How brave Brendan conquered pain barrier on the longest day

BRENDAN MORRIS has joined the ranks of the local running legends who have completed a solo 100 miles during Endure 24. Now, in his own words, he tells the enthralling story of his odyssey through the pain barrier and how he finally crossed the line with the help of a great Roadrunner pal…

I’M quickly establishing a theme in my articles; feeling terrible, lying in bed and not being able to make it to the toilet. My wife has had to help me out of bed twice in the night so I can make the groaning shuffle down the corridor and back. Her suggestion after the second time was that I sleep in the spare room and wear adult nappies. Not a solution to our relationship I was expecting to hear just four years into marriage.       

I think I’m feeling so terrible due to severe dehydration, but unfortunately I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol (apart from sipping some of Phil Reay’s beer as I ran past him about 50 miles in). 

I’ve done something far more reckless and ran (walked lots) 100 miles in under 22 hours at an event called Endure 24. The event has participants do as many laps of a five-mile multi-terrain course as they can in 24 hours. There are options to enter solo, as a pair, or as different-sized teams. 

Two years ago I entered this event as part of a team of five which included Ashley Middlewick (below). We both enjoyed the event and decided to enter as solo runners the following year, with the aim of supporting each other in training and on the day.

I had to defer last year’s place though because it clashed with a friend’s wedding. I would have deferred again if they let me, as this year I’ve been struggling with a foot injury. 

Due to the injury I had not been able to do any specific training for this event. I had put in a 20-mile run three weeks previously and towards the end my left foot had started to hurt, so I was expecting something similar at Endure 24 and made the decision to not risk further damage and pull out as soon as I felt pain in my foot. 

My main aim is the Chicago Marathon in October and my recent training had revolved around Wednesday’s track sessions to improve VO2 max and 5k and 10k times. I was going to use this as an opportunity to put in a hard long run of about 20-25 miles, and then see how the foot was and decide whether I wanted to continue.

So on went the racing flats and off I went. The course is objectively superb (subjectively less so now), with a great mixture of scenery and terrain, lots of undulations and a couple of steep ups and downs as well. Though picturesque, it was definitely more technical than I remember; sharp twists and turns in places, the odd ditch to jump and tree roots to avoid. 

I went pretty hard in the first five laps (25 miles) and completed them in 2hr 53min. This obviously put me in the lead. No one in their right mind (bar David McCoy) would start a 24-hour endurance race at this speed. I walked the next lap with a rucksack on full of food, trying to eat as much as I could stomach. 

During the 70-minute walking lap I was assessing the state of my foot and it strangely seemed fine. I decided to try and run another four laps after the walk, then would take another walking break. 

But after just two laps into this next running stint though (around 41 miles) I really hit a brick wall. I suddenly felt dizzy and sick. I found the nearest tree to lean against and get my breath back, which is a lot harder to do when you’re reassuring every passing runner that you’re fine. 

I was not fine. I suddenly realised my hamstrings were killing me and lifting my legs just to even walk was painful. The enormity of what I had done so far also dawned on me, as well as the challenge that lay ahead if I was to make it to 100 miles. 

I walked the remainder of that lap with a couple of ladies who were also going solo. Their encouragement and distraction snapped me out of the pit of despair I was falling down and my legs loosened up a bit.

I decided to try and run the next lap as I felt a bit better. This lasted about 300 metres, or 50 metres into the first ascent (known as The Hill Of No Return). Again my body was rebelling and just wouldn’t move as much as I wanted it to. 

I walked the rest of that hill and even found that difficult. I knew my days of running up the hills were over. I was seriously contemplating walking to the end of the lap (50 miles) and dropping out. I had gone further than I had expected and the pain was starting to outweigh the enjoyment.

Towards the end of that walking lap, I was caught by another guy going solo. We were walking up a hill together. He had done 35 miles, so was a couple of laps behind me. He said he had got to the stage where you walk the uphill sections and only run down the downhill ones. 

This kind of run-walk strategy was not one I had considered adopting before. With the legs feeling a bit looser, I decided to try it for the next lap at least and see how I got on. It worked quite well.

That lap took me 65 minutes and most importantly felt sustainable. I did a couple more like this, then walked a lap again to take on a good amount of food. 

The run-walk strategy then got harder. I managed another two laps of it, but my quads were smashed to bits by this point and it felt more like I was stumbling down the hills with no control, rather than running. At 80 miles I had come to terms with the fact that I could no longer run.

I had made the decision at around the 65-mile mark that I was going to go for the full 100 miles. I still had over 12 hours to complete seven laps, and I worked out I would need to travel at around three miles per hour to complete the distance in time, so could probably walk it home if necessary. 

At 80 miles though, even walking became a great effort. The blisters I had created were suddenly very apparent and painful. The monotony of the course and the lack of sleep were starting to take their toll. I became irritable and once again was thinking about quitting after 85 miles.
I managed to continue though, and had the incredible good fortune of bumping into Ashley in the start/finish area at the 90-mile mark. His race hadn’t gone so well and at this point he had only managed 45 miles. He said that he would walk with me to 100 miles to make sure I got there. 

Ashley’s companionship was key to me finishing the 100 miles. He started as a great motivator and distraction and evolved into more of a shepherd and guardian of a toddler-like man stumbling along whinging about how far there was left to go. 

I was in a bad way by 95 miles. I was seeing double and feeling quite faint. I had to close my eyes at times while walking to fight the dizziness. I’m not sure I could have gone the full distance without Ashley’s stewardship. 

Finishing the 100 miles in 21 hours and 53 minutes meant there was probably time to walk another lap. I was thinking about the money I would need to be paid to even attempt to do it. I settled on a year’s wages. 

