Established 2012 - Cwm Ogwr Running & Triathlon Club
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Runners Profile #1 - from lone runner to club chairman

I want to start doing a runners profile on each on my monthly blogs so if I start asking you a lot of questions - you could be next. Until then, I'll start with the club's chairman, Gareth Jenkins (me!). It seems quite fitting seeing as I've just become the first member to run 100 parkrun / events for the club although given this fact, plus obviously having loads of information / stats about my own running, I apologise that this runners profile might be about 100 times longer than the rest! The idea is to have some quick stats to start, then some details on when and why you started running, races entered and achievements to date, and future plans.

Runners Profile #1

<Photo taken at Pudding Run 2012>

Name: Gareth Jenkins
Joined Club: August 2012
Parkrun Age Category: SM30-34
First Race: Cardiff HM 2010
Favourite Distance: Half Marathon
Career Parkruns / Races: 115
Parkruns / Races with Cwm Ogwr: 100
Breakdown of career events - with club events in brackets and PB's: 
   5K: 62 (59) --- PB: 21:21 (Porthcawl Parkrun)
   5 mile: 7 (5) --- PB: 34:52 (Weston Prom)
   10K: 13 (11) --- PB: 44:17 (Cardiff 10K)
   10 mile: 2 (2) --- PB: 1:18:29 (Reverse 10)
   Half Marathon: 17 (12) --- PB: 1:38:03 (Bristol HM)
   Marathon: 2 (1) --- PB: 4:31:54 (London Marathon)
   Other: 12 (10)

From the beginning (pre-club)

I first started running in my teens starting with a 1.2 lap around Ogmore Vale although I'd do a few runs over a couple of weeks or so and end up not running again for months. I joined the gym in 2004 and started running regularly on the treadmill getting up to 5K over the few months I went. After another break of several months, in 2005 I finally ventured back to outdoor running and within 6 weeks managed to get up to a 10 mile run. Again, I ended up stopping and only returned to running a year later again quickly getting back to a single 10 mile run before stopping again. There was a massive gap in my running (I blame meeting Amanda) and I didn't start again until late 2009 when I bought a second hand treadmill off someone in work - it was actually brand new in the box as it was an unused Christmas present and I had a bargain paying half the price for it. 

To start with the runs were still very sporadic with me sometimes running on it 3 times a week, and then only running on it 3 times in the next month. In early 2010 after talking to a work colleague who had run Bristol HM a couple of times and intended doing Cardiff later that year, I decided to enter the Cardiff HM. I've just found the e-mail and I entered on 10th March 2010. I thought it was a lot later as checking my records, I barely run from March until August! The 14th August 2010 sticks in my mind as the day I properly started running. With just 8 weeks to go until the Half Marathon and my longest run being 5 miles on the treadmill and no outdoor running over this distance in 4 years, I got out of bed early on a Saturday morning to attempt the 5 mile valley lap... I ended up walking by the time I got to the Wyndham and didn't bother going down to the crossing so ended up only doing 4 miles and returning home downbeat and thinking how the heck am I going to do 13.1 miles in 8 weeks time. If I wasn't already signed up, I'm certain I would have given up running again, but I was determined to it. 

I did 14 training runs in those 8 weeks and managed to do a 10, 11 and 12 mile run to go into my first half confident I could get round, but in no condition to get a good time. On a cold October morning, I stood by the 2:30 marker with only a few dozen people behind me and several thousand in front. I couldn't believe the crowds and also how far back I had to start - it was almost an extra half mile! Of course, I got carried away with the occasion in the first mile overtaking people left, right and centre before settling down. I completed the course without walking and actually felt pretty good up to the last mile which was an agonising out and back section down Lloyd George Avenue. My time was 2:09:37 which I was ecstatic with at the time as I'd expected 2:30 (being modest) or 2:15 at absolute best. I collected my medal but jumped the barrier to go and find Amanda and my mum and only realised later I didn't collect the goody bag!

