we discovered that street names starting with V were quite few and far between). Only counting miles that were within the 75 minute limit we achieved 1,186 miles whilst without the limit we achieved an amazing 1,345 miles. Liz Sim also marked VE day by running 75 miles in the first 8 days of the month.

Street Names – the idea was to find street names beginning with O, P and R, and then find ones starting with the letters of your first name. For those that wanted to take the challenge a bit further they could attempt to spell Ogmore Phoenix Runners with a street name containing the letter X being allowed considering there aren’t any locally. Dozens of members got involved. Some even went as far as spelling out Ogmore Phoenix Runners plus their full name. Others bent the rules slightly and used shop or other street signs to help or ones that just included their first names / surnames anyway. All a bit of fun and getting members exploring their local areas.

1000 miles – tied in with members doing the P24 which I’ll come onto later, the challenge was to see if our members could run 1000 miles between us in just a 24 hour period. We smashed it with 1257 miles which beat our opening weekend ‘miles’ challenge by almost 50% which was over 2 days, and almost as much as our VE day weekend challenge which was over 3 days.

Virtual events – monthly or longer

Jayne Bissmire did an outstanding job throughout the year to keep us all motivated with over 100 different runners signing up for one or more of her team challenges. The first was Miles for Mind in May. The Run Around the World challenge was throughout July in which the team ran an incredible 8,138 miles to finish 2nd overall. In October the Phoenix Knights team assembled again for Leave Nothing but Footprints. Then we finished the year with the Run Up to Christmas from 1st December to Christmas Eve. Jayne kept spirits high and runners motivated throughout with regular updates. Some of the challenges involved setting mileage targets and in dozens of cases, members ran their own personal record mileage months with many running 50 / 100 / 150 or even 200+ miles for the first time in a single month.

Longer challenges included LEJOG and the Welsh Coastal Path Challenge. The LEJOG challenge was originially set for runners to attempt to cover the distance from Lands End to John O’Groats (874 miles) in just 6 months – however, they did extend it by a couple of months to allow more to finish. The Welsh Coastal Path challenge is a similar distance but without the time limits and many of our members are still on the virtual journey around the Welsh coastline. Towards the end of the year there was also the Everest challenge where runners had to attempt to run the elevation of Everest over a number of weeks.

Virtual Club Championship

Orginially all fixtures for this championship were to be run during training sessions so like everything else, we needed to go virtual after just 1 event that did go ahead at the track back in January. Details of the events can be found in the monthly blogs so I’ll just remind everyone of the events titles and winners

Event 1 – The Track World Cup – Nicky Bennett

Event 2 – 1 Mile Time Trial – Rob Loyns

Event 3 – 2 Mile Time Trial – Claire Dunbar-Bowen

Event 4 – 3 Mile Time Trial – Judith Howells

Event 5 – 4 Mile Time Trial – Keith Coleman

Event 6 – OPR Lockdown 5K – Emyr Bissmire

Event 7 – Maesteg parkrun virtual takeover – Sarah Davies

Event 8 – Downhill mile – Ken Salvatore

Event 9 – Cheat 5K / Ross Barkley 5K – Sarah Davies

Event 10 – Elevation challenge – Ken Salvatore

Well done to Sarah Davies who won the championship with Ken Salvatore second and Fiona Drysdale in third.

Virtual ‘races’

Virtual races were very popular this year with many of the events that were cancelled offering virtual options with the chance to still earn the medal and t-shirt. There were also a series of virtual races where runners could get time taken off their overall running time with the more elevation they ran which myself, Sarah Davies, Adrian Pearce and Sian Jenkins amongst others regularly entered. One of the most popular series was the Aberavon 5K series which went virtual this year with top 3 age category placing for Claire Dunbar Bowen and Denise Bradley.

Earlier in the year, several of us took on the Race to the Stones virtual challenge with some running 100K in the 7 days that it took place. A few took on the OTT Elevation challenge which set runners a target of almost 5000 feet of elevation in just one week.

Welsh Athletics even got in on the virtual racing with some competitive mile, 5K and 10K events which saw times submitted from some of Wales top athletes right through to runners taking on the distance for the first time. Cardiff Running Events went virtual for their usual Summer Series of 1, 2, 3 and 4 mile time trials and such was the success of those, they ended up continuing and doing a 1, 2, 3 and 4 kilometers series and some longer distances as one-offs after that. Even we got in on the act with our own 5K virtual race using the Open Track website to sign up and submit results which was the place to go for virtual events for the most of the year.

Arguably the biggest one-day virtual event was the London Marathon. 30 OPR runners took on the 26.2 miles in our local area with times ranging from my 3 hours 45 minutes to some who walked it in over 10 hours. Several members took on the distance for the first time as well either in the London virtual or others that went virtual this year. Many other members took on the Snowdonia virtual marathon plus there was also a charity event to do a ‘Marathon in a Day’ giving runners the opportunity to team up to complete the 26.2 miles or do the distance within 24 hours but split over 2 days.

Phoenix Running Virtual Events

A company we became particularly aware of was Phoenix Running Events – Chris Pratt had done a couple of their actual races last year but it was their alternative virtual challenges with huge shiny medals that caught a lot of our members’ attention. In June, 26 of us took on the P24 which was a challenge to run 1 mile, on the hour, every hour, from 8am on Saturday morning with the final run at 7am on Sunday morning. A few of us ended up doing more than 1 mile on some of them with many topping up to marathon distance whilst I clocked up 45 miles during the event with Gregg Harris and Chris Richards both doing over 30 miles.

In July, there was the P7in7 which set runners a challenge of running every day from Monday to Sunday at the end of the month with a minimum distance of 1 mile per day. Again, I took the opportunity to challenge myself and ended up doing 107 miles in 7 days with runs ranging from 13.1 to 16 miles each day. Several others achieved their highest weekly totals with many choosing to go for 7 miles each day. The challenge was run again in the 7 days leading up to Christmas with Sarah Davies and others amongst a smaller group who signed up for that one.

In October they ran another P24 except this one had a twist. It was run over the weekend the clocks went back so it was actually 25 hours. Now it’s probably a reflection on how tough the event is that hardly anyone who did the June version signed up again for the October version so kudos to Leanne Parsons and Chris Roberts who I believe were the only ones to do both. A number of other members also completed it for the first time. The company ran the event again in the weekend before Christmas and again on December 31st but I think all of our members that were interested in taking on the event were satisified with their previous attempts and to leave it there! I’m sure it might be popular again should they run it in the summer next year and something I think people would still sign up for even when events return.

The Sunflower Relay

Early in the first lockdown Liz Sim and Steven James came up with the idea of a virtual relay. The idea was that a member would carry a virtual sunflower from one location to another, taking photos along the way of places that might meant something to them, or the club, or just because it was a nice route / setting. Another member would then volunteer to take on the next leg and start from where ‘Sally the Sunflower’ had been dropped off and go onto another location of their choice. It proved hugely popular and we ended up with a waiting list and people snapping up the next leg within minutes or sometimes seconds of the previous one being posted. It ended with more than 20 members joining Liz Sim for part or all of a marathon distance run from the top of Bwlch to Porthcawl for the 100th leg with an estimated 850 miles being run by our members from the end of March to the end of August.

Team Relays

The biggest single event of the year was the Builth Wells and District Relay (BaD Relay) which took place in June. Little did I know that when I volunteered to put a team together that I would end up with 5 teams and 123 members involved. The relay started at 5am and finished at 8pm with most runners doing 30 minute slots. We then had one team of ‘long distance’ runners made up of just Steven James, Kris Denholm, Chris Pratt and Simon Harrison who would run the 15 hours between just 4 of them. We also had 1 team made up of ‘Phoenix Flyers’ who finished 9th overall in the standings. Some teams also included juniors meaning we had runners aged from 6 years old to 60+.

The relays were repeated again in October and this time we had 110 runners across 6 teams with a mixture of 30 and 60 minute slots for most. We again had a competitive ‘Flyers’ team who did even better than the first relay and finished 3rd overall.

The top 3 in the October relay were Run4All, Port Talbot Harriers and OPR, so an idea was hatched that the 3 clubs set up their own relay. This one would be over 2 days with 30 minute slots from 6am to 6pm meaning 48 runners in total. It was done on a first come, first served basis rather than choosing the ‘best 48 avaiable’ which is what the other two clubs said they had done. Another great weekend of running and a third placed finish behind some crazy fast performances from the other clubs.

I have no doubt that there’ll be more of these relay events early in 2021 and again it may be something that continues even when races return.

Personal Challenges

On top of the vast amount of virtual challenges on offer, some members also took it upon themselves to set their own personal goals. This ranged from first 10K’s to weekly or monthly mileage targets and in some cases more extreme. There are too many to mention but some that stood out include Dai James, Neil Price, Gareth Richards, Kris Denholm and Sian Thomas who all ran their fastest marathon times by just getting out there and doing it (not as part of a race or virtual event). Jo Gamba set herself a challenge of running 20 Half Marathon distances or more in 2020 and ended up doing 30. I was going to do the same challenge and ended up running 61 distances of half marathon or more.

Liz Sim, Gareth Richards, Steven James and Kris Denholm all ran ultra marathon distances of between 30-50 miles – again, just because, and not part of race or virtual event. Steven James ran a ‘Fastest Known Time’ for the Limestone Way 40 mile route. I ran 100K (62.2 miles) in 12 and a half hours for my own personal challenge.

Kris Denholm completed LEJOG, Wales Coastal Path and the Everest challenge, and also ran every day of the year to clock up 3000 miles for the year finishing with an astonishing 18:12 fastest 5K on the final day of the year despite having never broken 20:00 in an official event. Several of us ran 2020 miles in 2020 (averaing around 5.5 miles per day) which included myself, Gareth Richards, Dai James and Neil Price amongst others. Sarah Davies clocked up more virtual events than anyone else on her way to clocking over 2000 miles.

Of course, it’s not just about those about those top 5% of crazy mileage members as throughout our ever expanding membership group there were a huge number who ran their fastest times of the year, longest single distance and / or highest mileage week / month / annual total.

Virtual Training Sessions

The first lockdown meant a lenghty period of not being able to gather for training sessions with sporadic stop / starts since the summer. Throughout those times our coaches and Lirfs have posted on the usual training days to set us a training plan whether it be hills, efforts or sometimes just a bit of fun like discovering a new route or taking some photos on a run. Our Welsh Athletics award winning coach, Emma Loyns, even did some online core strength sessions early in the lockdown period which proved popular with many members.

Other highlights

Jayne Bissmire did multiple posts on some of our ‘key workers’ that we have in the club which was a great insight to a variety of different roles that our members do for their day to day occupations and a nice way to say thank you for their hard work.

Chris Pratt was invited to do a Ted Talk around ‘building a community through running’ which can be found here

Chris also done an hour long webinar for Welsh Athletics on “Creating and maintaining a fun and effective training environment in a community running club” which is a fantastic insight to the history of the club to where we are now. This can be found here

We had a Virtual Quarantine Quiz with our quizmaster Dan Clark back in May with over 50 members involved.

Jamie Bevan has regularly contributed his running poems to our Facebook group reflecting the current situation and often including encouragement and inspiration for us to keep running.

There was also the Phantom Phoenix (who as far as I know still hasn’t been revealed). The Phantom placed stones decorated with Phoenix logos around the county which members discovered on their runs.

The support from our members has been incredible this year. A group of members put themselves forward as contacts for other members to talk to if they are struggling or just need someone to talk to duing these strange times. We’ve also had support from various members with ensuring latest COVID guidelines were adhered to and written up in order for training to recommence.

