Our club received this thank you letter from No5 Charity recently. Well done to Kerry and all involved in raising the money this year.RR-thankyou19
Our club received this thank you letter from No5 Charity recently. Well done to Kerry and all involved in raising the money this year.RR-thankyou19
SHE baked the cakes, she managed the team, she ran the race and now she’s done the write-up! Sam Whalley reports from Prospect Park on another momentous weekend for Reading Roadrunners…
WHEN I first joined Reading Roadrunners in 2015, all I heard was that the Sunday Thames Valley Cross Country is the league to do; that Saturday one is really competitive, only for the fast people.
Having been inspired to join a club, however, by my time watching my daughters run XC in that very league, I was not deterred, and, despite not being a fast runner, I have never felt unwelcome.
We’re always excited, therefore, when the Hampshire League fixture is the most local one, which Reading AC host in Prospect Park, because it provides an ideal opportunity for our club members to try the league for themselves.
Some were donning their green vest for the first time. Others were completely new to XC, and weren’t sure what to expect, so the usual advice was issued: the front end of the race will be incredibly fast, your mile/km splits will mean nothing, and try and catch the person in front.
We can always rely on Rob Corney to try to do just that, a new streamlined haircut helping him to lead the senior team home.
Despite nursing a rest-day-induced (his claim) niggle, Rob had a storming race and was third overall, only seconds behind two Aldershot runners, and an improvement on his fourth place here last year.
Rob was followed in by Jack Gregory, with a really good run, in an excellent 12th, his best position so far.
With this being the fourth fixture of five, the biggest hope for silverware this season lies once again with the vet men, currently sitting at the top of the league. And they did not disappoint.
You know you have a strong vets team when the likes of runners like Lance Nortcliff and Andrew Smith are superfluous to the scorers.
The scoring this time was well taken care of by a tightly-packed Ben Paviour (20th), Mark Worringham (22nd) and Seb Briggs (26th), as second, third and fourth vets. Seb’s sprint finish battle with an Under 20 runner from Aldershot was a real highlight, but the younger legs won out in the end.
These first five finishers put the senior men’s team in second place, and joint fifth on aggregate, while the vet men were again first, and remain at the top of the table.
Although the scoring was completed by these five, the job of the rest of the team — as there were 31 more men! — was to keep on pushing and keep the scores of the other teams down.
David McCoy (the younger), was next, with Lance, Ashley Middlewick (nicely warmed up from his cycle from Frimley Lodge parkrun), Andrew, Pete Jewell, Brian Kirsopp, Matt Davies and Calum Pratt all managing top-100 positions. Pete and Brian were also among the top 10 for the M50 age category.
Standing at the finish line, it was clear that every single person had run their absolute hardest, and the efforts of all were appreciated. I’d have liked prior knowledge that David Clay always finishes his races a little unsteady on his feet — gave me quite a worry there, David — with his competitive spirit leading him to try to chase down a Reading AC runner.
There are too many names to mention, but full results are here: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190112_hlmen.html
As usual the women’s race, earlier in the afternoon, was less well attended, and for some reason was the smallest women’s field of the season so far. Nevertheless, our club was out in force, with 19 of us making up a significant proportion of the competitors.
Leading the senior women home was Gemma Buley, in an excellent 18th place, new coaching obviously paying off. She was followed by Hampshire League debutante Sarah McDade, and our first vet scorer, Helen Pool.
These three women placed the senior women in sixth, and seventh on aggregate, a really pleasing result, especially since we were missing two of our strongest performers, Chantal Percival and Bithja Jones, due to injury.
As I was obviously still running, I didn’t see our second vet, Sarah Dooley, and XC newcomer Katherine Foley cross the line, but they were both awarded the same time, so no doubt there was some friendly rivalry there.
They were followed by Liz Johnson, delighted to be making the scoring vet team on her XC debut, despite her pre-race fear that she would be rubbish (not her exact words). The vet women’s team was fifth, and is also fifth on aggregate. These senior and vet results were our best of the season so far.
