The super start to 2016 continued in a busy February with more big race attendances, the club presentation night and a brand new Cwm Ogwr event. Zero to Hero continues to inspire us all with new members joining almost every week as well as importantly, people returning for more. Several have already completed a parkrun whilst it’s been an avenue for others who were already at a 5K level to advance to 10K and Half Marathons with many having dates in their dairies for their first big events.
The clubs new event, plus the Margam Trail Half Marathon during the month meant Richard’s trail sessions were limited but around a dozen went down to Ogmore-by-Sea on the first Sunday of the month to run from the finish line of the upcoming Vale Ultra for 45 minutes doing the reverse of the route before heading back. Probably the windiest conditions any of us have run in made it a challenging run and when parts of the course go within a few feet of cliff edges, it can be a bit scary (especially if like me, you don’t like heights). Still an enjoyable run and invaluable experience for those doing the 18 or 32 mile run on April 2.
Saturday 6 – parkruns
The first parkruns of the month seen significantly reduced overall attendances due to cold, wet, windy conditions. Of course, Cwm Ogwr aren’t bothered by this and we actually had a record attendance with 32 runners across 3 parkruns. 27 of those were at Porthcawl where Chris Pratt and I set seasons bests with 21:01 and 21:05 respectively. Kelly ran her first parkrun of the year with a sub 25 clocking. Nick ran 20 miles before parkrun but still managed a 23:00. Shawn Cullen, Julie Ransom and Lynda Denholm all ran their first parkruns as part of Cwm Ogwr whilst there were a further four Zero to Hero regulars in attendance.
Away from Porthcawl, my January Runner of the Month, Helen LJ was running at Swansea Bay parkrun and got another best time since joining the club. Over a minute quicker than the time she had set 3 weeks earlier making it her fastest parkrun time since December 2012. Over in Pontypridd, Neil Jones and Chris Williams ran 19 miles before running Pontypridd parkrun which Neil ran in 21:29 which he noted was a fast enough pace for a sub 3 hour marathon time. Neil Harris and Fiona Drysdale also ran at Pontypridd.
Saturday 13 – parkruns
27 runners across 3 different parkruns. Chris Pratt, Aled, Nick and I were joined by Jamie from Bridgend AC to do the Barry Island parkrun and then do a recce run of the Vale Ultra course from Barry to Llantwit. Neil Jones paced at Pontypridd with Fiona Drysdale also running there. At Porthcawl there were some excellent PB's from Stephen, Jayne, Helen LJ and Rhiannon Buckley.
Sunday 14 – Beast 10K
Setting up a trail run has been on the clubs ‘to do’ list for a while but was fraught with issues – land owners permission, accurate measurements, health and safety, marking out the course, enough volunteers, closed gates, livestock – the list goes on. However, Kelly had an great idea to overcome a lot of these – make it a free run for affiliated club members only. That way everyone is insured through their Welsh Athletics membership and the fact that it’s free means the pressures off with regards to ensuring a super accurate course measurement and having it under strict race conditions.
Our toughest training run, The Beast was chosen as the route which conveniently if starting at the bottom of the hill was a close as you could get to 10K bearing in mind that most trail / off road races are expected to be slightly out. Permission was granted from the land owners who ensured the gates were open and livestock not on the course. An appeal for volunteers on our Facebook page had an amazing response with more than enough putting themselves forward within a couple of hours of it being posted. Kelly then went about advertising the runs to other clubs and had a fantastic response with runners from all over South Wales wanting to give it a go.
The event day arrived with great weather conditions – cold but sunny and clear - perfect for taking in some of the beautiful scenery on the route. Around 20 odd volunteers met at the Life Centre at 9am with many of them having 4-6 mile round trips to get to their marshalling point or the water station which was at the top of the Beast. Others stayed at the Life Centre to help with parking whilst I ‘checked in’ the runners on Kelly’s i-pad. Some looked a little worried about what was to come having seen the video of the route that Chris Pratt had uploaded of Kelly’s recce run, plus the Facebook event page had the elevation profile staring at runners when they visited the page.