Multiple members including myself, Debbie Bennion, Steven James, Liz Sim, Jayne Bissmire, Pippa Clark and Chris Pratt were mentioned in a Welsh Athletics article as part of Volunteers Week quite early on in the year but there’s so many others that have contributed as well and since that time.

Chairmans Runners of the Month

Our chairman, Chris Pratt, has continued to award the male and female runners of the month at the end of each of one of monthly review blogs. Well done to the list of winners below…

January – Dai James and Anne Lalic

February – Paul Iskander and Angharad Hinam

March – Nicky Bennett and Claudine Nicholson Lewis

April – Jamie Bevan and Sian Tossell

May – Keith Coleman and Maria George

June – Rob Loyns and Ceri James

July – Gareth Jenkins and Claire Dunbar-Bowen

August – Rhodri Thomas and Fiona Drysdale

September – Steven James and Liz Sim

October – Gary Piper and Kyleigh Lecrass

November – Ken Salvatore and Sarah Davies

December – Gareth Richards and Sian Price

Welsh Athletics Award

What a year! Races and parkruns cancelled from the end of March onwards, in person training sessions off for over half of the weeks of the year, local lockdowns, national lockdowns and firebreaks…. yet somehow our club has still managed to make the most of the situation and still have an incredible year. In a lot of cases, I really believe that many of us have enjoyed our running and achieved more this year than if things had just been ‘normal’. It would have been so easy for the club to essentially ‘shut up shop’ and for the committee and volunteers to take a break but it’s been the opposite. We’ve never had so many members coming forward to support, whether it’s thinking up and sharing virtual events and challenges, helping to provide COVID secure training sessions or being on the end of the phone for support to anyone who needs it.

Whilst I’ve tried to cover as much as possible, this summary doesn’t cover half of the work that goes on behind the scenes with our committee, elected members, volunteers and members. A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed this year whether you’re involved on a daily basis or have just encouraged others or been part of one the dozens of events mentioned.

I think we can all agree the club is very deserving of our Welsh Athletics Award of Inspirational Club of the Year.

December 2020 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

As we hit our 40th week of virtual parkruns it’s worth giving a shout out to those who have submitted a time every week so far – well done to Alun Wylde, Nick Harris, Nicola Allen, Sarah Davies and Jo Gamba. I’m also part of that list but can’t congratulate myself.

Overall, numbers have been low in recent weeks with a combination of bad weather and much shorter days in terms of daylight. Numbers did pick up to over 40 in what would have been the Christmas parkrun and we encouraged a festive dress code. This coincided with a few that had signed up for the Festive Four virtual challenge which helped numbers in the final couple of weeks of the month.


The clubs AGM went ahead virtually early in the month. Although there weren’t as many events to take about, Chris provided us with a great summary of the innovative ideas members have come up with for virtual events and challenges throughout the year. It was also an opportunity to say a massive thank you to Fiona Evans who stepped down from her committee role and a big welcome to Jayne Bissmire who joined the committee. The role of membership secretary was filled in the week or so after the meeting with Jayne Powney stepping down having seen us through a remarkable increase in membership over the past couple of years with Sian Jenkins being voted in to take over the role.

Virtual events

Plenty of festive themed virtual runs and challenges throughout the month. Members completed the RUNR ’12 runs of Christmas’, Infinity Running ’12 days of Christmas’, the Phoenix Running ‘7 in 7’ and the virtual Aberavon Santa Run. The bulk of the Festive Four was also during December but I will report on in the January blog given the final event is in January.

Another big event which many will be missing this year is Nos Galan. The 5k lapped course in Mountain Ash on New Years Eve evening is always a popular one with our members with it’s fun run, fireworks, guest celebrity runner and great atmosphere. They’ve also offered a virtual event this year which many of our runners have signed up for with some no doubt going out on New Years Eve evening to replicate the usual start time.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

December saw a tightening of restrictions again and a premature end to training.

Christmas looming, the mood was mixed.  Excitement for the season dulled by the impending limitations.

A light month of activities but with the year drawing to a close there have been some who have, in spite of all the restrictions, excelled themselves.

So many have got out there and got the job done and I raise my hat to you all.  There are far too many to mention but you have all been wonderful and amazing and made the job of choosing someone to honour very difficult every month.

My first choice is someone who suddenly jumped on to my radar this month by clocking up an incredible 5k time.  Going sub 21 minutes and setting a new PB.  Very quietly she’s been clocking up consistent mileage throughout the year culminating in a mightily impressive time which sets a new fastest time for 5k by any female club member.  Having previously collected awards from the club for excellence including the prestigious Club Runner award there was no doubt the ability was there.  Injury has dogged her progress for some time in the past but with training now paying off, she is setting the bar very high for the future.  I am delighted to announce my Female Chairman’s Runner of the Month for December as Sian Price.  Huge well done Sian and I’m really looking forward to what 2021 brings!

We’ve seen many runners find form after significant weight loss and my second choice this month is no exception.  Having joined the club a number of years ago he has shown promise throughout his club career.  This year seems to have provided additional motivation to take that a few steps further.  With a further change in body shape, looking leaner than ever, it was inevitable that times would fall.  Always one to hanker for longer distance, his runs of significant length were also increasing in number – often while supporting others on shorter runs of their own.  That all important selfless support of others on their journeys.  You could see that something had clicked and not only were miles increasing but the times were coming down and in the last few days breaking the 19 minute barrier for 5k.  This in a time when 30 mile runs are not uncommon.  PB’s at multiple distances with an impressive marathon PB added to the list, there’s more to come here for sure.  Again, consistent running.  Amazingly inspirational running, not only in this month but throughout the year.  I am delighted to announce that my Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month for December is Gareth Richards.  Well done Gareth, keep insprining us!!

I felt I couldn’t sign off without mention of a huge year long achievement.  One of incredible note.  3000 miles of running – but not only that but a 365 day running streak.  He’s run every day of the year covering an average of 8.2 miles per day.  Treadmill ultra’s including a double marathon.  PB at most distances and dangerously close to that sub 20 minute 5k which I remember him saying to me at his first training session with the club that he would never get anywhere close to ever again.  Sometimes you just have to believe.  An inspiration to many throughout the year and worthy of note here from me personally.  Well done Kris Denholm, you have inspired me so much this year to just keep going.  Thank you, my friend.

November 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

Weeks 33-37 saw quite consistent numbers week on week ranging from 23 to 35 submissions. Most weekends had other virtual events or club championships which may have contributed to lower numbers. There was a push for more involvement on week 36 with a suggestion of fancy dress which at least provided some laughs with some of the entertaining efforts.

Virtual Club Championship (VCC)

VCC – Downhill mile

As mentioned in the previous blog, I wanted to try and introduce some alternative events for the final few rounds of the championship and the first one was the ‘downhill’ mile. The rules were simple – run a mile and it can include as much or as little downhill as you want. It obviously provided some crazy fast times with Niki Puleio clocking an unbelievable 4 minutes 43 seconds. Sarah Davies clocked the fastest female time with 6 minutes 9 seconds. After the handicap scoring was applied it was Ken Salvatore that came out on top with a time of 5:24 earning him top spot. Former event winner Judith Howells was 2nd with Kate Atkin in 3rd.

VCC – Cheat 5K / Ross Barkley 5K

The next event was the ‘cheat 5K’ or ‘Ross Barkley 5K’. For those not familiar, Ross Barkley is a professional football player who was widely reported to have run a 16:11 5K during lockdown. However, it was later discovered he’d been sprinting, stopping his watch, sprinting, stopping his watch, and the ‘Ross Barley 5K challenge’ was born to see what other runners could do by using the same method. There was much discussion what method would be best – Sian Price did a 1K downhill section 5 times, stopping her watch to return to the top. Others just chose a downhill route and ran it all in one go. However, it would appear that some of our members are willing to go to the extreme…. after much thought about where I’d attempt my effort and only deciding that morning, I ended up doing around 30 downhill ‘sprints’ and clocked a time of 15:07 – I’ll admit it – I thought I had it in the bag and would win my own championship event – surely no one else would go to this extreme of doing so many 100/200 meter sprints. I then went to join Jo who was doing her efforts on another hill and she clocked 16:59 which comparatively was much better than my time once the handicap was applied. In the end, my time was only good enough for 12th as Nick Harris ran 14:48 (and only used a very slight downhill section), and Sarah Davies clocked an absolutely bonkers 13:38 with around 40 downhill sprints spread over 2 hours to become the first person to win 2 club championship events this year.

VCC – Elevation challenge

Going into the final event, Sarah held a commanding lead at the top but Fiona Drysdale and Bryony Parry still had a chance of winning overall whilst there were 8 in contention for a top 3 finish making it an exciting finale. This time, each runner was allocated a set amount of time based on their adjusted best 5K from recent events to run as much elevation as they could (without stopping their watches throughout this time). This meant some runners might have only had less than 20 minutes and others had 40+ minutes so the handicap was applied at the start rather than afterwards. The results would simply be a list of who achieved the most elevation gain. After so many events in a row, I gave everyone 2 weeks to complete this one and multiple attempts were permitted. Pippa Clark took an early lead followed by Alun Wylde and then Ken Salvatore with his first of a couple of attempts. The final couple of days saw a flurry of activity with several members going to Pen y Fan to get the ultimate elevation gain. It worked – Ken Salvatore ran 1,237 feet of elevation up Pen y Fan in his allocated time of just 22 minutes and I’m reliably informed he wasn’t even in his running kit. Kaye Pedler was second with Sarah Davies in 3rd. Rob and Emma Loyns were our top runners who ran locally in 4th and 6th respectively.

VCC – Overall standings

Congratulations to Sarah Davies who was the overall winner. Sarah submitted results in all 10 fixtures with a remarkable ‘best 6’ consisting of 2 wins, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th to score 580 points out of a possible maximum of 600. Ken Salvatore took second place with Fiona Drysdale in 3rd. Rob Loyns who had lead for much of the championship ended up 4th with Emma Loyns 5th and Brony Parry in 6th. The top 10 was rounded off by Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Sian Price, Sian Jenkins and Jo Gamba to make it 8 female members in the top 10. In fact, the girls made up 14 of the top 20 with only myself, Chris Bimson, Rhodri Thomas and Niki Puleio joining Ken and Rob in the top 20 for the boys.

Virtual events

There were definitely certain events that were missed more than most this year and the Richard Burton 10K was one of them. 29 members signed up for this one with Claire Dunbar-Bowen clocking an outstanding time of 46:31 to finish 2nd female in the F40-49 category and 7th female overall. Nicky Bennett ran 47:51 for our fastest male time in what would have been a gentle stroll by his standards but a great time for many of us. Both Denise Bradley and Judith Jeeves were in the top 10 of their respective age categories. There were an impressive 1095 runners overall which isn’t far off the numbers they would expect if the race had actually gone ahead.

Judith Jeeves added to her virtual medal tally with the ‘Phoenix 9 and three-quarter” run and “Animals in War commemoration’ run. Several other members did the ‘Poppy Run’. Leigh Forman and others did the Jog 50 for Dementia during the month.

