OPR at Maesteg parkrun – 6 years anniversary edition

Since the inaugural in July 2017, we’ve had 237 runners registered under OPR that have completed 2,810 runs at Maesteg parkrun. Our club make up nearly 10% of all finishes at Maesteg in their 221 events to date. Just to note that these figures do include some juniors and some former members. At that inaugural, we had 35 runners who were members at the time – 30 of which are still members.

Most parkruns at Maesteg

  1. Aled Hughes 107
  2. Niki Puleio 106
  3. Nicky Bennett 90
  4. Tom Mahoney 89
  5. Kris Denholm 86
  6. Toby Kearns 75
  7. Dai Kembery 72
  8. Emyr Bissmire 62
  9. Peter Walsh 57
  10. Denise Bradley 57

 Keith Coleman and Adam Kearns have run at Maesteg on 50 occasions whilst Carys Cronin, Sally Pensom and Alison Allen all have over 40 runs at Maesteg.

Highest percentage of total parkruns at Maesteg (for those with over 25 runs there) 

  1. Tom Mahoney (89/94) 94.7%
  2. Emyr Bissmire (62/67) 92.5%
  3. Carys Cronin (45/49) 91.8%
  4. Ben Batchelor (33/36) 91,7%
  5. Arwen Rees (35/39) 89.7%
  6. Nicky Bennett (90/101) 89.1%
  7. Jacob Tasker (35/41) 85.4%
  8. Scott Gray (29/35) 82.9%
  9. Adam Kearns (55/69) 79.7%

 There’s quite a big drop off after that so it’s mainly these 9 that are the ‘Maesteg or nothing’ runners. 

Maesteg first finishers

  1. Jacob Tasker 35
  2. Niki Puleio 10
  3. Nicky Bennett 8
  4. Josh Parry 6
  5. Toby Kearns 4
  6. Gareth Richards 2
  7. Rhys Williams 2
  8. Kyle Blackmore / Steve Holloway / Kris Denholm / James Littlewood / Gareth Battle / Tom Mahoney / Aled Hughes / Adam Kearns / Jamie Verran / Wayne Hayhurst

 We also had Neil Jones and Adrian Pearce as first finishers when they were members of the club meaning there’s been around 80 times that there’s been an OPR member first across the line at Maesteg.

Female first finishers

  1. Carys Cronin 5
  2. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 4
  3. Sarah Davies 2
  4. Sarah Wilkes 2
  5. Sian Price / Sarah Littlewood / Juliet Amner / Bethan Moor 1

 Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Male)

  1. Jacob Tasker 16:12
  2. Nicky Bennett 17:53
  3. Josh Parry 18:27
  4. Niki Puleio 18:30
  5. Gareth Richards 18:57
  6. Rhys Williams 18:59
  7. Toby Kearns 19:07
  8. Gareth Battle 19:13
  9. Aled Hughes 19:16
  10. John Burridge 19:20

 We have another 5 current members who have run sub 20 at Maesteg – Jamie Verran, James Littlewood, Adam Kearns, Dylan Panting and Wayne Hayhurst. 

Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Female) 

  1. Sarah Wilkes 21:23
  2. Bethan Moor 23:01
  3. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 23:04
  4. Freya Allen 23:08
  5. Sarah Littlewood 23:29
  6. Carys Cronin 23:36
  7. Willow Hughes 23:52
  8. Alison Allen 24:18
  9. Kate Lee 24:37
  10. Dawn Hopkins 24:37

 Top age grade percentages 

  1. Jacob Tasker 79.63%
  2. Gareth Richards 77.22%
  3. Niki Puleio 75.02%
  4. Kris Denholm 75.02%
  5. Aled Hughes 74.13%
  6. Gareth Battle 74.10%
  7. Denise Bradley 73.78%
  8. Jason Griffiths 73.20%
  9. Keith Coleman 72.15%
  10. Nicky Bennett 72.13%

 Judith Jeeves, Claire Dunbar-Bowen and Freya Allen would be the next ladies. 

Age Category Records at Maesteg (noting any in the top 5) 

SM20-24 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:36

SM25-29 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:12 / 3rd – Nicky Bennett 17:53

VM50-54 – 2nd – Gareth Richards 19:13

VM55-59 – 4th – Kris Denholm 20:29 

JW15-17 – 5th – Freya Allen 23:08 (before joining club)

SW18-19 – 4th – Willow Hughes 23:52

SW20-24 – 3rd – Sarah Wilkes 22:06

SW25-29 – 5th – Sarah Wilkes 21:23

VW55-59 – 4th – Denise Bradley 24:50

VW60-64 – 4th – Denise Bradley 25:56 

Biggest OPR attendances at Maesteg 

  1. 11th September 2021 – 45 (Dai Kembery’s 250th parkrun)
  2. 24th December 2022 – 43 (multiple club milestones / Christmas theme)
  3. 3rd August 2019 – 41 (I think this was the morning before a Beer Mile and everyone was dressed up – not sure what the occasion was though)

Volunteering at Maesteg parkrun

  1. Stephne Puddy 183
  2. Sian Jenkins 66
  3. Kris Denholm 41
  4. Nicky Bennett 37
  5. Tom Mahoney 32

Emma Marshall who was a member of our club until this year has the most volunteer credits at Maesteg with 200. Over the years there’s been several OPR takeovers where 20+ volunteer roles have been filled by our members so it’s easily the parkrun that has had the most different number of OPR members that have volunteered there at least once.

If you haven’t been to Maesteg parkrun before, then come along sometime soon. It’s one of the most friendliest, welcoming parkruns around and you’ll be sure to see a Phoenix or two along the way.

June review

parkruns

We kicked off the month with 71 runners across 16 different parkrun locations. John Burridge was our fastest runner of the day with a 18:58 at Porthcawl parkrun whilst Jamie Verran picked up a first finisher token at Pontypool parkrun in 19:32. Tourism included Saul Harris at Eden Project and Julie Greenman at Bideford.

A couple of days later saw the opportunity to get two extra parkruns in with special days in Denmark and Sweden. If you weren’t aware, parkrun lets each country have a couple of ‘special days’ where they can put on parkruns outside of the usual Saturday. In the UK, it’s Christmas Day and New Years Day but some other countries have theirs on other national bank holidays. This obviously peaked the interest of Johnson’s parkrun Tours with Karl arranging for Nick Harris, Vickie Blake, David Cooper and Satera James along with himself to visit Amager Strandpark parkun in Denmark on the Monday and then Vaxjosjon parkrun in Sweden on the Tuesday.

The second weekend saw 50 members running across 15 parkruns including Carl Walsh running at North Beach parkrun in South Africa ahead of the Comrades Marathon. The reduced turnout was largely due to Welsh Castles also being that weekend as well as Swansea Half Marathon the next day.

Numbers were back up slightly the week after with 57 members running across 12 different parkrun locations. Toby Kearns led home a OPR top 3 at Maesteg parkrun with Willow Hughes also first female finisher there. Aled Hughes became the first member to run 100 parkruns at two different locations with his 100th at Porthcawl to add to his 100+ at Maesteg.

The final Saturday of the month saw another increase with 65 runners across 15 parkrun locations. At Maesteg, Nicky Bennett was running his 100th parkrun whilst it was the 100th parkrun for Toni Howells with Porthcawl his chosen venue.

Races

5K

The first race of the Aberavon / Run4All 5K series saw a huge turnout of 31 members making up 15% of the field. Our first finisher was Aled Hughes closely followed by John Burridge and Emyr Bissmire. Our top ladies were Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Carys Cronin and Denise Bradley.

At the second race of the Swansea Bay 5K series we had 23 runners. Aled Hughes was our first member back in 18:04 and also won the veteran age category prize with Claire Dunbar-Bowen picking up 3rd for the ladies veterans.

At the second race of the SSAFA 5K series in Cardiff, Jake matched his PB of 15:22 running exactly the same time has he did at the same event a month earlier! There were also impressive performances from Jamie Verran with a 18:55 and Katie Plimmer who ran a PB of 22:31.

Half Marathons

We had 18 runners at a very hot Swansea Half Marathon where Jake matched his 2021 performance by finishing 4th overall, but ran an even quicker time, lowering his own club record to 1:09:35! It was 24 minutes before our next runner crossed the line with Daniel Jenkins finishing in what most of us would consider to be a very speedy 1;33:31. I was one of the official 1:50 pacers at the event whilst Gail Newell was one of the tail runners. Emma Loyns was the first female finisher for our club in 1:52.

There were a couple of other half marathons in the month with Jade B running the Run Walk Crawl Dare Half Marathon. Steph Dyke and Nigel Hitchings completed the challenging Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon.

Marathons and Ultras

Three members took on three different challenging marathons during the month with Carl Walsh completing the Black Mountains Marathon, Chris Richards at the Giants Head Marathon, and Liz Sim at the Dare Valley Marathon.

It was a busy month for Ultra’s with Mel Thomas and Rhiain Casseldine-Foreman running the Battle of Brampton Valley Way Ultra. Dai James completed the VOGUM which starts in Porthcawl and finishes in Cardiff (basically the reverse of the Vale Ultra with an additional 8 or so miles). Then Dai was back in action just two weeks later along with Denise Bradley as they took on the Race to the Kings 100K over two days. Both had similar experiences with day one going really well but niggles on day two making it very challenging but both finishing nevertheless.

I’m saving what I consider the best for last as Carl Walsh ran the Comrades ‘Marathon’. For those reading this that aren’t familiar, although it’s called a marathon, it’s actually 55 miles and is the oldest and biggest participated ultra in the world. It runs from point to point in South Africa with a significant amount of elevation and different medals depending on what time you finish it.

Other races

Kierran Spiers ran at the Caerlon 5 miler. Aled Hughes and Nick Harris ran at the 3 mile event of the Cardiff Summer Series. Danny Ridley completed the 23K Maverick Forest of Dean trail event.

Rack Raid

This was the third year the club had been invited to enter Rack Raid having first done it in 2019 and then again last year in 2022 with the years in between being cancelled due to the pandemic. It was the second year we had two teams and with lots of runners signed up for Welsh Castles the following week, the captains group thought it would be a good opportunity for others to be part of the team that hadn’t done it before. In the end we had quite a range with 15 members running it for the first time, 9 running it for the second time and just myself and wifey Jo making it 3 out of 3. Jake won his half marathon stage for the second year in a row in a quicker time than last year and only just missing out on the course record. Our A team finished 10th overall out of 28 teams with a combined time of 12 hours 42 minutes and 3 seconds which was within 6 minutes of what we achieved in 2019 and 2022 which were just seconds apart. Team B finished in 27th place in 15:09:57. Another great day although I do wish they were turn the temperature down as every year has been hotter and hotter.

Welsh Castles

Finally, after 10 years, we finally entered and completed a Welsh Castles Relay. A huge effort particularly from ladies captain Dawn Hopkins and men’s vice captain Nicky Bennett in finally getting this off the ground and hopefully setting us up to do this year after year. There was a huge build up to this event behind the scenes for months before the excitement really built in the week leading up to it with team photo’s, lots of posts and a profile on every runner by our Insta queen Jayne Bissmire.

As for the event itself, 20 of our top runners became pioneers and wrote themselves in the history books as they each took their turn over the two day event to run their allocated stage. The competition was fierce with top clubs from around the UK, not just Wales competing. We held our own and finished in a combined time of 25:30:09 for 39th out of 66 teams.

BCRL

The third fixture of the season took us to Rest Bay where we had 84 finishers lead home by overall winner Jake Tasker, taking his 9th BCRL victory and making it 10 in a row that have been won by an OPR member. Our top 10 runners had crossed the line with just 19:04 on the race clock for the 3 mile race. The distance had been extended from past years to add in a section around Pink Bay with the tides just about working out but everyone getting very wet feet nonetheless. A solid performance from our ladies, plus another big turnout meant that although we only finished 3rd in the team standings, we lost very little ground to Bridgend and are still in contention overall.

Over to Chris for this months Chair’s Runners of the Month decisions.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

It becomes increasingly difficult to choose winners for these accolades as all our members do fabulous things daily – but choose I must and so here are my choices for June 2023.

