Where to start with a incredible year for Cwm Ogwr Running Club. It's hard to believe that in January we 'only' had around 50 members and realistically only around 30 of those were regularly attending training and the odd event. Now we have over 100 members with pretty much every one of them doing at least one event. We started the year with 2 training sessions per week and due to popular demand we now have 5 to choose from starting at 3 different locations.
The Coaches and Zero to Hero effect
I don't think anyone could argue the main contributor to this years success has been having coaches and the setting up of the Zero to Hero sessions. The Z2H sessions started with the intention of getting a few people from 0-5K and that would be it. However, it was decided the 5K 'graduates' would continue to attend as 'improvers' with the aim of getting to 10K as well as giving them the option of joining other club sessions. Dozens have signed up since the sessions started back in February with many more members joining through the club being recommended to them by those who were attending the sessions. I'd estimate around 40 of the new members this year are as a result of either attending Zero to Hero sessions or the attendees encouraging friends who were already regular runners to join. A massive thank you to Kevin and Dai K who run the sessions every Sunday as well as many other members who have contributed.
Kevin and Kelly officially became British Athletics qualified coaches this year whilst Dai and Aled are due to join them soon. Richard LJ completed the 'Leadership in Running Fitness' course and the club is looking at more members doing the same. Kevin also won a coaching award at a national level at the Welsh Athletics awards which is an incredible achievement considering he only qualified this year and is a huge asset to our club. The club also won a 'highly commended volunteer award' at the BAVO awards which recognised the time and effort put in by all our coaches.
The parkrun effect
Well we can go back to January 1st for this one. Chris Roberts joined Chris Pratt and I for a double parkrun having been a regular parkrunner at Porthcawl but not affiliated to any club. Of course, by the time we'd finished the parkruns we'd convinced him to join. His wife and daughter would also end up becoming members during the year. Steve Riddler, David Sheard, Peter Harrop, Dai Power, Alica Thomas, Dai Evans and Caerwyn Lewis just to name a few have all joined having seen the blue wave at parkrun and being 'gently encouraged' to join. Last year our record attendance at parkrun was around 15 and it was rare to have members at two or more parkruns... on the 19th December this year we had 37 members across 7 different parkruns.
In 2014, Cwm Ogwr members ran a combined total of 322 parkruns... this year that total was 1002 with 83 different members contributing to that total.
The male club records have been torn apart this year with Nick, Neil J and Kevin getting the times tumbling. The 5K record has gone from 19:28 to 18:33, and the 10K record from 42:19 to 39:31 - both being Neil Jones. The marathon record has fallen from 3:50 to 3:18 with Kevin's time at Llanelli. His time was good enough to qualify him for a 'Good For Age' entry at next years London Marathon.
As for the female club records, Amy Roberts smashed the 5K record in her first run with the club with a 22:26 which is almost a minute ahead of the next best female time this year. Heather Garratt broke the long standing 10K record with a 47:51 at Swansea 10K, whilst Lorna took the top marathon time with a 4:12 at Manchester Marathon.
After a great start with the club in 2013 and an amazing 2014, the PB's kept coming for Nick Harris in 2015. Along with myself, Chris Pratt, Kevin, Antony and Liz Davis we've all set PB's at all the 'regular distances' (5K, 5 miles, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon and Marathon) throughout the year. Christie Coleman and Chris Roberts have set an incredible number of 5K PB's as well as knocking huge amounts of distances up to Half Marathon. Jayne, Alica, Denise and Fiona have also notched up several PB's this year.
Myself and Kelly won the inaugural club championship in 2014 and were both in contention for much of the year but in the end there were two new winners. So massive congratulations to Nick Harris and Liz Davis. There'd been much discussion whether the club championship could only be won by the 'fastest runners' and whilst this is true if it was only based on running results, the club championship also included points for volunteering which in the end would be the pivotal decider. In the women's championship Liz maximised her volunteer points with months to spare, so along with a second female across the line at Brecon 10 mile and a good finish at the Richard Burton 10K, she went into the Pudding Run needing to finish in the top 10 women to take top spot off Kelly which she did. Kelly could have volunteered to retake the lead and win the championship in the final couple of weeks but choose not too.