Due to the nature of the event, finishing is rather an anti-climax. Only Ashley and I knew that I had finished. I didn’t really have the energy to celebrate and couldn’t stop thinking: “How the hell am I going to take my tent down?”

Ashley put me in a chair. It was the first time I had been off my feet for 23 hours. It felt incredible.

For completing 100 miles there is a prize of… a tee-shirt! I’ve been there and got the tee-shirt, so there’s no need to return. Never. Ever. 

In fact, is it too early to put one’s name down to do the Ridgeway Relay in 2020 instead?

Pictures: Chris Drew.

Results: http://www.chipresults.co.uk/live24/index.aspx?cat=SM&eventId=30

Who’s the daddy! Roadrunners triumph again on Ridgeway

LAST year it was a runaway victory, this year a thrilling close-fought battle as Roadrunners retained their Ridgeway Relay title. Ladies captain SAM WHALLEY, one of the architects of both successes, gives a blow-by-blow account of how the drama unfolded…

THE Ridgeway Relay is, for me at least, one of the best days to be a Reading Roadrunner. It’s the day when, for as many years as I am aware, we have had around 40 members running the length of the Ridgeway National Trail, with a couple of deviations along the way to avoid dangerous road crossings, or to finish at a more practical venue for a prize-giving than Overton Hill.

We knew a year ago that there would be a date clash with the ever popular Endure 24 event, so I was delighted to find 40 willing participants for this year’s race. (Note: there is no clash next year, so do bear this in mind before you sign up to run for 24 hours, solo, around Wasing Park, or even Comrades, or just a marathon every other week.)

Having run in the Ridgeway Relay for the past three years, I was slightly miffed at having to attend a wedding on the very same weekend (shh, don’t tell the bride), and my involvement was limited to putting the teams together with Grant Hopkins, nagging people for their predicted times, and then letting everyone know when they needed to be at the start of their leg. 

Some runners requested certain legs that they knew, ran all the time, or were on their doorstep. Others fancied the challenge of particular legs they had heard about. 

We set up a WhatsApp group for each team, and this enabled us to share locations, updates and stories throughout the day. With chairman Phil Reay following the teams in person, from start to finish, there was no shortage of information, and it was a really exciting event to be a part of, even without the running bit.

When I woke up in North Devon on Sunday morning, my phone was already well awake. The race had started, and there was a picture of a very chilly looking foursome on Ivinghoe Beacon. 

At that moment, I felt really chuffed that everyone had got up at the crack of dawn to drive all the way there, to run for us. That’s commitment, and we are really grateful. Enough of the soppyness, though, with it having rained a lot during last week, much focus was on the footwear — were we to go with road or trail shoes? 

The answer was that it really depended on which leg you were running, with each one being so different: some with stretches of road, others with steep ups and downs, muddy tracks, chalky sections….. the list goes on. Of course, if you have done your homework and completed a recce, you know what to expect. (I’m looking at you, Sarah Dooley.)

As expected, David McCoy, the younger (left), led everyone off down the hill for the A team, with Sarah Dooley for the ladies, late replacement Alan Freer for the vets, and Dan Coleman for the Bs. 

Having broken the course record with a storming run last year, the A team, albeit made up of different members this year, had a trophy to defend, and we may just have given that team a disproportionate amount of attention. 

At each checkpoint the questions were, What position did they come in at? How much of a gap was there in front and behind? And who did they have left to run? If we were to try to be competitive across all three categories, we would ideally have a team manager following each team throughout the day. Any volunteers?

At the end of leg 1, which was 11 miles, the A team was third, vets 28th, ladies 33rd and Bs 34th, out of 42 teams. Ask Dan Coleman why he might have been held up for a few minutes. Not my place to divulge.

Swindon Shin Splints had a five-minute lead, with a talented Tonbridge runner on their first leg (second-claim Swindon). This is completely legit — a runner doesn’t actually have to be a member of a club to run this race. St Albans Striders were in second, but didn’t seem to feature throughout the rest of the day.

Leg 2 is one of the shorter legs, at six miles, and seems often to be run by women. Not necessarily in this club though, and it was Mark Apsey (A), Ben Fasham (B), Miriam Coleman (ladies) and Susan Knight (vets) who took over, with the As coming in second, Bs 23rd, vets 26th and ladies 36th. Swindon were still in the lead. Mark (above) was the second-fastest runner overall on this leg.

For Leg 3, it was the first of the two required women for the A team, Laura Peatey (below), with Derek Cheng for the Bs, Gary Tuttle (one of the two allowed men) for the ladies, and Tom Harrison for the vets. In this race a vet is over 50; I don’t know how many of the teams had an over 80 raring to go! 

This leg was 9.4 miles and the As finished in fourth, Bs 25th, ladies 27th and vets 37th. Headington were now in the lead. Gary (for the ladies) was the fifth-fastest runner overall on this leg.

Leg 4 is the only other short leg in the race, at 5.4 miles, and this was requested by men’s captain Grant Hopkins for the As, Clinton Montague for the Bs, Sophie Hoskins for the ladies and Julie Rainbow for the vets. The uphill finish for this leg is brutal, and the As finished in fourth, Bs 22nd, ladies 26th and vets 36th. Vale of Aylesbury were now in the lead. Grant was the seventh-fastest runner overall on this leg.

Leg 5 is 10.1 miles, but it has a lot of downhill to the river, and is notoriously muddy and overgrown. Still, it is popular with A teamer Chris Lucas (right) as it is the closest leg to his house. For the Bs it was Belinda Tull, for the ladies Liz Jones, and for the vets, David Fiddes. 