Commitment and dedication.  These are traits that are highly praised, but it’s very important to acknowledge that we all have periods where we fall away.  When the desire wanes or the focus shifts.  We need something at those times to inspire and lift – to resurrect that commitment and to our journey.  It comes in many forms and quite often we don’t know what it is – we just feel the uplift and ride on the back of it to a more consistent running routine.  This year I’ve noticed one in our midst had started to find focus again.  Posts were increasingly positive and runs were consistently spaced with races popping up in increasing number.  Clearly enjoyment has been steadily returning for some time and the uplift has been apparent and led to epic races completed with a smile and celebration.  Times have naturally improved as pressure was removed from the expectation with June seeing podium finishes.  Massively impressive but even more so is learning that throwing off the shackles can create the ability to improve by just being relaxed at the start.  Much more to come and many more happy smiling race pictures!!  I’m delighted to announce my first Chair’s Runner of the Month for June as Claire Dunbar-Bowen.  Well done Claire – keep up the fabulous running!!

I’ve often said you don’t have to run fast or long to make a mark.  Heading out of the door is achievement enough to secure a round of applause – and recognition for this accolade may I add!  But, those who do run long, or fast, often get the plaudits – especially when the commitment to training has been worthy of celebration.  The outcome is the thing that we recognise, but the hard work is often the weeks of hard graft following a process that you can finally trust in when the start line is reached.  A local event along the coast woos many of us to take part every year, but one in the opposite direction this year had one member zooming along the 40 miles for a top ten finish!  Not only that but then two weeks later tackling a back-to-back ultra event totalling 100km.  While on day two he felt the pinch, the outcome was a celebration of a commitment to training that gave him the strength of body and mind to complete both tasks.  Impressive stuff!  I’m thrilled to announce my second Chair’s Runner of the Month for June as Dai James.  Keep sharing the journey Dai!!

May review

parkruns

The first weekend of the month saw 67 of our members across an incredible record breaking 18 different parkrun venues. Our number 1 tourist, Chris Roberts has obviously made such an impression on the parkrun tourist world that he’s had a parkrun named after him and visited Roberts park parkrun for the first time. Our fastest runner of the day was Toby Kearns who ran an impressive 18:51 at Cardiff parkrun.

The second parkrunday of the month saw 67 members (again) but this time across 16 different parkrun venues. Bethan Moor was first female finisher at Sandy Water whilst we had a rare double at Maesteg parkrun with Toby Kearns and Carys Cronin first male and female finishers.

The third Saturday saw an slight increase with 71 members across 14 parkruns. Jo and I visited one of the toughest parkruns in the UK, Woolacombe Dunes where I can now claim the club course record in a speedy 30:49! Trust me, it was hard work just to run 9 minutes slower than my fastest time this year. Much more impressively, Jacob Tasker broke the course record and was first finisher at Coed Cefn-Pwll-du in 17:00 which is actually in the top 10 toughest parkruns in the UK. There were lots of visits to Coed Cefn during May by our members as it was part of the trail club championships. Aled Hughes ran a parkrun PB of 18:19 finishing 3rd overall at Porthcawl parkrun whilst Nicky Bennett was first overall at Maesteg.

The number increased again for the final weekend of the month with 76 across 16 different parkrun locations. There was a big turnout with 35 club members at Porthcawl on another sunny bank holiday weekend. Jamie Verran ran in Zuiderpark parkrun in Amsterdam as he continues his streaks of not missing a parkrun since he started. On the Monday, there was a extra parkrunday in the Netherlands where he did Delftse Hout parkrun and has now broke the club record for most different parkrun tourists in a row with 23.

Races

5K

May marks the start of about 20+ 5K races located between Cardiff and Swansea over the next few months and we started off with some amazing performances and PB’s.

The Race for Victory 5K is arguably the fastest of them all with PB’s galore every year that our members have attended. This year was no exception with Nicky Bennett running an incredible mind-blowing 15:59 PB followed by PB performances from Toby Kearns (17:46), Aled Hughes (17:47), Dylan Panting (18:20), Emyr Bissmire (18:26), Adam Kearns (18:49) and Rhodri Thomas (19:08). Carys Cronin joined only a handful of women in the clubs history to run sub 22 with a 21:57 PB. Denise Bradley ran 24:35 to break the club’s female over 60 record and run what I believe is her fastest 5K in around 4 years.

No PB’s on offer at a windy Paul Popham Swansea Bay 5K which was the first of a series of 3 races. Possibly the best value race of the year as although £12 might be more than some other 5K’s, runners were presented with a burger, bottle of beer and leftover Swansea 10K tech t-shirts from last year. There were 24 in attendance for this one with Nicky Bennett leading us home in 4th place overall followed by Aled Hughes and John Burridge. Sarah Davies was our first female followed by Denise Bradley and Jo Jenkins.

This month also saw the Samtampa Memorial 5K in Porthcawl. A first time event raising money for the RLNI which saw 7 of our runners complete. I believe it more than 5K but including in this section for ease.

10K’s

We had 9 runners at the Caerphilly 10K where Jake lead our runners home in a new club record time of 31:45. Geriant Lewis ran 35:36 whilst Aled Hughes just missed out on another PB with 37:36.

We had 7 runners at Treforest 10K where Jake Tasker ran 32:11 which is the second fastest 10K in club history behind his record at Caerphilly this month. Katie Plimmer ran a PB of 48:50 for her second 10K PB already this year.

During the month, we also had Abbi Lumsden run the Great Bristol 10K and Dawn Hopkins run the Gorseinon 10K.

Half Marathons

Our largest attended Half of the month was 6 members running at the Weston Super Half including long term supporter Alison Allen running her first event for the club. We had 4 runners at the Bristol Half with Jay and Toni Howells adding Half Marathon PB’s to their Marathon PB’s at Manchester a few weeks before. It was a 20 minute PB for Toni from his time in Cardiff Half just 7 months before.

Elsewhere, Jake won the Welsh Trail Running Championship Half Marathon event, Danny Ridley was first finisher at the Limitless Blacks Half, and Melanie Thomas completed a ‘long’ half in Brecon with some crazy elevation and technical terrain.

Marathons

Carl Walsh and Danny Ridley completed the Blacks to the Beacons Marathon whilst Carl also did another Brecon Trail Marathon in the month. We had 6 runners at the inaugural Rob Burrows Leeds Marathon where Carl was in action again with Danny. Denise Bradley, Chris Pratt, Ian Lewis and Helen Griffiths also ran the marathon raising vital funds for MND.

Other distance races

Jake Tasker took the overall win at Porthkerry 5 miler running 28:09. That smashed one of the longest standing club record which had stood for 7 years. The marathon is the only club record Jake doesn’t have and if he can get that one, then he’ll become the first runner in the 10+ year history of the club to hold every distance record from 5K to Marathon. We had 6 other runners at the 5 miler with Chris Pratt, Mark Teesdale, Katie Plimmer, Fiona Drysdale, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion.

There were a few short speedy races in May with Aled Hughes running both the 1 mile and 2 mile Cardiff Summer Series events. We had 7 runners at the Bannister Mile with Nicky Bennett running 4:43 which is the fastest official mile time recorded for the club. Incredibly our ‘slowest’ runner came in at 5:43 so that particular event attracted the very top end of our club although just to note for next year, it is open to all abilities.

We had a couple of hilly races with the aptly named Pentyrch Hill race which returned for the first time since 2019 with Mark Teesdale, Aled Hughes and Nick Harris running that one. Kevin Raymond took on the Cader Idris Mountain Race which includes an eye watering 3,000 feet of elevation in just 11 miles.

Emma Loyns took on arguably the toughest race in the history of the club with the Snowdonia UTS 100K which has 21,000 feet of elevation over the 64 mile course with some of the toughest and steepest terrain anywhere in the world. Just to make it that extra bit tougher, it was unusually hot for Snowdonia and unfortunately Emma had to pull out around half way have done 33 miles and over 11,000 feet of elevation due to heat exhaustion. There was a significant drop out rate including runners who had previously completely the UTMB which is widely renowned as the ‘World Championship’ of Ultra Running and one of the toughest mountain races on earth.

BCRL

This month saw the second fixture of the BCRL with Pencoed the venue for a cross country style event. As they were for the first running of this fixture last year, conditions were very hot. Jake Tasker won the event by some distance with Geraint Lewis second making it a 1-2 for Ogmore Phoenix. Our top 10 male runners all finished in the top 20 and a great performance from our ladies combined with a huge turnout of 89 meant that we were within 7 points of Bridgend who won the event in the club competition.

Over to Chris for his Chair’s Runners of the Month

Passion.  Focus.  Dedication.  Commitment.  Heart!  All positive and things that we all aspire to in our training and our running.  Often driven by a cause.  Mix with that excitement.  Some exude it when they’re driven.  Emotions become a part of the fire that burns within.  Sometimes we read it on a face.  Sometimes we hear it in the voice as the journey is recalled.  Outwardly displaying that excitement and passion is infectious.  It feeds into the soul of those around looking on.  Motivation follows and others find themselves taking a path that mimics that excitement – we get drawn in!  I am incredibly inspired by the positivity and excitement of others and watching recent achievements has added weight to that inspiration.  Having represented the club at the London Marathon this year, she was incredibly humble and overflowing with excitement.  Driven by a cause it was a fabulous build up to the race and then an emotional journey around the streets of the capital creating memories that will last a lifetime.  The whole process was inspiring and just the start of a year-long challenge to raise valuable funds for a worthy cause.  So inspired by the commitment to it.  Huge well done to my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for May as Shelley Evans.  Keep the focus and smash the challenge out of the park!

parkrun is a love for many of us.  We’ve all had it in our lives to varying degree.  Some dip their toe in and some just launch headlong into the throng and get completely absorbed by everything it has to give.  That detail could be attributed to many within the blue wave, that’s certainly true, but to project to such commitment from a standing start is incredible to see.  A passion for moving around.  A serial tourist – including jumping on a plane and visiting foreign climes.  Every week a different venue.  Every week a different location.  Each time sharing the experience.  With family often in tow for support it’s been a fabulous journey to observe and be a part of.  Reporting back on endeavours and hitting quicker times than ever before along the way.  All of this with an excitement that exudes and inspires.  I’m sure it will continue as he gets drawn in by other weekly challenges under the parkrun umbrella and we look forward to following all future antics.  Keep up the good work Jamie Verran, my Chairman’s Male Runner of the month for May!

April 2023 review

parkruns

With this month having 5 parkrundays we saw some huge overall numbers for the month with 347 parkrun finishes across 67 parkruns.

The first weekend of the month saw 58 members running across 12 different parkrun locations. Our leading tourist Chris Roberts added another venue to his list with Crystal Palace. Linda Harris ran her 100th parkrun whilst visiting Newport parkrun. There was a big turnout at Maesteg where several members were celebrating birthdays and Carys Cronin was first female. Newly returning member Dai James was 3rd overall at Porthcawl.

The second weekend was huge. A club record 95 members ran a parkrun beating our old record of 85 on a single Saturday. This came down to several factors – good weather,, Porthcawl parkruns 10 year anniversary celebrations, our latest Zero to Hero graduation at Porthcawl, plus lots of people taking the long Easter weekend to go away and do some tourism. We had 55 runners at Porthcawl which surprisingly isn’t a record but still a huge turnout and included over half a dozen new members completing their first 5K with lots of members coming out to support. Nicky Bennett was also first finisher. There was a presentation afterwards at the Hi Tide where there was a celebration of 10 years of parkrun and where I spoke on behalf of the club having been involved since the start… and because Chris was away.

That second weekend saw Julie Ransom run a parkrun in Amsterdam, Alun Wylde ran at Clermont parkrun in Florida, leading tourist Chris Roberts notch up another new venue, Liam O’Sullivan ran a PB at Brynaman and Jacob Tasker was first finisher at Maesteg.

Weekend 3 saw a big drop in numbers due to the Vale races being the same day but our 46 runners were still spread across 14 different parkruns including Karl Johnson at Amsterdam Bos parkrun. John Burridge clocked the fastest time of the day with a 18:57 at Swansea Bay parkrun.

Weekend 4 saw the numbers return with 81 parkrunners across 15 different events. There was a huge turnout at Maesteg for multiple birthday celebrations including Tammie Baker who despite taking a tumble and having to stop for 10+ minutes, still finished the parkrun. New member Bethan Moor was first lady at Maesteg. Kris Denholm was the only one of our London Marathon runners to get in a parkrun whilst in the big city.

