November 2015 review

November has been a month of parkruns, cross country and multi-terrain. The big November news is that Cwm Ogwr is now an award-winning club with an award-winning coach. Kelly, Chris Pratt and I attended the BAVO (Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations) on November 6 in the Heronston Hotel. We were presented with a ‘Highly Commended’ Volunteer award for the time and effort our coaches put in every week. Afternoon tea followed and it seems most runners are partial to the odd cake (carb loading obviously) so ours went down a treat.


The next day was the Welsh Athletics awards with Kevin, Aled, Dai and myself in attendance. Kevin won the award for ‘Endurance Participation coach of year’. Absolutely thrilled for Kevin and a massive boost for our club to able to state we have a Welsh Athletics award winning coach. The evening consisted of champagne on arrival and a three course dinner – although we were all very disappointed to discover the third course was a coffee and a small mint chocolate – where’s the dessert! It was a really good evening and we met and had photos with multiple major championship medallist Christian Malcolm, Welsh athlete of the year Seren Bundy Davies and double Paralympic Gold Medallist Aled Davies to name a few.


November 7 – parkruns


An amazing turnout with 27 Cwm Ogwr runners across 6 different parkruns. Starting at Porthcawl there were 17 in attendance with Niki Puleio leading the way with a sub 20 clocking despite windy conditions. I decided to pace sub 25 but realistically didn’t expect anyone to come with me given conditions. However, Shelley appeared on the start line and turns out a sub 25 pacer was perfect for her and she beat her PB by over a minute with a 24:45. Really pleased for her and I’m also pleased my last two pacing attempts have resulted in someone coming up to me afterwards and saying I’d helped them achieve a PB.


Over in Newport Richard Lowcock James had arranged for Cwm Ogwr to help with the pacing there. Kevin, Liz, Chris R, Dai Power and Sian T all went along to help pace times from 22 minutes through to 36 minutes. Great effort by all considering muddy conditions and a first time on the course for a couple of them as well.


Elsewhere, Fiona Drysdale was running the Krakow parkrun in Poland. Another country to add to our club parkrun list with Wales, England, Scotland and USA already on the list. Martin Beard ran the second Grangemoor parkrun. Neil J and Chris W warmed up for Sunday’s XC with speedy times at Pontypridd parkrun just either side of 20 minutes. Chris Pratt continued his mission to complete all existing parkruns as at the start of 2015 with Colby parkrun in Carmarthenshire (Pembrokeshire?). It turns out with more to do plus weekends away, he will be doing parkrun tourism for 6 weeks in a row.


November 8 – Llandaff XC


Fixture 2 of the Gwent Cross Country League. Disappointed we didn’t formally enter a team as it turns out we had enough male runners for this fixture as well. Neil Jones and Chris Williams were in attendance as well as Christie, Chris Pratt and myself who had run the first fixture in Newbridge Fields.


The weather in the week leading up to the race hadn’t been great so there was plenty of mud to contend with, particularly as the men’s race is the final event after several junior events and the senior women’s race. Close to 500 for this race and such is the quality of the field, we started about 90% of the way down at the start. A four lap course covering 6 miles in total. I have to admit, it felt more like 10 miles. Still enjoyed it though despite getting lapped only just approaching lap 3 and ending up with probably the first 30 overtaking me. Quite a rare experience to see the top club runners whizzing past as in bigger races like Cardiff 10K, you see them at the start if you’re lucky and that’s it. It did make me pick up the pace a little as well. Neil was first Cwm Ogwr runners across the line followed by Chris with a 3-4 minute gap back to me, then Chris Pratt then Christie.


November 14 – parkruns and Howling Bull 10K


Kevin had suggested in the week that a few more zero to hero members were ready for their parkrun initiation. Rhiannon, Kimberly, Kirsty and Lucy decided to give it a go and what a week they chose with wet and windy conditions at Porthcawl. Heather and Richard Garratt along with coaches Kelly and Kevin agreed to run with our new parkrunners – Heather being quick to point out she being supportive and no ducking out of ‘going for it’ herself.