At this point last year, the course-record-breaking year, the A team was already well in the lead, but the team remained composed. It was, however, time to pull out the big guns. The As finished in third, Bs 23rd, ladies 29th and vets 35th. Vale of Aylesbury were still in the lead, but Chris was the fastest runner overall on this leg.

Having recently realised that the race was actually on Sunday not Saturday, Rob Corney (below) was in the right place at the right time and ready to take over for the A team at leg 6, at 10.4 miles and including the climb back up from the river. 

“He’ll never maintain that pace,” laughed the Aylesbury team as Rob set off through South Stoke village like a rocket. Ahem. Don’t they know who he is? 

With Rupert Shute for the Bs, Chris Buley for the ladies, and Colin Cottell for the vets, things were getting exciting. Needless to say, the As finished first, putting Reading Roadrunners in the lead, with Rob the fastest runner overall on this leg, and even faster than his time last year. The Bs were 15th, ladies 21st and vets 31st. Rupert and Chris were eighth and ninth fastest respectively.

Leg 7 typically has a mass start for those teams whose runner has not arrived by 2pm, so all apart from our A team runner, Gemma Buley, were in this. For the Bs it was Bryan Curtayne, for the ladies, Claire Seymour and for the vets, Brian Kirsopp. At the end of the 9.1 miles, Vale of Aylesbury had given themselves back a four-minute lead, with our A team finishing second, Bs 13th, ladies 29th and vets 31st. Super Brian was the third fastest runner overall on this leg, and Gemma was 10th.

Leg 8 was my first experience of the Ridgeway. I like to call it the tourist leg, as it goes behind the White Horse at Uffington, and it is incredibly well signposted. I challenge anyone to get lost on this leg. Still, it is not easy, with chalky hills and narrow treads, and another brutal uphill finish.

Lance Nortcliff was up for the As, Angharad Shaw for the Bs, Belinda Drew for the ladies, and Peter Reilly for the vets. As they finished, Lance was still in second, but had had a storming run and closed the gap to two minutes, with the Bs 23rd, vets 27th and ladies 34th. 

Lance was the fastest runner on overall on this leg, but I still reckon that wasn’t as hard as trying to get changed afterwards with a flimsy towel in a high wind.

As I arrived at leg 9, I saw the Aylesbury runner leading off, followed shortly by Mark Worringham for the A team, whose legs were definitely turning over a lot more quickly than those ahead of him. Indeed, Mark had (above)checked the Power of 10 profile of his opponent while waiting, and knew it was in the bag. 

For the B team, it was Ben Whalley, en route from Devon, the ladies, Alice Carpenter, and the vets David Caswell, who had accidentally signed up during a post-Manchester Marathon celebratory drink. I forget nothing. 

No surprise that the A team took the lead and finished this very tough 10.7 mile leg in first, with the Bs 15th, vets 24th and ladies 34th. Mark was the fastest runner overall on this leg, and Ben was third. 

Alice incurred a five-minute penalty due to inadvertently taking a short cut, that I had inadvertently shown her as the correct way when we did a recce of the leg together. Oops. Fortunately the fate of the ladies’ team was not hanging on this fact, and I promise we will go back and do it properly.

And so the A team went into the final leg with an eight-minute lead over Vale of Aylesbury, and with Headington a further 28 minutes behind.

While our supporters were hoping anchor man Matt Davies could hang on for 9.4 miles, Matt (left) had other ideas, increasing the lead to bring the team home to Marlborough Leisure Centre nine minutes ahead of second place. He had run the fifth-fastest time for that leg. 

The trophy that Glynne Jones had come all the way back from family in Slough for, to unlock from the cabinet so it could be returned, was coming straight back to Palmer Park.

Meanwhile, there was another mass start for leg 10, at 5.30pm, and up were Ollie Watts for the Bs, Liz Johnson for the ladies and Pete Jewell for the vets. They finished in 15th, 32nd and 23rd respectively, with the ladies fourth Mostly Ladies team, and the vets second Vets team, only two minutes behind the winners. We definitely have the depth in this club to aim for more than one trophy!

Next year’s race will be on June 21st. Yes, it is always on Father’s Day, but what better way to spend it?

Pictures: Barry Cornelius, Phil Reay, David Fiddes.

Results: http://marlboroughrunningclub.org.uk/uploads/files/documents/Ridgeway%20Relay%202019%20Draft520Results.pdf

Oh what a Knight! Roadrunners put on a capital performance

AFTER a day out in the big city on marshalling duties, ladies captain SAM WHALLEY reports on a highly successful British championship event for the Roadrunners…

THE second May Bank Holiday Monday is always the date for what is now called the Vitality London 10,000.

Why is it 10,000 and not 10k, asked my daughter, with it being on a road and not a track? I don’t know, is the answer. 

Still, it is an incredibly popular race, with almost 20,000 finishers today. For many, it is the closest they will get to ‘running London’, as the course starts on The Mall and takes in sights as far as St Paul’s and the City. 

There are a couple of stretches where the course is two-way and, if you’re lucky, you get to see the elites on their way to the finish.

Our club is allowed to apply for six free male and female places for this race if we participate in the Autumn road relays, and Carl Woffington organises this for us. 

These places are ‘captain’s pick’; we want to choose some fast runners as this is a British 10k championship race, with team positions at stake, but it is also nice to reward some of our less elite runners. 

Personally I like to recognise those who have put themselves forward for team events throughout the winter.

Our men’s team was: Jack Gregory, David McCoy (the younger), Chris Lucas, Brian Kirsopp, Lance Nortcliff, and Pete Jewell. Rob Corney qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-32 minute 10k elsewhere.