A couple of months later I entered the Margam Park 10K Reindeer Run. It was minus 4 degrees when we got to the car park and I'm surprised the race didn't put me off for life as it was a 2 lap course with a massive hill to go up twice. The water was given out in cups after the first lap and actually had bits of ice forming in them! I completed the race in a few seconds under the hour mark. The race didn't put me off though and in early 2011 my attention turned to the ultimate goal - a marathon. Like many others, I'd watched the London Marathon growing up and was determined that one day I would do it (I remember telling my parents I'd do in 2002 as that's when I would be 18 and therefore old enough to run it). A few years to late, and a different marathon, but on the 24th January 2011 I signed up for the Great Welsh Marathon in Llanelli despite having only been running regularly for 5 months and having only done 2 races! I slowly increased my long run which always started with the valley lap and then off down the cycle track which always meant an agonising steady incline on the way back. My longest run was the valley lap and then down to Bridgend's Brewery Field and back for 21 miles. The problem was, I was always dead on my feet after every long run so it didn't bode well for the marathon where I'd need to run another few miles. 

The Great Welsh Marathon day arrived and cruelly the temperature rose to 20 degrees after my warmest training run had been in about 12 degree heat. The course was mostly flat but mentally tough as it involved and out and back towards Bury Port, out and back in the opposite directorate, and do it all over again. This meant passing by the finish line at 8, 13 and 20 miles! I ran the first half way too fast for my ability at the time and I'm pretty sure it would have been a new half marathon PB but by mile 16 I was walking and really struggling. Approaching mile 20, I was seriously considering dropping out and Amanda even joined me to walk for half a mile. I couldn't run for more than 200 meters at the time and what initially looked like a possible 4:30 marathon slipped quickly away and I ended up finishing in 5:04:08. The time didn't really matter though - I'd finished a marathon with only 8 months training and achieved a lifetime ambition.

Three weeks later I ran the Cardiff Bay 5 miler and then saw there was a 5K around Bridgend town centre. I turned up and quickly realised it was the Welsh 5K Championships but was told I could enter the open race which would start with the Elite Women. I was a bit concerned I'd be the only male but luckily there were a few other runners there - unfortunately all club runners though so I felt way out my depth. I got lapped twice by the lead woman on the 4 and a half lap course but fortunately some guy decided to enter for a laugh wearing jeans and a t-shirt and I at least beat him and a couple of others. With no other races signed up for and unsure what to do next having achieved the ultimate goal of running a marathon, I ended up not running for 6 weeks from the end of May until the beginning of July 2011 which is the last time I had more than 2 weeks off and I've rarely gone more than 3 days without running since. I decided to sign up for both the Bristol and Cardiff Half Marathons which seemed bonkers at the time as they were only 5 weeks apart. Bristol was one of my worst races ever and although I beat my half marathon PB, it was by 2 seconds with 2:09:35 which suggested I'd made no progress in my first year of running. A sub 2 hour half marathon seemed an impossibility. In Cardiff Half a few weeks later I decided to run according to how I felt and although I wore a watch, I decided not to check it the entire way round. So imagine my delight as I crossed the line, stopped my watch and realised I'd knocked over 6 minutes off my PB with 2:03:08 - maybe sub 2 hours isn't impossible then given I felt really good at the end and like I could have given a bit more. The rest of 2011 seen me have another attempt at the Reindeer Run lowering my 10K time to 55:00 and the Nos Galan race on New Years Eve.

My first race of 2012 was the Great Welsh Half Marathon along the same course I'd done the marathon on the previous year. In the early part of the year I had toyed with the idea of trying the marathon there again having been unsuccessful in my first ballot attempt for London but after a couple of bad long runs I decided to stick with trying to get that elusive sub 2 hour half marathon instead. Knowledge of the course and again taking in the relaxed 'don't look at the time' approach I smashed by half marathon PB by over 9 minutes finishing in 1:53:54. I'm guilty of always thinking when I get a new PB that I'll never be able to beat it again, so when I then entered Malvern Half Marathon and finished in 1:49:48, I was lost for words. In between those halves, I ran the Sport Relief mile at Margam Park. Lining up with mostly kids and their parents, I even overheard someone say "I don't know why people take it so seriously" as I made my way towards the front - something I definitely wasn't used to. After about 200 meters I realised there was no one around me - I was in the lead! It was the first time ever I had to check with the marshals which way to go as I normally just follow the runners in front. Around half ways, a girl around the same age as me closed to around 20 seconds behind but I was first across the line for my first and probably only 'win' if you can really count it in a fun run charity event! It was a different story a few weeks later when I entered the Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K where the entrants are made up of 90% club runners (and good ones at that). I got a 5K PB of 22:49.