There were some stand-out performances, with Angela Burley, Katie Rennie, Sarah Harford and Claire Seymour all making the top 100, and Alice Carpenter, Beth Rudd, Chloe Lloyd, Tina Woffington, Divya Samani and Ruby Lee all new faces in this league, alongside the experienced Hampshire League runners Maureen Sweeney and Cecelia Csemiczky.
Tina reported that she had loved it, and Ruby thanked those who had offered her support and encouragement. Cecilia was just a little disappointed that she hadn’t managed to beat her nemesis, Marilyn from Victory.
Full results are here:
All in all, a fantastic set of results from both men’s and women’s teams, and the camaraderie on the day was exceptional.
The next and final fixture of the season will be at Dibden Inclosure in the New Forest, on Saturday, February 9th. All members welcome; let’s try to finish on a high.
Note: You do have to be a fully paid-up member, and wear a club vest/T-shirt.
Pictures courtesy of Liz Atkinson & Pete Morris
We are now taking bookings for the 2019 annual Dinner Dance at Sonning Golf Club..Full details below:
Contact either Anne Goodall at track or Hannah McPhee: email@example.com if you have any queriesDinnerDancePoster-19
Caroline Jackson finally achieved entry into the prestigious 100 Marathon Club last week when she crossed the finish line at Larnaca Marathon 2018.
‘It feels like a dream. Having my friends & family here with me is just the icing on the cake’ Caroline commented.
Not only has she run 100 Marathons but she’s ran them in style clocking up over a third outside of the UK and all in 7 years. She’s also been on the podium many times including first lady at Limassol, Cyprus marathon and second lady at both Hunsruck in Germany and Liverpool.
It was a group occasion as Caroline was joined by her partner Paul Monaghan (they call themselves #TeamJackMon) and many members of Reading Roadrunners plus other friends from various clubs at the Larnaca marathon were she finally nailed her 100th. Her family were also there to witness the presentation and join in the celebrations after she crossed the finish line.
Well done from all of us at the club.
Chicago Marathon Week 2018 by #TeamJackMon (Paul Monaghan and Caroline Jackson)
UK, Europe, North Africa, even New York we have ran them all, but now was time to return Stateside and a good for age qualifier gave us a chance to have a crack at Chicago.
We weren’t the only Roadrunners on this trip, amongst the other participants were Brooke and Elizabeth Johnson, David McCoy, and Simon Davies, and some of other friends from the 100 Marathon Club plus fellow traveller & runner Peter Mizzi .
It’s as much about the city & culture as the race so we decided we’d spend a week visiting and believe me it was a week well spent. We can’t recommend this city enough as it can be described with most superlatives we can think of.
For the first few days we were fortunate enough to stay with one of Caroline’s friends Sandi who she had last seen 18 years ago. We’d stay with her and her family on the outskirts of Chicago and then spend the remaining time Downtown. We therefore were able to experience the city from a local as well as a tourist’s perspective
Sandi had a very nice meal prepared when we arrived and was great for them both to catch up, they were just as interested in our culture as us in theirs so we spent most of the evening comparing different American & English versions of words over a home cooked dinner followed by cookies.
The next day it was down to business so we headed to the expo which appeared to be similar to the expo in London. We walked there with David McCoy and his girlfriend Christina. It was our lucky day as we got to meet Paula Radcliffe and also get our bibs personally signed. Caroline had previously met her at a running event sponsored by Nike back in 2014 but nothing beats having and been able to treasure her sign our very own Chicago race numbers. We may even get to frame then (eventually). Riddled with jet lag we headed back to Caroline’s friends for an early night and some traditional Deep Pan Chicago Pizza (a very thick crust and what appears to look like a great pie rather than a Pizza), but it was delicious if not calorific. Just the tonic for a marathon the next morning (Hope no nutrition experts are reading this)
Next morning we had to rise before sunrise at 4.15am, it was dark and raining on our subway ride into downtown. We did love the trains in Chicago as it felt like we were on a movie set high above ground. The transit system is officially nicknamed the “L”. It’s elevated subway with open air segments dates from the earliest days of the elevated railroads.
We arrived at Grant Park (the location of both the start and the finish of the marathon) just before 6am and thankfully the rain stopped. As it became light we just had a few clouds covering the skyscrappers. The location of our bag drop was directly next to the Buckingham Fountain, this is a great Chicago landmark dating back to 1927 when it was announced as the largest fountain in the world, the fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana that border the lake. Obviously this became a good spot for photo opportunities and videos.
