Our Running Club – the stats – 2012-present

On Monday 20th August 2012, around a dozen of us met in the Berwyn Centre in Nantymoel to discuss setting up a club in the Ogmore Valley and our club was formed.

To celebrate our 9 year anniversary I thought we’d have a look at the incredible stats that we have accumulated over that time.

21,825 results have been recorded from 550 different members (past and present) from 3,194 events. In total the club has been represented at 915 different events.

Longest Standing Members

Aled Hughes, Helen Griffiths and I attended that first meeting and are the only three ‘founding members’ remaining in the club.

Other long standing members who have all been heavily involved in the club since the early days include Nick Harris, Denise Bradley, Liz Davis, David Kembery, Richard Lowcock James, Kevin Raymond, Fiona Evans and Chris Pratt who all joined within the first 2 years.

Most Events Records

Total events top 10 (races and parkruns combined)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 608
  2. Nick Harris 550
  3. Chris Pratt 425
  4. Aled Hughes 375
  5. David Kembery 360
  6. David Sheard 314
  7. Chris Roberts 289
  8. Kris Denholm 268
  9. Denise Bradley 248
  10. Richard Lowcock James 245

After Denise, our top females for number of events are Dawn Hopkins (241), Jo Gamba (236), Liz Davis (224) and Bev Sheard (215).

Total events top 10 (races only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 271
  2. Nick Harris 227
  3. Chris Pratt 164
  4. Aled Hughes 147
  5. Dawn Hopkins 126
  6. Denise Bradley 122
  7. David Kembery 114
  8. Shawn Cullen 111
  9. David Sheard 106
  10. Niki Puleio 103

After Dawn and Denise, our next top female for number of races are Jo Gamba (98), Fiona Drysdale (85), Sharon Pritchard (84) and Helen Griffiths (84). If races before joining the club were included the I would be on 286 and Chris Pratt would be close to 200, however, Carl Walsh would probably beat that with his races for his previous club.

Most events in a single year (parkruns plus races)

  1. Nick Harris 125 in 2019 – also set the record for most races that year with 73
  2. Aled Hughes 116 in 2019 – became the first member to run all 55 available parkruns
  3. Christie Coleman 108 in 2016
  4. Gareth Jenkins 101 in 2015
  5. Gareth Jenkins 100 in 2019
  6. Gareth Jenkins 93 in 2016
  7. Dawn Hopkins 89 in 2019
  8. Jo Gamba 88 in 2019
  9. Sharon Pritchard 86 in 2019
  10. Debbie Bennion 85 in 2019

Carl Walsh is way ahead of the rest for this year and will no doubt be featuring in many of these top 10’s in a few years.

Longest race distances run

  1. Steven James 106 miles – London to Battle 1066 Ultra – July 2019
  2. Nick Harris 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  3. Jamie Vanstone 100 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra – May 2017
  4. Nick Harris 100 miles – Dragon 100 – May 2019
  5. Steven James 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  6. Elizabeth Sim 100 miles – Dragon 100 – September 2019
  7. Gareth Jenkins 80 miles – Conquer24 – June 2021
  8. Wayne Hayhurst 62 miles – London to Brighton 100K – May 2017
  9. Anneliese Loveluck 60 miles – Dare Valley 12 hour – September 2019
  10. Carl Walsh 53 miles – Race to the Kings – June 2021

Incredibly not making the list we have a further 67 finishes ranging from 40 miles to 52 miles as well as Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans who ran 100K (62.2 miles) split over 2 days recently. Including the Vale Ultra and all other Ultra distance finishes, the number of Ultra finishes is 171 from 62 different past and present members. If virtual events were counted then Steven James would make the list again with 84 miles for the Last Runner Standing event with Kris Denholm and myself completing 72 miles.

Most number of Ultra’s completed (official events only)

  1. Kris Denholm 18
  2. Steven James 13
  3. Gareth Richards 10
  4. Nick Harris 10
  5. Elizabeth Sim 9
  6. Jamie Vanstone 7
  7. Simon Harrison 7
  8. Wayne Hayhurst 7
  9. Chris Pratt 6
  10. Brian Cotton / Dan Clark / Gareth Jenkins 4

32 current members have run an Ultra with 13 of those doing more than 1.

Most number of Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Chris Pratt 34
  2. Nick Harris 15
  3. Gareth Richards 13
  4. Kris Denholm 12
  5. David Kembery 12
  6. Wayne Hayhurst 12
  7. Carl Walsh 9
  8. Fiona Evans 9
  9. Niki Puleio 8
  10. Denise Bradley / Aled Hughes / Simon Harrion / Kirsty Evans 7

86 current members have run a marathon with the club meaning around 30% of our current total membership have run a marathon. 62 of those have run more than 1 marathon.

Most number of Half Marathons completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 63
  2. Nick Harris 29
  3. Chris Pratt 29
  4. David Kembery 23
  5. Karl Johnson 22
  6. Liz Davis 22
  7. Mark Worrall 22
  8. Denise Bradley 20
  9. Dawn Hopkins 20
  10. Shaun Cullen 19

144 current members (around half of the total members) have run a Half Marathon with the club. 127 of those have run more than one, and incredibly 41 members have run 10 Half Marathons or more with the club.

Most number of 10Ks completed (official events only)

  1. Gareth Jenkins 46
  2. Dawn Hopkins 39
  3. Nick Harris 33
  4. Sharon Pritchard 30
  5. Aled Hughes 29
  6. Debbie Bennion 29
  7. Shawn Cullen 28
  8. Denise Bradley 25
  9. Helen Griffiths 23
  10. David Kembery 23

164 members have completed a 10K with the club. This actually appears quite low but looking at the ones that haven’t done a 10K yet, it’s mostly newer members who haven’t had the opportunity due to lack of races over the past 16 months.

