October 2023 review


The first Saturday of the month saw 65 OPR members running across 14 different parkrun venues. Angelo Doria and Nicky Bennett had a photo finish at Maesteg for first and second overall respectively and given the same time of 19:50. There was the first proper attempt at Jacob’s Aberfields record with the first place runner coming in at 16:47 at the event where we had 13 runners. Johnson’s tours headed to Pont y Bala in search of achieving the Full Ponty challenge. That included Jamie Verran who definitely takes the crown for least amount of parkruns to complete the challenge.

The second Saturday saw a huge turnout of 76 runners across 15 parkruns. Claire Dunbar-Bowen was first female overall at Llanishen parkrun. Chris Pratt ticked off a new tourist venue at Oakwell Hall whilst Liam O’Sullivan and Rhiannon Whiteley were at South Manchester parkrun. Toby Kearns was first finisher at Maesteg. After Porthcawl leading the way for OPR finishers in week 1, it was back to Aberfields on week 2 with 25 of our runners completing the course alongside mostly OPR volunteers. A medical emergency just before the start of Pontypridd parkrun resulted in a very late start for a few of our runners who headed there for their 10 year anniversary run. A huge well done to Karl Johnson and his team who dealt with the emergency and were still able to put the parkrun on.

Week 3 saw 55 runners across 12 parkruns. Jay and Abbi had a break from Aberfields as they visited Woodhouse Moor parkrun which I believe was the first parkrun set up outside of London 16 years ago. Bethan Moor ran a speedy 22:04 at Cardiff parkrun. Jamie Verran ran a parkrun PB of 18:47 at Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester. Dylan Panting was first finisher at Aberfields beating his brother Connor by 1 second and Saul Harris who was just 10 seconds further back to claim a first ever first three finishers at the event.

The final Saturday of the month saw 56 runners across 16 parkruns which is remarkable considering many regular parkruns were running Snowdonia Marathon that morning. Due to the marathon, it was the first time (since the same marathon last year) that our newly crowned most parkruns leader Nick Harris missed a parkrun. He’d actually done 55 over that period due to the extras on Christmas Day and New Years Day as well as getting in a couple of overseas parkruns on their bonus days. Our parkrun tourism events leader, Karl Johnson headed to Newtown whilst Linda Harris along with Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom ran Nant y Pandy parkrun before supporting at Snowdon. There was a surprise Phoenix gathering at the newest ‘Q’ parkrun with Jo and I bumping into Paul, Alexis and Melinda who had also decided on that venue.


There were several 10K’s in month with Satera James running the River Ness 10K which is part of the Loch Ness Marathon weekend where Ashley Howells ran a PB of 4:54. Sarah Davies ran the Red Warrior MT 10K where Jade B was first female in the 10 mile race which also included Claire and Lee Dunbar-Bowen. Jay and Abbi ran together at the Nidderdale Way 10K.

By far the biggest event of the month was the Cardiff Half Marathon where we had 82 finishers. Nicky Bennett ran an incredible 1:13:54 and Angelo Doria ran 1:16:01 for two of the fastest Half Marathon times in the clubs history. Jacob eased his way round in 1:19, not wanting to overdue it before Snowdonia Marathon later in the month. Despite an unusually humid day for an October race, there were PB’s for Aled Hughes, Chris Richards. Katie Plimmer, Dawn Wright, Tammie Baker, Ben Batchelor, Judith Jeeves, Kate Atkin, Lucy Howells, Huw Jenkins and Laura Worrall.

After also pacing at Cardiff Half, Emma Loyns went on to pace 2 hours at the Royal Parks Half where Dawn Hopkins also ran. We also had an oversea’s Half Marathon with Gareth Davies running the Palma Mallorca Half whilst Sara Davies and Ben Davies ran a shortened 10K version.

Dai James ran a speedy 3:16:33 at the Chicago Marathon. Carl Walsh notched up more marathon plus events with the Swindon Ultra Trail and the Gower Ultra Bach where our July Runner of the Month, Angharad Hinam ran the Gower 50 miler just 12 weeks after her Dragon 100 mile heroics. Sarah and Dawn ran at the Grand Canal Canter Half Marathon with Dawn bagging herself a marathon PB of 5:04.

Cross Country (XC) events

October saw the return of XC as the club set out to improve attendance in the Gwent League whilst continuing the great turnouts and performances in the West Glam league.

First up was the Gwent League at Pembrey. The ladies were up first with Katie Plimmer and Dawn Hopkins running for the club. Kudos to both of them as Katie had her first marathon just 2 weeks after this event and Dawn had run 10 miles a few hours before the XC event which started early afternoon as she prepared for her marathon event. We had a few other ladies signed up but unfortunately they were caught out by the medical emergency and late start to Pontypridd parkrun that morning which meant they couldn’t make it to Pembrey on time. Angelo Doria was next up in the Men’s Under 20 race with a really strong performance which has earned him a spot on the South Wales team for the Welsh Inter-Regionals in November. Finally it was the Men’s race with 7 members of the club taking on the 9.15K course. Jacob Tasker finished an impressive 8th against some of the best XC runners in Wales including overall winner and Welsh International Dewi Griffiths. Nicky Bennett was next up followed by Steve Holloway, Niki Puleio, Scott Gray, Wayne Hayhurst and myself. The result put the men’s team 2nd overall in Division 4 whilst the ladies are 15th in Division 3.