LEJOG / Welsh Coastal Path update

With so many members doing these challenges it’s been difficult to keep up and report finishes in the month they occurred – most members are not even sure themselves!? Anyway, I’ll try and update as best I can now. Kris Denholm completed the LEJOG (874 mile virtual run from Lands End to John O’Groats) and was 18th overall out of thousands of runners who signed up. Despite then starting the Wales Coastal Path virtual (870 miles) weeks after everyone else, Kris still finished 40th in that one as well. Elizabeth Sim has also completed the LEJOG and was the 80th person to finish whilst her 100 mile running buddy Steven James was the 108th person to complete it. Emma Loyns came in at position 212 whilst David Sheard completed it as part of a team with his Dad. Apologies to any other LEJOG finishers I’ve missed. I know that Chris Pratt is still going having been delayed significantly due to injury an is now aiming to complete by the end of the year after the deadline was extended.

As for the Welsh Coastal Path (870 mile virtual challenge) – Sarah Davies completed hers in 46th position with an incredible 285 miles covered during October to end up finishing on the final day of the month. Leigh Francis-Richards ran 186 miles in just 2 weeks to finish in 60th place. Some excellent mileage from Melanie Thomas earned her a 68th place finish. Again, apologies if I missed anyone and I know we have several more continuing their virtual journey around Wales.

Over to Chris for this months runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

When restrictions hit, the impact on the club was far reaching.  We rallied straight away and a number of things were introduced to maintain engagement.  It wasn’t long before it was realised that the club championship could continue in some guise.  Huge thanks to Gareth Jenkins for continuing to develop and deliver that throughout the year.

My choices both relate to that in particular.  However, both have had a year worthy of note.

There is no doubt it’s been a year when determination and focus have been sporadic.  

Many have seized the moment and found their feet, kept their heads and had mammoth years of either distance, time or a mixture of the two and it’s mightily impressive to see.  

Many have lost their way, me included, somewhere down the line.  Maybe periodically finding it again and then either something happens or the situation compounds to bring a halt to things once again.  That’s not good for injury preventation.  Consistency gone, it’s often difficult to get back.  Racing back into it with too much gusto then introduces problems and a further hiatus follows.

My two choices for November have both been in the former camp.  Maintaining consistency.  Offering motivation to others.  Inspiring others with their activities.  Being proactive with their own endeavours while offering encouragement and support to others at the same time.  A mighty combination in such a difficult year.

Consistency is key.  It’s there again.  That phrase.

My first choice for recognition this month has been determined.  Multiple virtual challenges tackled, all with gusto.  Consistent training.  Miles being clocked up.  Club championship was a focus and every event was tackled with passion.  Maximum effort.  Observing the process there was no doubt that a significant placing would be achieved, and it was, finishing in first place.  An accolade to all the hard work and determination throughout the year.  Inspirational.  I am delighted to announce my Female Chairman’s Runner of the Month for November as Sarah Davies.  Well done Sarah – huge effort this year and so impressive to see.  Well done.

My second choice has also been consistent throughout the year.  A year that’s seen a new determination to get out there and clock up the miles which has been observed throughout with admiration.  He has noticeably benefitted from it through body shape.  When this happens often improvements naturally come.  A good balance of sensibly paced miles and effort have resulted in a combined improvement over distance and time, the latter resulting in a second place finish in the club championship.  The consistency of running has been matched with his vocal support of others on their challenges which has lifted many spirits, mine included.  I am delighted to announce my Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month for November as Ken Salvatore.  Well done Ken and thank you for the inspiration and motivation throughout the year, keep it up!

October 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

An up and down month for virtual parkrun starting with a record low of just 27 submissions – although this was the day before the virtual London Marathon. Week 2 saw 37 runners submit times for their Saturday run although this was again before a big virtual with the BaD relays the day after.

Week 3 saw the Maesteg virtual parkrun takeover. I decided to make it a club championship event as well which saw number rise to 67 which was the highest total since the OPR Lockdown 5K which was also a club championship event back in July. More on the club championship element later in the blog.

As we went into the ‘Firebreak’ at the end of October, numbers fell to 37 and 39 for the final two Saturdays of the month although again there were virtual and club championship events that may have affected the totals.

Virtual Club Championship

After a break of a couple of months, it was time to bring back the club championship. The Firebreak meant most of us didn’t have many plans so I thought it was as good a time as any to do a couple of back to back events.

The original plan for the championship was do some fun / alternative events as part of training sessions. We managed to fit in the ‘Track World Cup’ before the pandemic hit and we were just days away from my next event I had planned for the Track which went down well in the trial at the end of the session the previous week but unfortunately that was cancelled. Since then, it’s been mostly standard 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile time trials so I wanted to return to the original plan of thinking up some alternative challenges.

For the Maesteg virtual parkrun takeover, I challenged our runners to do a run with at least 4 laps and 100 feet of elevation to mimic the parkrun course. Anyone who did 4 or more laps got 20 seconds taken off their time and if 100 feet of elevation was achieved then they got another 20 seconds taken off. There was still the option to just run flat out on a flat course if you wanted but you wouldn’t get any ‘bonus’ seconds taken off. Sarah Davies came out on top with a 24:06 which was adjusted to 23:26 as she ticked off both the laps and elevation. Jayne Kembery was second with former event winner Keith Coleman in 3rd after the usually handicap scoring was applied.

Virtual London Marathon

Possibly the biggest virtual of the year. 40,000 runners signed up, official race numbers posted out, an official tracking app, the chance to secure a 40th anniversary medal and t-shirt which had already been produced for the postponed April race, and results listed on the website in the same way they would had it gone ahead properly. Anyone who was lucky enough to have a place in the proper race was offered the virtual option whilst there were additional places available mainly through charities.

30 OPR runners took on their own 26.2 mile challenge and due to local lockdown restrictions at the time, we had to stay within the county we lived in (so Bridgend for most of us). The weather was pretty atrocious – heavy rain and strong winds pretty much throughout the morning and early afternoon. The majority of our runners chose a similar route to the final ‘Sunflower Relay’ leg by starting at the Bwlch and finishing in Porthcawl which also meant they made the most of the county boundaries! Despite having a headwind for a significant amount of the route and encountering some flooding around Merthyr Mawr Lanes, they made it Porthcawl and completed their 26.2 miles with times ranging from 4:35 for Emma Loyns to 7:13 for Dai Power. Technically there was a 9: 10 for Matt Murray who ran that route but after falling in the flooded lanes, his app didn’t stop recording the run until much later in the day.

As for those who chose other routes, Jo and I ran from Bridgend to the Garw to Nantymoel and back. With it being just 3 weeks after my Dragon 50 miler, I had no intention of ‘going for a time’ and only decided the night before to change my route to do the same as Jo having originally planned to do an out and back to Kenfig sands. I felt good on the morning and decided to ‘see how it goes’ and ended up running 3:45:17 – nearly 5 minutes quicker than my Marathon PB from 4 years previous. Absolutely delighted but obviously feel like I need to do that in an official race now as well! Jo did even better with a 4:24 knocking an incredible 17 minutes off her previous best marathon time despite this being her 7th marathon. We were fortunate that for much of our route we were sheltered from the weather by the trees over the cycle tracks but I can only speak from my own experience that it really hit me when I finished and was instantly shivering and took ages to get warmed up. Some videos and photo’s shared from the Porthcawl finishers suggested the same.

Kirsty Evans ran a fantastic 4:01 for the second fastest time of the day sandwiched in between myself and Jo. Peter Walsh ran 4:26 and Anthony Kavanagh ran 4:29. Our final finishers were Brett Bonnell, Alyson Morris and Louise Morris who battled the harsh conditions for 11 hours. Several others who hadn’t signed up ran to support runners or do their own challenge including Chris Pratt, Rhiannon Whitely, Kris Denholm and Leanne Parsons, whilst Gareth Richards ended up running 32 miles with the Bwlch to Porthcawl gang notching up 6 extra miles by running back and forth between the runners to make sure everyone was OK.

More Virtual Races

After a brief glimmer of hope and a few races going ahead in August and September, it was back to virtual only in October.

There was another big virtual ‘marathon’ with the virtual Snowdonia Marathon. This one offered the chance to run the marathon distance over the course of a weekend with many of our runners choosing this option to run back to back half marathons on the Saturday and Sunday. Denise Bradley, Gregg Harris, Jayne Bissmire, Melanie Thomas, David and Bev Sheard, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion – apologies if I’m missed anyone.

The weekend of Snowdonia Marathon was a busy one for the club as it was also the P24 Twist. This was the second edition of the challenge set by Phoenix Running events for runners to run one mile, on the hour, every hour for 24 hours. The twist was that they picked the weekend the clocks went back therefore there was an additional hour. Liz Davis, Gary Piper, Leanne Parsons, Alun Wylde and Chris Roberts. Conditions weren’t great and with several more hours of night time running compared to when a few of us did it in the summer, it was a big challenge and I think all were very relieved once it was all over.

More virtual races in month included the Run4All Halloween 10K, Bournemouth Half, London 10K, Edinburgh Marathon, ‘not so hilly’, plus more from Judith Jeeves with the Day of the Dead run and ‘I love 70’s’ run.

100K challenge

The same weekend I took on my own challenge. The original idea was to run for 12 hours but I then decided to change it to attempting to run 100k which was definitely going to take more than 12 hours. Bizarrely, moving from a local lockdown to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown meant that I actually had more options for routes as the Vale of Glamorgan was no longer ‘out of bounds’. Having woken up earlier than planned, I started at 730am and it started hammering down within minutes of me leaving the door. I broke the run down by doing roughly 2x25K routes, 1 x 40K route and then 10K at the end. The first 25K loop was from Bridgend to Southerndown and Ogmore by Sea and back. A quick refuel at my very own ‘aid station’ set up at home and then back out to do another 25K up the cycle track to Ogmore Vale and back which Jo came out to join me on for the final 10K. Another quick refuel and then out on a 42K loop taking in Parc Slip, Kenfig Nature Reserve, Porthcawl, Merthyr Mawr sand dunes and back home with just 8K remaining. Jo joined me for a less expecting route to Bridgend Industrial Estate and back – at that point, I just needed something flat, quiet and easy to navigate. Almost cried when the battery on my watch died at 95K but fortunately I was also recording via my phone… unfortunately, my phone was only saying 94k so I ended up doing the additional kilometre just to make sure! 100K completed in 12 hours 48 minutes.

Over to Chris for this months runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

October was a very busy month, as it always is.  We usually see Cardiff Half start the month which is traditionally the highest club turnout of the year to a single event and then Snowdonia Marathon Eryri conclude the month with runners and supporters heading north in significant number.

In such a month of high activity it is always difficult to pick out individuals from all those worthy of accolade.  But pick I must.

Many events changed to mirror the virtual phenomena sweeping the country.  The London Marathon was no exception and, having moved it’s anticipated date for the actual event from April to October following the intial lockdown, the final concession was made that the actual event could not take place for mass participants and so, in it’s 40th year, it went virtual as well.  Many club members took on the challenge with groups of runners forming to share the miles in line with restrictions.

It was a particularly horrible day and everyone who took it on is worthy of celebration.  

One performance, and build up, had stuck in my mind.  Someone who has shown herself to be incredibly determined.  The training months had been with focus.  Help was sought from those morening experienced.  Building the distance in a prescribed manner.  Not everything goes to plan, it’s safe to say for virtually all runners, but the miles were in the bag and while all marathons are a battle, especially the first ones, such preparation makes it more enjoyable when the event comes round.  We have many stories of our Zero to Hero graduates going on to bigger things once they are bitten by the bug and this story is no exception.  A desire was there right from graduating on the seafront in Porthcawl, to complete a marathon.  While many joined forces for the attempt, one runner set off solo and headed out in the horrendous conditions to get the job done.  Time was not the factor here – completion was.  Pride was the honour and it was achieved as the goal was completed.  Just over a year to go from zero to hero to marathon, in a controlled and measured way.  I am delighted to announce my Female Chairman’s Runner of the Month to Kyleigh Lecrass.  Huge well done Kyleigh and never stop dreaming of what is possible!

