2019 end of year review

parkruns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

5K

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

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

10K

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

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

Half Marathon

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

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

Marathon

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

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

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

Ultras

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

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

Bridgend County Running League

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

BCRL review and stats 2019

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

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

Top 15

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

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

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

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

Participation

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

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

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

Ever Presents Hall of Fame

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

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

A Team Effort

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

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

Final Standings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest attended events of 2019

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

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

What will 2020 bring?

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

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

November 2019 review

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

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

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

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

5 milers

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

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

10K

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

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

10 miles

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

Half Marathons

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

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

Marathons

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

Infinity Running – Bonfire Bolt

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

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

Cross Country (XC)

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

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

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

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

Other races

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

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

The Grand Slam club

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

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

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

Captains Runners of the Month

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

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

September 2019 review

parkruns

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

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

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

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

Races

10K’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Marathons

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

Infinity Running Events

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

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

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

BCRL

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

August 2019 review

parkruns

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

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

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

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

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

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

5K races

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

10K races

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

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

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

10 milers

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

Half Marathons

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

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

Marathons

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

Other races

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

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

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

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

Multi-events

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

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

BCRL

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

Over to Chris for Chairmans Runner of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

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

Weekly Waffle – 27th August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A week done and into the new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep up the good work guys.  

You are all superstars!

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

July 2019 review

parkruns

This month saw our members accumulate 210 parkrun finishes across 39 parkruns and 25 different parkruns

As well as the usual parkruns across South Wales we had tourists at Gloucester City, Burnham and Highbridge, Malborough Common, Hanley, Reading, Ashton Court, Kingstone, Stonehouse, Somerdale Pavillion, Tamar Trails, Nonsuch and a Canadian parkrun with Kayley Griffiths at Whistler.

Milestones this month included Fiona Drysdales 100th parkrun and my 300th parkrun. Maesteg parkrun also celebrated their 100th parkrun.

PB’s in the month included Brownwen Apsee, Clifford Searle, Brett Bonell, and Sally Pensom. A special mention for Wayne Hayhurst who smashed his PB to not just dip under 20 minutes for the first time but absolutely smash it with a 19:16.

5K races

Julie Ransom was our only entrant in the 5K event of the Long Course Weekend and finished in 29:30.

We had 13 runners at Swansea Bay 5K which included another sub 20 for Aled.

Nick Harris was our only entrant in The Chase 5K in Cardiff which involves runners setting off at different times depending on seasons best times with the aim of catching other runners (the fastest going off last).

Nick was joined by Aled and Chris for the final race in the SSAFA 5K series.

10K races

On the first Sunday of the month, we had a record breaking 103 members run an official race 10K including 4 taking on the 10K in Tenby and 2 at the Gloucester 10K.

The majority were at Porthcawl 10K where we had 97 runners which is second only to the Ogmore Castle BCRL event earlier this year for biggest attendance. Despite very warm conditions and a half hour delay at the start, there were PB’s aplenty including our first two finishers Paul Smith (38:29) and Adrian Pearce (38:40). Aled Hughes got his first sub 40 with a (39:37). Aled and Adrian earned Welsh Athletics Bronze Medals in their respective age categories whilst they are also due a second bronze medal along with Paul and Ryan for being the 3rd best combined team.

Claire Dunbar-Bowen ran a PB of 47:15 with Jonathan Tidball coming in at 47:25. The PB’s continued with Brett Bonell, Gary Loo, Dean Soles, Ian Lewis, Liam Cattell, Ken Salvatore, Brownwen Apsee, Kaye Pedler, Tanya Lacey, Beverley Soles and Fran Collins all improving their previous bests in the 50-59 minute range.

An even bigger list of post 1 hour PB’s followed including a number of them taking on their first 10K’s with the club. Well done to Lowri Howells, Jamie Bevan, Heather Morgan, Claire Taylor, Kate Atkin, Megan Apsee, Jane Collins, Kathy Watkins, Emma Bowen, Anna Clough, Rhian Miller, Claire Williams, Ruth Thomas, Paul James, Iona Gregory and Laura Worrall.

The next 10K saw James Beynon and Liz Sim complete the Thornbury 10K. Jay Howells took on the Ammanford 10K, and we had 4 members at the Pontypridd Roadents ‘Loop’ event.

10 members also ran the Mick Morris 10K which is almost entirely downhill and therefore doesn’t count for PB purposes and saw some ridiculously fast times. Wayne Hayhurst was our first finisher in 37:56 whilst Luke Jones ran sub 40 with a 39:43.

We had 6 runners at the Tough Runner 10K with Jade Bazylkiewicz our first runner home in an impressive 52:58 on the hilly off road course.

Half Marathons

We had 14 runners complete the Half Marathon at the Long Course Weekend in Tenby in sweltering conditions. First back were Sarah and James Littlewood clocking an impressive sub 2 hour time on the hilly course. Lisa Pinney, Andrew Hughes, Helen Griffiths, Kayley Griffiths, Jamie Puddy and Mark Burgess who had all completed swim and / or bike events in the previous days all added additional medals to their total.

