Rack Raid 2019 review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rack Raid 2020 anyone?

Weekly Waffle – 16th June 2019

A busy week ahead…

Once again, training is affected by other responsibilities.  

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

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

A very worthy hashtag for a job well done.

#proudPhoenix

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

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

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

Friday night. 

Lights out.

Saturday morning. 

Wakey, wakey.  

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

Home or away?  That is the question…

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

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

All getting their 5k completed.

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

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

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

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

It’s been a busy one.

It’s been a tiring one.

But The Phoenix endured.

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

Continue to fly!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 2nd June 2019

What a week – yet again!

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

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

parkrunday or as it’s alternatively known, Saturday.

A new month.  

High numbers spread all around the country.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immensely proud.

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

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

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

What an incredible weekend yet again…

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

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

It’s that team spirit that pulls us together.

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

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 28th May 2019

The warmer weather continues…

Training early in the week attracts a record number up the valley to recce Blackmill’s Beast on a warm summers eve…

Events appear on the calendar in abundance as the year progresses.

A few took a mid week trip to the Welsh capital to cover 5km in the evening sun to raise a few pennies for a respected armed forces charity while clocking up decent times.

Training continued to attract good numbers.

A couple rounded off the week with an impressive round trip clocking up even more events to their “Talley”.

parkrunday arrives.  It never fails to draw many out in numbers.  Many locations.  Many runners. All doing their thing, whether it’s running faster or just getting it done.  

Tick tock.  Sunday comes round.

The Liver Birds oversee half and full marathoners battle tough conditions to record admirable results.

The rain plagued all and a hilly tour of Treforest didn’t escape it’s fair share but all who tackled came away victorious.

5 hilly miles attracted a good club contingent to brave the elements with significant placings as a result.

Bank Holiday weekends never end there and as we said goodbye to the weekend we welcomed one more effort in the English capital to add to the weeks endeavours.

Temperatures remain high but the conditions swing, but none of it dampens the spirit as high numbers yet again make training as well as taking part in events.

The Phoenix spirit present in abundance.

On a week where we welcomed new leaders into our midst and we continue to develop.  

We build and bond.

Keep walking.

Keep running.
Keep socialising.

Keep looking out for each other!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 19th May 2019

As the year progresses and the weather improves, events appear in their droves.

Our numbers now swelling, there isn’t a single event that goes by without seeing at least one Phoenix taking the plunge!

Midweek events are commonplace…

Before the weekend even arrived a few headed way down West to tackle a multi-terrain course.  Others headed way up north to fly around a 1 mile course around the side of a lake.

Events being clocked up…

Before the weekend arrived the Phoenix descended on our favourite curry house to occupy the whole restaurant for an evening of great food and great company!

Saturday.  parkrunday.  While some got their regular fix with personal bests aplenty, others had made their way to mid Wales to tackle a Royal 10k course on the trails some of whom still snook in their constitutional on the way. 

A few more had made their way further north, parkrun included, to climb a significant peak in Snowdonia and all completed the task with honours.

The sun set on a glorious day and rose again, despite the forecast…

A half in Chester was tackled with guts while another in Manchester led to a PB.

There was safety in numbers as a 10k with hills was completed in style in the home of cheese.

Another brave couple headed back to Snowdonia to tackle a seriously hilly half and came back victorious with their spoils.

A local event drew a few away to tackle a variety of distances from extreme half to ultra marathon.

Four of our midst stepped up to the plate and spent the day learning.  Committing time to the club to learn how to lead training sessions and help to develop us all into becoming better runners.

And all the while we saw our 4th highest attendance of the year at training and not least our heroes continuing their running journeys.

What a fantastic week to be a Phoenix!

Great numbers at events.

Great numbers at training.

Great experiences had by all.

Continuing to do what we love and share the experiences of doing so.

Keep it up guys, you’re doing great!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

April 2019 review

parkruns

This month saw 206 parkrun finishes by 106 different members across 35 different parkrun venues.

As well as the usual South Wales parkruns, tourism included Ashton Court, Bedford, Brighouse, Buckingham, Burgess, California Country, Cirencester, Dartford Heath, Exmouth, Great Dunmow, Greenwich, Groe, Highbury Fields, Parke, Rushcliffe, Seaton, South Sheilds, Victoria Dock, Woking and Woodhouse Moor.

This month saw Aled Hughes reach his ‘Cow’ or ‘Half Cowell’ meaning he has now run at 50 different parkrun venues. Chris Stanlake ran his 100th parkrun whilst Sara Davies ran her 50th.

There were 26 PB’s in the month with Gareth Davies, Julie Ransom and Megan Apsee all notching up 2 each. The other PB hero’s this month are Andrew Hughes, Chris Bimson, Dawn Apsee, Deborah Dong, Deborah Edwards, Fiona Randall, Frances Hughes, Laura Worrall, Leanne Puleio, Maria George, Michelle Alexander, Paul Iskander, Paul James, Phill Iveson, Rachel Jones, Ruth Thomas, Sharon Pritchard, Sian Thomas and Stephanie Iveson-Holmes.

10K’s

Just one 10K race with only 1 club entrant this month with Julie Ransom completing the Margam Pursuit 10K in 1:06:14.

10 miles

The rearranged Reverse 10 saw Neil Price lead the club home in 1:09:31 with Lisa Pinney next up in 1:32:40 and Kayley Griffiths in 1:41:19.

Half Marathons

Chris Richards took on the Pendine Half Marathon which is entirely run on the beach. Martin Beard, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion completed the inaugural Kite Trail Half Marathon – a hilly trail race starting in Llanharen.