The women’s team was: Nikki Gray, Laura Peatey, Helen Pool, Sarah Dooley, Angela Burley and Claire Seymour. Gemma Buley qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-38 minute 10k elsewhere.

From our marshal spot on the Strand we were able to see the runners at just before 2k and just after 7k. The race was won by Mo Farah (above, with Susan Knight) and Steph Twell.

There were 37 Reading Roadrunners listed in the results, and it was hard work trying to spot them all. As usual our eyes were tuned to spot green vests, so apologies if you did not get a cheer — you were invisible.

I will never understand the non-wearing of the green vest. Indeed, in an event such as this, it is a bit risky; not wearing a club vest is a violation of the championship rules and your time would not count towards the team total. You don’t want to be that person.

It will come as no surprise to read that first club member to finish was Rob Corney, in 29th place. Only a week or so after another great marathon, Rob (right) proved once again he was worthy on an England vest (which he will wear in the Toronto Waterfront marathon in October). 

Rob’s PB of 30:29 is another new club record, taking 56 seconds off his previous best.

Rob was backed up by Jack Gregory, in 32:41, still managing to run great times despite the inevitable restrictions and tiredness that come with having a new baby in the house, and James Rennie, in 34:00.

Not yet 18, James is showing so much talent, including some for even pacing, with his first 5k being 16:59.

Today James (left), who switched his allegiance to Reading AC since entering the race, latched on to the international Gemma Steel to help him achieve his very evenly-paced PB. (He must have left her for dust in the end; I notice her finish time was 34:31).

The second men’s team was made up of David McCoy (34:10), Chris Lucas (left, 34:51) and Chris Burt (36:48), but the PBs did not end there. There was also a first sub-37 for Mark Dibben, a sub-38 for Chris Buley, and PBs for Brooke Johnson, David Lennon and Peter Rennie, so far as I know of at the time of writing. 

Brian Kirsopp was running his second 10k of the Bank Holiday weekend, having raced at Birmingham the previous day. He finished today’s race only five seconds slower. Lance Nortcliff felt unwell during his warm-up and made the sensible decision to not start the race.

Gemma Buley didn’t run with husband Chris but did finish at exactly the same chip time as him, leading the women’s first team home in 37:59. Gemma was supported by Nikki Gray, with a PB of 39:11, and Laura Peatey, also with a PB, in 41:14.

The second women’s team was made up of Helen Pool (41:34), Sarah Dooley, in another PB of 41:42, and the ever-improving Liz Johnson, again with a PB, in 46:42. 

There were also PBs for Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez, Angela Burley, Susan Knight, and Hilary Rennie, with others possibly to be confirmed. Susan (below) was delighted with her achievement, coming as it did less than a week after her 57th birthday.

Tina Woffington and Sandy Sheppard had a fantastic day out in the atmosphere, while Jenny Dimmick celebrated her newly-regained mojo with Gill Manton, the latter fresh from a PB in the Westminster Mile yesterday.

I don’t know if I am the only person who caught up on all the TV footage as soon as they got home, but I am taking two things from it. 

Firstly, the 800 women who were running in their underwear were part of the Celebrate You initiative, which aims to use plus-size models and normal-sized women to promote body confidence and prove that exercise is for everyone. Aha, that explains a lot. 

Secondly, the first three women to finish were noted for the strength they had built during the tough, hard, muddy winter of XC. Just saying..

Well done to everyone who ran today — you did us proud!

Results: https://www.vitalitylondon10000.co.uk/results/2019/

Pictures: Tina Woffington and Pete Morris

Seventh heaven as Roadrunners ladies Pool their resources

CHAUFFEUR, head cook, team organiser, runner and race report writer… SAM WHALLEY covered the whole gamut of jobs on the first weekend of the summer relay season. Here’s her report from our ladies’ trip to the Midlands…

IT WAS Helen Pool’s idea to try and get a team together for the British Masters Road Relays at Sutton Park, so we have her to blame/thank. 

An email was duly sent out to all women of an appropriate age, and we were delighted to have replies from seven who were both interested and available.

Team entries are based on the number of runners anticipated in each ten-year age group; V35 teams needed four runners, while V45, V55 and V65 teams only required three. 

The age spread of our women was one x35, five x45 and one x55, and with runners allowed to run in a younger age group but not an older one, we had to be organised into a V35 and a V45 team, with our three strongest runners put into the latter.

Disaster struck on the eve of the race, when Katherine Sargeant’s iffy hamstring was deemed unsuitable for the task of running 5k. 

This is when it would be really good to have a pool of reserves to call upon at very short notice. Alas, we had no such pool, and runners were only allowed to run once, for one team.

Nevertheless, we were all still keen to run, even with an incomplete team. Indeed, Claire Seymour was already halfway through her mini-break in Birmingham, and raring to go.

We were thankful for our 7am departure for Sutton Coldfield, when, for reasons best known to herself, the designated driver (that was me) veered off the blue line indicated by the sat nav and then missed the first exit that would have set us back on the right track, in favour of a half-hour detour down the M6 and back up the other side, in the average speed limit stretch, no less. 

I can neither repeat in print the words that emerged from my mouth, nor apologise enough to my passengers.

In spite of this brain malfunction, we arrived with the desired hour to spare, enough time to put up the tent, update our team declaration sheet, and prepare for the race, with the leg one runners on the start line at 10.30.

Helen Pool and Paloma Crayford did the honours for leg one, with Helen keen to beat her big local rival, and Paloma already chuffed to be trying something out of her comfort zone. 