Both Paul and I had the same start corrals and our start time was just after 7.30am. With some good music and the announcement of Mo Farah on the start line, there was a good buzz and feeling of excitement as we eventually crossed the start line. Unless you’ve ran a big city marathon the feeling of euphoria as you start is hard to explain, but I guess it’s part of the addiction we have to marathon running.
We both found the marathon to be pretty similar to New York, although Chicago runs through 29 different neighbourhoods and New York runs through 5 boroughs.
All the different neighbourhoods allowed us to experience and run through different cultures, architecture, historic buildings and residences. Caroline enjoyed the neighbourhood of Pilsen, we got to see and hear Latin American music & dance, and the Mexican’s were great spectators.
Paul liked Chinatown, festive and bright and full of character. We entered Chinatown through the Chinatown gate at mile 22. We were greeted by cheerleaders, Chinese music and dragon costumed dancers.
It did rain a little whilst we were running, it was quite a heavy downpour at one point but it did not dampen our spirits as the constant cheering crowds & music were a welcome distraction. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to cross the finish line in dry conditions. As 45,000 were running this event, the finish was slightly congested as to be expected, but the organisers coped with this so well and didn’t rush us along as they do in so many events.
Caroline finished in 3hr 47mins which was her 97th marathon and Paul finished in 3hr 54mins, (we’ve lost count how many he has now done…) J
David McCoy & Brook Johnson both ran a sub 3 hr with a brilliant 2:44 & 2:55 respectively. Elizabeth Johnson also ran an excellent time for her debut marathon finishing in 3:58 whilst Simon Davis ran a 5:14.
As usual we finished pretty close together, Caroline had enough time to take a few photos and have a little chat with fellow runners. We walked to collect our medals and grab our goody bags. There were also bananas, baby tomatoes and something more refreshing, a free can of the locally produced Goose Island IPA, this certainly went down well. The girls giving out the goodies were very cheerful and broke into song making us smile; I think they felt like celebrating with us.
After the race and when we had warmed up a little and got changed, we headed over to the post-race party which was held on Butler Field, about a 5 min walk across from the fountain and baggage area. We caught up with Simon, Liz and Brooke and also some of our other pals including Peter Mizzi who was on top post race form as per usual and even managed to supply us with American styled slippers 🙂 . We all agreed that it was a fantastic experience, more so for Liz who had just completed her first marathon.
Rather bizarrely the weather in Chicago throughout our stay went from one extreme to the other, heavy rain storms to hot and sunny at 29c and then down to 10c on the day we came home.
After the marathon from Monday onwards and when we relocated to a hotel downtown we tried to visit as many of the local attractions as we could, our hotel was perfectively located as we were just off the Magnificent Mile.
The Architect boat tour is one we’d definitely recommend as give an amazing insight into the history of the city whilst cruising the river to a backdrop of high rise buildings. This we followed with the excellent Chicago Riverwalk joining some pals from the 100 marathon club.
Another great trip was the Languitas brewery tour brought to us by a very entertaining and passionate guide. This commenced from a room that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Charlie & the Chocolate factory. We half expected Willie Wonka to greet us on arrival.
We even visited Chicago theatre land to see the excellent Tootsie brought to life for a stage musical.
The Navy Pier is like a city within a city and also a must see. Best time to visit is in the evening with its many restaurants, boats and attractions plus great photo opportunities against the Chicago night time sky line. It’s just buzzing with life and in a league of its own.
No trip would be complete without a trip to the Hancock Tower to visit the bar & restaurant Signature room on the 95th via an elevator that reaches it in 40 seconds (the fastest in the Western hemisphere so rumour has it ). We enjoyed it so much we visited twice, the last time watching an unforgettable sunset across the city whilst sipping cocktails.
Medoc Wine Marathon Madness– Report By Caroline Hargreaves
On the 1st March at 9am I was on the computer getting my entry sorted for the Medoc marathon. After missing out last year as it has already sold out by the time I was home from work I was determined that I was going to get in this year! This race attracts people from all over the world and I was lucky enough to get in alongside 4956 people from France, 1081 other brits, 305 Japanese, 25 Italians, 2 Mexicans, 6 from Iceland, 1 Kenyan, 17 from New Zealand, 87 Canadians and many more nationalities represented.
