Suppose I should have started the blog with this post, but better late than never. Cwm Ogwr Running club recently passed it's 2 year anniversary so I thought I'd write about how it all started and how we've got to where we are today.
It all started on Facebook back in August 2012. Kelly Owen and Councillor David Owen had noticed a few runners around the valley and started asking around on Facebook to see if there was enough interest to get a group training regularly together. The first post I can find is from Kelly on 07/08/12 which simply said "New running club for Nantymoel. Anyone who can run 1k or would like to be able to run 1k is welcome to join". A few posts later and a meeting was set up at the Berwyn Centre, Nantymoel on August 20th. I can't recall all the attendees but off the top of my head there was Kelly, David, Aled, myself, Lee Owen, Ross Jones, Michael Williams, Liz Walker and Anthony Williams (apologies to those I've missed as there were more). It was decided that we would train on Tuesdays and Thursdays meeting at the Planka playing fields in Nantymoel. We also agreed on the name Cwm Ogwr Running Club. We decided it was the valleys running club rather than being associated with just Ogmore Vale or Nantymoel and went for blue as our main colour as we didn't want to match either of the rugby teams colours. Kelly even had the V (for Valley) shaped logo sorted for the first meeting. Councillor David Owen became the clubs chairman with Aled Hughes as club secretary, and Elinor Marsh as club treasurer. Our first training session on the Planka involved us slowly jogging around the Planka (a 0.53 mile loop) with 5 laps (2.65 miles) being the furthest anyone did. On our second training session, Ross borrowed cones off Ogmore Rugby Club and we did what was actually quite an advanced interval session. This continued for a couple of weeks before we ventured off the Planka with runs up to the top of Nantymoel and eventually down to the crossing in Ogmore.
Only three weeks after starting the club, 11 of us (most of which had starting running before the club began) were running the Cardiff 10K and a couple of weeks later 6 entered the Swansea 10K. A few of us also started meeting on a Sunday morning to do longer runs with many of us already signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon. It became clear at this point who our fastest runners were with Matthew Jones and John Burridge who literally finished a mile ahead of the rest of us. Soon after the half marathon we switched to using Ogmore Life Centre as our starting base and with the nights drawing in, we decided to try out some indoor training on a Thursday night which included lots of core strength exercises and for many of us, our first bleep test since school. This lasted a few weeks, but in the end, we decided there was no substitute for getting out and doing the mileage outside on the cold winter evenings.
Other races in 2012, included the Drovers Run which was the clubs first official trail (fell?) race way before we really got into mountain and off road running. One of our runners was sick and whilst that wasn't me, I learnt a valuable lesson not to run hungover as we still talk about the time Kelly passed me, lost her shoe in the mud and still managed to overtake me again. Helen Davies also became the first Cwm Ogwr prize winner at the event for her age category. A few of us also entered the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run, a race that I was aware of but would never have considered entering before joining the club. I think all of our 8 runners were running it for the first time and it was quite an experience with the 'big dipper' sand dune to start, muddy fields, golf club hill, uneven terrain and a run through a couple of rivers that were a bit higher than usual due to a lot of rain that week. Kelly also ran the Porthcawl Boxing Day run and was our most frequent racer in the early months of the club. As a result of her running experience and leadership in training sessions, it was decided early on in the clubs existence that Kelly would be our club captain.
2013 - Affiliation, the start of parkrun and the 5 week challenge
Early 2013 seen the club become officially affiliated with Welsh Athletics. There were no races entered in January with the first races being the Llanelli 10 miler in mid-Feb and then Llanelli Half Marathon in early March with an impressive 13 runners entering. John Burridge smashed the club record with 1:34 and there were numerous PB's elsewhere on a very cold morning with Aled, Anthony and Helen Griffiths running their first half marathons. On the same day we also had 4 runners at the Cardiff St Davids 10K, and soon-to-be-club-member Nick Harris ran the Bath HM. Later that month a few of us ran the Atlantic College 10K with Aled taking the club record on a hilly course.
March 2013 also saw the introduction of the Porthcawl parkrun with the club being included as one of six from the local area to help run the event. Kelly, Aled, Helen Davies and I went to a meeting in the Waterfront, Porthcawl where the parkrun concept was explained and a trial parkrun was set up which would be a one off race between the six clubs. Despite there being a free weekly parkrun in Cardiff for a couple of years, only Ross had ever ran there to this point so me, Elinor and Matthew joined him to see how it all worked and what to expect. A couple of weeks later, seven of us turned up for the trial parkrun with ten turning up for the first official Porthcawl Parkrun a week later. A presentation took place afterwards where we were asked to have a photo with Olympians Steve Brace, Helen Jenkins and Mark Jenkins which nicely fitted the parkrun tagline "from beginners to Olympians". We've never seen the photo so if anyone reading this knows who might have took it then please let us know as we'd love to have a copy. As we've been at most of the 77 Porthcawl parkruns to date, I've included a separate section about Cwm Ogwr at parkrun.
