Club News

News for the local press and more

friday 18th september
First of all, don’t forget that members are invited to the Internet-based (Zoom) Annual General Meeting next Thursday, 24th September.  It should be OK to join ‘on the night’ – but it would be very helpful if you could reply to the email that was sent, so we know whom to expect.   And there could still be time to put yourself forward for any of the committee posts (I think)…  at the time of writing, I think we currently have no nominees for the social secretary role.   OK…  here’s a race report, as gone to the Beacon.  Happy running….  stay safe.
Three valiant Spirit of Monmouth runners travelled up to Nottinghamshire to take part in the Robin Hood 100 ultramarathon last weekend (12th September); the first time any of them had attempted the iconic one-hundred mile distance.
A staggered start was used over a 90 minute period to help good social distancing amongst the 109 runners, in what was a really well organised race, mostly through gently undulating woodland and trail. Naturally, it did pass right by Robin Hood’s famous Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.
Keith Penny led the way, taking on the course at a really great pace, ultimately finishing in 30th place in under 24 hours (23:48). A great achievement. Sally Gilson also attacked the course with speed and determination and reached a personal best distance of 82 miles before just feeling that it was right to pull out – hopefully she’ll be back to complete the distance soon. David Mather spent much of the race keeping a close eye on the strict 30 hour limit but just about managed to hold enough pace to cross the finish line in 77th place, in 29:51 with nine minutes to spare!
Tuesday 8th September
Well, we’ve got the post-lockdown running back.  Not much racing but our friends at GLCL headquarters (Fairwater Runners) are keeping us busy with virtual races branded as GLVL.  That was the key focus last week.   Some great results. Women’s A 4th and Men’s A 7th. An even more fantastic performance from the Bs Men came in 4th. This meant we got 19 men out in all which is amazing.
Our women’s B team stormed in 2nd and our women’s C also came 2nd which meant we have 18 women’s runners. So well done all 37 runners. The second best turnout from all the Gwent teams.
saturday 25th july

GREAT NEWS – We’re back after the COVID lockdown!!

We had our first club run for ages on Tuesday 20th July and all went really well (see the socially distanced photos!).  For practical and safety reasons, for the first week or two, we are getting all the necessary new procedures bedded in with current members, but very very soon, we will be opening up to new members… and hopefully the lockdown means that there are a number of local people who’ve discovered the joys of running!

And with the return of club running, this weekend will have the last of the virtual park runs that Steve McMenemy has been organising… big thanks to him for keeping us going with those.

Another thing to return… RACE PHOTOS!  Jeremy Creasey and Renske Bouwens took part in a  4 mileRogue Runs Time Trial at Piercefield Park on Thursday.  Great to see race numbers again – and well done to Renske who came second in her age group.

Saturday 10th july  –  restarting club after covid lockdown

As you will have probably seen, the First Minister announced yesterday that running clubs will (from Monday 13th July) be allowed to operate again.   Hurray!  

There are a raft of guidelines and regulations to follow – also published yesterday by Welsh Athletics. This will mean that, for a while, there will need to be some changes to the way club operates in order for us all to stay safe. We’ll get the necessary risk assessments and procedures drawn up as soon as possible with an aim to get us meeting again very very soon.   Members can keep a watch on the ‘closed’ facebook group for the latest news.   See you soon.

16th March – fission 20/20, glcl, east wales, big relay, newport half, gwent league and covid-19 coronavirus 

COVID-19  update: – In light of the government’s advice to avoid all unnecessary social contact, we have taken the decision to suspend all club activities until further notice, with immediate effect. We will investigate if there is another way to hold the AGM. If not, this will be postponed until club activities start again.

Please continue to use Facebook as a way of staying in touch.

We’ll be back as soon as we can.
Stay safe everyone.

Toby, Sophie, Ben, Sian, Stuart, Linsey, Emily & David.

And here, below, is how this news update looked before the above announcement ripped up the front page!

With so many big Spring races, including our own Kymin Dash, falling victim to the growing COVID-19 crisis, Spirit of Monmouth’s busy March schedule has very much been the storm before the calm.