As I’ve said already in previous months, we have members who have been with us for some time.  Every running career has peaks and troughs.  Some are returning to running after many years of tackling other sports in between.  Some have impressive running stats from years ago and coming back to it, have set their goals of returning to those levels.  Something the body doesn’t always allow.  We’ve seen one individual set his sights very high on several occasions and really battle to get to the finish line.  We’ve seen injury follow injury.  The desire and drive to do it has been there every time, but frustration was often the result.  This is a difficult mental battle and through recent months with isolation being the order of the day it has taken it’s toll on many.  In October my next choice set his sights on the P24.  One mile, on the hour, every hour for 24 hours.  With the added twist of the clocks going back so it’s 25.  I know how tough this is from doing it back in the Summer.  Tiredness.  Legs stiffening up.  Mind games throughout.  That was in the summer when the daylight hours are much more generous.  Several took on the challenge and all are worthy of praise, but one stuck in my mind.  His dogged determinedness driving through.  Unsure at the start whether it could be completed the team rallied together and got themselves through.  Support for the club on social media poured in to drive them through the day but the difficult hours at night it was those doing it that got each other through.  Self belief through a time when you are struggling is something that takes a lot to muster.  An absolute accolade to the spirit he has inside got him through those dark solitary hours and emotionally found himself completing the final mile victorious.  Not only a big physical achievement but a mental battle that showed him an inner strength that can be used to tackle future endeavours.  I am absolutely delighted to announce my Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month for October as Gary Piper.  You have inspired me Gary from your endeavours and inspiring others is something you should be incredibly proud of.  Thank you.

September 2020 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

Results this month included fastest male and female times from Rhodri Thomas, Melanie Thomas, Keith Coleman, Liz Davis and Sian Price. Attendance is now around 40 each week as we reached 6 months worth of virtual parkruns.

Dragon 50/100

The second running of the Dragon 50 and 100 miler took place on the weekend of the 12th/13th September as one of the first and only Welsh running events to go ahead. Runners were set off in waves of 6 and with the distances involved, there wasn’t going to be too many issues with too many runners in close proximity. Liz Sim and Steven James teamed up to run the 100 miler together – Liz’s first 100 miler, whilst it was Steven’s second. Angharad Hinam was also signed up for the 100 and was running with former Phoenix member Luke Jones, whilst our only Dragon 100 conqueror from the inaugural event in 2019, Nick Harris, was back to take on the course again. In the 50 miler, there was just me from the current Phoenix membership with former member Brian Cotton also lining up for the event having recently transferred to another local club.

The 100 milers set off on Saturday afternoon at around 430pm – they had until 23:59:59 on Sunday to finish giving them around 31 and a half hours to complete the 100 mile course. Unfortunately, 2 or 3 separate navigational issues meant that Nick, Angharad and Luke didn’t make it to one of the early Sunday morning checkpoints on time after adding a couple of miles each and time lost whilst trying to get back on track. The first 20-30 miles of the course took the runners from the Gower and along the Wales Coastal Path but then cruelly leaves the path to go into Afan Argoed forest in the middle of the night which would be tough to navigate for even the most experienced trail ultra runners. Liz and Steven did amazingly to stay on track and I was gutted to just miss them as I started the 50 miler at 7am on Sunday morning as they were probably just a mile or two from passing that point.

For me, it was my first Ultra since 2016 when I did the Vale 32 miler. I’ve done my own blog about my race and how I ended up even contemplating doing a 50 miler as someone who has repeatedly said they ‘don’t like long distance running’ and had ‘retired from anything over half marathon’. I finished the 50 miler in 10 hours and 37 minutes and was 6th overall. It went so much better than I ever could have imagined. Former member, Brian Cotton finished in 12 hours 31 minutes having been dogged with injuries in the lead up to the event having originally been signed up for the 100.

As for Liz and Steven, they finished the 100 miler in 30 hours and 16 minutes in joint 13th place whilst Liz was the 2nd female finisher overall. A remarkable achievement by both and no doubt an experience they will never forget.

A massive thank you to Nicola Cornock, Maria George, Nicola Cornock and Darija Keenor who all got up very early on Sunday morning to volunteer at the Porthcawl / Ogmore by Sea aid stations.

Virtual events

More than a dozen members signed up for the MIAD (Marathon in a Day) virtual which challenged runners to run 26.2 on their own or as part of a team within a 24 hour period. Most members teamed up with others to run a quarter of the distance each or a half marathon each. Others choose to do two half marathons within a 24 hour period, and we also had some members do it all in one go.

Multiple members also completed the Leave Nothing But Footprints Virtual Run which was put on by the same company with which dozens of members did the Miles for Mind challenge earlier in the year.

Tammie Baker and others did the Black Dog virtual run and also completed the Race for Life virtual.

Judith Jeeves added to her extensive virtual medal collection with the Ring of Kerry virtual in which she completed the 200K challenge over 6 weeks.

Over to Chris for his runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

September saw a further easing of restrictions and alongside that there was a gradual return of small scale events.   Small scale in terms of number of competitors, not in terms of distance.  Social distancing still of paramount importance and necessary to comply with government and local authority stipulations.  Several members took advantage of this and crossed various finish lines during the warm, summer months.

We celebrate all abilities within our club.  That is never in doubt.  However, when someone does something that requires superhuman effort, it connot go without being acknowledged and celebration.

September saw the running of the Dragon races from Run, Walk, Crawl.  An aptly named company that like to host ultra marathon distance races in our locale.  There are several schools of thought on what constitutes ultra distance.  Some see it as anything over a marathon.  The most consistent description I’ve heard is 50km or more.  Just over 31 miles.  Run, Walk, Crawl cover several distance events.  They have a number of 50 mile events but have more recently added more of the 100 mile distance events to the list, not least the Dragon 100.

I’ve always been in awe of runners who can complete 100 miles in one go.  The ability to dig so deep inside to, not only physically keep going, but to have the mental strength to battle the demons that raise their head throughout is incredibly impressive, to say the least.

Several took on the challenge this year along the route from Rhossili to Cardiff.  

Just two were victorious this year.  In a story that tells of long training miles in a time when the world was restricted.  Distances of this type require a nutrition plan also.  A plan that was tried and tested through the training.  Nutritional advice given to change a routine, understanding the needs of the body over such a distance is paramount to completion.  It’s a story of one member experienced at the distance supporting a fellow runner with her quest to conquer a new goal.  Forming a bubble in line with the restrictions so they could train and run safely together.   Knowledge and experience imparted and a solid plan hatched to tackle the distance together.  Student and teacher and great friends getting the job done.  

With a small support crew in tow and members lining the route in small groups at various points they got through it, together.  

A huge hat raise to my two Chairmain’s Runner’s of the Month for September, Steven James and Liz Sim.  A huge undertaking, especially in difficult times and a massive achievement.  Well done to both.  A huge thank you to both also for their idea of the Virtual Sunflower Relay which kept 93 members engaged over 100 activities and 850 miles travelled throughout the summer and finishing at the end of August.

August 2020 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

Week 20 saw 39 entries with Neil Price setting the fastest time with a 19:58 and Fiona Drysdale setting the fastest ladies time with 24:58. Week 21 saw the lowest attendance to date with 36 entries with Rhodri Thomas and Fiona Drysdale submitting the fastest male and female times respectively. A bit of gentle encouragement saw the attendance rise back to 49 for week 22 which was no doubt also helped by cooler conditions. Gareth Davies continued his return from a long standing injury and topped the standings with a 24:08 with new member Melanie Thomas the fastest female time at 26:02.

Week 23 saw a repeat of week 21 with Rhodri and Fiona recording the fastest male and female times. The final week of the month saw attendance hit the 50 mark for the first time in a while with Neil Price and Emma Marshall posting the fastest male and female times.

Races – yes – real ones!

A relaxation on some restrictions led to some races going ahead in August. New member Carl Walsh ran the Bath Two Tunnels Marathon in just over 4 hours. The Severn Bridge 10K also went ahead, albeit with the start moved to the English side of the bridge as the race could go ahead under current rules at the time in England but not in Wales. Runners were allocated start times with only a few runners going off in each wave, effectively making it more of a time trial than a race, but still getting to ‘race’ against other runners nonetheless which is something we haven’t experienced for a long time. Niki Puleio ran 39:47 whilst Carl Walsh ran 41:00.

Virtual events

With many events hoping to restart over the next few months, it has meant a drop off in virtual events available and therefore participation by our members. However, we still managed quite a few in the month.

The Cardiff Summer Series continued with the 4K event finishing on the first weekend of the month. Only Keith Coleman, Nick Harris and Pippa Clark submitted times for this one and in doing so completed the 1, 2, 3 and 4 Kilometre series.

The final Run for All Aberavon 5K of the series saw 21 of our members take on a 5K course of their choosing. Adrian Pearce set a blistering time of 18:21 followed by Rhodri Thomas in 20:41 and myself in 21:32. Claire Dunbar Bowen was next up and first club female with 22:28 whilst regular virtual racer Sarah Davies was the next female finisher in 25:44.

Leanne Parsons was amongst a few members that did the Blackpool virtual 10K. Judith Jeeves did the ‘Run 5 for Pride’ virtual whilst Judith and several others also completed the Virtual ‘Gin Run Half Marathon’ – I’m sure some Gin was consumed by some of our runners afterwards if not during / before as obviously we like to get into the spirit of things and do them properly!

Only Sarah and I entered and submitted times for the Twister Half Marathon – another in the series of events where time is taken off for elevation gained during the run.

Another fun challenge from Infinity Running was the ‘Run Around the Clock’ Challenge. This challenge was for runners to complete a 1 mile or 2K run a 1pm, 2 mile or 2K run at 2pm and so on collecting all 12 hours over the course of a week or month. David and Bev Sheard completed the challenge during August whilst Kris Denholm used the challenge as he continued his RED (Run Every Day) streak in 2020 as well as other mileage challenges.

Phoenix 7 in 7

The success of the Phoenix 24 which many of our members did in June has certainly raised the profile of the Phoenix Running Events company and 20 of us signed up for their 7 in 7 event. This time round it involved running at least 1 mile each day for 7 days from Mon 27th July to Sunday 2nd August. For many years, I’ve wanted to do 7 Half Marathons in 7 Days so decided this was a great opportunity with a big shiny medal at the end to mark the achievement. However, I wasn’t happy that 7 Half Marathons would add up to 91.7 miles which I regarded as too close not to do 100 mile week which is just a standard week for an elite athlete who competes at anything from 5K upwards so I was intrigued to see what it was like to just do it once. In the end, I ended up doing 107 miles in 7 miles averaging over 15 miles a day.

A popular target was to go for 7 miles per day for the 7 days. Anthony Kavanagh ended up clocking 61.9 miles with runs ranging from 7 to 11 miles. Sarah Davies aimed to do 7 miles a day but threw in a Half Marathon in the middle of it to end up on 55.2 miles for the week. Sharon Pritchard and Leigh Richards stuck closer to the 7 mile average with 50.3 and 49 miles respectively. Chris Pratt had to rethink his goal after a recent injury and went for 10K per day but like most of us, ended up doing a bit more and ended up on 48.8 miles. Chris Richards, Debbie Bennion and Ken Salvatore clocked up over 40 miles whilst Nick Harris, Dawn Hopkins (who started with a hilly half marathon), Samantha Thompson and Jayne Bissmire all clocked over 30 miles. I’d like to think Phill Iveson purposely finished on exactly marathon distance with 26.2 miles whilst everyone else did an average of at least 5K a day for 21+ miles in total.