Joining the club

Photo below: First Thursday training session with club

First Thursday training session with Cwm Ogwr Running ClubIn August 2012, I think it was probably one of Kelly's posts that Ross shared on Facebook that caught my attention about a potential running club in the valley. I'd considered and looked at Brackla / Bridgend's websites on several occasions but never went as far as enquiring any further, so I was very excited at the prospect of a running club on my doorstep. I messaged Kelly and asked her for more details and turned at the Berwyn Centre for the first meeting. I don't think I missed a training session for the first 8 weeks and really enjoyed training with others having always run on my own. In the clubs first race after forming, I was stunned to be the first Cwm Ogwr member across the line at Cardiff 10K beating my 10K PB by over 6 minutes and going sub 50 for the first time. To be honest, I was only first over the line because our best couple of runners weren't there. Up until this point, I'd got PB's in every one of my first 16 races so I was a little disappointed when that run ended at Cardiff Half Marathon missing out by 24 seconds. 

The rest of 2012 seen the infamous Drovers Run where I stupidly got very drunk the day before and ended up feeling awful and probably shouldn't have run. The photo shows me running through the rough terrain wishing I was still in bed. I'd finished 6 minutes ahead of Kelly at the Cardiff 10K so imagine my surprise when she passed me, lost her trainer in the mud and still managed to overtake me again and finish nearly 5 minutes ahead of me - it was a very bad day! In my next race I was determined to make up for my awful run and prove I could run a hilly course in a half decent time at the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run. I remember reading about the race in previous years and thought it sounded bonkers and something I'd never attempt. I was the second Cwm Ogwr runner across the line ahead of a couple of runners that were normally miles ahead in training so was very pleased to be back on form.

2013 seen the running obsession really kick in. Up until March I'd done 19 events. Over the next 18 months (to date) I've added 96 to that total averaging just over a race every week. This blog would be about 20,000 words if I went through every one of them and there's literally hundreds of photo's from them, so I'll try and just pick out the highlights. It all started with Llanelli Half Marathon and another PB going sub 1:45 for the first time and followed up with a 10K PB at the Atlantic College a couple of weeks later (I was the Nick Harris of 2013 with all my races and PB's or is Nick the Gareth Jenkins of 2014)? Parkrun began in Porthcawl in April 2013 and I was hooked from day one. After the first Porthcawl Parkrun I was 'like a starstruck school kid' as Aled put it when we had our photo taken with Helen Jenkins (see photo - Helen's the one with the red shoes). It wasn't long before I started visiting other parkruns and to date my list is...

1. Cardiff - March 13
2. Porthcawl - April 13 (Inaugural parkrun)
3. Worcester - July 13
4. Valentines Park (Ilford) - July 13
5. Little Stoke (near Bristol) - Aug 13
6. Woodley (near Reading) - Aug 13
7. Pontypridd - Oct 13 (Inaugural parkrun)
8. Arrow Valley (Redditch) - Oct 13
9. Pontypool - Nov 13 (Inaugural parkrun)
10. Newport - Dec 13
11. Cheltenham - Jan 14
12. Forest of Dean - Feb 14
13. Pomphrey Hill - Mar 14
14. Llyn Lech Owain - Jun 14

In July 2013 I ran a 5 miler around the Olympic Park finishing with a lap of the track inside the stadium and had a photo with my running hero, Paula Radcliffe beforehand. 

Then in September, I did the 5 week challenge which to date is probably the best month or so of running I've ever had. This involved running the Cardiff 10K, Bristol HM, Swansea 10K, Cardiff Survival of the Fittest and Cardiff HM (team photos in that order). I set my current 10K PB at Cardiff, my current HM best at Bristol a week later, my 5 mile PB at Weston, a new PB at parkrun, plus enjoyed something a bit different with Cardiff Survival of the Fittest, and ended it with a 1:40 clocking at Cardiff HM after all that had gone before.

A third unsuccessful attempt at the London Marathon ballot meant I was very keen to ensure the club claimed their place which after much discussion I was eventually awarded thanks mostly to everyone else dropping out or going down other routes to try and get in. Before the proper training began, the year ended with a second attempt at the Pudding Run and then the first ever Festive Four competition. This involved running two parkruns, the Porthcawl Boxing day 5 miler and the Kenfig 4.1 miler within a couple of weeks around the Christmas period. It's fair to say I didn't miss out on any of the usual Christmas buffets and drinking sessions so therefore didn't really do that well and not sure I would enter it again.

