News for the local press and more

10th September update – Rose inn, wentwood 10k, utmb and more.
Some great fun, and plenty of success for Spirit of Monmouth runners over the last week.  Starting on Tuesday evening, there were two big relay events… Firstly, on Chippy Field, Ben led a club attempt at a 5K world record, cheating a little by breaking down the distance into about fifty x 100 metres!  A valiant attempt achieving 15:43. Perhaps another attempt is needed when a lot of runners aren’t away at Rose Inn, where the other big relay event took place (see photo of the speedy runners there).
Over the weekend, four runners took on the lovely Wentwood 10km trail race, with Lucy MacDonald finishing on the podium as the second lady home. Nerys Chaplin and Cathy Fletcher both came second in their own age-group categories and Jeremy Creasey was SoM’s first (and only) man to finish.
Further afield, Sophie Williams smashed her half marathon pb, just 8 seconds outside the 100 minute mark, at Lake Vyrnwy, whilst Emma King completed the very challenging, hilly and beautiful 16 mile Roman Run in Brecon, finishing tenth of 127 ladies.  And finally, club chair Toby Wales was over in the Baltic states with Mandy Robinson, running the Tallin Half marathon – where Mandy achieved a great PB of her own.
A little shout out for Vicky, whose amazing return from childbirth saw her bag a Park Run pb on Saturday but finally, a big shout out for one of the club’s newest members, Faye Johnson.  I’m not quite sure what she did, but it involved a multi-day event, running scores and scores of miles, with many many thousands of metres elevation up and down the Alps, in a finishing time of 18 hours and 27 minutes.  I might not be understanding the results page right, but she appeared to finish 6th out of a field of about 90 runners, of whom only about half even finished.  She might be quite a good runner!
27th august update  – severn bridge hm and hope cove race

It was a case of the Magnificent Severn for at least one Spirit of Monmouth runner, Stuart Penny, who won the M55 age category in the Severn Bridge Half Marathon on Sunday. Stuart broke the 90 minute barrier which was particularly impressive given he bank holiday high temperatures.

There were plenty of other good performances too, with Paul Middleton, Sophie Williams, Jeremy Creasey, Mex Gaillard, Steve McMenemy, Marina Wright and Andy Hillis all enjoying the heat, along with Sinead Moody who completed the 10K event.
Down at The Hope Cove Weekend, Vicky Roberts was pictured (below) hurtling towards 6th spot in the hilly 4K  “Joggers” Race.
21st august update  –  Rose inn, coppett hill, race the train

It was one of those busy week’s of racing for Spirit of Monmouth starting last Tuesday (13th) when Stuart Penny completed the four mile Rose Inn course at an average pace of 6:10 per mile. Not bad for a runner in the MV55 age category! Sophie Williams, Emma King and Andy Hillis were not too far behind with some great running.

At the weekend, Emma and Sophie travelled up to Tywyn to run the famous “Race the Train” event – a hugely popular race in mid-west Wales.  They selected the 14 mile multi-terrain route,and like 99% of female runners, they couldn’t beat the Talyllyn train to the destination, but still put in great performances to finish in 2:19 and 2:09 respectively.   Closer to home, there was a good turn out at the 5.4mile Coppett Hill Fell race, involving over a thousand feet of climb. Lucy MacDonald was the first senior female home – amazing! And with Lucy, Emily Harrison and Cathy Fletcher made up the winning female team and there were plenty more top performances from club members.
12th august update  –  GLCL Cwmbran, wyedean relay and the PT HM

Spirit of Monmouth brought down the curtain on their GLCL Road Race campaign when 10 men and 18 women ran the Cwmbran race last Tuesday evening (6th). As always, the evening was full of committed performances and team spirit, with first two home being Paul Middleton and Lucy MacDonald. That was enough for Lucy to secure a tremendous fifth place in the highly competitive ‘Senior Women’ individual competition over the complete summer season.  There were plenty more fantastic individual performances, with prizes awaiting Laura Grey and Marina Wright who finished in 2nd and 3rd places in their respective age categories.

