RAT RACE The Pontypridd Roadents Magazine January/February/March 2020
Inside: Winning Streak! Mikeâ€™s 100 Marathons Running For The Planet Otherside Of A Runner Brecon To Cardiff Ultra Marathon Your Event Reviews www.pontypriddroadentsac.org.uk
Welcome to 2020 and the first issue of RAT RACE for this new decade. Itâ€™s a busy one so far with lots of action and events going on that you need to be told about. Thanks to everyone who has contributed, itâ€™s made for a very big issue. Enjoy and keep those articles coming for the next magazine. (Front Cover Photo by Andy Gale)
The Committee Andy Davies Club President
Jo Gwynne Vice Chairperson
Nick Pounder Treasurer Sam Richards Club Championship Secretary Darren Bishop Kit Officer Billy Hayton Road Race Captain Fiona Davies Road Race Vice Captain Neil Brooke-Smith Club Welfare Officer Mair Johnson Club Welfare Officer/ Child Safeguarding Officer
Paul Graham Club Chairperson
Mike Gwynne Club Secretary
Fiona Campbell Membership Secretary Mark Douglas PR Officer
Rob Parker Web-Site Editor Jack Blackburn Off Road Captain Bretti Paxton Off Road Vice Captain Darren Griffiths-Warner Magazine Editor Rhodri Evans Race Director
Nick Denny Welfare Officer Charlie Smith Club Welfare Officer David Mather, Juan Delgado, Ben Butler-Madden, Paul Harris General Committee
EDITORIAL ‘Insult To Injury’
“I think you’ve got a chance tonight. You could win this.” I succumbed to my natural instincts of listening to my body and ran like I hadn’t run in a long time. It was the Roadents December Handicap Race and those words of encouragement had been dealt out to me by our ever encouraging Club President, Andy Davies, a guy who has always “appeared” to believe in my ability more than my own self belief. Add to that my recent finishing positions of third place, then second place, I must be on to a sure thing here...lumpy, bumpy Darren could actually, after so many years of trying, get to hold that cup. Unfortunately, my body wasn’t going to have any of it and as I saw that familiar finish line at the bus stop opposite The Pottery Pub, I heard panting sounds and footsteps and within quick succession, the trio of Laurence Pole, Peter Coles & Nick Santos ran past me, leaving me eating their dust. In the end I crossed the line in 5th position, as I never caught up with Brioney Alice who was also running and had started before me. I’m used to not winning, it’s a habitual occurrence in my running career, so I wasn’t that disappointed...but the thrill of the belief that I was in with a chance did give me one trophy - a mild groin strain. Not the best prize, especially when just two days later and a little over 7 miles into the 32 mile mucky, rain soaked hill race that was the Celtic Winter Trail Ultra Marathon, I knew I had this groin strain. That day ended with me coming last, after trying to negotiate a slippery water-drowned path that ran alongside a sheer cliff edge in pitch black darkness as I descended to the finish line, almost slipping into hypothermic shock during that final process. The lady who I helped guide down those last few miles, a stray who had gone way off piste from the 20 mile version of the run, had no idea of the dangerous position we were in and luckily our head torches didn’t give her any clues either. It was a good job I knew this area well, having been up this high many times taking photographs, because it could have ended with the headlines: ‘Darren fell off Cwm Darran’...slightly funny, if it wasn’t so damn dangerous. Anyway, not my best or proudest moment as I was stripped naked in a crowded room (remember it was very cold...if you get my meaning, guys) and helped to re-dress in some dry, warm clothes. So set aside the fact that I nearly got hospitalised, coming last wasn’t a problem in my books. In fact I’ve come closer to last position than to first position in more races than I care to mention, especially during the last year of epic runs I have completed. You see, having had four operations and many invasive searches looking for possible early stages of the awful C through parts of my body I don’t care to mention, running has become my respite. My way of just finding solice rather than pressuring myself to a win. I refer to it as Zen Running, where I let my body do the talking, telling me how fast to run and how long to run. I almost create a state of calm in myself where my actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort. That’s why you see me running in circles around the track for an hour on a Tuesday night, not taking part in the speed sessions, in case I damage myself again. Since I’ve accepted this way of running, I’ve found myself less prone to injuries, of which I’ve had a few. Some injuries can’t be helped - like the time Iestyn Henson and myself crashed down heavily in tandem on black ice on Power Station Hill before a parkrun one morning, displacing my lower spine slightly. Or when I tripped over a raised piece of tarmac when training hard for my second marathon, hitting the ground so hard I found one of my twisted fingers pointing in a 180 degree direction from where it was supposed to be. But the niggles and the injuries are less common now. I decided on this course of action after having to take six months off while suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, a very annoying and debilitating condition. Trying to maintain my fitness when I could barely put pressure on my foot, alongside seeing everyone’s FB posts about how well they had run, only added insult to my injury. But as the pain of the affliction finally abated and I built up my fitness levels again, I came out as a changed runner. My wife Gail started running with me and I found working at a reduced pace more rewarding, allowing me to run those longer distances and enjoy running more. With my Zen Running, I’ve learned to do one thing most people find hard - and that is not to care. Don’t care about position, don’t care about timings (I don’t wear a watch) and I don’t care who passes me by, because I’ve taken a more philosophical approach. I get lost in the rhythm of my movement through the land around me and, here’s the hippy bit, become as one with the world. So though I’m really pleased to see Ponty Roadents doing well and even winning lots of races, for those in the majority who support the club and maybe don’t feel like you are getting anywhere, take heart from my words. Learn to accept your better self because you are doing well, because you are a runner...Oh and be careful who you listen too, especially Andy Davies!
NEWS & VIEWS Mike’s 100th Marathon
It was wonderful to hear that Mike Gwynne completed his 100th Marathon recently, elevating him to that honorary position of elite 100 Club membership. Not one to blow his own trumpet (unlike me) I needed to talk to him about his endeavours. When was your first and 100th Marathon? First marathon was in Manchester in 2015. I was hoping for an ambitious 4 hour (ish) finish but the wheels came off at exactly 20 miles and I finished in 04:50. Number 100 was the Phoenix Running: One Run Elven Blue Run. This was along the Thames path at Walton on Thames on the 8th of Feb 2020. When you started running Marathons, did you plan to complete 100? I don’t think I ever thought about 100 marathons, I was just running and adding to the total. The 100 goal came from Jo and Fiona. Still aiming to do more. Lots more to come. Do you ever think, what am I doing? Every race results in the What Am I Doing thought. It’s only beaten me once or twice. What else would we be doing? What was the worst Marathon you ran? The first time we did the quad in Ireland I was fresh from a knee injury (fell in training). On day 3, after a few miles, I found it virtually impossible to run and difficult to walk especially on steep ups and downs. Day 4 was the same, very painful but I got the job done with A LOT of support from the Jo/Fiona support crew. And what was your favourite Marathon? Not exactly a marathon, but I think the Robin Hood 100 is my favourite so far. Jo was running too, Fiona was supporting making things a little more enjoyable. The course was a 20 mile run out, followed by two 30 mile laps in Sherwood Forest, with the 20 mile run back to the start. It was horrible but weirdly great at the same time. Finished it in 24:05. One and three quarters of an hour quicker than my previous Thames Path 100 time. So if it doesn’t stop, what are you planning now? Hoping to do the Brutal Midnight marathon this year and the Deca Continuous Triple next year (if the event is on). I also want to do the SW100 but not sure how that fits in yet. So my marathons need to continue so I can make sure I don’t forget how to run!! (To see a full list of Mike’s 100 Marathons, go to the final page of this issue.)
Winning Ways 2020 has started off well for Pontypridd Roadents. Thereâ€™s been some amazing running from club members, with them bringing home the gold in a number of events. It all kicked off with our Chairman Paul Graham winning the prestigious and fast Lliswerry 8 in a time of 39:29, 40 seconds ahead of the 2nd place runner. He then went on to represent Wales at the Barcelona Half-Marathon, putting in another impressive performance and a time of 1:06:33. Great stuff! The super running couple of Liz & Stephen May continued the club success by both winning their categories at the Margam 10k. Well done both! Our Reverse 10 saw Richard Jackson-Hookins make an impressionable first place position, chased by Simon Lewis who came in soon after him. Good on you boys! Congratulations also to club member Adam Bull on winning the Gwent League X-Country after 4 races, which he then followed up with a first place position at the Newport Half-Marathon in a time of 1:08:06. Impressive! Of course we must also congratulate Mr Insanity himself, Sam Richards, on his first place position in the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra Marathon wearing only a vest and shorts while running through one of the worst storms to hit the country in years. He finished in 5:18:32, over 12 minutes ahead of the next runner... Just awesome! So well done all, you are truly inspiring members and the Roadents are PROUD of you all. (Photos by Robert Gale & Paul Stillman)
All For Charity Our regular round up of those brilliant club members who are putting others before themselves and running for charity in forthcoming events. Please take time to visit their pages and make a donation if you can! Julie Popp & Kristian Walters will be running the London Landmarks Half-Marathon on the 29th March on behalf of The Pituitary Foundation. This is a charity close to their hearts with the work it does for many patients with a pituitary disorder which can require life-long drug treatment and monitoring, their condition impacting on many aspects of their life. The Pituitary Foundation aims to provide information which will help minimise the day-to-day problems of living with pituitary disease. Please donate via their just giving page accessible via either of their facebook pages.