The mens competition was tight throughout the year. Richard LJ held top spot for a large part of the year due to volunteering plus being the only male runner at the Dragon 10K and being first of the two Cwm Ogwr runners at Whitford Point. However, I took top spot in from September having also maxed out on volunteer points and having second placed finishes at Brecon 10 mile and Richard Burton 10K with a third place at Margam XC. It meant at the Pembrey Multi Terrain 10 miler, Richard needed a top 6 finish to regain top spot. In the end, he missed out by a few seconds. However, there was another twist in the tale. Nick or Kevin could still overtake me by volunteering in the final weeks. Kevin would only need to volunteer twice whilst Nick would have to end his 58 week parkrunning streak and volunteer at the final 4 parkruns of the year... which he did. All well within the rules and a deserving winner, especially when you consider the maximum possible points total is 190 and he scored 189.
The Blue Wave
As I've already mentioned, the attendances at parkrun have grown tremendously this year and we regularly get members of other clubs commenting on the number of Cwm Ogwr shirts on show but this year has also seen some amazing numbers at races. The biggest of which are listed below with the 2014 numbers in brackets...
Cardiff 10K: 46 (20)
Cardiff HM: 41 (15)
Merthyr Mawr Pudding Run: 37 (15)
Kenfig 5K: 31 (N/A)
Pembrey 10 miler: 25 (4)
Swansea HM: 24 (6)
Hilly 4: 24 (6)
Swansea 10K: 19 (6)
Pudding Run: 18 (9)
Off Road sessions
Earlier this year, club captain and new leader in running fitness Richard LJ started a Sunday morning trail session. It started with just a couple of miles nearby Bryngarw Park and is now regularly around 10K with all abilities welcome to join. Feedback has been excellent with everyone who has attended one or more the sessions really enjoying the off road experience. Prior to this year, probably less than 10 members owned a pair of trail shoes - now most members have either bought some or are considering a purchase. The sessions also helped contribute to huge attendances at the Kenfig 5K, Pembrey Multi Terrain 10 mile and Pudding run. Big thanks to Richard and also Fiona Evans who has helped out with a couple of new routes.
Challenges and new distances
Chris Pratt ran a record 13 different half marathons plus Snowdonia Marathon this year to achieve his target of 15 Half Marathons whilst also running at all the Welsh parkruns that existed at the start of the year. I achieved all my targets for 2015 which includes PB's at all distances, running over 2015K and running in 101 events which is a club record. Kevin and Antony not only ran their first marathons this year but followed it up with a second and third within the space of 7 months. There were several more marathon debuts including the Garratts who went into the year having not done a race over 10K and had originally intended to do a Half Marathon as their longest run of the year.
Shelley Smithson went from doing her first 5K to completing the Cardiff Half Marathon within just a few months of joining the club. Dozens have graduated from Zero to Hero by running their first 5K at Porthcawl parkrun whilst many more went on to run their first 10K's at Cardiff 10K. Over 20 members made their half marathon debuts this year, and 3 members ran their first Ultra Marathon. Over 50 members have run at least 10 events this year with that number expected to increase in 2016 considering many of those 50 only joined part way through the year.
The club total for 2014 was 542 individual results across 124 events, this year it's 1581 across 255 events and counting!
Chairman's Runner of the Year - Chris Pratt
A really difficult choice this year. Last year's winner Nick Harris has continued to improve with PB's at every distance whilst still racking up loads of events. Liz Davis was also in consideration having also PB'd at every distance from 5K to marathon. Kevin achieved a Good For Age qualifying time for London Marathon as well as improving his times at all distances and ran 3 marathons. I'd probably say the closest to Chris's achievements this year is Christie who since joining back in May has set several PB's at 5K, 10K and knocked huge amounts off his half marathon time whilst reaching 50 runs with the club in just 28 weeks.
Back to my choice for the winner - Chris has run 85 events this year including distances from 5K to Marathon and all types of races from road to multi terrain to cross country. In May this year he set 6 PB's in the space of 24 days with three 5K PB's, a 5 mile PB, a 10K PB and a half marathon PB. He was also parkrunner of the month and my choice for runner of the month in May. He has set 20 PB's between May and December at all distances from 5K to Marathon knocking huge amounts off each. All this whilst also achieving two huge challenges of running every Welsh parkrun that existed at the start of the year, and running 15 half marathons in 2015.
Plans are already in place for many of our members and it looks like we'll have a great turnout on day 1 with the New Years Day Kenfig 4 miler. Lots of members are planning first 10K's, first half marathons, first marathons and first ultras. A new club championship format which creates a 'level playing field' will give every member a chance of winning and hopefully encourage members to enter even more races. The Zero to Hero team are looking to get more people starting from scratch to parkrun and beyond whilst ensuring the current crop continue to improve and achieve their goals. Our coaching team is likely to grow and we look forward to seeing big attendances at all club sessions with members looking forward to them and reaping the benefits from attending. It's going to be another amazing year and it's a privilege to be part of such an awesome club.