15 Jun In the Spotlight – Clem Clement
Thank you Simon for the nomination.
When I first saw this idea I thought what a brilliant concept as it has been great learning about our friends and Club colleagues. There are possibly a few reading this and asking who I am and how come we never see him at Club, but hopefully all will be revealed. I think this needs to come with a health warning that you may need something to drink and eat to keep up your levels of hydration as I may go on a bit. I appreciate that this should be about me but I will accept Simon’s encouragement to write a little bit about Penarth and Dinas Runners, so please accept my indulgence to talk about the club I love.
When did running begin for you?
The first time I can recall ‘running’, 1970, was by myself around my childhood street . . . . . oh no there was an incident prior to that. I lived backing onto a cemetery and when my cousins came to stay they were fascinated by the graveyard and so they, and a couple of boys who were interested in them and seeking to impress them, used to try and stay in the ‘cem’ until it got dark and then walk out. I recall this evening we were exiting but still a fair bit away from the gate when we started to hear some noises and then suddenly there was a movement and a ‘body’ raised from a grave. Well I was off! I remember a sensation of running so fast I could not feel my legs and beating one of the boys who was several older than me. It turned out a group of local lads had spotted us and played a spooky prank 😊
Back to the proper running . . I would call our street a dead end, though my Mum would posh it up and call it a ‘cul de sac’, so there was little traffic (who asked “what about the horse and carts”?!) which meant I could run ‘around’ it safely in my green flash daps (of their time – definitely not Vapor-Fly standard). My friend and I had started a fortnightly ‘paper’ for our neighbours so I ran 11 laps, probably about 4.5 /5k, just to report on it in the ‘paper’ and have a Sports Page.
That was about the time I tried writing songs as well and penned the classic Granny Grumbles. It went –
“Granny grumbles, hey, hey, hey!
She grumbles and grumbles every day
Only this morning she bought a hat
Now she is even grumbling about that!”
Each verse had a different rhyme with ‘that’. We published it in the paper and even sold one (threepence) to the lady who was the subject of the song. I often wondered if she recognised herself.
Anyway, I digress (I did warn you….)
Thinking back, I suppose the run had been inspired by watching Lachie Stewart of Scotland winning the 10,000m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh. Also, I was about to go to Senior school and one of the lads in the street had told me there would be a cross country trial within the first few weeks of being there and suggested it was worth ‘training’ for. Within weeks of the street run I came Third at the School Cross Country Trial for our year. It was on a course that included a lot of tarmac and spikes were definitely not involved. By today’s standards the school would probably be hauled before some tribunal for allowing 11 year old boys to run on open roads away from any level of supervision.
In the early years at the school I ran a fair bit, but my first love was football however Llanelli Boys’ Grammar School didn’t recognise that until 4th year, which was when my running sabbatical started. I did manage to win a race against another school, but I am not sure that I took it that seriously as I have a recollection of an inter-county race near St. Clears where I caught one of my school-chums as we browed this hill and I said to him ‘wow! Look at the view from here’ . . . .I don’t think he was too impressed.
I jogged occasionally through my College days but only really to stay fit for football. I certainly did not join my flat-mates when they went through this phase of running a mile around the block and came back to the flat with their times and multiplied them by 26.2 for their projected marathon times. Well they were Mathematicians…..
(the football team – can you spot my brother?)
When I started work for General Accident in Putney we had a football team playing in the London Insurance League, but there was a long closed-season, so I found myself running more and more to stay fit for football, and enjoying it. Then one morning at Wimbledon Station someone thrust a leaflet into my hand for the inaugural Wimbledon Half Marathon. It was 6 weeks away so what a great opportunity to test myself. I did it and loved it, though on the day they had some road closure issues and I am sure it ended up being short but with a time of 1:26 I was well-chuffed.
In the summer of 1987 we moved to Penarth and for some reason between runs of discovery and the failure to find a football team I decided to run a marathon. After all it was only a mile x 26 😊
How naïve was I? Can you believe that I ran 18 miles on the Tuesday evening and then 16 miles on the Thursday of the week leading into the marathon! Though without a Garmin, or any sort of measuring device, they probably weren’t that long, but you get the idea. I had absolutely no idea about tapering.