As a team, Monmouth  finished the season in a highly creditable 4th place in the high quality ten-team Ladies’ League, with the men down in a more modest 8th. Now time for a break from league racing until the cross-countries start in October..

There was plenty more team spirit on Saturday when the club entered two teams of ten runners into the “Wyedean Relays”. This was a new event for 2019 with teams running 75km in the beautiful Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, broken down into ten intense stages, starting and finishing in Chepstow.  37 teams entered overall, with both SoM teams proudly finishing in the top ten.

And finally, Sophie had an enjoyable run at the Port Talbot half marathon on Sunday… where she helped other runners by taking on the role of 2hr 15min official pacer.

16th july update – spirit park run, international park run & Mic morris and thornbury 10K
It was downhill all the way for a dozen Spirit of Monmouth runners who finished the annual super fast “Mic Morris” 10K race from Blaenafon to Pontypool. Mex Gaillard was first back in an impressive 41.10, soon followed by first lady, Sophie Williams (41.49) and Emma King, Linsey Holt, Vicky Roberts, Caroline Hughes, Sally Williams, Trish Bicknell, Ruth McCarroll, Jo Thorp Sue Dryburgh and Emma Griffiths.  This followed on from another 10K in Thornbury on Thursday 11th – where Martin Blakebrough was the last Spirit of Monmouth runner to cross the line.  OK, he was the only SoM runner – and 46.14 was a good performance on a pretty tough course – but it still counts as last.
The previous day, the club held its monthly “Spirit Park Run”, with 13 runners enjoying a social, but competitive 5K run at Lydney. Warm and dry conditions underfoot saw Paul Middleton finish in fourth place overall. Three Spirits also came top in their age groups and there were three Lydney PBs. Thousands of miles away, Jeremy Creasey and his family were flying the flag at Park Run – this time in Orleans in Ontario, Canada – with Jeremy showing a some true British grit to take a podium spot, finishing 3rd in 22.22.
9th july update  –  Wales marathon, Porthcawl 10k, aquathlon
It was hot work for Spirit of Monmouth runners last weekend. Nevertheless, in Tenby,  Madeleine Newcomb took an excellent second place in her age category in the Wales Half Marathon. Trish Bicknell and Sian Burns also ran well to achieve top-half finishes in their own age-categories.
Also on the coast, at the Porthcawl 10K, Sarah Clifton and Steve & Sharon Gale “enjoyed” the hot and sunny conditions, posting good times of 67, 58 and 56 minutes respectively.
Meanwhile, Alex Wilson and Rich Foster had their own successes in the Monmouth Aquathlon – Alex winning her age category.  Rich was not well placed (to say the least) after the swim but he overtook plenty on the run to finish in 13th place overall.
photos to be added in due course!
25th june update:  Torfaen sprint relays, swansea half, SW50
First of all, those of us who take part in local races often benefit from the excellent photography of Robert Gale (and indeed others!). Below is a brilliant photo of Karen and Ben that just captures our sport perfectly, in the form of a relay event.   Anyway, onto the more general report….
Spirit of Monmouth sent a team to the four-by-two-mile Torfaen Sprint Relay competition last Wednesday evening (19th June). It was a fast, furious and fun race where our veteran team of Karen Barrett, Sophie Williams, Julian Howe and Ben Burnett took 5th place of 16 in the mixed gender event.
Further afield, Abigail Buckley and Louise Camacho completed the Swansea half marathon in very good times of 1:56 and 2:09 respectively, whilst on Saturday, David Mather set off from Brecon on the fifty mile SW50 ultramarathon  – a route that took in over 10,000ft of climb. He had harboured hopes for reaching the finish line in Cardiff in the daylight. He did succeed in meeting that ambition, but only because it took him all day and all night to finally finish at 4.20am on Sunday morning!
18th june update:  Rabbit run, offa’s dyke 15 and salomon trail marathon wales
Spirit of Monmouth runners Leah Morris and Stuart Penny travelled over to the Brigend area to take part in the “Rabbit Run” last weekend, a really fun but very challenging 7.2 mile race involving mud, sand dunes, hills and waist-deep river crossings! Stuart managed to finish in 11th place out of about 560 runners!
Heading in a different direction, Richard Brown took 2hrs 17 to complete another tough race, Offa’s Dyke 15, which follows the path from Hay to Kington – an excellent 53rd place in another big field.
But traveling furthest, and running longest, were Lucy MacDonald and Emily Harrison, who powered through the forests and hills of Snowdonia National Park to finish joint 14th from amongst the 70 women who ran the iconic Salomon Trail Wales Marathon. 4hrs 56 – great stuff!
13th june update – glcl, spirit park run, forest of dean epic 10k, magic roundabout and meryon
Last Tuesday (4th June) Spirit of Monmouth Runners Stuart Penny and Emma King were awarded with prizes for finishing 2nd and 3rd in the respective age categories for their performances over the winter series of GLCL cross country races.
The presentation took place after the latest GLCL summer road race, held in Pontypool, where a magnificent 36 club members took part. The ladies’ team got their best ever team result of 3rd and there were many great individual performances, with Laura Grey the first SoM lady home, with Rich Foster the first man – indeed he was 8th overall out of a field of 532 runners.
On Saturday, nine of our runners met up on a blustery Severn Bridge for the club’s monthly Park Run tourism event.  As always, it was great social morning, with Nerys Chaplin being the first lady to complete the 5K course, in a personal best time – with a PB also achieved by club coach Ben Burnett.
Four other members ran the Forest of Dean Epic 10K event on Sunday, with Rob Nicholls finishing 4th out of over 500 competitors. And Sophie Williams was the lone ‘Spirit’ in the hilly and picturesque ‘Magic Roundabout’ 10K – completing in 50:51 despite the challenging course.

