Weekly Waffle – 27th August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A week done and into the new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep up the good work guys.  

You are all superstars!

#lovethisclub

#loveourclub

July 2019 review

parkruns

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

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

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

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

5K races

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

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

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

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

10K races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Marathons

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

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

Marathons

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

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

Infinity Running event

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

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

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

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

Ultra Marathon races

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

BCRL races

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

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

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

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

Other races

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

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

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

June 2019 review

parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5K

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

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

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

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

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

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

10K

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

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

Half Marathon

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

Marathon

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

Ultra

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

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

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

Other races

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbit Run

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

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

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

Individual Silver medals for Emma Loyns and Steve Loveluck.

Individual Bronze medals for Aled Hughes and Sarah Davies,

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

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

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

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

Mid-Year Race Stats 

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest race attendances so far in 2019….

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

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

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

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

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

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

Rack Raid 2019 review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rack Raid 2020 anyone?

Weekly Waffle – 16th June 2019

A busy week ahead…

Once again, training is affected by other responsibilities.  

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

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

A very worthy hashtag for a job well done.

#proudPhoenix

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

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

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

Friday night. 

Lights out.

Saturday morning. 

Wakey, wakey.  

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

Home or away?  That is the question…

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

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

All getting their 5k completed.

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

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

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

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

It’s been a busy one.

It’s been a tiring one.

But The Phoenix endured.

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

Continue to fly!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 2nd June 2019

What a week – yet again!

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

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

parkrunday or as it’s alternatively known, Saturday.

A new month.  

High numbers spread all around the country.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immensely proud.

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

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

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

What an incredible weekend yet again…

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

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

It’s that team spirit that pulls us together.

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

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

May 2019 review

parkruns

This month saw our members clock up 246 parkrun finishes in 45 parkrun events. Our members visited 27 different parkruns in month including 19 in Wales with the others being Buckingham, Crosby, Dartford Heath, Isabel Trail, Longrun Meadow, Lydney, Milton Keynes and Thornbury.

There were 27 parkrun PB’s including Aled Hughes, Catherine Robinson, Jay Howells, Maria George and Sian Jenkins who all notched up 2 parkrun PB’s each in the month. Aled smashed the 19 minute barrier for the first time with a 18:46 whilst Sian Jenkins double means she now has 17 parkrun PB’s in 32 parkruns and has gone from 42:43 to 29:31 over the past 15 months.

Our other parkrun PB-ers were Abbiegayle Lumsden, Adrian Pearce, Andrew Hughes, Anthony Kavanagh, Chris Bimson, Claire Williams, Dawn Apsee, Heather Morgan, James Beynon, Judith Jeeves, Leanne Puleio, Nicola Cornock, Paul Barrett, Paul James, Sara Davies, Steph Iveson-Holmes and Wayne Randall. A couple of highlights include Adrian smashing his PB with an 18:16 making him the fastest current member in the club over 5K. Another PB for Chris Bimson means he now has 10 parkrun PB’s in just 17 parkruns so far with 9 of those PB’s being this year.

In case this has passed you by, Swansea seems to be the place to go if you are on form and looking for a PB with 8 of our members getting a PB there this month. I know a few others including our Chairman Chris Pratt who’s 5K PB has been set at Swansea parkrun.

Finally, this month saw Diana Purnell and Brett Bonell celebrate their 50th parkruns.

5K

The first day of the month saw 36 runners at the first race of the Aberavon 5K series. Ryan Evans lead the Phoenix runners back with a speedy 18:58 despite a headwind for half of the race. Jonathan Tidball, Sarah Davies, Paul Barrett, Chris Stanlake, Kaye Pedler, Alexis Barrett and Stephne Puddy all bagged themselves PB’s. A huge well done to Elaine Nash and Philippa Nash who completed their first race with the club as well.

Karl Johnson and Nige Rees ran the Cardiff Race for Victory 5K. This was the second race of the day for Karl who had run the Newport 10K that morning. Nige Rees  got a new PB of 24:39.

We had 6 runners at the Swansea Bay 5K where Niki went sub 19 and claimed the fastest 5K time of anyone in the club for this year with a 18:54. Shawn Cullen claimed a new PB to add to the growing list this year with a 25:40.

We also had 6 runners at the first of the SSAFA 5K series where Aled ran 19:03 followed by seasons bests from Chris Pratt (21:27), and David Kembery (21:50). Nick Harris notched up yet another event along with Karl Johnson and Dawn Hopkins clocked a sub 25 with a 24:52. 

