October 2020 review

Virtual parkrun

An up and down month for virtual parkrun starting with a record low of just 27 submissions – although this was the day before the virtual London Marathon. Week 2 saw 37 runners submit times for their Saturday run although this was again before a big virtual with the BaD relays the day after.

Week 3 saw the Maesteg virtual parkrun takeover. I decided to make it a club championship event as well which saw number rise to 67 which was the highest total since the OPR Lockdown 5K which was also a club championship event back in July. More on the club championship element later in the blog.

As we went into the ‘Firebreak’ at the end of October, numbers fell to 37 and 39 for the final two Saturdays of the month although again there were virtual and club championship events that may have affected the totals.

Virtual Club Championship

After a break of a couple of months, it was time to bring back the club championship. The Firebreak meant most of us didn’t have many plans so I thought it was as good a time as any to do a couple of back to back events.

The original plan for the championship was do some fun / alternative events as part of training sessions. We managed to fit in the ‘Track World Cup’ before the pandemic hit and we were just days away from my next event I had planned for the Track which went down well in the trial at the end of the session the previous week but unfortunately that was cancelled. Since then, it’s been mostly standard 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile time trials so I wanted to return to the original plan of thinking up some alternative challenges.

For the Maesteg virtual parkrun takeover, I challenged our runners to do a run with at least 4 laps and 100 feet of elevation to mimic the parkrun course. Anyone who did 4 or more laps got 20 seconds taken off their time and if 100 feet of elevation was achieved then they got another 20 seconds taken off. There was still the option to just run flat out on a flat course if you wanted but you wouldn’t get any ‘bonus’ seconds taken off. Sarah Davies came out on top with a 24:06 which was adjusted to 23:26 as she ticked off both the laps and elevation. Jayne Kembery was second with former event winner Keith Coleman in 3rd after the usually handicap scoring was applied.

Virtual London Marathon

Possibly the biggest virtual of the year. 40,000 runners signed up, official race numbers posted out, an official tracking app, the chance to secure a 40th anniversary medal and t-shirt which had already been produced for the postponed April race, and results listed on the website in the same way they would had it gone ahead properly. Anyone who was lucky enough to have a place in the proper race was offered the virtual option whilst there were additional places available mainly through charities.

30 OPR runners took on their own 26.2 mile challenge and due to local lockdown restrictions at the time, we had to stay within the county we lived in (so Bridgend for most of us). The weather was pretty atrocious – heavy rain and strong winds pretty much throughout the morning and early afternoon. The majority of our runners chose a similar route to the final ‘Sunflower Relay’ leg by starting at the Bwlch and finishing in Porthcawl which also meant they made the most of the county boundaries! Despite having a headwind for a significant amount of the route and encountering some flooding around Merthyr Mawr Lanes, they made it Porthcawl and completed their 26.2 miles with times ranging from 4:35 for Emma Loyns to 7:13 for Dai Power. Technically there was a 9: 10 for Matt Murray who ran that route but after falling in the flooded lanes, his app didn’t stop recording the run until much later in the day.

As for those who chose other routes, Jo and I ran from Bridgend to the Garw to Nantymoel and back. With it being just 3 weeks after my Dragon 50 miler, I had no intention of ‘going for a time’ and only decided the night before to change my route to do the same as Jo having originally planned to do an out and back to Kenfig sands. I felt good on the morning and decided to ‘see how it goes’ and ended up running 3:45:17 – nearly 5 minutes quicker than my Marathon PB from 4 years previous. Absolutely delighted but obviously feel like I need to do that in an official race now as well! Jo did even better with a 4:24 knocking an incredible 17 minutes off her previous best marathon time despite this being her 7th marathon. We were fortunate that for much of our route we were sheltered from the weather by the trees over the cycle tracks but I can only speak from my own experience that it really hit me when I finished and was instantly shivering and took ages to get warmed up. Some videos and photo’s shared from the Porthcawl finishers suggested the same.

Kirsty Evans ran a fantastic 4:01 for the second fastest time of the day sandwiched in between myself and Jo. Peter Walsh ran 4:26 and Anthony Kavanagh ran 4:29. Our final finishers were Brett Bonnell, Alyson Morris and Louise Morris who battled the harsh conditions for 11 hours. Several others who hadn’t signed up ran to support runners or do their own challenge including Chris Pratt, Rhiannon Whitely, Kris Denholm and Leanne Parsons, whilst Gareth Richards ended up running 32 miles with the Bwlch to Porthcawl gang notching up 6 extra miles by running back and forth between the runners to make sure everyone was OK.

More Virtual Races

After a brief glimmer of hope and a few races going ahead in August and September, it was back to virtual only in October.

There was another big virtual ‘marathon’ with the virtual Snowdonia Marathon. This one offered the chance to run the marathon distance over the course of a weekend with many of our runners choosing this option to run back to back half marathons on the Saturday and Sunday. Denise Bradley, Gregg Harris, Jayne Bissmire, Melanie Thomas, David and Bev Sheard, Sharon Pritchard and Debbie Bennion – apologies if I’m missed anyone.