FKT (Fastest Known Time)

During the pandemic, there’s been a huge increase in people attempting FKT’s. These are normally ultra distance routes (further than a marathon) and / or on long trail routes, mountains, cycle paths or canal paths. The website linked at the bottom of this section details all the ‘fastest known times’ and anyone can attempt these at any time although some do have specific Winter / Summer records as well. You can also suggest your own although in the spirit of things, it should be something challenging and not fastest known time for one lap of Bridgend Running Track or something.

Our very own Steven James discovered there wasn’t an FKT for the Limestone Way so decided to give the 47 mile route which runs through the Peak District. Most FKT records have a ‘supported’ and ‘unsupported’ option and Steven decided to go for the unsupported option. This meant he had to carry all his supplies with him which included 4 litres of water as well as food and emergency supplies – significantly more than anyone would normally have to carry in a Ultra-Marathon race where you’d normally have one or two bottles and rely on aid stations for topping up on water and food. Steven completed the route in 10 hours and 14 minutes. Upon submitting the relevant evidence, he now has an official FKT record. More about his run can be found on the fastest known time website linked below


Return to Training Sessions

August was the first full month of training sessions being back on with all the guidelines in place. Attendance steadily grew throughout the month with many sessions having the maximum 15 runners that the club is allowing at the present time. Sessions at our original base in Ogmore have been so popular that a second session was introduced with one group starting from the Life Centre and another from the Planka. There was also the introduction of a ’15 minute mile’ group on a Wednesday alongside the long standing session and the Flyers session which gave plenty of opportunity for all runners. A massive thank you to all the coaches and Lirfs who have contributed to allowing sessions to take place again under the current circumstances.

Over to Chris for the Chairman’s Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runner of the Month

A glorious summer was getting lots out of the door to get their allowed exercise.  

Training returned and we were able to meet up in groups again.  Freedom returning in some form.

I have said many times that my criteria for selection will change.  It’s difficult at the moment for singling out achievements when events are almost all virtual and I want to spread out the acknowledgements across the board.  One thing I’ve always said has been a huge factor in my improvements and remaining injury free is consistency.  “Consistency is key”.  Virtual parkrun has been a consistent and some have continued to submit times, week in, week out.  Some people have appeared frequently and caught my eye to “doff my cap” to.

We have members with a range of history with the club.  Some have run with us for years and it is from that camp that I make my first choice.  My first choice I’ve always had down as someone very determined.  If my memory serves me correctly, a lover of hills.  Well, living in an area surrounded by them many of us end up that way – either that or just accepting that if we can’t avoid them, we have to run them.  I digress.  I’ve seen this name appear numerous times on virtual parkrun results and usually at or near the top.  Consistency is key.  Keep attending.  I’m not sure whether a family full of runners is a motivator but whatever it is, it’s worthy of note.  Not only this but consistency and significant placing has also put my choice in serious contention for the club championship!  I am delighted to announce my Chairman’s Runner of the Month for August to Fiona Drysdale.  Keep the consistency up Fiona!

My male choice has also shown consistent attendance at virtual parkrun as well as a number of virtual events.  Attendance at Flyers keeps his pace up and he regularly positions near the top of the table in results.  It’s that consistent attendance at training and that determined head to maintain good times – even when the only motivator is a name on the list rather than crossing a finish line.  Not only this but my second choice has been a volunteer who put himself selflessly forward to join our 12 strong team of volunteers always willing to receive a message from members who are struggling through the current crisis.  An ear there for if anyone needs it.  An extra accolade to add additional praise.  I am delighted to announcemy Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month for August to Rhodri Thomas.  Well done Rhodri, thank you and keep up the good work!

July 2020 review

Virtual (non)parkrun

The first Saturday of the month saw 61 runners submit a time with Neil Price setting one of the fastest virtual parkruns to date with a 19:24. Our fastest female was Fiona Drysdale with 24:45.

The second Saturday coincided with the OPR Lockdown Virtual 5K which I’ll come onto later. A week later we had a low of just 46 runners with the Neil Price clocking the fastest time of 19:19 with his wife Sian clocking the fastest female time with 21:32.

The final Saturday of the month saw a slight increase to 48 runners with Neil Price clocking the fastest time if 19:35.

Virtual races

Day one of the month saw the second virtual Aberavon Run4All 5K race. We had an impressive 28 submissions with the in form Rhodri Thomas clocking 20:16 whilst I clocked my fastest 5K of the year with 20:50. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was our first lady and third overall out of our club members with a speedy 22:30.

The Welsh Athletics 10K was set for the weekend that many of us would have been either running Porthcawl 10K or competing in the Long Course Weekend in Tenby. 17 members submitted times and I clocked the fastest time with 43:40 (my fastest 10K in over a year) with Claire Dunbar-Bowen next up with a 47:04.

The same weekend saw the Twister 10K which is another one of those events where time is taken off depending how much elevation is accumulated during the run. Adrian Pearce was 9th overall with an adjusted time of 36 minutes. I was 12th with an adjusted time of 38 minutes. Sian Price was our first female and did a flat course, therefore getting her actual run time of just under 46 minutes. I also signed up for the New York City Runners Firecracker 10K but unfortunately didn’t get chance to run a separate 10K for it so submitted the same time as my Welsh Athletics 10K.

The end of the month saw the Twister 10 miler with the usual suspects taking part. Adrian Pearce recorded another top 10 finish in these events whilst Sian Price was in the top 10 ladies. There were also times submitted by myself, Sarah Davies, Debbie Bennion and Sharon Pritchard.

OPR Lockdown Virtual 5K / OPR Championship event 6

The OPR Race Committee got together (virtually of course) to create the first ‘official’ OPR virtual event. To keep it open for all abilities it was decided that 5K would be the distance and it would be on a Saturday to tie in with virtual parkrun and we also agreed for it to count as the latest event in the OPR championship to encourage as many members as possible to participate. We had a fantastic turn out with 81 runners submitting times.

Paul Smith ran an incredible 17:44 to become our third member this year to clock a sub 28 5K time after Nicky Bennett and Dai James achieved the feat earlier this year. Nicky was next up with 18:56 whilst the sub 20’s continued with Neil Price at 19:!7 and Emyr Bissmire at 19:31. Sian Price was our fastest lady with a 21:31 followed by Claire DB 22:31, Fiona Drysdale 24:06 and Jo Gamba with 24:10.

After the usual handicap scoring was applied for the OPR Championship, Emyr Bissmire became the 6th different winner in the 6 events so far with Paul Smith second. Angela Parry and Bryony Parry were joint 3rd having been joint 2nd in the previous championship event. Jo Gamba was 5th and 3rd lady overall whilst Adam Rowe was 6th and 3rd male overall.

In the overall championship standings, another great performance from last months runner of the month, Rob Loyns (21:23), meant he extended his lead at the top. However, with the best 6 scores to count, there’s easily 30+ members who are still in with a decent chance of winning or challenging for a trophy-winning top 3 placing.

Race to the Stones Virtual Challenge

Normally the Race to the Stones involves running 100K along The Ridgeway finishing at Avebury Stone Circle. In the annual race, there are options to run the entire 100K in one go or split it into 2 days of 50K each with competitors normally camping overnight at the half way point.

With the race cancelled this year, the organisers offered a free virtual alternative with options to pay for t-shirts and medals if you wish with some proceeds going to charity. The options were to run Half Marathon, Marathon or 100K over the course of a week that would have led to the weekend the race should have taken place.

Many different approaches were taken. Sarah Davies finished in just 5 days (by the Friday) whilst I finished mine on the Saturday which included 3 Half Marathons, a 10 miler, an 8 miler and a 6 miler over the 6 days. Angharad Hinam, Emma Loyns and Adrian Pearce took a different approach clocking up 40 miles in one run on the Saturday with the other miles done earlier in the week to make it 62.2 in total for the 100K equivalent.

Sharon Pritchard, Debbie Bennion and Jayne Bissmire completed 26.2 miles over the course of the week, whilst Sian Jenkins did her marathon in one run and ended up doing around 50 miles in total for the week so almost doubled her target. Claire Worthington, Chris Pratt, Heather Morgan and Vickie Blake all also registered finishes for the Half Marathon distance.

Cardiff Summer Series (the kilometre version)

Cardiff Running Events normally do a 1, 2, 3 and 4 mile race on Friday evenings over the course of May and June and they offered this virtually this year. It was so successful that they decided they’d do another series but this time, 1, 2, 3 and 4K races and give runners Thursday-Sunday of each week to submit times rather than just Friday which was the case for the mile events.

In the 1K event, I clocked the fastest time of 3:57 (although a penalty was later added as my Garmin data wasn’t public so they couldn’t verify it). Keith Coleman clocked 3:58 whilst Nick Harris recorded 4:05. One of our junior members who has done a huge amount of virtual events was our fastest female in 4:35.

In the 2K event, Keith Coleman clocked 8:02 whilst I was a couple of seconds behind in 8:04. With Nick Harris rounding out the same top 3 as the 1K with 8:20. Claire DB was our fastest lady.

In the 3K event, Keith Coleman ran a fantastic 12:10 whilst I ran 12:32 with Ken Salvatore rounding out the top 3 with 13:04. Claire DB ran 13:21 for the only ladies time recorded from our club members whilst Nick Harris and Pippa Clark recorded times to keep their 100% attendance records for these kilometre events.

Run Around The World

This was another monthly challenge set up by Jayne Bissmire. The challenge was to form a team to virtually ‘run around the world’. We’ve now adopted the name ‘Phoenix Knights’ for these monthly challenges. The distance around the world is 24,901 miles so a single team wasn’t going to achieve that on it’s own so all teams were allocated a direction of travel and split into larger teams of Team North, East, South and West. We were part of Team West who between us had traveled around the world after about 3 weeks of the challenge.

In terms of our own team, Phoenix Knights, we spent the entire month in close battle with ‘She Runs: Cardiff’ and ‘Apparently We Run’ – regularly swapping places between 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots with a huge gap to the leaders and another huge gap to 5th place. Quite mind blowing how close the 3 teams were even as we hit 6,000 / 7,000 / 8,000 miles.

We eventually finished in 2nd place with a total of 8,138 miles.

Multiple people smashed their biggest mileage months during the challenge. I contributed the most miles with 270 which was 65 miles more than I’d ever run in single month and over 110 miles more than any monthly total prior to lockdown. Sarah Davies led the way for the majority of the month and ended up on 260 miles which again easily over 130-150 miles more than her typical pre lockdown monthly total. Kris Denholm, Keith Coleman, Liz Sim and new member Melanie Thomas all recorded just under 200 miles each. Apologies I can’t name everyone as every runner did amazingly and contributed to the team effort with loads of support and encouragement through our social media. Another massive thank you to Jayne for setting up, posting throughout the month and organising us all and well done to all those that helped out in supporting or contributing to the totals.

Another amazing month. Although they started in July, I’ll include the Phoenix 7 in 7 and Cardiff Summer Series 4K in the next blog as they are due to finish in August. Over to Chris for the Chairmans Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

July was a busy, busy month for many!

The Run Around the World challenge seemed to dominate with almost a hundred members taking part and what an amazing outcome.  Second team nationally out of a field of 106 teams!  Amazing.  