The final weekend of the month saw 67 members across 14 different events. Nicky Bennett was first finisher in Maesteg where we had the top 3 finishers. Jamie Verran was 3rd at Severn Bridge parkrun as he continues both his tourism streak and this month made it a entire year of not missing a parkrun. Despite all the different venues, we only two runners outside of Wales with Adam Kearns at Southampton where they had over 1000 runners and Chris Roberts at Harlow.

Races

The first weekend of the month saw four of our members take on the Great Welsh Marathon. Wayne Hayhurst who I believe first ran the event more than 10 years ago completed the course in 4:20. Alun Job was one of the official pacers and finished in just over 4:45. Heather Morgan ran her first marathon just a year after supporting at the same event whilst on crutches. Gail Newell also ran her first marathon since joining the club. In the Half Marathon, I was the official 2 hour pacer coming in at 1:59:50.

On the same weekend, Jacob Tasker was third at the Forest of Dean Half Marathon in an outstanding 1:13:15 which was part of the British Trail Running Championships. Jade B and Katie Plimmer bagged PB’s at the event whilst Chris Collin, Melanie Thomas and Elizabeth Sim all also completed the course. We had 6 runners at the London Landmarks Half Marathon on the same day. We also had Rob and Emma Loyns at Southampton where Rob ran the Half Marathon in just over 2 hours, whilst Emma bagged herself a PB of 3:56:43 and first sub 4 hour marathon after narrowly missing out in London last year. Impressive considering the past few weeks have included marathons or ultras pretty much every weekend.

Carl Walsh was back in action at the Beast of Beacons 40 mile ultra. Another super tough event with crazy amounts of elevation after doing the Beast of the Blacks 40 miler the previous month. Carl later went on to run the Inca Trail Marathon in Peru which is one of the toughest marathons in the world. It ticked off his 6th different continent in his quest to run a marathon on all 7.

Jay Howells and Toni Howells both ran PB’s at the Manchester Marathon with a first sub 4 clocking for Jay and a debut marathon time of 4:31 for Toni.

Melanie Thomas and new member Rhiain Casseldine-Forman ran the Wye Valley Ultra in 10:21:35.

Several members took on the Pentrych Hill Race. The race is classified as a fell race with a couple of very steep inclines to test the runners over the 7 mile course.

The final weekend of the month saw Jake Tasker win the Red Kite Trail Half Marathon which was the official Welsh Trail Half Marathon Championship Race therefore earning him yet more medals and trophies.

Carl Walsh and new member Danny Ridley took on yet another bonkers long distance trail event with the Black to the Beacons Trail Marathon which included well over 5,000 feet of elevation for his 83rd career marathon.

Liz Sim took on the longest ultra anyone in the club has ever entered. The Thames Ring 250. 250 miles! No overnight accomodation, the clock starts and you have 100 hours to complete it. After amazing preparation and hundreds of miles of training, it didnt go to plan for Liz as she had to drop out after over 100 miles due to not being able to eat/ drink. Lots of us dot watched her progress in absolute awe and have no doubt we’ll see Liz attempting something equally huge in the coming months / years.

We also had by far the fastest race of the year at the Race to Victory 5K around Whitchurch in Cardiff where we had 16 members running. Nicky Bennett became on the second runner in the clubs history to run sub 16 minutes with a 15:59. Toby Kearns ran 17:46 with Aled Hughes one second behind in PB times for both. Dylan Panting and Emyr Bissmire smashed their PB’s with 18:20 and 18:26 respectively whilst it was a similar story for Adam Kearns with his first sub 19 run of 18:49. Carys Cronin ran a PB of 21:57 to become the first female member of the club to run under 22 minutes in over 6 months. Arwen Rees ran a Flyers qualifying PB of 24:53.

Vale races

We had our usual big turnout at the Vale races with plenty of supporters out in force as well at the OPR gazebo that was set up in it’s usual spot just before the finish line in Ogmore by Sea. We had 5 runners in the 10 mile event where Jade B was first lady for the second year in a row and also 5th overall. Our new Runners Runner, Laura Worrall knocked over 30 minutes off her previous time on the course. We had 19 runners in the 18.5 miler with Katie Plimmer setting a new female club course record with 3:41:25. Linda Harris was our final finisher in her longest official event. In the 32/34 Ultra, we had 12 runners with first time ultra runner Carl Price coming in with a speedy 5:18. Emma Loyns broke 7 hours for the 3rd time and remains the only female member of the club to achieve that. Liz Sim was just 42 seconds away from joining her in that sub 7 hour club. Paul Barrett, Phil Iveson, Kaye Pedler and Jo Jenkins all completed their first ultra marathons.

Newport 10K and Marathon

A day after the Vale races we had 11 runners in the Newport Marathon and 17 in the 10K. The only person crazy enough to be involved in both was Emma Loyns who was pacing 60 minutes at Newport a day (or actually about 15 hours after finishing her 32 mile ultra). In the 10K Nicky Bennett ran an outstanding 33:44 PB which saw him get plenty of airtime on the S4C highlights as he was up alongside the top couple of female finishers that they were following on the coverage. New member Dylan Panting ran a new PB with a sub 40 clocking. Deb Edwards and Nicola Baker also bagged themselves PB’s in the 10K.

In the marathon there was excitement throughout as Aled Hughes was aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon and had been training hard throughout the year. He started alongside returning member Dai James and the two of them went through half way still on for that sub 3 hour time. Dai unfortunately couldn’t maintain the pace but still finished in an unbelievable 3:06:27 – frustratingly just a few seconds shy of a PB. For Aled, it came down to the final couple of miles… his time… 3:00:37! Gutted to miss that sub 3 but nevertheless an absolutely incredible performance and a 28 minute PB from a marathon time that had stood since 2015. There were remarkable debut marathons from the Kearns brothers with Toby coming in at 3:17:42 and Adam coming in at 3:26:42. The rapid improvement from both over the last 12-18 months has been inspiring. In fact, Toby’s 5K splits during the marathon were faster than his parkrun PB just a year or so ago. Martin Beard, Alun Job, Sian Thomas, Liam O’Sullivan and Leanne Parsons also ran their fastest marathon times since being in the club with Wayne Hayhurst our other runner.

London Marathon

We had 14 runners in the race this year with a mix of first timers and a couple on their 3rd time around the course. Paul Smith ran 2:59:00 which was less than a minute off a PB but a second sub 3 in as many marathons. Niki Puleio who ran 2:54:38 in the Boston Marathon just 6 days earlier and only flew into the UK the day before the race, ran 3:03:09. His average time for the 2 marathons in the same week was 2:58:53! First time marathoner and recent ‘Most Improved Male’ winner, Emyr Bissmire ran 3:16:10 to put himself up with the Kearns brothers on the impressive marathon debut front. Claire Dunbar-Bowen and Emma Loyns ran together until just after halfway and bagged themselves PB’s of 3:46:07 and 3:53:50 respectively. Claire’s time being the fastest female marathon time of a current club member whilst Emma’s PB is mind-blowing when you consider she ran a marathon PB just 3 weeks earlier and ran a 32/34 mile Ultra just 8 days before the event. Kris Denholm was just a couple of minutes off his PB with the club with a 3:48. There were huge PB’s for Chris Richards, Kate Lee, Carol Bartle, Rob Loyns, Jonathan Tidball, Stephne Puddy and Shelley Evans with our final finisher being Andrew Hughes.

BCRL returns

The Bridgend County Running League returned with a slightly earlier start in the year than usual and a change in the order with Sandy Bowl as the first fixture. We had a phenomenal turnout with 95 members including several first timers to the league and including a couple of the recently graduated Zero to Hero’s. Conditions didn’t quite suggest late April as we stood shivering at the start and had strong winds and rain during the race itself. Despite that, there were amazing performances throughout the field with dozens of members running their fastest 5K times along the way on the 5.1K course. Despite Jacob taking it easy (by his standards), we still had the overall winner with Nicky Bennett claiming first place extending our run of having the first finisher to the last 8 BCRL fixtures. With a change to the scoring it meant our ladies made a bigger contribution than ever and there were some superb runs throughout with Sarah Wilkes our first female finisher. In the Team scoring, Bridgend finished first with our club not too far behind and then Porthcawl in 3rd in what is shaping up to be a very close and exciting season.

AGM

April also saw the club’s AGM where it was great to hear the chairman’s report which highlighted many of the successes over the past year including of course that BCRL win. Lots of thanks given to all the elected members and volunteers. The only change in roles was Nicky Bennett becoming Male vice-captain with Nick Harris stepping down after several years as part of the team. Nicky has played a massive part in getting the club into Welsh Castles for the first time and has also rallied the troops for XC over the past couple of seasons so will fit into the role perfectly.

What a month – 8 different marathons in 4 different countries – 4 different ultra marathons – 10 year parkrun celebrations – Zero to Hero graduations – 95 runners at the first BCRL fixture – a Welsh Championship win – super fast 5K PB’s. This month saw a massive 263 race finishes which is our highest since May 2022 which included 2 BCRL fixtures.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

Running consistently well at distance is tough.  It takes time, focus and dedication.  It means keeping your body in a state where it can just go again and again.  Big challenges require big commitment.  Sometimes there are sacrifices due to avoidance of things that might upset the balance and prevent the completion of a challenge – especially when it’s something that’s been shared and for a cause.  Last year was like that for one of our midst and it was completed with focus.  It’s often the case when running through a purple patch that we hanker to extend it.  While running in form, there’s a desire to keep that form and continue as long as we can.  Such has been the case here with additional long distance events appearing on the calendar long after the ultimate finish line has been crossed.  Long distance completed with smiles and jumps.  New times being set at ultras and marathons just weeks apart.  Endurance on display and admired for every step.  Huge well done to my Female Runner of the Month for April – Emma Loyns!  Well done Emma – keep up the good work!  I’m writing this is she builds up to a bigger, longer and even more challenging endurance event with sights on even more on the horizon!  Fabulous!

What can I say?  We’ve admired distance and now it’s time to look at another metric for measuring success.  Time.  It’s not the be all and end all of everything but it’s the most celebrated common denominator.  We all run for different reasons and I’m a huge advocate of celebrating every element of endeavour – as is demonstrated by the spread of this award.  However, I always will also consider time and performance as one measure when it particularly catches my eye.  Even more so when it makes someone jump for joy with their own achievements.  I’ve seen it many times where injuries have been respected and allowed to heal – giving the body a suitable period of recovery.  When sensibly observed it often leads to a stronger return.  Focused.  Committed.  Working hard to achieve – whatever they themselves class achievement to be.  In this case it’s times and they are starting to tumble.  First place finishes.  Breaking new ground and setting times that many of us can only dream of.  Incredible impressive stuff.  Huge well done to my Chairman’s Runner of the Month for April – Nicky Bennett!  Huge well done Nicky – keep pushing and keep inspiring us with your commitment!

Porthcawl parkrun 10 year anniversary special

The club at Porthcawl parkrun

355 different runners are currently listed as Ogmore Phoenix Runners and have completed the course at least once (this does include a few juniors). This is the most of any club. Those 355 runners have completed 9,642 Porthcawl parkruns between them.

The inaugural and record attendance growth

Although not all had joined the club at the time, current members who ran at the inaugural Porthcawl parkrun on 13th April 2013 include David Sheard, Chris Pratt, Peter Harrop, John Burridge and myself.

There were 134 runners in total at the first Porthcawl parkrun and the average for the first year was only around 100. By the end of 2015, there were regularly 200+, then 300+ in 2016 before a huge record attendance of 425 on Christmas Eve that year. In January 2020, there were 667 finishers which remains a record. Numbers were significantly lower after returning from the parkrun pause but are now around the 400 mark again.

Most individual Porthcawl parkruns

I believe the record for most Porthcawl parkruns in held by Michael Davies (Porthcawl Runners) who has completed all of his 391 parkruns at Porthcawl despite serious illness during that time.

As for our runners, our top 10 for most Porthcawl parkruns are…

  1. Nick Harris 323
  2. David Sheard 295
  3. Chris Pratt 293
  4. Gareth Jenkins 255
  5. Peter Harrop 227
  6. David Kembery 212
  7. Claire Goldsworthy 204
  8. Chris Roberts 176
  9. Liz Davis 175
  10. Bev Sheard 162

Gareth Davies, Angharad Rees, Ian Lewis, Debbie Bennion, Ben Davies, Kris Denholm, Sharon Pritchard, Gary Loo, Dai Power, Sara Davies and Jo Jenkins have all also completed over 100 Porthcawl parkruns.