At the front of the field, Nick decided to help pace his brother Saul to a PB. It was all going really well until with 50 meters to go Saul stopped to be sick but still ended up equalling his PB. Brian Cotton who is due to rejoin the club after a lengthy injury smashed his PB whilst Stephen Davies who was running his first parkrun also got a speedy sub 22 clocking. Sian Tossell ran her quickest parkrun in several months but unfortunately forgot her barcode so it wasn’t recorded. Our four newbies battled the elements and have set a marker for themselves to hopefully return and beat soon.


Elsewhere, Chris Pratt was up at 5am to leave his house at 6am in order to travel to Aberystwyth parkrun in his attempt to run all the Welsh parkruns that existed at the start of the year. Peter Harrop ran Richmond parkrun whilst Ann ran a personal course best at Colby.


Away from parkrun, Martin Beard, his wife Betty Lee and new Cwm Ogwr member Amy Jones were running the ‘Howling Bull’ race. A roughly 10K multi-terrain event with over 750 feet of elevation. A bargain at only £5 to enter. Just looking at the website and noticed this – “To make things more interesting there is a route ‘option’ at about 5 miles – you can choose the shorter and steeper ‘Suicide descent’ route (at your our risk..) or the more runnable ‘Bulls’ route… the choice is yours!”. Will have to find out which they chose.


November 15 – Mo Run 10K and Bath Skyline 10K


Orginially a couple of us intended doing Singleton Park XC but this was cancelled with only a couple of days notice. This was a bit of a blow to my mission to run 100 events but I soon discovered the Mo Run 10K was also on that day as an ideal substitute. It turned out our Porthcawl parkrun regulars Natalie, Jackie and Ceri were already signed up as was Sian Llewellyn-Goring. Even more luckily for me, there was a spare place going. Great atmosphere and a good fun race. I ran it in 42:28 which would have been a 35 second PB.. however, it turned out the course was short by around 300-400 meters- gutted. Ceri was also slightly faster than her Cardiff 10K whilst Jackie, Natalie and Sian were close to their bests. I’ve started writing my own personal blog on Fetcheveryone so there’s a more detailed account of this race at


One hilly multi-terrain 10K wasn’t enough for Martin and Betty so they did another a day later with Bath Skyline. Not quite as hilly as the Howling Bull but definitely challenging even without having done that the day before. Another couple of events to add to my ever growing list.


The parkrun effect


Now everyone knows I love parkrun and I love a stat so the parkrun weekly newsletter on 5 November was a very interesting read (article linked at the bottom of this section). From a group of 13 runners in October 2004 running a free time trial at Bushy park to now regularly over 125,000 runners across 762 worldwide events with over 10,000 volunteers every week! It shows no signs of stopping either with up to 5 new parkruns starting every single week. The parkrun barcodes are in sequential order and when I signed up in March 2013 I was given number 384475. There are now over 2,000,000 people registered to parkrun worldwide meaning over 1.6 million people have registered in the last 2 and a half years. The article suggests that by their 20 anniversary in 2024 there could be 5000 worldwide events with 1,000,000 runners every Saturday.


As for Cwm Ogwr – Richard LJ could be in the 500 club by then. Richards total of 175 parkruns at the time of writing puts him in the top 2000 or 0.1% for most parkruns. My 22 different parkruns is also something only 0.1% of parkrunners have done. At Porthcawl, Cwm Ogwr members have run the course over 2000 times and are only second to Bridgend in terms of number of runs, and  third for number of different runners (89).

The Cwm Ogwr 100 club


Lets be clear – this isn’t the 100 parkrun club but something much more important – running 100 events for Cwm Ogwr. The first inductee to the club was a certain Gareth Jenkins on the 27/09/14 having taken 109 weeks to get there. A few weeks later Nick joined the 100 club on 22/11/14 having only taken 81 weeks from his first Cwm Ogwr event. Finally, we have a third member and first female inductee with Kelly Owen running her 100th event on 07/11/15 taking 167 weeks to get there.