Elsewhere, Meryon (and Natasha?) was taking on the Welsh Castles relay…   Result not yet in!

2nd June  rack raid.
Spirit of Monmouth took part in one of its favourite races of the year on Sunday, when the inter-club “Rack Raid” race zig-zagged its way for over 100 miles through the old Gwent county countryside.  Twenty south-east Wales clubs provided 28 high quality mixed-gender relay teams, starting out early Saturday from Grosmont Castle and visiting 13 more castles and monuments – including Monmouth – finishing around 12 hours later in Castell-y-Bwch.
Monmouth’s team had been selected to be as strong as possible and put in the club’s best ever performance in the annual event. An excellent Chepstow team won it, but SoM finished in a very creditable 7th place in an aggregate time of 12hr 7 minutes. This was achieved by great consistency across the entire team of Jeremy Creasey, Meryon Roderick, Emma King, Matt Unsworth, Laura Grey, Gareth Jones, Natasha Roderick, Rob Nicholls, Jeremy Masters, Alex Wilson, Rich Foster, Emily Harrison and Marina Wright.
1. Grosmont Castle – Skenfrith Castle –  Jeremy Creasey
2. Skenfrith – White Castle – Meryon Roderick
3. White Castle – Abergavenny – Emma King
4. Abergavenny – Moat (Llantilio Crosseny)  – Matt Unsworth
5. Moat – Monmouth  –  Laura Grey
6. Monmouth – Raglan – Gareth Jones
7. Raglan – Usk  – Natasha Roderick
8. Usk – Tintern  –  Rob Nicholls
9. Tintern – Chepstow Castle – Jeremy Masters
10. Chepstow – Caldicot Castle –  Alex Wilson
11. Caldicot – Penhow Castle  –  Rich Foster
12. Penhow – Caerleon Amphitheatre  – Emily Harrison
13. Caerleon – Castell-y-Bwch  –  Marina Wright.
21st May  –  glcl Penallta park

An amazing turn out of 37 Spirits ran the GLCL this week, with more spectating.  Tough competition meant that the boys came 8th.   The girls were only kept of the podium by a hair’s breadth – finishing 4th on 5892, four points behind Chepstow.   We had three full women’s teams – with the ‘B’ team finishing in 3rd place in the B&C league.    Top three men were Rich Foster, Gareth Jones and Jeremy Masters  – top three ladies: Laura Grey, Lucy MacDonald and Alex Wilson.  Well done!  (the above is based on provisional results)

17-20th May  Summer rebellion ultra, caerphilly 10k and more.