I recall it was a three lap course; 6 mile loop, a 7 mile loop and then a huge 13 mile loop. It was amazing how the organisers cranked up the gradient of the hill that was towards the end of each lap as it was definitely an incline at 5 miles but a mountain when it re-appeared in the 26th mile. I got through the first half in 1:29 and was calculating how easy it would be to get sub 3 at this rate, and then . . . slam! the wall at 16 miles. Still I opened my marathon account with 3:26 and I was still able to walk the next day.
It was back to football after that until the summer of 1988. What happened then. . . . .. . . . . ?
The birth of Penarth and Dinas Runners.
The Club had been started by a letter to the Penarth Times in about late March / April 1988. Rob Lewis was a runner who lived in Dinas Powys and who wanted to be a member of a club but did not fancy Les Croupiers, despite being friendly with Dave Walsh, one of Les Croupiers’ stalwarts. Rob wrote to the Penarth Times to see if there was anyone locally of like mind, and a few people replied. It was agreed to form a club and the name was created as Rob lived in DP while the others lived in Penarth. Cogan Leisure Centre was the obvious place to gather.
I mention Dave Walsh as I remember Rob telling me that he was their ‘go to guy’ to make sure that they were on the right lines for registration and ideas of what to do as a club and ideas for a constitution. Though I have this recollection of the original being ‘borrowed’ from a nearby social club. I don’t know who came up with the colour scheme but I am forever grateful to whoever it was who choose my favourite colours, which also sold me on the club.
In those days we met on the balcony above the main hall where we had a noticeboard and where the fees were collected and, I hope Lyn is sitting comfortably, in cash every club session. 50 pence a time, and yes! we did have people who raided their kids’ piggy banks before coming and brought it in copper. I was Treasurer in 1991 and it helped build my arm strength taking it to the bank.
I think it was in the summer of 1989 that we had a youngster, Leigh Harvey, come along and in his spare time he ‘doddled’ the Knackered Dragon that we adopted as our loved logo.
Chris Seal did some research a few years ago at the library and found the original letter and some of the early articles.
I believe the first actual run was around 16th May 1988, and I went for the first time about the end of June, so it is about bar 6 weeks of the Club’s existence I have been a member.
Janice and I were regular readers of the Penarth Times but Janice had been seriously unwell in May of that year and so we possibly missed the article in the paper about the club starting. Janice was in and out of hospital, including having her appendix removed, just in case, and so our attention was elsewhere. However, towards the end of June Janice spotted an update of the club’s progress and suggested I go along. I think she may have just wanted some peace and quiet for an hour or so.
I was greeted with the usual P&D welcome and, as it was in those days, assigned to a group, where I met Ken Ward, one of several Post Office workers we had at the time (this will crop up again later), and he was brilliant for me as he could chat at whatever speed we ran at and so all I had to do was ask an open question at the start of the run, keep breathing and he did the rest of the conversation.
I was sold. I signed on the dotted line and I have been a continuous member ever since, and will be forever, having been made a Life Member alongside Janice at the 25th Anniversary Celebration when I was truly surprised by the other members of the Committee who had gone behind my back (I was Chairman at the time) and organised the award. The funny thing was it was one of my concerns that we should not give Life Membership away lightly.
The AGM in those days was in May and so after running London in 1990 I attended the AGM and was asked if I was interested in joining committee, which I did, and until we moved for our ‘year away’ in January 2016, I had been on committee. Apart, that is for about 18 months in 2008/09 when I felt I needed to recharge my batteries and to help committee freshen up.
I recall putting my hand up at my first committee meeting to go around businesses of Penarth to sell advertising space in a programme that we gave out to entrants in the Skandia 10k, a race club organised around the streets of Penarth. It was a good race and a few years ago we had a social run around the course that was used. Looking back now we got away with it, because it created a traffic island on Lavernock Road, as it crossed it twice and so trapping traffic between Augusta Road/Castle Avenue and Dinas Road/Victoria Road 😊
The major attraction of the race, on the first weekend of December, was the free buffet to all entrants. However, it was challenging for us, as Saturday afternoon/evening was spent in Melanie’s kitchen cooking. It was quite a task preparing to feed hundreds of runners.