Mark Douglas will be running The London Marathon on the 26th April for SCOPE, which supports people with a disability. He says that having a disability doesn’t define who you are. Very True. To donate to Mark’s run, please follow the links on his facebook page.
Iestyn Henson will be running the Brighton Marathon on the 19th April on behalf of University of Sussex Research into Mental Health. He says, ‘I’ve supported mental health charities before now, in particular those which support the consequence of poor health; now is the time to support research at the root of the problem.’ To donate to Iestyn’s run, please follow the links on his facebook page.
On May 17th Dylan Hughes will be attempting to run 100km along the Jurassic Coastline in 24 hours in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis Trust (MS Trust). Despite having run an Ultra Marathon a few years ago, this challenge works out to be around double the distance. He will also be running a few shorter Ultras in the run up to this challenge in order to prepare as much as possible, and has already completed the gruelling Brecon To Cardiff Ultra in February. ‘A close family friend and a friend from university both suffer with MS and the thing that I admire the most about them both is how much of a positive mental attitude they have and how they are determined not to let their condition define them. They have my utmost respect and I would like to raise money for a charity that ensures that a life with MS isn’t a life defined by MS.’ To donate to Dylan’s run, please follow the links on his facebook page. facebook.com/WalesOnline
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2020
A PontyPridd teacher ran more than 100 races and 2,000 miles in one year to raise money for a cancer charity. over the past year, darren GriffithsWarner has taken part in more than 100 races to raise money for Cancer research Wales. the 55-year-old named his challenge “A year of running For Cancer research Wales” and after 12 months of pushing himself to the limit has raised £1,640 for the charity. on January 18 – before completing his final race for the year challenge, and his 250th ever parkrun – darren presented the cheque to Cancer research Wales. the father-of-two said: “Besides the obvious of trying to stay fit i did the challenge to raise awareness of all types of cancer and the work Cancer research Wales do. “rather than doing one race i thought continuously running throughout the year would keep that awareness in the forefront of peoples minds.” darren took it upon himself to raise money for Cancer research Wales after his cousin Julie lost her battle with cancer in 2018. during the 12 month challenge, he ran parkruns, marathons, ultramarathons and even trail races. He said: “Before i started the challenge in december 2018, i lost my cousin Julie to cancer. She was a senior nurse and devoted her life to other people, she was selfless. Before that, we lost my wonderful aunt Maureen and my father-in-law is also putting up a brave fight against prostate cancer at the moment. “But this situation is not unique. Almost everyone in the country can
Darren has completed 250 parkruns
probably name a friend or family member who has suffered from or is suffering from this dreadful disease.” darren’s first challenge was the CF64 race around Cosmeston Lakes in January 2019, which was followed by an additional 69 races and 40 parkruns. “the total mileage for my year of running for Cancer research Wales came to 2,136.8 miles,” he said. “i never run a race unless i’m going to finish. nothing will get me to stop however tired or exhausted i feel. Cancer doesn’t just stop and people’s suffering doesn’t just stop - the least i could do was keep going.” darren puts down his success to the support from family in friends - especially wife Gail and their two daughters. He said: “Having a supportive partner in my wife Gail made the scheduling smoother. Completing 10k runs with her was also wonderful. i love it when we’re out there experiencing a run together. “the hardest race has to be the Ultra Marathon i did just before Christmas. “Celtic trail race was a 32-mile hill slog through deep muddy water, bogs and technical rocky climbs. it also was freezing cold weather that numbed your
Photo by Adrian White (Courtsey of Media Wales)
Hitting The News
Darren Griffiths-Warner has run more than 100 races in a year
body. Even though the distance was short compared to some of the others i ran, the dreadful conditions made this one of the more challenging runs i attempted. “But despite that, my favourite races were the ones across the remote Welsh countryside. Whether it was running to the source of the river Severn during the 30-mile Heart of Wales Ultra Marathon or the summit of Wales’ highest peak on the 16-mile Snowdon trail Long HalfMarathon, being in areas that you can only access by foot is rewarding itself.” darren’s year of running might be over, but that doesn’t mean he will be hanging up his running shoes anytime soon. He said: “i’ve already got some races booked in for 2020. i’m not too keen on repeating the same runs, so i’ll attempt a few new courses this year. “i use the running as a form of stress relief against all that teaching pushes on you.” dale Evans, from Cancer research Wales, said: “As a charity, we are reliant on the generosity of our fantastic supporters in order to fund life-saving research into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. “So it’s thanks to our amazing supporters, like darren, that we are able to continue making a difference. “darren has achieved so much over the last 12 months and given up so much of his time and energy to support the charity. He is a true inspiration. darren has literally gone the extra mile to help support our life-saving projects.” if you want to donate, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ darren-griffiths-warner
Surprise reunion for Kate as royal couple tour South Wales The Duchess of strengthening their cambridge took a trip mental health through down memory lane when boxing. she spotted two faces The duchess hugged she had not seen in Denise evans-Allford and almost 25 years during a husband Kevin Allford whistle-stop tour of who had travelled from south Wales yesterday. their home in carmarthen Kate was left to meet Kate – the first surprised when she met time they have seen her her old prep school in 24 years. teachers during a visit to They both taught Kate, The Duchess of the Mumbles seafront in as well as siblings Pippa swansea during a visit to cambridge at Tata and James, at st steel in Port Talbot learn about issues Andrew’s prep school in affecting the area and its Toby Melville Pangbourne, Berks. Mrs people. evans-Allford taught Pe The chance meeting at the school, while Mr capped a day that saw the Allford taught French and German to cambridges celebrate local lifeboat Kate. Kate exclaimed “it’s such a crews, promote Kate’s early year small world” after seeing her old survey, learn about Tata steel at Port teachers following a visit to Joe’s ice Talbot and spend time with children cream parlour.
Darren goes the extra 2,136 miles for cancer charity bronte howard Reporter
south wales echo
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So my Year Of Running finally came to a close on the 18th January when I ran my 250th parkrun, totalling over 2000 miles during the previous 12 months. The Cancer Research Wales Press Office wanted to mark this occasion by gathering the local press and making a fuss...I just wanted to say thanks on facebook. On the day Media Wales sent a photographer/videographer along before parkrun and many unflattering pictures were taken of me posing, running and doing many other feats beyond my capability. He even made me run across the finish line twice - a no no at parkrun! I’m so glad that Simon & Lisa Pritchard were very understanding. Anyway, the resulting articles in both print and social media seemed to appear everywhere throughout Wales, including the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, where I got a bigger article than Princess Kate - so I’m glad I chose to wear my Ponty Roadents vest. Extra publicity for the club there then! Time to rest a bit now, but you can continue reading about my epic challenge later in this issue. DGW
Reverse 10 Our first race of the year and what a success it was. Sold out and enjoyed by all, despite the damp weather. Here’s what Penarth & Dinas Running Club said about the race: ‘Our second 2020 Club Championship Race took place on Sunday, the popular Ponty Reverse 10, which is a mixture of cycle path and some stretches of rocky, wet double track. Great marshalling on the course, with some familiar faces out there.’ Good to see that the race was popular. Please help promote our next race, the Treforest 10k, via your friends and own social media pages. Sold Out club races means this club can support entries into other runs. Photos: Paul Stillman
Dates For Our Races
Championship Races 2020
Here are the dates for 2020 Roadent Races: Here is the list of our 2020 Championship Races. We Treforest 10k on 24th May; suggest you sign up as soon as possible. If you’d like to The Loop on 12th July. know more about any of the races please ask Paul, Sam Of course, we will need help from club members or myself as we’ve run most of them. marshalling the events so, if you can, please try and keep these dates in your diary free. Thank you! Road Championship Best 4 out of 7 to count This year, the committee approved Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity as the chosen charity to be supported by May 17th – Caerphilly 10k our Loop Race. August 5th – Summer Sizzler 5k Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales provides world August 16th – Parc Cwm Darran 5 Mile class care, helping to ensure the best outcome and September 20th – Swansea 10k experience possible for children and their families. October 4th – Cardiff Half Having raised more than £20 million to build and equip the Best Marathon Time hospital, today we continue to work hand in hand with the NHS, providing funding for the most up to date equipment Off Road Championship and facilities. They also fund support services for families Best 4 out of 7 to count like the play specialist team, who help children be children, despite the difficulties they are facing. April 21st – Pentyrch Hill Race May 10th – Sirhowy 10 June 20th – Rabbit Run July 2nd – Tintern Trot October 11th – Ponty Plod Best Gwent League Cross Country position
NEWS & VIEWS
Running For The Planet
Global Warming and Climate Change are key buzzwords that seem to be bandied around of late like, well, there’s no tomorrow. Whether it’s Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump recently taking digs at each other amongst the beautiful mountainous scenery in Davos, David Attenborough shouting at us from one side of the wall or the late David Bellamy giving his all on the other side, the scientific community never seems to arrive at one solid lucid conclusion that will change our world’s governments’ opinions over financial gain. We all probably agreed that something isn’t quite right, but let’s hope that all those who doubted saw what happened to Pontypridd in recent weeks. Because our club’s home town and surrounding areas - with homes and businesses of friends and family up the valleys and down along our Handicap Route in Taff’s Well - experienced first hand the destructive forces that nature can unleash upon us. As our rivers and streams overflowed, it was clear that the defences were overwhelmed with the turgid waters cascading down the valley hills. I know that some members were sadly affected by water filling their homes, while others were lucky with a near miss. I also know some Roadents took off their running shoes and donned their wellies to devote time to help clear up the debris; while others rallied round donating food, clothing and other essential items, as well as spending time in community centres helping prepare lunches for flood victims. The RAT RACE hub saw some storm damage to the roof that let in the heavy rains, but was very fortunate to be unaffected when a blocked culvert turned Sardis Road car park into Ponty’s Niagara with water gushing out onto the road. Taff Street turned into The River Taff itself as the town centre filled up and our beloved Ynysangharad Park, home to 299 parkruns and many training runs for club members, became reminiscent of the drowned village of Capel Celyn in the Afon Tryweryn Valley. Basically, Pontypridd and its people have taken a hammering - our thoughts are with anyone who has been affected in any way. So, as a club in one of the most flood affected areas in the UK, I feel we should as least try to make our stand against the onset of global warming, cut down our carbon footprint and get a hold of climate change. I’m not saying stop running and let’s build flood defences on a Tuesday night, but be as considered as we can to make the Pontypridd Roadents waste free and Carbon Neutral. If we start here in Pontypridd, maybe others will follow and as Paul, our chairman, now knows after his Lliswerry Run, it’s good to be ahead of the game.
So here are some suggestions on how can we promote Ecologically Sound Races as a club: We could encourage car-sharing schemes, by giving discounts for those travelling to the run with three or more passengers. We could encourage people to ride a bike to the races, by providing discounts and a safe, marshalled area where they can lock up their bikes with a ticketing scheme for collection. Start and finish races near train stations, with a published timetable as part of the publicity (we have enough Railway staff in our club to help make this work). Join a ‘plant a tree’ scheme, similar to Relish Running in Bath - for every 20 entries to any of their races, they plant a tree to help combat those 20 runner’s carbon footprints. Offer t-shirts as an extra, rather than as part of the cost - these should be more eco-friendly, like going back to cotton or using recycled plastic technical t-shirts. Any medals could be wooden or made from recycled plastic. I must admit, on this last point I received a recycled plastic medal for one of the races I did last year which, after running over Pen Y Fan twice during that day event, felt very disappointing until I realised its ecological significance. No plastic bottles - runners must carry their own collapsible cups. This is normal for most of the ultras I’ve run in the last few years. Yes, I know it slows your time down a bit, but you won’t be able to run at all if we haven’t got a planet Earth to run on - it’s a good leveller. Some runs, including the London Landmarks Half, have introduced Water Bubble drinks. Basically you pick up a clear bubble, made from seaweed, and put it into your mouth to break it and get the fluid out - very cool! They are vegan friendly as well, check out Ooho via google. We should keep all of our championship races local, while trying to promote other clubs to do the same, or at least organize group transport to get to those all-important start lines. And what about plogging… it’s a Swedish initiative of running or jogging and picking up litter at the same time. OK, maybe not what faster club runners want to do but, as one of the slower variety, I seem to have crossed a few trail race finish lines of late with a pocketful of discarded gel wrappers I’ve picked up, having had to appease a local farmer or two as we run through their fields. (I don’t use gels myself, but will litter pick if it means I can continue to run through beautiful Welsh countryside in the future - it’s something we should all be thinking about. If you use gel, pocket the wrapper and keep the countryside litter free - simple!) Of course, there are other ways of becoming more eco sound. We now have running clothing and trainers all made from recycled materials. The problem is that they are more expensive and are usually sold by mail order, so some diesel-guzzling truck will probably pollute its way to your door to drop off your eco-friendly goods…but at least you’re trying! Personally, I’ve also cut down on the number of races I’m entering from now on, after burning my own personal hole in the ozone layer for Cancer Research Wales last year, by trying to amalgamate runs with holidays or visits to my family. Like the proverb says To Kill Two Birds With One Stone. So a few suggestions to get you started - if you have any others then please share. I’m sure you’ll agree we need to do something and start doing it now!
DARREN GRIFFITHS-WARNER (Photos by Mair Johnson, Bretti Paxton (of her own home) & Darren Griffiths-Warner)
Taking A Look At Lives Outside Running
with David Mather
Every week we meet up as group, run, go home, meet up the following week. Being editor of this magazine gives me the chance to be a bit nosey and ask the question, what do you do in your life...basically, what is the OTHERSIDE of your running life. In this series of articles, I go searching to find out how our club members spend their days. We kick off with David Mather and discover he is a published author! When did you start writing seriously? I don’t consider myself as a serious writer, and I don’t think I’ll be an award winner. I like to think I am more of a story teller, as I think I have good stories to tell. When was your first book published and how did it make you feel? My first book is ‘Rome Falls’ and it is published on Amazon. I was very proud of my achievement writing a 90,000 word story, as I had struggled writing 20,000 words for my University dissertations. What is your target audience? If you like Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden you may like my books, because my first three stories were historical fiction based on the Celts in 390 BC. In fact, one of my 5 star reviews says, ‘Watch out Conn Iggulden there’s a new kid on the block.’ What are your books about (especially your latest book)? My first story follows the true events of 390 BC when 12,000 Celts crossed the Alps into a country we now know as Italy. They face four Roman legions, 24,000 men on 18th July 390 BC, next to the River Allia about 20 miles north of Rome. However, while this is part of the book our story follows a band of nine warriors, from the tribe that controlled South Wales, who cleared the path for the main army in relation to supplies and peace treaties. This book is historically accurate, unlike book two ‘The Empire of White Gold’ where we visit the Celtic salt mines – white gold. Here they make an enemy of a Carthaginian Prince who they battle in book three ‘Princes and Kings’. I was 20,000 words into book four of the series while on a train journey to Cardiff when I was struck by how many people were glued to their phones. In my actual fourth book ‘Digital Zombies’ it weaves a story of mind control through mobile devices. But who wants the control and why? How do you come up with the ideas for your books? The Celtic series was inspired after watching a brief history on the BBC about the Celts. The Battle just outside Rome was about a ten minute piece and I thought there must be more to it, and I found out there was once I started researching it. The latest Sci-Fi was inspired by my observations of today’s society, it really is quite scary. People check their mobile phones every 12 minutes and when they get a ‘like’ on facebook the brain releases dopamine – the drug used in MDMA drugs, commonly known as ecstasy. How do we get hold of your books? All books are available as eBooks or paperback from Kindle – just type my name in an amazon search. Does running help with the creative writing process? I put the world to right when I run, so I run through story lines and make observations - like the time I ran past a teenager who didn’t hear me coming as she was on her mobile phone!
EVENT REVIEWS BRECON TO CARDIFF 70km ULTRA MARATHON Sunday 9th February 2020 (The Storm)
The Brecon To Cardiff Ultra Marathon has become one of the real tests of endurance running that members of the Roadents like to attempt each year. It was my first Ultra Marathon and, like many others who have run the route, used it as an introduction to the many other long runs that were to come after. In this year’s race we had an intrepped six club members who took on the 70km distance during one of the worst storms to hit the country. Many say that the race should have been postpond or cancelled, but having run many events with the organisers Run Walk Crawl, I knew that it would take more than Storm Ciara to stop this event. In this Issue we have two excellent viewpoints of the day from Sam Richards, who eventually won the race, and Emma Addis, who took on the distance at a more sensible pace. Both were new to Ultra Running, both completed the task with true admiration.Well done all! DGW When I started the run, I honestly didn’t believe that I had a chance of winning. I had run 120 miles that week, as well as doing the Ponty parkrun the day before, and so had taken no rest prior to the race. Also, it was my first Ultra, I hadn’t run more than a marathon distance before, and I was still coping with hamstring and heel injuries (I had rested the previous year, hoping to recover fully). I knew I was out of shape in comparison to where I’d been in 2018. I decided to give it a go anyway. I didn’t bother tapering as I really didn’t think I had a chance. At the same time, I didn’t want to just jog through it. I wanted to give it a good go. 6.35am - Bus left Nantgarw. 6.50am - Bus broke down on way to Merthyr! (Was that a bad omen?!) I was reassured that the race wouldn’t start without Paul Fernandez - last year’s winner - who was on my bus. 7.30am - I was collected and dropped off at Brecon (to be on the safe side!). 8.00am – I arrived at the start. 8.45am – The race started quickly, with front runners going off at a 6.30 pace, along the canal. I started off at about 21st position and quickly made my way through the field, though chose not to lead as I wasn’t sure of the route. This tactic paid off, as the leaders had to stop to open up several gates! I enjoyed running through the puddles, lifting my back leg to avoid the splash of my previous step, which (though it may not have been the most economic technique) propelled me forward and helped me to overtake others. 5th mile - I had caught up with the front runners! 7th mile - I took the lead briefly on the downhill, but held back on the following uphill to gauge my pace. 13th mile - The two leaders, Sam and Ben, opened the gap, but I felt confident I could close it on the downhill. That didn’t go to plan as Storm Ciara became so fierce at the top that I couldn’t get into a good stride. I started climbing again, through the strong smell of pine trees, before going down a slippery slope. (This is where trail shoes come in handy...I only had my reliable road shoes on!) 22nd mile - The leaders were out of sight and I was beginning to flag. Sam didn’t stop at the check point; Ben did, so I followed him through Merthyr as best I could, though the gap was gradually opening up between us. 25th mile - My mother and auntie cheered me on. 31st mile - I went through a pitch black tunnel and couldn’t see the stairs so had to walk and feel the floor carefully with my feet (I would have wasted time searching for my torch, so I took a chance). This was probably the moment I thought the leader was too far ahead to reach, but I pushed on. 33rd mile - Back to the tarmac (Yay!) and I met Richard Hext, who told me I could catch 2nd place runner, Ben, if I picked up my pace by 5 seconds a mile, and could even catch the leader if I improved by 10 seconds a mile. I thought, “It’s now or never!” so I started to push the pace. 34th mile - I was surprised by Paul Graham and Clara Evans, who ran with me, and said the leader was about 10 minutes ahead. I felt uplifted by the Ponty Roadents supporters, who helped me to raise my game. I began running sub 7 pace. 35th mile - I overtook Ben at Abercynon (who eventually came in 2nd place). 40th mile - Going passed the Crem, my Grancha - a “Taff Street Dash” winner in the Fifties - must have been cheering me on as I overtook Sam! I kept the pace going, ducking under and over trees. 43rd mile - I sped down the hill, over the bridge and through the cheering crowd of family and Ponty Roadents supporters, sprinting right to the college finish line! 5 hours, 18 minutes and 32 seconds! Job done! Having had such a physically devastating, frustrating year, and still not being on form, I was so overwhelmed and grateful for the wonderful support. I had achieved far more than I believed I could at the start of the race. Friends often describe me as a machine or a robot: emotionless, systematic, persevering, durable, unstoppable. I’m often told that I’m like an animal in my determination. Some say I’m crazy! But I know that running makes me feel alive! Time to celebrate! SAM RICHARDS
(Photo by Simon Pritchard)
EVENT REVIEWS This year I, Wyn and Sarah were very keen to try attempting our first Ultra Marathon. So after hearing so many great things about the Brecon to Cardiff we took the plunge and signed up. And what an event it was: we honestly had the worst weather conditions we have ever run in and they even titled it ‘The Storm’ on the events results page. Weather aside, what a fantastic event - we loved it! We also had the pleasure of being joined by the very experienced Fiona Davies whose experience, knowledge and encouragement proved invaluable during the training and on the day. The day started by participants being bussed from Nantgarw to Brecon at 6:30am ready for an 8am start. Unfortunately, one of the buses broke down on route so the race was delayed (oh no, the nerves and excitement started building the longer we waited). Eventually once all the buses had arrived and the new start of 8:45am was confirmed, we had the very important safety briefing (cue more nerves ha ha). Of course, the weather was definitely not the best that day and Storm Ciara had decided to join us on our journey to add to the fun and absolutely make it more challenging. We were predicted 50–80 mile-an-hour winds, blimey! Luckily, the majority of our training had been done in bad weather and we had become very used to it and felt prepared for it. So after the briefing, we made our way to the start and excitedly waited for the go ahead - what a fantastic atmosphere. The first stage followed the lovely canal path at Talybont, which was already extremely soggy and muddy this early on (trail shoes were definitely required). Everyone had to battle through not only the mud but the high winds that kept pushing us all over the place; at one point I was blown sideways towards the canal itself, but managed to save myself (phew!) and there was lots of slipping and sliding by everyone, including clambering over a fallen tree; great fun! Some poor soul’s shed had even been blown into the water. Checkpoint 1 came 7 miles in and, after having our wrist bands scanned and being provided with sweet and savoury snacks if required, we quickly set off again. Stage 2 took in a few miles of uphill, where we passed alongside the Pontsticil Reservoir with some beautiful views; we had a brief reprieve where the storm calmed a little here and we felt slightly more sheltered from the elements for a short while. Then we came to the highest point up on the top of the Brecon Mountain and, oh boy, did the weather pick up again. The winds must have been 80mph and then some by this point and we struggled to stay upright, holding onto each other at points, ha ha, but we continued to laugh and enjoy and push on through. The winds completely took our breath away fair play. After surviving this, we ran through the forestry with more muddy water to completely sink into as we went; lifting our legs became a real challenge here I must say. Checkpoint 2 at 16 miles was a very welcome sight to see; we refuelled with snacks provided once again and set off to the half way point. And it just kept on getting wetter and wetter all the way - bring it on lol! Once we arrived at Merthyr, we were very excited to be half way through at 22 miles - and we very much welcomed the opportunity to grab our drop bags that had been taken there for us to have a much needed change of kit and go from trail to road shoes for the rest of the race. It was at this point, whilst messaging our mates to let them know we were doing ok, that we learned that Sam had finished the race in 1st place in just over 5 hours. Absolutely amazing Sam, huge congratulations on a fantastic achievement! In a vest and shorts in that weather, and your first ultra, outstanding. More snacks to refuel and a tea/coffee to help warm us up before pushing on with the second half of the race. We felt very refreshed and eager to continue after this, and - bonus - the storm took a break for a bit too. Fabulous Fiona said, ‘Treat this now as the start of a new race.’ And it definitely helped to think of it as a fresh 22 mile run, rather than the 2nd half of almost 44 miles. We had a few miles of much needed dry weather and spotted a few fellow Roadents by the Merthyr leisure centre who had popped out to cheer us on, and then a bit further on Sarah’s lovely family also came out to show their support. We chatted and laughed as we ran. Chatting also to other runners as we went, everyone was in great spirits despite the storm, fair play. Back on familiar territory, we continued through Merthyr on towards Aberfan to Checkpoint 4 at 29 miles and were once again joined by Storm Ciara. We almost missed this checkpoint as the marshals were hidden away in their car out our of the rain (couldn’t blame them). We were then pleasantly surprised to see fellow Roadent Paul Iddon waiting for us, who had come on his bike to meet us and offer some support for a few miles and also take a photo or two. A little further on Fiona’s husband, also joined us - at this point his power walking was faster that our running, mind - lol! Only 1 more checkpoint to go at 37 miles, the end was in sight; we ploughed on through the rain, wind, mud and water, very tired, but still smiling and still enjoying every step. Joined by more friends and fellow Roadents, including Dave Mather, Brenda Evans, Martin Green amongst others, who eagerly waited for us at Abercynon; what a welcome sight they were too. Just a few more miles and an unexpected diversion due to part of the Taff Trail becoming flooded and way too dangerous to pass; we continued onto Checkpoint 5 at Trallwn Working Men’s Club.
Checkpoint 5 offered rolls, sausage and chips alongside the usual snacks. And what a bonus, more friends and Roadents out in force to cheers us on and join us running the last 7 miles to the finish in Nantgarw. Claire Guhman, Mair, Ceri Ann and a few others. The support shown by everyone was outstanding, we were very lucky indeed and it meant a lot to us. They chatted away and also at points ran silently besides us when we became too tired for conversation. This last stage was the hardest, not only for the obvious reasons of us being exhausted, but also because it turned into an obstacle course. We were met with tree after tree that had been blown down during the storm completely covering the path making us have to either climb over or clamber under them, and after nearly 40 miles this was proving difficult. Apparently, the trees had been falling throughout the course of the day. At this point daylight had gone, head torches were required and it became a battle of mind over matter to tell ourselves we could and would finish every last step. That last part of the race seemed never ending and all we wanted to see was the bridge leading into Nantgarw. And finally there it was, with the finish line in site! After almost 44 miles we had done it! We crossed the finish line in just over 11 hours. Lots of smiles and a few tears of joy, complete exhaustion but we couldnâ€™t have been more happy and proud of ourselves. What an amazing day we had and can honestly say we loved it. We canâ€™t wait to do another one. We are eager to return to this one next year and, with better luck and weather, be able to more fully appreciate what a fantastic course and event it is. Massive well done to everyone who took part that day; a truly fantastic achievement. And a huge thank you to everyone who joined us along the way to support. Would absolutely recommend it. EMMA ADDIS (Photos by Andy Gale)
SPEEDWAY 10k Sunday 19th January 2020
Photograph by Tosh Simpkin
The Speedway 10k is a recent addition to the race calendar, attracting the fastest club runners from across the UK to compete in a race that promises to be fast, flat and no frills. Personally, this was a key target race during the winter race season, with a target of breaking 33 minutes after 3 years of trying. The race location is in the village of Beachley, just on the border between Wales and England. Upon arrival there was plenty of parking right next to the race HQ. After collecting our race numbers, it was time for a warm up. During the warm up jog around Beachley there was a bit of confusion as to whether we were in England or Wales, my mate shouted at a local to confirm. Failing to spot the 2-metre-wide England flag planted in a garden right in front of us, the local resident replied with a smile, “You’re in England!” and cheerfully pointed to the red and white flag nearby. Onto the race itself. We had been lucky with the weather that day as the conditions were almost perfect, no wind and a clear sky. There was a feeling in the air that PBs could tumble! The race also started at midday which provides more time to get ready for a fast and frantic race. At midday we were off, it was a frantic start as runners jostled for position in the pack. I tucked into a group just behind a young chap called Bradley, who was up until recently competing for Ponty before moving down to London. He went on to have a brilliant run, finishing in 31 minutes. The race route is roughly 2 laps of Beachley, and as promised it was very fast and flat! After sticking with a group for a few miles I started to drop off the pace slightly, but with a few runners just behind I had someone to target as the race went on. 4 miles in I was well ahead of target, the pace was slowing slightly but in such a fast race I was able to focus on the runners in front. In the distance I could see a runner who resembled a member of East 17, with what looked like a vest on from the Cool Running movie! “Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme!” Just a few shorts weeks later the Jamaican Jogger (Richard Jackson-Hookins) joined the ranks of the Pontypridd Roadents. Another strong addition to the club. Coming into the home straight the finish line was placed just outside the race HQ. Chasing down the clock a big PB was on the cards. Crossing the line I glanced down at my watch: 32:16 - job done! All those hard sessions on the track in Beddau were starting to pay off. It was a successful day for club members with 10k PBs for Paul ‘fat, now fast’ Graham (29:38 – first time under 30 mins!), Simon Lewis (32:41), Mark Horsman (33:14), Stephen Bartlett (35:09), Kristian Walters (35:25) and Daniel Phillips (35:27). Well done all. The Speedway 10k is a great race that ticks all the boxes if you’re hunting for a PB, with the summer version scheduled for later this year in June. BEN BUTLER-MADDEN
OLD FATHER TIME Sunday 29th December 2019
Organised by Les Croupiers running club, this is a veterans only (35+) event held on the Sunday after Christmas which gives a good opportunity to burn off some of the festive calories. The fast, flat course consists of 2 laps of Pontcanna Fields and always attracts some of the best veteran runners in South Wales and beyond, ensuring a high-quality competitive race. Now in its 30th year, the club has an excellent record in this event. The first edition held in 1989 was won by ex-Roadent legend John Pointon, while previous winners also include Peter Coles (2006 & 2007) and last year’s champion Simon Lewis. The 1pm start coupled with the mild, dry conditions meant the paths around Pontcanna were very congested with the public which did make racing challenging in places, at one point I had to hurdle a Labrador that ran in front of me! The race incorporated the Welsh masters championships and we had 14 Roadents on the start line, producing some great age category results: Mark Horsman 2nd Overall & 1st Vet 40 Gold in Welsh masters championships Stephen Bartlett 1st Vet 50 Gold Keith James 3rd Vet 45 Brian Gough 1st Vet 75 Gold Sian Khalil 2nd FV50 The overall winner was Richard Jackson-Hookins of Les Croupiers who you may see in a Roadents vest soon :-) Overall a great value local race that I would definitely recommend! LAURENCE POLE
CF64 Sunday 20th January 2020
Photo by Paul Stillman
CF64 is a nice undulating trail run that was the first race of this year’s off road championship and was well populated with Roadents, so plenty of friendly faces around. It is run on a 10K cross country course around Cosmeston Lakes which definitely requires trail shoes and is organised by Penarth and Dinas runners. The pre race set up was efficient with no delays, following a nice stroll from the car park. The marshalls before, during and after the run are extremely supportive and friendly. This is an enjoyable if tough run and one I would definitely look to do again. The course starts on rough trail paths before going through grass meadows and marshland and then up steep hills which can get very muddy. This is the 2nd time I have run this course and fortunately this year it was a lot drier than the last time I did it. Even so, the lake came in handy at the end to wash my trail trainers and I managed the course in a respectable time and an improvement on last year by over 14 minutes. It is a run that is also for all runners and doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow as you will still get an amazing race experience and all at a cheap price. There is no medal or t-shirt but for around £10 it is definitely value for money and one I would highly recommend. MARK DOUGLAS
EVENT REVIEWS VALENCIA MARATHON Sunday 1st December 2019
Valencia Marathon seems to be rapidly establishing itself as one of the fastest and most exciting running events around. Due to its all-year-round exceptional weather, Valencia opens up its roads every early December, offering a great alternative for those looking at improving their times outside the Spring race calendar. Wide roads packed with incredibly supportive spectators and minimal number of turns ensure you can team-up with other runners and keep your moral high throughout the course. The race is really well organised. The start line is easy to get to from different points in the city and the bag drop is easy to find and all areas logically sign posted. It can get a bit crowded close to the start though as everyone walks back towards the start line, so don’t do like me and get there early. The gun goes off just before the sun manages to climb above the eccentric Valencian architecture, so you get an hour or so of perfect running conditions. Make sure you bring sunglasses if you don’t want to be squinting in every photo. If the 200,000 supporters are not enough to get you through the 26-mile course, the spectacular finish should. Valencia’s City of Arts & Sciences offers a mesmerising boost when you first glance it with 2km to go, and after the last 200 metres turn, it opens up and puts a huge smile in your face (I was smiling on the inside - you can’t see that in the photo…). If the marathon distance doesn’t feel too appealing to you, there is also a 10k race of similar standards (the world record has recently been beaten there) and a half marathon. There is so much more to the city than just the marathon so give yourself a few extra days to visit the sites (if you can still walk properly) and don’t miss out on a typical Valencian paella. See you there in 2020. JUAN DELGADO
LONG BEACH MARATHON Sunday 3rd October 2019
Go experience one of the most scenic events in California, “Run Long Beach”. Starting in Downtown Long Beach, you head towards the historic Queen Mary and then through Shoreline Village. After running next to the Pacific Ocean on the flat beach path, full marathoners veer right and head through Belmont Shore toward Marine Stadium. Cheerleaders, sororities, fraternities, clubs, student organisations, faculty and the school mascot Prospector Pete come out full-force to cheer as runners complete a 5K loop around the California State University, Long Beach campus. With 6.2 miles to go, runners head back towards Ocean Boulevard for a fast finish and Finish Line Festival celebration. You’ll close out your race running above the ocean along the bluff before closing out downhill into a cheering final straight of fans. OK the pluses: Great expo and easy bib pick up. The course is varied and gorgeous. Great volunteers, and fun little pockets of cheering observers alternating with quiet stretches. Water stops, nuun, and honey stingers on the course were all great. And the post-race snacks and beverages (terra chips, coconut water, and honey stinger waffles!), and live band (and chairs!) at the beer garden were all great. Bag drop was also super quick and easy, both for drop-off and pick-up. And the main minuses: The beach path part of the course is narrow, so it can get a little crowded for that part. If you’ve positioned yourself well, it’s not a big deal, but if you’re too far back it can be annoying because it’s hard to weave through.
Photos by Matt and Jackie Bourne, Alan Stokes, Brian Coleman, Dai Knight, Gerald Henry and Jeff Scorfield.
MERTHYR MAWR CHRISTMAS PUDDING RACE Sunday 8th December 2019
I was very excited to be finally doing this event again after many years’ break – mainly due to not getting around to entering before it was full, so being able to sign up to a bulk club entry was brilliant! I hope the organisers (Brackla Harriers) repeat this in future. Entry fee was £20. It was a grey and mizzly morning when Jackie and I got to the event. Car parking was well organised and hasslefree, with a 10 minute walk down the lane to the start at the Merthyr Mawr car park. We were early enough to miss the loo queues as well, so a good start to the day! There were several Roadents there, some like Jackie and I in the first ‘competitive’ wave which went off at 1000, and others in the ‘fun’ wave which started at 1010. After the obligatory selfies we headed to the start at the foot of the Big Dipper. This massive sand dune never gets easier no matter how often you run it! By the top all those in our part of the field were walking, which at least allowed us to get our breath back as we made our way single file along the dunes, before a flying freefall descent through the soft sand. We were soon then heading up the road, back past the car park, through a field and then some very muddy tracks leading to the water station – which was also offering mulled wine and mince pies! By this time I’d no idea where I was, as the route after the road bit has totally changed from what it was in the past, and it was a lovely surprise to find the next mile was a gentle downhill trail through the woods. After wading through some more mud and water we arrived on the beach, where the strong wind was whipping the sand into frenzied, stinging clouds – even so, beach running always lifts my spirits and I was definitely liking this course better than the old one, which I recall passed the sewage works at around this mileage! After a mile or so, we turned inland at the River Ogmore estuary – not far to the finish, but lots more water to negotiate before we could get there! I finally crossed the last stream and pulled myself up the muddy bank to finish just inside 70 minutes (distance 10.7km on my Garmin). Some goodies at the finish – buff, foil blanket and banana for everyone, puddings for those who wanted (there’s a choice on entry to have a pudding or donate to Foodbank). I think the buff was an extra to celebrate the 30th running of the event, so not sure what there’ll be next year. Also soup and bread at the finish, and not too big a queue. Glad there was a baggage tent as we were able to put on warm clothes soon after finishing, rather than having to walk up to the car. All in all, a well-organised, fun and challenging event – would definitely do it again!
MY YEAR OF RUNNING FOR CANCER RESEARCH WALES (Part 2) by DARREN GRIFFITHS-WARNER
It was a pleasant Saturday morning when I arrived at the start location for the Radyr & Morganstown Trail Half-Marathon (11th May 2019). A rather unassuming race that seemed to have passed under the local run list radar, I looked forward to the start as the challenges seemed quite fun. Firstly, we did a bit of a higgledy piggledy route around Radyr & Morganstown themselves before heading out via forestry to Garth Mountain, and our first climb of the day. My legs were bouncing along and confidence reigned, so of course soon I found myself sprawled over the forestry floor as I forgot to keep my wits about me. This was a trail run after all, an unforgiving trail run at that, so total concentration was once again the key. Luckily, the ground was soft with fallen leaves and slightly damp soil so, despite looking like the poo emoji, the only thing hurt was, once again, my pride. After crossing a few dangerous roads with the help of the friendly marshalls, the route ascended Garth Mountain, my third time during a race this year. Of course the views were superb from the top, being able to see my house if my eyesight was better, but no time to fully enjoy as I quickly descended to Gwaelod-y-Garth then Taff’s Well before making the steep climb on the other side of the A470 into Forest Fawr. This was such a beautiful place to run, the trees shimmering in the sunlight, creating dappled shapes that danced across the path in front of me. The climb wasn’t easy by far, but by the time you reached this peak’s highest point, you understood the positive effects that trail running has on your psyche. The woodland paths then twisted, turned and basically made their way back down to the start point at the Cricket Club in Radyr, finally running alongside the River Taff before the finish line. Okay the weather had been wonderful, but I must admit, I finished this run with a heightened sense of well-being. Such a joy to do and well worth your pennies people.
The following day the shorter, but no less arduous, Porthkerry 5 Mile Multi Terrain Race (12th May 2019) gave me another wonderful set of thrills as I experienced a mixture of road, grass, muddy tracks, open fields and steep climbs all in the shadow of Cardiff Airport. Hidden at the western end of Barry and The Knapp, Porthkerry Park is a beautiful gem that only the locals seem to know about. Another well organised run by Penarth & District Runners. I found myself bolstered by my previous day’s exhaustion and, rather than feeling tired, put in a pretty good time as I crossed over the finish line. When you’re used to running much longer distances, these 5 mile races can become amazingly good fun, because you find yourself really going for it, knowing that you could be enjoying a coffee in less than a hour. Another fab run that I can recommend highly. The weekend over and rather than resting up, I was looking at four more races by the end of the following weekend. The first was on the Tuesday night and a club favourite. The first of the Rose Inn 4 Mile Road Races (14th May 2019). Somehow I felt good about this short run, wanting to see if I could sustain a faster pace as opposed to the much slower paces of the longer and trail runs. Completing the distance in 30:57, was well beyond my expectations at this point of time. This put me in great spirits for the following evening’s run and my second visit to The Gower during this Year Of Running. The Whiteford Point MT Race (15th May 2019), organized by the Swansea Harriers, was billed as approximately a 10km run depending on the tide, through the sand dunes and beaches of this lesser visited part of the Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s northern-most point. Starting in the village of Llanmadoc around 7.30pm (having to wait for a bus to turn around) the run took us through the village, down a steep hill and on to the beach via a series of sandy paths. The tide was retreating and the runners ahead had taken the most direct route across the wet, sea-drenched sand and rocks rather than along the tidal high point, before cornering the point with views towards the Whiteford Lighthouse further out into the River Loughor Estuary. After climbing some very soft sand dunes, the path then headed back inland along sandy woodland paths alongside Burry Pill before returning to the afore-mentioned steep hill and the finish line half way up. A really exciting club race in the vein of the Sosban 10 mile MT race that I recommended everyone to have a go at. Two days later and my attempt at the shortest of my runs this year, the first of the Steve Jones 1 Mile Races (17th May 2019) at Bryn Bach Park. Basically a three quarter navigation of the lake, I initially thought I was in a good position looking at some of the company I had around me. Yes, some guys looked older and others definitely looked well over weight - but that only gave me false hope! The children’s and ladies’ races had already been completed before the shout ‘go’ happened on our run. Immediately, I realised how wrong I had been and the older, larger guys steamed off into the distance leaving me as one of the back markers chasing Andy Davies who was also leaving me for dust. If I’d had time to think I might have asked what these guys were on, but as I struggled to retain some dignity by passing another runner I realised that my shorter distance, speed running days were a distant dream. Still, it was a fun race, watched on by my wife, daughter and Charlie (the dog, who had wanted to join in during those last few steps to the finish line). There was a series of these runs over the summer, but circumstances meant that I could only take part in this first edition run - maybe one year I’ll have another go. The following Sunday Gail and myself ran the Caerphilly 10k (19th May 2019). Not the most inspiring of courses outside the main centre of the town with its imposing castle, it takes you on a journey around the industrial and housing estates that skirt the place. Still a very popular event amongst the local running community, it has a great atmosphere and a real buzz of friendly excitement. By this point of the year I had run 24 races of different distances, different terrains and different levels of difficulty. I felt ready for my next major challenge the following weekend. The Angles Way 100km Ultra Marathon (26th May 2019). Originally I had booked to do the HOWIE 24, a multi-lap event based in Pembrey Country Park spanning a 24-hour time limit, giving you opportunities to run as little or as far as you could within the time frame. I had planned my schedule with rest periods and times for each 5 mile circuit of the park. Gail was going to set up in our tent to keep me stocked up on goodies during the night and I knew that there were toilets throughout the park that meant that my ‘personal’ troubles were catered for. When the notification came through that the event had been cancelled due to lack of interest I had been very disappointed. My 100km attempt looked like it was in the balance. I had very little space for manoeuvre due to my now heavy schedule of booked runs and the lack of decent runs that provided transport back to your car, as most were point to point runs. I toyed with ‘The Slice’, a section of the Cake Or Death Race along the west coast of Wales that Fiona Davies was running, but eventually after much discussion nipped it in the bud as it was 100 miles over harsh coastline conditions and I wasn’t ready for that yet. The other was part of the River Severn Race that was taking
a route from the source of the river to the Severn Bridge over a number of days with each day also being offered as a separate run. Distances weren’t quite 100km for each day but the start and finish points were out of the way with no transport provided. Basically, you started in the middle of nowhere and finished in the middle of nowhere and unless you had a support driver, were left to your own devices. Shame, as the route sounded interesting but not feasible for me at that time. In fact, there was very little choice that fitted that date. The only one exception was the Angles Way 100km Ultra Marathon. The main problem here was it wasn’t in Wales. In fact it was almost as far east from Wales that you could get while still being in the United Kingdom, running from Diss in East Anglia along the Norfolk/Suffolk border to Great Yarmouth on the coast. The price included a bus from the finish line to the start so it ticked the boxes. It was just a long way to go with an early start, so paying for a hotel seemed pointless and a waste of money. After much deliberation I signed up, signing my fate for my first real epic fail. After driving up the day before and spending a truly awful night sleeping/not sleeping in my car in
a nearby car park, I bleary eyed collected my race number, t-shirt and boarded the bus with the other runners, not much being said at this 3.30am time slot. Arriving after an hour or so in Diss, to find the toilets locked (not a good start for me) we eventually started the run along what was to prove to be one of the most complicated routes I had ever encountered. Having been given a set of instructions worthy of War & Peace, we soon realised that they were as clear as mud in places, with no real form of signage to help us non-locals to decipher the way. We hadn’t run barely 5 miles before a number of us realised we’d been running the last mile in completely the wrong direction. This happened a number of times, each time I found myself getting more frustrated and losing sight of the other runners who all seemed to make me look totally unprepared for such a race. At the 26 mile point I got to a village where the instructions made no sense at all to me, unable through my tired dyslexic eyes to piece together what I was being told. That’s when I had my first melt down. I wasn’t proud of myself, shouting and swearing at the nearby trees and farm animals, but it happened. I eventually calmed myself, resorted to google maps and headed towards what I could see as the location of the next checkpoint ignoring the instructions. I got back into my normal calm mode and trundled on, knowing that I was probably in last place at this point. At the checkpoint, I mentioned the useless instructions before heading out on the next phase which seemed to go well. Another checkpoint and all seemed to be going well until I crossed a series of never ending fields, landing at a road. To the right were a few houses, to the left the road went off into the distance. The instructions said, ‘don’t go towards the houses’. I knew I’d run the wrong way when I saw a sign saying so many miles to a place that I had already been through earlier on the run - so I went back to google maps. Melt down number 2 occurred at this point as I realised I was supposed to run towards the houses I’d seen but not to the ones the other side of those houses! It didn’t make sense to me at all and wasn’t giving me that 100km running experience I craved. Oh I so wished the Howie 24 hadn’t been cancelled. I came across the next checkpoint and was told the last runners had been through over an hour before, though quite a few others had dropped out. I was still within the cut off time so I kept going. After passing through Beccles, I finally joined the River Waveney to run along its banks. This is why I wanted to do the race! Running through the beautiful flat landscape of the Norfolk Broads! It just seemed to take a very long time to get here. A good few miles along the riverbank and disaster happened as my foot went down a grass covered rut, twisted with a clicking sound and I fell to the
ground in pain. What had I done now I screamed to myself. Could my day get any worse? Painfully, I looked at my map and realised that the next checkpoint was closer ahead of me, than going back towards Beccles. I rang the race organiser and told them of my accident and said I may have to pull out at the next checkpoint before walking with difficulty on. Except the next checkpoint didn’t appear (they’d packed up early) and after 9 miles or more I realised things hadn’t gone to plan. After hobbling along a never ending pathway, being offered a can of beer by some students who had been matching my super speed for part of the way (I didn’t except, elite athlete me, you see), I eventually made the next checkpoint at Normanston where I retired being well past the cut-off time by now. I had run 48 miles, with only 14 left to go, and I felt like crap. The marshall drove me to the finish line where I watched a few of the faster runners come in and receive their medals. I felt even more like crap…bloody failure. The paramedic checked my leg and suggested I rested up as it was swollen, but not damaged in any other way. More runners arrived to receive their medals. I sat in the corner like a naughty school boy, dunce of the class, never to receive the accolade of a medal. Collecting my bags I left and went back to my car. I drove back to Normanston, refuelled, put some money in my pocket and started to slowly jog the 14 miles back to Great Yarmouth. No support, no checkpoints, no timing chip, I was doing this off my own back. People had donated to my cause, with me telling them I was going to run 100km. Like hell was I going to
give up… Even my strava battery had given up by the time I eventually reached the finish line after 19:15 hours of running (well, moving I should say). The building was locked up and everybody had gone home. I wandered into the town to an all-night taxi firm I’d spied earlier and eventually got a ride back to my car for the 5 hour drive back to Wales, arriving when everybody in my house was getting up. Give me a direct route and I’ll run it. Being so tired I found this run too complicated. Will I attempt 100km again? I’m not sure about that yet. I texted the organiser to tell him what I had done. I’m not sure he was happy about it. I’m not listed anywhere as I had missed the 18 hour cut-off, but did receive a medal through the post a week later. The company Run, Walk, Crawl is a staple amongst us Ultra Runners here in South Wales. I cut my teeth with them when I ran the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra as a birthday present to myself back in February 2018, while their Glamorgan Coastal Ultra in April 2018 almost wrecked me. Completing those runs was both hard but a wonderful experience that kicks all bad memories into the touchline. Most Ultras tend to take you places that are rarely touched by other runners or events, which is the main appeal to me, treading where few others have been before. But sometimes as a plodder, the cut-off times can be quite severe for the distances so become too much of a financial risk for a day tripper like me to take on. So when the company announced the slightly shorter version of their Brecon Beacons Trail Run (Saturday 1st June 2019), a mere 22 mile version of the course, I opted to give it a go (not realising that Rack Raid was going to be scheduled for the next day after I failed to make the grade for Castles Relay). The route for us lightweights started just South of Brecon town before climbing up and over the dizzying heights of Pen Y Fan (not the first time I’d run this mountain during 2019) via the North Ridge of Cribyn and Jacob’s Ladder. Always a hard and tough rise, you find yourself
scrambling by the time you reach the pinnacle. Then it’s over via Corn Du before dropping down to the A470 checkpoint at Storey Arms. It was during this descent that I was overtaken by Carl Walsh of the Rhondda Valley Runners (a man I see often at these events) who had opted for the long version of 35 miles and started a couple of hours before me! Once past the checkpoint, the route then climbed again along a very technical path up the rise of Fan Fawr, where you were greeted by the wildness of the beautiful high moorlands. Here I found a lonely marshal on checkpoint duty that seemed amazed at my smiling face and friendly greeting. ‘Everybody else is complaining,’ he told me, to which I replied, ‘How could you complain when a run brings you to such a beautiful place?’ I could say that, because the sun was shining for a change, which helped! I ran on, following small orange flags stuck into the ground that helped guide this weary runner across this untamed land of the National Park, joining the Brecon Beacons Way before crossing Fan Llia and dropping down to the next checkpoint on the minor road just above Ystradfellte. Through the village the course then took us into the busy Waterfalls Country area where, dodging the many sightseers, we made our way down and behind the waterfall, the amazing Sgwd-yr-Eira (The Snow Waterfall), before climbing back up out of the valley and across lesser-trod pathways to the next checkpoint outside the Whisky Distillery at Penderyn. Unfortunately only water and soft drinks were available! I ran on following the Celtic Trail to Hirwaun then on to the finish line at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun in Penywaun. A completion time of 7:08:40 might not be that impressive to some, but I was dead happy. What a joy to run this route, I’d love to do it again! OK, maybe I shouldn’t have run the 12.6 miles stage 6 of Rack Raid (2nd June 2019) the next day, but C’est La Vie. Loved it, came last and probably damaged our team’s chances of any form of decent standings, but always felt that this was a day of team spirit not to be missed. Talking of team spirit, the year moved on and the following Wednesday, as a bit of group therapy, I was part of a team that tackled the Cotrell Park Relays (6th June 2019). A number of Roadent teams had signed up to run the 3 mile lap relays including one containing Fiona Davies, who was still recovering from her epic Cake or Death Run the weekend before, and Team Stella who, like my group, were there for a bit of a laugh while running. Our group consisted of two teams: the men’s team – Tim Davies, Adrian Bragger and me; and the women’s team – Gail (my wife), Laura McCarthy and…well…me again, as the third lady had to pull out. As this race was about gaining experience, Gail and myself ran our first laps together, which meant our winning time was slightly shot, then Ade and Laura ran, followed by Tim and myself again, Tim disappearing off into the distance doing a stellar job himself of trying to make up for our slower pace. Whatever the results, the night was about having some running fun and I think the event was a success in that aspect…and we didn’t come last either! The following weekend, while many Roadents ran their legs of the Castles Relay, Gail and myself spent a weekend running two 10ks. The first of these on the Saturday was the Wyre Forestry Series 10k (8th June 2019). A beautiful run through some tough undulating trail terrain, this was part of a series of Forestry Runs being held throughout the country to celebrate 100 years of the Forestry Commission, providing you with an excellent wooden medal at the finish line. This was Gail’s first real experience of trail running, even after the delights of Cotrell Park, and provided all the terrains you require to gain that experience: steep muddy climbs, technical foot placement sections, narrow uneven paths and tremendous downhills that hide the fact that you’ll always have another steep uphill as an equalizer. This included the steep last 500 yards to the finish line. Great fun, but not sure if this series of runs will happen again which is a shame as I’d like to tackle the other forestry routes. The next day and it was closer to home for the Cardiff Pizza Run 10k (9th June 2019) in Bute Park. More of a fun run than an event for more serious runners, I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a timed event. Of course, the novelty of this run was that you gained a slice of pizza shaped medal at the end alongside some real pizza to add back those calories you’d burned off. A good laugh and very popular amongst those less speedy runners, which meant that Gail and myself would have come in quite high on the leaderboard, if they’d had one! The following Tuesday was the second in the Rose Inn 4 Mile Road Races (11th June 2019), another fast run around the flat terrain of the Gwent Levels before the enjoyably tough Coity Fell Race (15th June 2019), a wonderful 5 mile steep elevation, technical terrain slog over the hills around Blaenavon. Cheap, cheerful with no medal… Now the races started to come in thick and fast with 6 more runs booked before the end of June and I felt in a good place, my fitness levels rising and a wonderful summer of running ahead the first of these being the highly recommended Cheltenham Challenge (16th June 2019). But once again you’ll have to wait until the next issue of RAT RACE to see what I thought about that race.