The final event of the month was the Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K with 57 members completing the course. Adrian Pearce led the way in an impressive 18:37 whilst Aled Hughes and Niki Puleio were next up in 18:56 and 19:00 respectively. For the second year in a row Simon Williams got close to a first sub 20 with 20:16 whilst I was next up in my best time since the same race last year with a 20:33.  Final results are still to be confirmed so these are provisional times but it looks like there were multiple PB’s set including for Denise Bradley who picked up her second top 3 age category placing in just 4 days.

5 miles

A rare 5 mile event with the Porthkerry Multi Terrain 5 miler. It was also the latest fixture in the club trail championship which is proving very popular this year as we had 28 entrants. Adrian Pearce led us back followed by Aled and myself. Sarah Davies was our first female followed by Emma Loyns and Denise Bradley. There were multiple PB’s with so many running a 5 mile race for the first time with the club including Luke Jones, Steven James, Sarah Davies, Jo Gamba, Nige Rees, Paul Barrett, Dawn Hopkins, Sharon Pritchard, Alexis Barrett, Nicola Cornock, Stephne Puddy and Andrea Self.

We had 12 runners at the Tonmawr Hilly 5 miler where Adrian Pearce led our club members back in 33:30 and was 2nd in his age category. Steve Loveluck was 3rd in his age category whilst April’s female runner of the month, Anneliese Loveluck was 1st female overall. Denise Bradley was 2nd in her age category. Unsuprisingly given the course, the PB’s were for those either running their first 5 miler or those that had only run a similiarly tough 5 miler previously. There were PB’s for Jonathan Tidball, Sian Jenkins, Nicola Cornock and Stephne Puddy.

10K

The first weekend of the month saw the second Newport 10K with 39 runners from the club. Niki Puleio ran just 3 seconds outside his PB with a 38:11 despite having run London Marathon just a week earlier. His time is also the fastest 10K in the club this year. Neil Price chipped a few seconds off his PB to come even more agonisingly close to his first sub 40 with a 40:07. Running side by side throughout, Chris Wonka Williams had the better finish to beat me and finish as our third runner in 43:28.

Sarah Davies was our first female in a PB time of 48:48 meaning she claimed a 5K and 10K PB’s in the same week. Jo Gamba also bagged herself a PB with her first sub 50 clocking at 49:19. Our third female finisher was Emma Loyns who had only travelled back from Florida the day before.

The huge PB list included Simon Harrison, Gareth Davies, Jay Howells, Alun Job, Paul Iskander, Dawn Hopkins, Phill Iveson, Sian Thomas, Amanda Taylor, Steph Iveson, Sara Davies, Tammie Baker, Deb Edwards, Catherine Robinson, Nicola Cornock, Maria George, Cath Griffiths and Claudine Nicholson. Well done to Chris Stanlake and Alexis Barrett who also got 10K PB’s just 4 days after setting new 5K PB’s.

The Swansea Epic 10K saw 6 of our runners complete the tough off road course with Chris Richards claiming his first sub 1 hour 10K and Dawn Wright completing her first race as a Phoenix.

Niki Puleio was back in action again and ran a 38:47 with David Kembery our only other finisher in 46:24. Shawn Cullen ran the tough, off road, Brecon Beacons 10K whilst a week later, Steve Loveluck, Denise Bradley and Karl Johnson completed the Builth Wells Trail 10K.

Karl made it a weekend 10K double doing the Caerphilly 10K the day after whilst David Kembery made it three 10K races on consecutive weekends. Nige Rees ran a PB of 53:23 whilst new members Tyler Howells and Abbiegayle Lumsden came in with a PBs of 58:00 and 1:08:51 respectively. There were 11 Ogmore Phoenix Runners in total at Caerphilly.

Another couple of 10K’s to finish off the month as Dawn Hopkins ran the Vitality London 10K whilst Karl, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion completed the Treforest 10K.

Half Marathons

Julie Ransom ran the Milton Keynes Half Marathon whilst Liz Davis and Liz Sim ran the Bath Two Tunnels Half Marathon early in the month. Sally Pensom ran the Chester Half Marathon whilst Gary Loo scored a PB and first sub 2 Half Marathon at the Great Manchester Run. Sharon Pritchard ran the only local Half Marathon of the month with 4 laps of 3.3 miles at the latest Infinity Running event in Margam Park.

Finally, Shawn and Julie completed the Liverpool Half Marathon on the final weekend of the month.

