March 2020 review

Official parkruns

The first 2 Saturdays of the month saw 162 parkrun finishes with 80 on the first weekend and 82 on the second.

Ashley Howells ran the inaugural Trelai parkrun which became the latest parkrun to start in Cardiff. Jo and I ran Swaffham parkrun for our furthest away UK parkrun (Norfolk). Sarah and Dawn collected their ‘Y’ at Yeovil and there was plenty of other tourism besides Chris Bimson ran his 50th parkrun at Forest of Dean.

There was a great turnout of 14 members as Shawn and Julie became the first members of the club to run at 100 different parkrun venues at Cefn-Coed-pwll-du.

There was some great runs at Swansea Bay with Emyr Bissmire setting a new PB of 21:37 and Alysha Collins running the 3rd fastest time of any female in the club this year with a 24:18. Carys Cronin ran an unbelievable 25:23 having run 34:48 in her first parkrun just 4 months ago whilst Chris Morris set a PB of 39:08.

Virtual parkruns

On Wednesday 18th March it was announced that all parkruns worldwide would be cancelled until the end of March which a week later was extended to the end of April due to the COVID 19 outbreak. The likelihood is that I won’t be writing about official parkruns for a lot longer than that.

Now it’s pretty obvious if you are a regular reader of these blogs and the crazy numbers in the 2019 review that our club is pretty parkrun obsessed – 6 members in the 250 club, a further 32 in the 100 club and another 42 that have run at least 50 parkruns. Then of course there’s the ones on less than 50 that have only discovered parkrun recently but have now become regulars.

So what were we going to do without our usual parkrun fix? Chris Pratt approached the captains (myself and Pippa) to discuss this and we came up ‘Virtual parkrun’. The rules are simple – do a 5K anytime on Saturday up to 8pm and let me and Pippa know with a screenshot / photo of your run activity app or watch.

On Saturday 21st we had an incredible 72 runners including some Zero to Hero’s who would have been doing their parkrun graduation had it not been cancelled. The runs ranged from just over 20 minutes to around 1 hour walks with family. At this point, social distancing was in place but people could still meet up and run 2 metres.

By the final Saturday of the month, we were restricted to ‘one form of exercise a day’ with this being ‘alone or with someone from your household’. Amazingly, we had 72 members submit a 5K.


As with the parkruns, we actually managed half a month of events before the escalating restrictions meant that all running events were cancelled or postponed.

Sally Pensom completed the Chester 10K whilst Liz Sim and Steven James ran the 40 mile Millennium Way Ultra together in 9 hours and 18 minutes.

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

A week later we had 32 runners at the rearranged Llanelli Half Marathon which had been scheduled for a month earlier but called off due to storms. Dai James smashed his PB and clocked 1:21:36 which is another club age category record as well as making him the fastest member in the club. What makes the time even more remarkable is that the course was measured 0.2 miles long by pretty much everyone and we had strong headwinds on the coastal section. Next up was Ryan Evans with a 1:24:37 PB and Wayne Hayhurst with a PB of 1:29:27. Niki Puleio was the official 1:30 pacer but due to the course being long, came in about a minute after. Chris ‘Wonka’ Williams was next up just ahead of PB’s for Keith Coleman and James Dennison. I was the official 1:50 pacer and managed to just finish in time after noticing around half way that the distance appeared to be out which required actually running faster than 1:50 pace to make up for it which isn’t ideal for those following.

There were plenty of other PB’s with Sian Thomas bagging her first sub 2 and Stephne Puddy getting the perfect PB… knocking 1 second off her previous best! Kyleigh Lecrass, Cath Griffiths, Leanne Puleio and Heather Morgan completed an impressive haul of PB’s given the conditions.

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

A strange time but it’s been amazing to see so many positive posts on our Facebook page throughout the month and people getting out to do their virtual parkruns on the last 2 Saturdays.

Over to Chris for the runner of the month…

Chairman’s Runners of the Month

March brought many changes to our lives.  

We got much of the month out of the way before severe measures were required for us to distance ourselves from each other in light of the evolving situation.

Before that happened there were races of increasing frequency as the year was beginning to wake up.  Many of these were preparation for things to come.  Impending spring marathons resulted in steadily increasing mileage.  Building to a marathon takes a significant period of time.  Occasionally the best laid plans don’t quite become reality and there’s a need to defer an important race to the following year.  When that happens the mind becomes focused.  Particularly when that race is the much coveted London Marathon.  With a renewed focus training had started in plenty of time.  That characteristic slow and steady build up.  Formulating a routine for consistent, regular training.  Slowly building.  Steady progression.  Working to a plan and remaining resolute while doing so.  Long runs steadily increasing.  The characteristic personal bests were being achieved as we entered March.  A new half marathon time put a great marker down for measuring progress.  The body was shaping up for the challenge.  The head was getting in the right place to shake off the demons as the longer runs entered the calendar.  Such dedication to a training plan so religiously is wonderfully admirable.  Circumstances have taken a turn and the event itself has been put on hold.  That hasn’t dampened spirits to keep the training regime alive as we experience changes to our daily routines.  It’s always incredibly impressive to see someone focus so intently and stick with it.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Runner of the month for March to Claudine Nicholson Lewis.  Keep up the good work Claudine.  Don’t let the changes to the race upset that progress.  Looking forward to seeing it continue, we will continue supporting you all the way along the journey however long it takes.

All running journeys have a story.  Some are long and drawn out and tell tales of woe along the way.  Peaks and troughs.  Some are relatively short and performance improvements often come thick and fast.  A history of occasional races year on year led to a sudden focus in 2019 that saw a meteoric rise in performance.  Admitedly, youth was on his side, but the improvements were impressive.  Hovering around the 24 minute mark at parkrun, gradual improvements came throughout the year culminating in an almost 6 minute improvement running under 19 minutes once in December before the close of the year.  2020 brought a renewed focus.  A desire to bring that down once again.  Beating his previous best by 4 seconds the challenge was on to go even further and a trip to Swansea Bay parkrun resulted in an incredible improvement of 1 minute 15 seconds to record a sub 18 minute 5k time of 17:20.  A time recorded just before restrictions came into place.  I have said many times that we are a club with abilities stretching right across the spectrum.  We acknowledge that running is definitely not all about time and I celebrate a wide that regularly through the accolades.  Sometimes performance improvements are the thing that catches the eye and this month there was no escaping such a phenomenal improvement.  With a passion for getting quicker I have no doubt there is more to come.  I am delighted to award my Chairman’s Runner of the Month for March to Nicky Bennett.  Well done Nicky, keep it up.  Looking forward to seeing where this goes in the future.