Number of event finishes by distance

  1. 5K / parkrun – 13,286
  2. Other distances – 3,388
  3. 10K – 2,159
  4. Half Marathon – 1,696
  5. Marathon – 482
  6. 5 mile – 344
  7. 10 mile – 295
  8. Ultra – 171

Biggest events by number of members finishing

  1. Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 – 116 finishers
  2. Ogmore Castle BCRL race 2019 – 114
  3. Porthcawl 10K 2019 – 97
  4. Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K BCRL race 2017 – 92
  5. Cardiff Half Marathon 2016 – 92
  6. Llanilid Loop BRCL race 2019 – 92
  7. Cardiff Half Marathon 2018 – 91
  8. Cardiff Half Marathon 2017 – 90
  9. Ogmore Castle BCRL race 2018 – 86
  10. Newbridge Fields BCRL race 2019 – 85

In total there have been 37 races where we’ve had 50 or more members finishing. 21 of those are BCRL races and as per the top 10 list, Cardiff Half Marathon has had 90 or more finishers for the last 4 years in a row that it’s gone ahead. Our biggests Marathon attendance was at Snowdonia in 2019 when we had 45 finishers.

We’ve also had 65 finishers at Porthcawl parkrun on 2 occasions – way back on Christmas Eve 2016, and then again in September 2019 which coincided with a Zero to Hero graduation. On the latter date, we also had a record 85 members finishing a parkrun on the same morning and more than 100 members attending a parkrun when including those that volunteered or supported.

Most popular races by number of times club has been represented (excluding parkruns)

  1. Aberavon / Run4All 5K series – 12*
  2. SSAFA 5K (Cardiff) series – 12
  3. Cardiff Half Marathon (including World Half) – 9*
  4. Cardiff 10K – 8*
  5. Llanelli Half Marathon – 8*
  6. Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run – 8*
  7. Swansea Bay 5K series – 8
  8. Swansea 10K – 8*
  9. Caerphilly 10K – 7*
  10. London Marathon – 7*

*club has been represented in every one of these events since we formed or the series stared. Aberavon / R4A series could arguably be 18 as we’ve also done all 6 Santa 5K’s there as well.

Club record progression

Male records

5K / parkrun

First 5K / parkrun result: Ross Jones – Cardiff parkrun – September 2012 – 26:31.

First sub 20: John Burridge – Porthcawl pakrun – May 2013 – 19:59

First sub 19: Neil Jones – Pontypridd parkrun – October 2015 – 18:58

First sub 18: Neil Jones – Cardiff parkrun – May 2016 – 17:41

First sub 17: Neil Jones – Pontypridd parkrun – December 2017 – 16:55

Current club record: Jacob Tasker – Pembrey 5K – July 2021 – 16:18

10K

First 10K result: Gareth Jenkins – Cardiff 10K – September 2012 – 48:25

First sub 45: Gareth Jenkins – Cardiff 10K – September 2013 – 44:17

First sub 40: Neil Jones – Caerphilly 10K – June 2015 – 39:31

First sub 35 / current club record: Jacob Tasker – Cardiff Sunset 10K – August 2021 – 34:17

Half Marathon

First Half Marathon result: Matthew Jones – Great North Run – September 2012 – 1:48:26

First sub 1:40: Matthew Jones – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2012 – 1:39:05

First sub 1:30: John Burridge – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2013 – 1:29:31

First sub 1:20: Neil Jones – Swansea Half Marathon – June 2016 – 1:18:51

Current Club Record – Neil Jones – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2018 – 1:18:33

Fastest current member: Dai James – Llanelli Half Marathon – March 2020 – 1:21:36

Marathon

First Marathon result: Phil Lewis – Budapest Marathon – October 2012 – 4:14:49

First sub 4 hour: Chris Mogg – London Marathon – April 2013 – 3:59:04

First sub 3:30: Aled Hughes – Manchester Marathon – April 2015 – 3:28:27

First sub 3:20: Kevin Raymond – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2015 – 3:18:46

First sub 3 hour: Neil Jones – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2016 – 2:57:43

Club Record: Neil Jones – Newport Marathon – April 2019 – 2:43:07

Fastest current member: Niki Puleio – Goodwood Marathon – December 2020 – 2:55:01

Female records

5K / parkrun

First 5K / parkrun result: Elinor Marsh – Cardiff parkrun – March 2013 – 32:52

First sub 24: Helen Davies – Porthcawl pakrun – April 2013 – 23:16

First sub 22: Sian Price – Porthcawl parkrun – November 2016 – 21:14

First sub 21: Anneliese Loveluck – Porthcawl parkrun – October 2018 – 20:41

Current club record*: Anneliese Loveluck – Bakewell parkrun – October 2019 – 20:34

*Sian Price has run a faster time (20:01) as part of a virtual event

10K

First sub 50: Helen Davies – Cardiff 10K – September 2013 – 48:31

First sub 48: Heather Garratt – Swansea 10K – September 2015 – 47:51

First sub 47: Josie Bishop – Cardiff Bay 10K – April 2017 – 46:29

Club Record: Anneliese Loveluck – Magor 10K – July 2018 – 41:26

Fastest current member: Sian Price – Cardiff 10K – September 2017 – 44:42

Half Marathon

First Half Marathon result: Helen Davies – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2012 – 1:48:40

First sub 1:45: Julie Webster – Llanelli Half Marathon – March 2016 – 1:44:43

First sub 1:42: Sian Price – Cardiff Half Marathon – October 2017 – 1:41:44

Current Club Record – Anneliese Loveluck – Merthyr Half Marathon – March 2019 – 1:32:33