4 members took on the Tough Runner Half Marathon with Wayne Randall finishing just ahead of Samantha Thomas in 2:39:32 with the two of them followed home by Jamie Puddy and Vickie Blake.

Marathons

Wayne Hayhurst ran an impressive sub 4 hour time and was one of 8 members who completed the Long Course Weekend Marathon. Kirsty Evans and Hannah Bartle completed the marathon to tick off full distances in the swim, bike and run.

The Lovelucks took on the Tough Runner Marathon with Anneliese finishing first lady overall by a huge margin in 3:35:47 whilst Steve clocked an impressive 3:39:38.

Infinity Running event

These events are now getting a separate section rather than including the various distances under all the different headings. This month saw the latest in the series head to Cardiff for the first time with the 6 hour event being a 3.3 mile out and back along the Taff Trail.  9 members heading down this time round on another warm morning to tackle as many laps as we wished.

Laura Worrall completed 2 laps for the ’10K’ and was accompanied by Mark Worrall and Chris Richards who carried on to complete 4 laps for the Half Marathon. I also ran the Half Marathon and was first finisher out of those that chose to do that distance. Denise Bradley and Liz ran together and also chose 4 laps to complete the Half.

Running just behind Denise and Liz and occasionally with them were Jo Gamba and Chris Pratt. Jo set out to do 4 laps but enjoyed it so much she ended up doing a 5th to get some early Snowdonia Marathon training in and clocking up 16.5 miles.

Chris carried on to do 8 laps and tick off yet another marathon – his  7th in just 19 weeks. Meanwhile, Kris Denholm carried on to do 11 laps and around 33 miles with only 2 other runners clocking further.

Ultra Marathon races

Just the one this month but our second 100(+) miler of the year. This time it was Steven James’s turn. Steven’s training had been impressive with 6 ultras ranging in the 33-40 mile range just this year leading up to this event. The 1066 Ultra runs from London to Battle and was advertised as 106 miles although Steven eventually clocked 109.5. It’s also worth mentioning it was very hot. What an incredible achievement.

BCRL races

A rare month where we had 2 Bridgend League events with the first being a brand new one starting in Pencoed in the showground of the annual Bridgend Show. The first Friday evening fixture ever for the league saw an amazing 92 members complete the course which was mainly on undulating roads. 92 is the joint 3rd highest attendance we’ve had at any race with all of our top 3 attendances now being in the last 3 months. 

Paul Smith was our first runner back just ahead of Adrian Pearce, Niki Puleio, Gareth Battle, James Littlewood and Aled Hughes. Our first ladies back were Sian Price, Claire DB, Sarah Littlewood, Sarah Davies, Denise Bradley and Jo Gamba. Another very strong performance from our top 15 scorers coupled with the high attendance meant we finished as runners up on the night to Bridgend and further increased the gap to the rest of our competition.

The second event came on the final day of the month with the Kenfig Sands fixture. With 84 finishers it also ranks in our top 10 attendances at any event and a record for that particular fixture. It’s also worth noting on the same evening, we had more than 40 at the Zero to Hero session making it probably the most Phoenix Runners running on the same evening.

Back to the race and this time the order was Adrian, Gareth, Ryan, Paul, Dai James and Aled all finishing within 77 seconds of each other. Our top ladies were Sian Price, Jade, Sarah Davies, Emma Loyns, Denise Bradley and Jo Gamba. As with the previous fixture a strong 15 coupled with high numbers bagged us runners up on the night to Bridgend and dare I say a almost insurmountable lead over the other clubs in our quest to finish 2nd overall for the 2nd year.

Other races

Not too many ‘other distance’ events in July although clearly there were a huge amount in the categories above. Brett Bonnell and Karl Johnson took on the Tintern Trot, Aled and Nick ran the Summer Series 4 miler plus we had 2 teams at the Cosmeston Relays.

With 366 race finishes it’s our second highest monthly total ever after 381 in May. No doubt that with the Barry 10K, Newbridge Fields BCRL event and a whole host of races over the bank holiday weekend, I’ll have plenty to write about in August. Over to Chris for Chairman’s Runner of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

I try and chop and change the mechanism for choosing runners of the month.  Different things catch the attention.  Sometimes it’s times, sometimes distance, sometimes grit and determination, sometimes helping others and sometimes endeavour.   Sometimes there are events that cannot be ignored.  Super long distance means pushing the body to extremes that only one or two of our midst will experience.  The second current member of the club to achieve this distance.  A slightly different approach to this challenge with a slightly different motivation for completing it.  When is running 100 miles a pre-cursor to something bigger?  Well this one is.  Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance.  The 6 p’s.  Lots of training miles.  A focused approach.  Events thrown in with sensible pacing.  Striding the hills.  Running the flat and downhills and learning to just keep going even when everything tells you to stop!  It worked.  The course followed Harolds Way from the English capital down to Battle Abbey near Hastings in Kent.  Tracing the steps of a historic journey.  100 miles.  Rest assured he dug very deep and completed the task in hand.  Broken legs were the reward for his troubles but huge kudos and rest followed the huge achievement.  Running 100 miles is totally amazing and worthy of huge accolade.  It shows not only running prowess but also a strength of character.  Mind games take hold during crazy distances like that and so many other things other than running get you to the end of your goal.  I am in awe as I award my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for July as Steven James.  Massive well done Steven.  On to the next challenge now!