Fastest Phoenixes at Porthcawl parkrun

Our fastest listed Porthcawl parkrun time is 16:21 by Jacob Tasker which is also the 13th fastest time recorded by any runner at Porthcawl parkrun, just behind former GB international James Thie and ahead of Olympian and World Triathlon Champion Helen Jenkins. Nicky Bennett is next up with 17:20 and then returning member Dai James with 17:42. Gareth Richards, Ryan Evans, Gareth Battle, Niki Puleio, Neil Price, Josh Parry, Aled Hughes and John Burridge have all run sub 19 at Porthcawl whilst former members Neil Jones and Adrian Pearce also fall into that category. We then have a further 16 members that have run sub 20.

Jacob Tasker, Nicky Bennett and Neil Price Worth noting that Neil Jones has run 17:01 at Porthcawl and was first finisher on 5 occasions at Porthcawl whilst a member of our club. Dai James has been first finisher on two occasions whilst Jacob Tasker, Nicky Bennett and Neil Price have all been first finishers as well in what is a very competitive parkrun at the front.

Our top 10 fastest females are

  1. Anneliese Loveluck 20:41
  2. Sian Price 21:14
  3. Amy Roberts 21:53
  4. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 22:20 – fastest current member
  5. Shelley Smithson 22:34
  6. Josie Bishop 23:05
  7. Lorna Domachowski 23:05
  8. Sarah Littlewood 23:21
  9. Kirsty Evans 23:41
  10. Emma Loyns 23:50

Current female members with sub 25 times at Porthcawl include Denise Bradley, Julia Esmond, Rosie Salvatore, Sarah Davies, Jo Jenkins, Fiona Drysdale and Liz Davis.

Both Anneliese and Sian have also been first female finishers at Porthcawl.

Random stats

Biggest variation in fastest and slowest time: Chris Pratt 19:54 to 01:02:54

Oldest Porthcawl parkrun PB: Martin Beard 22:34 (27/09/14)

Fastest average Porthcawl parkrun time: Nicky Bennett 19:00 from 9 runs

First current Phoenix member to reach 50 parkruns at Porthcawl: Chris Pratt

First current Phoenix member to reach 100 parkruns at Porthcawl: Chris Pratt

First current Phoenix member to reach 250 parkruns at Porthcawl: Nick Harris

Most parkruns away from Porthcawl even though it’s considered their ‘home parkrun’: Gareth Jenkins 156

Volunteering

It seems fitting to end with some stats on the volunteers and the 436 Porthcawl parkruns wouldn’t have been possible without them. We’re very fortunate a Porthcawl to have a super dedicated and experienced core volunteer team – many of which have close links with Welsh Athletics and organise / volunteer at numerous other running events.

One of that core team is a a former club member – Maria Lalic who has volunteered at Porthcawl on over 250 seperate occasions. Of our current members, Angela Parry, Chris Pratt, Peter Harrop, David Sheard, Liz Davis, Chris Roberts and myself have all volunteered at Porthcawl on a dozen or more occasions.

Well done to everyone who has represented our club at Porthcawl parkrun whether it’s running, volunteering or supporting.

March 2023 review

parkruns

The first Saturday of the month saw 65 members in attendance across 9 different parkruns. Nicky Bennett was first finisher at Maesteg where OPR had the top 3 spots and returning member Dai James was first finisher at Porthcawl with John Burridge just a few places behind in 6th. Keith Coleman bagged himself a PB at Aberbeeg, whilst our top tourist Chris Roberts added another venue to his growing list with Great Notley.

The second Saturday was 65 members again but this time across 12 parkruns. David Sheard ran at Roma Pineto parkrun in Italy whilst we had runners at Finsbury and Guildford parkruns as well. Stephne Puddy was agonisingly just 1 second off a PB with a superb 29:12 at Riverfront.

The third Saturday saw 69 members across 13 parkruns. It was the second Saturday in a row we didn’t have a first finisher at Maesteg which is a while since that’s happened. Our furthest travelling tourist was Chris Pratt at Brighouse.

The fourth Saturday saw 50 runners across a massive 16 different parkruns. Niki Puleio was first finisher at Maesteg with Luke Davis 3rd across the line.

Races

The month kicked off with Rhayader Round the Lakes where Jacob won the 30K event after winning the 10K last year. He didn’t have it all his own way in this one and only went into first place in the final couple of miles. There were also superb runs from Niki Puleio who was second in his age category and Kris Denholm. Katie Plimmer ran an outstanding 50:55 PB on the bumpy course and was 9th female overall.

On the same day coach Kev, Emma Loyns and Carl Walsh completed the tough Ras Dewi Sant marathon. A day later it was Newport Half Marathon where Steve Holloway ran 1:17:22 for a marker as the fastest half marathon time so far this year. Particular well done to Denise Bradley, Sharon and Debbie who ran after attending presentation night the night before.

A week later it was the turn of the San Domenico 10 and 20 miler. Niki Puleio ran the fastest 20 mile time in the clubs history beating Neil Jones time from the same event 6 years ago and knocking 2 minutes off his own previous best 20 mile time. Gareth Richards ran 2:15:05 which is the fastest 20 miler by anyone over 50 in the club by over 10 minutes. Aled Hughes ran 2:19:14 as his preparation continues for Newport Marathon. Kris Denholm finished in 2:53:59 which is under 3:50 marathon pace rounding off some excellent times by all. In the 10 miler, Jacob Tasker was first in 55:00 missing out on breaking his own club record by 11 seconds. Katie Plimmer ran a 1:26:53 PB for her second 10 mile PB this year. Ian Lewis and Helen Griffiths ran together coming in just over 2 hours.

On the same day it was the Kenfig Sands fixture of the West Glamorgan League. Despite a few of our runners being at other events, it was still a strong performance by both our men’s and women’s teams. Nicky Bennett was 9th overall with Steve Holloway, Toby Kearns, Gareth Battle, John Burridge and Emyr Bissmire making up the scoring places for the men with a further 8 of our male OPR members running. Carys Cronin was our first female followed by Sarah Davies, Arwen Rees, Melanie Thomas, Denise Bradley and Fiona Drysdale. Just a few miles away there was also a new 10K event around Margam Park which Karl Johnson, Leanne Parsons and the newly crowned Runners Runner, Laura Worrall completed. A busy day of races also saw Martin Beard and Claire Dunbar-Bowen complete the Surrey Half Marathon either side of 1:44, and Elizabeth Sim complete the Welsh Coastal Runners 20 miler in 3:15:59.

Last and certainly not least on that weekend, we had Emma Loyns and Carl Walsh battling the brutal 40 mile Beast of the Blacks Ultra in the Black Mountains. The race included almost 10,000 feet of elevation with much of the high ground covered in snow.

A week later (19th March) saw the final fixture of the West Glam XC league with 8 women and 9 men running for the club. Nicky Bennett finished in 6th overall and was followed home by Niki Puleio, Emyr Bissmire, John Burridge, Dylan Panting and Daniel Jenkins. For the ladies, Jade B was first across the line followed by Carys Cronin, Sarah Davies, Denise Bradley, Marianne Paterson and Arwen Rees. In the final standings, the men finished 4th in Division 1 which is the highest our club has ever finished in the league. The ladies finished 6th in Division 2, avoiding relegation and ready for a strong performance next season. Fiona Drysdale and Jamie Verran both ran in all 5 fixtures.

We had 37 runners at the Cardiff Bay 10K. Nicky Bennett ran a PB of 34:08 and was our first finisher across the line. Toby Kearns, Gareth Richards, Aled Hughes, Dylan Panting and Emyr Bissmire all ran sub 40 in times ranging from 37:35 to 39:20. There were PB’s for Jay Howells, Alun Job, Ceri Jones, Toni Howells, Rhys Davies, Terri Leigh Roche, Leanne Parsons and Laura Worrall, whilst it was a first event for the club for Kierran Spiers parents Sianed and Sam.

I was back on the Ultra running trail with another alternative event. This time I was escaping from an ever-expanding radioactive cloud from somewhere near Didcot, near Oxford, in an event called Fallout. It was similar to Escape from Meriden that I did last November where I had to run as far away as I could as the crow flies with no set route. This time involved a lot of mud and waterlogged fields and I eventually got ‘vapourised’ by the cloud after 8 hours having covered more than 36 miles of rough terrain.

On the final day of the month we had 5 runners at the Severn Bridge 5 miler with Aled running 31:10 to finish 1st in his age category followed by Martin Beard, Stephanie Dyke, Deb Griffin and Stephne Puddy.

Presentation Night

March also saw our annual presentation night with around 100 members in attendance at our long standing venue at Tondu Cricket Club. A fantastic night not only celebrating those that won awards, but celebrating our 10 years as a club, our BCRL win and reminiscing over the last 12 months of club activities. Our list of winners were as follows…

Runners Runner first place: Laura Worrall

Runners Runner second place: Gareth Richards

Runners Runner third place: Jacob Tasker

Club Runner: Niki Puleio

Best Senior Male: Jacob Tasker

Best Senior Female: Jo Jenkins

Best Veteran Male: Niki Puleio

Best Veteran Female: Claire Dunbar-Bowen

Best Super-Veteran Male: Keith Coleman

Best Super-Veteran Female; Fiona Drysdale

Most Improved Male: Emyr Bissmire

Most Improved Female: Rosie Salvatore

Best Newcomer Male: Joint winners – Mark Teesdale and Kierran Spiers

Best Newcomer Female: Jules Esmond

Trail Club Championship: 1st Jade B, 2nd Emma Loyns, 3rd Sarah Davies

Spirit of the Phoenix: Laura Worrall

Chairman’s Award: Alexis Barrett

Outstanding Achievement: Gareth Richards

Club Relay Teams

March was a huge month in terms of club relay teams as we successfully applied and got selected for our first ever Welsh Castles relay team. Huge thanks to female club captain Dawn Hopkins for taking the reigns with this one and Nicky Bennett who did a huge amount of the recruiting and legwork to ensure we had enough runners. We also found out we were successful in our application for two teams for the Rack Raid relays. The events are just a week apart in June and there’s still opportunities to be involved in a running or supporting capacity for either or both events.

Over to Chris for the Chairs Runners of the Month.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

As you know, and I share often, the focus for this accolade will change periodically.  Different attributes capture my interest and I celebrate achievement right across the spectrum.

We have many members who ebb and flow with their running.  I think it’s fair to say we probably all do to some extent.  Some more than others.  Life deals us all a different hand and things distract us from the task at hand.  That’s good – we need that.  The importance of aspects of our life change dynamically and it’s important to recognise that.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I’ve used that a few times lately.  It’s so true.  Not just for people, but for running.  When you find it again; properly find it; it fills your heart with joy!   When you see others find it, it’s equally uplifting.  It’s been a while for one such runner.  For whatever reason there’s been a hiatus.  A period where running didn’t factor.  But there’s been a shift.  It’s been noticeable and effective.  I’m always impressed when someone manages to gain control and be so positive about a return that you know it’s going to happen, no matter what.  Positive social media posts accompany just turning up.  There’s no measure of ability here.  There’s no measure of distance or any running prowess whatsoever.  It’s simply about getting out there – turning up – getting to training and celebrating that fact.  It’s about the infectious effect that brings to others who are spurred on to do the same.  I am delighted to award my March Female Runner of the Month to Alica Thomas.  Keep it up Alica!!  You’re smashing it!

Celebrating achievements when there are so many doing amazing things is really difficult.  One I do want to credit and is on a definite purple “streak”.  It’s been a running a while now and the level of randomness and possibly craziness to it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon…  It’s certainly true that when you’re not running long distance you wonder how others do it and maintain it.  Legs sore from a few miles and you wonder how others run a long way and then recover to run again only a day or two later.  It seems alien, but then it’s my long term belief that everything is relative.  You can’t pit yourself against someone doing that – we all have our own goals, dreams and aspirations.  Then a streak takes hold and you start to build and the events get longer and longer and you still feel great.  Injuries come and go – but the strength and fitness you’ve built often allow the body to heal and settle quickly.  Sensible measures through it so that it can continue.  Lockdown for some provided a platform for great running and this is no exception.  Leading in to 2023 has seen a continuation and an event during March saw another event escaping from a location with no fixed route – just a map and his own aptitude to carry him as far as possible as quickly as possible.  A novel way to combine running with on the spot planning and yet another intriguing event on the back of many others.  Long may this streak continue and look forward to seeing what comes next.  Worthy of an accolade as I’m delighted to announce Gareth Jenkins as my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for March – keep intriguing us with events Gareth!