On Friday we flew out of Gatwick and landed at Bordeaux airport and jumped straight on the bus into Bordeaux centre to check into our hotel and then head to the expo. The expo is where the race starts, which is about an hour out of town on the train and then a 5-minute walk. There is an option to pick up your race number on the day, but the expo is absolutely the best expo I have ever been to and so well worth going to the day before. I have never been to an expo before where there is wine tasting along the road to the entrance and a lot of the other race stalls giving away wine, beer and cider along with the flyers, it was setting the tone for the next day.
Race day is an early start, there are buses laid on for the event that you need to book in advance (only 7 euros) and so it was a 6:15 bus that we boarded to take us out for the start line. There are 8,500 participants in total, pretty much all in fancy dress and with the theme being amusement parks there was so really big crazy carousel and fun fair style floats at the start line. With it being Caroline Jackson’s 40th birthday, Paul ensured that Caroline was appropriately decorated with a 40th birthday sash and giant badge whilst we all wore smaller 40th badges.
I lined up with Caroline, Paul, Cathrin Westerwelle and her boyfriend Dan and the atmosphere was just crazy, with music playing and fighter jets flying above the crowds and helicopters filming everything, I have never experienced anything like it. The race started and we ran into the town where there were loads of people cheering everyone along and filming everything, within half a mile of the start you hit the first wine stop, which we decided to skip to give us a chance to split away from the chaos as the first few miles you can bottle neck trying to get through the town. Once you get out of the town and into the first wine yard there is another wine stop and this one we didn’t miss! We then started off again and came to the first chateaux where people in duck outfits were in the pool which was hilarious, Paul and Caroline managed to get themselves interviewed by some reporters. Over the next 20ish miles it was pretty much all going through numerous wine yards and chateaux with more wine stops than I could possibly count. It was a really hot day and it fancy dress this did make the race even more challenging but with so many opportunities to stop and get a drink and various snacks it made the heat more bearable and they did have water stops with every wine stop as well as a few extra water stops too. A lot of the chateaux also had various types of live music, which was good to have a dance on the way round. Around 16 miles one of the wine fields was full of balloons that was just an amazing sight and at mile 20 there was a field that was full with about 8 different wine tables that looked like village fete. The last 3 miles is just one long stretch of road, that in the heat felt like it was twice as long as that but it had an Oyster stall about 1.5 miles from the finish and then an ice cream stop about half a mile from the end, I swear I have never appreciated an ice cream so much in my life.
At the end of the race we were given the best goodie back ever, a bottle of red wine and a Medoc marathon designed cool bag. After the race was finished there was only an hour until our coach was taking us back into Bordeaux and the car park was about a 20-minute walk away. Unfortunately, they had the worse organised bag drop ever and so I only had the chance to finish and get my bag and then head straight to the bus and so no party tent for me this year! Next time I would look to get the train back and so I would have time to chill out before having to head straight back. Cut off for this race is usually 6 hours 30 minutes but this year this was ended to 7 hours due to the heat. This is a race where you would want to be out on the course as long as possible and make the most of all the wine stops, there was one rose stop and one white wine and the rest are all red wines, I drank more red wine on this race than I have ever drank in my whole life! This race definitely has to go on the to do list for anyone that enjoys wine and fancy dress!
Good things happen to those who wait… and wait again… Race report by Ben Hart
The Burnham Beeches Half Marathon was a long time coming. The path which took to me to the start line was not a straight one, and certainly not simple.
As a few Roadrunners were aware, I was looking forward to the Reading Half in March, it being my first race. What is more, this run was part of two events in aid of the children’s charity, Dreams Come True, a cause I have raised money for previously.
Preparation for Reading had taken an unexpected turn for the worse when I sprained my ankle badly playing football at University back in January which left me with only a few weeks to resume any running. Yet, to my disappointment Reading was cancelled for all except the barmy minority who still braved the streets of Berkshire to run their own 13.1. So I set my sights on finding an alternative – The Gloucester Half Marathon. Roll on August but disappointment manifested itself again. The local council did not approve of changes to the course route and, as a result, Gloucester went the same way as Reading. I did begin to wonder if the running Gods were punishing for me for claiming a Reading finishers’ medal and t-shirt despite the event not taking place!