Fastest current member: Lisa King – Sheppardine Half Marathon – April 2021 – 1:39:39

Marathon

First Marathon result: Fiona Evans – London Marathon – April 2014 – 4:23:02

First sub 4:15: Lorna Domachowski – Manchester Marathon – April 2015 – 4:12:06

First sub 4 hours: Julie Webster – Manchester Marathon – April 2016 – 3:48:55

Club Record: Anneliese Loveluck – Great Welsh Marathon – April 2019 – 3:13:56

Fastest time from a current member: Claire Dunbar-Bowen – Newport 2018 – 3:46:32

Presentation Nights

Runners Runner Winners Roll of Honour

  1. 2013 – Gareth Jenkins
  2. 2014 – Nick Harris
  3. 2015 – Chris Pratt
  4. 2016 – Christie Coleman
  5. 2017 – Niki Puleio
  6. 2018 – Tammie Baker
  7. 2019 – Nick Harris
  8. 2020 – Kris Denholm

Most main awards won

This includes Runners Runner, Best in age category, Club Championship winners, Most Improved, Best Newcomer, Zero to Hero, Spirit of the Phoenix and Outstanding Achievement. The number represents the number of times they have won in total and in brackets are the years they won one or more prizes.

  1. Denise Bradley 8 (2014, 2016, 2019)
  2. Neil Jones 6 (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  3. Claire Dunbar-Bowen 5 (2016, 2017, 2019, 2020)
  4. Gareth Richards 5 (2017, 2020)
  5. Nick Harris 5 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2019)
  6. Emma Loyns 4 (2018, 2019)
  7. Niki Puleio 4 (2017, 2019)
  8. Adrian Pearce / Aled Hughes / Anneliese Loveluck / Chris Pratt / Christie Coleman / Gareth Jenkins / Juliet Amner / Kevin Raymond – all recieved 3

67 different members have recieved awards over the 8 presentation nights.

parkrun specific stats

Like it, loathe it, or just indifferent to it, parkrun is a huge part of our club with over 50% of all results recorded to date being parkrun finishes. We also have a significant amount of parkrun tourists so I thought I’d share some of the crazy stats and challenges below.

Most popular parkruns (number of parkrundays with at least one club finisher)

  1. Porthcawl 353
  2. Maesteg 130
  3. Pontypridd 108
  4. Cardiff 91
  5. Swansea Bay 87
  6. Barry Island 63
  7. Newport 57
  8. Gnoll 55
  9. Grangemoor 53
  10. Llanelli Coast 50

There have been 357 events at Porthcawl meaning there have only been 4 parkruns at Porthcawl with no members of the club finishing – all of these were in 2013 and the last time we had no recorded results at Porthcawl was 12th October 2012. Niki Puleio, Chris Pratt and David Sheard were all in attendance that day but weren’t members at that point. I’ll take the blame as I was our only member who was parkrunning that day but went to Pontypridd. Nevertheless, it does mean we’ve been represented at the last 329 Porthcawl parkruns that have gone ahead. At Maesteg we have 100% record with at least 1 member at every one of their 130 parkruns so far.

Total number of parkruns Top 10 – numbers in brackets are total parkruns run including those before joining the club

  1. Gareth Jenkins 337 (337)
  2. Nick Harris 323 (323)
  3. Chris Pratt 261 (330)
  4. David Kembery 246 (246)
  5. Aled Hughes 228 (228)
  6. Chris Roberts 226 (251)
  7. David Sheard 208 (297)
  8. Kris Denholm 182 (259)
  9. Bev Sheard 155 (155)
  10. Karl Johnson 152 (152)

After Bev the top ladies are Liz Davis 142 (142), Jo Gamba 138 (173) and Julie Ransom 136 (136).

Top 10 volunteers (number of different days volunteering – includes volunteering at both the 5K and junior parkruns)

  1. Emma Marshall 140
  2. Stephne Puddy 110
  3. Karl Johnson 68
  4. Richard Lowcock James 63
  5. Chris Stanlake 56
  6. Rhiannon Whitely 54
  7. Peter Harrop 53
  8. Kris Denholm 51
  9. Chris Roberts 49
  10. Gareth Jenkins 44

This information isn’t as easy to find so apologies to anyone I’ve missed who would make this list. Also have to mention some former members – Maria Lalic has now done 242 different days of volunteering, Maesteg regular, Michael Brain is on 120, and regular Porthcawl pacer, Dave H Evans is on 96 with a significant proporation of each of these being whilst a member of the club.

Top 10 parkrun tourists (number of different venues)

  1. Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom 100
  2. Karl Johnson 98
  3. Chris Roberts 79
  4. Gareth Jenkins 75
  5. Chris Stanlake 69
  6. Dawn Hopkins 64
  7. Kris Denholm 63
  8. Aled Hughes 53
  9. Jo Gamba 48
  10. Jayne Powney 46

I was the early leader for parkrun tourism and was the first to complete 20 different parkruns back in 2015 and led the way until mid 2017 when Shawn and Julie took over and have remained in joint top spot ever since. Chris Pratt was also one of our early regular tourists and set himself a challenge of running all the Welsh parkruns in 2015 when I believe there were around 15 or 16. Shawn and Julie have by far the highest ‘tourist percentage’ in the club having run 100 different venues in just 136 parkruns overall. Sarah Davies could challenge that as she is currently on 37 different venues in just 57 parkruns.