Every now and again I see a spark.  A glint in an eye.  The indication that things have clicked.  The magic has worked.  Attendance at training for one is noticeably on the rise.  Posts on social media indicate an enthusiasm for getting out and banking miles.  Not only that but new personal bests start to appear.  Smiles crossing finish lines with hands held aloft.  Running experiences shared with others and the evidence shared with excitement.  Times improving as a result.  Training runs and races in increasing frequency.  It’s a joy to see.  We merely provide a platform – it is the individual that takes advantage of that and makes their own way to achieve something more.  That doesn’t have to be better times, it doesn’t have to be longer distance, it could just be stepping out of the door, enjoying the experience and sharing with friends.  Here we have a combination of better times, longer distances and increased enjoyment!   Truly inspiring stuff!  I am absolutely delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for July to Laura Worrall.  Keep on doing what you’re doing Laura and continue to inspire us all into the future!

June 2019 review

parkrun

This month saw our members accumulate 274 parkrun finishes across 50 parkruns and 27 different parkrun locations.

As parkrun tourism is becoming so popular, I’m now only going to mention venues that have had their first Ogmore Phoenix Runner(s) in the month or any ones outside of Wales and England. New venues this month include myself being the first Phoenix to run at Houghton Hall, Karl Johnson and James Beynon at Fire Service College and Tetbury Goods Shed whilst Karl also ran Sale Water. Further afield, Gwyneth Steddy ran her 50th parkrun at Portrush parkrun on the north coast of Northern Ireland, whilst Shawn and Julie bagged their first international parkrun tourism at Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston, USA. We’ve now had Phoenix Runners at 5 different US parkruns.

The first weekend of the month saw another Phoenix volunteer takeover at Maesteg parkrun where our members filled most of the positions and we also had 29 runners. Maesteg parkrun was the June event for the Club Championships with best times / age grade percentages scored during the month to count. This certainly seemed to boost the numbers and there were 2 weeks where we had more runners at Maesteg than Porthcawl.

This month also saw lots of parkrun milestones with Angela Walsh running her 100th parkrun, whilst Brett Bonnell, Sharon Pritchard, Ben Davies, Lisa Jenkins, Gwyneth Steddy, Stephne Puddy and Tammie Clemett all ran their 50th parkruns. Our parkrun obsessed club now has 67 current members who have reached 50 parkruns.

A much smaller list of PB’s this month but understandable considering the amount of other events our members would have been saving themselves for. Paul Barrett managed 2 PB’s in month and has now had 8 parkrun PB’s this year all at different parkrun venues. The latest one being Llanelli where Sarah Davies got a parkrun PB on the final parkrun of the month. Our other PB’s in month were Michael Brain, Clifford Searle, Sarah Littlewood and Dai James.

As we’ve reached the half way point in the year, I thought I’d do some mid-year parkruns stats. Aled Hughes is yet to miss a parkrun this year (including the New Years Day double) so is on the maximum UK parkrun total of 28 parkruns in 2019. I’ve one behind on 27, whilst Nick Harris, Karl Johnson, David Sheard, Kris Denholm  and Gareth Davies are all on 26. Also on 26 are our two top female parkrunners, Jo Gamba and Sara Davies.

Our fastest parkrunner of the year is Adrian Pearce with 18:16 at Swansea whilst Sarah Littlewood is our fastest female with 23:29 at Maesteg.

We’ve had an incredible 202 different members run at least 1 parkrun already this year with 1,566 finishes.

5K

Lots of 5K’s this month which started with Hannah Knight and Catherine Griffiths completing the Bridgend Race for Life.

Claire Taylor set a new PB at the ‘Run Ex’ 5K in Exeter with a 30:29.

At the second race of the Aberavon series, Ryan Evans led the club back in a new PB of 18:35 followed by Luke Jones and I who were just either side of 21 minutes. Sarah Davies set a new PB of 23:40 having set her previous best on the same course. Judith Jeeves bagged the highest age grade percentage run of the evening with her 25:38 PB. Hannah Knight and Natalie Aryal also set PB’s.

The second race of the Swansea Bay series saw 13 of our members enter which is by far the largest attendance at one of those series of events. A few had run our BCRL fixture the day before as well but still set amazing times with Niki coming in a 18:29 and Aled at 19:16. Elaine Nash and Annamarie Morgan set new PB’s on the night.

Yet another second of the series – this time the SSAFA 5K which Aled was awarded an interesting result of 18:60. Tyler Howells set a PB of 26:31.

A 5K with a difference to end the month with the Jack n Jill 5K which involved a constant climb for the first half before a downhill second half. Adrian Pearce finished 4th overall whilst Aled was 6th and Nick Harris notched up yet another event. Adrian and Aled were 4-5 minutes slower than their usual 5K times going to show how tough the route was.