February 2023 review

parkruns

The first Saturday of the month saw 69 members running at 10 different parkrun locations. Only 34 of those were at their home parkruns making it the first time that Porthcawl and Maesteg have gone ahead but we’ve had more runners elsewhere. This was largely due to 19 members running at Minehead parkrun where a load of our female members were staying for an 80’s weekend. There were also 9 at Llanishen parkrun whilst further afield Chris Roberts was at Upton Court and Abbie Lumsden reached UK parkrun tourism status by running her 20th different venue at Clumber Park alongside Jay Howells who recently ran his 50th different venue.

The second Saturday of the month saw 53 members running at 12 different venues. A slight reduction on recent weeks mainly due to some other events that day including the Winter Warmer events, Hoka 10K/Half and a Gwent League fixture. Jay Howells continued his series of milestones with it being his 100th parkrun. I volunteered as a tail walker just an hour or so after finishing a 24 event. Jamie Verran was in Victoria Park in Glasgow where he ran a PB of 18:56 becoming the 13th current member to run under 19 minutes for a 5K. Other tourism included David and Bev Sheard at Pontefract. Claire Goldsworthy ran her 200th parkrun, all of which have been at Porthcawl, whilst Nick Harris became only the second member to run 400 parkruns. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg having been pipped at the line by Nicky Bennett a week previous by 1 second.

The third weekend saw 67 members across a massive 15 different parkrun venues. The largest attendance was at Maesteg for their 200th event which was also Rhodri Thomas 100th parkrun. Jacob Tasker was back finishing almost 3 minutes ahead of the second placed finisher with a 16:51. Our parkrun tourists included Gwyneth Steddy at Omagh, Jamie Verran at Pontefract.

The final weekend of the month saw 70 members across 15 different parkrun venues. It was a weekend of tourism goals with me achieving my ‘Cowell’ (100th different parkrun event) at Woodgate Valley Country Park, Karl getting his ‘Q’ at Queen Elizabeth parkrun and a group of 6 heading over to Belfast for their ‘Q’ at Queens parkrun. Closer to home there were the usual large contingents at Porthcawl and Maesteg where Aled Hughes was celebrating his 300th parkrun. Jacob added another first finish at Maesteg.

Races

The first weekend of the month saw a clash between the latest West Glamorgan XC fixture and a trail championship event at the Reverse 10 miler. At the XC we had our best turnout in quite a while with 22 in attendance although ladies, I do need to point out that it was 17-5 on the male/female split. Nicky Bennett finished 6th overall whilst our first lady was Carys Cronin. Special shout out to Arwen Rees who became our youngest female runner at a cross country event.

At the Reverse 10, Jacob Tasker won in a club record time of 54:49 knocking nearly 7 minutes off the previous club record. It was also Jacobs 4th win in as many weekends. Gareth Richards broke his own over 50’s age category record with a 4 minute PB in 1:04:13. Jade Bazylkiewicz ran a PB of 1:19:39. There were also PB’s for Katie Plimmer and Marianne Patterson who were both close to age category records as well.

The second weekend of the month saw Gareth Richards, Neil Ridley, Ian Lewis and Shelley Evans at the Cardiff Winter Warmer Half Marathon. At the Tough Runner 10K, new member Alex Steddy was first across the line in the 10K followed by another new member, Gavin Howe. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was our first female at the event in which we had 6 OPR member running. In the Half Marathon, Rhodri Thomas ran an outstanding 1:46:46 on a hilly course whilst Emma Loyns was our first female finisher with 5 OPR members running the Half.

Lisa King ran at the Cardiff 10 miler organised by Cardiff Running Events and finished in a speedy 1:17:20. It means in the same month, we’ve seen the 2nd and 3rd fastest ever 10 mile times set by female members of the club with Lisa and Jade. Lisa’s was also a new age category record and less than a minute off the overall club record.

Carol Bartle ran 1:55:46 at the ‘Lets Run Rhyl’ Half Marathon finishing first in her age category.

On the final weekend of the month, Nicky Bennett, Adam Kearns and Toby Kearns represented the club at the Welsh National XC Championships with great performances by all 3.

Ultra Running

There were a couple of big ultra running events during the month. The first was the 5K24 Challenge which was set up by some local lads connected to Bryncethin Rugby / Community Centre. Past challenges have included a marathon and a 24 hour walk to Carmarthen. OPR member Chris Wonka Williams was also one of the main organisers of the event. The challenge was to run 5K on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours starting at 8am on Friday morning (10th Feb), although you could choose you’re own challenge if you wanted to do less, or just turn up and run one hour or several hours. As for how our members got on – our January Male Runner of the Month, David Thomas decided to run 4.2 miles each hour and lasted for 10 hours before having to unfortunately drop out with injury after just over 40 miles. Luke Denholm ran 13 hours of 5K per hour to notch up around 40 miles. Kris Denholm ran one more hour after Luke at 5K per hour before calling it a day/night. Denise Bradley, who turned up saying she was aiming to do the 14 miles that was on her training plan ended up staying for the entire 24 hours, running in 21 of them, and notched up 50 miles. I set my own challenge of run/walking/generally moving forward in some state for 50 minutes of each hour which resulted in doing up to 5.6 miles in the first couple of hours before that reduced more and more and more to the point I finished with 2 miles on the final run. My final total was 88.3 miles…. and then I tail walked at Maesteg parkrun where Kris was also in attendance. Jo Jenkins and Sian Jenkins also popped over on a couple of occasions throughout the 24 hours to do a few runs with Sian doing 15 miles and Jo doing 12 miles. A number of other OPR members also came along to support.

Brecon to Cardiff saw 6 members take on the 43 mile Ultra. Gareth Richards was our first runner across the line in an incredible 6 hours 24 minutes which is well under a 9 minute mile average! He finished in 11th overall. Carl Walsh, Emma Loyns and Ken Salvatore ran the course together finishing in 9 hours 8 minutes. Then came arguably the best story of all – after having to drop out over 30 miles into the race last year, Leanne Parsons was back and completed the course in 10 hours 37 minutes with one of the clubs ultra running legends Elizabeth Sim alongside her. Fantastic efforts by all.

Chairman’s Runners of the month

Lots of amazing running taking place and all worthy of celebration.  

The first person to catch my eye this month has been on a long and measured journey.  A carefully planned approach to a defined goal.  Seeking a path that was both sensible and optimistic.  Showing a resolve that was unswerving.  A determination that wasn’t going to falter.  I’ve said before how much I hold that in high esteem.  The dream doesn’t have to be big.   Pursuance of it is key.  We’ve seen it here.  Setting a dream.  Believing it’s possible and pursuing the right path to achieve it.  Fitting increasingly long runs into a busy life.  Working to the guidance of a coached plan and sticking to it.  Heeding advice.  Sharing the journey along the way and inspiring others with her efforts.  I’ve certainly been inspired.  The final completion of her epic goal ultra marathon was the victory lap of a process worthy of accolade. I am delighted to honour Leanne Parsons as my Chairman’s female runner of the month for February.   Well done Leanne. 

With no need for introductions my next choice has had a place on the podium before.  Admiration for running prowess can be derived from many parameters.  Including, but not limited to, speed, distance, endeavour, effort.  Sometimes all of the above.  Admirable times over long distance.  Endeavour – daring to push boundaries and test where they flex.  Finding that point and going beyond it.  This can be measured over any of the former two.  For our Zero To Hero this might be running constantly for 5 minutes – an achievement worthy of high praise.  For some it’s much further.   They’ve had a longer journey to get there but once faced those same boundaries along the way.  One such person keeps doing it.  Admirable in all regards.  Where will it end is the thought that comes to mind.  Distances many baulk at driving, never mind running.  A recent event, as described in the accolades for my previous choice, saw a record time being set once again.  A significant placing.  A great training regime with a sensible build up often leads to success and is the key to it.  Incredibly impressive and I’m still wondering what the next challenge will be.   A true before and after story of incredible transformation has produced an athlete of significant pedigree.  Huge congratulations to Gareth Richards, my Chairman’s male runner of the month for February.  Well done Gareth.  Keep pushing!!

OPR at Maesteg parkrun – celebrating 200 events

Since the inaugural in July 2017, we’ve had 226 runners registered under OPR that have completed 2,419 runs at Maesteg parkrun. Just to note that these figures do include some juniors and some former members. At that inaugural, we had 35 runners who were members at the time – 30 of which are still members.

Most parkruns at Maesteg

  1. Aled Hughes 100
  2. Niki Puleio 96
  3. Nicky Bennett 76
  4. Kris Denholm 75
  5. Tom Mahoney 69
  6. Toby Kearns 66
  7. Dai Kembery 59
  8. Peter Walsh 57
  9. Denise Bradley 53
  10. Adam Kearns 51

 Keith Coleman could run his 50th Maesteg parkrun at the 200th event to become the 11th member of the club to run at Maesteg on 50 occasions. 

Highest percentage of total parkruns at Maesteg (for those with over 25 runs there) 

  1. Ben Batchelor (26/27) 96.3%
  2. Tom Mahoney (69/73) 94.5%
  3. Emyr Bissmire (41/46) 89.1%
  4. Jacob Tasker (32/36) 88.8%
  5. Carys Cronin (31/35) 88.5%
  6. Nicky Bennett (76/86) 88.4%
  7. Adam Kearns (51/58) 87.9%

 There’s quite a big drop off after that so it’s mainly these 7 that are the ‘Maesteg or nothing’ runners. 

Maesteg first finishers

  1. Jacob Tasker 32
  2. Niki Puleio 9
  3. Josh Parry 6
  4. Nicky Bennett 5
  5. Gareth Richards 2
  6. Toby Kearns 2
  7. Rhys Williams 2
  8. Kyle Blackmore / Steve Holloway / Kris Denholm / James Littlewood / Gareth Battle / Tom Mahoney / Aled Hughes / Adam Kearns / Jamie Verran

 We also had Neil Jones and Adrian Pearce as first finishers when they were members of the club meaning there’s been around 70 times that there’s been an OPR member first across the line at Maesteg. Most of those have been since parkrun returned after the covid pause with 56 out of the last 69 parkruns having an OPR member first across the line.

Female first finishers

  1. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 4
  2. Carys Cronin 3
  3. Sarah Davies 2
  4. Sarah Wilkes 2
  5. Sian Price / Sarah Littlewood / Juliet Amner 1

 Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Male)

  1. Jacob Tasker 16:12
  2. Nicky Bennett 17:53
  3. Josh Parry 18:27
  4. Niki Puleio 18:30
  5. Gareth Richards 18:57
  6. Rhys Williams 18:59
  7. Toby Kearns 19:07
  8. Gareth Battle 19:13
  9. Aled Hughes 19:16
  10. John Burridge 19:20

 We have another 5 current members who have run sub 20 at Maesteg – Neil Price, Jamie Verran, James Littlewood, Adam Kearns and Wayne Hayhurst. 

Fastest Maesteg PB’s (Female) 

  1. Sarah Wilkes 21:23
  2. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 23:04
  3. Sarah Littlewood 23:29
  4. Carys Cronin 23:36
  5. Sian Price 24:18
  6. Kate Lee 24:37
  7. Dawn Hopkins 24:37
  8. Sarah Davies 24:43
  9. Denise Bradley 24:50
  10. Jo Jenkins 24:52

 Top age grade percentages 

  1. Jacob Tasker 79.63%
  2. Gareth Richards 77.22%
  3. Niki Puleio 75.02%
  4. Kris Denholm 75.02%
  5. Aled Hughes 74.13%
  6. Gareth Battle 74.10%
  7. Denise Bradley 73.78%
  8. Jason Griffiths 73.20%
  9. Keith Coleman 72.15%
  10. Nicky Bennett 72.13%

 Judith Jeeves, Claire Dunbar-Bowen and Sarah Davies would be the next ladies. 