Julian Howe at Summer Rebellion

A huge degree of endurance, grit and determination saw Spirit of Monmouth runner, Julian Howe, emerge as the joint-winner of one of the most beautiful but demanding ultra marathons in the UK. Julian set off on the “Summer Rebellion” ultra marathon from Knighton, Powys, at 7pm on Friday evening with 135 miles and a total of over 25,000 feet of ascent ahead of him.

The route follows the entirety of the Glyndwr’s Way National Trail which loops through Machynlleth, ultimately finishing in Welshpool.  It was a long and exciting race with Julian running in 2nd or 3rd place for the first half. The leader was to drop out at the 107 mile mark, but a couple of mishaps cost Julian some hours and miles, leaving him well adrift of a new leader. However, through miles 100 to 120, he managed to close the gap and ultimately the two front runners ran into their third night, crossing the line together after 3am on Monday morning, in a time of 56hours 8 minutes. Julian is shown here holding the winner’s trophy, looking remarkably fresh, all things considered!

In Caerphilly, Natasha and Meryon Roderick took on a pretty tough 10K and finished together in a creditable 47.55.   The festival of running at Forest of Dean saw Emma Griffiths continue her determined return to running and in Builth Wells, Phil Griffiths took on a beautiful 10K route at the Royal Welsh Trail Running festival. An one race missed last week… Allan Meek and Luke Felton ran Tewkesbury half in 1:28 (first in age group!) and 1:42 respectively.

11/12th May  –  Hereford half,  10K hereford, lymington, brecon beacons, spirit park run
A thousand runners took on a range of distances at the “Run Hereford” event on Sunday, including seven Spirit of Monmouth runners in the half marathon. We had some really good performances with most getting in the top six finishers in their age-categories. In 8th place overall was Rob Nicholls in a superb 1:21:36, followed by Matt Unsworth (1:33), Ali Phillips (1:52), Steve McMenemy in his first half marathon who ran an excellent 1:53, Marina Wright (1:55), Andy Hillis (1:58) and Jon Moody (2:01). Alison McMenemy just missed breaking the 1hr barrier in the 10K by a few seconds. Elsewhere,  Louise Camacho enjoyed her first 10K trail race in the Brecon Beacons, whilst Toby Wales travelled to Lymington and ran a fast 10K.
On Saturday, the monthly “Spirit Park Run” was held. Here, members travel together to a Park Run event, to run and eat cake together. This month, it was not a long journey a dozen members ran at Forest of Dean. If anyone wants to benefit from the social and/or coaching and competitive side of running in the club, please get in touch. Details at
5/6th May  –  Newport Marathon, newport 10k, cardiff 5k, bristol 10k, dragon Back 100m ultra
27/28th april  –  london marathon, whitebrook wind-up and world championship duathlon!!
Stuart Penny, had the honour of representing Great Britain, competing in his age-group at the ITU [International Triathlon Union]  Duathlon World Championships on Saturday 27th April. The event, which took place in Pontevedra, Spain, comprised a 10km run, a 36km cycle and further 5km run, with Stuart coming home in an excellent 9th place from the 38 truly international competitors. Indeed his running prowess was demonstrated by having the 3rd quickest time for the two run elements combined. Well done Stuart!!
On Sunday 28th, three Spirit of Monmouth members joined the 40,000 runners for the Virgin London Marathon, with success ranging from very good to outstanding!  Martin Blakebrough (3:39) easily beat his previous London best, whilst Emma King and Madeleine Newcomb both smashed the qualifying times for automatic “good for age” entries into next year’s race. Madeleine clocked 4:40 (an amazing twenty minutes inside the qualifying time) whilst Emma took a whole 16 minutes off her previous best time to achieve 3:33. Congratulations!
Much closer to home, six club members tackled the challenging “Whitebrook WInd-up” races. In the 10K event, Brian Evans was first male “Spirit” home, in 9th place overall, with Phil Griffiths being our second male.  For the ladies, Laura Grey was our first runner back in an excellent 52:38, followed by Nerys Chaplin and Cathy Fletcher.  In the even tougher half marathon event, Jeremy Creasey was 9th (2nd in age category) in a very good time of 2hr 1 minute.
24th april
Starting on 9th May, a running course to take you or your friends from 5k to 10k in just a few weeks.