10K

The Maesteg Keeper of the Colliery race attracted 19 of our members this year and the 300 strong field was around 4 times as many as what took part last year in the free event which takes in 2 undulating loops. Kris Denholm was our first runner back in 46:33 closely followed by Aled. Fiona Drysdale was our first lady back followed by Judith Jeeves. Despite the hilly course, both Nicola Cornock and Paul James set PB’s.

The Infinity Running Margam 10K saw David Sheard, Judith Jeeves, Sharon Pritchard and Ffion Smith take on 2 laps of the ever changing Margam course.

Half Marathon

Just one Half Marathon this month but quite a significant one. Swansea Half Marathon saw 67 members complete the course. We also had 10 volunteers and a load of supporters on the day as well. Despite humid conditions and a headwind on the second half of the course, Paul Smith bagged himself a 1:27:29 PB and was our first runner back. Ryan Evans got himself another sub 1:30 half whilst Neil Price also achieved that and knocked a few seconds off his PB in the process. The PB list continued with Gareth Davies, Jonathan Tidball, Lisa Pinney, Emma Loyns, Jay Howells, Michael Brain, Paul Iskander, Anthony Kavanagh, Mike Nicholson, Paul Barrett, Phill Iveson, Karen Green, Dawn Wright, Steph Iveson, Rosie Salvatore, Deb Edwards, Sharon Pritchard, Nicola Veasey, Sian Jenkins, Alexis Barrett, Claudine Nicholson, Shareen Bentley and Joe Hill.

Marathon

If you had to guess who our one marathoner was this month, I think most would guess correctly that it was Chris Pratt at another Infinity Running event. Chris finished the Margam event in 4:15:17 despite signing up for the Rabbit Run just 18 hours earlier and then going out for a few drinks and a curry afterwards with a few others from the club.

Ultra

Angharad Hillman completed the 40 mile VOGUM (Vale of Glamorgan Ultra Marathon) which starts in Porthcawl and ends in Penarth (so pretty much the reverse of the popular Vale Ultra).

Steven James set the longest distance of any runner at the Infinity Running Margam event with 39.6 miles completed in 6:30:32. Kris Denholm was second with 36.3 miles completed in 6:16:37.

A week later, Steven walked the Race to the King event with his sister which involves 52.5 miles over 2 days.

Other races

The month started off with Rack Raid. A 101 mile relay event with 13 stages from somewhere north of Abergavenny to Cwmbran. It was the first year the club had participated in the event and I’m looking to do a separate blog post to detail how the day unfolded. We finished 14th out of 28 teams which was beyond most of our expectations and every one of our runners gave it their all and enjoyed the day.

Another popular event on the calendar is the Cottrell Park Relays which saw 25 of our runners across 9 different teams. The 2.4 mile course includes the notorious ‘bunker hill’ which a few set new strava segment PB’s on. In terms of individual performances, Adrian Pearce was our first runner back in 16:05 just beating Aled who recorded 16:09 and Neil Price with 16:21. Our first lady was Sarah Davies with 20:15 ahead of Denise Bradley with 21:23. In terms of team performances, Aled, Adrian and Neil finished 4th team overall whilst Fiona Drysdale won the family category alongside 2 of her sons.

Fiona was in action again a few days later in the Man vs Horse race. If you haven’t heard of this, it is what it says in the title – a race against horses. The course is over 20 miles over undulating mixed terrain and in its history, the horses have only been defeated on a handful of occasions.

The second fixture of the Bridgend County Running League (BCRL) saw our club organise the Beast of Blackmill event. The route was shortened to 3.3 miles but still included the hill that makes the ‘Beast’ in the ‘Beast of Blackmill’. We had an incredible 69 runners despite having dozens of volunteers which meant we more than likely exceed 100 members present on the night. For the second fixture running, Gareth Battle lead our runners home with Adrian Pearce just a few seconds back. We had an incredibly strong first 15 again but Bridgend brought out their big guns for this one – their top runners included a 100K World Champion, runners who’ve represented Great Britain in triathlon in their age category, and Welsh international runners. We still finished second in the fixture with a substantial gap over the rest.

Aled Hughes and Nick Harris continued totting up their events total with the Summer Series 3 miler. Nick also did 5 laps to record 16.5 miles at the latest Infinity Running Margam event.

Rabbit Run

We had a huge turnout of 44 runners at the Merthyr Mawr Rabbit Run which was included in our trail championship. The course is advertised as being 7.2 miles but most recorded it over 7.5 miles which you do sometimes get with trail races. Despite drier conditions than previous years there was still plenty of mud to contend with around the 2 mile mark, the river crossing was waist high for most, plus plenty of other varied terrain. Adrian Pearce was our first runner back followed by Steve Loveluck, Aled Hughes and our first lady, Anneliese Loveluck.

