May 2021 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

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

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

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

Races

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

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

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

Virtual events and challenges

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

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

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

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

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

Miles for Mind

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

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

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

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

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

April 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

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

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

Races – yes – real ones!

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

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

Virtual events

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

Wales Coastal Path and LEJOG

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

Virtual Insanity 12 Hour Challenge

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

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

Vale Virtual

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

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

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

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

Return to Training

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

Over to Chris for the runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner of the Month

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

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

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

March 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

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

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

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

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

Virtual challenges

Grand Slam challenge

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

Flight of the Phoenix

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

Other challenges

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

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

Presentation Night 2020

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

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

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

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

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

February 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkrun

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

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

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

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

Welsh Athletics Virtual events

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

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

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

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

OPR Valentines Relay

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

OPR Triple Crown weekend

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

Virtual challenges

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

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

BCRL – Marathon of a Weekend

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

World Record Holders!

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

London Marathon ballot

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

Miles for Mind

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

Marathon mayhem

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

Two Podcasts and an Asics Frontrunner

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

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

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

Last Runner Standing

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

Over to Chris for this months Runners of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

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

Janaury 2021

Virtual / (not)parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

Festive Four

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

OPR Sunrise Challenge

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

Photo Competition

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

Virtual training sessions

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

Virtual events

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

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

Crazy distance runs

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

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

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

Over to Chris for the runners of the month…

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

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

2020 review

parkrun and virtual parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Races

10K

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

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

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

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

Half Marathons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marathons

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

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

Ultra-Marathons

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

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

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

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

Other races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BCRL presentation

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

Virtual events – weekend challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual events – monthly or longer

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

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

Virtual Club Championship

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

Event 1 – The Track World Cup – Nicky Bennett

Event 2 – 1 Mile Time Trial – Rob Loyns

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

Event 4 – 3 Mile Time Trial – Judith Howells

Event 5 – 4 Mile Time Trial – Keith Coleman

Event 6 – OPR Lockdown 5K – Emyr Bissmire

Event 7 – Maesteg parkrun virtual takeover – Sarah Davies

Event 8 – Downhill mile – Ken Salvatore

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

Event 10 – Elevation challenge – Ken Salvatore

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

Virtual ‘races’

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Running Virtual Events

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

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

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

The Sunflower Relay

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

Team Relays

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

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

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

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

Personal Challenges

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

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

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

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

Virtual Training Sessions

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

Other highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chairmans Runners of the Month

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

January – Dai James and Anne Lalic

February – Paul Iskander and Angharad Hinam

March – Nicky Bennett and Claudine Nicholson Lewis

April – Jamie Bevan and Sian Tossell

May – Keith Coleman and Maria George

June – Rob Loyns and Ceri James

July – Gareth Jenkins and Claire Dunbar-Bowen

August – Rhodri Thomas and Fiona Drysdale

September – Steven James and Liz Sim

October – Gary Piper and Kyleigh Lecrass

November – Ken Salvatore and Sarah Davies

December – Gareth Richards and Sian Price

Welsh Athletics Award

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

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

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

December 2020 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

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

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

AGM

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

Virtual events

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

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

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

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

Virtual Club Championship (VCC)

VCC – Downhill mile

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

VCC – Cheat 5K / Ross Barkley 5K

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

VCC – Elevation challenge

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

VCC – Overall standings

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

Virtual events

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

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

LEJOG / Welsh Coastal Path update

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

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

Over to Chris for this months runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

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

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

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

Virtual Club Championship

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

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

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

Virtual London Marathon

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

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

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

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

More Virtual Races

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

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

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

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

100K challenge

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

Over to Chris for this months runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2020 review

Virtual / (not)parkrun

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

Dragon 50/100

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual events

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

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

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

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

Over to Chris for his runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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