In those early days we had a choice when we arrived at Club on a Monday and Thursday as to how far we wanted to run, and then this determined the group you joined. We had 3 routes; 5, 7, and 11 miles. Measured, and Joanne Bagwell may be able to confirm or correct me here, (Jo was the first Chairman of the club), on Rob Lewis’s A-Z using a piece of string and the scale. However, they were surprisingly accurate.
I had a great summer and enjoyed the camaraderie, especially when we organised a mini-bus or coach to go off to various events. A trip to Porthcawl to take part in the Dirty Duck 10k from Rest Bay caravan park sticks in my mind. A great race and then some really good hospitality at the Clubhouse there.
There was also the evening we had planned a barbecue up at the Llanwonno Trail 10k, a Wednesday evening race in the forests above Pontypridd. Again, a minibus trip, with someone bringing the food and disposable barbecues. However as the afternoon went on the skies got darker and darker, and then just as we got there the storm arrived and it was an absolute wash-out and so we ended up abandoning the bbq idea. However not to be out-done we ended up at some hole-in-the-wall bar/club in Penarth where we microwaved the burgers and sausages. I am not sure how I got home but it took me years to work out where we had been, which turned out to an old club in Arcot Street, almost across the road from Abyd’s house.
I then went off to play football again with a new club, but came back and renewed my membership in the summer of 1989 when a bloke called Peter Haines had arrived as a Coach. Peter was a member of Pegasus, but in those days while you were qualifying as a Coach you were encouraged to work with a different club and as Peter lived in Penarth he had naturally gravitated to P&D. He had some great ideas and was really encouraging.
It was he who persuaded me to enter a race for novices, the Maiden’s 10 mile organised by San Domenico where the idea was it was only open to people who had not broken certain time barriers; 36 minutes for 10K, 60 minutes for 10 miles and 1:19 for half marathon. It meant that people who were not used to being at the front got a chance to experience that. There were also awards for 5-minute time zone targets. Mine was set at 65 minutes, and when I ran 63 minutes, I was awarded a small medal which I still cherish.
The race was won by one of our Club legends and early record-setter, Ron Caulfield (another Post Office worker), who we were all slightly in awe of but who became a friend, and it was great in 2012 when he turned up at one of our social evenings while he was visiting from his home in Gibraltar. When he won it, I said to myself that the hour barrier was going to be my target and like him I wanted to win it, which I did in 1992 with a time of 58:51.
Despite running a second marathon in the New Forest in September of ’89, the autumn of 1989 saw me go back to football but a couple of things happened that changed my sporting life for good. A 21- man brawl towards the end of a match in the Cardiff and District League Division 3 on a muddy bumpy pitch on Pontcanna playing fields (it would have been 22 if I had been able to walk, but couldn’t because of the foul that led to the fight) which brought the game to an early end when the referee abandoned it and me realising, perhaps after 5 weeks of not being able to walk properly, that it was not really worth it.
The second thing was getting accepted for the 1990 London Marathon, and so that is really the beginning of my running proper.
I am not going to go through year by year (thank goodness for that) but I do remember turning up at the first Club night after announcing my acceptance and Peter Haines handed me a piece of paper with a month’s training schedule on it. Here is how naïve I was; I had to ask him what it meant by Thursday 4 miles am. . . .. . . 7 miles pm. “Peter, what does am and pm mean?”
I followed his programme for four months, including the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 miler. If you have never done this, do it. It is a brilliant race but the scenery is absolutely stunning (yes I still like to look around) and what great preparation for a Spring Marathon.
I ran 3:01:26 at London, a pb by 22 minutes, and so the next target was obvious and now within reach, and now I really was sold and I never played football as 11 a-side again (though until we moved in 2016 I still had the final pair of boots and I put them in the bin, recovered them and put them back in again 3 times before they eventually went ☹)
For me there are several events in the 1990s that have shaped the club that we are…..