What many of us didn’t realise is that the Rabbit Run was also part of the Welsh Trail Running Championships meaning that Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were available for each 5 year age category group for Welsh Athletics affiliated runners. It was only a couple of weeks after the event we found out what an amazing medal haul our runners accumulated…

There were individual Gold medals for Anneliese Loveluck, Adrian Pearce and Denise Bradley.

Individual Silver medals for Emma Loyns and Steve Loveluck.

Individual Bronze medals for Aled Hughes and Sarah Davies,

Team Gold for Adrian Pearce, Steve Loveluck, Aled Hughes and myself (Gareth Jenkins).

Team Bronze for Luke Jones, Steven James, Simon Harrison and Gareth Richards.

Team Silver for Anneliese Loveluck, Sarah Davies, Emma Loyns and Denise Bradley.

In total, we had 12 medal winners including 7 who picked up double medals for individual and team prizes.

Mid-Year Race Stats 

It’s been the busiest 6 months in the clubs history in terms of event participation. As well as the crazy parkrun numbers, we also had runners at pretty much every 5K between Swansea and Cardiff and a couple further afield with 174 finishers over 14 different 5K events. 10K’s have been just as popular with 20 different events so far this year and 173 finishers including 62 at Cardiff Bay and 39 at Newport.

Amazingly, we’ve had more Half Marathon finishers than 10K finishers in the first half of the year with exactly 200 so far largely due to the 67 who ran Swansea plus 47 who ran Llanelli. Our members have notched up 29 different Half Marathons including events in Cyprus, Spain and America.

Marathon participation is actually slightly down on the first half of last year which included big numbers at the inaugural Newport Marathon plus a club tour to Liverpool. However, mainly due to Chris Pratt and the newly formed Infinity Running series, our members have run at 12 different marathons which is an increase on the first half of last year but with 48 finishes compared to 56 last year.

Ultra running continues to get more popular with our members each year and the first 6 months of this year have saw 29 ultra marathon finishes over 9 events. Incredibly 6 of those have been Steven James whilst Kris Denholm already has 3 to his name. Plus of course there was that 100 miler completed by Nick Harris.

Somewhere we’ve seen another huge increase in participation is the non-standard distance events. Many of which are multi-terrain, cross country, Bridgend League fixtures or part of running series.

Biggest race attendances so far in 2019….

  1. Ogmore Castle – 114
  2. Beast of Blackmill – 69
  3. Swansea Half Marathon – 67
  4. Cardiff Bay 10K – 62
  5. Vale 18.5 / 32 – 54
  6. Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K – 52
  7. Newport 10K / Marathon – 50
  8. Llanelli Half Marathon – 47
  9. Rabbit Run – 44
  10. Aberavon 5K series (race 2) – 41

In the first 6 months of 2019, our members have accumulated 2656 finishes in races and parkruns across 407 events.

Now it’s over to our Chairman for his runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

For June I’m taking a slightly different outlook on my runners of the month.  We often refer to ourselves as the Phoenix Family.  Our bond is strong.  Our journeys to achieve our goals we share and as we do so we bind together.  We share events too and one story from a shared experience during an event in June filtered back to me and struck a chord.  An example of Phoenix Spirit.  As we often state, running is about more than just putting one foot in front of the other.  As a club we encourage mutual support.  We know from our own experiences that running events of a significant distance is tough.  It’s often the cheers from the sidelines that lift us and carry us on the finish.  Occasionally we get that support from our fellow runners.  Occasionally those runners go the extra mile and stop to help when some are in times of trouble.  This is one such story.  I received a heartwarming message shortly after the Swansea Half that recalled how one of our midst constantly shouted encouragement to others as he ran – something many do – but on reaching runners in distress he stopped to help.  Five times he stopped, sacrificing his own endeavour to help those in need.  He picked two people up off the floor to get them going again.  He walked hand in had with two to motivate them to their end goal.  He stopped to help one bent over at the side of the course to make sure they were OK.  Every single one that he helped he got them moving and put them above his own race.  He still made it to the end.  Finish lines, not finish times.  Phoenix Spirit through and through.  I am absolutely delighted and humbled when honouring Anthony Kavanagh with my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for June.  Well done Anthony, keep up the good work making the club proud.

The irony of my next choice won’t be missed by the person I’m choosing.  It’s been a great month of running for many and always difficult to separate everyone by achievement.  Personal Bests are commonplace throughout the year and June was no exception.  One did jump out though.  PB’s were achieved in fairly quick succession and admirable they were but it was as much for effort that I am recognising my female runner.  Always with a look of determination as she powers to the finish line of a race.  Determination that is not only impressive but infectious.  It rubs off on others.  Impressed to see that effort they also push themselves to achieve, whether that is time, distance or just getting out fo the door.  Inspiring.  It has warranted selection to team events in which the club placed very well.  Again that determined face came out and shone through in finish line photos.  What a great first year with the club and moving on from a month where her endeavours grabbed my attention I’m absolutely certain she will continue to shine.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for June to Sarah Davies.  Well done Sarah!!

