2014 has been an amazing year for Cwm Ogwr. Substantial increases in membership and attendance at training sessions. We’ve had members at 122 events amounting to well over 500 entries this year. This includes at least one Cwm Ogwr runner at every single Porthcawl parkrun in 2014. The quality of our training sessions has improved dramatically since four of our members started their coaching courses which has seen members setting new PB’s at various distances. We’ve had members who’ve gone from ‘couch to 5K’ to 5 miles to 10K in a matter of months, with others completing their first half marathon or marathon.
The start of the year began with training at opposite ends of the scale. Whilst me, Nick, Dai C, Anthony and soon-to-be-member Fiona were starting to up the mileage in preparation for spring marathons, there were a few determined individuals starting their running journey with the newly formed Couch to 5K club. The first race of the year was on New Years Day with the Prince of Wales Kenfig 4 miler. It was a sign of things to come that the three members who would clock up the most events in 2014 were the ones who entered – me, Nick and Dai C who had recently joined the club after joining us for our Christmas Bwlch Run.
Despite only being 3 weeks into the Couch to 5K program, a few were up for the first Parkrun Walk on the first Saturday of the month. Conditions were awful and it was one of the few times the alternative parkrun course had to be used which cruelly for the new runners is harder than the usual course. Despite that, Lisa, Lucy, Hannah, Erin and Rachel all turned up and completed their first 5K and continued with the Couch to 5K program despite awful weather most weeks. At the other end of the training spectrum, I was running from Ogmore to Porthcawl and then completing the parkrun every other week with Aled, Helen, Kelly and others accompanying me. We had to leave so early that head torches were needed for the cycle track section between Blackmill and Pandy Park but it was amazing to run as the sun rose and get the long run done by 9.30am. Amazingly given the amount of races that would be entered in 2014, there were only parkruns and one alternative type of race ran in February. The alternative race involved club captain Kelly Owen running the steps of the Empire State Building - 86 floors with a total of 1,576 steps in an amazing time of 18:52.
This month seen the end of the first Couch to 5K program with Lisa, Lucy, Erin, Rachel, Sheryl, Denise and Hannah not only completing the program but quickly working their way up to 10K and further. All of which officially joined the running club bringing along former Bridgend Athletics Junior runner Tara along with them. Denise became After a bit of a mix up resulting in him getting to the start very late, Dai C ran the Ras Dewi Sant Marathon – one of the toughest in the UK in a very respectable time of 4:40. March also seen club members run Half Marathons in Llanelli, Bath and Stratford which were mostly as part of marathon training. The exception of course was Nick who after a quiet couple of months started getting personal bests on an almost weekly basis. I’ll include the stats at the end of the review which are pretty phenomenal. Other races included the Atlantic College 10K where Dai C was just one second off my club record time for that distance, and the Llanelli 20 miler which me, Dai C, Nick and Helen ran as part of marathon training with superb times all round.
Despite it being just a week before his Llanelli Marathon, Nick ran the Blackpool Half Marathon on the first weekend of the month. The second weekend of the month seen me, Fiona, Anthony and former member Chris run the London Marathon. Chris had run it before whilst it was the first time for the rest of us, but whilst me and Fiona had previous marathon experience elsewhere it was the first attempt at 26.2 miles for Anthony. On the same day Nick ran the Llanelli Marathon whilst Dai C ran Offa’s Orror – a roughly half marathon distance mostly off road and over mountains. All the excitement of the marathon meant that Kelly's club PB and female club record 5K was slightly overshadowed however, there was more to come later in the year. Just over 2 weeks after our marathon efforts myself and Nick entered the midweek Pentyrch Hill Race which I think was the first official fell classified race entered by club members. We knew it would be tough and the second hill was brutal. The race actually had record entries going to show that more and more runners are looking for something a bit different to the flat road race.