The first fixture of the West Glam league was also at Pembrey and just a week after the Gwent league event. Despite that, and the race selling out in record time, the Sunday morning rather than Saturday afternoon start time did draw in 18 of our members with full mens and womens teams for this fixture. With Jacob sensibly resting ahead of Snowdonia Marathon, it was Nicky Bennett who was our first runner back and 6th overall. A very strong performance by our men with newly rejoining member Kyle Blackmore, Steve Holloway, John Burridge and Jamie Verran making up our scoring place with Connor Panting and Aled Hughes just seconds behind. Sarah Davies, Fiona Drysdale, Denise Bradley and Jules Esmond made up our female scorers. Between the two events, we’ve had 26 members represent the club at XC this season which is a great start and hopefully with lots more to follow.

Snowdonia Marathon / Marathon Eryri

Whilst Cardiff Half may have been the biggest event of the month in terms of runners, the entire marathon weekend for Snowdon is hard to beat in terms of one of the best events of the year. The 29 runners only make up part of the weekend with more than a dozen supporters heading to Snowdonia on the 4-5 hour trip and many staying in the same hotel in Caernarfon. Jo Pratt and Emily Harris (with support from others) set up and manned the now famous, and staple of Marathon Eryri, Phoenix Corner from well before the race start until the final runners came in.

The race itself takes on many forms for our runners. Quite a few (slightly bonkers runners in my opinion) have run their first marathons there. The vast majority run it for ‘fun’ and it’s definitely up there as one of the most scenic and friendliest marathons. We’ve had a few attempts at quick times with a handful of sub 4 hour clocking’s over the years and some super speedy performances with a 3:15 from Niki Puleio in 2017 and a 3:02 by our then multi-club-record-holder Neil Jones in 2018 – but there was a special buzz about this race with Jacob Tasker taking on the course. We wondered if he might the make the S4C coverage if he was in amongst the top few… well, yet again, he exceeded all of our expectations and lead for pretty much the entire first half of race which meant he was very much a big part of the highlights program – even giving a cheeky smile to the camera as he seemingly floated up Pen y Pass in the early stages. Jacob went on to finish 4th overall in a club record… yes, an overall club record despite it being Marathon Eryri… in 2:35:24. That’s an average of 5:56 minutes per mile on a course with well over 2000 feet of elevation. I did a bit of research and found that his time would have won it in most previous years which is absolutely unbelievable.

There was also another significant milestone and achievement being made in the race with Carl Walsh running his 100th marathon/ultra to become the first Ogmore Phoenix member to join the 100 Marathon Club. Injury and subsequent surgery meant that the milestone was much later than Carl had originally planned, however, he was delighted to line it up so that his 100th would be at that event which he’s done more times than anyone else in the club. A monumental achievement.

Back to the race results and Gareth Richards ran 3:26 for by far our fastest over 50’s time on the course. Daniel Jenkins also ran a brilliant 3:37. We had some amazing Phoenix spirit in action with our marathon/ultra queen Emma Loyns joining first time marathoner Katie Plimmer, picking up several Phoenix along the way and finishing in 4:42/4:43 with Chris Richards, Jason Griffiths and Chris Pratt all following with a few minutes. Ceri Jones completed his first marathon alongside his regular parkrun running buddy Rob Loyns in 5:11. Despite having done multiple ultras, it was finally a first marathon for Melanie Thomas who finished in 5:51. Vickie Blake was our final runner with Phoenix Corner still standing with many of our runners staying to cheer her in as she crossed the line in 7:45. Apologies I haven’t mentioned all 29 runners – well done to all of you.

Chair’s Runner’s of the Month

Seems very apt to have chosen this pairing for celebration this month.

Both performing exceptionally well on a stage that isn’t commonplace.

A first outing at a tough distance for one and only the second for the other but both making an impact on the back of an impressive training block.

Trust the process.  That phrase that many of us live by as a mantra.  It’s the work on the build up that seals the deal.  Following good practice allows us to rely on the benefits it will bring.  It gives us the best chance on the day of reaping the rewards.  When the process has been followed we must trust in it.  Hold onto the confidence it brings and tackle it head on.

26.2 miles.  It’s a long way in anyones book and the first time you take it on there is always trepidation.  All the preparations in the world will not pave the way for the day that is to come and every time you tackle it – it will be different.   Don’t respect it and it will make you pay.  Respect it and you will be rewarded with the endorphins released as the finish line is crossed and the kudos that completion brings.

For my first accolade I celebrate a first.  The first time that 26.2 miles was completed.  Not just completed, but mastered.  The groundwork prepared for success and the process led to an admirable time on a tough course.  Marathon Eryri so often has a sting in the tale for many who take it one – but provides the ultimate honour.  Pride of conquering something tough but magnificent.  An excellent time set, a proud completion trusting in a well worked and managed process.  With the utmost respect I am delighted to announce my first runner of the month for October as Katie Plimmer.  Well done Katie – a hugely admirable performance laying the groundwork for many more exciting endeavours to come.

My second almost goes without introduction.  Did you watch the TV coverage of Marathon Eryri?  Have I given it away already?  Smiles.  Waves at the camera.  Cheeky grins to the commentators riding parallel to proceedings.  Thanks to the marshals as he passed.  Not commonplace in those who lead the charge.  To lead a race of such calibre on the second tackling of the distance is incredible.  To lead it for more than half of the race is additionally incredible.  To be within a number of minutes of first place finishing and then to finish 4th, in a time that would have won it last year, is beyond incredible.  All with incredible grace and modesty.  I don’t think you will be unaware that my second choice for October runner of the month is Jacob Tasker.  Incredible.  Simply incredible.

But what I really love about this story is that both Jacob and Katie remained after they had finished the race and waited several hours until the very last Phoenix came down the hill and rounded the bend.  Not only an admirable performance for both – but with the commitment and dedication to their fellow club members to stay and cheer every single one of them home.

Both, I salute you.