This Sunday (15th) saw Stuart Penny take a fantastic 2nd place in a field of 131 runners in the 20km Rogue Runs “Fission 20/20” race in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Marina Wright, Jeremy Creasey and Andrew Hillis also all had great runs, finishing 3rd, 4th and 10th in their respective age categories.  At the same time, Sophie Williams took on the 20 mile version, finishing in 2:44 to take an excellent 24th place of the 185 ladies in the field.
The previous weekend saw the season finale of the GLCL cross country season, with the ladies going into the Lliswerry fixture in second place in the league, level with Chepstow. Faye Johnson pulled out all the stops and won for the first time this season, and along with great support from Vicky Roberts, Sophie Williams, captain Cathy Fletcher, Sarah Arnott, Jade Rayner and Rachel Burret, they amassed 3957 points.  Remarkably, Chepstow’s score was identical and the runners-up spot was shared behind a superb Lliswerry team who topped the scoring in all five races. Unfortunately, the men’s team didn’t fare quite so well. Stuart took a great 15th place, but with only Dave Mather and Jeremy Creasey in support, we were never going to finish anywhere but last, which meant we couldn’t lift ourselves from bottom place in the league.
On the Saturday (7th) it was great to see Alex Wilson and Rich Foster put in some sterling performances when representing East Wales in a very muddy inter-regional cross country event.
All this followed a big start to the month on St. David’s Day, when six runners raced the Newport Half marathon, with the most notable results being from the first two Spirits home, Lucy MacDonald and Vicky Roberts,who ran together to encourage each other into a pair of great personal best times of 1:38:49, despite some pretty windy conditions.   David Mather (1:41), Nerys Chaplin (1:43), Marina Wright (1:44) and Andy Hillis (2:00) completed our line up…the latter two sadly unable to be in Tokyo because of the cancellation of the main marathon event.
In London, the day before, Alison and Steve McMenemy made up half of a team that took on the “Big Relay”, with a great result of 19th place from 77 teams.
Finally, just to record that the final Gwent League  fixture of the season was rained off on 1st March. Bad news because both the ladies’ and men’s teams were just outside the promotion spots – and the cancellation left both teams marooned in 3rd place.
24 february: Welsh cross country champs, Pontypool 10k, mallards pike, 3 castles… and cool fashion.

Spirit of Monmouth got back to running after the recent flooding disruptions, with Stuart Penny travelling over to Pembrey County Park on Saturday for the Welsh Cross Country Championships. In a great, high quality race, Stuart finished just 2 seconds behind the 3rd placed MV55 runner, so close to a coveted age-group podium finish.

Also racing at the weekend, Steve and Alison McMenemy took on the annual Pontypool Home Run 10K, with Alison doing particularly well to be second lady in her age group. Elsewhere, a healthy contingent of SoM members (including first-timer Cass Kedward) had a very sociable run, travelling over to Mallard’s Pike, Lydney, to support Martin Blakebrough who was making his debut volunteering as a Park Run Race Director. 

And on the topic of sociable running, Nerys organised a 16 mile muddy, hilly 3 castles loop, with plenty of member joining her on Sunday morning.  Some nice photos doing the rounds.   Oh… and talking of nice photos… check out the trendy tracky bottoms!

10 February:  GLCL, Rogue Run, Skittles, Gwent LeagUe, Lliswerry8
20 January – doynton hard half, Gloucester HM
Gloucestershire was the venue of choice for Spirit of Monmouth racing last Sunday. The “Doynton Hard Half Marathon” was hard by name and, with the undulations combined with some very claggy mud, it was also hard by nature. Congratulations to Rob Nicholls who ran 1:46, a time most would be happy with on the road! This was enough for 10th place overall. Behind him, Vicky Roberts, Martin Blakebrough, Emily Harrison, Jeremy Creasey, Lucy MacDonald, Cathy Fletcher, Andy Hillis and Toby Wales largely ran together for mutual encouragement, with the ladies picking up third team prize overall. Pictures made it look like fun!!