These virtual challenges have captured many.  Providing motivation and encouragement, they have been a focus while races have been non-existant.  

For some, the change in focus has encouraged more from the legs than usual.  Many taking on the challenges are relatively new to running but there are an equal number who have years of experience in the legs.  Running commitment can be cyclic.  We often see troughs and peaks, not just in performance but also in dedication to it.  The low periods when the mojo departs and leaves us often swing to periods of high motivation where running becomes an essential part of the daily routine again!  Increased mileage and consistency often lead to simultaneous performance improvements.  For one, the focus of a multitide of challenges was motivation to not only break previous milestones but completely smash them out of the park.  That’s quite incredible when there’s a long history of running.  In this case, the increased mileage came on the back of a number of significant mileage months, notched up while we have been restricted and unable to tackle actual events.  Previous mileage records for a week, and a month, were smashed.  With times on recognised distances also coming back down it’s been an amazing period of achievements.  Absolutely no doubt that this is going to lead a new annual mileage as well!  All of this on top of huge commitment to the club as our Captain, statto, blogger, club championship organiser and one half of our brilliant results team!   I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Gareth Jenkins!!  Brilliant achievements and I’m intrigued to see what the remainder of 2020 brings!!  Keep it up Gareth!

It has been absolutely incredible how many members have grasped the virtual challenges during what has been a very difficult time.  The cameraderie and support have been incredible, even if we haven’t been able to be at close quarters for many months.  When events fell off the calendar there was a real risk that many would lose motivation.  While we know some have and we reach out to them to try and keep them within the fold, many have grasped the opportunity to do something different and keep going in the background.  So many people doing amazing things, it has been so hard to separate the achievements.   Some just like to get out there, some seek to clock up as many miles as possible and some target performance.  We are all different and that’s what makes us a wonderful mix.  We celebrate all.  One name cropped up a number of times during the blog and all associated with the top of the pack.  There’s work being done in the background here.  Time commitment to improvement in performance.  Quietly going about her business in the background and all the while developing that internal engine to perform.  The return to training since July has seen Flyers attendances indicating a desire to get quicker.  The warm weather hasn’t put pay to the development process and it’s great to see.  Tackling short distance virtual events to notch up impressive results.  Results that will be built on going in to the future – something we’re all excited to see.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Claire Dunbar-Bowen!   Keep it up Claire!!

June 2020 review

Virtual parkruns

After 5 weeks in a row of less participants that the previous week, we finally saw an increase for the first virtual parkrun of the month with 64 submitted times. It was quite a week as well with Rhodri Thomas and Emyr Bissmire both running their first ever sub 20 5K’s and Keith Coleman coming agonisingly close with a 20:05 which nevertheless was still a fastest ever 5K.

A week later, the numbers rose again to 70 with a one-off allowance of submitting a 3 mile time as it was also the weekend of the OPR championship 3 miler. We had a new name at the top of the list with Ken Salvatore running 21:54 for 3 miles. Fiona Drysdale was our fastest lady for the second week in a row. Liz Davis ran her fastest 5K with a 24:29 and Judith Howells ran her fastest 5K with a 31:03.

Since then numbers have remained around 60-70 and we’re now up to week 15.


BaDRelay15 was an event set up by Builth Wells and District running club. The idea was that clubs formed teams to run from 5am until 8pm. Only one runner could be running at any given time and there was no limit on how many runners could be in a team. After the post was shared a couple of times, Chris asked me to see if wanted to investigate as to whether there would be any interest. Initially, I thought we’d maybe get 1 team of say 15 runners doing an hour but in discussions with others we decided that maybe we could get a team of 30 runners running 30 minutes each.

Within a couple of hours of posting I’d not only filled half hour slots for 2 teams of 30, but was starting to see if there was enough interest for a 3rd team as the response was amazing. In the week leading up to the event, I also had a thought about creating a long distance / ultra team. Several people were contacted and Team 4 were established with Steven James, Kris Denholm, Chris Pratt and Simon Harrison all agreeing to 3.5-4 hours each.

Meanwhile Team 3 was almost full and only a few gaps remained overall so with just 2 days to go, I posted on the juniors page to see if we could get a 5th team! Admittedly, it took a lot of messages, tagging and nagging, but with just a couple of hours to go before the teams had to be submitted, we managed to fill all 5 teams with over 120 runners and walkers involved from the ages of 6 to 60 odd.

Whilst I’m not going to mention all 120+ runners, I think a special mention has to go out to Niki Puleio, Neil Price, Ben Williams, Toni Howells, Chris Richards, Nick Harris, Steve James and Helen Lowcock James who were all 5am or 530am starters! To get up that early to run for 30 minutes in virtual event takes some determination and commitment.

Despite my leg not being until 10am, I woke up at 6am as I was so excited to see how people were getting on and start logging the miles. I provided at least hourly updates throughout the day apart from a couple of hours in the afternoon which I’ll come onto. By 9am, we’d already had 32 members that had been out and done their leg including Steven James who completed 27.91 miles in his 4 hour stint for the long distance runners in Team 4. This included our first junior (and youngest member at 6 years old) who became the 3rd of Lowcock James family to complete a leg.

By the time Kris Denholm completed 32.24 miles on his 4 hour stint from 9am until 1pm, we’d had another 32 runners complete their legs including 2 more juniors who formed part of 4 members of the Francis-Richards household who were across 3 different teams.

Chris Pratt was next up for the long distance team with a 3 and a half hour stint and had posted to say he was going to attempt to do the whole run on a 0.2 mile loop outside his house. Chris ran 20.94 miles in his 3 and a half hours which was around 120 laps in quite warm afternoon conditions.

By the time Chris finished and Simon was due to start at 430pm, we’d had 94 runners complete their relay legs including a mother-son combination in the Davis household, 3 of the Clark family, 3 of the Griffiths / Drysdale family and 4 of the Salvatore family.

Simon clocked up 21.53 miles for his 3 and a half hours, whilst the remainder of our runners across all 5 teams completed their legs. Amazingly there was only one last minute drop out which was due to injury and they’d even arranged their own replacement to ensure the team didn’t miss out. By the end of the day we’d also had 3 members of the Iveson – Holmes household run a leg each, 3 members of the Davies household and several Phoenix couples. In total I believe we had 15 households with 2 or more people running.

Our fastest runner of the day was Dai James who was the only person to clock over 5 miles in just 30 minutes with 5.06. Team 1 was intentionally set up as our team to compete against the other clubs with many of our fastest runners, and they accumulated 124.51 miles over the 15 hours which is an average of 4.15 miles for each of the 30 runners and an average of 7:13 minutes per mile. They finished 9th overall in the team standings with just 8 miles separating 4th to 13th. Our next highest mileage was by Team 4 with the 4 long distance runners racking up 102.62 miles. Closely followed by Team 2 with 96.97 miles, Team 3 with 89.4 miles and Team 5 which included some of our amazing juniors with 81.1.

An incredible day and a record attendance for most Phoenix in a single event beating the 116 runners we had in Cardiff Half Marathon.

Run4All Virtual Aberavon 5K

Another popular event with our members that has gone virtual for this year. An impressive 28 of us signed up. Unlike some other virtual events which allow any time over the period of a weekend or even week to submit a time, this had to be run on the Wednesday that the race would have taken place. Adrian Pearce was the fastest of our runners with 18:53 followed by Rhodri Thomas in 20:15 whilst I clocked 21:21 for my fastest 5K of the year. The three fastest ladies were next up with Claire DB cloking 22:47, Sarah Davies 23:42 and one of our juniors clocking 25:04.

Sally the Sunflower Relay

At the time of writing I believe we are now up to leg 75. Things have slowed down a bit although as soon as people are reminded about it then there’s usually a few offers and it picks back up again.

Volunteers Week

The first week of June was National Volunteers Week and Welsh Athletics asked for nominations from clubs on people they thought should be recognised for their role or a specific idea they had come up with during lockdown. Amazingly, we ended up having a blog post to ourselves on the Welsh Athletics website highlighting just some of the many amazing volunteers in our club.


OPR Championship / Virtual Cardiff Summer Series

Event 4 of the championship was the 3 mile time trial. 65 runners submitted times with the fastest being Nicky Bennett in 17:27 followed by Paul Smith in 17:51 and Niki Puleio in 17:57. The fastest ladies were Sian Price in 20:51, Claire Dunbar Bowen in 21:52 and Emma Loyns 23:04. However, as the championship is worked out using a handicap scoring system, the final standings were very different. Judith Howells came out on top with a PB performance followed by Helen Griffiths. Our female members claimed 10 of the top 12 positions! The top 3 men were Emyr Bissmire, Phill Iveson and Ashley Howells.

Event 5 of the championship was the 4 mile time trial. 47 runners submitted times with the fastest being Nicky Bennett with 23:15. Sian Price was again the fastest female. This time it was Keith Coleman who came out on top so after an Ogmore Valley winner last time, my next medal drop off will be over the mountain in the Garw Valley. After 5 events, Rob Loyns maintains the top spot he’s help since event 2 with Emma Loyns 2nd and Ken Salvatore 3rd.

Phoenix 24 ‘Longest Day’

The Phoenix Running events company (nothing to do with our club) run dozens of events every year mainly focusing on marathons and ultras. They’ve embraced the new normal of only being able to do virtual running events and opened entries for a event that required runners to run one miles, on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours. Amazingly, 26 of our runners signed up for this and interestingly the majority of those runners weren’t regular marathon / ultra runners and it attracted a good range of abilities.

The event started at 8am on Saturday with many using one of the early runs to do a virtual parkrun which helped bump up the overall mileage from 24 to 26.1 – most people ran 1.01 for most other miles to make sure they avoided the dreaded 0.99 recording so over the course of the 24 hours, most made it up to 26.2 miles. Of our 26 starters, 24 finished with the others making it over two-thirds of the way through before calling it a night.

I decided to run a 5K or so every 4 hours after starting the whole thing with a virtual parkrun and ended up running 45.3 miles in total which ranked me 36th highest out of almost 1000 submitted results. Gregg Harris ran multiple 1.5-2 mile stints which meant he ended up on 35.2 miles, whilst Chris Richards also did a few just over the mile to end up clocking 30.4 miles. Samantha Thompson clocked the most miles for the girls with 28.1, and I’m pretty sure would have easily clocked the most elevation of all of us with most of her miles including hills around the valley. Rob Loyns clocked by far the fastest miles with an average of 7:48 for his 27.7 miles.

Dawn Hopkins and Sarah Davies ran quite a lot of their miles together and were joined by Sara Vowles and Chris Richards for quite a few as well. Phil Iveson and Steph Iveson-Holmes were joined by their superstar junior who completed 13 of the miles with them. Nigel Hitchings, Stephanie Dyke, David Sheard, Ian Lewis, Chris Pratt, Jay Howells, Tyler Howells, Denise Bradley, Jamie Puddy and Huw Jenkins all topped the marathon distance over the 24 runs. Claudine Nicholson Lewis, Leanne Parsons and Ceri James were arguably the sensible ones who stuck to the 1 mile every hour to record 24 or 25 miles with a few 0.01 thrown in. Hopefully I’ve listed all 24 that completed it there.

Shawn Cullen continued up to and including the midnight run and clocked 19.2 miles having also done virtual parkrun as one of his runs. Karl Johnson continued up to and including the 2am run and clocked 21.6 miles (including a virtual parkrun for one of the runs).