With this being an undulating one-lap course, the first runners were due back after around 18 minutes, pretty swift for senior female athletes, let alone masters. 

The changeover line was a serious business. We were called from the holding pen in order, as our incoming runners appeared halfway up the finishing hill — oh yes, it finished on an uphill, why wouldn’t it? — and were told not to waste time looking behind us, as we would be given a three-second countdown and a tap on the shoulder when they had crossed the line.

This made me feel really nervous, and fearful of a false start. Lesley Whiley had already been told off for only having two pins on her numbers.

Helen was back in sixth place for the V45s, in 21:31, ahead of her nemesis — yes! — while Paloma felt the benefit of the inevitable leg one speediness and ran a fantastic 24:36 for 26th place. Had Paloma been running in her actual age category, this would have been 15th.

Lesley and I took the metaphorical baton for leg two. With numbers worn front and back, it should have been easy to see who we were racing against. 

From a personal point of view, those age group numbers needed to be quite a lot larger for me to be able to see whether someone was in my race or not, given that everyone had spread out so much over leg one, but as with any team race my aim was to run as fast as possible, not lose any positions, and pick people off if I could. 

Such was the nature of the course, that splits were somewhat erratic, and, while I felt like I should have been able to run faster, I was pleased to not lose any places — phew! — and come in at 25:16, while Lesley, running in an age group one below her own, slipped one place, courtesy of second-claim runner and former Reading Roadrunner Sarah Urwin-Mann. 

Lesley was still the eighth fastest V45 runner over this leg, with a great time of 23:43. This would have been the 12th fastest time of the day in the V55 race.

Lesley and I handed over to Julie Rainbow and Claire Seymour, respectively. Julie, who is in fantastic form at the moment, achieving PBs in some distances for the first time in many years, ran an excellent leg, the fifth fastest V45 time in that leg, with 22: 41, and brought the V45 team home in seventh place. 

Claire also had a great run, in 25:35, and gained one place, with the team finishing in 25th after the three legs.

As an incomplete team, however, we were then left hanging, with no final position listed, but could be pleased with our performance, and that none of us had got caught by the V55s or V65s, who had set off five minutes after us.

A relatively uneventful journey home had us brushing with travelling Manchester City fans and discussing the best marathon training plans, but mostly involved refuelling with sandwiches, salads and home-baked goods from Paloma and myself. See what you could be missing? 

We all agreed it would be a brilliant event to have on our regular race calendar. Note: You can see a copy of such a team race calendar on the noticeboard at Palmer Park.

Later, Lesley reflected on her best performance at the very same road relays, back in 1999, when she ran 17:57, and the Reading Roadrunners V35 women won the prize for second team — wow! Something for the speedier veterans among you to aspire to, perhaps? 

In the meantime, we will most definitely be back.

Results: https://www.race-results.co.uk/results/2019/bmafw19.pdf

Pictures: Bryan Dale

 

Horse sense prevails in search for club championship points

ROADRUNNERS’ ladies captain SAM WHALLEY reports from the wilds of Hampshire after the first of the three five-mile races in this year’s club championship…

THE eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the Hurstbourne five-mile race on the club championship calendar was listed as ‘by request’.

This had appeared in the champs last year, and although it is around an hour’s drive from Reading, it was so enjoyable that Tina Woffington (below) asked for it to be included again. She then forgot to enter until the day, but that’s another story!

The course has everything: farm tracks, grass, uneven ground, a big hill, woodland paths (up and down hill), bluebells, fallen tree hurdles, the big hill again, more grass…. you get the picture. 

It’s hilly (see profile below) and you really need to watch your footing to avoid tripping up or turning an ankle. It wasn’t as muddy this year, so most of us found our times to be a couple of minutes faster.

There was a good turn-out of 20 green vests, enough for a bit of friendly competition, and it also felt good to be supporting such a small event. There were 266 finishers overall.

First Roadrunner to finish was Ben Whalley (above, right), in third overall, achieving 50 points in the MV40 category. Next in that category was Tony Page, who also picked up the prize for first MV40, followed by Bryan Curtayne.

The MV50 category was as competitive as ever. Mark Andrew took everyone by surprise by by-passing the pre-race banter and turning up on the start line.

Rumour has it that he arrived early for an on-the-day entry, and then caught up on some sleep until race time. He was first of our MV50s home, bagging himself 50 points. 

He was followed by the Davids, Caswell and Fiddes, Tony Streams (still with broken toe in-tow — that was interesting on the downhills, ouch!) and George Nyamie.

Alan Freer picked up the prize for first MV60, and with he, Andy Atkinson and Jim Kiddie being the only competitors in the MV60, MV65 and MV70 categories, respectively, each could also take away 50 points. Ben Fasham was the only senior RR male in attendance, so he too was able to take home an easy 50 points.

For the women, it was Katherine Sargeant who was first RR home, as fourth female, and first in the FV45 race category.

As far as the club championships were concerned, it is rare that Katherine doesn’t pick up 50 points, and Saturday was no exception, in spite of changes to the female age categories to bring them in line with the men’s. Katherine was followed by me and Caroline Hargreaves.

There were grumbles in the FV50 category, following the removal of the FV55s. “Where’s the incentive now?” asked Sarah Bate, as she scooped the full 50 points, ahead of Catherine Leather. 

Sarah will have to take solace in the fact that not every club member takes interest in the club champs, and there’s still everything to play for.

In the FV60s, Tina Woffington took the 50 points, followed by Sandy Sheppard, while Liz Atkinson was the only contender for the FV65s. Liz had the grace of a carousel horse as she came into the finish. “That was tough,” she said afterwards to Katherine. “Why would a thoroughbred like you want to enter something like this, where you could injure yourself? Leave it to us Shetland ponies.”