Over in the big city, Gareth Jones took on the same distance over tarmac with the result of 1:24 showing that he is right back on form.
30 December  – Wye Wander 
Eight Spirit of Monmouth runners ran off the Christmas turkey by completing the “Wye Wander” on Sunday. This was a lovely 5 mile cross country event at Chepstow. Rich Foster came a highly impressive second place overall with Rob Nicholls also very well placed in 6th and Jeremy Creasey doing well in his age category.
The ladies also ploughed their way through the mud and rivers to take second place in the team event, with great performances from Lucy MacDonald (5th), Sophie Williams (9th), Renske Bouwens (10th) and Cathy Fletcher (20th), with Sarah Heath also achieving second placed woman in the her age category.

Jeremy photographed by Tosh Simkin
16 December – Awards dinner

Any Spirit of Monmouth member will tell you that, whilst running and coaching are central, what sets this club aside is the social aspect and camaraderie. This was perfectly illustrated at the annual awards dinner on Saturday night. Whilst the head coach will be tearing his hair out at the lack of coordination shown during the ceilidh, there was no shortage of laughter and fun in the lovely surroundings of Drybridge House.

The awards presentation that preceded that mayhem saw chairman Toby Wales reviewing the year. As always there were many individual milestones achieved but the continued progress of the club was well illustrated by more ‘Couch to 5K’ and 5K-10K courses run to bring new people into the sport, and also a huge upturn in participation in league races and an unprecedented numbers of club runners selected to represent the East Wales region in national competitions. And, as in previous years, the club has organised several ‘open’ races and helped raise thousands of pounds for local charities.

As always, a few special performances and contributions were recognised with awards, and for 2019 these were as follows: Runners of the Year (based on performance at 10 nominated races through the year) were Matt Unsworth and Marina Wright. Best individual performances were Rich Foster and Emma King for  2:43 and 3:33 marathons respectively. Most Improved runners Mex Gaillard and Sophie Williams. Best GLCL league performances Brian Evans and Lucy MacDonald. Club member of the year (voted by membership) – Ben Burnett.  The New to Running Achievement Award went to Paul Middleton.  ‘Fun’ award (for his obsession with cakes) Mex Gaillard and last but by no means least the Chairman’s award went to Steve and Alison McMenemy.  If anyone might like to join the club, please find details at

25th november – howling bull, gloucester 10k
Spirit of Monmouth runners looked over the border into Gloucestershire for their racing this weekend. The Howling Bull race in Walford was a six-mile wet, muddy challenge and (if you like that sort of thing), fun. George Smith was our first man home, sneaking a couple of seconds under 50 minutes to take 27th place out of the 228 runners. Martin Blakebrough, Mex Gaillard and Jeremy Creasey  came in under the hour mark, which Marina Wright missed by just 7 seconds to be our first lady home. Cathy Fletcher, Rod Wyatt and Jon Moody weren’t far behind. At the same time, “Poppy” was pulling Emma King into 16th place out of over fifty that took part in the Howling Bull Canicross.
A few miles further on, the Gloucester City 10K was also taking place on Sunday. Some great performances too from Steve and Alison McMenemy, Andrea Robertson and Jo Thorp – the latter two both beating their personal bests at the distance.
18th November – Welsh inter-regional cross country championships, glcl blackwood, brecon ultra, floods

It was a proud day for Spirit of Monmouth when an unprecedented ten members, who had all earned selection to represent East Wales, ran in the 21st Welsh Inter-Regional Cross Country Championships in Penlan, Brecon on Saturday.

The  East Wales Ladies, including our very own Faye Johnson, Alex Wilson, Laura Grey, Sophie Williams, Lucy MacDonald and Emma King, had a magnificent day. They beat the other three regions to Gold in all four age categories (an unsurprisingly, overall gold also), with Faye finished in 5th place in the race, and Alex winning an individual prize for finishing third in her age-category.

It was overall Gold for the men too. Rob Nicholls, Stuart Penny and Adrian Tew were all part of age-category Gold winning teams, with Rich Foster the first Spirit home, contributing to an excellent silver for the MM35 age-category team.   