Regrettably there was the death of Carol Matthews in 1991. Carol was a fabulous runner, though she was a bit of a timid character and liked to run with others. I remember the first time I was aware of how good she was when Ron dedicated his Barry Half Marathon to get her to run under 1:30.
Several members of the club wanted to participate in a fell style timed-leg relay in the Brecon Beacons. There were 7 to a team and she was to run the 5th leg. The day started in sunshine but the forecast was poor. By her stage the weather had changed and the cloud had come down, it was mizzly and chilly. As it was a timed relay our 6th Stage runner set off with the other runners on that leg without Carol arriving and it was not until leg 7 was finishing that anyone started to question where she was. Soon the Police and Mountain Rescue were involved but this was 1st April and so it was getting dark before too long. Frantic phone calls were now being made to all club members and the next morning a group of us were ready to go and assist the search when the horrible news came through that Carol’s body had been found.
Out of the depths of despair amongst members it was decided that we had to do something to support her family; she left a husband and two young children, and so it was decided to hold our own relay race in the safe grounds of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and so the Cossie Relay was born. Originally named Carol Matthews Memorial Relay, it was to raise some money for the Trust Fund we created for the children. That ended when they reached maturity and the event was renamed.
As you may have gathered she still lives on in the hearts of those of us who were about then.
The next thing was almost the end of club, but how someone’s foresight created the club we are today, and that was Martin Woodfield.
Martin had qualified as a coach and was keen to set sessions on a Monday. A structure to our training night. He prepared a schedule and posted it on the noticeboard. The only thing was it wasn’t universally popular; members still wanted to do their own runs with their mates on a Monday. It probably came to a head one evening when 10 or 12 of us turned up and couldn’t decide what to do and so went off in 6, yes SIX! groups, me being one of them with my running buddy at the time. It was during this run that a) I realised we could do this any day of the week and b) Martin went berserk about how his time and efforts were being wasted and so it was agreed we would all do the designated session on a Monday, or don’t come! I know we lost a few members because of this, but the ‘togetherness’ seed was sown.
I think Janice improved on Martin’s idea when she qualified and took over coaching and said we should all go to where the session starts together. I feel this revolutionised the chat pre-workout, and I know that friendships have been made in those 10 – 15 minutes of joggy-chat.
Finally, we went through some tough times around 1997 – 99. Membership was down, possibly as low as 15 and club used to get maybe 6 to 10 on Mondays, and we had very few ladies. I can recall saying to someone that we needed a couple more ladies to come along so that anyone seeing us at the Leisure Centre will not think we were a Men’s Club. I even recall one evening this bloke came along and when we asked him if he was interested in joining, he was not, he had come because his wife was, but she didn’t want to be the only woman there. I am not sure what he said but I don’t think she ever came back.
Then along came Angela Stone. A lovely lady who unfortunately developed MS in her 20s and not only was her running career blighted but so was her life. She had a brilliant attitude at the time and was so encouraging and through her arrived a group of another 4 ladies and suddenly we were flying. More ladies came and, surprise surprise, so did some men.
The other thing Angela gave us was the Club Championships as we know it now. We had ‘toyed’ with other ideas and had Presentation Nights from the early days, but her idea of the format of the number of races and points and Age Categories added ‘spice’ to the Club.
Through the ladies who came along we also developed Social Nights and changed the format to the Christmas Parties, some of which were legendary. For me, that period set the format and ethos of the Club on which our reputation, and why other clubs recommend runners to come to us, was founded. People who have come along since and made some amazing contributions to what we do, but I cannot name all of them. However I can’t close this bit without singling out everyone’s stars Chris and Lisa. They took what we did and enhanced it.
To conclude I have loved Penarth and Dinas Runners from the get-go. I have held every executive post at one point or another and been blessed with working with some great people. It was a wrench to leave when I was offered a year project in Glasgow towards the end of 2015, but on the committee at the time we had some brilliant people and I knew as Chairman that P&D would be in safe hands.
Janice and I still love running in the Blue and Yellow, even if it does leave some of the Scottish race announcers a little perplexed when they shout out names in the finishing funnel at events. It has made it hard for us to join a club here because in the words of Sinead O’Connor (okay they are Prince’s words really) – Nothing Compares to You.
