We kicked off the month with 71 runners across 16 different parkrun locations. John Burridge was our fastest runner of the day with a 18:58 at Porthcawl parkrun whilst Jamie Verran picked up a first finisher token at Pontypool parkrun in 19:32. Tourism included Saul Harris at Eden Project and Julie Greenman at Bideford.
A couple of days later saw the opportunity to get two extra parkruns in with special days in Denmark and Sweden. If you weren’t aware, parkrun lets each country have a couple of ‘special days’ where they can put on parkruns outside of the usual Saturday. In the UK, it’s Christmas Day and New Years Day but some other countries have theirs on other national bank holidays. This obviously peaked the interest of Johnson’s parkrun Tours with Karl arranging for Nick Harris, Vickie Blake, David Cooper and Satera James along with himself to visit Amager Strandpark parkun in Denmark on the Monday and then Vaxjosjon parkrun in Sweden on the Tuesday.
The second weekend saw 50 members running across 15 parkruns including Carl Walsh running at North Beach parkrun in South Africa ahead of the Comrades Marathon. The reduced turnout was largely due to Welsh Castles also being that weekend as well as Swansea Half Marathon the next day.
Numbers were back up slightly the week after with 57 members running across 12 different parkrun locations. Toby Kearns led home a OPR top 3 at Maesteg parkrun with Willow Hughes also first female finisher there. Aled Hughes became the first member to run 100 parkruns at two different locations with his 100th at Porthcawl to add to his 100+ at Maesteg.
The final Saturday of the month saw another increase with 65 runners across 15 parkrun locations. At Maesteg, Nicky Bennett was running his 100th parkrun whilst it was the 100th parkrun for Toni Howells with Porthcawl his chosen venue.
The first race of the Aberavon / Run4All 5K series saw a huge turnout of 31 members making up 15% of the field. Our first finisher was Aled Hughes closely followed by John Burridge and Emyr Bissmire. Our top ladies were Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Carys Cronin and Denise Bradley.
At the second race of the Swansea Bay 5K series we had 23 runners. Aled Hughes was our first member back in 18:04 and also won the veteran age category prize with Claire Dunbar-Bowen picking up 3rd for the ladies veterans.
At the second race of the SSAFA 5K series in Cardiff, Jake matched his PB of 15:22 running exactly the same time has he did at the same event a month earlier! There were also impressive performances from Jamie Verran with a 18:55 and Katie Plimmer who ran a PB of 22:31.
We had 18 runners at a very hot Swansea Half Marathon where Jake matched his 2021 performance by finishing 4th overall, but ran an even quicker time, lowering his own club record to 1:09:35! It was 24 minutes before our next runner crossed the line with Daniel Jenkins finishing in what most of us would consider to be a very speedy 1;33:31. I was one of the official 1:50 pacers at the event whilst Gail Newell was one of the tail runners. Emma Loyns was the first female finisher for our club in 1:52.
There were a couple of other half marathons in the month with Jade B running the Run Walk Crawl Dare Half Marathon. Steph Dyke and Nigel Hitchings completed the challenging Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon.
Marathons and Ultras
Three members took on three different challenging marathons during the month with Carl Walsh completing the Black Mountains Marathon, Chris Richards at the Giants Head Marathon, and Liz Sim at the Dare Valley Marathon.
It was a busy month for Ultra’s with Mel Thomas and Rhiain Casseldine-Foreman running the Battle of Brampton Valley Way Ultra. Dai James completed the VOGUM which starts in Porthcawl and finishes in Cardiff (basically the reverse of the Vale Ultra with an additional 8 or so miles). Then Dai was back in action just two weeks later along with Denise Bradley as they took on the Race to the Kings 100K over two days. Both had similar experiences with day one going really well but niggles on day two making it very challenging but both finishing nevertheless.
I’m saving what I consider the best for last as Carl Walsh ran the Comrades ‘Marathon’. For those reading this that aren’t familiar, although it’s called a marathon, it’s actually 55 miles and is the oldest and biggest participated ultra in the world. It runs from point to point in South Africa with a significant amount of elevation and different medals depending on what time you finish it.
Kierran Spiers ran at the Caerlon 5 miler. Aled Hughes and Nick Harris ran at the 3 mile event of the Cardiff Summer Series. Danny Ridley completed the 23K Maverick Forest of Dean trail event.