Marathons

Just a week after the heroics and excitement of the London Marathon, we had 11 runners at the second running of the Newport Marathon. Wayne Hayhurst took another few minutes off his marathon best coming in at 3:20:54 – an incredible improvement considering before this year he hadn’t run under 4 hours. Steven James also notched a PB with a 3:33:38 with Ryan Evans coming in at 3:39:52 in his first marathon.

Keith Coleman just missed out on the sub 4 with a 4:03 and next up were Gregg Harris in 4:19 and Dan Clark in 4:36. Anthony Kavanagh ran a 4:44 PB whilst Emma Marshall was paced round by Chris Pratt in a PB time of 4:49 which was a huge improvement on her time from the previous year. Peter Walsh completed the course in 5:11 whilst Jamie Puddy completed his debut marathon in 5:21.

Chris Pratt was back in action for his 5th Marathon in just  10 weeks (plus the Vale Ultra thrown in for good measure) at the latest Infinity Running event in Margam park where he completed 8 laps of the 3.3 mile course to make up the marathon distance. A 4:11 finish time being his fastest of the 5 despite the usual stops for photos and a bit of chatting along the way. He’d also run 10 miles the day before with me and Jo Gamba down to Porthcawl parkrun.

There were yet more Marathon heroics at the Liverpool Marathon where Amy and Chris Roberts returned for a second year. Despite a reported challenging headwind for the final few miles, Amy got another PB and set a new club age category record with a 3:51:49 whilst Chris came in just over the 4 hour mark with a 4:05:03.

Ultra Marathons

Steven James took on the Brecon Beacons Ultra. A 32 mile race with an eye watering 6700 feet of elevation. That’s more than double the elevation of Snowdonia Marathon and over testing, tricky terrain. He completed the course in 6 hours 50 minutes before going on to run the Porthkerry 5 miler the next day.

A week later Steven was back in action, this time running the latest Infinity Running event with an aim of using it as more long run training for an upcoming Ultra of even longer distance. Steven ended up managing 12 laps of the 3.3 mile course within the allotted 7 hour cut off (finishing after 6 hours and 36 minutes) and incredible kept up a 10 minute mile pace throughout, ending up covering 39.3 miles.

It’s difficult to find the words for what one member did this month so I’m just going to put the details and then a couple of comments I put on Facebook before and after the run. Nick Harris took on the Dragon 100 mile race. Starting in Rhossili Bay in the Gower and finishing in Cardiff Bay following the Coastal Path but also throwing in Afan Forest for good measure which helped bump up the elevation to around 9000 feet.

I started another tracking post to follow his progress and wrote this just as he was starting at 6pm on Saturday evening… “Absolutely crazy to think that whilst we’re having our evening meals tonight, Nick will be running. Whilst we sleep tonight, Nick will be running. When we have breakfast, do our morning run and for the entire time our Newport Marathoners are running – Nick will still be running. Sunday lunch, afternoon and possibly even bedtime tomorrow, Nick will still be running. Incredible.”

29 hours and 28 minutes later Nick finished and I wrote this… “He’s rewritten the history books again. I’ve been fortunate enough to know Nick Harris since he first joined the club in 2013. He started out at the back. Within a year he went from back marker to our fastest runner in the club breaking several club records and winning Runners Runner in 2014 in his first full year with the club. He’s run well over 400 events for the club and took on every challenge possible. This week has pretty much summed Nick up… a fell race, a 5K, 1 miler and a 100 miler. He will take on any challenge. The mental strength to run 100 miles is just beyond what most of us could comprehend, let alone the physical side of moving forward for a 100 miles and seeing darkness fall twice. Above it all, a genuinely lovely, unassuming guy. A gentlemen. A supporter. St Nick. Our Phoenix.”

Other races

From a 100 miler to 1 milers. A day before his 100 mile race started, Nick warmed up with the Cardiff Summer Series 1 miler along with new member Joe Hill. Later in the month, Dai James clocked a speedy 5:27 mile at the Steve Jones 1 mile series in Bryn Bach along with Aled Hughes and Karl Johnson.

Aled and Nick were on a mission with events this month with them being our only runners at the Lady Windsor race and joining several others for the Whitford Point Multi Terrain race. Aled was joined by Adrian Pearce and David Sheard to take on the 3000 feet of elevation included in the Cader Idris Mountain Race whilst Leanne Parsons completed another tough off roader with the Preseli Beast Bach.

Bridgend County Running League

I had to save the best for last. The first race of the 2019 Bridgend League saw our attendance record at a single event smashed as we exceeded 100 runners for the first time with 114 members completing the course.