There’s due to be an influx to the club with Dai Cappell (97), Richard LJ (92), Chris Pratt (90) and Dai Kembrey (86) all likely to join in the next couple of months. Chris is likely to smash the record for quickest to reach the target as well as he’s likely to achieve it just 60 weeks after his first event with us.


The challenges update


Firstly, I’m up to 89 on my mission to run 100 events in 2015. 11 to go with just 6 weekends left.


Fair play to Chris Pratt on his quest to do all the Welsh parkruns that existed at the start of the year. With so many other challenges he got to 3 months to go with several still to do but has travelled to Colby and Aberystwyth in the last two weeks which will be his longest ‘there and back’ trips. He has just two remaining which are Penrhyn parkrun near Bangor which I’ll come onto later, and Pontypool which I’ll be joining him for on November 28 – it’s also their anniversary parkrun so we’re hoping there might be lots of cakes.


Chris’s other major challenge was 15 half marathons in 2015. Some might say controversially he is using Snowdon Marathon to count towards two of his halves, but given he never intended doing a marathon this year, then this did mean things had to be reassessed. So counting the marathon as two, his total for the year so far is 13. The remaining two have already been booked with one in the New Forest and the other in North Wales which conveniently helps with the parkrun challenge as he is doing Penrhyn whilst up that way.


Chairman’s races to enter 2015/16


5 December: Aberavon Santa Run 5K. Chip timed run along Aberavon sea front. All abilities welcome. Santa suit included in the £10 entry fee. Starts at 11am so chance to fit in a parkrun beforehand as well.


20 December: Cottrell Park Christmas Cracker 10K. An off road, multi terrain, undulating 10K not far from Culverhouse Cross. £16 entry. Chip timed. Tech t-shirt for finishers. 450 feet of incline which is similar to our valley lap.


17 January: Riverbank Rollick. A 9 mile off road event just the other side of the Severn Bridge. I guarantee it’ll be the muddiest race you’ve done but great fun. Mostly flat with a couple of hills thrown in for good measure. Just £8 to enter with lots and lots of cakes to choose from at the end. A few already signed up so why not join them.


21 February: Margam Trail Half Marathon. Just £20 to enter and just 20 minutes down the road for most of us. Details still to be confirmed but expect it to at least be ‘undulating’. They have said trail shoes recommended but not vital and suggested a lot is on firm tracks so sounds like a gentle introduction to an off road half marathon.


2 April: Vale Ultra. Options of 18 miles or 32 miles. If you’ve done a half marathon, the 18 is an ideal next distance. If you’ve done a marathon, then surely Ultra is next target!? £24 to enter the 18 miler, £30 to enter the 32 miler which I think is very reasonable. It’s also on a Saturday so it’s ideal for going out for food / drinks that evening.


Next up


This weekend see’s around 25 Cwm Ogwr members at the Pembrey multi-terrain 10 miler. Four mad fools – Nick, Christie, Kevin and myself are then going to Newbridge Fields to run in a Cross Country Relay event. November finishes with another half marathon for Chris Pratt whilst I’m trying my best to convince people to join me for the Blorenge 4K Fell Race. It’s only 2 and a half miles… however, the first mile ascends 1500 feet – that’s nearly double the final hill in Snowdon in half the distance, and makes the Murder Mile look like a walk in the park! Onwards and most certainly upwards.


The second half of November seen a bumper turn out at the Pembrey 10 miler,  XC relays, more parkruns and a couple of half marathons.


Cross Country call up


Firstly some exciting news with Kelly being called up to represent South Wales in the Welsh XC Championships! The race is in Buith Wells on December 12th where she will line up with a dozen others for South Wales and race against other regions.

November 21 – parkruns

Not great conditions for Porthcawl parkrun but 19 members braved the elements with Kelly, Jayne and Chris Roberts volunteering whilst 16 ran. Brian Cotton continued his amazing comeback with another PB whilst Dai K and Heather helped pace Rhiannon to a second PB in as many weeks.