Most new parkrun venues visited in a calendar year

  1. Karl Johnson 35 in 2019
  2. Dawn Hopkins 30 in 2019
  3. Shawn and Julie 26 in 2019
  4. Karl Johnson 25 in 2017
  5. Sarah Davies 24 in 2019
  6. Shawn and Julie 24 in 2018
  7. Chris Stanlake / Alexis Barrett / Chris Roberts 23 – all in 2019
  8. Paul Barrett 22 in 2019
  9. Shawn and Julie 21 in 2017 and Karl 21 in 2018
  10. Shawn and Julie 20 in 2016

A special mention to Callum Denholm (son of Kris Denholm) who ran at 12 different venues in 2020 before the parkrun pause and therefore could have been on course to feature in those top few.

parkrun Alphabeteers (members who have run a parkrun starting with every letter of the alphabet)

  1. Dawn Hopkins – 1 required – U – which she aims to tick off this weekend
  2. Sarah Davies / Gareth Jenkins / Karl Johnson / Shawn Cullen / Julie Ransom / Chris Stanlake – 5 required

‘Gold Obsessive’ parkrunners (members who have run 50 or more parkruns in a calendar year)

  1. Gareth Jenkins – on 4 seperate years
  2. Aled Hughes – on 3 seperate years – also the only person to have done all 55 possible in a calendar year
  3. Nick Harris – on 1 occasion

Suprisingly a few parkrun regulars like Chris Pratt, Chris Roberts and Kris Denholm don’t make the list, although all have been just one or two off on a couple of occasions.

Stopwatch Bingo (collecting finishing times ending in all possible numbers from 00 to 59 seconds)

  1. Chris Roberts – completed in 202 parkruns
  2. Aled Hughes – completed in 203 parkruns
  3. Richard Lowcock James – completed in 210 parkruns
  4. David Sheard – completed in 214 parkruns
  5. Nick Harris – completed in 222 parkruns
  6. Chris Pratt – completed in 258 parkruns
  7. Gareth Jenkins – completed in 286 parkruns

Kris Denholm could threaten my longest time to achieve it as he is on 259 parkruns and still has 3 more to tick off, whilst Jo Gamba and Karl Johnson could threaten top spot as they are on 173 and 168 parkruns respectively with 3 to tick off. Dai Kembery has one number left (35) after 246 parkruns.

Some other random parkrun stats

Earliest parkrunner (former member) – Ann Davies – 23rd February 2008 at Cardiff parkrun – Ann was in the first 13,000 to sign up for parkrun and there are now over 7 million registered worldwide.

Earliest parkrunner (current member) – Jo Gamba – 14th February 2009 at Cardiff parkrun – Jo was in the first 27,000 in the world to sign up for parkrun

Fastest to reach 100 parkruns – Nick Harris – 107 weeks from 1st to 100th

Fastest to reach 250 parkruns – Nick Harris – 274 weeks from 1st to 250th

Longest to reach 100 parkruns – Ann Davies – 564 weeks from 1st to 100th

Name Badge Challenge – running parkruns starting with each letter of your name – Jo Gamba and Dawn Hopkins are the only ones to complete this so far.

Most International Tourisms – Chris Roberts – 7 – Chris ran 5 parkruns in Australia whilst there over Christmas / New Year and has also run parkruns in Denmark and Poland.

Number of different parkruns visited by all members past and present – 354

Number of different parkrun countries visited by all members past and present – 11 (UK, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, Canada, France, USA, Austrialia, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand)

Longest parkrun streak – Aled Hughes – 74 parkruns which included not missing the additional ones on Christmas Day and New Years Day. I managed 61 Saturdays in a row before Aled took the record.

Number of current members to have reached 50 parkruns – 68

Number of current members to have reached 100 parkruns – 31

Number of current members to have reached 250 parkruns – 7

Most runs at Maesteg parkrun – Aled Hughes 59

Most runs at Porthcawl parkrun – Nick Harris 279

Most parkruns only at one venue (no touring) – Claire Goldsworthy – all 148 parkruns at Porthcawl

Other stats

Longest standing coach – Aled Hughes

Longest standing committee member – Liz Davis (secretary / general committee)

Longest standing captain – Pippa Clark

Most age category records – Kevin Raymond

Most club records – Anneliese Loveluck

Number of members to have run 100 events (parkruns plus races for the club) – 50

Highest number of events without doing a parkrun – Simon Harrison – 70

Number of people to have recorded a result with the club – 550

And finally….

Number of hours spend collecting these stats over the past 9 years: I don’t want to even think about it but it’s something I enjoy and will continue to do. Hopefully if you’ve got this far then you’ve enjoyed reading the stats. I’ll do a refresh of all the numbers for the 10 year anniversary and hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate the big milestone together next year.

July 2021 review

parkruns

parkruns are back! Well…. in England anyway. Saturday 24th July saw a small group of members travel across the border to get their parkrun fix for the first time since early March 2020. Kris Denholm visited Stonehouse, Sarah Davies and Dawn Hopkins were at Queen Elizabeth in their quest to be the first in the club to complete the ‘parkrun alphabet’, Jay Howells was at the widely regarded ‘toughest’ parkrun in the UK in Woolacombe, Sally Pensom was at Elsemere Port and Toni Howells at Berkeley Green. Chris Roberts finally ran his 250th parkrun after a 71 week wait on a visit to Newent parkrun.

On week 2 of parkruns return in England it was many of the same names travelling again plus a few additions. Jo Gamba was at Milton Keynes parkrun – a parkrun she first ran over 11 years ago and last ran on Christmas Day 2019. Darija Keenor visited Lydney parkrun whilst Fiona Drysdale was at Penrith. Jay Howells and Karl Johnson were at Berkeley Green, Kris was at Thornbury, Dawn Hopkins bagged her ‘O’ parkrun at Osterley and Chris Roberts was at Wolverhampton. We had 8 runners at Ross on Wye with Jason Griffiths running his first ever parkrun and joined for the event by Sarah Davies, Alexis and Paul Barrett, Kaye Pedler, Melinda Thomas, Sian Jenkins and Huw Jenkins.