Quickly I discovered that it was all meant to be. Burnham took place a week after Gloucester should have done. My final training run took place on the day that I would have been running Gloucester and the extra week of prep allowed me to reach thirteen kilometres – the furthest I had run in this training stint with the sprained ankle still not being 100% and the focus of much physio. Eventually, and I do not use that word lightly, it all paid off.
With donations still rolling in, I put pressure on myself to succeed at Burnham. My stance on my unfortunate “run” to the start line was, “it’s been tough but these troubles are nothing compared to the battles which the children of Dreams Come True are fighting.” My second source of motivation was a work colleague of mine, Alex. Alex was training for a one-week cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which would see him and two others complete approximately 150 miles a day. He advised me to watch an interview called “Driven” with an ex-Navy Seal called David Goggins, on the eve of the big day. I did, and Goggins did not disappoint. Goggins once completed an event called “The San Diego One-Day.” In short, participants run around a one-mile track and see how many miles they can complete in 24 hours. Goggins, built for heavy lifting and not long distance running, set out for 100 miles. For the last 19 miles, he ran with compression tape on his ankles and feet in an attempt to limit the pain he felt from multiple stress fractures.
With the children on one shoulder and Goggins on the other, I knew I was going to eat the thirteen miles in front of me for breakfast.
Early mornings are not generally familiar to me. As a University student, a 9 o’clock seminar is my worst nightmare, let alone a thirteen-mile race. My Mum deserves a mention for her efforts in helping me, not least when she prepared my breakfast of honey sandwiches, as I adopted her pre-race nutrition. Well fed, we arrived at Coldicot school and I was rather excited for the imminent challenge.
For the first few kilometres I was trying to settle down into my own pace, with Mum’s words of wisdom “run your own race” reverberating around my head. Another new phenomenon was the water pouches handed out to runners. My, are they hard work?! If anything, my inability to open the darn things made me chuckle as I pounded the woods of Buckinghamshire. At half way I felt strong and comfortable, confident that the second half of my race would be quicker than the first. After one more battle with the impossible pouches, the second half of the race seemed to fly by. I think it helped running a two-lap track as I could prepare mentally for the physical battle that was to come.
I desperately chased a time of sub 1:40 but missed out by twenty seconds, coming in at a time of 1:40:20. The sense of accomplishment upon crossing the line was one of my all-time sporting achievements.
I would not go as far to say that I have “caught the bug”, but I will definitely be wearing Roadrunners’ green (and blue shorts!) again in the future.
Roll on Reading 2019. I will be there to collect a medal that was truly earnt this time round!
An Insight Into 1990’s Fell Running– Report by Kathy Tytler
When I first started running in the early 1990s I used to run the Great North Run (GNR) every year. I was born in Newcastle, so my journey to the north-east had a dual purpose; returning home to see the family and taking part in the 13.1 mile shuffle from Newcastle to South Shields. One year there was an invitation in my race pack to take part in ‘The Great Mountain and Marathon Double’, running up and down the Simonside Hills in a Fell Race from Thropton, Northumberland the day before the GNR – a new experience for me that was too good to miss.
A group of Reading Roadrunners and our supporters (my mum and dad) went to Thropton Country Fair and some of us took part in the race. Once the race left the village we were soon crossing a river, by running through it, then it was a steady climb. At the top of Simonside, we scrambled over rocks before running back down, through the river again and into the show ground. I was a little bit stiff for the GNR the next day, but as the race was always very crowded in my part of the field, there was never any chance of a PB, so it didn’t matter. We got a special print on the back of our GNR T-shirts and I knew which race I enjoyed the most!
So after this I was on the look out for fell races, if possible within travelling distance of Reading! I entered the Box Hill Fell Race in Surrey. Driving there around the M25 it didn’t seem possible that there would be a fell racing landscape nearby, but suddenly the hill was there, rising steeply in front of us. There is also a series of fell races in the Isle of Wight, which I took part in several years later.