Early May seen the second Cwm Ogwr 5 miler with all of the Couch to 5K graduates and now fully fledged members completing the course. The Cardiff Bay 5 miler was a day later which made it 3 days in a row for me with parkrun the day before the club race as well. A week later saw me, Kelly, Dai C and Lorna travel over the bridge to the inaugural Stroud Trial Half Marathon which apart from Dai, it was a first taste of a longer distance trail race for the rest of us. Nick ran the Bristol 10K on the same day getting another PB before running his first 10 miler a week later in the hilly Sirhowy Challenge. Just days later Nick was in action again along with me, Kelly, Lisa and Lucy for our first try at the Whitford Point Multi Terrain race. Fair play to Lisa and Lucy who entered this tough multi terrain race packed with club runners only a few weeks after completing a Couch to 5K program. Both were in racing action again that weekend at the Women’s Running 10K in Cardiff where both girls along with Denise completed their first 10K’s with the club. Then later in the month, Lisa, Sheryl, Erin and Rachel joined me, Nick and John for the Merthyr Mawr Lane 5K with impressive times all round and smashing PB’s achieved in parkruns to date. In the same race John smashed his own club record with a 19:28 timing. New member Richard who joined us from Liswerry at the beginning of the month ran the tough, hilly, off road Preseli Beast Bach whilst Nick and Fiona ran the long and short version respectively of Beast of Bryn. Nick, me, Dai C and Lorna also ran the Treforest 10K with Dai smashed my 10K club record with an impressive 42:19 on a course that is undulating for the first half. A week after smashing the 10K club record, Dai got a PB at Porthcawl parkrun with 19:50 for his 3rd sub 20 time and second of the month.
There were also some changes away from the training and races with David Owen stepping down as Chairman to become the clubs treasurer whilst I became the new Chairman.
After the ridiculous amount of races during May (particularly for me and Nick), June was a chance to recharge the batteries with only one big race at the Caerphilly 10K. This was the first 10K for former Couch to 5K members Erin, Rachel and Hannah, whilst it was a return to 10K for the first time since her teenage years for Tara. It was also Richards first 10K for the club and he was one of our only runners to have run the course before. He helped pace Lorna to a PB and the first timers ran excellent times. For the regular 10K-ers it wasn't a day for PB's as a bottleneck just after the start lost everyone a good minute or two plus it was one of the hottest days of the year. Back in Porthcawl, Kelly became the first Cwm Ogwr female to run under 23 minutes with a female club record time of 22:47. Kevin made his debut for Cwm Ogwr setting a impressive 20:17. Parkrun also produce age-grade performance percentages which take the world record time for your age and apply a percentage based on your time. Kevin's percentage was a massive 74.53% which is the highest by any Cwm Ogwr runner. To put this achievement in perspective, a 25-29 year old male runner would need to run 17:25 to equal that performance.
After a reasonably quite June, there were quite a few events this month with Nick entering most of them. First up was the Scenic 7 midweek race, followed by the Llanelli 10K whilst on the same day John ran the Rhondda 10 miler lowering the club record he already held to 1:10. A week later Nick ran the Wales Marathon in Tenby setting a new club record in the process. The inaugural Swansea Half Marathon seen more hot conditions and 1:35 PB times from Kevin and Nick whilst John could 'only' manage 1:31 which he was disappointed with as he was aiming for sub 1:30. Me and Richard were way off personal best times whilst Kelly got a PB and was agonisingly close to the women's club record finishing just 4 seconds off the time set by Helen in Llanelli last year. Kelly's time would be the fastest half marathon time by a female Cwm Ogwr member by over 3 minutes. Dai Cappell ran the low key Coytrahen Canter 3K just a couple of hours after clocking 20:03 at parkrun and finished 3rd for Cwm Ogwrs first ever podium finish in any race.