Age Category Records at Maesteg (noting any in the top 5) 

SM20-24 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:36

SM25-29 – 1st – Jacob Tasker 16:12 / 3rd – Nicky Bennett 17:53

VM50-54 – 2nd – Gareth Richards 19:13

VM55-59 – 4th – Kris Denholm 20:29 

SW20-24 – 3rd – Sarah Wilkes 22:06

SW25-29 – 5th – Sarah Wilkes 21:23

VW55-59 – 4th – Denise Bradley 24:50

VW60-64 – 4th – Denise Bradley 25:56 

Biggest OPR attendances at Maesteg 

  1. 11th September 2021 – 45 (Dai Kembery’s 250th parkrun)
  2. 24th December 2022 – 43 (multiple club milestones / Christmas theme)
  3. 3rd August 2019 – 41 (I think this was the morning before a Beer Mile and everyone was dressed up – not sure what the occasion was though)

Volunteering at Maesteg parkrun

  1. Emma Marshall 179
  2. Stephne Puddy 163
  3. Sian Jenkins 51
  4. Nicky Bennett 35
  5. Kris Denholm 31
  6. Jay Howells 26

Over the years there’s been several OPR takeovers where 20+ volunteer roles have been filled by our members so it’s easily the parkrun that has had the most different number of OPR members that have volunteered there at least once.

If you haven’t been to Maesteg parkrun before, then come along for the 200th celebrations or sometime soon. It’s one of the most friendliest, welcoming parkruns around and you’ll be sure to see a Phoenix or two along the way.

January 2023 review

parkruns

14 members took advantage of the extra parkrun on New Years Day but despite relatively small numbers, we had runners in Wales, England and at two different parkruns in Australia. Our leader in parkrun tourisms coming into this year, Karl Johnson, ran at Marine Parade parkrun (Weston Super-Mare) whilst David Sheard and Chris Roberts added another Australian parkrun to their resumes having been out there on seperate trips for the past couple of weeks.

The first Saturday of the year saw a bumper turnout of 35 at Maesteg for triple celebrations – Claire Dunbar-Bowen was celebrating an official milestone of 50 parkruns, Aled Hughes was running his 100th Maesteg parkrun, whilst it was my 400th parkrun. We had 71 runners across 14 parkruns with Wales, England and Australia seeing OPR members at one or more of their parkruns again.

The second Saturday saw an even bigger turnout at Porthcawl with 40 in attendance – largely down to the BCRL presentation being in the Hi-Tide afterwards which I’ll come back to later. That weekend saw 65 runners across 10 parkruns and whilst Dave and Chris were back from Australia, we did add another country to Wales and England tourism with Kris and Luke Denholm running at parkrun Zielony Jar in Poland.

Icy conditions meant that finding a parkrun going ahead on the 3rd Saturday of the month proved challenging but 48 OPR members did just that and across 9 different parkruns. Most were at Porthcawl where we had 36 runners where Nicky Bennett added himself to the list of first finishers joining the likes of Jacob Tasker and Neil Price.

The final Saturday saw 64 of our members run across 12 different parkrun venues. Jay Howells and Toni Howells both ran their 50th different parkrun venue at Groe with Jay also running his second parkrun/5K PB this month whilst Toni bagged himself a PB in a very successful day for them both. Karl Johnson ran his 200th parkrun which was a milestone Bev Sheard achieved a week previous. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg where OPR members made up the first seven runners. We had a huge tourism turnout of 14 at Llyn Llech Owain which was part of the trail championship.

Races

New Years Day saw a couple of events with the Kenfig Prince of Wales race where 17 of our runners braved cold, windy conditions on the tough sand dune course. Josh Parry was 3rd overall with Jules Esmond being our first female finisher across the line. Later that day we had 5 runners at the Old Father Time 5 miler. A super flat, fast course around Pontcanna Fields where Aled Hughes was our first runner back followed by Chris Collin, Fiona Drysdale, Nick Harris and Linda Harris.

We had 3 runners at the Rogue Runs Off Road Night Race – a trail race over some tricky terrain with apparently some sharp drops to the side of the path – all whilst running in the dark. Well done to Aled, Melanie Thomas and Dawn Hopkins for getting through that one unscathed.

Nine of our runners took on the Lliswerry 8 where new member Kyle Blackmore was our first finisher just ahead of Niki Puleio. Lisa King was our first female across the line. On the same day we also had 14 runners at the popular Riverbank Rollick for roughly 10 miles of mud, mud and more mud before a run through a river at the end. Jacob Tasker won the event in just a few seconds over the hour mark. Jade Bazylkiewicz was our first female OPR member across the finish line with many of our runners running the course together and enjoying the experience – it’s not for everyone that race.

A week later saw Jacob pick up yet another win at the CF64 trail race where we had 6 runners in attendance.

The final event of the month was a West Glamorgan XC fixture at Pembrey Country Park. We had 15 runners in attendance with 12 men and 3 women. Results still to be published at the time of writing. Well done to all those that represented the club.

Finally, on the other side of world, Carl Walsh ran in the First Light Marathon in New Zealand. It’s the 5th different continent that Carl has run a marathon with plans for the 6th and 7th over the next couple of years. The marathon in New Zealand had over 6,400 feet of elevation. To put that in perspective for those that have done Snowdonia Marathon, that’s almost 3 times as much elevation! Good work Carl.

Other Club Activities

This month saw the BCRL presentations at the Hi-Tide after Porthcawl parkrun where 11 of our members collected age category awards – well done to Luke Davis, Kevin Raymond, Gareth Jenkins, Jo Jenkins, Sarah Davies, Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Carl Price, Jacob Tasker, Jade B, Josh Parry and Gareth Richards. Unfortunately Porthcawl were announced as the team winners by mistake (rather than OPR) but this has been rectified on the presentation that has been shared afterwards. Keep an eye out for the 2023 fixtures which are due to be released soon.

The last Sunday of the month saw myself, Chris Pratt and Melanie Thomas attend the Leader in Running Fitness course where OPR member and Welsh Athletics coach Emma Loyns was on hand to share her expertise. Once all the relevant checks have been done then you should see us at training sessions in the near future.

On the final day of the month there was the long awaited return of Zero to Hero with an excellent turnout for the first session and lots of current club members going along to welcome those who took their first steps towards 5K or back towards 5K.

Presentation Night tickets are now on sale for Saturday 4th March. It promises to be a significant night of celebrations with the club celebrating 10 years since it was first formed, our first BCRL win, plus the usual host of awards. Please check your e-mails or our social media pages to find out more about where to purchase tickets.

Chair’s Runners of the Month

Great to be back celebrating the achievements of our members on a monthly basis!  Sorry for the outage!

In true tradition, I’ll choose a female and male runner each month who has done something to merit mention.  It can be absolutely anything – and I’ve said on many occasions it can change month on month.  It’s not all about long miles or speed – although they could be celebrated also.  Anything and everything in between.  First and second choice are not ranked – they are merely the order in which they’ve been written.

My first choice from January is a relative newcomer to the club.  As soon as he showed up at training he had a focus that was unswerving.  Sometimes that’s costly.  Sometimes too much focus in the early stages of a running journey can lead to troubles.  Injuries often strike as the temptation to overtrain overwhelms.  There have been incidents along the road, but now is running on an even keel, so to speak.  Miles increasing with big plans afoot.  Regularly appearing in training sessions photos with a big smile.  Always a warm welcome when you see him.  As the miles increase, the focus seems to as well.  January has been a good month for his running.  Consistent miles, regular training attendance and a determination that is infectious.  Fabulous to see.  I am honoured to award the Chair’s Male Runner of the Month for January 2023 to David Dean Thomas.

My second choice isn’t a stranger to the runner of the month accolade and it was exactly 12 months ago that she was awarded the honour.  I’m always impressed with people who start the year well.  Determination is a powerful attribute.  When it remains and fuels consistency its power is increased.  Life will always make demands on our time and energy.  We so often have to work in parallel with them to get our activities in.  Balance is key.  Mileage and consistency can suffer.  I’m always impressed when that balance is struck and good, quality miles are covered and finished for the month with a beaming smile – something you will so often see here.  Smiling and running consistently towards set goals while balancing real life – what’s not to celebrate. Perhaps also qualifying as a Leader in Running Fitness for the club!  Looking forward to seeing what the year brings for my Chair’s Female Runner of the Month for February 2023, Melanie Thomas!  

2022 Review

parkrun

2022 saw 2,683 parkrun finishes across 671 events. Our members visited 192 different parkruns around the world including Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, USA and Poland.

2022 saw our parkrun tourism obsession grow with 25 of our members running at 12 different parkruns or more (therefore averaging at least one new venue per month). A few years ago, this would have only been a handful of members. David Sheard’s ran in both Sweden and Australia during 2022 whilst Chris Roberts also finished his year off in Australia with 4 different venues.

Of course, it’s not all about tourism and we continued to have big numbers at our home parkruns of Porthcawl and Maesteg. Our biggest attendance at Porthcawl was 47 members running on 16th July, whilst we had 43 at Maesteg on Christmas Eve.

Maesteg parkrun has become a bit of a recruitment hub for our club just as Porthcawl was in the early days with multiple new members being signed up after seeing our runners or being approached at one of the events.

Number of parkruns completed in 2022

  1. Kris Denholm – 54
  2. Nick Harris – 52
  3. Aled Hughes – 47
  4. Dawn Hopkins – 46
  5. Gareth Jenkins – 46
  6. Sarah Davies – 44
  7. David Sheard – 44
  8. Sally Pensom – 43
  9. Melanie Thomas – 42
  10. Chris Roberts – 42

Kris Denholm didn’t miss a single UK parkrunday in 2022 joining Aled Hughes (in 2019) as the only member to have achieved this. It means Kris is also after Aled’s record of 80 parkruns without missing one. Also worth a mention for Jamie Verran who since his first parkrun in April, has not missed a single Saturday since. Others who ran 40 parkruns which gets them a ‘silver obsessive badge’ on the parkrun challenges include Dai Kembery, Linda Harris and Gareth Davies.

This year we’ve seen plenty of milestones…

  • 250 – Aled Hughes
  • 250 – Peter Harrop
  • 100 – Sharon Pritchard
  • 100 – Ben Davies
  • 100 – Gary Loo
  • 100 – Gareth Richards
  • 100 – Melanie Thomas
  • 100 – Sarah Davies
  • 100 – Ashley Howells
  • 100 – Sara Davies
  • 100 – Keith Coleman
  • 100 – Alun Wylde
  • 100 – Alexis Barrett
  • 100 – Toby Kearns
  • 100 – Sally Pensom
  • 100 – Tammie Clemett
  • 50 – Linda Harris
  • 50 – Sian Jenkins
  • 50 – Toni Howells
  • 50 – Paul Barrett
  • 50 – Melinda Thomas
  • 50 – Stephanie Dyke
  • 50 – Tom Mahoney
  • 50 – Kaye Pedler
  • 50 – Darija Keenor
  • 50 – Phill Iveson
  • 50 – Judith Jeeves
  • 50 – Karen Green
  • 50 – Adam Pohl
  • 50 – Leanne Parsons
  • 50 – Rebecca Newton
  • 50 – Sara Johns
  • 50 – Rob Loyns
  • 50 – Adam Kearns
  • 50 – Karen Dando

An honorable mention to Brett Bonell who finished the year on 99 and Claire Dunbar-Bowen who was due to run her 50th on New Years Eve only for her chosen parkrun to be cancelled at short notice.

parkrun tourism

Chris Roberts became the 4th member to achieve ‘Cowell Club’ status by running at his 100th different event. Dawn Hopkins then became the 5th member later in the year. Dawn was also our most prolific tourist this year as per the stats below. Sarah Davies, Alexis Barrett, Paul Barrett and Jay Howells all ran their 50th different parkrun events this year. Alexis and Paul also completed the alphabet challenge by running at parkruns starting with each letter of the alphabet (expect ‘x’ as that doesn’t exist).