Then there was the Goodrich Fell Race in 1996 which was a day trip for a group of us from Reading Roadrunners, which I reported on for our club newsletter: ‘How Not to come last in a fell race.’ For several years the Goodrich Fell Race was part of a double, with the Blaisdon Jelly Leg the next day.
It was a ‘proper’ fell race in the mountains of North Wales in 1998 which was the scene of my greatest fell racing glory; The Moelwyn Peaks Race. I had been staying in Snowdonia for a week and I’d noticed that on the Saturday of my return home there was a race in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a 13 mile fell race. It was soon after the other major highlight of my running career, it was the year I’d won the Compton 40 (first female), so no doubt I was feeling very confident.
I was feeling a little less confident after arriving at the race venue, explaining to the organisers that I was from Reading and I hadn’t done much fell running before, I asked them if I would be OK to run. “Yes you’ll be fine,” I was assured as they pointed to three peaks clearly visible in a cloudless sky. “See those three mountains there,” one man said, “It’s those three.”
It had snowed heavily during the week before and although the day was bright and sunny, and not too cold, there was plenty of snow on the ground as we climbed higher. It was probably this combination of weather conditions that ensured my safety, or at least meant that I didn’t get lost. The studded prints of a few dozen pairs of Walsh PBs are quite obvious in the snow.
I was at the back right from the beginning of the race, and I didn’t make up any ground at all. But I didn’t make the same mistake as some runners who went up the wrong side of the first valley and were out of the race. I was soon on my own, following footprints in the snow. I did have a map and compass (and I do know how to use them), but I don’t think my brain would have been able to cope with that and trying to run up and down mountains at that time. Approaching my second peak I had a strange experience; a woman was approaching from the other side and she recognised me. “Hey, it’s Kathy,” she shouted, turning to a man who was walking a short distance behind her. “What are you doing here?” he demanded, “You’ve got a marathon next weekend!” It was a senior engineer from work at Thames Water. I was part of his London Marathon team raising money for WaterAid and he didn’t think a fell race was the best Marathon preparation, “You should be tapering!” he shouted. I completed the London Marathon without any problems a week later.
There was a point where we came alongside a mountain road where there were marshals and drinks. I asked them if I was last, and they confirmed that I was indeed last. I them asked them if I was a long way behind everyone else, and they confirmed this too. “Do you want me to retire?” I asked, almost hopefully. “No, no, you carry on,” they were all very emphatic. One of the marshals (an older man) accompanied me for a few hundred yards to make sure. When I reached the road back in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the car with the marshals was returning and the same man got out and ran with me to the finish.
Although I was last by a very long way, they were all impressed by my performance; “coming from Reading an’ all!” They said I deserved a trophy, and gave me ‘1st local veteran lady’ for which no finisher had qualified. On hearing that I was driving back to Reading, the caretaker opened the showers especially for me. I went into the local shop to buy some sweets for my journey home and I was greeted like a champion; “You’re the woman from Reading who’s just run the fell race!” My fame had spread.
Later that week, at Reading Roadrunners, someone was studying Athletics Weekly. My name was in the results! I may have been last, but I was 4th female; there I was Kathy Tytler, Reading Roadrunners, placed in the Moelwyn Peaks Fell Race! I’d featured in the results in Athletics Weekly and felt I’d made it as a runner!
These are RR Track & Field records as they stand at September 2018
RR’s Dragon McDragonboat – Report by Jennifer Holmes
20 teams gallantly entered the 2018 Reading Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday 19th August, including our very own Dragon McDragonboat, comprising of 17 of RR’s finest athletes.
Well, almost…. Some of the Dragon McDragonboat crew had been out the previous night and only returned home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. They were, obviously, very tired, and averse to sunlight, loud noises, the smell of food – even moving was difficult for them. Some didn’t make the 08h30 start time and quite a few were probably over the drink-paddle limit. Pete the builder was even grumpy. Poor loves.