Early August seen Dai Cappell run the Heol y Cyw 14K finishing in 4th place. On the same day, Nick set another PB at the Brecon 10 miler and might have challenged the club record had a stitch not stopped him in his tracks with a couple of miles to go. A couple of weeks later Nick ran the Reverse 10 setting another PB and was just 26 seconds off John's 10 mile club record. Me, Nick and Lorna ran the Afan Argoed Half Marathon - a free event organised by Port Talbot Harriers and used as a club championship race for them and Brackla Harriers. I took it easy with the Severn Bridge Half Marathon a week later whilst Nick wasn't far off a PB whilst I think Lorna missed the fact this was supposed to be a training run and really pushed herself to get a PB. As it's a low key free event, results are taken manually at the finish line so it did make me laugh when they asked a very tired Lorna just seconds after finishing to spell Domachowski. A week later at the inaugural Severn Bridge Half Marathon, I offered to pace Lorna who was aiming to get a second half marathon PB in as many weeks. Nick, Steven Clatworthy and Dai K made up the other Cwm Ogwr entrants and think all of us were surprised by the amount of inclines in the course and very steep hill in the middle. I've started to realise that if you ever read a course is 'undulating' or 'has a few bumps' then assume it will be hilly. Despite this, Steven smashed his PB from Llanelli earlier in the year with a 1:35 timing with Nick a minute behind and Dai further back in 1:44 which was another PB. After slipping a bit behind schedule due to the hills, Lorna did amazingly well to stick with me and run her fastest miles from mile 10 onwards. The big new of the month was back at Porthcawl. A day before the Afan Argoed HM, Nick and myself ran our 50th parkruns. I almost missed it with Bridgend Athletics Clare Hughes having to ask them to hold the start as I was running late (excuse the pun) - I clearly hadn't perfected the getting myself and 3 week old twins ready in time for the 9am start. It meant a PB attempt was out of question for me, but Nick had other ideas and annihilated his previous best going sub 20 in some style with a 19:45 only to do it again a week later with a 19:38 personal best which was also a club record for the parkrun course. In the final week of August, Nick ended his incredible consecutive run of Porthcawl parkruns but was still there to volunteer. There was also time for Nick to do an alternative race with Richard - the Murder Mile. A one mile race entirely uphill and often included on 'hardest' or 'hilliest' UK race lists.
After a quite couple of months race-wise for our Couch to 5K graduates, they were out in force at the Cardiff 10K with almost a clean sweep of PB's for the new 2014 members. Lorna got sub 50 for the first time, Tara showed her potential coming in at 51:22, Frances Samuel who had recently started training with the club clocked an impressive 56:13 and great times elsewhere. Up front, Dai narrowly missed out on beating the club record he already held whilst I had my best 10K time since Cardiff in September 2013. Despite the huge attendance from Cwm Ogwr, there were a few missing with Kelly, Dai K, Kevin and Aled doing an all day coaching course having already completed their leadership course. Even at this early stage in their course, the quality of training sessions had dramatically improved. The Thursday before the Cardiff 10K when you'd normally expect a low turnout with everyone resting actually seen one of the highest ever training attendances with almost everyone who was due to run Sunday there for a training session with Kevin who had planned the session with the race in mind. Later in September it was another local(ish) 10K with Costa Del Swansea the venue. I say Costa Del Swansea as just like the previous year and at the half marathon there this year, it was boiling hot again! I think most of us were a little disappointed with our times and blamed the weather, however, Frances and Denise managed to set their second 10K PB's of the month having both set bests at Cardiff as well. There were also a few other different races in September with the Hilly 4 which me, Nick, Richard, Fiona, Tara and Frances ran, and Cwm Ogwr were back at the Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Obstacle Race having entered a team last year as well. Nick was away representing Cwm Ogwr in Scotland at the Aberdeen parkrun before running a muddier obstacle course race on the same day as the one in Cardiff.
Cardiff Half Marathon seen 15 Cwm Ogwr members running with mixed but mainly positive results. Up front John Burridge lowered his own club record to 1:29:05 whilst the clubs only pole vaulter moved up to second in the rankings with 1:33. There were also PB's for Nick, Dai K and Dai C whilst Fran and Denise ran their first half marathons. A week later saw the first Cwm Ogwr entries in an official cross country fixture with Newbridge Fields the venue as part of the Gwent League. Richard and myself ran with Richards cross country experience clearly showing through as he finished 15 seconds ahead of me despite me finishing 2 minutes ahead in the road 10K's and having a 3 minute gap when considering career 10K bests. The only other October race was the small matter of the Snowdon Marathon with Dai Cappell running an incredible time of 4:04. It had plenty of other members considering the challenge for next year but we'll have to see if we were just caught up in the moment or not when entries open.