Virtual parkruns have continued with between 30 and 40 submissions in each of the first 3 Saturdays before the parkrun in England return. Gareth Davies, Fiona Drysdale, Jacob Tasker, Sally Littlehales, Neil Price and Melanie Thomas were our fastest male and female times during the month.

Races

5K

Jacob Tasker took on some of Wales’ best athletes at the Welsh Athletics 5K series in Pembrey. Jacob ran 16;52 in his first official 5K for the club making him the fastest current member as well as closing in on the long standing club record. It’s also the fastest 5K debut in the history of the club.

The next 5K in the series took place just 3 weeks later and after his performance in the previous event, Jacob was entered into the ‘Elite Race’ and obliterated the club record that had stood for over 4 and a half years with a stunning 16:18 finish. In the second race, which was still packed with quality (34 of the 40 finishers ran under 20 minutes), Nicky Bennett finished second overall in 17:23. Niki Puleio smashed his long standing 5K PB by more than 30 seconds with a 17:47 – an improvement almost unheard of by an experienced runner at that level. Neil Price ran 18:57 making it by far the fastest four results the club has ever seen in a single event.

10K

A few headed over the border to partipate in 10K event this month with Martin Beard and Dawn Hopkins running the Bristol Epic 10K and Judith Jeeves at the Otter River Run 10K. Closer to home, Fiona Drysdale at the Chepstow Racecourse 10K. Chris Pratt took part in the Asics 10K in London – one of the largest running events to go ahead since the pandemic began with just under 8,000 finishers.

Half Marathon

Claire Dunbar Bowen, Phill Iveson and Steph Iveson-Holmes in the first running event to take in place in Cardiff this year which was part of a variety of distances on a lapped course. Claire ran 1:47 to clock the second fastest female time this year. Whilst not a member due to her age, a big shout out to Katy Griffiths who completed her first official half marathon.

At the Chepstow Racecourse Half, Nicky Bennett and Neil Ridley bagged themselves new PBs of 1:33 and 1:38 respectively. Carl Walsh followed up a ultra the day before with a 1:50 whilst Chris ‘Wonka’ Williams came in at 1:53.

Rosie Salvatore ran the Bath Trail Half Marathon in 3:28 on a hilly, multi terrain course.

Marathon

Apart from the Infinity event which I’ll come onto later, it was an unusually queit month for marathons. Emma Loyns did however complete the Bath Trail Marathon in 5:37. The course included over 3,000 feet of elevation and ended up being nearer to 28 miles.

Ultras

The big one this month was Race to the Stones. For those not familiar, this is one of (if not) the biggest ultras in the UK. The event takes place over a weekend with a choice of running a non-stop 100K or splitting the 100K over 2 days with 50K each day. Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans decided to not only sign up for their first ultra… but do it twice with the 50K per day option. They completed the 100K in a total time of 15:14:14 after the times from both days were added together. An incredible achievement.

Carl Walsh ran yet another ultra with crazy elevation with the 32 mile Run Walk Crawl Celtic Ultra.

Infinity Running – First Contact

The local events company and friends of the club were finally back in action at Resolven with the usual choice of distances from ‘5K’ up to ultra distance depending on how many laps completed. Temperatures reached almost 30 degrees resulting in it being the hottest temperatures many of us had every run in.

An early slip meant that Debbie Griffin had to settle for 1 lap (5K) and did well to hobble round for that given it happened within the first 1 mile. Leigh Richards-Francis joined her in sticking to 1 lap. Jay Howells and Judith Jeeves completed 2 laps to claim 10K.

The most popular distance was Half Marathon which I completed along with Phill, Steph and Katy who were all running their second official half marathon in 3 weekends. David Sheard and Wayne Randall carried on for an extra lap to clock around 15 miles. Simon Harrison went one further completing around 18 miles in total.

Carl Walsh and Chris Pratt bravely continued to their goal of marathon distance in the blistering heat.

Other races

David Sheard and Ken Salvatore took on Fan y Big trail race around Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons. Leanne Parsons, Sara Johns and Cath Robinson ran 3 laps at the Conquer Cardiff event to complete 15K. Gary Piper and Leanne Parsons took on the Off The Tarmac Brecon Challenge 5 miler whilst Neil Ridley was in the top 10 in the Half Marathon distance.

Club Championship

Better late than never, but this month I started the 2021 Club Championship. The first event was the classic 5K. The scoring again being handicapped and based on each individual against their best time from the last 6-12 months. This year there is also a cup competition for an extra incentive to submit times for each event. The first fixture was won by David Kembery who came out on top of the 76 entries submitted. All 76 were given a place in the second round of the cup.

The second event was a 1 mile time trail which is due to finish on August 1st so an update will be in the next blog review.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

My choices for the accolades will always change throughout the year.  Reasons for selection change from month to month.  That’s something I’ve said before and it will continue.  