We also had some amazing supporters. Jo Gamba run 26.3 miles by doing 8am to 10pm and then 6am and 7am but doing extra mileage on 4 of her 17 miles to make up the distance. Philippa and Tim Rees ran 15 and 16 miles respectively by joining in with most of the miles up to midnight and then getting back out for the final mile at 7am. Julie Ransom ran the first 12 runs with Shawn before supporting on the bike for a few more. Shawn and Julie also went to different locations for most of their runs to keep it interesting as it was definitely a mental challenge as much as a physical one. Multiple others joined for a few miles including Abbigayle Lumsden, Toni Howells and Judith Howells supporting Jay and Tyler. Stephne Puddy ran with Jamie for a few of the miles. Emma Williams and Louise Foster appeared at midnight in fancy dress to join some of the Tondu / Aberkenfig crew before joining Denise Bradley at 1am. Sally Pensom also came out to support Denise on her final mile. Other milers included Jayne Bissmire, Keith Coleman, the Kemberys, the Salvatores and Emma Loyns.

The 1000 miles challenge

As an added incentive for people to join in with the miles for the Phoenix 24 or to get some longer runs in, I also set a challenge of seeing if we could run 1000 miles between us in the 24 hours that the Phoenix challenge was on for. To be honest, I thought it was a bit of an ambitious target but we smashed it with 1257 miles run by our members in just 24 hours.

Other virtual events

Yes, there were even more. 6 signed up for the Twister Half Marathon with Adrian Pearce clocking an adjusted time of 1:58 (this was another one of the events were time is deducted depending on elevation gained). Sian Price was given 1:59 and Claire Dunbar-Bowen 2:00 so couldn’t have been much closer between our first three. Sian Jenkins had a time of 3:34 whilst Sarah Davies and I submitted very slow times as this clashed with the Phoenix 24 event so we just included our first 13.1 mile times from that!

Adrian’s Twister effort was also part of another virtual event as he entered the West Highland Way virtual ultra which consisted of running 95 miles over 9.5 days. His combined time was 12:31:37 and he also replicated the 14,000 feet of elevation that the actual event takes in. Sian Jenkins, Alexis and Paul Barrett teamed up to complete a third of the distance each in a total time of 19:22:15 and did the Beast run in Ogmore as their final run to get the mileage and elevation in.

Other virtual events included Julie Ransom doing the Blaydon virtual 6 miler. I did the British Masters Virtual 5K. There’s also been Miles for MSA which a lot of our members got involved with. Dozens of other members are doing the virtual LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats) and this month the Wales Coastal Challenge started.

What a month! Over to Chris for Chairman’s runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Our strange existence continues.  Many are calling it the “new normal”. I’d rather not use the word normal at all in relation to it.  I am just thinking of it only as temporary.  We yearn for the time when we can be together again.  When we are able to share activities as a group.  In the meantime we know, in order to remain safe, and ensure that others also remain safe, we have to do our bit.  Something I keep reiterating.  If we stick together and support each other we will get through this.

There have been many impressive feats during this period of restriction.  Virtually travelling all over the country while remaining within the confines of the locale.  This month has seen a whole manner of epic virtual events taken on by a large contingent of the club.  Great to see.

Celebrate everyone.  It’s in our blood.  It courses through the veins of the club.  As much as we cheer for those who notch up 100 miles in a day, we stand up and applaud those who just get off the couch to run, walk or crawl any distance.  There are some who occasionally fall off the radar for a while.   Circumstances draw them away from regular routine.  The situation of late has taken some into prescribed isolation. In such cirtumstances it is even more difficult to remain active and stay connected.  The same four walls being the only surroundings.  Some have stood tall and, in spite of being restricted, continued to get their exercise.  Not only fulfilling a base requirement but also making a comeback.  Signing up for mileage goals and virtual challenges.  Targeting challenges that push boundaries once again.  Not only that but reaching them with determination.  In the face of adversity managing to reach new goals and setting new limits after a prolonged period of absence.  Immensely admirable.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Ceri James. Amazing month Ceri, keep up the good work.

Sometimes we get people who join the club with no aspirations at all.  Often it’s due to a friend or family member being already within the fold.  The old adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.  Maybe it’s popping along to a social event that spurns the interest to get involved.  The desire to run is a secondary thing – or maybe not even that.  The words “OK, go on then” are probably the response to being encouraged to sign up.  We’ve seen it before, many times over.  A couple of casual jogs with family or friends slowly develop.  The runs get longer.  They start to get quicker.  Something natural and underlying is discovered.  Then comes the dawn of realisation.  A realisation that there is a latent ability.  It sparks desire.  Desire to go further and subsequently faster.  Boundaries are pushed and impressive performances recorded as a result.  You can tell this is becoming an obsession when the events being signed up for become increasingly more challenging.  The bug has well and truly taken hold.  I am keen to see what the remainder of 2020 holds and certainly see where this leads into 2021 when events start opening up again.  I am over the moon the award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month to Rob Loyns.  Well done Rob, keep it up.

I’d already written this up and chosen my runners when I realised I couldn’t sign off without another mention.  I’ve credited this runner before with the Chairman’s accolade, but the last couple of months have seen a herculean mission completed.  A challenge that several are a part of has taken place over time.  To virtually travel the length of the UK from South to North.  874 miles in total.  All of this achieved in 58 days.  An average of just over 15 miles a day!  Smashed it and worthy of special mention.  Well done Kris Denholm.  Incredible stuff.

May 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

Week 7 saw 79 members submit times with Aled Hughes leading the way in 20:44. A week later saw 69 members submit times with Gareth Richards leading the way in 20:45.

Week 9 saw 63 runners take part with Aled back on top with 21:06 closely followed by Rhodri Thomas. Week 10 saw 61 members take part with Rhodri clocking the fastest time, and he also topped the charts for week 11 when 59 members took part.

So far, 15 members have run all 11 virtual parkruns and 147 different members have participated in at least one.

The Virtual Welsh 5K Championships

This was about as close to a competitive event as we were likely to get this month. With the Welsh 5K Road Championships due to take place this month, they decided to make it a virtual event with entrants able to sign up for free and upload their Strava or Garmin activity as proof of completing the 5K. More than a dozen of us signed up and times could be submitted anytime over the 3 day VE Bank Holiday weekend.

The competition was fierce and having run in these events in past years, I’d say it was even more competitive than if the event had taken place for real due to pretty much everyone interested in running it being available / no need for travelling to the event / 3 days in which to complete it etc. The winning time was 13:53 from Cardiff AC runner Ieuan Thomas, there were over 50 runners under 18 minutes and over 100 under 20 minutes out of 370 results. Our fastest runners were Dai James with 18:12 followed by Nicky Bennett in 19:12, Steven James 21:32 and myself in 21:46. The first 4 finishers in each club made up a team and the men finished 13th overall. For the ladies, Jo Gamba led the way with 24:35 and was the closest out of all of our runners to her 5K PB, followed by Alysha Collins in 26:22, Sarah Davies in 26:48 and Alexis Barrett in 33:26. The girls finished 11th overall in the team standings. Well done to Chris Pratt, Jay Howells, Paul Barrett, Daniel Clark and Pippa Clark who all also submitted results.

The Virtual Welsh 1 mile Championships

Another event set up by Welsh Athletics and this time it was a 1 mile time trial. Given my OPR Championship / Summer Series 1 miler had been the previous week (details later in this blog), there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in this one but we did still have 8 members submit times.

Adrian Pearce ran an outstanding 5:24. I beat my mile time from the previous week with a 6:07 on exactly the same course. Claire Dunbar-Bowen got a sub 7 with 6:56. The remaining results were Sarah Davies with 7:11, Chris Pratt 7:20, Dawn Hopkins 7:25, Karl Johnson 7:30 and Jo Gamba 7:29. Disappointingly they didn’t have team results like in the 5K championships but I worked out our 4 girls would have finished as the 5th team overall against many of the best club runners in Wales.

OPR Training Championship / Virtual Summer Series

This year I set up an alternative club championship which was to take place once a month on training nights from February to November. All events were due to be handicapped to give everyone an chance of winning (very difficult to work out but thought I’d give it a go). We managed to complete the February event but then lockdown came in just 2 days before the second event was due to take place.

Given current circumstances, I decided to turn it into a virtual championship and combine it with the Cardiff Summer Series events where were due to take place in May and June with a 1, 2, 3 and 4 mile time trial which would also enable us to ‘catch up’ before returning to doing one a month which I already have some interesting ideas for.

The 1 mile event took place over the weekend of 15th-17th May. If members wanted to ‘double up’ they needed to do their mile on the Friday for it to count for the Cardiff Summer Series (which 15 of us did), but had any time over the weekend to run their time for the OPR Championships. We had an amazing 74 runners take on the mile. Each runners result was compared to their best parkrun / 5K time over the past 6 months as part of the handicapping system. The result was that Rob Loyns came out on top with Ceri James second. Ken Salvatore, Chris Collins and Tyler Howells completed the top 5 whilst Rosie Salvatore and Stephne Puddy were the next 2 highest female scorers.

The 2 mile event took place over the weekend of 29th-31st May. 16 members ‘doubled up’ by also signing up to the Cardiff Summer Series 2 miler which was on the Friday, but had any time over the weekend to run their time for the OPR Championships. We had 54 runners take on the 2 mile. This time I as able to base the handicap using their 1 mile times. The result was that Claire Dunbar Bowen came out on top with Sian Price second and Rob Loyns third. By getting a great mile time, Rob really should have been at a slight disadvantage going into the 2 miler but absolutely smashed it again. Anthony Kavanagh and Dawn Hopkins completed the top 5 with the girls dominating most of the top 10 which was a reversal of what happened in the 1 mile event.

I’d bought medals ahead of the championship to present to each event winner which I delivered (on a run from my house of course) to Rob and Claire shortly after their victories.

Overall, Rob Loyns leads the championship with Sarah Davies in second and Emma Loyns third. Niki Puleio and Nicky Bennett complete the top 5. The top places are currently dominated by members who’ve run in all 3 events so far, but the final results will be based on the best 6 scores from the 10 events so there could be members who haven’t even participated yet who could end up winning.

Other events

Pippa Clark completed the Bannister Anniversary virtual mile on the date that the Cardiff Running Events company would have had their usual mile race.

The Twister 10K involved running a virtual 10K whereby you get minutes knocked off your time the more elevation you do (Talbot Method Scoring). So there’s tactics involved as to whether you go for a fast flat 10K or go for a super hilly route and hope to do it in a reasonable enough time that the bonus deducted time makes up for the time lost on the hills. This was their second event of this kind and it appeared that getting lots of elevation in your run is more beneficial than just going for a flat all out 10K. In fact, the winner did a very hilly route in 42 minutes but with his time deductions for the elevation, his overall time was 25 minutes which is faster than the track 10,000 meter world record. Niki Puleio was 21st overall with an adjusted time of 39 minutes whilst Adrian Pearce was 34th. Sarah Davies was our only female finisher in the event.

The Lockdown 10 miler followed the same rules as the Twister 10K but also included age graded scoring on top. I finished 10th overall with an adjusted time of 65 minutes. Sian Jenkins was our only female finisher in the event with an adjusted time of 105 minutes.

A week later saw the Twister 10 miler with the same ‘Talbot method’ scoring used. For this one, I decided to go for maximum elevation and did 3 loops of the Beast to accumulate around 2,300 feet in just 10 miles (not far off the elevation of Snowdonia Marathon but in less than 40% of the distance). Incredibly Adrian Pearce did a little bit more than that and finished 11th overall. Kevin Raymond choose a flatter, faster option and finished 16th . I finished 25th overall, Claire Dunbar-Bowen was 29th, Sarah Davies was 85th, Paul Barrett 96th, Sian Jenkins 116th and Alexis Barrett 118th.