Elsewhere, the following day, there was club league GLCL cross-country action and, remarkably, seven of the ten runners were out again, this time ploughing through the mud near Blackwood. Faye showed her quality, coming third overall in the women’s race, and Alex, Stuart and Laura finishing 1st, 2nd & 3rd in their respective age categories. Ten ladies ran the race in total, along with six men, with the Ladies taking an excellent overall 2nd place of the 9 clubs competing and the men showing their strength by propping up the leaderboard from the bottom!

Finally, a note for Julian Howe who successfully completed a 47 mile ultramarathon in the Brecon Beacons, which is no mean feat in these conditions!

More flooding meant difficult running conditions for many of us over the weekend.  hopefully can add a couple of pics.

11th November – c25k graduation !!!   cirencester half, severn bridge, bonfire night, pembrey XC, cardiff trail half marathon

text from Beacon article to add – re C25K.  (photo below)

Lots of other running too. Claire Jackson knocking out a quick duathlon (splattered face from the cycling) and a night run on the Severn Bridge. We had the Gwent League at Pembrey – not our biggest representation ever, but Emma King and Sophie were flying the flag the girls and Jeremy, Martin, Brian and Stuart for the boys.   We had a great club night running up the Kymin to watch the fireworks from above  –  and four intrepid runners ran 13.1 miles in the Cardiff trail half marathon – and can be seen in the photo finishing in a dramatic dead heat!

4th november – trellech beacon dash. NY Marathon, Spirit Run

Spirit of Monmouth Running Club, with Trellech’s Babington Centre, organised the 3rd annual Trellech Beacon Dash on Sunday, a beautiful 10K race through woodland, farmland and trails. The race was run in sunshine, with Rob Gordon of Mynydd Du winning in a remarkable time of 40:38 despite some lovely muddy conditions.  A few minutes behind, there was a tight race for the male podium places with Darren Ould taking second and FoD’s Andy Horlick just edging out club-mate Dan Sandford for third.Although SoM members were on marshaling duties, this year five members were able to run and our own Faye Johnson was equally dominant in the Ladies’ race, winning in 45:43, followed by Katie Adams and Pontypool’s Lisa Erickson. In all, over a hundred runners enjoyed the day, with more prizes (all kindly supplied by PULPT Cider) going to age-category winners: Simon Darke, Duncan Loughrey (Mynydd Du), Rachael Wheeler (FoD), and Jan Edwards (Rhondda Valley)  – See more photos on the TBD page

Well done to our other SoM runners who did us proud… Mex Gaillard, Abbie Buckley, Claire Jackson and Nicky Jaques – but particularly well done to Ben and his fellow team of organisers… and to everyone who gave up their time to marshal the event… so allowing it all to happen.

Meanwhile, over in America, Marina Wright and Toby Wales & Mandy ran the NY Marathon… amazing experiences, for sure.

The previous Tuesday, we had our annual “Spirit Run” somewhat disrupted by the bad floods. Unable to take our usual Halloween run through the spooky woods to Symonds Yat, we still dressed up, ran around town and ended up in Spoons for a meal together.

Just a reminder that this week, we have an early start to the Tuesday run (for Bonfire Night) and following it up with drinks at The Gatehouse afterwards… We’ve also got the C25K group graduating this week, finishing at our monthly Spirit Park Run at Pontypool on Saturday.  Gwent League XC on Saturday too.  See the “What’s on this week” page in the Member Info section of the website.

28 October – blaze the biblins, snowdonia marathon, stroud half and dublin marathon

Blaze the Biblins was the big local race of the weekend, and Faye Johnson came out victorious… first lady home with Rob Nicholls, Nerys Chaplin, Ali Phillips and Jeremy Creasey all flying the flag.

In North Wales, Sophie Williams and Emma King performed heroically in the challenging Snowdonia Marathon, whilst international travellers George Smith and Vicky Roberts took on the Stroud Half and David Mather ran the Dublin marathon.