Number of new parkrun venues visited in 2022

  1. Dawn Hopkins – 27
  2. Sarah Davies – 25
  3. Toni Howells – 25
  4. Paul Barrett – 24
  5. Melanie Thomas – 21
  6. Chris Roberts – 21
  7. Jay Howells – 20
  8. Sally Pensom – 20
  9. Alexis Barrett – 20
  10. Phill Iveson / Karen Dando / Melinda Thomas / Darija Keenor – 17

Most parkrun tourisms overall as at the end of 2022

  1. Karl Johnson – 115
  2. Chris Roberts – 113
  3. Julie Ransom – 108
  4. Shawn Cullen – 105
  5. Dawn Hopkins – 104
  6. Gareth Jenkins – 96
  7. Kris Denholm – 79
  8. Chris Stanlake – 74
  9. Sarah Davies – 74
  10. Jo Jenkins – 67

Looking at the two lists above really shows the influx of new parkrun tourists as only 2 of the top 10 overall made the list for most new parkruns for 2022.

Top 10 parkrun times

Jacob Tasker – 16:12, 16:22, 16:36, 16:36, 16:46, 16:50, 16:59, 17:05, 17:08, 17:09, 17:16, 17:18, 17:19, 17:33, 17:38, 17:44 – Jacob actually has the top 16 times this year out of his 17 parkruns. Gareth Richards is the next fastest with a 17:51 and Niki Puleio our third fastest with 18:01. Jacob has finished first in all 17 of his parkruns this year and now has 33 first finishes at parkrun from 34 parkruns in total.

For the ladies, Sarah Wilkes had the ten fastest times ranging from 20:40 to 21:38. Sian Price was next up with 21:45 whilst Claire Dunbar-Bowen is third on the ladies parkrun rankings for the club with a 22:46.

Volunteering

Stephne Puddy continues to lead the way with the highest number of parkrun volunteer days in the club passing 200 recently. Karl Johnson continued as co-Event Director for Pontypridd parkrun and joined the volunteer 100 club early in 2022 and is now on more than 150. Sian Jenkins continued her role in the core volunteer team at Maesteg as one of the Run Directors. Whilst we await the long anticipated new local parkrun (I have to keep it vague as the blog is public), Jay Howells and a number of others from the club who will be involved in the core team of that event have been regularly volunteering in various roles at our local parkruns to get experience. Dozens of other members have volunteered at our local parkruns with an increase in the number also volunteering at Bridgend junior parkrun whilst Judith Howells has continued to do some volunteer tourism. A huge thank you to all the volunteers.

5K races

What seems to have become the race to do for a PB attempt, the Race for Victory 5K in Whitchurch saw some astonishing times with Nicky Bennett running 16:46, Niki Puleio 17:21 (PB) and Gareth Richards 17:37 (PB) for the 3 of the fastest times of the year. 2022 saw the return of the Aberavon, Swansea and SSAFA 5K series adding 9 midweek 5K options during the summer. Jacob Tasker ran a PB of 15:37 at Aberavon finishing second overall before beating that time a few weeks later with another club record of 15:27 at the SSAFA 5K in Cardiff. Our biggest 5K of the year was actually the hardest, slowest 5K of the year at Kenfig Sands where we had 98 runners.

Top 10 fastest men (measured 5K races only excluding parkrun)

  1. Jacob Tasker – 15:27
  2. Nicky Bennett  – 16:16
  3. Niki Puleio – 17:03
  4. Josh Parry – 17:16
  5. Gareth Richards – 17:37
  6. Aled Hughes – 18:22
  7. Mark Teesdale – 18:39
  8. Neil Price – 18:53
  9. Rhys Williams – 18:53
  10. Carl Price – 18:55

In total, we had 24 men run a 5K or parkrun under 20 minutes this year. In our last ‘normal’ full year of events (2019), this figure was 9. Toby Kearns would be 7th on this list if parkruns were included with a time of 18:36 which he ran twice at two different venues.

Top 10 fastest women (measured 5K races only – excluding parkrun)

  1. Sarah Wilkes – 21:09
  2. Kate Lee – 22:09
  3. Jade Bazylkiewicz – 22:26
  4. Carys Cronin – 22:29
  5. Lisa King – 22:30
  6. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 22:32
  7. Sarah Davies – 23:25
  8. Jo Jenkins – 24:20
  9. Melanie Thomas – 24:43
  10. Katie Plimmer – 24:57

Honorable mention for Rosie Salvatore who ran 24:18 in her final parkrun of the year which would have made the top 10 with parkrun times included.

10K

OPR members ran in 44 different 10K events this year with 320 finishes and 42 PB’s. Sharon Pritchard our most prolific 10K-er with 10 events to her name. Our biggest attended 10K events of the year were Porthcawl (65) and Richard Burton (49).

Top 10 fastest males

  1. Jacob Tasker – 32:17
  2. Niki Puleio – 34:40
  3. Gareth Richards – 37:09
  4. Geraint Lewis – 37:18
  5. Steve Holloway – 37:24
  6. Aled Hughes – 37:28
  7. Nicky Bennett – 37:29
  8. Scott Gray – 39:13
  9. Mark Teesdale – 39:50
  10. Toby Kearns – 39:54

Top 10 fastest female

  1. Sian Price – 42:38
  2. Emma Morris – 42:44
  3. Sarah Wilkes – 43:41
  4. Carys Cronin – 45:56
  5. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 47:34
  6. Sarah Davies – 48:06
  7. Rosie Salvatore – 48:47
  8. Jade Bazyliewicz – 51:13
  9. Carol Bartle – 53:19
  10. Kaye Pedler – 54:24

Half Marathon

OPR members ran in 30 different Half Marathon events this year with 289 finishes and 55 PB’s. Jade Bazylkiewicz was 3rd in the Afan Forest Half Marathon earlier in the year. Emma Loyns paced at several Half Marathon events whilst Emma Morris paced 1:45 at the Great Welsh Half which would have put her as the 5th fastest female of the year. This year was mostly dominated by having two Cardiff Half Marathons, The March edition saw 78 OPR runners whilst the October race saw 76. Other highly attended Half Marathons this year included Swansea and Port Tablot. In terms of official half marathons, Kris Denholm and Dawn Hopkins ran 8 each, however, Kris also completed his own personal challenge of running a Half Marathon every week of the year alongside his challenge of completing doing 54 parkruns.

Top 10 Fastest Male

  1. Jacob Tasker – 1:14:03
  2. Nicky Bennett – 1:15:52
  3. Steve Holloway – 1:21:00
  4. Niki Puleio – 1:22:22
  5. Gareth Richards – 1:22:22
  6. Scott Gray – 1:27:27
  7. Paul Smith – 1:27:27
  8. Mark Teesdale – 1:27:55
  9. Aled Hughes – 1:27:58
  10. Ryan Evans – 1:28:28

Top 10 fastest female

  1. Sian Price – 1:34:34
  2. Emma Morris – 1:38:02
  3. Lisa King – 1:40:09
  4. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 1:41:56
  5. Jade Bazyliewicz – 1:47:47
  6. Kate Lee – 1:48:43
  7. Carys Cronin – 1:50:50
  8. Sarah Davies – 1:55:55
  9. Rosie Salvatore – 1:56:40
  10. Denise Bradley – 1:57:22

Marathon

OPR members ran in 16 different marathons this year with 78 finishes and 23 PB’s. We also had marathon finishes in 5 different countries. Some highlights include Steve Holloway running 2:53:38 at Manchester whilst Sarah Davies knocked 40 minutes off her PB at the same event despite recovering from COVID just a week before. Rosie Salvatore and Rob Loyns take the title for slowest debut marathon and then subsequently the biggest marathon PBs having run 8:58 in the Snowdonia Trail Marathon and then knocking over 3 and half hours each off that time in Snowdonia Marathon 3 months later. Gareth Richards ran an outstanding 3:26 at Snowdonia Marathon which is our 3rd fastest ever time on that course where we had 44 runners this year. Emma Loyns ran the most official marathons this year with 5 which we’ll come back to later.

Jacob Tasker helped a fellow runner down the Mall to the finish line in London in his debut marathon where he clocked 3:12 despite being injured himself. There were another 11 OPR runners at London this year with myself (3:44), Emma Loyns (4:00), Jo Jenkins (4:22) and Steph Iveson-Holmes (6:01) all getting PB’s.

Niki Puleio smashed his marathon PB with a 2:48 at Chicago Marathon. There were outstanding performances at Abingdon Marathon where Neil Price and Mark Teesdale ran huge PB’s of 3:10 and 3:11 respectively.

Top 10 fastest Male

  1. Niki Puleio – 2:48:21
  2. Steve Holloway – 2:53:38
  3. Neil Price – 3:10:29
  4. Mark Teesdale – 3:11:18
  5. Jacob Tasker – 3:12:33
  6. Gareth Richards – 3:26:00
  7. Aled Hughes- 3:39:58
  8. Gareth Jenkins – 3:44:01
  9. Daniel Jenkins – 3:53:40
  10. Kris Denholm – 3:59:44

Top 10 fastest Female

  1. Emma Loyns – 4:00:56
  2. Sarah Davies – 4:19:01
  3. Jo Jenkins – 4:22:40
  4. Fiona Drysdale – 4:28:33
  5. Liz Sim – 4:38:57
  6. Rebecca Newton – 4:43:23
  7. Kirsty Evans – 4:46:10
  8. Claire Dunbar-Bowen – 4:47:29
  9. Denise Bradley – 5:14:21

Ultras / Challenges / Crazy Feats of Endurance

From 26.2 miles to 100 miles – there were some exceptional feats of endurance this year with many taking on multiple long distance challenges.

In June, I became only the fifth member in the clubs history to run 100 miles. My time of 26 hours and 42 minutes at the Centaur 100 mile event was a club record for 100 miles (which lasted a month). Since that event, I’ve gone on to run 50 miles at a charity ‘Loop-a-thon’ around Roath Park Lake when temperatures hit 36 degrees in Cardiff back in August. I then ran London and Snowdonia Marathons in October with a PB at London and a 12 minute course best at Snowdon before finishing the year with a 77 mile run at ‘Escape from Meriden’. I’ve now run 50 miles or more on 8 occasions which is the most of anyone in the club.

Gareth Richards ran the Brecon to Cardiff 44 mile Ultra in horrendous conditions back in February in an outstanding time of 6:26 before running the Vale 32 in 5:00 in May which are both amongst the fastest times we’ve seen from an OPR member on those courses. In July he ran his first 100 miler with the Dragon 100 from Rhosilli to Cardiff Bay where he smashed my 100 mile club record finishing in 24 hours and 20 minutes. Gareth later went on to run the Gower 50 in another outstanding time before running Snowdonia Marathon just a week later in 3:26. He then finished the year finishing in the top 10 (as he did in all of his ultras this year) in the Celtic Trail Ultra on an ice and snow covered course.

Our most prolific female endurance runner was Emma Loyns who set herself a target of running 10 marathons or ultras in 2022 for charity. In January Emma ran a marathon at one of the Infinity Running events before taking on Ras Dewi Sant Marathon in March. The first ultra of the year came at the Vale 32 miler in April before a hilly trail marathon in Brecon in May. The VOGUM 40 mile ultra followed in June with the Snowdonia Trail Ultra 38 miler in July. Emma’s first ever 50 miler came in the shape of the EDDUM in August before the 32 mile RIDUM in September. October saw Emma do both London Marathon where she ran a PB of 4:00 before running Snowdonia Marathon for her 10th event to complete her huge challenge.

After a significant amount of time of the sidelines, the king of notching up marathons and ultras, Carl Walsh, was back in September with the Berlin Marathon. Incredibly, he has since run Chicago, Snowdonia and Machen Trail Marathons as well an Ultra in the Brecon Beacons in the few months since.

Other highlights this year included Steph Iveson Holmes and Leanne Parsons getting their first Ultra finish at the Vale after agonisingly having to drop out of the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra a couple of months earlier after over 35 miles due to injury and weather conditions. Denise Bradley notched up another couple of Ultras including the 52 mile Race to the Tower. Rosie Salvatore and Chris Richards were the latest member to add an Ultra finish to their running CV at the Celtic Trail Ultra. Also a mention for long time ultra runner Nick Harris who ran Snowdonia Marathon just a week after the Gower 50 Ultra. We also welcomed Liz Sim back to the club not long after she had done a 200 – yes, two hundred – mile event called the Wildhorse 200 earlier this year.