Rack Raid 2019 review

This year saw the club invited to compete in a 13 stage relay covering 100 miles all within 12 hours. Each stage had it’s own start time with cut off times applied and there is a bit of overlap to ensure it’s all finished within a reasonable time. The cut off for each stage requires runners to finish within a 9 minute mile average – so a 5 mile route would have a 45 minute cut off. If runners come in after this time then they are given the cut off time (in this example 45:00), unless they are more than 10 minutes off the cut off in which case they are given the cut off time plus 10 minutes (in this example 55:00). Stages ranged from 5.1 miles to 13.1 miles.

The road to Rack Raid began as an attempt to get into Welsh Castles which requires 20 runners plus a number of reserves across the 2 day event from North Wales down to South Wales. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough runners who would meet the strict cut off times for that event to apply so turned our attentions to Rack Raid. Many of our members had already run the ‘qualifier’ route the captains had set out which involved 2 laps of the Ogmore Valley loop for a 10 mile run in total. This then ended up being used to determine places for Rack Raid instead.

The 13 runners had to made up of a 7/6 gender split with the majority of teams going for 7 male and 6 female runners which is what we went for. 

The final team was (in order of what stages they ran) – Jo Gamba, Dai James, Gareth Jenkins, Chris Truman, Neil Price, Niki Puleio, Sarah Davies, Anneliese Loveluck, Steven James, Liz Davis, Paul Smith, Sian Price and Emma Loyns.

Jo Gamba and I headed off at 530am to get to Grosmont Castle in time for Jo to do the first leg at 730am. T-shirts collected for the team and ‘official vehicle’ sticker acquired which was needed to drive to certain stages and parts of the course that weren’t open to other vehicles.

A race briefing is given at the start of each stage and numbers given out which are the same for each team throughout the day. There are just 28 teams in total and they discourage other runners / supporters from going to the start as there’s a few houses around the castle and they don’t want too much noise at 7-730am on a Sunday morning. It was odd to see such a small field of runners as Jo set off on the first stage.

That first stage was the shortest at 5.1 miles but still included 315 feet of elevation with the majority of that in the first half of the run. The entire route is on quiet country roads and for those of us seeing runners off at the start, it meant carefully driving passed them to get to the end point of that stage. It does mean there’s an opportunity to shout encouragement out of the car window as you drive past though. Quite a lot of the teams had chosen female runners for the first stage with just 1 male out of 28 teams. I passed Jo about a mile or so in and she doing well in the middle of the pack.

Arriving at the second stage I saw Steven, Niki, Dai and Chris who had car shared with Dai who was due to start the second leg. As pointed out at the start of this review, the stages overlap slightly so Dai and the rest of the runners for the second stage set off before most of the first stage runners came in. A few minutes later Jo appeared and finished in a fantastic 41:09 and well inside the cut off of 46 minutes and in 17th place overall. As I was running stage 3, we had to quickly get in the car and drive off, passing Dai who was amongst the top 5 or so runners along the way. His stage was 6.9 miles with 636 feet of elevation and very little downhill making it one of the hilliest if basing it on elevation per mile.

The third stage started at White Castle which was restricted to ‘official vehicles’ only meaning only Jo and I could drive our car to the start. This meant a quick change of plan as Steven couldn’t go and pick Dai up from the end of his stage but it was fine as Jo could take Dai to the next stage after dropping me off where we would all reconvene. Driving to the start of stage 3 we saw that Dai would have a tough half mile long hill to content with at the end but despite this he finished in an excellent time of 50:55 and 8th place overall.

I set off for stage 3 which was a 7.5 mile route to Abergavenny with 394 feet of elevation. It was a nice start as I went down the hill Dai had just had to come up before turning back onto the main road. The route then gradually climbed for agonising 4 miles albeit at a mostly gentle gradient. It also started raining but fortunately for me it wasn’t too heavy and quite refreshing. The final 2.5 miles of my stage were almost entirely downhill so I was able to make up for some lost time on the incline and ended with a sprint finish against a female runner from Les Croupiers which definitely helped me find another gear than if I’d been running in alone. Very pleased with a time of 55:07 and 11th place overall.

Meanwhile, Chris Truman had set of on stage 4. A 6.7 mile hilly route with 633 feet of elevation. Like many of the stages it involved a lot of climbing for the first half before a downhill second half. Chris finished in 46:53 equalling our best position of the day so far with 8th overall.

By this point, Jo and I had already been up for 5 hours and we were barely a third of the way through the day so we went off to Monmouth to sneak in a quick second breakfast before seeing Neil come in from stage 5. Stage 5 was an 8.1 mile route with 443 feet of elevation which Neil finished in 55:15 and 9th overall. Most of the stages started or finished near castles but Neil’s finish was just as good with it finishing on an old bridge heading into Monmouth town.

Niki was up next with the second longest stage of the day. A 12.6 route from Monmouth to Raglan taking in 801 feet of elevation and hilly throughout. He smashed it in 1:21:59. To put it in perspective, had it been half marathon distance then he’d have finished a reasonably hilly half marathon in around 1 hour 25/26 minutes. It was also the third time we’d finished 8th overall.