21st october – GLCL Cross country, spirit run
The rise in the popularity of cross country running shows no sign of slowing as Spirit of Monmouth RC sent a team of 11 women and 10 men to the first GLCL league meeting of the season at Parc Bryn Bach on Sunday morning. They were met with muddy conditions under glorious skies and rose to the challenge admirably.
The Ladies’ team finished second of the nine teams, with Lucy MacDonald and Alex Wilson 6th and 7th respectively out of a quality 110-strong field.  The men finished sixth – an improvement on the norm, with Rob Nicholls showing his class in 11th position overall, ably supported by Stuart Penny, Julian Howe, Rob Nelson, Paul Middleton, Mex Gaillard, Jeremy Creasey, Martin Blakebrough, Andy Hillis and Rod Wyatt.
The day before, it was the Spirit Park Run – with turnout perhaps affected by the need to change dates to avoid a fixture clash.  Steve McMenemy, Emma King, Andy Hillis and Tom Collinson enjoyed the morning though… well supported by Allison!
14th october update – gwent league cross-country, oxford and manchester halves
7th october update – cardiff half
Quick reminder that I usually put the weekly news late Sunday or early Monday to submit to the Beacon and copy-paste (with occasional tweaks) into this page.  I just get information from our closed club facebook page, maybe other sources including race result webpages when they are available.  So if the news I get in the paper isn’t really comprehensive, then apologies…  I am often constrained by lack of info or lack of personal time)!  It’s great when members post things on the closed page (with details, so I don’t have to go looking them up!) to make this page more lively.  And a final point, that I make clear from time to time, I will consider things put on facebook as potentially being ok for the Monmouth Beacon.  I always use judgement (like if it might be an unflattering picture!)  – but if ever you want something NOT to go in the paper (or if you have any other feedback) then let me know (David Mather). 
There were 21 Spirit of Monmouth runners amongst the thousands who took on the challenge of the Cardiff Half Marathon in the pleasant autumn sunshine on Sunday. Some were tackling the distance for the first time and some running for charity. But as with most running clubs a lot were out chasing PBs, with perhaps the most notable successes being for our first man home, Rob Nicholls with a tremendous time of 1:20:47 and also our first lady, Vicky Roberts (1:46:38) again showing that with dedication, childbirth often seems to lead to even better results in endurance sports.
Jo Thorp had a great day running around her home city, with her husband on a charity fund raising effort with an array of other good performances amongst our runners, Paul Middleton (PB in 1:33), Allan Meek, Adrian Tew, Jeremy Creasey, Luke Felton, Stuart Kramer, Meryon Roderick, David Mather, Jon Moody, Andy Hillis, Steve Gale, Marina Wright, Natasha Roderick, Linsey Holt, Sharon Gale, Helen Dunn, Trish Bicknell and Sarah Haynes.
This week – Group runs on Tuesday and Thursday – and ******   POSTPONED >>> Spirit Park Run at Newent Park Run has been put back a week to 19th October in order to avoid a clash with Gwent League Cross Country this coming Saturday ****  .  If you’ve not been down to club for a week or three… come on down!
30 September update – FoD & cheltenham HM, Berlin marathon, British&irish mountain running champs
There was a good turn out at the ever popular, undulating Forest of Dean Half Marathon on Sunday. George Smith was our first male runner home in 1:37, followed by Paul Middleton (pb) and Tom Collinson.  For the ladies, it was Abbie Buckley, Louise Camacho and Sally Williams.  And over in Cheltenham, Jeremy Creasey took 8 minutes off last year’s HM time, despite windy conditions 1:44:29
On the same day, running twice that distance over in Berlin, Emma King was flying the flag amongst the thousands taking on one of the world’s great marathons – surely an experience of a lifetime.
The previous weekend, one of our newest members, Faye Johnson, proudly represented Wales in the British & Irish Mountain Running Championship in Llanberis on Saturday 21st September – and was indeed the second team member home. Is she the first Spirit to wear the red vest?  Anyway – congratulations Faye!
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!