Away from Porthcawl, Chris Pratt ran at Lanhydrock parkrun in Cornwall, apparently one of the toughest parkrun courses in the country, whilst Helen Lowcock James ran at the newly formed Gnoll parkrun.

November 22 – Pembrey MT10

An amazing turn out for this race. Last year there were just four who entered (Nick, Fiona, Lorna and I), but this year a massive 25. Really great to see so many signing up for a multi terrain race as well with Richards Sunday trail sessions introducing so many to it. I think ‘what trail shoes should I buy’ is one of the most popular questions on our Facebook page this year.

Weather conditions in the couple of weeks leading up to the race had been ‘character building’ as Richard would put it. High winds, rain and a drop in temperature after a mild autumn so far. However, on the day it was dry, cool and barely a breeze. A little disappointing in a bizarre sort of way as the race has a reputation for usually having challenging weather conditions making the multi terrain course all the more difficult. Some, including myself, even went for road shoes in the end.


This was also a club championship race with plenty at stake in the male and female categories. I went into the race with a lead having already collected points in all categories whilst Richard LJ needed to finish in the top 5 to take top spot, and effectively the title despite there being another event to go.


In the women’s championship, there were a couple of dark horses with Denise and Fiona on first glance at the table seemingly no where near, however, they hadn’t run in the 10 mile or off road category meaning they had up to 60 points still available to them which could propel them to the top. The leader prior to Pembrey was Liz who had already done a 10 miler in Brecon. Heather had collected full points at Brecon so was in a similar position to me where it was a case of seeing what everyone did. Kelly hadn’t run in the 10 mile category and could take top spot with a high finish. Unlike the men’s championship, the women’s would go down to the wire at the Pudding Run whatever the results at Pembrey but finishing positions here would have a big impact on who was favourite for the title.


As for the race itself, it starts with a 2 mile tarmac section where you’re wondering where the multi terrain is before it hits you as you disappear into the forestry and a short steep climb. A  mile or so later there’s a steep sandy incline to upset any rhythm which reduced a lot to walking, then there’s probably the longest climb of the race at mile 5. A bit more tarmac between miles 6-7 before a mile on the beach which a lot of our runners found quite warm despite being the end of November. Mile 8-9 is constant undulating sand dunes – I counted around 15, granted some of these were a case of 4-5 steps up before going back down again. The final mile is back on a harder trail but was one of the muddier sections and the only place I felt my road shoe option wasn’t ideal.


Nick was first across the line with me in a surprise second after Kevin (in third) admitted to setting off too fast and had to walk sections. We all walked 100 meters or so back up the course after finishing to meet Jayne and cheer in the remaining runners. I was expecting Dai, Antony or Richard to be next up so it was a surprise to see Christie. I really shouldn’t have been surprised though given Christies continuing improvement. He’d beaten his Brecon 10 miler time by over 3 minutes. Another couple of surprises with Kelly and Martin up next. Kelly ran a phenomenal time and was only a few seconds off the overall female record which was set on the road. Next up was Richard, Dai and Antony who at some point during the run had meet up and decided to run together. A combination of Martin and Christie being ahead of Richard plus Dai and Antony’s times coming through slightly ahead on chip time meant I kept top spot in the championship. Richard was quick to congratulate me and admitted he didn’t expect to get the position he needed as he’d been struggling since Snowdonia which was still less than a month previous.


Rob was up next knocking around 5 minutes off the time he set in Brecon was around the time he joined the club. A great run by Fiona Drysdale who was second Cwm Ogwr female. Steve Riddler and Lorna who had both run the course before came in next. Shelley and Richard Garratt were involved in a sprint finish… well, Richard sprinted, Shelley admitted she was trying to withhold the contents of her breakfast having given it her all on her first 10 miler, and first trail race! Fiona Evans beat her time from last year by 5 minutes, whilst Emma Loyns was delighted with a 1:38 finish on her first proper trail run, let alone trail race.


