Established 2012 - Cwm Ogwr Running & Triathlon Club
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Pushing the limits - 5K to Ultra Running

I don't intend making this a weekly blog but with every weekend of April having something major going on for the club and it's members it probably will continue as weekly for the rest of this month at least. A bit of a different blog post this time focussing on a number of members who have pushed themselves to run a new longest distance (hence the post title).
5K and 10K

Firstly a quick mention of this weekends parkrun. Numbers obviously less than last week but still an impressive 14 Cwm Ogwr runners (most pictured below) despite a few regulars being away including Chris Pratt who was missing his first parkrun (not volunteering or running) for 2 years! There is a benefit to him missing a week though as it now means he won't be away for his 100th parkrun. If he hadn't missed a week, he'd have been in Sunderland the weekend of his 100th but now he'll be celebrating with Cwm Ogwr members at Porthcawl week later. Chris has also uploaded an excellent Youtube video of the first 2 years of Porthcawl parkrun using the hundreds of photo's he's taken and a video of the course.

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Happy 2nd Birthday Porthcawl parkrun
Some stills and clips from the last two years of Porthcawl parkrun to celebrate the 2nd birthday!

For anyone who missed the 2nd anniversary presentation last week, here's a link to it. Porthcawl 

A strong headwind meant most were at least a minute or so off their best with exception of the remarkably consistent Chris Roberts and there was actually a PB with a rare appearance from Frances Samuel.


I attended Zero to Hero club this morning and it was great to see a few who ran their first official 5K at Porthcawl parkrun last week as well as others who are working towards that goal and will get there in the next couple of weeks. For those that have already reached the 5K mark, there's no stopping there and coach Kevin has named their group the "5 to 10k masters". Many of them are already joining Tuesday and Thursday sessions with the club meaning they are now regularly running 3 times a week.
Half Marathon
As detailed in a previous blog, Alica has already built back up from 5K to Half Marathon distance over the past few months and completed the Llanelli Half Marathon ahead of her target time and has already signed up for another HM in Swansea. Meanwhile, a few of last years Couch to 5K graduates, Rachel, Erin and Tara (sometimes with others) have regularly been running 9-10 milers to train for their first half marathon in Swansea.
A massive group of runners in this category with Lorna, David K, Helen D, Aled, Kevin, Kelly and John all due to run their first marathons in the next 2 weekends. Prior to this year, all bar Helen had Half Marathon as their longest distance whilst Helen did the Llanelli 20 miler last year. Steadily building up since the next year all have now completed at least one 20 miler in training with most having done a couple around that mark.
The Vale Coastal Ultra Marathon - 11th April 2015
Yesterday seen the inaugural Vale Coastal Ultra. A 30 mile event with a shorter 18.5 mile distance available. Richard LJ chose he 18.5 mile whilst Dai Cappell went for the full 30. Richard LJ's longest race distance was Half Marathon so this was a significant challenge and again, he steadily built up the off road miles and entered a few off road races which was excellent preparation. Added to the fact Richard was running significantly further than he had in any previous event, he had up to 20 mph head winds to contend with throughout on an undulating multi-terrain course with what sounded like dozens of high stiles. Dai Cappell's preparation wasn't so good. After signing up for a first attempt at going beyond the marathon distance, Dai had a few injury problems and some weeks only managed a parkrun as he total weekly mileage. I don't think there were any significant long runs and just a handful of training runs in the few weeks leading up to the event. However, anyone who knows Dai knows that he's certainly not a quitter. Anyone who has completed an Ironman (something I'll come onto later) has got a steely determination and mind set to achieve their target no matter how long it takes. So along with fellow triathlete and regular parkrunner, Dave Evans, he turned up at the start line, underprepared but determined to do it.  

Photo of the start at Penarth Pier - bit wet after overnight rain but brightened up by the start.


Me and Kelly went down to support and run the final 3 miles in reverse before heading back and ended up helping navigate an extremely tired 4th placed Ultra runner to the finish from Southerndown. I can confirm that those last 3 miles certainly weren't easy, especially with the wind factor being added in - and I'd only ran 6 miles in total. 
Unfortunately Kelly was called away but I met up with Heather and Richard Garratt who also came along to support. Watching the mix of Ultra runners (many of which it seems were first timers) and 18.5 milers who were again also made up of many runners doing their furthest ever run was inspirational. Some looked remarkably fresh... others not so much. Some silently ran the last 100 meters from where we were stood with blank expressions and maybe an element of disbelief of what they'd achieved whilst others literally shouted with joy and relief that the finish line was in sight.