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

Longest distances achieved in virtual / race ultra’s in 2022

1. Gareth Jenkins / Gareth Richards- 100 miles – Centaur 100 / Dragon 100

3. Gareth Jenkins – 77 miles – Escape from Meriden

4. Denise Bradley 52 miles – Race to the Tower

5. Gareth Jenkins / Emma Loyns / Gareth Richards / Nick Harris / Mark Worrall 50 miles – Loop-a-thon / EDDUM / Gower 50

10. Gareth Richards / Jay Howells / Wayne Hayhurst 44 miles – Brecon to Cardiff

Race and overall totals

Total number of events in 2022 (parkruns plus races)

  1. Dawn Hopkins 95
  2. Aled Hughes 94
  3. Sarah Davies 89
  4. Gareth Jenkins 80
  5. Nick Harris 80
  6. Sharon Pritchard 74
  7. Kris Denholm 73
  8. Melanie Thomas 71
  9. Gareth Richards 71
  10. Debbie Bennion 70

Dawn sets a new female club record for most events in a year beating her own record from 2019 which was 89.

Most Races (not including parkruns)

  1. Dawn Hopkins 49
  2. Aled Hughes 47
  3. Sarah Davies 45
  4. Gareth Richards 40
  5. Sharon Pritchard 38
  6. Debbie Bennion 37
  7. Mark Worrall 36
  8. Gareth Jenkins 33
  9. Laura Worrall 30
  10. Melanie Thomas 29

A huge increase in events for Gareth Richards, Mark Worrall and Laura Worrall compared to previous years with the rest being regulars in the top 10 over the past few years.

Overall most events

  1. Gareth Jenkins 707
  2. Nick Harris 652
  3. Chris Pratt 505
  4. Aled Hughes 491
  5. David Kembery 426
  6. David Sheard 390
  7. Kris Denholm 360
  8. Dawn Hopkins 355
  9. Chris Roberts 350
  10. Denise Bradley 316

This year saw Dawn overtake Denise for most overall events by a female member. Our third highest female total is 305 by Jo Jenkins who is 11th overall. Our top 10 have run 4,547 events between them.

Overall most races (not including parkruns)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 309
  2. Nick Harris 260
  3. Aled Hughes 198
  4. Chris Pratt 192
  5. Dawn Hopkins 178
  6. Denise Bradley 161
  7. Mark Worrall 137
  8. Sharon Pritchard 129
  9. Gareth Richards 129
  10. Niki Puleio 127

I became the first member to qualify for the 300 club milestone t-shirt whilst Nick is due to receive the yellow 250 t-shirt. Aled is on the brink of becoming the third person to reach 200 having overtaken Chris this year who isn’t too far off himself. Dawn and Denise become the first female members to qualify for the 150 t-shirt. We also have 9 members who have run their 100th race for the club this year – Mark Worrall, Sharon Pritchard, Gareth Richards, Debbie Bennion, Emma Loyns, Fiona Drysdale, Kris Denholm, Sarah Davies, Wayne Hayhurst and Helen Griffiths. Whilst we have a further 8 members who ran their 50th race for the club – Wayne Randall, Steph Dyke, Kaye Pedler, Sian Jenkins, Ashley Howells, Paul Barrett, Rosie Salvatore and Steph Puddy.

Cross Country

Earlier in the year saw the conclusion of the 21/22 West Glam season where our men’s team finished top of division 2 to get promoted to the top division. Jacob Tasker was also the joint winner of the individual prize for the season. The cancellation of the Singleton fixture has meant we’ve only had one West Glamorgan XC event in the 22/23 season with a strong showing from both our men and women’s team. In the Gwent XC league, we’ve had participants in each of the 3 fixtures to date with the biggest participation being at the Llandaff event where we had a full scoring ladies team for one of the first times.

Nicky Bennett, Denise Bradley and Luke Davis also took up opportunities to run for the South Wales region at the Welsh Inter-Regional XC Championships in Monmouth where Steph Iveson-Holmes took on the role as one of the team managers for the region.

Bridgend County Running League (BCRL)

2022 saw the return of the BCRL. 158 different members ran at least one BCRL event. We had 627 finishes across the 7 events averaging just short of 90 per fixture. 26 members ran every fixture with a few more only missing one because they volunteered at our own event.

The first event at Rest Bay saw the BCRL returns almost 1,000 days after the last fixture in September 2019. We had 78 runners in attendance but for the first time in BCRL history, we were outnumbered with Porthcawl having 91. With a few of our top runners missing, Porthcawl also took a surprising win by 93 points. Our very own Jake Tasker won the event.

At the second event in Kenfig Sands, we were out in force with our highest attendance of any race in 2022 with a massive 98 runners. Porthcawl beat us again, but by just 5 points.  Jacob made it 2 wins out of 2 and annihilated the field winning by over 2 minutes.

Event 3 was our turn to hold an event. Plans changed from it being our old route of the Beast of Blackmill to looking at the Maesteg Miners route before finally settling on the Planka for a cross country style course. A massive well done to the race committee in getting this set up at short notice and to the 30-40 volunteers from the club that helped make the event happen. Despite needing a lot of people in non running volunteer roles, we still had 93 runners meaning we had around 120 members either volunteering, running or supporting on the day. Jacob won again – this time by over a minute and a half. We had 15 runners in the top 49 overall and ended up winning by 182 points over Porthcawl to take the lead in the team standings for the first time in BCRL history.

Event 4 took us to Pencoed for another cross country style course. This race is where we took on a new level with our top 15 finishing in the top 39 places overall. It was now getting to the point where people who would have been in our top 15 back in 2019 were now finishing about 30th out of the OPR runners. Combined with our 90 runners in attendance as well, it meant we won the event by 203 points.

Event 5 took us to Ogmore Castle. 92 OPR runners. Jake made it 5 out of 5 and had a bit more competition with Bridgend bringing out some of their big boys for their home event. He still won by nearly a minute though. We had 15 runners in the top 35 overall and ended up winning by 179 points over Bridgend despite them putting out a strong team.

Event 6 was Sandy Bowl. I think the fact we ended up with 90 runners for this is pretty impressive considering we were only told where the race was going to be with less than a weeks notice. We won by a BCRL record margin of 268 points. The top 3 overall were Jacob Tasker, Geraint Lewis (who since that event has joined our club) and Niki Puleio.

The final event took place at Merthyr Mawr Lane with 86 of our runners in attendance. Some absolutely astonishing times with our top 16 runners finishing in sub 20 including several getting their first sub 20’s. We won the final fixture to make it 5 wins in a row. Jacob won to become the first person in BCRL history to win all 7 events.

An incredible season.  I know I’ve mentioned the top 15 a lot in that summary but every single person made a difference whether our first finisher or our final finisher.

We also had 11 age category winners who will receive their trophies soon at a post Porthcawl parkrun gathering on January 14th 2023 and we also plan to have a big celebration of our BCRL win at the club presentation night.

This was a record breaking year – Five wins in a row – A record winning margin in a single event – The lowest points total for a single event – A record winning margin overall

A huge thank you to everyone who ran, volunteered, organised and supported in our championship winning year. And here’s to breaking even more records next year!

Age Category Records and serial PB-ers

2022 saw more age category records broken than ever before.

In our under 30’s category, Jacob Tasker lowered his own 5K and 10K records whilst Toby Kearns took the 5 mile record. In the male 40-44 category Niki Puleio set new club age category records at 5K, 10K and 10 miles. The 10 mile time was also an overall club record. Niki moved into the 45-49 category part way through the year and then got the Marathon record in that category. It was a similar story with Gareth Richards who started the year in the 45-49 category and broke the 5K and Half Marathons before tearing apart the 50-54 records getting the 5K, 5 mile, 10K, 10 mile and Half Marathon records all within 3 months. Kris Denholm claimed the 55-59 Half Marathon record whilst Kevin Raymond claimed the 60+ 5K record.

On the ladies side, Sarah Wilkes claimed the under 30’s 5K and 10K records. Emma Morris got the 35-39 Half Marathon record. Sian Price dominated the 40-44 category despite only completing a few events and claimed the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon records. Judith Jeeves claimed the 60+ 5K record.

Of course, you don’t have to be a record breaker to have a fantastic year of running and several of our runners claimed PB’s at multiple distances. Huge kudos to Aled Hughes – anyone who has been running regularly for 10+ years will know that it gets harder and harder to get PB’s but this year Aled smashed his times at 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles and Half Marathon. Chris Richards claimed PB’s at 5K, 10K, 10 miles and Half Marathon. Gareth Richards was another long time runner who reached another level of running performance this year already mentioned in the age category records with PBs from 5K up to Half Marathon. Mark Teesdale got regular PB’s throughout the year at 5K, 10K, Half Marathon plus a superb 3:11 Marathon PB improving significantly on an already speedy debut marathon time of 3:29 earlier in the year. Niki Puleio claimed PB’s from 5K right through to Marathon. Wayne Randall claimed PB’s at 5K, 10K, 10 miles and Half Marathon whilst he also helped pace Rosie Salvatore in the Vale 18 miler.

On the ladies side, Sarah Davies claimed PB’s at 5K, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon. Rosie Salvatore matched that feat and finished the year with her first Ultra finish. Carys Cronin had an impressive year with huge PB’s at 5K, 10K and Half Marathons which all featured amongst the fastest in the club. Kate Plimmer also had PB’s at those distances in an impressive first year with the club. Kaye Pedler claimed PB’s at 5K, 10K and Half Marathon and was agonisingly close to adding a Marathon PB to that at Snowdonia.

Apologies I can’t mention everyone as there’s more than a dozen others who have had new PB’s at two or three distances this years as well. There were over 100 new PB’s achieved by our members this year whilst dozens of others ran their furthest distance ever whether than was 5K or 100 miles. Amazing effort by all.

Club Trail Championship

This year saw the return of the club trail championship with a mixture of local parkruns, BCRL races, XC fixtures and a variety of distances ranging at local events including the Rabbit Run, Beast of Bryn and Vale races. Some great competition throughout the series with the final showdown at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run. I won’t spoil the surprise and put the final standings as these will be presented at the presentation night.

Club Training in 2022

A steady return to normality has seen consistent sessions throughout the year. Emma Loyns continued her strength classes on a Monday which has regularly been one of the biggest attended sessions of the week. Tuesdays have continued with a mixture of effort and mile sessions. Wednesdays now consist of a Power Plodders session as well as Flyers and other club sessions. We also have Track twice a month where many of the sessions have come together. Thursdays have continued back at our original home in the Ogmore Valley where several themed / celebratory runs have taken place this year. Then there’s been trial Sundays as well the social Sunday run. Also not forgetting our junior section which meet on Mondays. We’ve had a number of new Lirfs this year as well as Liz Davis, Vickie Blake and Jayne Bissmire joining Emma Loyns, David Kembery, Kevin Raymond and Aled Hughes as coaches for the club. A huge thank you to our Lirfs and coaches for their dedication and time.

Other club activities in 2022

Back in April we returned to having an in person presentation night with Jacob walking away with four awards including the top prize of Runners Runner. There were several standing ovations for winners including Mark Worrall as a popular choice as runners up in the Runners Runner voting, Dai Kembery who finished 3rd and was awarded the Outstanding Achievement award for his return from being hopsitalised to running London Marathon. The loudest applause had to be for a non-running achievement which was the first ever Phoenix Hero award being given to Carl Walsh for his volunteer work on the Polish border with Ukraine supplying crucial items to those leaving Ukraine.

The Phoenix gazebo returned to Ogmore by Sea to welcome in the Vale runners. In October we saw the return of the Snowdonia Marathon weekend with over 60 OPR members and supporters travelling up to the event. Phoenix corner was bigger and better than ever with loads staying until the final runners came through – unfortunately the gazebo didn’t quite make it to the end – after being held down by multiple people for hours on end it snapped but will hopefully be repaired and sorted in time for its next outing at the Vale next year.

The Phantom Phoenix continues to keep us guessing. Our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages also continue to keep members up to date whilst earlier in the year we also had the captains log e-mails. There have also been a few blog posts during the year but look out for the return of more regular review blogs in 2023. Pippa and I have posted over 4,000 individual results throughout the year with the master excel file I keep now having over 27,000 results. We celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the club in August with a huge cake at the end of a training session and will be looking to celebrate the milestone further at the presentation night. There was also a monthly photography competition with the winning photos being used for the 2023 Ogmore Phoenix calendar. We have also seen some changes in personnel with long standing ladies captain Pippa Clark stepping down and Dawn Hopkins taking over with Steph Iveson Holmes as vice-captain.

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