Heather and Denise came in together with Denise’s achilles injury reoccurring and requiring a visit to St Johns Ambulance after the finish. Great to see members helping out each other out. As it was Denise’s first 10 miler, she gets another PB next to her name. Another load of top performances and PB’s with Nicola, Natasha, Alica, Ann, Melanie and Gail finishing off the army of Cwm Ogwr runners. The race commentator was like a broken record saying ‘and another Cwm Ogwr runner, and another Cwm Ogwr runner’. A great race and one I think everyone enjoyed.


November 22 – Welsh Cross Country Relay Championships


A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Welsh XC relays were to be held on Newbridge Fields – surely too good an opportunity to turn down with it being so local. Just one small issue – it was just a couple of hours after the end of the Pembrey 10 miler. If I were to say 4 of us were up for making a team, you’d probably put me, Nick, Christie and Kevin among the nutters who would be up for doing both and that was our team.


None of us had held back in the 10 miler so this was going to be interesting. Two laps for each runner totalling just 4K. However, 4K pretty much means a 17-20 minute sprint through mud. The field was stacked with talented runners – a previous winner of Cardiff 10K, top half marathon finishers, Welsh XC championships, and regular first finishers at parkrun. Even some of the ‘B’ teams had sub 18 minute 5K runners and an absolute minimum of sub 20 runners. Nick set off first and managed to keep two other runners behind him. I was next up. I felt OK after the mornings race.. that was until I started running and instantly fell apart. It wasn’t long before the two teams Nick had finished ahead of were overtaking me. Last place. Well, this is new. I tried as best I could to keep the gap down to a minimum which was maybe about 15-20 seconds when I handed over to Kevin. Kevin ran a great leg to regain two places despite feeling the effects as much as the rest of us. Christie was on the final leg. Having lost one place, he fought well to keep one of the runners at bay but on much fresher legs, the guy who he was battling against overtook with only just over a kilometre to go.


We agreed that on fresh legs we’d have probably beaten at least two of the teams but I’m still really pleased we did it anyway. A first ever last place for all of us but who cares – we gave it a go and we’ll be back to do it again.


November 28 – parkruns


Another wet and windy parkrunday. No PB’s to be had today. Alica volunteered whilst Liz ran down to parkrun to join 12 other members running. There was more tourism with Chris Pratt and I visiting Pontypool parkrun whilst Helen returned to the Gnoll again, Fiona Drysdale at Penallta and Chris Roberts adding another new venue to the list with Hatfield Forest parkrun.


November 29 – half marathons


A rare Sunday where there’s no races within an hour or so drive – however, that doesn’t stop Cwm Ogwr members with Chris Pratt and Alica travelling to Wiltshire to do half marathons. Interestingly they’d ended up booking half marathons in the same county but not the same one with Alica choosing the Wilshire Half Marathon whilst Chris was doing the Downton Half Marathon 30 miles further down the road. They are running at the time of writing so I’ll update in the next blog.


Chairman’s runner of the month – Shelley Smithson


An excellent month for Shelley starting with the Richard Burton 10K where she only narrowly missed out on a PB and an age category club record. She made up for this a week later getting a 24:45 PB at parkrun and then a brilliant 1:35 finish in her first 10 miler. From zero to hero attendee to one of the fastest female members in the club and I think there’s a lot more to come.


Challenge updates


This mornings Half Marathon is number 14 of the 15 Chris set out to do this year. His visit to Pontypool parkrun yesterday also meant he only has one more Welsh parkrun to do to complete that challenge.


My parkrun yesterday was event number 93 in the quest to do 100. 5 weeks left to do another 7 (or more!).


A new challenge has also started with Alica confirming her intentions to do 40 races in her 40th year. She has written a bit about it here


Up next


December see’s the Aberavon Santa Run, a huge sign up for the Pudding Run, Christmas drinks, Christmas parkruns, Boxing Day running and lots more. Can’t wait.

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