Whilst waiting for Niki, the rest of us arrived in Raglan where we our final group of runners joined us – Sarah, Emma and Liz. Sarah was lined up with the others about to set off just as Niki was finishing. Sarah’s route was 5.5 miles from Raglan to Usk taking in 236 feet of elevation and undulating throughout. Sarah put in a great effort finishing well inside the cut off of 51 minutes with in 45:34 and 16th position.

By this point we’d already seen Anneliese Loveluck set off on the longest stage of the event – a 13.1 mile route from Usk to Tintern Abbey which not only had the highest amount of elevation at 1200 feet of climbing, but was also one of the only stages that included some off road running as well. Anneliese had actually offered to run this stage in case you’re wondering why the captains would be so mean. She was one of only two female runners for that stage as a number of teams put out their fastest guys for the stage. Anneliese held her own though and finished in an astonishing 1:36:45 on the hilly half marathon distance course and 16th position. Her time was 21 minutes inside the cut off.

The finish at Tintern Abbey was one of the highlights although as stated earlier, most of the start / finish locations were pretty special in terms of scenery. As we waited for Anneliese to come in, Steven James headed off for Stage 9 – a 10 mile route from the abbey to Chepstow Castle taking in 945 feet of elevation making it the second hilliest in terms of climbing elevation. Again, a number of teams appeared to put their best runners out on this stage and Steven ran a great time of 1:17:14 and 20th place.

Liz Davis was next up taking on a 5.6 mile route to Caldicot Castle with around 300 feet of elevation. Liz missed the cut off by just a few seconds and was therefore awarded a time of 51 minutes and 24th place. It should be noted that 8 runners out the 28 also didn’t make the cut off on what was a deceivingly tough route. Our team spirit and camaraderie really shone through as every one of the team was proud of Liz who absolutely gave it her all and still recorded a great time.

Most of us missed Paul heading off for stage 11 as the tight timings to get from the previous stage didn’t quite work out. His route was 8.3 miles with 551 feet of elevation and was a rare one that didn’t finish at a castle or on a bridge, however, there was a pub which was packed with runners and supporters. Many of you reading this may not have met Paul yet who is relatively new to the club and is amongst our fastest runners. He smashed the route in 55:43 and recorded our joint highest finish of the day with 6th overall.

All of us made it to see him finish whilst across the road, Sian was heading off on the penultimate stage. Stage 12 was 6.6 miles with 266 feet of elevation. We’d be told Sian would get one of the best finishes of all the stages and as we arrived we could see why. The finish was at Caerleon Amphitheatre which dates back to 90 AD and was a venue for gladiatorial combat. Sian finished by running into the middle of the amphitheatre with the rest of us watching from 20-30 feet above. She did get a little confused with exactly where the finish line was and carried on running for a few more metres though. Her time was 51:37 which was well inside the cut off of 60 minutes and she was 18th overall.

The spectacular finish was also the spectacular start venue for our final runner, our club coach, Emma Loyns. Emma had been dreading her stage which although the second shortest at 5.4 miles, it included almost 500 feet of elevation climbing for much of the route and including the a section at the end that a local club use for long hill sessions. The rest of us headed off to the finishing point and caused a little bit of chaos when we accidently ended up driving up the narrow road close to finish where the runners were heading. We had to stop to let the runners go through and wait until they’d finished so frustratingly the final stage was the only one we didn’t make it to see our runner finish. Lesson learnt for next year if we are invited back. Emma smashed it in 47:30 coming in under the cut off and finishing in 20th place.

When we all eventually parked up at the finishing venue at the Castell y Bwch pub we got in the queue for some much needed food and drinks. We’d been given food vouchers at the start of the day which entitled us to curry and chips which went down a treat as we watched the presentations for the stage winners and overall team winners.

The organisers had been posting results from each stage throughout the day along with current team standings so we excitingly awaited to see our final position. Eventually we saw that we’d finished in 14th place out of 28 teams. A fantastic effort and beyond what many of us had expected in our first year. We also finished almost an hour ahead of friendly local rivals, Brackla, who have been competing in Rack Raid for many years (lets ignore that they were probably saving themselves for Welsh Castles the weekend after).

101.5 miles completed in 12 hours 36 minutes and 44 seconds.

So how would I sum it up? Well firstly I would say that elevation profiles don’t always tell the whole story as every single one of our runners found the stages harder than expected. The entire day was very well organised and I can’t imagine the planning and logistics required by Fairwater Runners Cwmbran who run the event. Amazing commitment and support by every single member of our team who were out for 12 hours or more which for a few of us included 100+ miles of driving, running one of the stages and supporting at as many stages as possible.  An absolutely fantastic day was had by all and I think if you ask any of the 13 of us that ran it, we would absolutely recommend the club does it again next year. The support and effort put in by every team member was amazing.

Rack Raid 2020 anyone?

Weekly Waffle – 16th June 2019

A busy week ahead…

Once again, training is affected by other responsibilities.  