The finish

I stood with the Garratts waiting for a glimpse of the Cwm Ogwr blue shirt to come into view... and after a while we spotted someone... blue shirt, shorts, red cap - it must be Dai! You don't see Dai running without his Ironman branded red cap so it had to be him. Of course as he came nearer it turned out to be an imposter! However it wasn't long before Dai was actually running past us with his daughter Molly joining him for last 100 meters or so. Dai clocked up 30.7 miles in 5 hours 44 minutes. What an amazing achievement and he officially becomes the first Cwm Ogwr member to have completed an Ultra whilst part of the club. I'll come on to why I phrased it like that later as well. After a quick drink and a couple of minutes rest, Dai wanted to find his mate Dave and run with him to the finish. I decided to tag along and fortunately it was only a couple of minutes before we seen him and left him run the final part of the course with his children. I have to admit, even though I don't even know Dave that well, it choked me up a bit to his kids join him at the end of an incredible feat of endurance and celebrate with him. The runners were coming in thick and fast...well, mostly hobbling to be honest but has to be expected, and it was only a couple more minutes before Richard ran past to complete his race. Cramp had kicked in for him at 13 miles and he said the last mile or so was agonising but he completed the course in 3 hours 28 minutes. Another fantastic achievement.

Photo's taken by Nick who went to see them around Llantwit Major

Even just going down to support was a great experience and certainly provided some inspiration ahead of my marathon next week. I'd recommend going and supporting any race as you're likely to be inspired, whether it's the Elites running at unbelievable times at the front or the last placed finisher who is running the distance for the first time or improve their PB.

Runners Profile - David Power

I hope he won't mind me writing about just a small part of his journey so far, but seeing David Power's Facebook post about completing the 18.5 event yesterday was great to see. Dai is another regular Porthcawl parkrunner who finished his first parkrun 2 years ago in 41:40 - over 5 minutes behind the previous male finisher. Over weeks and months, he got to a point where he managed to run the whole course and seven months later he got his time down by almost 10 minutes to 31:51. 10K's and Half Marathons followed and then he signed up for this! 18.5 undulating multi-terrain miles and he did it. The t-shirt may be a bit snug but he earned it along with all the others out there. Outstanding effort and we hope to convince him to become a Cwm Ogwr member soon.

Ultra Running

A lot of runners start out aiming for 5K with many going on 10K and Half Marathon. A lot few will go on to run a marathon which for many is the ultimate distance. What a lot of runners don't know though is that actually Ultra running is becoming popular.

An Ultra marathon is any distance longer than the 26.2 mile marathon distance. There are a few 27 or 28 mile Ultras but the most popular 'shortest' Ultra is 30 miles or 50K (31.1 miles). Unbelievable as it seems, there are also 50 miler, 100K and 100 mile non-stop races.

Ultra running is far from a new concept. One of the most popular ultras is the 56 mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa which started in 1921 and regularly sells all of it's 18,000 places. Most of these are not professional runners and train around full time jobs and family commitments. You can only enter if you have run a sub 5 hour marathon. Runners have 12 hours to complete the course.

However, you don't have to travel thousands of miles and meet qualifying criteria to do an Ultra. if you want something a bit closer to home, there's plenty of options! I believe yesterday's Vale Ultra was less than £30 to enter and had a generous cut off time of 10 hours allowing 20 minutes per mile. The company that organise it also do the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra - a 42 mile run on the Taff Trail plus the Gower Ultra 50 miler! There's also a 32 mile ultra in Pendine including several miles ran on the beach before a very hilly section. You don't find many flat Ultra's though but there is a 40 mile TRACK ultra in Barry - 161 laps of an athletics track.

However, these are at the lower end of Ultra running. The 10 Peaks Brecon Beacons race has an 89K option (55 miles) which includes 5000 meters of climbing! Then of course there's the multi-day events. The Dragons Back race is a 5 day event with entrants covering set distances each day of between 30-45 miles over mountains from North Wales to Brecon with total distance just under 200 miles and over 16000m of elevation (twice the ascent of Mount Everest).

Further afield and dubbed "The World's Toughest Footrace" the Badwater Ultramarathon is a non-stop race covering 135 miles in Death Valley, California. Temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees Celsius and runners often have to run on the painted white line at the side of the road to stop the soles of their shoes melting on the tarmac. Oh, and did I mention the 5,800m of ascent (similar to height of Mount Kilamanjaro). The record time is just under 23 hours.

I'm fascinated by these amazing feats of endurance and have read a few books on ultra marathon runners including Deane Karnazes and Scott Jurek who both regularly compete in one-day 100 mile races as well both being previous winners of the Badwater race.

Surely Ultra running isn't for normal people though? Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of 'normal' but as I said, the number of events and participants are increasing and as detailed above we now have a member who has run an Ultra whilst a member of our club. Now onto why I chose those words carefully because actually we already have a Ultra running member although he did them before joining the club. Lloyd Thomas (Aled's mate who we've never met or seen) ran the 78K Swiss Alpine Marathon, which I'm guessing isn't the flattest, back in 2012 and that year and the year previous he also ran what was then the 50 mile Brecon to Cardiff Ultra. Not only that, he ran what is just short of 2 marathons in 7 hours 20 minutes finishing in 6th place. Actually looking on Run Britain Rankings it does have Cwm Ogwr next to his name as though he was a member at the time which is great for us!

Finally, if you're a regular Porthcawl parkrunner you may have met our best volunteer member, Maria Lalic. Maria is currently adopting a walk / run training strategy in training for the Race to the Stones which is a 100K race over 2 days.

So... who fancies doing an ultra?

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