This was the third year the club had been invited to enter Rack Raid having first done it in 2019 and then again last year in 2022 with the years in between being cancelled due to the pandemic. It was the second year we had two teams and with lots of runners signed up for Welsh Castles the following week, the captains group thought it would be a good opportunity for others to be part of the team that hadn’t done it before. In the end we had quite a range with 15 members running it for the first time, 9 running it for the second time and just myself and wifey Jo making it 3 out of 3. Jake won his half marathon stage for the second year in a row in a quicker time than last year and only just missing out on the course record. Our A team finished 10th overall out of 28 teams with a combined time of 12 hours 42 minutes and 3 seconds which was within 6 minutes of what we achieved in 2019 and 2022 which were just seconds apart. Team B finished in 27th place in 15:09:57. Another great day although I do wish they were turn the temperature down as every year has been hotter and hotter.
Finally, after 10 years, we finally entered and completed a Welsh Castles Relay. A huge effort particularly from ladies captain Dawn Hopkins and men’s vice captain Nicky Bennett in finally getting this off the ground and hopefully setting us up to do this year after year. There was a huge build up to this event behind the scenes for months before the excitement really built in the week leading up to it with team photo’s, lots of posts and a profile on every runner by our Insta queen Jayne Bissmire.
As for the event itself, 20 of our top runners became pioneers and wrote themselves in the history books as they each took their turn over the two day event to run their allocated stage. The competition was fierce with top clubs from around the UK, not just Wales competing. We held our own and finished in a combined time of 25:30:09 for 39th out of 66 teams.
The third fixture of the season took us to Rest Bay where we had 84 finishers lead home by overall winner Jake Tasker, taking his 9th BCRL victory and making it 10 in a row that have been won by an OPR member. Our top 10 runners had crossed the line with just 19:04 on the race clock for the 3 mile race. The distance had been extended from past years to add in a section around Pink Bay with the tides just about working out but everyone getting very wet feet nonetheless. A solid performance from our ladies, plus another big turnout meant that although we only finished 3rd in the team standings, we lost very little ground to Bridgend and are still in contention overall.
Over to Chris for this months Chair’s Runners of the Month decisions.
Chair’s Runners of the Month
It becomes increasingly difficult to choose winners for these accolades as all our members do fabulous things daily – but choose I must and so here are my choices for June 2023.
Commitment and dedication. These are traits that are highly praised, but it’s very important to acknowledge that we all have periods where we fall away. When the desire wanes or the focus shifts. We need something at those times to inspire and lift – to resurrect that commitment and to our journey. It comes in many forms and quite often we don’t know what it is – we just feel the uplift and ride on the back of it to a more consistent running routine. This year I’ve noticed one in our midst had started to find focus again. Posts were increasingly positive and runs were consistently spaced with races popping up in increasing number. Clearly enjoyment has been steadily returning for some time and the uplift has been apparent and led to epic races completed with a smile and celebration. Times have naturally improved as pressure was removed from the expectation with June seeing podium finishes. Massively impressive but even more so is learning that throwing off the shackles can create the ability to improve by just being relaxed at the start. Much more to come and many more happy smiling race pictures!! I’m delighted to announce my first Chair’s Runner of the Month for June as Claire Dunbar-Bowen. Well done Claire – keep up the fabulous running!!
I’ve often said you don’t have to run fast or long to make a mark. Heading out of the door is achievement enough to secure a round of applause – and recognition for this accolade may I add! But, those who do run long, or fast, often get the plaudits – especially when the commitment to training has been worthy of celebration. The outcome is the thing that we recognise, but the hard work is often the weeks of hard graft following a process that you can finally trust in when the start line is reached. A local event along the coast woos many of us to take part every year, but one in the opposite direction this year had one member zooming along the 40 miles for a top ten finish! Not only that but then two weeks later tackling a back-to-back ultra event totalling 100km. While on day two he felt the pinch, the outcome was a celebration of a commitment to training that gave him the strength of body and mind to complete both tasks. Impressive stuff! I’m thrilled to announce my second Chair’s Runner of the Month for June as Dai James. Keep sharing the journey Dai!!