A great event, and with many of our runners only a week post-marathon, some impressive performances too. 

The remaining five-mile races in the championship are the Marlow 5 on May 12th (also a Berkshire Road Running Championship race), and the Headington 5 on August 25th. Don’t miss out.

Results: http://www.hurstbourne5.org.uk/shared/attachments.asp?f=1fa511bc-dd1c-4c31-bcf3-508b17f44ca9%2Epdf&o=HBT5-Results-2019%2Epdf

Pictures: Emma Caswell

Tough French connection, but now we’ll always have Paris

GLOBE-TROTTING runner-writer ANDY ATKINSON follows up his dispatches from Berlin, New York, Bilbao and Verona with this report from the Paris Marathon…

QUESTION: What activity do you come out of feeling worse than when you went in? 

ANSWER: Not running a marathon, but going to the doctor to ask for a medical certificate to run one! 

The French ask for conformation from a medic prior to allowing you to enter the Paris Marathon and I went into the surgery confident that this would be a formality.

After much sucking of teeth and comments about high cholesterol and blood pressure my doctor said no! She would have to get confirmation from the senior partner before risking a signature on the form. 

Fortunately, it turned out that the senior partner is a parkrunner and after a few questions and agreeing to appropriate medication I was in.

Liz, my wife, had similar problems — her doctor flatly refused to take the risk and sign the form, leaving her to find a more enlightened medic at a bureau in Paddington. Charlie Macklin submitted the form all right, only to have it thrown out for having the wrong wording. It turned out that the words were right in the end, but this only came clear on collecting bibs at the expo.

The medical certificate obstacle surmounted, a small group of Reading Roadrunners independently took the Eurostar to Paris. We consisted of David Walkley, Charlie Macklin, Anthony Eastaway, Liz and myself, supplemented by our neighbours, Joelah and Linda Flintoff.  Unfortunatley, Sev Konieczny was unable join us, but her sister, Véronique Chalmandrier ran in support.

We also had the backing of supporters in Paris — Anthony’s husband Jeremy and Charlie’s children, as well as the warm good wishes of a large number of Roadrunners following us back home on the event app.

On the eve of the race Anthony, Jeremy, Liz and I ventured to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to view the start and finish of the course, while Charlie opted for a view from the Eiffel Tower. We also managed an evening rendezvous to enjoy a meal together and talk race strategy before retiring early in preparation for the next day.

Weather on the day was ideal for running — cool to the point of being cold, bright and sunny. The course is flat and fast, provided you watch your feet on the notorious cobbles and can squeeze through streets sometimes alarmingly narrowed by pressing spectators. 

But you don’t run Paris just to get a personal best… the course takes in all the major tourist landmarks of the city. 

We started in the Champs Elysees, passing L’Opera, La Bastille, through the Bois de Vincennes, back past Notre Dame, the Musée d’Orsay and the Tour Eiffel.

The last five miles is a tough slog through the Bois de Boulogne, but relieved in the end by the sight of Frank Ghery’s magnificent Louis Vuitton building. The finish culminates along the Avenue Foch in front of the Arc de Triomphe — a fitting end to an exhilarating tour of the town.

We all felt we had good runs, and caught up afterwards to compare notes over a beer or two. David in particular turned in a well-deserved PB at 3:40.46 and Charlie was very near her best at 4:23.18.

Anthony ran a solid 5:49.36 and Liz, relaxed as ever, cruised in at 5:41.14, just under two minutes behind her PB scored at Berlin last September. Véronique achieved a creditable 5:17.46.

As for me, I was pleased, not so much with the time of 4:34.24, but with my state at the end — managing a strong finish and a little sprint over the line with a noisy squad of ‘London to Paris’ marathon-running nutcases pulling me along.

After the run, most of us stayed on to do a little sightseeing and relaxing. Paris can be an expensive place to eat and drink, but once you get the feel of the city, not really any more than London. Liz and I certainly enjoyed visiting some new sights and discovering interesting cafés and restaurants.

In common with many great cities, Paris has a fantastic metro system and it is easy to get to most landmarks, so it is a good place to combine running with tourism. We saw some signs of gilet jaune damage to the shops in the Champs Elysees, but there was no trouble.

Much more distressing was, as we left, the reports of the fire at Notre Dame. Television pictures of the fire and the distress of Parisians were very moving, but I have no doubt that the resilient French will bounce back and soon have this eternal monument restored.  Overall a great race and I think a few of us are keen to return next year.

Heartbreak Hill conquered… now it’s Chicago here I come

SPECIAL report from Roadrunner BRENDAN MORRIS on yesterday’s Boston Marathon… and it’s aftermath!

IT’S 3.30am local time and I’m wide awake lying in our hotel room in Boston. Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:47.50. It was a time that I was quite happy with and celebrated accordingly afterwards.

The trouble is now that I’m rather uncomfortable. The hangover is bearable,  but not pleasant, the muscles in my upper legs are particularly sore, but the worst thing is, I need the toilet. 

This will be the third time that I would be going during the night (an issue with maximum rehydration after a marathon). The first time, my left leg gave way underneath me completely and I ended up in a heap on the floor and crawled to the ensuite.

The second time, I made so much noise groaning in pain that I woke my wife up and she was less than sympathetic. 

So I’m now weighing up the options available. The most attractive one seems to be to wet the bed, but I think the most acceptable one will be to attempt to roll out of bed into the floor quietly and then once again crawl to the toilet and muster up the strength to stand, then hobble back. 