But the rest of us – our bodies are a temple – were rearing to go. Admittedly, we were a rather motley lot, not easily identifiable as we had no uniform or cool outfits (did you see the pics of Darth Vader & his Imperial Guards…and Peter Higgs’ team in purple wigs? We definitely need to re-think our look for the 2019 competition.) But we were brimming with enthusiasm, under the leadership of the lovely Hannah. Having participated in the 2017 event, Hannah wanted us to beat the 1:03 race time achieved by RRs previously, and we were confident we could rise to the challenge. As a great ‘team building’ event, with no experience required, we felt certain our physical and mental preparedness as runners would give us the competitive advantage over the lardy office-based worker teams.
The day started with quite some warm-up. Some lithe firecracker leapt onto the stage and put us through our paces. We had to limber up for the races, she said. I started to feel a little frightened at this point, to be honest. Just how much paddling was actually involved if we needed a workout like this…? The other issue was that she was on a clean, flat stage, whilst we were rolling around on wet, lumpy goose-poo grass. Most of the Dragon McDragonboaters weren’t sufficiently fit or supple to get through the warm-up and had to retire to our marquee early for a rest. And a bacon butty and more water. Some needed a nap. Some of the team were also interviewed by the famous Debbie McGee for her radio station, BBC Radio Berkshire.
We were in the first race. Boat 3, I was the drummer. We had our safety briefing, put on buoyancy aids, and attempted to board our dragonboat. This is very dangerous. The boat wobbled every time one of our athletes climbed on & there was definitely a lack of coordination staying seated & holding the paddle whilst trying not to capsize. But we made it and cast off, ready for our first race. Being the drummer is a very important role. You are there to help the team coordinate their strokes, to increase the paddle RPMs, and to give encouragement. Nobody takes a blind bit of notice of you. It was each to their own, hacking into the Thames as if the excess splashing and gnashing of paddles would improve our speed. Result Race 1: 1 minute, 25 seconds (second place in our heat). The crew felt relief and elation, but Hannah was doing the maths. How were we going to beat the previous year’s result…?
After a lengthy period of rest and recovery, the RR Dragon McDragonboaters were on the water again, this time under the command of Pete the Builder. What could possibly go wrong… Well, our improved time of 1 minute, 15 seconds (second place in our heat) was less to do with the drummer and more to do with the extra paddle power and coordination. Our helmsman was from way up North and we were rather terrified of this giant. No mucking about on this race. Other than Pete Cooke, who decided he didn’t need his paddle and it had to be retrieved by the Safety Boat somewhere near Henley. Pete claims to have participated in the race and alleges he only lost his paddle after the finish when Sheryl Higgs viciously knocked it from his hands, but I know Sheryl and she is all sweetness. Next year, I suggest we put a neck strap on Pete’s paddle, like a camera, and he’ll do much better.
Well, you would think that by Race 3, we would have nailed this dragonboating malarkey, that hangovers would have subsided and the competitive nature of us runners would lead us to victory, but you would be wrong. Race 3: 1 minute, 26 seconds (last in our heat, by quite some way). I’m not saying that it was because we had a new crew member in Kevin Bilsby, because lots of things went horribly wrong in our final race and I don’t think we should just blame Kevin. Poor Hannah. We had really let her down. Well, we had let ourselves down. None of us looked up when paddling, there was zero coordination in our strokes, I think we were exhausted from having to use our upper bodies so much. We are runners after all.
Feeling a little deflated by our poor performance but exhilarated we wouldn’t have to do another race as we were a good 15 seconds off the teams in the Finals, we had a debrief of the day and came out with a few points to take away with us. We learned:
And, quite fascinating, was that the course length this year was longer than in 2017 and there was no way we would break the RR PB of 1:03. Happy Hannah!
So, well done, awesome Dragon McDragonboaters. A great time was had by most of us and, hopefully, those whose bodies were in a (self-inflicted) sub-optimum state are now fully recovered and will know better next time. Or not!
Dragon McDragonboat Team Leader: Hannah McPhee
Dragon McDragonboat Team: Angharad Shaw, Cullum Ross, Neil Fenwick, Juliet Fenwick, Sheryl Higgs, Sophie Higgs, Kerry Eastwood, Pete Cooke, Maureen Sweeney, Tony Long, Caroline Jackson, Paul Monaghan, Pete Morris, Jenny Gale, Neil Carpater, Jen Holmes & Kevin Bilsby.