Why do I run?
I loves it, I do. In Gary’s word – simples.
I just love getting out there, though there are some wet windy nights in the depths of the Glaswegian winter where I am not so sure. It has given me the opportunity to explore so many places.
I love running while on holiday. I am often out the door early and come back to tell Janice what I have found and where we could go to explore.
I used to love running in different places around the country while away on business, including getting evicted from the Arndale Shopping Centre at 6:30 in the morning, as running was not allowed, and a multi-storey car park in Luton when the streets were covered with snow and ice. In Luton I was picked on the CCTV and Security were despatched and when the guy asked me what I was doing, I don’t think he was too impressed when I simply said “running”.
What race or moment in your running career holds the most significance and why?
Again, I am going indulge myself and provide three!
London 1997 – 2:42:39 my PB. Just one of those days where a plan over four months fell into place and everything went right. I should have dipped below 2:45, the UKA championship standard in 1991. I had run 2:04:01 at the San Domenico 20 (possibly still the club record?**Editor’s note:- sorry Clem, Gary Brown ran 2:01:52 at last year’s San Dom 20!) and so everyone was doing the maths. P&D had never had a sub 2:45 runner at that point. Four days later I could hardly walk, having rolled my knee in a training accident when I stepped into a pot-hole. So, waiting six years to get back to that level made it all the sweeter.
Castles 1995 – my first climb to the top of Drovers. There were some people at club who doubted me. However on the back of a 2:52 London marathon I stayed fit for once and converted the marathon strength into hill-work. I recall a session with John Wilson where we did 14 Beach Hill reps; up the road and down through Alexandra Park. At the Castles I was really up for it. I had a good section to Garth but the climb was amazing, I felt great and to see Club colleagues’ faces and the encouragement at the end was fantastic. Even the doubters were cuddling me when I finished 12th on that stage.
Finally, last year when I ran solo on a section of the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse. 12 miles over a variety of pretty tough terrain in the pouring rain and wind, but amazing scenery. The buzz on arrival at the hotel was the high we all long for.
Who is your running inspiration?
Funny I should have been reminded about Lachie Stewart and my run in 1970, I hadn’t made the connection as to why I did the run around my road before, but I actually met him last year.
I loved Seb Coe. Yes, the posh one in the greatest British running rivalry, but I think my favourite distance runner is Antonio Pinto. What a graceful yet powerful runner. Janice and I had the pleasure of seeing him in the flesh ‘destroy’ the field at the 10,000m in the European Championships in Budapest in 1998. He set off at a pace that he could sustain and literally ground the others out. It was awesome to watch. Then he went on to the marathon and won London a few times. And he owns a vineyard in Portugal.
What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why?
In the current situation I am going to say Springburn parkrun, because it would mean that this ‘crappy’ virus has passed or been beaten. Also, we will be physically able to meet with our post-parkrun breakfast group, who, going back to a previous comment, mostly work for the Post Office. In fact, our second claim club here in Glasgow is RUN GMC, which is the running group based at the Glasgow Mail Centre.
Turning back time, the 2002 Cardiff Marathon, because I am not sure why I didn’t do it. I had run Lake Vyrnwy Marathon in the June, my first in 5 years after London 1997, and I trained with some of the others who were doing it but I just didn’t. I never did run a Cardiff Marathon, on my home patch.
Oooh! Could I also do New York 2008 again as well please. I miscalculated at 22 miles and eased off and ran 2 hours 60 minutes and 36 seconds 😊
What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?
Set targets / goals. If you have set yourself a huge target, e.g. London Marathon or any big race, set yourself another target beyond it. How many times have I seen runners in the doldrums in the weeks after ‘their race’ because they have nothing to look forward to, and some even giving up! It’s like thinking what is over the next brow and always striving to take a peek.
Smile – a positive attitude usually finds a solution to a number of problems.
I would like to nominate Mandy Barrington. She has to be one of our pluckiest runners; I remember being in Aberfan on the Castles one year. Mid afternoon on a Sunday and it was sweltering and she came up the side street and onto the main road in the blazing sunshine undeterred and battling on. I would love to read her running tale.