An amazing turnout of 96 runners despite the fact there was a Gwent League fixture the day before and Wales playing in the Six Nations.. oh, and it was Valentines Day. Apart from some bonkers fell races, I can’t think of another run that starts with a mile or so steep climb which awaited the runners but everyone attacked it whilst I warned a few around me that this was just the warm up to the ‘Beast’. Eamonn Kirk of Swansea Harriers made history by becoming the first Beast 10K winner having already won the first Cwm Ogwr 5 miler after the club resurrected the event in 2013. In fact, he won the inaugural Beast 10K by a huge margin of over 3 minutes in a time of 40:33. The female winner won by an even bigger margin with Angela Jones of Fairwater Runners finishing in 48:03 for 8 overall and over 4 minutes ahead of the next female finisher.
A few Cwm Ogwr runners were also given the option to run after all volunteering roles were filled and Niki Puleio finished 4 overall in a club record time on the course of 46:28. New member, Chris Thomas was the next Cwm Ogwr finisher in 23 place whilst I finished soon after in 25 with Keith Coleman in 37 despite only finishing a minute or so after me. Mark Worrall, Ann Davies, Caerwyn, Natalie, Kelly G, Stephen, Lucy H, Amanda P and Rachel A made up the remaining Cwm Ogwr finishers, most of which were running the Beast for the first time.
Everyone headed back to the Life Centre afterwards where Jo Pickup was selling cakes, quiches (made by herself and other Cwm Ogwr runners) and hot drinks which went down very well with runners and particularly those that had marshalled and had been outside in the cold for close to 3 hours.
The event page was full of positive comments and there’s no doubt in my mind that it could be even bigger next year. Some excellent photo’s with professional photographer Andrew Davis volunteering his time to capture the runners approaching the top of the Beast section whilst KXT photography were also in attendance as well as Nick Harris and Chris Pratt taking photos. With a couple of supporters from other clubs taking photo’s plus a few from marshals smartphones, I think we might have more photographs per runner than any race in Britain!
A huge success and flawlessly organised. A massive thanks to every single person who helped out.
Saturday 20 - parkruns
A club record 35 runners at Porthcawl which included our Pontypridd parkrunners Neil J, Neil H and Chris W joining us for the first time. Neil J and Chris clocked up over 20 miles in doing so whilst a few others also ran down to parkrun as part of half / full or Ultra marathon training. This parkrunday seen a few more of the Zero to Hero's complete their first 5K only 5 weeks after starting this years program. Another load of PB's with this weeks list including Mark Worrall, Claire Dunbar-Bowen, Jayne, Kelly G, Sarah Littlewood and Tammie Clement. Richard LJ was our only tourist as he tried out Grangemoor parkrun.
Sunday 21 - Margam Trail 'Half Marathon', Neath 10 miler and Beach Party 10K
A huge turnout of 28 runners for the inaugural Margam Trail Half Marathon. Unfortunately the event didn't quite go to plan with the main issue being it was around 11 miles instead of 13.1. Aled lead the Cwm Ogwr runners in on the challenging course in cold, misty conditions and despite the issues, I think a few would be keen to give it another go. Certainly not speaking for everyone on that though. Interestingly Run Britain Rankings at the time of typing this, have the event down as a proper half marathon and have assigned PB's to those who ran it faster than a previous best half marathon time which really messes up the system - although there's lots who argue there are several flaws in the Run Britain handicap / rankings system anyway.
The Neath 10 miler went much more smoothly although there were a few comments about the course being slightly long but we're talking 0.1 out rather than a huge margin. Despite that Niki Puleio set a new club record with a time of 1:07:01. Nick finished 5 minutes behind him and missed out on a PB by a couple of minutes, however, he has been doing some record high mileage weeks lately as well. Finally, David Kembery smashed his 10 mile PB with a 1:14:58 which was also an age category club record.
Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away, Kelly Owen was running a 10K along the seafront in sunny California with a decent time of 52:32 considering the high temperatures despite an early morning start. It was Kelly's third running event in the US over the past couple of years having already done the Empire State Run and a parkrun in Florida.