April 2013 seen John Burridge smash the club half marathon record at the Great Welsh Half Marathon just missing out on sub 1:30 by 35 seconds on a day were I also set a PB running sub 1:40 for the first time, and Heather Thomas and Emma Turner ran their first half marathons. Chris Mogg who would later train with the club ran the London Marathon with an impressive 3:59 clocking.and followed this up a few weeks later with the Man vs Horse race which is a 20+ miler over tough terrain with several river crossings.
May 2013 seen the comeback of the Cwm Ogwr 5 miler. Recreating much of the same route used for a annual 5 miler back in the 1980's, Kelly and David set about organising the event. With just a couple of weeks to go, there were just two entrants from the online entry system - me and my wife, Amanda Jenkins! Thankfully, with a lot of social media advertising of the event, and a lot deciding they were going to sign up on the day, we had an impressive 90 odd entrants with many more for the 2 mile family walk. Family and friends helped marshal the course and a few runners gave up their chance to run in order to help time the event and sort out everything before, during and afterwards. Initially, we expected one of our own runners to win the race but it became clear on the morning this wouldn't be the case when I spoke to two Swansea Harriers, Eamonn Kirk and Raul Reismann, who had recently completed the London Marathon in 2:55 and 2:48 respectively. It was Eamonn who came out on top with Raul in 3rd and Porthcawl Runner Geriant Lewis in between in 2nd - all finishing in sub 30 minutes on our hilly course. Cwm Ogwr had several runners completing their first 5 mile race and the day was a huge success.
In July 2013, the club ventured a bit further afield with myself, Kelly, Ross and Jonathan travelling to London for the National Lottery Anniversary Run - a 5 miler around the Olympic Park and finishing with a lap of the Olympic Stadium track. I think that final 300 meters will be an experience we'll never forget and it was an extra special day for me as I met and had my photo taken with one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe. August seen possibly the wettest race so far in Cwm Ogwr's history when me, Phil Lewis and Chris Mogg did the inaugural Heol y Cyw 14K which was over mountain terrian and very slippery due to the conditions. It was around this time Chris Mogg introduced us to a regular mountain route we have nicknamed 'the Beast' due to a mile long hill section that has defeated almost all of our runners. To date, there's still only 5 or 6 of our runners that have managed it without walking. Back to 2013 and a few of us went over to the Hilly 4 race in late August and enjoyed the free drink and chips afterwards. Then the serious business began....
September and early October sees a lot of big races so me, Ross, Nick and Kelly decided to do them all and called it the Five Week Challenge. This meant Cardiff 10K, Bristol HM, Swansea 10K, Cardiff Survival of the Fittest and Cardiff HM on consecutive Sundays! Unfortunately Kelly missed the Swansea 10K due to illness but me, Ross and Nick completed all five events with Ross unbelievably achieving PB's in all events! Cwm Ogwr were well attended in all five events with literally dozens of PB's. I would take another blog post just to cover those 5 events. The remainder of the year was pretty quiet apart from the usual parkruns and a second year at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run.
After the Pudding Run the club had it's first presentation evening (afternoon really). A few runners had got together at the end of the previous Thursdays training session and come up with a list of awards (many of them tongue in cheek) and everyone was presented with a certificate. Categories included everything from 'Most Annoying' and 'Most Bossy', to 'Best supporter', and controversially 'Summer Runners'. As for the more sensible categories, I was a little embarrassed but also proud to be awarded with the certificates for 'most events', 'most parkruns' and the main prize of 'Runners Runner of the Year' which was voted for on the day by the members in attendance. The prize being a foot tall statue of a middle-aged runner sweating and struggling along on his run. I haven't really done it justice in my description, but it's an amazing alternative trophy and I was over the moon to be the clubs first ever recipient. In fact, I need to add that to the clubs records!
2014 - the year of Nick and the year of the newbies
The year began with myself, Elinor, Lee and Ross back up the Planka starting a new Couch to 5K club with the intention of getting the valley active and maybe ultimately getting new members for the club. Just 6 turned up to the first session and with terrible weather over the 10 week program and lots of Six Nation weekend hangovers, the attendance grew and fell again, but a hardcore group remained and completed the course. As a result, Erin, Lucy, Sheryl, Lisa, Rachel, Hannah and Denise ended up joining the club, dragging along their friend and former Bridgend Athletics runner Tara. Meanwhile, the club was also enjoying an influx of new members, much of which from word of mouth. David Kembery and Steven Clatworthy joined us late in 2013, Ironman and multi-distance triathlete Dai Cappell joined us after coming up for a Christmas run up the Bwlch, and around March time, Lorna Domachowski joined us after being told about the club at parkrun. Kevin Mulcock, Kevin Raymond, Fiona Evans and more recently Frances Samuel have all also joined whilst Richard Lowcock James transferred from Liswerry Running Club after moving to the area.