The final weekend of the month was the Rocky 10K – another ‘Talbot Method’ scoring event. I’ve loved these events as it’s been fun planning routes and testing out over the weeks whether huge elevation and slower pace is the way to go, some hills and faster pace, or flat as possible and all out race pace. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle as Adrian Pearce finished first overall in this event but went for significantly less elevation than his previous events with a faster pace. He still over 350 feet of elevation which I think most of our members would consider a hilly 10K if it were a race. I finished 8th whilst Sarah Davies was 25th and Sian Jenkins was 26th. I think it’s becoming obvious which four club members are enjoying these ‘Talbot scoring’ virtual events!

Richard Wilder (organiser of the Cottrell Park events) set up a challenge to complete 42.2K (a marathon) in 42 hours from 6pm Friday 16th to 12pm Sunday 18th. I decided to give it a go but got my timings a bit wrong and ended up missing the 42 hour cut off. I did sort of make up for it by doing over 45k within a 45 hour period over that weekend.

Weekend Challenges

Something a bit different for the first weekend of the month with Coach Kembrey and committee member Fiona Evans setting us a challenge of becoming ‘Phoenix Travel Agents’. The idea was that we promoted our local area through photo’s and videos which could be done tongue in cheek or more seriously. There were some fantastic entries with videos of most areas of the Bridgend county included plus some alternative entries such as Heather Morgan showing the sites of all past and present schools in the Ogmore Valley (of which there were almost 20) and I did past and present races around Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan.

The second weekend included a Friday Bank Holiday for the 75th anniversary of VE Day. This time, Chris Pratt set the challenge with runners encouraged to submit miles to complete the distance from Ogmore to Reims, France and then onto Berlin, Germany. A total of 1350 miles. Additions to the challenge included wearing red, white and blue, drawing VE with your activity trace, and taking selfies with any street names starting with V or E (we discovered that street names starting with V were quite few and far between). Only counting miles that were within the 75 minute limit we achieved 1,186 miles whilst without the limit we achieved an amazing 1,345 miles. Liz Sim also marked VE day by running 75 miles in the first 8 days of the month.

Two weekends were taken up by the OPR championship mentioned above but we did also have another weekend challenge on the 4th weekend suggested by Sarah Davies. Taking an idea which has been popular on the parkrun Facebook groups since lockdown began, the idea was to find street names beginning with O, P and R, and then find ones starting with the letters of your first name. For those that wanted to take the challenge a bit further they could attempt to spell Ogmore Phoenix Runners with a street name containing the letter X being allowed considering there aren’t any locally. Dozens of members got involved. Such were the number of challenges on offer, on the same day I did he Welsh Athletics 1 miler, the Lockdown 10 miler and then went out with my twins to spell OPR and all three of our first names using street names! Others went even further and went for Ogmore Phoenix Runners plus their full name. Others bent the rules slightly and used shop or other street signs to help or ones that just included their first names / surnames anyway. All a bit of fun and getting members exploring their local areas.

Miles for Mind

Organised by Jayne Bissmire, 89 runners signed up to form ‘Phoenix Knights’ with each choosing a mileage target which had to be a multiple of 25 from 25 to 200 for the month in order to raise money for Mental Health charity Mind. This was a huge motivator for those members throughout the month with many not just reaching their target, but completing them with over a week to go. There was also plenty of courage and determination shown with Nicola Baker completing her 100 mile target despite an injury half ways through meaning she had to walking the rest of her miles.

Some even went as far as setting new higher targets. There’s so many that I can’t list them all but some examples include Sara Johns signing up for 25 miles but run / walking over almost 100. Heather Morgan targeting 50 miles but completing over 100. Maria George targeting 75 but completing over 150. Sarah Davies targeted 100 and did over 150. Liz Sim had a target of 150 miles but ended up doing over 200. Keith Coleman had a target of 150 but completed over 250.

As well as Liz and Keith, Angharad Hinam, Neil Price and Dai James all exceed 200 miles for the month. Keith also did a staggered 17,894 feet of elevation over his runs.

OTT Elevation Challenge

Off The Tarmac (OTT) are a events company specialising in long distance events that usually include a crazy amount of elevation. Our very own Liz Sim is a race ambassador for the company and with their main Marathon falling victim to the virus, a virtual event was set up. The challenge was to complete the same amount of elevation in the week leading up to when the marathon should have been (Sunday 10th May). The target was 4,782 feet. To put that in perspective, Snowdonia Marathon is around 2800 feet or to put it another way, it’s like climbing Snowdonia itself 1.5 times.

Plenty of Phoenix rose to the challenge with a variety of approaches. Liz actually attempted it in one go running 28 miles with 4,727 feet of elevation. Adrian Pearce ran 17,257 feet of elevation over the week so completed the challenge almost 4 times and ‘climbed Snowdon’ more than 5 times, completing 83 miles. He also completed a run with over 5000 feet of elevation in just 16 miles.


LEJOG stands for Lands End to John O’Groats and another virtual challenge was born to run the 874 miles from the most southern point of mainland UK to the most northern point over the course of 6 months. A pretty hefty challenge for even our biggest mileage runners in the club but several have signed up and are well ahead of the average mileage required at this point.

The Sunflower Relay

Sally the Sunflower is still going strong and at the end of May was on her 66th leg. Chris Pratt has been tracking the relay since it started at the end of March and posted some stats on May 28th. At that point, our members had taken the sunflower over 600 miles which possibly doesn’t include mileage before picking up from the previous location / running home after dropping off. Either way, it’s certainly got our members doing some miles. Each leg is accompanied by photos of the journey which I think have made us all appreciate our local area and maybe even encouraged us to run in new places.

Lockdown marathons and crazy mileage

As well as her 28 miler as part of the OTT challenge, Liz Sim also did a 32 mile run later in the month. Sian Thomas apparently told friends she was going to ‘do a long run’ and ended up doing a marathon, running 4:40:08 which is actually 19 minutes faster than her marathon PB in an official event. Angharad Hinam did a marathon along the coast. Neil Price ran an incredible 3:23 marathon to complete his 200 Miles for Mind. Gareth Richards did a 5 hour treadmill run clocking 37.2 miles and was yet another member to complete over 200 miles in May.

As well as many of the 89 Miles for Mind runners who ran their highest mileage months ever, I ran over 200 miles in a month for the first time having been inspired by Kris Denholms consistency at achieving that target month after month recently, which leads me onto the man himself.

Kris Denholm continued his RED streak (Run Every Day) hitting his 152nd day at the end of May. During the month he ran a marathon on his treadmill in 3:37:09 and finished the month with a challenge he set himself of running 5 hours on a treadmill where he ran 40.22 miles to finish off with a weekly mileage of 101.3! Having regularly exceeded just over 200 miles per month this year, he finished May in an astonishing 370.5 miles.

Virtual leaderboard

Whilst these virtual events are not counting towards club t-shirts or official race PB’s, it’s been great tracking everyones progress and I’ve now started keeping stats on the virtual events as well.

Our leaderboard for May (for single event challenges rather than monthly) is as follows…

  • Sarah Davies – 12 – (7 ‘races’, 5 virtual parkruns)
  • Gareth Jenkins – 12 – (7 ‘races’, 5 virtual parkruns)
  • Sian Jenkins – 9 – (4 ‘races’, 5 virtual parkruns)
  • Jo Gamba – 9 – (4 ‘races’, 5 virtual parkruns)
  • Chris Pratt – 9 – (4 ‘races’, 5 virtual parkruns)

During May 131 different members took part in at least one challenge (single event or monthly).

Ogmore Phoenix Quarantine Quiz

Despite all the challenges and crazy mileage, there was still time for some lockdown virtual socialising with the Quarantine Quiz. Our social committee did a fantastic job of organising the quiz with 23 teams and almost 50 people involved. Our quiz master was Dan Clark who did a fantastic job along the social team and Chris Pratt in ensuring everything went as smoothly as possible. Well done to ‘3HD’ (Steph Dyke and Nigel Hitchings) who won the quiz. ‘Gamkins’ were second (Jo Gamba and I). Whilst there was a tie for 3rd place between ‘Kim and Pete’ (Kimberley Davies and Peter Walsh), and the ‘Llynfi Lockdown Tourists’ which were a superteam of 3 households (joining together digitally of course) including Alexis and Paul Barrett, Sarah Davies and Sian Jenkins. There was much confusion on the Members Only page as we were set a challenge in between each round of finding different items and taking a selfie to post whilst wearing wigs (or alternatives) and at least one item that had the OPR logo.

May I conclude

Another month with no official training sessions and no official races or parkruns but it’s hardly noticeable when you read everything we’ve done this month. Liz Davis, Jayne Bissmire and David Kembery continue to set us midweek training runs whilst weekends are now regularly filled with challenges, virtual events and championships. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to returning to training together, parkruns and races but for now I couldn’t think of a better club to be involved in to keep us all motivated and supported through these times.

Over to Chris for his runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

May is often an epic month of running.  People are warmed up for the year.  Spring marathons have usually come and gone.  BCRL is usually starting up and getting everyone engaged.  

Warmer weather has arrived and the mood has been lifted as a result.  Miles increasing throughout the month.  Many were engaged in a challenge to target a self declared number of miles and battled through it with determination.  Something synonymous with the Phoenix Spirit.

Despite things not being usual, engagement is high through virtual events and challenges keeping us busy.

Both my choices this month have gone outside their “normal”.

Some of us have been running for years.  Some of us haven’t.  Often when it’s been a long time, a routine forms.  A comfortable routine evolves and is settled into, ad infinitum.  Sometimes though, a change of circumstance can cause a “disturbance in the force“ resulting in that routine running off track.  Often for the better.  Increased miles can catch people off guard and injuries can result.  However, when experienced runners make that jump – the experience has taught them to listen to their bodies.  They know when a twinge is just that and it can be run through.  They also know when to down tools and sit it out until it passes.  Monitoring daily and adjusting pace and distance can result in remarkable changes in volume.  We’ve seen that a few times of late as time is on the side of some and they can put the work in.  

My first choice this month fits the bill.  Years of service and a sudden increase in miles.  Dedication.  A renewed focus.  Elevation to match the miles too.  Often, when volume increase, pace also follows.  That is also the case here with some mightily impressive times recorded on specific virtual distances.  Impressive.  Very impressive.  May followed an impressive April, which was a 50% increase in mileage on previous months, and I’m guessing it will continue.  Great achievement and one worthy of the accolade.  I am delighted to award my Chairmain’s Male Runner of the Month for May to Keith Coleman.  Huge well done Keith, keep it up.

Another phenomenal month saw someone exceed all expectations.  Expectations, may I add, that they set for themselves.  Throughout the month there was an ever increasing motivation to get out and get some miles in.  Not only miles, but elevation too.  Living at the top of the Ogmore Valley means that routes either way are involve a climb.  Either climbing away from home or back again.  Not content with standard routes, however.  The routes were chosen to head off the beaten track and up in to the hills.  The higher the better.  Views are the reward for the effort, but the effort is great.  There has to be the incentive to head “up”.  Running hills often leads to improvements in other areas especially when combined with increased volume in a sensible way.  It’s fantastic to see this sudden transformation.  A desire to push boundaries.  Admirable to see.  All done with a smiling face and accompanied by huge amounts of support for others.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Maria George.  Fantastic month Maria, well done!