The weekend of Snowdonia Marathon was a busy one for the club as it was also the P24 Twist. This was the second edition of the challenge set by Phoenix Running events for runners to run one mile, on the hour, every hour for 24 hours. The twist was that they picked the weekend the clocks went back therefore there was an additional hour. Liz Davis, Gary Piper, Leanne Parsons, Alun Wylde and Chris Roberts. Conditions weren’t great and with several more hours of night time running compared to when a few of us did it in the summer, it was a big challenge and I think all were very relieved once it was all over.

More virtual races in month included the Run4All Halloween 10K, Bournemouth Half, London 10K, Edinburgh Marathon, ‘not so hilly’, plus more from Judith Jeeves with the Day of the Dead run and ‘I love 70’s’ run.

100K challenge

The same weekend I took on my own challenge. The original idea was to run for 12 hours but I then decided to change it to attempting to run 100k which was definitely going to take more than 12 hours. Bizarrely, moving from a local lockdown to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown meant that I actually had more options for routes as the Vale of Glamorgan was no longer ‘out of bounds’. Having woken up earlier than planned, I started at 730am and it started hammering down within minutes of me leaving the door. I broke the run down by doing roughly 2x25K routes, 1 x 40K route and then 10K at the end. The first 25K loop was from Bridgend to Southerndown and Ogmore by Sea and back. A quick refuel at my very own ‘aid station’ set up at home and then back out to do another 25K up the cycle track to Ogmore Vale and back which Jo came out to join me on for the final 10K. Another quick refuel and then out on a 42K loop taking in Parc Slip, Kenfig Nature Reserve, Porthcawl, Merthyr Mawr sand dunes and back home with just 8K remaining. Jo joined me for a less expecting route to Bridgend Industrial Estate and back – at that point, I just needed something flat, quiet and easy to navigate. Almost cried when the battery on my watch died at 95K but fortunately I was also recording via my phone… unfortunately, my phone was only saying 94k so I ended up doing the additional kilometre just to make sure! 100K completed in 12 hours 48 minutes.

Over to Chris for this months runners of the month.

Chairman’s Runner’s of the Month

October was a very busy month, as it always is.  We usually see Cardiff Half start the month which is traditionally the highest club turnout of the year to a single event and then Snowdonia Marathon Eryri conclude the month with runners and supporters heading north in significant number.

In such a month of high activity it is always difficult to pick out individuals from all those worthy of accolade.  But pick I must.

Many events changed to mirror the virtual phenomena sweeping the country.  The London Marathon was no exception and, having moved it’s anticipated date for the actual event from April to October following the intial lockdown, the final concession was made that the actual event could not take place for mass participants and so, in it’s 40th year, it went virtual as well.  Many club members took on the challenge with groups of runners forming to share the miles in line with restrictions.

It was a particularly horrible day and everyone who took it on is worthy of celebration.  

One performance, and build up, had stuck in my mind.  Someone who has shown herself to be incredibly determined.  The training months had been with focus.  Help was sought from those morening experienced.  Building the distance in a prescribed manner.  Not everything goes to plan, it’s safe to say for virtually all runners, but the miles were in the bag and while all marathons are a battle, especially the first ones, such preparation makes it more enjoyable when the event comes round.  We have many stories of our Zero to Hero graduates going on to bigger things once they are bitten by the bug and this story is no exception.  A desire was there right from graduating on the seafront in Porthcawl, to complete a marathon.  While many joined forces for the attempt, one runner set off solo and headed out in the horrendous conditions to get the job done.  Time was not the factor here – completion was.  Pride was the honour and it was achieved as the goal was completed.  Just over a year to go from zero to hero to marathon, in a controlled and measured way.  I am delighted to announce my Female Chairman’s Runner of the Month to Kyleigh Lecrass.  Huge well done Kyleigh and never stop dreaming of what is possible!

As I’ve said already in previous months, we have members who have been with us for some time.  Every running career has peaks and troughs.  Some are returning to running after many years of tackling other sports in between.  Some have impressive running stats from years ago and coming back to it, have set their goals of returning to those levels.  Something the body doesn’t always allow.  We’ve seen one individual set his sights very high on several occasions and really battle to get to the finish line.  We’ve seen injury follow injury.  The desire and drive to do it has been there every time, but frustration was often the result.  This is a difficult mental battle and through recent months with isolation being the order of the day it has taken it’s toll on many.  In October my next choice set his sights on the P24.  One mile, on the hour, every hour for 24 hours.  With the added twist of the clocks going back so it’s 25.  I know how tough this is from doing it back in the Summer.  Tiredness.  Legs stiffening up.  Mind games throughout.  That was in the summer when the daylight hours are much more generous.  Several took on the challenge and all are worthy of praise, but one stuck in my mind.  His dogged determinedness driving through.  Unsure at the start whether it could be completed the team rallied together and got themselves through.  Support for the club on social media poured in to drive them through the day but the difficult hours at night it was those doing it that got each other through.  Self belief through a time when you are struggling is something that takes a lot to muster.  An absolute accolade to the spirit he has inside got him through those dark solitary hours and emotionally found himself completing the final mile victorious.  Not only a big physical achievement but a mental battle that showed him an inner strength that can be used to tackle future endeavours.  I am absolutely delighted to announce my Male Chairman’s Runner of the Month for October as Gary Piper.  You have inspired me Gary from your endeavours and inspiring others is something you should be incredibly proud of.  Thank you.