The biggest Half Marathon of the month was at the Great Welsh Half where myself and Denise were official pacers running 2 hours and 2:30 respectively. Liz Davis bagged herself a new PB with a 2:02:09 whilst Jamie Puddy continued his excellent run of form with a 2:18 PB despite a tough headwind from mile 5 through to 11. Rebecca Newton finished just ahead of Jamie in 2:17.

Marathons

Incredibly, we had more Marathon finishers than 10K, 10 miles and Half Marathons put together this month.

Starting with a not so normal marathon, Steven James took on the Beacons Marathon which included almost 5000 feet of ascent. To put that in perspective, Snowdonia Marathon is 2800 feet. The terrain was also very tricky resulting in a 5:50 finish that I’m sure is still very respectable.

We had 6 runners at the Great Welsh Marathon with more official pacers from the club. Chris Pratt paced 4:15 and Kris Denholm paced 5 hours.

Anneliese Loveluck was running her first road marathon and obliterated the female club record finishing in 3:13:56 to finish in 4th place overall. What is even more incredible is that the London Good For Age qualifying time for her age category is 3:53 so she has qualified by almost 40 minutes. Some other stats I later found out included that Anneliese set the fastest marathon time by any Welsh Female in her age category this year, and no other Welsh female in her age category has run a faster marathon time in the past 18 months. At the time of her result, she was also ranked in the top 100 female marathon times in Britain for any age category this year.

The amazing running continued at the Great Welsh Marathon with Wayne Hayhurst knocking an incredible 40 minutes off his Marathon PB with a 3:25. Dai James ran just outside of his marathon PB with a 3:38 whilst Hannah Knight completed her first ever Marathon in 5:51.

Anticipation for the London Marathon had been building for weeks, but quietly (not usually a word associated with this person), Sarah Littlewood was plotting her own marathon on the same day in the much quieter and more beautiful setting of Stratford upon Avon. Sarah finished in 3:57:33 to become only our 5th female to ran under 4 hours in the history of the club, and only the 3rd to run a sub 4 on her debut marathon. The time also meant she set a new club age category record in the Female 35-39 category.

Onto the big one. The London Marathon. Normally I start a tracking post on the morning of the marathon, but such was the excitement in the build up, I started it on Friday evening and screenshot good luck messages from all over Facebook and photos of our runners at the expo to create a London Marathon memories post that they could all look back on. Jayne Bissmire had heavily contributed to the exciting build up with ‘Featured Phoenix’ write up’s on each of our 17 runners. Despite 40,000 runners, plenty of our runners were spotted on the live coverage and finish live coverage once the main coverage had ended.

As for the race itself, Niki Puleio led the club home in an outstanding 2:59:51 becoming only the second member in the history of the club to break 3 hours. Kris Denholm was next up and smashed his marathon PB with a 3:45.

Sian Price became the 6th female member of the club to break 4 hours with a 3:55:47 and in the process, took the age category for female 35-39 within an hour of Sarah Littlewood claiming it. It also means that Sian is the first member ever in the history of the club to have a complete sweep of all the distances within an age category with records at 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon.

Brett Bonell completed his first marathon in 4:51 with another marathon debutant, Natalie Aryal finishing just behind in 4:52. Shawn Cullen got inside the 5 mark on his first marathon with a 4:56 whilst Sara Bayliss finished in 4:57. Another marathon debut PB was claimed with Ashely Howells finishing in 5:01.

Helen Griffiths, accompanied by Denise Bradley, smashed her marathon PB by 44 minutes with a 5:04. Rebecca Newton continued the PB’s with a 5:10 whilst Rhiannon Sian smashed her marathon PB by 11 minutes with a 5:12. Gary Piper bowed out from marathon races with a brave 5:48 after multiple injury issues heavily hampered his training resulting in Gary confirming this would be his last marathon more than 30 years after his first.

The final four were yet more first time marathoner with Lisa Jenkins finishing in 5:49, Claire Taylor 6:02, Vickie Blake 6:08 and Lousie Bennett 7:17.

We also had more than a dozen club members supporting in London including some that travelled up that morning. The ones at home followed on the tracker and my tracking post which ended up accumulating over 1000 comments. Thanks to Jo Gamba for helping me keep up with everyone’s progress so I could post updates as soon as they appeared.

Other races

April was certain a month of long distance runs with 37 members running the Vale 18 (nearer to 19) miler. Dan Clark was our first finisher in 3:27 which saw more than a dozen members complete either their longest run to date, or longest trail run. Almost everyone who had run the course before beat their previous best times with weather conditions perfect for most runners with the wind behind the runners and cool conditions… although it did get a bit warm at points and some runners still got sunburn.

We had a further 14 runners in the Ultra with Steve Loveluck leading the runners home. More than half of the runners were completing their first ultra including Steve, Adrian Pearce, Emma Loyns, Sara Vowles, Louise Foster, Emma Williams, Nige Rees and Adam Rowe.

The support on the course and particularly at the end was bigger and better than ever. Runners plus supporters must have exceeded 80 members of the club on the day with many joining the party at the finish line where there was enough food to last us all a week.

Other races in the month included 9 members taking on the Gilwern Grunt. A tough multi-terrain course with a very interesting finish that is so steeply downhill that runners are resigned to sliding down most of it. On the final day of the month, we had 5 runners at the Pentyrch Hill Race. Another tough, fell classified race with 7 miles of constant hills. Adrian Pearce was followed by Aled Hughes in both of these events whilst Sarah Davies and Fiona Drysdale were our first ladies home in the respective races.

What a month. 76 finishes in races of 18 miles or more and barely any races under Half Marathon distance albeit still huge attendances at our home parkruns and plenty of parkrun tourism. Well done to everyone who represented OPR this month and good luck to Chairman, Chris Pratt on another tricky choice for his runners of the month below.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Just like last month this has been a very arduous task.  So many amazing achievements throughout the month. First time marathons and PB’s left, right and centre. Incredible that we had 76 finishers at races of 18 miles or more in length!

I’ve always maintained that these choices will depend on entirely different criteria, but sometimes fast running outshines everything else and I have to turn to it for my choices.

In terms of female achievements I have chosen this person before but even when I scribbled down all the names from this months accolades I couldn’t avoid choosing one.  It has been over a year since she was last honoured, however.  It will be difficult to conceal the person concerned as soon as I start listing the reasons.  Top 100 female marathon time in Britain for any age category this year.  The fastest marathon time by any Welsh female in her age category in the last 18 months!  She has exceeded her good for age qualification time for the London Marathon by almost 40 minutes.  There are very few words I can add to that.  It is quite simply an amazing achievement.  She finished the marathon in 3:13:56.  I was running the same event and pacing other runners to 4:15 and every time I passed her she was totally focused but making it look like it was a walk in the park!!  Absolutely outstanding.  I have no hesitation awarding my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month to Anneliese Loveluck.  All I want to know is, what’s next?

Again for fantastic running performance this is for someone that I have never actually awarded anything to in the past.  He has been credited by our statto for his achievements however.  There’s always been a target in his mind.  He ran a formidable run at Snowdonia Marathon Eryri last year hitting 3:15 on a tough course.  But that was never going to be enough.  He trains with conviction and has a dogged determination that always sees him relentlessly pursue his goal.  Heading up to London he had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve.  Tracking him he went out clearly targeting the objective from the off and it all fit into place.  That photograph of him 600 yards from the line knowing that the goal was in the bag was one of sheer delight.  To experience that feeling of knowing you have achieved something so significant, whether it be completing a 5k or smashing your sub 3 hour target for a marathon is euphoric.  The picture captured it all in one instant.  A very humble and supportive runner who admires everyone of all abilities while targeting his own phenomenal targets and smashing them.  2:59:51.  Those numbers will be etched on his brain…  until the next goal is set!!  Again no hesitation in awarding my Chairman’s male runner of the month to Niki Puleio and again I have to ask, what’s next?

Weekly Waffle – 31st March 2019

There’s no denying that we’re feeling lifted by the general rise in temperatures…

As the year progresses those hibernating wake from their slumber…

The grass grows as sunlight breathes in life…

Throw open the doors as the sun rises and the aroma of early morning dew rides on the air.

Spring is here.  At last!!

Spirits are raised for those who feel the heavy weight of the winter cold and darkness.

Through these months we’ve remained strong.  Outside our shared passion of putting one foot in front of the other we’ve shared our experiences to get through.  And we got through!

The lighter nights continue to draw numbers along to training…

Some are drawn to midweek events, something more prevalent during these lighter evenings…

A night race attracted one to the east before the weekend arrived.

Saturday.  We know it’s coming.  It’s inevitable.  There’s no escaping it.  You know how it goes… At 9am there’s always a start line that’s calling.  Dotted up and down the country we got out there and did our stuff.

Some still down under got theirs in before we’d even hit the hay.  Of course, we’re not jealous! Honest guv.

Big numbers across our two home locations as well as some seeking somewhere new and some fulfilling the requirements of the trail championships…

parkrun numbers were high but slightly down on previous weeks as some saved themselves for Sunday’s antics…

Mothering Sunday.  We have lots of mothers in the club and we celebrate them all for their wonderful commitment to their families…  After being celebrated by their own many joined other members to head to the capital to cover 6.2 miles around the Bay!

63 members laced up their daps and stood on the start line to cover the distance.  With runners, volunteers and marshals from the club ranks it was a proper club outing.   Clouds and a cool breeze greeted our runners but a plethora of PB’s were achieved and lots of smiles meant the slight downturn in conditions could not dampen their spirits.

There are some events that stand out in the running calendar.  The reason cannot always be quantified.  Sometimes the magic just happens.  A combination of cameraderie and support mix with the atmosphere of the day in a unique cocktail that bring the Phoenix together.

It reminds us of the special bonds that bind us.

it doesn’t have to be a long way.

It doesn’t have to be really fast.

We just have to share the experience, even if that’s from afar and just reading about it – we we still share in the endeavour.

Well done all!

On a day that ends the club year and sees in a new one – we embrace the future on the back of a good day and look forward to it with enthusiasm and excitement!

Let’s do this guys!

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

March 2019 Review

parkruns – a record month

This month saw a record 330 parkrun finishes by a record 149 different members across a record 36 different parkrun venues. With a 5 Saturday / parkrunday month, it was always going to be big numbers, but even after 4 Saturdays we’d set new record amounts. The total numbers for each Saturday were 52, 56, 71, 85 and 62. The jump marks when the new batch of Zero to Hero’s graduated on the 3rd Saturday of the month. The 4th Saturday saw a huge proportion of them return as well as a few more that had missed the previous week and were graduating a week later.  The final weekend saw a slight drop which was understandable considering the turnout of Cardiff Bay 10K the next day and with just a week to go until the Vale races.

As well as the usual parkruns across South Wales, tourism included Telford, Winchester, Dartford Heath, Lancaster, Mount Edgcumbe, Cirencester, Sandwell Valley, Didcot, Harlow, Milton Keynes, Bath Skyline, Gloucester North, Tewkesbury, Wotton, Kingsway, Mile End, Minehead and Burham.

Further afield we had two different Dublin parkruns with Gary Loo at River Valley and Fiona Drysdale at Fairview. Plus we had yet more Australian parkruns with Frances Manship at Albert parkrun in Sydney, and the Sheards at Centennial parkrun on their first Saturday in Oz and Hamilton Island on the second.

This month saw David Sheard become the 5th club member to join the 250 club whilst Victoria Hillman, Julie Ransom and Shawn Cullen all celebrated her 100th parkruns.

Normally at this point I would list the PB’s in month but there were so many with the new influx of Zero to Hero graduates that it would be exceptionally long. A massive well done to everyone whether it was a first timer PB or a PB on your 100th run.

10Ks

Sally Pensom ran the Chester 10K which had almost 4000 runners in a new PB time of 55:59.

We finished off the month with the Cardiff Bay 10K with an outstanding 62 runners. However, what is even more remarkable is that there were 39 PB’s. Where do I start? Well James Littlewood led the club home with a huge PB and became only the 5th member to go sub 40 with a 39:28. Neil Price also claimed a PB with 40:20, whilst Steven James made it 2 PB’s in 2 days with a 41:52. Keith Coleman got his first sub 45 whilst Simon Harrison claimed a PB despite starting towards the back.

The girls absolutely smashed it. Sarah Littlewood moved to 5th in the club female 10K ranking with an outstanding 46:07 which I think surprised everyone including Sarah. Emma Loyns was just a couple of minutes back with a 48:56 PB despite the last thing she said to me walking into the pen was that she ‘was taking it easy with the Vale Ultra in 6 days time’. Denise Bradley claimed the female 55-59 age category club record with 50:07 and was closely followed home by Sarah Davies in 50:25, Jo Gamba in 50:34 and Dawn Hopkins in 52:38 with all adding to the PB list.

Ben Davies added a 10K PB to multiple parkrun PB’s in 2019. Last months male runner of the month, Shawn Cullen, added yet another PB to the list for this year adding to parkrun, 10 mile and Half Marathon PB’s. Emma Marshall, Natalie Aryal, Rhiannon Sian, Hannah Knight, Julie Ransom, Steph Iveson, Phillip Iveson, Sharon Pritchard, Debbie Bennion, Deb Edwards and Helen Griffiths all claimed PB’s between 56:17 and 59:54.

Our 2018 Runners Runner and Most Improved winner, Tammie Baker, smashed her PB by 5 minutes missing out on a sub 1 hour time by just 12 seconds. Alexis Barrett, Sarah Davies and Sian Jenkins were next up with PB’s and all followed within a couple of minutes of Tammie. Jamie and Stephne Puddy made it 3 PB’s at 3 different distances in just 8 days with parkrun, Half Marathon and 10K.

There were PB’s ranging from 39 minutes to 80 minutes so to complete the list, well done also to Gareth Davies, Craig Alexander, Paul Iskander, Andrew Hughes, Paul Barrett, Joanne Burrows, Maria George and Ffion Smith.

10 milers

This month saw our members at 2 different 10 milers. The first being the San Dom 10 miler where Kayley Griffiths, Julie Ransom and Stephne Puddy all notched PB’s. Later in the month, Emma Winch took on the super tough multi terrain Soulbreaker 10 miler and earned herself a first official 10 mile time and therefore PB.

Half Marathons

I need to start with one I missed out last month – the Hoka Winter Trail Half Marathon. Fortunately for our 8 runners, conditions weren’t quite as bad as forecast but we still had strong winds and a downpour half ways round to contend with on the course which includes close to 2000 feet of elevation. The Lovelucks were in attendance setting astonishing times to pick up yet more age category trophies with Steve clocking a 1:41 PB and Anneliese a 1:43. Steven James was up next in 1:55 whilst I was just outside 2 hours. Juliet Amner claimed a first in age category and was followed home by Liz Sim, Adam Rowe and new member Sam Connell.

March saw an incredible 12 different Half Marathons with 7 all on the same day (24/03).

The first Saturday of March saw Shawn Cullen ran the notoriously tough Ras Dewi Sant Half Marathon in 2:25:30. Despite the course distance coming up a bit short, this is yet another indication of the improvement Shawn has seen since marathon training.

A day later saw 7 members complete the Newport Half Marathon. This race was called off last year due to bad weather so I believe most of our runners were actually running as a result of deferred places and may have originally signed up in late 2017. Nige Rees led the club home in a PB time of 1:56 whilst Sarah Davies picked up her first sub 2 hour time coming in a few seconds under 1:59 with Alun Wylde just a few seconds behind. Paul Barrett got a PB of 2:20 with Nigel Hitchings and Steph Dyke finishing in the same time. Our final finisher was Alexis Barrett in 2:26.

Louise Bennett had a taster of what’s to come in the London Marathon when she completed the London Big Half in a PB of 2:49 following in the footsteps of Mo Farah who won the event. The course took in most of the middle section of the London Marathon course (but in reverse) finishing at Cutty Sark.

Weekend 3 of the month saw Saul Harris finish the Bath Half Marathon in 1:42 ahead of his brother Nick (1:48). Ashley Howells notched up an excellent PB of 1:55:47 on what isn’t the flattest of courses. Our final finisher was Jonathan Pritchard in 3:11.

Weekend 4 of the month was when we saw an incredible record with members running at 7 different Half Marathons on the same day in 3 different countries. The biggest attendance of the day was at Cardiff Taff Trail Half Marathon. A no-frills race at just £11 to enter (therefore no goodies afterwards), on very flat out and back course. Paul Smith was first back in a PB time of 1:27:46 whilst Neil Price clocked his first sub 90 minute Half Marathon with 1:29:29. Kris Denholm who very rarely runs Half Marathons, ran his fastest Half Marathon since joining the club with a 1:40:49. Jo Gamba was our first lady back in 2:06:04 and not too far behind was an astonishing run by Julie Ransom who knocked 23 minutes off her PB with a 2:10:29. It means she’s pretty much mirrored what her husband Shawn did a month earlier with 5K, 10 mile and Half Marathon PB’s all within a couple of weekends.

Many of our Maesteg parkrun / Just Run Penybont contingent ran the Weston Super-Mare HM with Gregg Harris finishing with a PB of 1:46:59. More PB’s followed for Alun Job, Jamie Puddy and Stephne Puddy who ran with Emma Marshall as our final finishers. Seven members made their way to London for the London Landmarks Half Marathon with Gary Loo and Nicola Veasey clocking PB’s.

The Littlewoods ran at the Ironbridge HM with James getting a 1:36:40 PB. Emma Morris paced 2:30 at the Limassol Half Marathon in Cyprus coming in at 2:29:26. We had 9 runners at the Forest of Dean Half Marathon. No PB’s to be had on the undulating trail course with many of our runners using it as another training run towards the Vale races or marathons.

Finally we had 4 runners at the Merthyr Half Marathon were Anneliese Loveluck annihilated the female club record with 1:32:33 which was also a PB by over 9 minutes. It also puts Anneliese in 10th for fastest Half Marathon PB in the club overall. Wayne Randall was next up with a 2:06 whilst Vickie Blake ran a PB of 2:41:51. Our final finisher was Karl Johnson who finished in 2:53:03 having stopped to help another runner.

Marathons

Emma Loyns and Liz Sim took on the Ras Dewi Sant Marathon finishing in 6:05 and 6:52 respectively. The marathon is one of the toughest in the UK with technical multi terrain and steep sections along the clifftops of the Pembrokeshire coast. It was the final marathon in a challenge Liz had set herself which was to run 10 marathons in 2 years. An outstanding achievement.

Chris Pratt ran 2 marathons in March with the Infinity Spring Marathon which I’ll come onto later, and then at another event by the same company which was set in Aberdare.

West Glamorgan Cross Country League

With the season complete, I thought I’d do a quick round up of how we’ve done this season. Promotion for the men’s team in the 2017/18 season meant our first season in Division 2 which is almost a mini-Bridgend League with Brackla, Cornelly and Porthcawl all in the same division. TROTS, Neath Black Tuesday, Swansea University and Amman Valley Runners made up the remaining teams. Many of these clubs have been competition in the league for decades whilst this was only our 4th season.

The men’s team ended up finishing 5th out of 8 which should see us stay in Division 2 barring another reshuffle of the tables.

A decent finishing position in 17/18 and a reshuffle of the divisions meant that the ladies were also given a place in division 2 out of 3 for the 18/19 season. They were in direct competition with 3M’s, Llanelli AC, TROTS, Paul Popham Running Club, Celtic Tri, Tata Steel and Swansea University. Again facing teams with a lot of experience.

The ladies team also finished 5th out of 8 which should see them stay in Division 2 barring another reshuffle of the tables.

The first fixture at Llanmadoc saw 10 runners with a split of 5 men and 5 women which is the minimum required as each team’s first 5 runners count for team scoring purposes. There was a better turnout with 16 at Kenfig and another increase to 20 for Margam Reservoir where we had a particularly strong men’s team with Adrian Pearce, Niki, Paul Smith, Neil Price and Kris Denholm. 15 attended Margam before 16 ran the final fixture at the Gnoll.

Well done to Adrian Pearce who finished as our highest ranked runner in the individual standings at 46th out of 470 runners. Jo Gamba was our highest ranked lady at 44th out of 360 female runners. In total we had 48 number of different members run during the season.

Other races

We had 10 runners for the Rhayader Round the Lakes 30K. A popular event for many runners training for a springtime marathon or ultra as was the case for many of ours who ran. Aled Hughes led our runners back in 2:35 closely followed by Simon Harrison. Our first lady back was Carol Bartle in 3:20.

The next event in the Infinity Running series saw 4 of our runners complete 4 different distances so I’ve included it in this section rather than repeat the same event 4 times. The event in Margam Park included laps of around 3.3 miles. Judith Jeeves completed 2 laps to record a ‘10K’ of 1:06, Sharon Pritchard completed 4 laps for a Half Marathon time of 2:36, Nick Harris completed 5 laps for 16.5 miles in total in a time of 2:51, whilst Chris Pratt did 8 laps to record a marathon time of 4:16.

David Sheard took on ‘the Grizzly’. A roughly 20 mile race including bog, cliff edges, beaches, waist deep water crossing and over 3000 feet of elevation. Despite all this, it’s an incredibly popular race and one of only a few in the UK that you need to ballot to get a place. David completed the course in 4:06.

The Narberth Numbers event provided a different challenge with 6 runners from the club pairing up and using maps to find 8 checkpoints on a trail course… in the dark. The shortest route would be around 6 miles but as you can imagine, some did a couple more. Well done to Aled and Nick who completed the course finding all 8 checkpoints in 1:48. Gareth Richards and Leigh Francis managed 6 out of 8 and added a bit more distance than required, whilst Fiona Evans and Denise Bradley found 4 out of 8 before returning a lot sooner than the other pairs. Shawn and Julie took on the

Cosmeston Pursuit 10K however, it’s included under ‘other’ races as due to storm-force winds, the route had to be amended to avoid a forestry section and ended up being closer to 8K.

AGM

This month also saw the club AGM where it was fantastic to hear the chairman’s report on such an outstanding year for the club. I’m honoured to be the new Male captain after our long standing captain Richard Lowcock James stood down to focus on his many other roles within the club. Congratulations to Jo Gamba and Nick Harris who are the new Vice Captains whilst all other roles remained as they were.

That wraps up my review of one of the busiest months ever for Ogmore Phoenix Runners. Over to Chris for his choices for Chairman’s Runner of the Month – I don’t think that will be an easy task!

 Chairman’s Runners of the Month

This task gets tougher and tougher.  As we grow as a club it becomes increasingly more difficult to choose someone who stands out from the crowd.  Months like March make it virtually impossible.  Personal bests left, right and centre.  Valiant efforts in every race.  Mutual support by the bucketload.  Gareth sent me a message saying the blog was complete at the start of April and I’ve deliberated since then.  Who to choose?

We see it quite often where running improvements coincide with lifestyle changes.  Changes in diet combined with a focus can lead to weight loss and subsequent fall in times.  March was the start of this journey for someone and very early on in the process times started to tumble.  Races abound at this time of year and we all love to sign up in numbers.  As a result it was a flurry of improving times for one.  parkrun, 10k, 10 mile and half marathon all saw personal bests during one month – three of them within 8 days!   It’s wonderful to see that the focus has continued beyond March and looking forward to seeing more to come in the year ahead!  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s female runner of the month to Stephne Puddy.  Well done Steph – a fantastic month of running, long may it continue! 

My male choice has been on my radar for some time even though he flies under it quite often. When he runs he has a habit of pulling performances out of the bag.  It’s fair to say he’s quiet on a day to day basis.  All the while he’s getting his miles in and largely unbeknown to us signing up for events.  Whenever he appears at events he excels.  This month has seen some big improvements in a household where improvements have being seen across the board.  With a huge sub 40 PB at 10k and a huge PB at Ironbridge half marathon I sense this is the start of a string of improvements over the coming months.  Evening up the balance of Chairman’s accolades in one household I am delighted to award my Chairman’s male runner of the month as James Littlewood.  Well done James – looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year brings!

Weekly Waffle – 24th March 2019

Training cancelled for the sake of a meeting…

The reporting of a great year gave way to election of officers poised to give their precious time for the benefit of our members. 

Despite the cancellation, training numbers were high on the remaining days!  

I’ve been lured by false alarms into announcing the arrival of Spring…
“There’s blue sky”…  “Shhh, someone might hear”

Someone must have heard on previous weeks…

Not this week.

The clouds remained high in the sky and the temperatures were higher than they have been…

The wind was gone… The storms had departed…

Some set off early for their run to make sure they arrived before that critical time.  9am.  We all know when.  Where, has numerous outcomes…

A huge turnout across the board.  

A club record of 80 parkrunners. 

The largest contingent down on the seafront for their Saturday morning constitutional.   More heroes graduating from the programme with honours and filling us with pride!

Some took it to extremes as, yet again, a location down under sees the Phoenix completing their requisite 5k.  One of our number who works within secure walls completed his while working.  One in the Emerald Isle while several crossed the border to England to complete theirs.  All contributing to a new benchmark to beat!

A new day dawns with events aplenty scattered all across the world…

Spring well and truly announced itself as sunshines burst through the curtains from early with clear blue skies!

The Taff Trail hosted two of the events spread far apart.  

The most local in the Welsh capital saw several clock up decent times.

Further up the valley others showed spirit to help fellow fallen runners to reach the finish line!

Even further up the valley one looped several times to rack up another event toward their challenge goal.

One chose an event advertised to break the soul, but reported back victorious – soul still intact!

A couple ventured to central England, to the town named for it’s span of the River Severn to notch up another half!

Some headed up to circumnavigate the English capital with impressive half marathon results.

One, renowned for a pacing role, held excellent time in warm foreign climes with a tick for another job well done!

A glorious forest backdrop promised great things for our runners and delivered with impressive times but saw one of our number fall with an admission to hospital.  The Phoenix rally to send support and love for a speedy recovery.  Team spirit.

The sea front across the channel from us beckoned a few away for the weekend and saw impressive results from another inaugural half.

Others did their own thing, sharing long runs in the build up to the traditional spring marathons that are fast approaching.

Our run leaders stayed loyal and delivered sessions to those with nothing on the calendar.

A trail running taster proved popular wooing members over to the “dark side” quickly from their first experience.

Training, racing and sharing memories together.

The bonds grow stronger.

The shared excitement at the achievements of others.

The shared concern for those who are struggling, physically or otherwise.

We are here for each other.  Always.

Stand proud.

Stand strong.

Stand together.

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

February 2019 review

parkruns

This month saw 216 parkrun finishes by 108 different members across 25 different parkrun venues.

As well as the usual South Wales parkruns, tourism included Seaton, Bath Skyline, Burham, Ellesmere Port, Old Deer Park, Gloucester North, Bideford, Kingsway, Telford and Exmouth plus some further afield which I’ll come onto next.

Tim and Philippa Rees returned from Australia but not before completing Lake Entrance parkrun taking Tim’s total number of Aussie parkruns to 14 across 7 different venues whilst Philippa did 12 across 7 venues. With Philippa only recently having started parkrunning, 12 of her 14 parkruns have been in Australia and she’s already visited 8 different venues. Interestingly, Chris Roberts, Martin Beard and Kaye Pedler have also done parkruns in Australia with each one being a different venue so in total, there have been Ogmore Phoenix Runners at a massive 18 different Australian parkruns.

Now you may have missed this (although if you have any social media then I think you’ll probably have seen a post or two) but 7 members of our club went to Jersey just to do a parkrun. Led and organised by super tourist Karl Johnson, some chose to stay in London the night before whilst others got up at 130am to travel to London to then get a flight to Jersey, do the parkrun, and make the return leg that afternoon. Well done to the crazy gang of Aled, Steven James (who had only done one other parkrun prior to this), Dawn, Karl, Chris Stanlake, Rhiannon Sian and James Beynon.

The crazy parkrun tourism continued with Jo Gamba and I going to Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun in New Jersey. It was the nearest parkrun to where we were staying in New York but still required about an hour and half of travel time. I finished 3rd overall whilst Jo was first female finisher for the first time in her 124 parkruns. If you want to read more about this, I did a lengthy post about the event on our Facebook page if you wish to read more about it.

This month saw Debbie Bennion and Richard Purnell celebrate their 50th parkruns.

Some highlights in month included Ben Davies, Sian Jenkins and Chris Bimson all notching up two PB’s each, yet another PB for Claire Taylor, Shawn Cullen bagged himself a PB, plus many more. At the super speedy end, Aled Hughes and James Littlewood both ran 19:15 PB’s at different locations on the same day, whilst returning member Chris Truman smashed his previous best with a 19:28. Niki Puleio was first finisher at Maesteg for the first time since September whilst Dawn Hopkins was first female finisher at Elsmere Port.

10K

The month kicked off with a couple of very different 10K events. Emma Morris completed the London Winter 10K in 51:45 through the parks and streets of London whilst Dawn Hopkins, Chris Richards and Adrian Pearce took on the Worms Head 10K. A multi terrain race near Rhossili Bay with over 800 feet of elevation. This was Dawn’s 11th event for the club in just 34 days and a day after being part of the crazy gang who went to Jersey parkrun.

Emma was back in 10K action again later in the month with the Castle Combe 10K in which she came in just under 1 hour.

Our final 10K of the month was the Pontypool 10K where Karl Johnson was our first member across the line followed by Liz Davis, Shawn Cullen with another PB, Debbie Bennion, Julie Ransom with a PB time, and Sharon Pritchard. A tough course which goes to show the improvements by Shawn and Julie recently with them managing PB’s there.

10 miler

Shawn Cullen ran the inaugural Cardiff 10 mile event where he smashed his previous PB with a 1:33:23 just 24 hours after getting a parkrun PB at Gloucester North. There aren’t too many 10 milers about so this should definitely be one on peoples lists for next year.

Half Marathons

Darija ran the Ras Cors Caron Half Marathon in 2:30:24 despite being out for Presentation night the previous evening.

The big Half Marathon this month was the Llanelli Half Marathon which had 47 Ogmore Phoenix Runners in attendance as well as several volunteering and many more supporting. Ryan Evans ran 1:27:42 despite having not run much over the Winter, Chris ‘Wonka’ Williams was next up with 1:36:30, before our first PB of the day with Keith Coleman running an impressive 1:41:30. The PB’s continued with a 1:44 for Gareth Davies and Claire Dunbar Bowen became only the 3rd female member to go sub 1:45. A long list of PB-ers were to follow with Gregg Harris, Craig Alexander, Sian Thomas, Shawn Cullen, Hannah Bartle, Natalie Aryal, Ken Salvatore, Rhiannon Sian, Hannah Knight, Rosaleen Lian, Kerry Worthington, Helen Griffiths, Shelley Evans, Claire Taylor, Michelle Alexander, Rhiannon Lewis, Louise Bennett and Leanne Parsons. Some remarkable achievements in amongst those including Claire Taylor now having knocked over an hour off her Half Marathon since joining the club, and Shawn Cullen becoming one of the first members ever to record 4 PB’s and 4 different distances in the same month… in fact, it was 4 over the course of 3 weekends.

Jo and I also ran the Central Park Half Marathon whilst in New York. We ran together finishing in 2:12:11. Again, I did a lengthy post about the race on our Facebook page if you wish to read more about it.

Other Races

Nick Harris and Simon Melksham ran the 3rd event of the Chepstow Night Race Series. A 5 mile event with over 800 feet of elevation.

There were 5 club finishers in the Dursley Dozen which was the 2nd race in this years Trail Championship. Adrian Pearce led the runners home followed by Steven James, David Sheard, Emma Loyns and Bev Sheard.

We had 4 runners at the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra. Kris Denholm completed the 44 mile course in 8 hours and 6 minutes with Gareth Richards a few minutes behind. Dan Clark completed his second Brecon to Cardiff in 8:40 knocking 50 minutes off his time from 2018. Wayne Hayhurst completed our Ultra finishers in 9 hours 40 minutes.

February also saw the first event of the Club Road Championship. I set our runners the challenge of completing the regular 5 mile training loop from the Life Centre in Ogmore up to the top of Nantymoel and back down and around… twice. A challenging 10 miler with almost 1000 feet of elevation, although it should also be pointed out, a significant amount of miles downhill. 36 members took on the challenge with Niki Puleio clocking the fastest time of 1:07 whilst Sarah Littlewood was the fastest female with 1:26. The next event in the club championship is the Cardiff Bay 10K on March 31st.

Presentation Night

Celebrating the achievements of the club and its members during 2018 , the Presentation Night was held at the Richard Price Centre on Saturday 16th February. The night kicked off with a speech from our Chairman, Chris Pratt, followed by an hour long video containing photos and short video clips of the year – over a 1000 in total.

The awards followed with Tammie Baker winning the top prize of Runners Runner after a fantastic year including huge improvements from 5K to Half Marathon (which also saw her win the Most Improved Female prize as well).

Runner’s Runner: Tammie Baker

Runner’s Runner 2nd place: Siân Jenkins

Runner’s Runner 3rd place: Denise Bradley

The next batch of awards listed are based on the fastest times by a runner in that category over the ‘standard’ distances of 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon. Whoever has the most ‘fastest in category’ wins – it’s a simple as that. The Club Runner is then chosen by the awards panel (made up of committee members, captains and myself as stats guru) from the 6 category winners.