At the front end, I think I can safely say we had our strongest 15 scorers to date with another golden find by Neil Price who introduced his mate Gareth Battle to the club who was our first finisher, followed by Niki, Ryan Evans, Adrian Pearce, James Littlewood, Paul Smith, Aled Hughes and Neil Price. Our top 8 finishing in the top 22 positions overall and every one of them capable of a low 19 minute 5K time. The remainder of our top 15 was made up of Wayne Hayhurst (just 3 days after his amazing Newport Marathon time), Gareth Richards, Saul Harris, myself, Luke Jones, Kris Denholm and Gareth Davies. Several more came in close behind.

The course at Ogmore Castle was amended slightly from last year to start further down Golf Club Hill meaning an even longer climb to start with before a couple of miles running on the trails and fields at the top before a fast descent including some tricky rocky and sandy sections. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security though as the final half mile or so included a steep narrow incline and a very muddy and slippery finish. A massive well done to everyone who took on the course and completing it.

For the competitive amongst us, the excitement grew as we realised we’d had an incredible team performance with so many of our top end finishing in high positions and the incredible turnout meaning we would have one of, if not our best event score ever. I am very proud to announce, Ogmore Phoenix Runners won the first event of the BCRL. If you are reading this having run for us at that event, you made that happen. One of the best things about the BCRL is that every single finishers makes a difference to the scoring no matter if you are the first or final finisher so well done to every single runner.

This month saw 620 results recorded with 246 parkruns and 374 race finishes. Our members attended 36 different races in month with everything from 1 mile to 100 miles and from flat road races to a race over one of the Welsh 3 peaks. Incredible. Now it’s over to our Chairman, Chris Pratt, for his runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

I’ll launch straight in this month with my first accolade.  It won’t take long to work out who it’s going to…

100 miles.  Rhossili to Cardiff Bay with a little detour up around the Afan Forest thrown in for good measure.  It sounds like a car journey, that you might consider for a day trip.  For one of us it was an adventure.  Start time was 6pm Saturday evening.  He ran through sunset.  He ran through the night and as our Captain said in a Facebook post as we were all getting up out of our beds on Sunday morning, he was still running.  Changes of shoes, socks and various items of clothing were necessary during the journey.  Various members of the club turned out to support him at multiple points along the route.  The sun approaching Porthcawl wore him down to reveal an almost broken man to supporters there.  With refreshment and a subsequent drop in temperatures he pressed on and showed amazing endeavour to keep going all the way along the coast.  To put it in perspective he reached the end of Vale Ultra having completed almost 70 miles and then had to run it in reverse on incredibly tired legs.  The support crew built as he approached his goal.  With odd shoes on his feet he arrived at Cardiff Bay at 23:45 on Saturday night to rapturous applause from supporters both present and at home watching live.  An epic performance.  A story of true grit and determination.  A 100 mile PB of 29 hours and 28 minutes was in the bag!  Not only this but he also did a flurry of events during the week and even a parkrun on the Saturday morning before the 100 miler kicked off!!  Amazing stuff and such a worthy winner of the Chairman’s Male Runner of the Month accolade for May.  Mr Nick Harris.  We salute you.

There have been lots of ladies doing amazing things this month.  We’ve had PB’s left, right and centre.  We’ve had long distances covered.  Very difficult to separate all the huge achievements.

But it’s not always about big achievements.  Sometimes it’s just being able to get out there that makes a difference.  Someone who has had a year of hardship.  Long term injury had plagued and it was a struggle to get out and get the miles in.  Despite that there was a resolute person battling along behind the scenes.  Walking at club sessions and helping to bring on our walking section.  Staying connected by social media and attending social gatherings.  But quietly, in the background, she was running.  Helped by osteopathy to re-commence the journey, she took advantage of a challenge through a charity she held dear and set a target.  Nobody was in on it.  It was something she tackled quietly in the background.  The target was 50 miles.  She ended on 73.  Rekindling a love for something so long missed.  Social miles completed with friends and longer runs than had been tackled in a long while.  At the same time completing a leadership course to give even more back to the club joining the ranks of wonderful leaders we have within our midst.  A story that warms the heart and an accolade to a determined soul.  Riding out such long periods of injury is tough.  This brings to mind times when we need to rally to support those within our midst who are struggling.  A huge hats off to my Chairman’s Female Runner of the Month for May, Jayne Bissmire, for her determined focus in the face of adversity and her fight to get back into the running groove.  Well done Jayne.

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?