The prestige of the Boston Marathon needs no introduction. It’s an event that is on many amateur runners’ bucket lists, with a difficult qualifying time and no opportunity to run it otherwise, making it a race to aspire to. The city seems to have embraced this event with open arms as well, with the locals generating a great atmosphere throughout the marathon weekend. 

Upon signing up to run Boston, my initial thoughts were… “it’s that marathon with a hill in it.” After running it, I think it would be better described as “the marathon with one flat bit in it.” 

The more I read about the course in the build-up to the event, the more it started to worry me. “Though it has a net drop in elevation, do not let that fool you into thinking it’s a quick or easy course.” This was just one of the cliche-type phrases that I read and in hindsight all of them seemed to have been true. 

Another element to the Boston Marathon is the unpredictability of the weather conditions and this year did not fail to disappoint. As myself, Gary Tuttle and Grant Hopkins sheltered from torrential rain in a marquee, wearing ponchos and bin-liners around our feet, we spoke to a local runner who had done Boston “around ten times”. He claimed that your finishing time in Boston can’t be compared to other marathons; it’s a different kind of beast. 

He said you cant even compare your Boston time to other Boston Marathons as the weather each year is so different. Again, more cliches that rang true. 

This year they had initially predicted heavy rain throughout and for it to be cold. It was actually pretty mild in the end and the rain had passed by before the race started. The real issue during the race was the humidity to begin with and I would say in the final stages it felt pretty hot as the sun came out. 

The crowds along the course were great. Again, the area seems to have not grown tired of this event but to relish in it. Lots of unofficial feed stations, water stations, live music and co-ordinated cheerleading had been set up and in true American style they are unapologetically loud and bold. The Wellesley scream tunnel left my ears ringing and the last couple of miles in Boston proper were incredible. 

My build-up to the race had been hampered by a foot injury. I was only able to build up to the distance slowly and was not able to put in the amount of training I would have liked. I could only manage four runs greater than the half-marathon distance, which for me is not many (London and Berlin ten runs of 18 miles-plus).

So I was looking for a decent performance in the region of 2:50.00 but wasn’t going to be too harsh on myself if I only managed sub-three hours. My tactic was to run comfortably on the downhill stretches, not slowing myself down, then respect the uphill sections and not put too much effort into attacking them. I thought this would leave me good energy to finish strongly in the last five miles, which are pretty much all downhill.

Unfortunately this didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped.  A lack of long hilly runs in my training meant that around the halfway mark my quads were sore and I could feel my hamstrings tightening. 

This seemed to coincide with the temperature increasing and I knew it was going to get tough in the second half. I made a decision at that point to stop looking at my pace and concentrate on feel. 

I still respected the hills through Newton (a series of four inclines culminating in the infamous Heartbreak Hill) and took them steady in the hope that I could run strongly in the final stages. 

The course had taken it’s toll on my upper leg muscles though. By the top of Heartbreak Hill I was in agony. My legs couldn’t turn over quickly enough to take advantage of the last downhill section. In fact i was cursing the downhill parts by this time due to the pain. 

The last five miles became “let’s just finish without walking” mode. I was in a world of pain by the time I got into Boston proper, but the crowds and a runner who I was keeping pace with really spurred me on.

I snapped out of my defeatist mindset in the final stages and suddenly realised that I was still on for a good time. I gritted my teeth in the last mile and tried to make sure I ran under 2:48, which I managed.

It was a tough race. I would like to tackle it again with more specific training and higher volume. Considering the conditions and lack of preparation I’m happy with my time, the injury was fine and it gives me good confidence going into Chicago in the autumn. 

Pictures: Gemma Morris and Brendan Buxton

Boston results: http://registration.baa.org/2019/cf/Public/iframe_ResultsSearch.cfm?mode=results

SPOTY selection as the cry goes up.. Corney for England!

ROADRUNNERS have nominated Rob Corney for a prize at the 2019 Reading Sports Personality of the Year awards.

The club’s announcement comes a few days after he took a stunning eight minutes and 15 seconds off his own club marathon record when he finished fifth in the big race at Brighton.

It’s not clear yet whether Rob’s nomination comes in the ‘achiever’ or ‘improver’ categories, but he’d look a good bet to win both. He’s certainly improved a few times on the club honours board!

Club chairman Phil Reay – responsible for Rob’s nomination from his role of mens’ captain last year – said: “I’m running out of superlatives when talking about Rob. It’s not just his speed which is impressive, it’s the way he goes about it. He leads by example with his strong work ethic and is a role model to all at the club and the town’s running community.”

Corney’s astonishing time of two hours 19 minutes and 12 seconds in one of Europe’s principal marathons has started people talking about the possibility of our man being called up for international honours.

The England marathon coach, Nick Anderson, was impressed by Rob when he took some Roadrunners training seminars last year and was at the public address announcer at Brighton, so he was able to witness his current form.

The Woodley flyer will be 33 at the time of the next Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, while Bournemouth athlete Steve Way was 40 when he represented England at the 2014 Games on the back of a 2:16 qualifying time.

Corney said: “I don’t know about international call-ups. I think I’d need to go a couple of minutes quicker at least. There’s a lot of very fast runners on the scene at the moment. But never say never.”

Corney will be joined at the Reading SPOTY awards gala dinner by ladies’ nomination Gemma Buley, who kicked off the Roadrunners’ PB-fest at Brighton with a brilliant 37:20 in the 10k race which preceded the marathon.

That race featured a welcome return to top form by Jack Gregory, whose best time for four years, 31:51, suggests he could soon threaten Corney for the club No.1 spot at that distance.