The impending fielding of a fixture in the local league that brings all the clubs in the Bridgend area together was the focus.  Preparations build in the final days up to the midweek event.  A huge commitment for those devoting a great deal of time to organise.  A huge commitment for those giving their time during the day and on the night to make sure things run smoothly.  A huge commitment from the captains to organise a team from those who remain.  A huge commitment from the runners to perform for the club and gain crucial points after an admiral performance in the first fixture.

Mother natures was on our side despite the forecast.  The old adage “Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance” was observed to great effect.  261 runners started and 261 runners finished.  Despite our commitments to organising and volunteering, the runners did us proud with incredible individual performances for a fantastic team score!

A very worthy hashtag for a job well done.

#proudPhoenix

Training resumes as a calmness descends.  Smaller numbers attend as The Beast of Blackmill takes a toll on legs.

This doesn’t stop some attending other races as a couple travel to the capital to complete the next event in an increasingly popular series.

The pride from an incredible week is heightened by one of our number receiving another Welsh Athletics medal through the post for an admiral performance.  Phoenix flying very high, again!

Friday night. 

Lights out.

Saturday morning. 

Wakey, wakey.  

Alarms not required as body clocks detect the impending trip to a parkrun.

Home or away?  That is the question…

Home for many.  On the seafront and up the valley we get to start lines in numbers.  Milestones were clocked up in number with celebrations all round.

Away locations attract others.  Within our borders and “across the pond”.  

All getting their 5k completed.

Clouds part and the sun pokes through to appropriately reflect the season.

Phoenix in numbers head down to the local country estate to chase Rabbits.  Bunnies and toddlers took to the stage before their parents joined others on the start line to tackle a trail event with a multitude of different terrain.  Many Phoenix flew the flag on the tough course with many fantastic performances and club cameraderie worthy of note.  Sand dune descents that led many to “release the inner 8 year old” as they “helter skeltered” to the bottom.  Mud, grass, tarmac and sand in varying quantities challenged all, culminating in a river crossing that saw some fall foul of an uneven river bed producing spectacular photos as a result!  Smiling faces from all told the story of a job well done!

As the light fades and a new day dawns a few head down the coast to the west to complete a number of distances.  Wether 10k, marathon or more, all completed their target with admirable endeavour.  Medals earned.

And while all this happens our heroes still turn up to continue their journey!

It’s been a busy one.

It’s been a tiring one.

But The Phoenix endured.

Resilience.  
Endeavour.  
Commitment.  
Grit.  
Determination.  
Pride.  
Phoenix pride.

Continue to fly!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 2nd June 2019

What a week – yet again!

Training numbers were affected this week by a huge Phoenix contingent heading down the lanes through Merthyr Mawr for a local 5k that always attracts big numbers.  Impressive times and gutsy performances were in plentiful supply on the night in this regional championship event!

A trio headed to the capital once again to record swift times over 2 miles at the next in a series of events.  Events completed on the rise!

parkrunday or as it’s alternatively known, Saturday.

A new month.  

High numbers spread all around the country.  

One of our home runs saw a takeover where members give up their runs to provide the core roles required for the event to take place while those do it week in, week out get to run.  Huge numbers headed up the Llynfi Valley to volunteer and run!  An excellent morning was had by all with a few enjoying the hospitality of Wetherspoons after for some much needed recovery! 

Still high numbers at our other home while many got their fix wherever they found themselves for the weekend.

Missing their parkrun constitutional were a brave few taking on the might of Carten.  100 miles of cycling from Cardiff to Tenby – amazing stuff!

One lone runner started early to navigate the Wales Coastal Path between Porthcawl and Penarth.  The 40 mile journey was completed in style and finish line photos with a happy smiling face tell us it was a great day out!  Inspirational stuff!

The sun set and rose on a historic day for the club…

Rack Raid.
Participation by invitation only.
Captains and Vice Captains past and present worked hard to deliver a plan for qualification.
13 members set impressive qualifying times to gain selection.
100 miles.  
13 stages.
A very early start took them east to tackle each stage in turn.
Nerves abound as each section carried cut-off times.
Mutual support within the team strengthened the determination to succeed.
Every runner put in incredible performances.
News filtered back through the wonder of social media and we all revelled in the excitement of the day.
A great day for the Phoenix with an impressive finishing position cementing our future in the event.
We asked them to fly high and they rose with valour!  

Immensely proud.

At home we had numbers heading back up the Llynfi Valley to take on the Keeper of the Colliery and despite the rain they all completed in style.

Others wore pink to show their support for Cancer Research UK on a 5k route around familiar surroundings.

We saw newbie triathletes smash their first events as they challenge themselves to new things.

What an incredible weekend yet again…

A weekend that yet again demonstrates that being a Phoenix is all about being together – sharing experiences.  If you run super quick or super long, we salute you.  If you’ve just completed your first Zero to Hero session, we salute you.  If you’ve just run 5k for the first time, we salute you.  It doesn’t even matter if you run.  To walk, run, support or volunteer, we salute you.  What we do, we do together.  

Team photos from all over the country appear with any number from one to over a hundred.  

It’s that team spirit that pulls us together.

One big team.
One big family.
Family Phoenix.
We salute you all.

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub