RAT RACE The Pontypridd Roadents Magazine November/December 2019
Inside: Volunteering - A Great Sense of Well-Being Jo Gwynne - 100 miles and Counting Our Awards - A Henson Double Your Event Reviews www.pontypriddroadentsac.org.uk
Darren Griffiths-Warner - Newsletter Editor Welcome to the latest edition of RAT RACE, our fun packed magazine full of Arcane Delights to feast yourselves upon...of course this magazine doesn’t work without you guys, so if you fancy putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard and tell us about your recent running experience then I’ll be to glad to publish it...as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it....enjoy this issue my fellow Roadents!
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 GriffithsWarner 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 ‘The Long Straight Track’ Christmas is coming, the year 2020 is coming. It’s a time that many people get reflective and look back. I do this but not in a maudling sad way, as I’ve learned not to regret the things I’ve done in the past because my life’s journey has created a path that’s led me to the place I am now. It’s a journey along an invisible track that is waiting to be explored because you never know what may appear along the road ahead. Often I find myself being asked by non-runners, why do you run so much? Of course, there are the obvious answers. I feel fitter, I’ve lost weight, I like being part of a club — but as many of you may realize, I often take part in races where I’ve driven for miles on my own to join in and may be the only Roadent taking part. What drives this passion? Well, it’s not because I’m fast or win any exceptional races. No, it’s the journey. Following a path rarely trod, inaccessible unless you’re on foot. I love that sense of discovery. Like the line from the Talking Heads song Once In A Lifetime says, ‘Where Does That Highway Go To?’ It’s a passion that took me around the world during my formative years and has transferred into my running since I came back to it at the age of 48. Now at the age of 54, I know I can look back and pinpoint why I feel this way. I grew up in a small town called Bletchley in the not-very-posh part of Buckinghamshire, the fourth child of a family of five children. Independence was thrust upon us, as parental attention needed to be spread about between us all, shared out — though I still had to fight to be heard. Two years later, in 1967, they started building the new city of Milton Keynes, a satellite created for the London population overspill. I found myself growing up on the world’s largest building site. As I grew up so did the new city of Milton Keynes. It connected the quaint little villages of the north Buckinghamshire area with other small towns that had tried desperately not to be associated with the new epic housing estates that emerged alongside them — estates that broke the rules of architecture, challenging all pre-conceived ideas of what Britain should look like. Up popped tin boxes that resembled the slums of the future before they had even been finished, creating a world that was ready to be inhabited by Alex DeLarge and his fellow Droogs from Anthony Burgess’s 1962 book A Clockwork Orange. Apparently, during a particularly windy night, these tin box houses suffered a truly terrifying fate of being blown over – or so the local newspaper, The Gazette, reported. I never saw the debris myself, so I can’t confirm if this was true or just another MK Urban Myth. Throughout these estates of architectural delights weaved the amazing ‘redways’ that the forward-thinking planners had included right from the start, when the very first cornerstone was laid. Red route cycle paths wove their way through the city, using bridges and underpasses that allowed you to travel for miles on your bike or on foot without ever encountering a car. As I grew, I was bought a secondhand bike and spent many hours following these new redways to their ends, exploring shiny new worlds, taking photographs of the treasures I’d find before they changed again as the people moved in. Viewing it at night from the only piece of land in the area with a slight incline, Brickhill, the city looked like a giant space station made of neon lights reaching out to the far distance. But with an influx of people, came an influx of unrest and with very few forms of entertainment to satisfy came an upsurge in violence. Knife attacks were common. One night after leaving my friends to walk home alone, my friends were set upon. Kevin, always a bit of a mouthy guy, had got into an argument. The next morning I went to call on him, his Irish Mother commenting later that it was the only time she ever heard me swear as she told me he was in intensive care after being stabbed in the back seven times. I visited him in hospital but had already made plans to follow a new metaphorical path. Milton Keynes had lost its appeal and I was going to what became my new life, studying in Swansea, meeting my now wife Gail, moving to London, and the rest is another story. Kevin meanwhile survived, joined the police force, went on to get married and have three children, had a string of affairs, left his wife and followed his latest love to New Zealand, never to be heard from again. Maybe the constant changing landscape we grew up in created restless souls in all of us children of the new city. The sense of searching inbuilt into our DNA. I often return to Milton Keynes to visit my aging parents and have taken part in both of the two parkruns the city offers with my wife Gail, run the MK Marathon (receiving a PB for my efforts), while also taking part numerous times in the MK Winter Half Marathon in a cold and frost bitten December. I know while running those redways I once explored that, if I had stayed, I may never be in the place I am now, able to look back with fondness, not regret. So when I get asked ‘Why’ I run these impossible trails races, I say ‘Too See Where They Take Me.’ And that, above all else, is the real reason I run…why I follow that long straight track. You can read more in this issue about my life’s journey in the first part of my Year Of Running For Cancer Research Wales roundup along with many other Roadents’ journeys too... Merry Christmas to One and All.
NEWS & VIEWS Club Awards
Dates For Our Races Here’s the dates for next year’s 2020 Roadent Races. They are; The Reverse 10 on the 2nd February, The Treforest 10k on the 24th May The Loop is on 12th July. Of course we will need help from club members marshalling the events so, if you can, please try and keep these dates in your diary free. Thank you!
Congratulation to this year’s Pontypridd Roadents Club Award Winners, especially our cover stars Liz & Iestyn Henson, who both took away a Most Improved Runner Award each. Well done everyone. Sorry I wasn’t able to be with you, but I was out... where else but running a race! Here are some of Mair Johnson’s photos from the night...the publishable ones, that is! I heard things got messy!
Men’s Road Championship Div A Winner Jim Murray Runner up Laurence Pole
Men’s Off Road Championship Winner John Howells Runner up David Harden 3rd Andy Davies
Div B Winner Iestyn Henson Runner up Tim Davies 3rd Huw Keveren Davies
Ladies Off Road Championship
Div C Winner David Mather Runner up Paul Iddon 3rd Darren Griffiths-Warner
Handicap Race Championship
Ladies Road Championship Div A Winner Liz May Runner up Stephanie Davies Div B Winner Brenda Evans Div C Winner Elizabeth Henson Runner up Laura McCarthy President Award Paul Graham Chairman’s Award Fiona Davies Steve Bartlett
Winner Stephanie Davies Runner up Jennet Holmes
Winner Phillip Evans Runner up Nick Santos 3rd Iestyn Henson Most Improved Runners Ladies Winner Elizabeth Henson Runner up Liz May Men Winner Iestyn Henson Runner up Jake Brooke-Smith Chris Johns Award Pete Jackson Runners Runner Award Fiona Davies
Championship Races 2020 Here is the list of our 2020 Championship Races. We suggest you sign up as soon as possible. If you’d like to know more aout any of the races please ask Paul, Sam or myself as we’ve have run most of them. Road Championship Best 4 out of 7 to count March 15th – San Dom 20 Mile May 17th – Caerphilly 10k August 5th – Summer Sizzler 5k August 16th – Parc Cwm Darran 5 Mile September 20th – Swansea 10k October 4th – Cardiff Half Best Marathon time Off Road Championship. Best 4 out of 7 to count January 19th – CF64 Winter Race 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
Congratulations Congratulations from the Pontypridd Roadents to Mark Douglas on his engagement to fellow runner Carol Roughley, whom he met at parkrun. No date set for the big day, as of yet, but I’m sure Mark will be posting it out on Facebook when they’ve decided to tie the knot!!
The Red Hat Returns After last year’s apperance at the Club Awards Night where it spent half the night on top of Andy Davies’s head, this year saw the welcome return of Adrian Braggers Red Hat. The ‘to be seen in’ essential item soon did the rounds adorning many heads with a variety of glamorous poses.
Sara Brooke-Smith Memorial Mob Match Once again, this year’s SBS Memorial Mob Match was a wonderful success, a real friendly occasion, with perfect conditions and a fabulous turn out from both Pontypridd Roadents and Aberdare Valley. Thanks to everyone who ran and donated. The run raised £451.28 for Sarcoma UK with the event raising over £1000 in the last three years. If you’d like to make a donation to the cause, Jake Brooke-Smith has re-opened his Just Giving Page and you can donate money through there. Photos: Jamie Bishop
INTERVIEW - LISA & SIMON PRITCHARD
With 2020 fast approaching and everybody saying to themselves ‘It’s time to make a New Year’s Resolution’, then why not think about taking on a volunteering role? Of course, in the running world we have many opportunities to get involved and help others to achieve that position of fitness you may be at yourself. Other than our own club races, the Reverse 10, Treforest 10k and The Loop, maybe you could extend your hand of friendship and volunteer at other races or even our local parkruns, here in Pontypridd every Saturday & Sunday. The thought ‘What Do I Get Out Of It?’ may appear in your mind, but there are quite a few benefits to giving up your time. So I’ve talked to some friends who explain what drives them to volunteer week in, week out — whatever the weather. On this page, it’s Lisa & Simon Pritchard who are responsible for Pontypridd’s parkrun, and overleaf it’s Ruth Cochran, who not only is Ponty’s parkrun regular tailwalker but often appears marshalling on many of the races I personally have run when a friendly encouraging face is always welcome. How did you go about and what was involved initially in setting up a parkrun here in Pontypridd? Lisa: We first heard about Pontypridd parkrun a month or so before it started, back in 2013. Allen Bevan and Adrian Evans, who started the event, were looking for core team volunteers and I thought I’d give it a go. Little did I know then what I’d let us in for! Si was very much part of the running world - he was a member of the Roadents and, through the many races and club runs, we got to know a fab group of people. I didn’t run, so volunteering at parkrun would be perfect for me - I got to be part of the running world too (without actually running!) Parkrun helped me overcome some social anxiety issues too - working from home for 15 years was isolating. It’s all too easy to stay reclusive if you don’t ‘push’ yourself out of the door. On the first day of training at Newport parkrun, I happened to sit on the table where they came to process the results after the run - and so learned how to process them myself. It’s funny how life works sometimes - more than six years on, I’m still processing the results! In the early days, it was just me volunteering - Si ran or volunteered on the weeks he was able to, but then his parkrun running become less as he realised that volunteering was much more fun! We now split the work - we are Co-Event Directors. I do all the behind the scenes jobs (volunteer co-ordinator, results processing and social media posts, etc) and Si does the ‘front of house’ work - he’s the face/voice of our parkrun, and also takes on Run Director duties during parkrun. We’ve gone on to start up the junior parkrun, whilst maintaining the 5K parkrun - sourcing the set-up funding and recruiting an awesome team. In fact, our team was so good we were able to hand over the reigns of the junior event…but we’re still involved. The kids are awesome and our team have become good friends - yup, our lives revolve around parkrun!
Could you tell us any feel-good stories associated with Pontypridd parkrun? (marriages, saving lives, idiots running in circles for hours…) Lisa: Yup - we’ve had all those things! We’ve seen and heard so many fantastic stories that all stem from parkrun - it is truly inspiring! Lots of these stories can be found in the Notes section of our Facebook page there are far too may to list here! You see, parkrun is so much more than just a run in the park!
Pontypridd parkrun has been running for over 6 years now, how many hours a week do you spend dealing with the events? Lisa: I spend roughly two hours through the week manning our Facebook page (where we put out our volunteer request) and answering emails, and most of Saturday working on parkrun at the event, then processing the results and answering emails, etc Si’s main parkrun job is at the actual event, then he filters and posts all his parkrun photos.
What do you believe is the benefits of volunteering at parkrun/junior parkrun? Lisa: Volunteering (not just at parkrun) is a fab way to make friends and have fun, all whilst helping strengthen our wonderful community. People often thank both me and Si for all we do for parkrun, but we just believe that we receive far more than we give. We have never seen it as giving up our time, we just think of it as our fun time - a time to hang around with friends!
How many volunteers do you need each week to make Ponty parkrun viable? Lisa: Each and every week we need 24 volunteers to be able to put on a timed run. Should we not be able to fill all posts, we’d have to use our finish team to marshal the course, but the run won’t be timed. Thankfully, we’ve never had to do this, although it comes very close some weeks!
How can someone volunteer at parkrun/junior parkrun? Lisa: We put a Volunteer Request post out on our Facebook page every Monday morning (Tuesday, for Junior parkrun). Anyone can volunteer, runner or not. Just pop your name and parkrun A number down on the post and you’re in! We issue the roster on a Friday evening - sometimes this can be late if I’ve got to try to fill the roster last minute! Then all you have to do is rock up on Saturday (or Sunday for our juniors) and we’ll transform you into a hi-vis hero! Some parkruns are suffering due to lack of volunteers. With running being such a popular sport and new parkruns being established on a weekly basis worldwide, do you think it’s sustainable in its present format or do you think it needs to evolve and change? If so, how? Lisa: To be honest, Si and I just concentrate on our event - we have enough runners and walkers to call upon. If everyone takes a turn volunteering every now and then, we’ll be ok. Sometimes a little reminder is needed - we’re all volunteers and without our volunteers coming forward, parkrun can’t happen. We are not funded in any way - parkrun supplies the basics like stop-watches and barcode scanners (for now, as they are moving across
to app-based timing and scanning, which relies on volunteers using their own phones) and our core team buy any supplies we use at the finish area. We will ask for donations on our event page if and when we require anything specific. What drives you both personally to manage parkruns every week? Lisa: Come Friday evening, I’ve personally had enough of parkrun and never want to get up on Saturday morning to go! But of course I do, and by the time parkrun is over and everyone is over the finish line safely, I’m happy again and reminded why I love it so much! One of my favourite things is when you stand at the start/finish area and can see runners all around you at different points in the park. I suppose it’s a little bit of pride that we bring this event to life and so many enjoy it. The same goes for when we walk round town straight after the run and the coffee shops and Taff Street is full of runners enjoying their post parkrun cuppa and meet ups with friends - once again, proving that parkrun is so much than just a run in the park Si: I just love my weekend mornings, surrounded by friends and people enjoying themselves. It’s just awesome having something quite as cool as our parkrun going on every week. The 5k parkrun is brilliant and the Junior one even better! DARREN GRIFFITHS-WARNER
INTERVIEW - RUTH COCHRAN
Other than your regular spot at the back as tailwalker at Pontypridd parkrun, what other events have you marshalled? Quite a few: Race for Life, Cardiff Half (5 times), Cardiff 10k, Merthyr 10k, Merthyr Half (4 times), Long Course Weekend, Women’s 10k in Cardiff, Inspire 5mile Trail, OTT Half, 10yfan (twice), Inspire Sprint Tri, Caridff Sprint Tri, DBMax Titan (5 times), Roadents Reverse (twice), Roadents Loop (twice). Roadents 10k (twice), 401 Challenge final day, Castle to Castle original race (20miles), Velindre 2k and 5k, Wales Velathon (twice) and Newport Half-Marathon. There’s probably a few more but I can’t think at the moment... How do you find the volunteering roles? Mostly if I have volunteered in that role previously then they email me to ask. For new ones I usually see adverts on Facebook and put my name forward, but for others I’ll hear about the event and want to help out so contact them. What do you get out of it? As most people know I’m not the fastest of the bunch and I believe everyone needs encouragement. Having run races and finding some really tough, seeing a friendly face along the route can really buck up your spirits. So I’m really conscious of that and love to encourage these people to get to their goal end. It doesn’t matter of the time, it matters they cross both lines. Even if I’m not marshalling I’ll pop along to a race to spur people on, for example for the last two years of Brecon to Cardiff I’ve been point to point along the route just to support the runners. What do people get out of volunteering? Usually it’s a tshirt and a drink. If it’s a longer event you’ll get food given to you too. With some races the organisers offer you a free place on another one of their runs, like Run Walk Crawl or OTT. Financially ... I couldn’t tell you. I’ve never had any money and wouldn’t look to do one for money unless there was a lot of out-of-pocket expenses. I know after marshalling the Tenby Long Course Weekend, that by the time I paid out petrol and car parking I decided I would only do that one once (though never say never). For me it’s the thrill of seeing people finish an event. For parkrun I set up a tailwalking album for people who walk with me so that they can see how far their journey has come, if they are having a bad day in 20 weeks time ... it really does work for them. What would you say to others considering volunteering? Go for it! To see people visibly change when you are shouting encouraging words is awesome. Knowing that people know you are there helping them on is so brilliant. Seeing people get stronger and stronger is totally brilliant. Try it once and you won’t regret it
ROBIN HOOD 100 Saturday 14th September 2019
Firstly, some details for you. Robin Hood 100: Hobo Pace https://www.hobopace.co.uk/robin-hood-100/ Cost: £114 — so in essence just over £1 per mile, which is good value for money. Each finisher receives a HOBO Pace Race T Shirt and a personalised medal upon completion of the event. Cut-off time is 30 hours. The only cut-off to be enforced is at Aid Station 3 on the return lap heading back to the hall. Competitors must stop here if there is not sufficient time to finish the 16 miles remaining within the 30 hours allocated. The race takes place annually, usually the second Saturday in September. The route heads into Sherwood Forest to take in Robin Hood’s homeland before returning back to South Wheatley. Relatively flat with no major climbs, just steady undulations on occasion, make it a ‘fast’ course. This is an ideal first 100 Mile race / a PB ‘fast’ trail - even though I’m reliably informed the Thames Path 100 is easier. From the hall at South Wheatley you head out towards the Chesterfield Canal. Once the route hits the towpath, runners simply follow this all the way Worksop to eventually join part of the Dukeries race route which enters into the heart of Sherwood Forest. Navigation on the canal could not be simpler, as the towpath hugs the canal water. Once you hit the forest it will be well taped. The race loops 30 miles in Sherwood Forest twice, before returning on the same towpath once again. The Dukeries lap offers some of Nottinghamshire’s most famous, finest and picturesque trail. Following forest trails, minor roads and footpaths, the route passes charming lodges, through Creswell Crags and skirts the Welbeck Estate. It then crosses Clumber Park and through peaceful farm land before looping back to pass by the Thoresby Estate before returning to the thick of the Forest again.The route passes The Major Oak! The return is made on the same Chesterfield Canal towpath to head back to the village hall for an easy navigational finish.
So there’s the details. But what was it actually like to run it? Here’s my account: When we arrived at the hall in South Wheatley for the start, we collected our race numbers and tracker. I looked around and everyone looked relaxed and had clearly done this before. Ronnie, the race organiser, gave his briefing about a slight detour on the course and having to do a few laps of the field before we started because no one would want to have a short race. He was amusing about not dying on the course because the paperwork is enormous if that happened! Time for one more visit to the loo and we were led outside to start the race. The weather was kind to us: dry, bright and warm, and so we set off across the fields all chatting away as we all realised it’s a long way. First hurdle was a farmer’s field about 3 or 4 miles in, it’s a right of way which the farmer is obviously unhappy about because it had been ploughed making it very difficult to cross, then the realisation set in that we would cross this field again at mile 99 (look forward to that). We then found our way onto the canal path, where I first saw my trusty crew and friend Fiona, who greeted me with a big smile and I knew I was on my way. The canal path was a little challenging as it wasn’t a clear path and was uneven, once again around Mile 9 I saw Fiona and at this point we realised my tracker wasn’t working as it showed me shopping in Lincoln! At Mile 12 I had a ‘moment’ and questioned what I was doing I still had 88 miles to go and who did I think I was thinking I could do a 100 mile race? For the next 3 miles people along the canal path might have questioned my sanity as I was talking to myself. I thought back to some brilliant advice “You can’t talk yourself into doing 100 miles, you have to look back and trust your training.” Repeating this over and over until at mile 16, just before the next checkpoint, I finally got my head back in the game and realised I could do this. It was lovely to see Fiona at the end of the canal path and before heading into Manon Pit. Seeing a familiar face really helps and also ensures you don’t have to think for yourself. The first marathon seemed to go quite quickly and I was moving well, then the next one came and went - even though there was a little hitch (getting lost in the forest!) But this was quickly resolved with a call to the race director and some helpful other runners. At around Mile 50 I met a lady called Anna and we seemed to be moving at the same pace and stuck together which helped as her tracker worked so Fiona could track me again. Then we met Michael who had done this race before, so my brain thought ‘stick with him he should know the route’ until he then confessed he got lost on the first loop too! At Mile 75 Anna decided that she was done, she had some really bad chaffing issues with her backpack and was bleeding lots, so she pressed her distress beacon whilst Michael and I carried on knowing we had just one more marathon to go. Luckily, we saw Fiona soon after this so I could give her Michael’s tracker number and received some well-earned Lucozade and IrnBru. Believe me this is the best thing ever! Home straight, here we come. Out of Manon Pit and down to the canal. I’m starting to countdown the Aid Stations now - three to go. But lucky for me, Fiona was my extra support - and I needed it. Along the canal path I was a little dis-orientated and started to hallucinate and could see people (Mike and Fiona) in the canal waving at me, but there was no-one there. It was early morning by now and people were out walking their dogs and all saying good morning, which confused me at first until I looked at my watch and it dawned on me I had been running all night but had blocked it out. The last aid station and just three miles to go. Yes, just a parkrun, but three difficult miles, up the hill, over that ploughed field which felt like 10 miles at this point, cross the main road and then up the last hill, across the rocky path and then a “sprint finish”... luckily, it was downhill! All done with an hour to spare, I’d made it - just! It was a tough journey and I was so lucky to have such brilliant support. Fiona took the decision making away from me, made me eat when I didn’t want to but needed to, kept me hydrated with Irn-Bru and Lucozade, and generally kept me alive. We stayed in a lodge in Clumber Park with a lovely ‘jacuzzi’ just outside the door, the lodge was in the heart of the race which was ideal for support crew and runners.
EVENT REVIEWS TOKYO PARKRUN Saturday 28th September 2019
I did some parkrun tourism while in Japan and attended the Futakotamagawa Park parkrun (Tokyo) on the 28th of September. I say Tokyo parkrun and technically it is Tokyo, but the city is massive. I headed off on the 6.45am train to ensure I got there on time for the 8 m start. The journey took approximately half an hour on a reasonably fast subway train. To put that in context if you left Ponty you’d ride the train until Newport before you arrive at the park – and I was still in Tokyo! I left the train and made my way approximately 1 mile to the event start, the 26th parkrun held in Tokyo. Most if not all of you have run parkruns more than Tokyo have been operating theirs. It’s always difficult when you don’t know where you’re going but it was quite easy to see a lot of people in running gear, so I followed the crowd. It was still early and only about 18 degrees, but it warmed up very quickly to about 25 by the start time. It was during the Rugby World Cup so it was like a league of nations. English, South Africans, Japanese, Australians and quite quirkily someone spotted my Roadent’s vest and introduced themselves…they were from Beddau! The flat course caressed the river and was very pleasant. There is a path with a substantial green strip of grass separating two tarmacked surfaces, but in true Japanese style we were instructed to run on the slightly uneven grassy area so as not to inconvenience other park users even though the path was wide on both sides. A very pleasant run if you ever find yourself in Toyko.
DUBLIN MARATHON Sunday 27th October 2019
This was my final shot at a marathon this year after Chicago had been of a disaster of a run, but a great holiday. I’m yet to figure out that these two may be mutually exclusive! Low on marathon confidence, I threw caution to the wind and started the extended weekend away on the wrong foot by making full use of the free bar in the executive lounge at Cardiff Airport (friends in high places possibly attempting to scupper any running comeback). Registration on the Friday was uncomplicated, convenient and quick with a fantastic supply of freebies including ice cream and flavoured yoghurt that was being given away by the bag full. The day before was the usual well-constructed and time-honoured plan of walking endless miles around a city from morning until late afternoon, drinking plenty of Guinness and eating food that has no place fuelling a marathon - but why mess with the classics? As per usual, Fiona and Jo had sourced the premiere location to stay the night before - literally a ten minute walk from the start line - and so I made my way there with Jo and Fiona without the usual gauntlet of bag checks and runner number checks, although I think that was more down to some local chaos rather than by design. I’ve recently been relegated from starting on the earlier and faster start times with Mike, meaning he is usually showered and has slept by the time I return home. A cataclysmic error of race scheduling on my behalf meant that this race was on the same day, and time, as the semi final of the Rugby World Cup between Wales and South Africa and I was keen to keep up-to-date with proceedings whilst slugging my way around Dublin. Not worrying greatly about the data charges I hooked up my iPhone to internet radio and attracted a crowd of perplexed Irish runners clamouring to have a glimpse of the score (I actually managed to get TV coverage) before we started. It was at this point that the race began and I was busily trying to stuff the phone back into a pouch whilst running and trying to change it to radio coverage and putting headphones in. Suffice to say my first mile was slow and steady running through the centre of Dublin, heading back towards the iconic Guinness brewery. At around mile five you head towards Phoenix Park, a dead straight three mile road with a slight but noticeably sapping uphill gradient, passing the US Embassy and the official residence of the President of Ireland. I was drawing some strange looks at this point as the rugby was nearing its climax and it probably seemed that I was suffering from Tourette’s owing to my occasional and random outbursts in relation to the rugby. On that point, the locals offered support, scores and later commiserations in relation to the rugby which was a lovely touch. Even being so far from home, there were plenty of shouts for ‘Ponty’ or ‘Wales’ from random faces in the crowd keen to keep the celtic connection going. The rest of the race was the usual slog of a city marathon with decent feed stations (but as always congested and full of annoying people that zig zag all over the place). The route was unremarkable but interesting enough with plenty of fervent support. The last three miles are basically downhill alongside what is in essence a motorway, which is a touch disconcerting given that people struggle to run in a straight line at that point - not big on Health & Safety the Irish it seems. I enjoyed the last mile running back towards the centre of Dublin, there was London Marathon style crowds urging runners on as I managed to drag the final reserves of energy and went full on popeye in the final straight, producing some frankly disturbing race photos - but when you run a two-year best of 4.06 it is all worth it. The finish was a touch chaotic, with a volunteer issuing me with a small long sleeve (and very useful) race T shirt, which I’m sure was a cruel joke. It was the usual mile walk to get back to where you started the race through bag drop, etc, but it all seemed to work fast enough. Stories were swapped with fellow Roadents involving misery and woe as always – Maad did a number on me which I want to avenge in Manchester next year, Mike as always was waiting not-so-patiently for me to stumble into the house, I passed Sian at 20 miles odd and we exchanged a few words, but by then you really can’t be bothered with anyone or anything. Ever present were Fiona and Jo finishing with their arms aloft again, and Laura and Ade completed their first of many marathons I’m sure. In closing, I can’t recommend this event enough as it’s a decent mix between a large city run and a friendly event - although it’s disappointing that they have opted for a ballot next year as it makes it hard to plan group events. NICK POUNDER
BENIDORM 10k Sunday 27th NOVEMBER 2019
In true Roadents fashion, many of us assembled at The Tumble (aka Spoons) in Ponty to sample to local ales prior to the trip to the airport. As Max said, we travelled by bus and by car and it was refreshing to see the rest at Cardiff airport. With loved ones we totalled roughly 20. The sensible ones avoided jet lag by continuing to drink on the plane. Dinner was had on the Saturday night with plans of getting an early night. Well most of us did just that as it was very early in the morning by the time we went to bed! Before you knew it was race day, and the event itself had more trophies than the Henson household. An excellently organised event, but this year there was a twist…the route had changed. This time there was not the repetitive up and down of the main street, but we ran out towards the ‘M shaped’ 198m skyscraper ‘Intempo.’ The day warmed up quickly, and running vests were order of the day. I don’t have any reason why but I was struggling by 4k, it must have been a dodgy prawn as I’m sure my heavy drinking of beers and shots had no effect on my athlete’s body. I pushed on through and clocked up the K’s as we swept down along Poniete Beach and back to the picturesque Old Town. One last push up the slight incline and in at 56 minutes, with some Rats in front of me and some behind. We grouped and went to replenish our fluid levels, which was pretty much the call for the rest of the weekend. What a great event, and I propose it’s put on the club championship next season. Roll on 2020!
RACE TO THE KING Saturday 22nd June 2019
Right, firstly, apologies for not doing this sooner. The injury which followed Threshold Sports’ Race To The King has been a major set back and I suspect it is no coincidence that, at the same time I’ve declared myself injury free, I was happy to start talking/writing about running again. It feels a long time ago, I suppose 4 months is long within the running world. Anyway, despite the injury which ensued, I had a great day out jogging 54 glorious miles along the South Downs Way, bagging the win in the process and a novelty trophy in the form of an engraved sword! Despite not being able to better my time two years prior to this, I was happy having footed the startline off the back of a long holiday. I’ve had varied success here in the past, including an ill-fated attempt at the (Centurion) SDW100 and a successful race at (Centurion) SDW50 previous to this. Whilst both Centurion and Threshold Sports events are chalk and cheese to ultra runners, the routes in which they take are undeniably appealing to those running their 1st or 100th ultra, in particular those which take place on the South Downs Way. The ease of navigation and stunning scenery tend to attract new and seasoned trail runners to the UK’s newest National Park. At the same time, with 5,000ft of climb over 54 miles, RTTK has enough lumps and bumps to make hard work of it. The race itself got off to a funny old start, as they often do with these relatively low-key ultras. I love watching those inclined to race size each other up over the first few miles. Inevitably, a few set off at world record pace whilst the more conservative watch from a distance. I found myself running with 2-3 others over the first 20 miles until I conceded to 2nd place, knowing I was pushing too hard on the climbs to keep up with 1st. However, after 45 miles, I caught a glimmer of the chap ahead as he slowed on a roasting day and I managed to make it home in first place. All in all, a cracking day out as ever and a highly recommended race. It is a slightly pricier one, so consider Centurion’s SDW50/100 if you manage to get in before they sell out. If you’re interested in the same experience for a lower distance/cost, Three Forts Marathon (27.2 miles) is the best value for money race I’ve ever done, so check that one out. JACK BLACKBURN
MY YEAR OF RUNNING FOR CANCER RESEARCH WALES (Part 1) by DARREN GRIFFITHS-WARNER
I know I’m not one of the elite, super speedy runners that we have in the club. I’m not the first choice for a winning Castles Relay Team and I’m usually the slowest of the three runners in our team at Cosmeston Relays. I know I’m a bit porky round the middle, additional fat that has been ever present for a number of years and seems impossible to shift. I’m not the guy that takes his top off when running in the summer heat, accepting the sweaty drowned rat look rather than expose the wobbling extremities that are attached to my stomach area. But I run because, despite what people may think when they see me, I enjoy it. So when I first mulled over my epic Year Of Running for Cancer Research Wales there were a few self-set criterias I wanted to reach. One had been community involvement, which was achieved on my Day of Endurance around Ponty Park; another was to run 100km, which I achieved by completing the Angles Way Ultra Marathon (Saturday 28th May 2019); while the third criteria was to run over some of the most beautiful parts of Wales. This I have achieved by entering a number of races, though I was never going for a win, just a finish. It also meant I got to run along coastlines, over mountains, through quaint villages and woodland that was rarely seen on a running map. Also, I experienced a number of lesser-known runs that hopefully I could entice you, fellow runners, to share in the experience. Oh there was one more criteria…burn as many calories as possible. So doing two races a weekend became part of my exercise routine. I even got up to five during a seven day period at times. So grab a coffee, sit down and put your feet up, because summing up this year is going to take a while.
I started the year off with a number of shorter runs including CF64 (20th January 2019), followed by the Worm’s Head 10k (3rd February 2019) on my 54th Birthday. It was a day spent sludging through mud and snow, the same snow that cancelled our club’s Reverse 10 due to be run that day, alongside a number of other races and parkruns. Only Liz May and myself from the Roadents made our careful way along slippery roads to the far end of The Gower and Rhossilli. The weather didn’t know what to do with itself. One minute sleet, the next rain, then a bit of bright sun, all topped with a wonderfully chilly wind that wasn’t going to ease up as we ran along the coast. This was the first one of its kind and, I must admit, I did ask the question: why this time of year along such a difficult part of the coastline rather than a time when it would be dryer and less damaging to the grass paths which were about to face hundreds of studded trail trainers digging into its surface? Still, the run was sponsored by the National Trust who are responsible for the area, so I assume they understood what they were letting themselves in for. The race started and we initially ran on the hardened metal track from the National Trust Car Park down towards the glorious Worm’s Head, before doing a 180 degree turn and running back up the incline and through the small village. Turning onto the coastal path was when the real work began, the paths already thick with mud and icy, cold snow. People were slipping and sliding all over the place as we made our way along the footpath on the lower edge of Rhossilli Down, passing that infamous farmhouse that appears in all the photographs of the wide expanding beach and used in the final TV Series of Torchwood as Eve Miles’ hideaway (not that hidden really!). Speed was a no-no, as a broken limb was a possibility and there was no let up on the wet muddy track. Eventually we reached the end of the downs where civilisation rears its head in the form of a caravan park. Here we turned and made our way up to the top of the downs. Not the steepest of climbs, but when you feel like you’re climbing up a greasy slope like the challenges they used to face in ‘It’s A Knockout’ back on TV when I was a kid, then you realize that progress was bound to be slow and hard. I could hear Stuart Hall laughing beyond help as we careered and crashed together trying to make it up the gradiant. Shame he’s now a convicted sex offender, as that puts a dark shadow over those happy childhood memories. On with the race and once the top was reached the trail became much more attractive, with less mud but lots of snow. I could never get up to a great speed but enjoyed the running as we headed now along the highest peaks at this end of The Gower. This path rollercoasted its way through compacted snow and bitter ice cold winds until the steep downward drop back to the village, and another slippery path that represented a fairground attraction - a mud slide with a big dirty wet puddle at the bottom. Once negotiated, then it was the simple process of running back down to Worm’s Head to turn another 180 degrees again and back to the finish. With the mud, snow and freezing temperature, you needed to be made of stern stuff to tackle this race at this time of year, with many runner not that prepared for the challenge (Road Trainers, not Trail – was just one thing noticeable) but still an amazingly enjoyable run. Not the greatest time for a 10k at 1:08:55 but Liz May put a better show crossing the line exactly ten minutes before me with her well earned 58:55, which shows what a hard run it was knowing her normal super-fast times. The next two runs a couple of weeks later were with my wife Gail, who was to join me on a number of the 10k distance runs to support me throughout my Year Of Running Challenge.The first was Infinity Running’s Zodiac Run 10k (17th February 2019) in Margam Park, followed by the Winchester 10k (24th February 2019) which we did on a visit there as this was where our daughter was planning to go to University. The Zodiac Run consisted of a 5km route around the park with a couple of steeper climbs and desents to add spice to the morning’s activities. The 10k was two circuits while a 5k, Half, Full and Ultra were also on offer with a time limit cut-off of 6 hours. Circuit racing isn’t my favourite choice of races, but at least most have facilties and goodies to eat at regular spots and are great for training. Also they have become more popular as people use them to build up the numbers to make the 100 Marathon Club, with Infinity being one of the best organized in the South Wales area. Winchester 10k was a pleasant countryside run using roads and back lanes with more hills than expected in that area of England. Then my first major challenge came in a weekend double: Ras Dewi Sant (2nd March 2019), a run along the coastal path around the St David’s peninsular in Pembrokeshire had full and half marathon options available, but knowing I had the City Of Newport Half-Marathon (3rd March 2019) the following day I had opted for the half over the full marathon as I knew the coastline, and at this point felt I needed more training before I tackled 26.4 miles over such harsh terrain. Two half’s back to back (one trail, one road) was training enough at this point! St David’s, the city of, though a very small place to be given city status is dominated by the massively imposing cathedral which, of course, is why it’s a city. Stuck out on a peninsular on the western Pembrokeshire
coast, it’s a place you go to rather than pass through. I arrived after a 5am rise and a 2.15 hour drive, making sure I had enough time to prepare and collect my race number. The run itself didn’t actually start until 9am, but I hate being late and having to rush - but at 7.15am the place was already buzzing with runners as they wandered about aimlessly looking for something to pass their time. Me, I strolled about taking selfies until we were called to the race briefing in the main square of the city. The race duly started, the majestic backdrop of the cathedral almost waving goodbye as we headed along the country roads out of the city heading towards the coast at Whitesands Bay where we were to join the Coastal Path. It was a bit of an easy start, lulling you into a false sense of security before the truly difficult terrain that was the majority of the 13.1 miles ahead of us. Hitting the coastal path, a mixture of mud, rock and other surfaces sent to try us, you realized that there is little more than air between yourself and the high cliffs down to the sea, so care was the order of the day. My trail shoes gripped reassuringly to the earth below my feet and I felt a true sense of comfort, really enjoying this run. At St Justinians, many runners disappeared inland to finish the 10k race that was running alongside us, while us Half’ers continued along the next 5 miles of remote coastal headland. Any accident here and you’d have a long way back to any form of help or assistance. Up a hill and in front of me a runner went down. He was negotiating a downhill section when his feet slipped and he took a tumble towards the edge of the path and the drop to the sea beyond. I asked if he was okay but he barely grunted an acknowledgement before he got to his feet and sped off, leaving me in the wake of his embarrassment. I made another mental note to myself: watch your footing. Of course, watching your footing meant you missed some of the wild, rugged, fantastic scenery that only walkers or runners get to experience as roads weren’t built to these view points. While musing over the landscape, the path got the better of me and I slipped on some mud and went down. Nothing too hard, just that loss of pride that you always experience in such circumstances, though I thanked all those nearby runners who checked to see if I was OK. Quick to my feet, no damage done, I set off again telling myself off for my lack of attention. We were reaching the point of no return along this desolate path so a more severe accident could be quite a problem. That’s when I fell again, clipping a protruding rock, and over I went. This time the ground wasn’t friendly, idiot-saving, soft mud now I faced stones and rocks with sharp edges. My body turned just before the ground and luckily my leg muscles took the hardest of the blows as I crashed into the floor, my head just short of a huge rock that would have caused a few problems had I gone any further. This time my pride wasn’t the only thing wounded. I was winded, so it took a few minutes for me to gain my composure before I got to my feet and sorted myself out. Again, fellow runners checked I was OK before leaving me to lick my wounds - of which there were many, so I shook off the blood pouring from my hand because the main damage was my bruised leg. Still, I wasn’t going to stop. I’ve never pulled out of a race and I could still move - bonus! Everyone and their granny started passing me now, and I slowly made my way to the end of the coastal section of the run and the road inland. The pain being shaken off I began to increase my speed and make my way inland, passing a few runners on the way. Heading into St David’s, the route twisted and turned until we actually ran into the grounds of the cathedral. One last hardship awaited for us though - a series of steps with the finish line near the top. Maybe somebody had run these hundred steps, but not me, despite the gathered audience watching your painful progress as you climbed. Of course this is where I got my photo taken, knackered, slow and struggling to complete the rise. Indignity over and I crossed the finish line after passing through the ancient city gate in a time of 2:27:20. Now it was time to repair the damage and get ready for the following day and the City Of Newport Half-Marathon. My ‘Year of Running’ continued with my first attempt at a Swim/Run combination in Ponty Lido for Go Tri (10th
March 2019), where my swimming was pathetic (the slowest person to complete the 16 lengths that day), followed by a 4km run where, thankfully, I made up for my slow swim so so didn’t come completely last. Still I was happy with the fact I’d done anything at all, having had my third bowel operation on the previous Wednesday and being told by my consultant not to run. Luckily for me, they had tried out a new surgical technique on me that meant I wasn’t left in such a debilitating situation post operation, which would have put paid to my Challenge before I’d really started. Unfortunately, I know that this is an ongoing problem that is likey to keep reappearing, maybe one day putting an end to my running career altogether, so I need to embrace these runs while I can. The Go Tri was followed by the 20 miles of San Dom (17th March 2019) and the Merthyr Half-Marathon (24th March 2019) which were great training runs, running more or less along the same routes before my first real distance race - the one-off Brain Tumour 40 Mile Ultra Marathon (30th March 2019) in Llanelli. The run consisted of a three legged tour around the Millenium Coastal path that is a favourite for all major events in the area. Starting at 8.30am from the Tennis Club just west of the town, the route took us down to the coast before heading West along the cycle path on well maintained tarmac tracks. As it was a Saturday, we mingled and received support from the parkrunners who use part of this path for their regular 9am run, making our way collectively in the direction of Bury Port. About 4 miles in we got turned around and
went back in the direction that we came though continued on east passing the golf course, caravan park and Nature Reserve before once again being turned around at the 13 mile point to retrace our steps towards the Tennis Club. It was at this point, at 21 miles, that the course turned inland and we started the long slow climb following another cycle path to the village of Tumble, over 9 miles away. A never ending route, known locally by runners as the ‘Path of Doom’, it’s a slow climb of twists and turns hidden amongst the trees that crowded the pathway and made for a deceptive run as you were unable to gauge how far you had gone and when the next turn around point was going to appear. Somewhere along the route, we were given glimpses of locations like the Swiss Valley Reservoir, Upper Lliedi Reservoir and The Waun Wyllt Inn, though it wasn’t until we ran alongside the Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway, a tourist attraction of steam trains, that you felt the sky open up for you. Saying that, the day had proven to be a warm one, so the trees often gave us much needed shade from the sun that we hadn’t expected after hearing the weather forecast. The railway only marked the 6 mile point along this track with over 3 miles before the turn around all through lonely countryside. Every so often I’d see the faster runners who were ahead of me, heading towards me, always nodding their respect and shouting their encouragements, usually with an added ‘only 3 miles to go’ type comment that sometimes made the effort harder, knowing that I was 6 miles behind them. The first of these runners had been lower down the
climb by one of the reservoirs. He had been walking, struggling to put one foot in front of the other looking totally out of it. I offered him some liquid and an energy bar, which he gratefully received and devoured in seconds telling me his ‘legs were shot.’ I gave him the normal encouraging response, ‘not far to go now matey’, which in his case was true. I’d seen this guy a few times already today, last time speeding past me down on the coast by the Golf Club. Basically, I think he was the lead runner or close to that position and if I looked anything like he did, God help me in the task ahead. I finally reached the turn around point at Tumble and the hill climb finally ended. I still had over 9 miles to go but was encouraged knowing most was in a downward direction. Replenished, off I went back onto the ‘Path Of Doom’ - though it didn’t seem that doom-laden when tackling it in this direction. Now I got to pass those hundreds of runners who were still climbing the hill…well three of them actually, and one of them overtook me on the way down - which meant out of those of us still on the course, I was closer to last than first position. Not that I really minded as I trotted my way back towards the Tennis club in Llanelli. The afternoon had turned out to be quite pleasant and I listened to the birds tweeting, the streams of clear water rippling while I quietly sang my awful Ultra Marathon Man song that I sing to encourage myself during these long epic runs. Suddenly, Judy Garland appeared and together we skipped along this Yellow Brick Road, laughing out loudly as we waved at the Tin Man and Scarecrow. OK, maybe this was a hint that I needed to take on more fluids by this point in my next long run! So I jogged down and saw a friendly marshall directing me towards the finish line telling me that all the runners who had passed her had been walking by this point, me being the only one still running (attempting to run I added back). I finally finished this 40 mile epic in 8:53:45, my body knowing I’d done that distance. But I was happy with my result. A number of people had dropped out, the distance being too much for them, but if I was to complete the 100km run I’d planned to attempt later in the year, I knew I had to get through these distance runs both physically and mentally or I wasn’t going to succeed in that quest. The following day I ran the Cardiff Bay 10k (31st March 2019) with my wife Gail. A lovely run over the barrage and around the Millenium Centre that was a perfect warm down from the exhaustion of the day before, proving to myself that I still had running capabilities in my legs and recovery times were becoming shorter. The 6th of April arrived and I ran my self-imposed Day Of Endurance (featured in July/August RAT RACE) where a number of our fellow Roadents joined me as I completed multiple laps of Ponty Park over a period of 10 hours. By the end of the day I had run 44 miles, the most I have ever run during one event at that point. The following day, as a kind of warm down, I tail ran/walked our very own Reverse 10 (7th April 2019) with Gwyn Johnson. The week after saw Gail and myself running the Pendine Sands 10k (14th April 2019), on such a windy day that gusts lifted the surface of the beach and shot blasted our legs to nearly red raw conditions. We completed a slow 5km along the beach heading into the gale force wind before turning around and finding the finish line coming at us quickly as we were blown along at great speed. A completely contrasting run of two halves! It was during the following Easter weekend that I took part in my next marathon. The Gregynog Marathon (20th April 2019) up near Newtown was a 10k multi lap event that took me through four laps of a twisting and turning rollercoaster of a course through quaint villages and parkland on, what was to be, the first real hottest day of the year. The run started at a fairly late time of 10.30am, as there was a 10k prior to our run, which meant that us Marathoners and Half Marathoners got to enjoy the heavy heat of the middle part of the day. This meant that we suffered unnecessarily, with a number of the 26.4 milers pulling out or dropping down to the half after two laps. I was quite pleased with my decent tempo pace which lasted for the first three laps, but the heat eventually worked its way into my body and I found the forth lap a real challenge despite carrying copious amounts of fluid in my backpack bladder. I romped over the finish line as they were packing away in an slightly embarrassing time of 6:12:45, last place finisher of the day. Still, there is no rest for the mad - and within 10 days I tackled the Pentyrch Hill Race (30th April 2019) with its glorious double ascent of Garth Mountain, the Newport 10k (5th May 2019) where Gail and myself ran the shorter distance course alongside the Wales Newport Marathoners the day after I had joined in th celebrations of Gwyn Johnson’s marriage to the lovely Rachel, followed by the Lady Windsor 5 Mile Run (10th May 2019), again with Gail, organized by our friendly local rivals, The Robbertstown Runners (Robbies). This race was on a Friday night, and taking part may not have been the most sensible decision as I had organized runs for both the Saturday & Sunday as well. Saturday was the Radyr & Morganstown Trail Half-Marathon (11th May 2019) and Sunday was the wonderful Porthkerry 5 Mile Multi Terrain Race (12th May 2019). Both were excellent runs and I highly recommend them, but you’ll have to wait to read about them in the next edition of RAT RACE.
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PROUD TO BE PONTY
Yes itâ€™s those pages again where we highlight Us Roadents wearing our vests with pride. Keep them coming please â€” David Mather and Jo & Mike Gwynne battle it out in this edition for most exotic location!! Send them direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Cardiff Half-Marathon
Merthyr Mawr Christmas Pudding Race 10k
Cardiff Trail HalfMarathon
Miyukinohama Beach, Japan
Long Beach, USA
Liz Hensonâ€™s 100th , Huw Davies 50th & Wyn Thomasâ€™s 150th parkrun
Gwent League Cross Country Races (Llandaff Fields, Pembrey Park, Blaise Castle)