Often new runners join the club and catch our eye straight away.  The choice is whether to wait to see what amazing things are achieved down the line or shine a light from the word go.  We’re all about all abilities.  It doesn’t have to be quick and it doesn’t have to be far.  Outstanding can be used to describe effort as much as achievement.  But sometimes the achievement is such that we must celebrate it.  Club records get more and more difficult to break and they have been known to stand for many years, but times they are a tumbling.  We are seeing significant chunks being knocked off at the sharp end.  When this circumstance arises we always wait with bated breath to see what other records will fall as other distances are notched up at official events.  My first experience of this runner was seeing him fly past me at Cheltenham Racecourse at one of the first events of the year, and his first for the club.  I knew then they were quick feet and I’m sure there’s more to come in the near future!  The 5k club record has now fallen.  What will be next?  I’m sure it won’t be long before another one bites the dust!  Maybe even before this gets published…  I am delighted to announce my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for July as Jacob Tasker.  Well done Jacob and welcome to the club – we look forward to what you will achieve as a Phoenix in the coming months.

I’m breaking with tradition for my second choice.  I always celebrate one male and one female, but there’s two I can’t separate this month.  We celebrate lots of things, and endeavour outshines everything else.  No matter how big, it’s the effort – and, as you’ll always hear me say, it’s all relative.   Endeavour can be just heading out of the door for the first time.  It can be tackling a first mile, or the first mile back after a hiatus.  It can be graduating to a 5k or taking that next bold step and completing a 10k.  It is different for everyone and every single one is worthy of celebration.  Sometimes people go further.  Further than they’ve ever gone before.  Pushing boundaries.  Testing the limits to see how far they will flex.  When boundaries are the target, proper preparation is the order of the day.  Time on feet.  Practicing the rituals to get through.  When the distance is very long there are additional factors.  Often necessary to carry quipment to ensure safety.  Some usie handheld assistance to ease the burden on feet and legs.  Amazing what difference can be to stability and endurance just sharing the load across the limbs.  That requires practice.  Fuelling is key to sustainance along such an arduous journey.  Routine practiced over and over to make sure the stomach and the body will endure the distance.  Not one distance, but two.  Over two days.  Not one runner, but two.  Sharing the training miles.  Sharing the hills.  Sharing the laughs throughout the journey but both trusting in their own processes to get them to the end.  Admirable to observe.  The right way to do it.  An example, if ever there was one, of dedication to achieve their goal.  To cross both finish lines in one piece, smiling and having enjoyed the experience as best you can trecking 100km over two days.  Nerves gave way to excitement and we all waited to hear the news at the end of both days.  Both gave it their all and came away victorious having made it to The Stones.  A journey, months in the making.  A story of great training, cameraderie, grit and determination.  One that we applaud and will celebrate for some time.  Full of admiration, I name my Chairman’s Female Runners of the Month for July as Denise Bradley and Fiona Evans.  Well done both.  A huge achievement and one that demonstrated to us all how the process is as valuable as the execution.

Club Championship 2021

Due to continuing uncertainty around races, we will starting another virtual club championship this year.

The championship will consist of 8 events with the best 5 scores counting towards the total. You need to run 5 events in order to qualify for the final standings but you are more than welcome to partipate even if you end up only doing one or two of the events. Anyone who does complete 5 or more will have their names up in lights when presenting the club championship awards in next years presentation night.

I will allow a minimum of 10 days (which will include 2 weekends) for each event to give everyone plenty of opportunity to submit a time. As we’re starting quite late in the year, the events will be run back-to-back between now and finish before the end of October to avoid the winter months / dark evenings.

This year we are also introducing the ‘Club Championship Cup Competition’ which will run alongside the usual points / league table format. More details on the Cup Competition can be found further down this post.

We’re looking into small momentos for anyone who submits times for all 8 events to reward their commitment. The top 3 in the Club Championship will recieve trophies at next years presentation night whilst there will also be a trophy for the Cup winner, so plenty up for grabs.

As per last years championship, the scoring will be handicapped which should result in everyone having a equal chance of winning. More details on the scoring can be found at the bottom of this post.

Event 1 – 5K Time Trial

Event 1 will be a virtual 5K as per the details below

Submit a 5K run/walk which can be run anytime between Tuesday 6th July up to and including Sunday 18th July 2021.

The run must start and finish at the same point to avoid an advantage being gained from finishing at a lower point than you started. Starting and finishing at the same point will result in a net elevation of zero therefore making it fair for everyone.

‘Elapsed time’ will be used rather than ‘moving time’ so I will need access to your Strava / Garmin to check this or a screenshot evidencing this.

The run should be submitted to me as one activity of 5K or 3.1 miles by posting on the Members Only Facebook page or by e-mailling me at garethjohnjenkins@hotmail.co.uk

You may have multiple attempts as long as the quickest is submitted by the deadline.

There are strictly no exceptions to these rules.

Fixture List

Event 2 – 1 mile Time Trial – Monday 19th July to Sunday 1st August

Event 3 – 1K Time Trial – Monday 2nd August to Sunday 15th August

Event 4 – 10K Time Trial – Monday 16th August to Sunday 29th August

Event 5 – 2 mile Time Trial – Monday 30th August to Sunday 12th September

These events will be run under the same rules as Event 1. Remaining fixtures to be announced asap.

Club Championship Cup Competition

This year we are introducing an additional ‘cup competition’ to run alongside the league format.

Round 1 will include every single member of the club (unless anyone opts out). To add a bit of mystery and an extra tactical element, the draw will be made in secret so no one will know who they are up against until the results are revealed. The first round will be Event 1 which is the virtual 5K which runs from Tuesday 6th July to Sunday 18th July.

Therefore it’s crucial that to be in with a chance of progressing, you need to submit a time for the 5K. Submit it even if it’s a walk as there are 128 places up for grabs in round 2 so you are likely to progress whatever time you submit.

There will be 8 rounds in total with some challenges involved in the final rounds giving everyone a fair chance of winning.

The winner will be presented with their trophy at the next presentation night.