Find out more about this course HERE

Easter weekend – 20/22 april

The Gilwern Grunt is one of the most loved and most challenging of local races, ascending a total of 1,500ft over its 8 miles. There’s a need for scrambling up and down some tough terrain, with one steep climb assisted by ropes.  But the atmosphere and the views over Blaenavon are fantastic. Some great pictures.

Mex Gaillard (1:23) was the first of five Spirit of Monmouth runners to complete the course.  Claire Jackson a minute behind, then Marina Wright in 1:33, Andy Hillis and Rod Wyatt (both 1:40)
Elsewhere, a mention for Emma King who took a minute off her Park Run PB to achieve a great 21:09 (and third lady finish) at Parc Bryn Bach.
13th-14th April

Spirit of Monmouth runner, Rich Foster (right), produced a remarkable performance to achieve a podium finish in the Great Welsh Marathon in Llanelli on Sunday.  Rich’s personal best time of 2:49:05, in breezy conditions, was enough for a superb 3rd place. Unsurprisingly, this was also enough to be first first veteran runner.    Absolutely brilliant run Rich.  Congratulations.

Kymin Dash…   What an event!  I think we’re all super proud to have put on such a great race – with particular thanks to the race committee who invested so much time in making it happen.  Results can be found through the Kymin Dash page on this website – with an open Kymin Dash facebook page also available there, which has loads more photos and stories.

Plenty of work goes into making these events a success.  It was great being part of it.

Spirit Park Run – 13th April.   Steve McMenemy’s idea to have a monthly park run, where we’re all invited to meet up a nominated park run, got off the ground with a trip to Pontypool (pic below). This is going to work!  Second Saturday of the month, unless stated.

6th-7th April

Manchester Marathon, Offa’s MT 10K, Magnificient Eastnor Castle 7, Devon Coastal Trail.

A busy weekend of racing just gone. In no particular order…

At the Manchester Marathon, there was real elation for Karen Barratt, who has knocked loudly on the door to a 4-hour marathon several times but today smashed through it at the seventh time of asking. Alongside her, Sophie Williams also had a fantastic day, slashing 19 minutes off her previous best to also beat that important 4-hour mark – the two Spirit of Monmouth ladies clocking 3:57 and 3:55 respectively.

Closer to home, four Spirits raced the tough Offa’s MT 10K event, organised by our friends at Chepstow RC.  Stuart Penney ran superbly to take 3rd place overall, and clearly fastest in his age group.  Nerys Chaplin, Jeremy Creasey and Mex Gaillard all ran really strongly to claim second place in their respective age-categories, and this was enough for the three men to take second place in the Male Team standings.

Three other tough races saw Lucy MacDonald, Cathy Fletcher and Sally Williams take on the Magnificent Eastnor Castle Seven; an undulating 7 miles rural course over footpaths, tracks and through woodland culminating in the ‘Orrible’ climb to the Obelisk! Lucy was 4th woman home and Cathy 12th out of a field of 53 women. Down in Devon, Claire Jackson also took an excellent 4th place in the rather hilly Devon Coastal Trail race and new club chairman, Toby Wales, clocked 1:41 in the Devizes half marathon.

Forest of Dean Half Marathon, Cardiff Trail Half, Ashby 20 & Merthyr Half.

Wychavon Trail Ultra

Spirit of Monmouth 10th Anniversary

Brecon Beacons Marathon and Gwent League Parc Bryn Bach

Gwent League & Llanelli Half

GLCL XC – Penallt