This year also seen some changes in the clubs committee with David Owen swapping his chairman role to become the clubs treasurer and I became the club chairman.
As with 2013, the first couple of months of the year were pretty quiet race-wise, although with me being allocated the clubs London Marathon place, we saw the introduction of the 'run to porthcawl parkrun'. Aled kindly offered to run the 19 miles with me on a dark January morning, and over the next couple of months several more Cwm Ogwr runners joined in at various starting points with Helen Davies, Aled, Nick, Kelly Owen and David Cappell running it on more than one occasion. March saw the clubs first 20 mile race with Dai Cappell, Nick, Helen Davies, Chris Mogg and myself all running a strange out and back course in Llanelli that was pretty much uphill for the first half but despite turning around still seemed uphill until the final 6 miles or so! Me, Chris, Anthony and soon-to-be-member Fiona all ran the London Marathon in April whilst Nick ran the Great Welsh Marathon in Llanelli on the same day with all of us finishing between 4 and 4 and half hours. That more or less brings us to where I started the detailed monthly summaries so please feel free to read those if you want to know more about the last few months.
Cwm Ogwr at Parkrun
As mentioned above. Porthcawl Parkrun started in April 2013 after a trial run at the end of March and Cwm Ogwr have been well represented ever since. In fact, out of 77 events (to Sept 20th 2014), we've had at least one runner at 73 of them with the last one missed being way back in October 2013. In terms of parkruns entered, myself and Nick have reached the 50 club with all parkruns being with Cwm Ogwr, whilst Dai Cappell has also done over 50 having done a few before joining CORC. However, king of the parkruns is Richard Lowcock James with an impressive 128 parkruns having regularly ran at Newport Parkrun with Liswerry before making Porthcawl parkrun his new home venue once moving to us. It's been well documented in my other posts about Nick's incredible consecutive parkrun streak of 41 in a row, and I'm on somewhat of a run myself having run 22 out of the last 23 weeks. David Kembery is also racking up the parkruns with 22 having only started at the beginning of this year and it's probably between him and Kelly (currently on 29) to become the next 50 club members. I lead the way in terms of parkrun tourism having run 14 different parkrun events, with Richard not far behind on 11 whilst most of the others have stuck to just Porthcawl and maybe one or two others.
In terms of times achieved. Helen Davies ran 23:16 in the first official parkrun and held the age category record for several weeks. In May, John Burridge became the clubs first sub 20 runner clocking 19:59. Steven Clatworthy joined this elite club after having a go at the flatter Pontypridd parkrun whilst Dai Cappell, Aled Hughes and most recently Nick Harris have all gone sub 20 at Porthcawl with Nick holding the clubs parkrun record of 19:38. John Burridge does have the overall 5K record time of 19:28 but this was set at the Merthyr Mawr 5K rather than parkrun. Fastest debut parkrun goes to Kevin who ran 20:17.
But it's not all about the fast ones. Lisa, Lucy, Hannah, Erin and Rachel braved bad conditions to run their first parkrun having only started the couch to 5K program 3 weeks earlier. Denise Bradley got PB's in each of her first 5 parkruns knocking 2 minutes 24 seconds off her time. Cwm Ogwr runners have often paced for each other as well with Kelly and Lorna achieving PB's whilst paced by me. Kelly has also paced several times for others including Cerys, Jonathan, Amanda and Frances. The out and back course means we can always give a quick nod / wave / thumbs up / shout of encouragement to fellow club members - the level of acknowledgment often reflecting the level of effort!
The future for Cwm Ogwr
With Kelly, Kevin, Aled and David Kembery now leaders in running and currently going through the extensive coaching course, things are looking up for the club. As mentioned in the other blog posts, attendance is at an all time high and sessions are more structured and focused to improving runners of all abilities. We eagerly await the results of the 2015 London Marathon ballot and there's talk of the 7 or 8 that have entered or are considering a marathon all training together in the new year and those who don't get into London doing an alternative marathon around the same time. There's plenty of others aiming to do their first half marathons in 2015, whilst there'll hopefully be more newbies starting their running journey and completing their first parkruns and 10K's. The club hopes to introduce a autumn trail race as well as the continuing the annual Cwm Ogwr 5 miler in May. Lots of our members are really keen to do the Welsh Castles Relay which is easier said than done with numbers and organisation required but hopefully we'll be there in 2015. This year has also see a lot of interest in swapping the tarmac for some non-conventional races. A few of us are looking at trying out some cross country races over the next couple of months, and record attendance is expected for our third outing at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Race. In 2015 I wouldn't be surprised to see even more fell and trail races being entered after a few of us tried them out this year. Of course, there'll still be the more conventional races and we'd love to get to over 50 members to get a second London Marathon place as I suspect we'll have even more balloting in April 2015 for the year after.
Looking forward to seeing what happens next and commitments depending, I'll hopefully be letting everyone know with continued monthly reviews.