Scoring

To avoid the championship being just about the top 2 or 3 runners in the club battling it out, we are running a handicap scoring system which gives everyone a chance of winning. It involves a lot of research, formulas and calculations which I’ll try and explain below for those interested. If you’re not interested then I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s a simple as this -run as fast as you can and you’ll be in with a good chance.

The technical bit – to start off, I’ve allocate each member a 5K time. To come up with this, I’ve gathered members times from the club championship last year, Strava times and virtual (not)parkrun times. Once this baseline time is established then your time for the first event will be compared against this.

Examples

Joe Bloggs is allocated a 5K baseline time of 30:00 based on all the information I have. In event 1, he runs 29:30. Converting it into seconds, his percentage improvement on his baseline time is ((1-(1770/1800))x100 = 1.67%. Results are then based on each members percentage from highest to lowest.

For the second round, each member will have a new 5K time to compare too. If they ran faster than their baseline time like Joe Bloggs did in the example, then this will be their new time to compare too. In this case, 29:30. If Joe had run slower than 30:00 in event 1, then his time to compare to for event 2 would still be 30:00.

The winner of each event scores 100 points, second place 99 and so on. There is no seperate male and female compeition as the handicap scoring means that everyone should have an equal chance so there’s no need to have seperate gender or age categories.

Disclaimers – event 1 will be a bit of a tester for the scoring system as with 230 members, there’ll be a few where the allocated times might not be perfect for a number of reasons – they may not have set a fast 5K time (by their own standards) over the past year or so, they may be new and therefore I have limited information on their capabilities etc. However, this should be ironed out by the next event. It’s a complex system but one which tries to level the playing field to give everyone an opportunity if they give it their all.

Final thoughts

It would be great to see as many members as possible participating. Good luck to everyone who gets involved. The final fixture list is open to suggestions so feel free to let me know if you have any ideas.

June 2021 review

Virtual (not)parkruns

The stats for this month are as follows …

(Week – runners – fastest male – fastest female)

  • Week 64 – 36 runners – Neil Price – Melanie Thomas
  • Week 65 – 35 runners – Gareth Davies – Claire Goldsworthy
  • Week 66 – 41 runners – Jacob Tasker (17:49 – not(parkrun) club record – Claire Goldsworthy
  • Week 67 – 40 runners – Gareth Davies – Fiona Drysdale

Well done to everyone who submitted times and fingers crossed that next months review will be the first blog post in 16 months to include a real parkrun.

Races

With each month that passes we appear to have more race results to report on and there’s actually enough this month to split them into distances as I did pre-pandemic.

10K

Returning member Emma-Jane Morris was back in action in her familiar role as pacer for the ‘Longest Day 10K’. Emma was pacing a speedy 50 minutes – to put it into context – just 7 of our current female members have run under that time. Emma showed her pacing pedigree coming in at 49:56.

Half Marathons

Emma Loyns and Claire Dunbar Bowen completed the Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon which had 1,800 feet of elevation over just shy of 14 miles. Claire had a nasty fall during the race but battled on to complete it with her coach.

At the other end of the elevation scale, Niki Puleio took on the Dorney Lake Half Marathon with just 233 feet of elevation and stormed round to a time of 1:26:09. By Niki’s exceptional standards he was a bit disappointed despite the fact his race was also in very hot conditions.

We had 3 Phoenix runners at the Cheltenham Half Marathon – a tricky looped course with multi terrain to contend with, again on the hottest day of the year so far. New member Jacob Tasker ran an astonishing 1:25:33 to take the club record for fastest ever half marathon debut for the club by some margin and was 13th overall. Neil Price came in at 1:34:07. Chris Pratt joined up with one of his Ascics Frontrunners and came in at 3:21:03.

The final weekend of the month saw Jo Gamba and I take on the Milton Keynes Half Marathon which we were originially signed up for in May 2020. This was one of the biggest running events to go ahead so far this year with over 1,000 runners in the Half Marathon. They’d also had a 5K event before the Half, a 10K the evening before, and a full marathon the next day which I’ll come onto later. Runners were set off in groups of 30 every minute and it was brilliantly organised and felt very safe. I finished in 2:00:08 with Jo coming in at 2:01:42.

Melanie Thomas was another member who made a return to racing this month and like many of the others included in this blog, it wasn’t a gentle return. Melaine signed up for the Black Mountains Half Marathon which had some bonus mileage as Melanie clocked 14.5 miles and also some tasty elevation with 2,600 feet in total.

Marathons

Carl Walsh ran the Black Beacons Marathon which had an eye watering 6,600 feet of elevation. That makes it one of the hilliest marathons in the UK, even beating Snowdonia Trail Marathon which goes to top of Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa as we may be calling it from now on.

Just a week later Carl was back in action running the Cheddar Gorge Marathon with another tasty 3,750 feet of elevation on what was the hottest day of the year so far.

The final weekend of the month saw Carl at it once again! This time it was another trail marathon in the Black Mountains with another 6,000+ feet of elevation and an extra couple of miles thrown in for good measure with Carl recording 29.3 miles. Including the Ultra mentioned in the next section, Carl ran 4 events in the month totalling 136.8 miles and over 21,000 feet of elevation.

Also in action on the final weekend of the month was Kris Denholm in the earlier mentioned Milton Keynes Marathon. The course was 2 loops of the half that Jo and I had done the day before so we were able to find a couple of quiet spots along the route to support on the second lap. Kris’s race didn’t quite go to plan, however he still ran an outstanding 3:47 which is just a couple of minutes off his PB.