Club Runner: Anneliese Loveluck

Super Veteran Female: Juliet Amner

Super Veteran Male: Steve Loveluck

Veteran Female: Anneliese Loveluck

Veteran Male: Neil Jones

Senior Female: Amy Roberts

Senior Male: John Burridge

The Age Grade Championship included fastest times (and corresponding age category percentages) at Maesteg and Porthcawl parkruns as well as age grade percentages for each of the 6 Bridgend League events.

Female Age Grade Champion: Juliet Amner

Male Age Grade Champion: Steve Loveluck

The inaugural Trail Championship included multi terrain races spread out across the year which included everything from short fell races to Bridgend League to 10+ mile multi terrain events.

Trail Championship Female Winner: Emma Loyns

Trail Championship Female 2nd place: Emma Louise Winch

Trail Championship Female 3rd place: Bev Sheard

Trail Championship Male Winner: Steven James

Trail Championship Male 2nd place: Richard Lowcock James

Trail Championship Male 3rd place: David Sheard

Best Newcomer doesn’t really need much explaining. Basically anyone who has been in the club for less than a year and have made a big impact which could be a combination of time improvements, events run / representing the club, volunteering and encouraging others.

Female Newcomer: Leigh Francis

Male Newcomer: Tim Rees

Most improved is one of the trickiest to decide as there were so many worthy contenders. From those who’ve been running for years and working hard to chip away a few seconds, to those knocking several minutes off as they start their running journey’s, and everyone in between.

Most Improved Female: Tammie Baker

Most Improved Male: Chris Stanlake

The criteria for the Zero to Hero award is simple – someone who started through attending Zero to Hero, and like Best Newcomer, has shown improvement in times and / or volunteered and represented the club.

Zero to Hero: Siân Jenkins

For those that don’t know what this assuming moment is – Matt Murray (selfie extraordinaire) managed to catch Alica popping her head up from behind a wall after a ‘call of nature’ stop in the middle of Snowdonia Marathon.

Most Amusing Moment: Alica Thomas

Photo of the year was actually a series of photos put together of Aled falling over in a river during the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run as he was busy looking behind him and no doubt ‘gently encouraging’ in his Aled sort of way to catch up.

Photo of the year: Aled Hughes

There was also recognition of the top 10 male and female finishers in the Trail Championship and a list of everyone who got a vote for Runners Runner. Another brilliant evening organised by the social committee and huge thanks to them on another successful evening.

That wraps up my review of another busy month for Ogmore Phoenix Runners. Over to Chris for his choices for Chairman’s Runner of the Month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

Spring is in the air.  Warmer weather and the build up to the spring marathons.

Miles have been trod through the cold and miserable winter months and the long runs are being completed by those nearing the finale.

My first choice is one such person.  If you told someone they’d be tackling a marathon in a few months time, let’s say 6 months time, you’d often see either an initial excitement or fear.  One might lead to overtraining and subsequent difficulties.  The other might lead to ignorance and lack of training that also lead to difficulties down the line.  I think it’s fair to say this was never an intentional pathway for one.  A position in a prestigious event was bestowed upon one which resulted in a combination of the latter scenario coupled with denial.  However, the resulting actions have not been the characteristic lack of training it has been a complete change of lifestyle.   Renowned for loving to eat out and a tipple or two he has completely reformed.  Eating well.  Cut out alcohol.  Training like a demon… and I mean a demon!  Regular yoga and spin classes.  Getting out for the required runs according to plan – but also being mindful of his body, which is exactly how it should be.  When it doesn’t feel right, easing back.  Not only are the miles building, but the times are coming down naturally.  The weight is falling off which often leads to natural improvements, but when combined with a good training plan the improvements are accelerating.  PB’s left, right and centre.  Four at four different distances over three successive weekends.  This is a disciplined approach that you cannot help but admire and celebrate.  I have absolutely no hesitation awarding my Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month to Shawn Cullen.  This is the first time I’ve awarded a runner of the month to the same person twice and it won’t happen very often, but this month’s efforts were something which cannot be overlooked. Keep it up Shawn – it’s a mightily impressive way to tackle marathon training for the first time!  

I have said in the past many times that this is more than just running.  As a club it’s something we celebrate.  Not only do we run, but we also volunteer for many things – usually associated with running.  The month started with some of our number away in foreign climes.  For two it was in extreme heat about as far from home as they could possibly be on the other side of the world.  Despite the heat they managed to find opportunities to run thanks to parkrun.  Indeed, at several locations whilst away on their travels visiting family.  We enjoyed the stories of each one reported back via social media.  Many of stories told of battling with the heat in normal everyday life, but making that extra effort to head out of the door to actually run in it every week is fantastic! 

On immediate return one of them had volunteered to man a water station at Llanelli Half and dutifully turned up ready to do so.  It’s no mean feat standing in the cold handing out bottles of water but when your body has been subjected to incredibly hot temperatures for an extended period of time it’s an extra shock to the system.  Not only that but when a runner arrives at the water station and is feeling unwell and collapses the nursing instinct took over and she lay down alongside said runner to shield her from the strong and very cold onshore breeze for half an hour putting herself at great risk from the elements.  Above and beyond the call of duty, but instinctive.  Rest assured, I’ve discussed this with her since and she realises how risky it was for her but doesn’t recognise the adulation that it attracted as it was just such a natural thing for her to do.  I totally get this, but it is worthy of praise because it demonstrates an extraordinary natural kindness of spirit. Going above and beyond the call of duty to help others.  Something worthy of commendation.  I am delighted to announce my Female Chairman’s Runner of the Month as Philippa Rees.