The other half of Gemma’s Mr-and-Mrs PB club, husband Chris, made a triumphant return to Brighton, where he debuted at the distance last year. 

Chris slashed an amazing 18 minutes off his best with 3:03.19, finishing just outside the top 200 in a field of nearly 17,000.

Another Roadrunner to boast an 18-minute PB was Sarah Richmond-De’voy, who ran 4:38.27, while Simon Brimacombe ran 3:47.55, a 13-minutes improvement, and Clinton Montague hacked an ever bigger margin, 26 minutes, off his previous mark with 3:39.47.

Bragging rights of the day, though, went to Vince Williams, whose 3:40.08 represented a 27-minute mark-up.

Three others RR ladies to run PBs were Nikki Gray, making a welcome return to the green vests with 3:01.07, Sophie Hoskins (3.44.15) and Julie Rainbow (3:51.22).

There was no PB on the day for Sophie’s mum, Caroline, just the consolation of victory in the 50-54 age group by almost half an hour and the knowledge that she had clinched her third international vest at different distances.

She will now line up in the England age group masters squad in the marathon at York in October as well in the half-marathon at Maidenhead in September.

Despite missing eight weeks’ training in the winter through a hamstring strain, Carrie was 11th lady to finish in 3:00:54. Her training partner, Alex Harris, was second Roadrunner to finish in 2:57.52. 

So, a great day at the seaside for the club and returns on their efforts for those who did the training. Those who wonder whether all the winter miles are worthwhile should have a study of Rob Corney’s Strava output for three months before the race.

Anyone else do half that training? No, me neither.

Results link: https://resultscui.active.com/events/BrightonMarathon2019

Pictures: Gemma Buley and Sophie Rainbow

 

Loretta’s even better… all last weekend’s race results

WITH the next club newsletter not due to be published until mid-May, here’s a catch-up on last weekend’s results, with most members either in marathon action or not racing because they were training for one.

Loretta Briggs (pictured) is obviously in good form for London on April 28th, shaving just over a minute off her half marathon personal best in a Dorney event.

April 6th

Windsor Spring Half Marathon

Pos           Name                            Chip

 48            Loretta Briggs             1:38.39 PB

Time Turner Pre-Marathon

Pos           Name                            Chip

43             Gill Manton                 3:12.23

April 7th

Manchester Marathon

Pos            Name                           Chip

 624          Darren Lewis              2:56.18 PB

 650          Alex Warner               2:56.26

1935          Andy Morgan            3:04.25

1430          Liang Guo                  3:12.42

2168          Paul Morrissey          3:26.11

2221          David Caswell            3:26.19

3584          Caroline Jackson      3:42.03

4659          Katherine Foley        3:48.19

4706          Tony Walker              3:58.37

4934          Paul Monaghan         3:52.32

5178           Catherine Leather     3:49.51

5773           Fleur Denton             4:06.46

6012           Ben Fasham              3:58.10 PB

6829          Claire Raynor            4:06.43

7352           Beth Rudd                 4:14.54

7479           Pete Morris               4:27.51

8456          Sam Whalley             4:28.13

8974          Dan Rickett               4:29.17

9236          Alex Bennell             4:27.30

10746        Martin Bush             4:44.01

12857        Andy Patrick             6:09.37

Rome Marathon

Pos            Name                           Chip

8044         Phil Reay                     5:21.55

8045         Christina Calderon    5:21.56

Wimbledon Common Half Marathon

Pos            Name                           Chip

253            Chris Manton             1:50.46

Combe Gibbet to Overton, 16 miles

Pos            Name                           Chip

  21            David McCoy (M40) 1:56.35

  40           Chris Cutting              2:03.25 PB

180           Katie Gumbrell          2:46.24 PB

 

 

Lamb bam, thank you mam… but no noose is good noose

AFTER a tough trail run across two counties — the iconic Combe Gibbet to Overton race — Roadrunners’ coaching co-ordinator KATIE GUMBRELL still found the strength to send us this report…

A 2pm start made for a lovely lazy Sunday morning, with tea in bed and a rather portentous chapter from The Art of Running Faster, by Julian Goater and Don Melvin.

En route to the race there were several signs to a local lambing event, which seemed like a much better plan than 16 miles of hilly trail running.

It was especially inviting given that the weather forecast suggested that all but the very fastest runners would get soaked. As it was, three intrepid Roadrunners – David McCoy, Chris Cutting and myself – made it to the start after a hair-raising coach journey. 

Not only did the coach entirely fail to stop at the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery, but the route necessitated a hairpin turn to head up towards the highest point in Berkshire (Walbury Hill; which is actually the highest point in the south-east of England – have that, Leith Hill).

The race start was at the Combe Gibbet, a short way west of Walbury Hill. The original frame, long since gone, was erected to gibbet the bodies of lovers George and Dot, who were convicted of murdering the former’s wife and child in 1676.

Luckily for us, the only dead body to be seen was at about the 11-mile mark, where a hare was having a particularly bad day.

The terrain was rough, wet in places (puddles up to my knees – bliss!) and, although technically a downhill race, there was enough up to challenge even the most mountain-happy goat.

Other significant landmarks included a fabulous huf haus, the Highclere Castle estate, plenty of lambs and some scallies on motorbikes: the 16 and a bit miles flew by.

With a proper cuppa in a mug at the end and plenty of friendly marshals and runners en route, it was a lovely event.

I think the lambing and/or the gin distillery would have been better, though.

Our picture shows Katie with Chris Cutting and David McCoy. Chris and Katie were both credited with personal bests and David a season’s best. Right: The course profile.

Results link…. https://www.runbritainrankings.com/results/results.aspx?meetingid=286079