Ultra-Marathon

The first weekend saw me competing in the Conquer24 race. This event was open to teams or solo runners to complete as many 5 mile loops in 24 hours. The loops were mostly trail around the stunning grounds of Powderham Castle near Exeter. Each lap had around 400 feet of elevation which to give a comparison, is similar to the 5 mile valley loop. I managed 16 laps in the 24 hours for 80 miles in total on the official results (for transparency Strava on my phone app clocked 78 miles and my watch clocked 79.1 miles). I finished only my 3rd official ultra in 23rd out of 115 solo runners.

Carl Walsh took a break from marathon running on the 3rd weekend of the month… to run a ultra-marathon instead. The Race to the Kings is a 53 mile (double marathon) with over 5000 feet of elevation. Carl completed the race in 11 hours and 42 minutes. Including those he ran before joining the club, this was Carl’s 28th Ultra Marathon!

Other Races

David Sheard took on the Coity Fell Race in Blaenavon. For those reading this that are not familiar with ‘fell races’, a simple description would be that they are events that are normally over rough terrain with significant amounts of elevation. I’m probably not selling it very well but on the upside, walking parts of these races is inevitable, they are normally just a few pound to enter, and there’s normally a beer and/or cake at the end. In this case, the entry fee was just £5 and the race consisted of 920 feet of elevation over just 9K. David completed the course a few seconds under the hour mark and was only the second member at the time of the event to complete an official event in Wales this year.

Jay Howells took on the shorter but no less brutal option at the Black Mountain races already mentioned above in the Half and Full Marathon sections. The 13K race had more than 1,500 feet of elevation in less than 8 miles over tough multi-terrain.

Zero to Hero

A catch up on something that should have been included in last months blog…

Despite the challenges of varying restrictions meaning this years Zero to Hero was mostly virtual, the program continued it’s success from previous years. This year in particular gave an opportunity for those that had for various reasons not run as much during lockdown an opportunity to build back up to the 5K distance with 5 members ‘regraduating’. Also a huge well done to Carly Bevan who had never run before and graduated from the Virtual Z2H at the start of May.

Builth and District Virtual Relay

Such was the success of the virtual relays throughout the pandemic, they’ve continued even though races are starting back up. On this occasion 29 runners covered slots from 5am to 8pm for the 15 hour relay (coach Kev ran twice if anyones wondering why the maths doesn’t work). Kudos to everyone who participated and a special mention for Samantha Thompson who did the 5am slot and Chris Richards who did the 530am twice after mistakingly having done it on the Saturday when the relay was on the Sunday. Carl Price submitted the highest mileage with 4.38 miles for his 30 minute slot, whilst Jo Gamba had the highest mileage for the ladies with 3.69 miles. We finished 18th out of the 20 teams that participated.

Challenge updates

Chris Pratt completed the Welsh Coastal Path virtual challenge having signed up last June but only counting miles from the end of the September onwards. The majority of the mileage being completed this year. Anthony Kavanagh also completed the challenge having also notched up most of the mileage this year. Debbie Bennion completed the Emerald Isle challenge which was a virtual challenge of 360 miles from the most southernly to northernly points of Ireland. Debbie completed the challenge in just 14 weeks.

Gareth Richards continues his marathon per week challenge and is now at the half way point in the year and continues to rack them up with amazing times each week.

Juniors

A quick mention for our juniors who have had the amazing opportunity to train on the Brewery Field for the past few weeks with great attendance week on week. We also had our first official parkrunner in 16 months with one of youngest juniors attending her first junior parkrun in Rogiet.

Over to Chris for the runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Sometimes we see passion wane.  A combination of factors lead to being distracted from the goals.  Other things come along that take priority and, let’s face it, we’ve all had enough of those in the last year to last us a lifetime.  Some fall off the grid and when that happens the desire to press on fades as running moves lower in the list of priorities.

We reach out and hope that they will find their motivation once again and return to the fold.  Sometimes this happens and there is a renewed focus.  Passion builds and within no time they are once again inspiring others with their endeavours.  Remember – inspiration can come through effort as much as achievement.

Both my choices this month have returned to the fold with such passion making it noticable.

My first choice this month has turned full circle.  A new focus and one that is inspiring us all.  From a point of announcing a decision to not renew membership we have seen a change of heart that has been monumental.  Not only rejoining but suggesting and starting a new training group.  Helping those returning to activity to find their feet.  As a major event looms on the horizon that passion is being shared in her own training endeavours to reach her goal.  Distance increasing.  Smiles on photos.  Sharing that focus with others and inspiring them on their journeys.  That is admiral and worthy of applause.  Giving your time for the benefit of others is amazing and it’s often possible to combine it with pursuing your own goals.  My first choice runner is doing just that.  Not only giving time to seniors but to our junior contingent also.  A renewed focus.  A new passion shining through.  Wonderful to see.  I am delighted to announce my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for June as Louise Morris.  Well done for turning things round Louise – keep on doing what you’re doing and inspiring us all in the process.

My second choice has been in a similar boat.  Falling off the radar a little.  Running was sporadic with long gaps in between.  Posts on social media relating to running became less often.  We’ve seen it a lot in the last year and we’ve tried to reach out to keep engaging until some sense of normality returned.  As it did, faces reappeared out of the darkness and we saw an surge in activity.  One caught my eye.  Returning to activity but also posting about it.  Rallying others to hear the call.  Being visible and that visibility giving others a desire to do the same.  Expressing a desire to improve.  A desire to return to more regular activity and then starting to push boundaries again.  As events return getting in on the act.  Achievements don’t have to be measured against others – inspiration often comes from just putting in the effort.  I have been inspired and a huge thank you for some of that goes to Jay Howells, my Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month for June.  Keep it up Jay – you’re making a difference to many of us with your endeavours.  

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.