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PROUD TO BE PONTY
Time to highlight us Roadents wearing our vests with pride again. This issue’s most exotic location award was a close competition between Paul Graham’s 1,082 mile trip to Barcelona which was pipped at the post by Andy Davies’ 1,385 mile journey to run in Benidorm. Keep the photos coming direct to me at email@example.com
Old Father Time (photos by Paul Stillman)
Sarah’s 50th parkrun New Year’s Eve 10 Miler
Barcelona Newport Half-Marathon
Lliswerry 8 (Photos by Robert Gale)
Pembrey Winter Relays
Celtic Winter Trail Half & Celtic Winter Trail Ultra Marathon
Turkey Trot Benidorm
CF64 (Photos by Penarth & Dinas Runners)
Barry Track 40 Miler (Photos by Paul Stillman)
Ashton Court Wild Night Run 10k
Glynneath 5 Gailâ€™s 100th parkrun Gwent League X-Country (Chepstow) (Photos by Paul Stillman)
Pembrey Welsh X-Country (Photos by Paul Stillman)
Brecon To Cardiff Ultra Marathon
Gwent League X-Country (Chepstow)
Sam winning the Brecon To Cardiff Ultra Marathon
Night Of The 10,000m PBs
Merthyr Mawr Pudding Race (Photos by Matt and Jackie Bourne, Alan Stokes, Brian Coleman, Dai Knight, Gerald Henry and Jeff Scorfield)
Cardiff Trail Half-Marathon (Photos by Andy Gale)
As an end to this issue of RAT RACE, I thought it’d be a good idea to list all of the 100 Marathons that Mike Gwynne has run (he has done more since completing his 100th, by the way). If you’d like to know anything about these races, ask Mike! 19th April 2015 Manchester Marathon 10 May 2015 Rhondda Rollercoaster 30 May 2015 Might Contain Nuts Round 2 10 April 2016 Rome Marathon 24 April 2016 London Marathon 1 May 2016 RWC - Brecon to Cardiff Ultra 29 May 2016 Rock N Roll - Liverpool 10 July 2016 Long Course (Tenby) 11 Aug 2016 Extreme North Quadrathon (1) 12 Aug 2016 Extreme North Quadrathon (2) 13 Aug 2016 Extreme North Quadrathon (3) 14 Aug 2016 Extreme North Quadrathon (4) 10 Sep 2016 Birmingham Canal Canter 29 Oct 2016 Snowdonia Marathon 11 Dec 2016 Enigma - Christmas Marathon 19 Feb 2017 RWC - Brecon to Cardiff Ultra (44) 4 March 2017 Green Man Ultra (30) 12 March 2017 Barcelona Marathon 22 April 2017 London Marathon 1 May 2017 Milton Keynes Marathon 7 May 2017 Great Welsh Marathon - Llanelli 21 May 2017 Stirling Marathon 28 May 2017 Dorchester Marathon 10 June 2017 Endure 24 9 July 2017 Long Course (Tenby) 6 Aug 2017 Gloucester City Marathon 17 Aug 2017 Extreme North Quadrathon (1) 18 Aug 2017 Extreme North Quadrathon (2) 19 Aug 2017 Extreme North Quadrathon (3) 20 Aug 2017 Extreme North Quadrathon (4) 10 Sept 2017 Ironman Wales 15 Oct 2017 Birmingham International Marathon 19 Nov 2017 Cornwall Marathon 17 Dec 2017 Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 3 Jan 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon (Dopey) 14 Jan 2018 Gloucester Winter Marathon 8 April 2018 Paris Marathon 15 April 2018 Great Welsh Marathon - Llanelli 29 April 2018 ABP Newport Marathon 5 May 2018 Thames Path 100 19 May 2018 West Country Flat 50 9 June 2018 Endure 24 30 June 2018 Great Barrow Challenge (3) 1 July 2018 Great Barrow Challenge (4) 7 July 2018 Great Barrow Challenge (10) 28 July 2018 Enigma - Show Me The Money (1) 29 July 2018 Enigma - Show Me The Money (2) 15 Sept 2018 Jolly Running - Cream Tea Caper (1) 16 Sept 2018 Jolly Running - Cream Tea Caper (2) 23 Sept 2018 Baxter’s Loch Ness Marathon 27 Oct 2018 Snowdonia Marathon 14 Nov 2018 Merthyr Trail Marathon
25 Nov 2018 Infinity Running - Four Seasons Winter 15 Dec 2018 SVN - The Usual Suspects 16 Dec 2018 SVN - Festive Frolic 29 Dec 2018 Phoenix Running - Frozen Day 1 30 Dec 2018 Phoenix Running - Frozen Day 2 20 Jan 2019 Infinity Running - Without Limits 10 Feb 2019 RWC - Brecon to Cardiff Ultra 17 Feb 2019 Infinity Running - Zodiac Run (Margam Park) 1 March 2019 Infinity Running - Four Seasons Spring 24 March 2019 Infinity Running - Where Eagles Dare 19 April 2019 Phoenix Running - Ty-RUN-Osaurus BONES 20 April 2019 Phoenix Running - Marmalade Mooch 21 April 2019 Phoenix Running - Run To The PUB 28 April 2019 London Marathon 5 May 2019 ABP Newport Wales Marathon 19 May 2019 Infinity Running - Keep On Running 26 May 2019 Edinburgh Marathon 16 June 2019 Infinity Running - Four Seasons Summer 7 July 2019 Long Course (Tenby) 14 July 2019 Infinity Running - Cardiff Taff Trail Run 22 July 2019 Deca UK Continuous Double 10 Aug 2019 Enigma Running - Italian Job 2019 11 Aug 2019 Saturn Running - Forest Run 2019 24 Aug 2019 First and Last Running Plym Trail Summer Marathon Day 1 25 Aug 2019 First and Last Running Plym Trail Summer Marathon Day 2 7 Sept 2019 THHN - City to Sea Marathon 14 Sept 2019 Hobo Pace - Robin Hood 100 22 Sept 2019 Infinity Running - Four Seasons Autumn 28 Sept 2019 How Hard Can It Be - Guardians of the COD RC 13 Oct 2019 Jet Blue Long Beach Marathon 27 Oct 2019 Dublin Marathon 1 Nov 2019 Saturn Running - A Spooky Return 10 Nov 2019 Infinity Running - Bonfire Bolt 16 Nov 2019 Phoenix Running - Day At The Movies 17 Nov 2019 Phoenix Running - Riverside Marathon 24 Nov 2019 Saturn Running - Frozen Arundelle 6 Dec 2019 Saturn Running - Jolly Jingle 7 Dec 2019 Saturn Running - Run Before Christmas 21 Dec 2019 Phoenix Running - Excalibur Twelve 27 Dec 2019 Saturn Running - Time Turner 28 Dec 2019 Phoenix Running - Year End Marathon 4 Jan 2020 Enigma Running - Winter Marathon 5 Jan 2020 Running Miles - New Year’s Revolutions 18 Jan 2020 Phoenix Running - Donut Dash 19 Jan 2020 Saturn Running - Run to Azkahban 25 Jan 2020 How Hard Can It Be - Winter Holly Run 31 Jan 2020 Saturn Running - The Run Home Run 1 Feb 2020 Saturn Running - Bohemian Run 8 Feb 2020 Phoenix Running - One Run Elven Blue Run CONGRATULATIONS!