Early 2014 seen attentions turned to the London Marathon. Aled joined me for a 19 mile run that realistically was way too far far in advance of the marathon for a run to Porthcawl and then doing the parkrun to finish. I ended up running to Porthcawl and doing the parkrun five times during my training with distances ranging from 15-21 miles depending on starting point. In March I did the Llanelli 20 miler and although I had to sit, legs stretched out for several minutes afterwards as they were in agony, I felt confident that maybe a low 4 hour (dream finish of 3:59) might be possible. What actually happened was a very different story. As with my first marathon, when the day came it was several degrees warmer than it had been for most of the training runs and was gutted to discover I'd been placed in the last of the 9 starting pens meaning I started behind the 5 hour pacer. This ruined my chances of sub 4 before I'd even started as I had literally thousands of slower runners to pass which is easier said than done. I decided that having wanted to run London for so many years, I should just enjoy it and see what happens. I had absolutely no nerves which was really bizarre but reflects how excited I was to finally be there and the pressure was off with the sub 4 hour almost impossible to achieve. 

Despite being told by several people not to weave around people, I couldn't resist in the early miles although tried my best to stick to the racing line - a lot of people don't realise (well I didn't beforehand) that there's a 26.2 mile blue line painted on the course which is the measured racing line. Anyway - the first half was incredible. I'd done a 4 hour playlist but barely heard one song in the first half such was the noise from the crowds, pubs blasting out music, charity supporters and bands playing. Not long after Tower Bridge and only around half way round I started feeling a bit tired and was already behind 4 hour pace so any thoughts of sub 4 were definitely gone. I managed to keep going all the way to mile 20 where a combination of negative thoughts taking over and tired body finally made me walk. I knew from my first marathon experience though that this meant game over in terms of getting going again and the final 6 miles were agonising watching the time slip away and not being able to run more than a minute or so at a time. The finish was a mixture of ecstasy, a hint of disappointment at the 4:31 time and a massive relief I'd done it!

Having not done many races in the early part of 2014 due to marathon training, I went a bit overboard and ended up doing 11 events in 5 weeks. This included my first official fell race at the Pentyrch Hill Run, a multi terrian 5 miler down the Gower and my first Trail Half Marathon in Stroud (as per team photo). I clearly overdid though and by the final couple of events my times were way off what I'd normally be capable of. The summer months seen the half marathon numbers boosted with Swansea, Afan Argoed and the Severn Bridge Half Marathons. Plus I've only missed 1 parkrun since the London Marathon (the day my twin boys were born!). During this run, me and Nick ran our 50th parkruns on the same day. Photo of me getting my t-shirt below.

Future plans and goals

In terms of times, I would obviously love to beat my personal bests at every distance. I'm actually quite satisfied with a sub 45 time for 10K and sub 1:40 time for Half Marathon, but feel like there's definitely more to come at 5K where sub 21 has to be the initial target and see where I can get to from there. Despite the inevitable 'never again' comments after London Marathon this year, I really don't feel I'm done with the marathon distance. If I never get sub 4 hours, that's fine, but I feel like I'm capable of a lot better than 4:31.

In terms of races - I really fancy trying one or two cross country events this winter. I definitely intend doing more trail races in 2015 and maybe another couple of fell races. The majority of races will probably still be on tarmac though but want to enter different races rather than doing the same ones every year. Saying this, there's still a few I'm likely to every year due to PB potential or because they are events lots of our members do such as Cardiff 10K, Cardiff HM, Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K, Pudding Run and of course the Cwm Ogwr 5 miler. I'll hopefully make the 100 parkrun club towards the end of 2015, and sadly I want to add my name to the 'most events' page on the parkrun website which involves either attending 20 different parkruns or 5 inaugural parkruns although it does warn they may change the amounts so no doubt they will once I'm on 19 different events.

Long term - well I clearly get a buzz out of racking up the number of events I do so naturally there's pretty big numbers involved if I'm lucky enough to run for a few years to come. One target is 100 Half Marathons. Whilst not half as impressive as the 100 marathon club (see what I did there), I still feel it would be a huge achievement and require significant effort and commitment. The parkruns will continue to rack up over the years so who knows where that could end up 200, 300, 500!? Who knows, in 20 years time I could be posting again about getting to my 1000th parkrun plus races with Cwm Ogwr Running Club.

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