At the parkrun Liz Davis made her debut for Cwm Ogwr, and Brian who started attending regularly in October lowered his PB for the third time in just over a month with a 22:39 clocking. Denise returned to parkrun for the first time in 7 months within an impressive PB putting her amongst the best in the club when age grading is taking into account. I finally got a PB at parkrun for the first time in a year (well one week short of a year to be precise). Chris Pratt also joined the club so we now regularly have someone doing a parkrun away from Porthcawl with Chris visiting South Shields, Southampton and Huddersfield in his first few weeks, whilst Richard occasionally goes back to Newport parkrun and I pop up a different parkrun now and again recently visiting Hereford parkrun.
The big race in November was the Richard Burton 10K which seen PB's for Dai K, Lorna, Chris, Denise plus a new PB with Cwm Ogwr for Richard and a first 10K for the club for new member Maria Lalic, Other races seen Helen Griffiths and Chris run the Mo 10K in Cardiff whilst me, Nick, Lorna and Fiona ran the Pembrey Multi Terrain 10 miler. Just hours later, Helen Davies was running the Las Vegas Half Marathon.
At the parkrun I became the 9th Cwm Ogwr member to run sub 21 with a second PB in 3 weeks after all that time without one. This month also included a double 5K Saturday morning with the inaugural Aberavon Santa Run which me, Nick, Dai K, Brian, Chris and Denise all ran in the Santa suits provided with various bits missing at the finish line. A massive 15 Cwm Ogwr members managed to scramble places for the Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run after it sold out in just 30 minutes or so. Steven 'I'm taking it easy today' Clatworthy smashed the club record for the course with 47:27 with Dai C a couple of minutes behind. Lorna ran despite an injury whilst Dai K and Liz ran it for the first time.
December also seen the second Cwm Ogwr presentation night with Nick taking the top prize of Runners Runner of the Year whilst I was Club Person of the Year - both voted for by the members. I won the inaugural Club Championship whilst Kelly was the female champion. Denise deservedly won most improved runner of the year. Nick also picked up certificates for most PB's, most events and most parkruns with several others handed out.
I'm a bit early with this review of the year and there's bound to be several races, PB's I've missed as it's been such a busy year. The monthly blogs will have more detail for anyone who is reading this but hasn't read them yet.
Chairman's Runner of the Year
No surprises that I agree with the majority of members that Nick Harris is the clear winner for his running achievements this year. With two events still to come at the time of writing he is likely to finish 2014 having run 80 parkruns or races in the year. This has included 21 PB's over the 'normal' official distances and several more if course PB's are included. He's moved up the rankings at every distance and has the fastest 1 mile time trial time for the club whilst also holding the club record for the marathon showing his consistency from the shortest to longest distance. Along with myself, he surpassed 100 events for the club since joining as well as collecting his 50 parkrun t-shirt which included the incredible consecutive run of 41 parkruns in a row, There's a bottle of champagne from me for any Cwm Ogwr member (apart from Nick) who manages to beat 80 events and 21 PB's in a year!
Onwards and Upwards
Well it's going to be tough to beat this year but 2015 should be another amazing year. Kelly, Aled, Kevin and Dai K will complete their coaching course / assessments to further enhance the quality of training sessions for all abilities. We have several members who have either got into London Marathon or have signed up to Manchester Marathon the week before - many of which running the distance for the first time whilst the club record could be under threat as well. There should be parkrun milestones aplenty with Dai K and Kelly very likely to hit the 50 mark whilst me, Nick, Dai C and Chris should all get the 100 shirt. We have several members who are likely to consider the half marathon distance for the first time whilst I hope we have a new batch of newbies running 5K and 10K for the first time. There's been lots of talk of more off road racing with cross country, trail, fell and multi terrain events to mix things up a bit. Plus of course the main aim is to retain members and continue to increase overall membership as well as attendance on training nights.
2014 has been an incredible year... lets make 2015 event better.