Saturday 27 - parkruns and Ras Dewi Sant Marathon
A rare week with only runners at Porthcawl of which there were 24. I ran with the twins in their heavy non-running buggy which was a challenge. There were more members who ran down to get some extra training miles in, and couple of PB's. Firstly Niki Puleio followed up his 10 mile club record with a 19:04 PB which puts him second only to Neil Jones in the 5K rankings whilst the other PB was for Phillip Buckley.
Current Runners Runner of the Year Chris Pratt set his sights on doing 6 marathons this year with Ras Dewi Sant pencilled in as the first on the list. However, this list was prior to 'the fall' which meant he didn't start training until just 6-7 weeks before the marathon. Fortunately he was able to get back into it straight away and within a couple of weeks was doing record high mileage weeks and is often the only person in the club to go to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday sessions although there are occasionally others. The Vale recce runs provided a couple of long distance training runs and it was decided that Ras Dewi Sant would indeed be the first marathon of the year for Chris, and any club member for that matter. He finished in a fantastic time of 4:42 considering the very challenging hilly, off road terrain. Chris has wrote a blog post about the race at http://chrispratt24.tumblr.com/ which is a detailed account of what is one of the toughest marathons in Wales if not the UK.
Sunday 28 - St Davids 10K
This race was a great example of how much the club has grown as out of the 25 Cwm Ogwr runners, 24 of them had joined the club in the past 12 months. There were even a few who've only joined us in the past two months and have already gone from Zero to 10K. Christie Coleman actually decided to run the 5K event which started an hour before the main 10K event as well and already looks on course to top this years 'most events' table. Could my record 101 events in one year even be under threat!? Anyway, back to the race and I'm not sure we've ever had such a high percentage of PB's for a race with over 20 members running. The PB list included Stephen, Caerwyn, Shelley (with an age category club record), Emma, Mark, Ann, Lucy H, Jayne, Jo, Kelly G, Kimberly, Helen LJ, Tammie, Alana and Rhiannon Buckley.
Chairman's Runner of the Month - Niki Puleio
An amazing month for Niki which included new PB's at 5K and 10 mile - the latter also being a club record. He was also 4th overall in the inaugural Beast 10K. Well done Niki.
The Presentation Night
The first Sunday of February seen the running clubs third annual presentation night. Organised by David and Jayne Kembery with a little help from others, it was a huge success with a big turnout and everyone having a great night. A massive thanks to the Kembery's who we will no doubt be asking to do it all again in 12 months time.
The list of winners were as follows...
Runners Runner of the Year: Chris Pratt
Male Club Championship Winner: Nick Harris
Female Club Championship Winner: Liz Davis
Most Improved Runner: Christie Coleman
Best Newcomer: Alica Thomas
Kelly's Kindness Award: Antony Lewis
Coach of the Year: Kevin Archie Raymond
Best Senior Male: Neil Jones
Best Senior Female: Amy Roberts
Best Veteran Male: Kevin Archie Raymond
Best Veteran Female: Kelly Owen
Club Person of the Year: David Kembery
Zero to Hero award: Jayne Kembery Tunster
Best Volunteer: Maria Lalic
Trail-Blazer award: Richard Lowcock James
Best comeback of 2015: Brian Cotton
Most PBs in 2015: Chris Pratt
Most parkruns in 2015: Gareth Jenkins
Best Supporters: Denise Bradley and Dai Power
Club Appreciation Award: Andrew Davis
Best Fall during a Training Run: Chris Pratt
Best Fall during a Trail Run: Heather Garratt
Best Fall during a Race: Chris Roberts
Best Bromance: Chris Pratt and Gareth Jenkins
The Ar$eh0le award: Aled Hughes (third year in a row)
Kelly Owen was also presented with a cookbook and a vase as a thank you for all her hard work and starting the club in the first place.
Rhiannon Buckley was finally presented with her goodie bag and medal for winning the Festive Four competition.
March is a key month for many of our members doing longer distances. Newport, Merthyr, Llanelli and Cardiff World Half Marathons will all have Cwm Ogwr members participating whilst others will be doing their longest training runs ready for April Marathons or the Vale Ultra. Plus Zero to Hero will see many runners doing their furthest distances ever whether it's 5K, 5 miles or much more.