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

Marathon madness: I stumble over the Sale of the century

A NEW correspondent to the Roadrunners’ website, DAN RICKETT, has filed us this report on yesterday’s ASICS-sponsored Manchester Marathon…

THE Manchester Marathon has a reputation for being fast and flat, which is no doubt why it attracts a field of nearly 20,000. 

This year 21 Reading Roadrunners and a plethora of supporters made the trek there and back by train, automobile, and (in one case) plane. 

It is probably a good thing the course profile is favourable, because the views are not exactly scenic. Perhaps my limited knowledge of Mancunian landmarks meant I bypassed these unknowingly. 

Aside from the occasional Oasis track, we could have been anywhere, and were mostly running through residential streets. 

However, the benefit of this was a continuous embrace of local support: children with power-up high-fives, street-party cheering, live music and a constant supply of jelly babies. Manchester is certainly a friendly place to run.

I embarrassingly confess my confusion passing through a pleasant looking suburb which I had mistakenly thought to be falling on hard times, since every public building seemed to be for sale, only to later realise we were running through a town called Sale. That’s marathon brain  for you.

Roadrunners did not waste the fast and flat opportunity with personal bests and target times smashed. Social media has already flagged personal bests for Darren Lewis (pictured with fellow 2:56 finisher Alex Warner) and Ben Fasham, smiling medal shots from several runners, and congratulations aplenty.

Several runners commented on the support from members of other clubs local to Reading, and I have to agree — lovely camaraderie away from home.

For me personally (race report writer’s prerogative), I surprised myself with an enjoyable race. My finishing time of 4:29.17 was far from a PB, but I didn’t set out to achieve this. 

My training had gone well, but not excellently, with some nice social long runs, so I aimed for a realistic target (hoping my time started with a four) and the objective to enjoy it. 

By mile 23 I still felt in control — this was new territory — so I decided to be a little more ambitious and aim for an arbitrary time. 

By mile 25 I was slowing, cursing myself, and wondering why certain arbitrary numbers have more gravitas than others — just who do they think they are?

Until, that is, a kind (perhaps psychic, perhaps imaginary) stranger on a bike pulled up and cycled alongside me. “Just over the brow of that hill,” he said. “Then you will see the finish line. It’s a great finishing straight.” 

I looked at my watch, re-engaged arbitrary smug number, thanked stranger/fairy godfather, and pushed on to succeed — still managing to enjoy it. And he was right: Manchester does have a nice finishing straight.

Lesson learned for me: that targets should be re-evaluated appropriate to training. Life gets in the way sometimes, and I won’t punish myself for that by hankering after a rigid target, no matter how tempting. Sometimes it’s OK to just want to finish or enjoy the atmosphere. 

Which brings me to a nod to those who didn’t have a good day’s race, who were sadly DNF, or who were injured and didn’t make it to the start line. You may be feeling a little faecal now, but this doesn’t make you any less awesome for making the right decision. There’s always next time, and plenty of RRs ready to cheer you home. 

Manchester was a fast and friendly course, but I’d recommend staying an extra night when the cheers have faded if you want to see Manchester itself. 

Results available here

Pictures courtesy of Paul Monaghan & Anna Balogh

That’s ‘Andy! Datchet cut Dash with training stroll in the park

 

WITH the Spring marathon season kicking off in earnest this weekend, several Roadrunners were grateful to our friends at the Datchet Dashers club for staging their annual warm-up 20-miler last weekend.

Roadrunner Andy Atkinson, himself off to Paris for 26.2 miles of fun next weekend, said: “Great kudos to our Datchet colleagues for a properly marshalled training run in the Great Park. Fantastic!

“The Dashers run it as a service to all local runners as preparation for London etc. With a bacon roll to finish (at cost price) and/or a pint in the local rugby club if you prefer, it’s a magic day.” Worth remembering that for next year, especially as it is only £1 to enter.

Only snag with the Datchet event is that no official results are published.

Across the other side of Windsor, at the Dorney Lake London Prep races (which cost 18 times as much to enter), results were published on Sunday night. Then some different results on Monday. And then some different ones to those on Tuesday.

So 48 hours after crossing the line, David McCoy dropped four places in the 20-mile race, Chris Lucas, Gemma Buley and Brian Kirsopp each dropped six places, and Alan Freer ten.

Brian’s only consolation was that he was deemed to be the fourth lady to finish!

Biggest loser of all was Paddy Hayes, originally declared the winner of the 24-mile race but later relegated to ninth. “I guessed I was about sixth or seventh,’” said a rueful Paddy. “Shambles!”

Whatever, here are all last weekend’s results, plus a couple of overseas marathons from the previous weekend…

March 24th

Marseille Marathon

Pos       Name                             Chip

305       Andrew Butler            3:47.10 PB

Limassol Marathon

Pos         Name                           Chip

 174        Caroline Jackson       3:56.30

 202       Paul Monaghan         4:05.57

The Big Cheese (15 miles)

Pos          Name                          Chip

273          Juliet Fenwick          3:41.27

March 31st

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 16 miles

Pos          Name                           Chip

   9           Chris Buley                 1:51.04

 43           Sahan Jinadasa         2:25.22

 46           Alice Carpenter         2:25.41

104          Dave Wood                3:01.30

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 20 miles

Pos          Name                                   Chip

 13            David McCoy (Snr)            2:04.07

 26            Chris Lucas                         2:13.35

 38           Gemma Buley (3rd lady)  2:17.47

 44           Brian Kirsopp                     2:25.26

 70           Alan Freer (1st M60)        2:36.40

150          Brian Fennelly                   2.53.05

166          Jana Nehasilova                2:57.01

174          Ben Adams                         2:59.05

178          Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez 2:58.43

239         Judith Ritchie                     3:10.01

390         Corinne Rees                      3:43.13

Dorney Marathon Prep Race, 24 miles

Pos          Name                                    Chip

   9           Paddy Hayes (3rd M40)   2:54.25

 31           David Dibben (1st M70)    3:35.13

Wokingham 10k

Pos          Name                                     Chip

   2           Richard Hallam-Baker       39.28

   6           Chris Cutting                        42.25

 12           Ed Dodwell (1st M60)        43.22

 22          Stuart Bradburn                   45.33

 65          Katie Gumbrell                      53.53

135          Angelique Haswell            1:00.22

137          Adele Graham                    1:00.35

158          Liz Fletcher                         1:03.36

178          Amy Hawkes                       1:06.33

Wokingham 5k

Pos          Name                                    Chip

  4            Nick Adley                           21.59

Treehouse 10k

Pos         Name                                        Chip

  50          Bryan Curtayne                     45.53

Dorset Ooser Marathon

Pos          Name                                     Chip

  88          Simon Denton                     4:44.14

  89          Sian James                           4:44.14

181           Donald Scott-Collett          5:37.08

King Carl: Capital guy who put Roadrunners into the capital

NEW chairman Phil Reay led the tributes to his predecessor Carl Woffington last night as the Roadrunners showed their appreciation for the long-serving ‘Marathon man’.

Carl stepped down at the club’s annual general meeting after more than five highly successful years at the helm.

As Carl took his place in the audience, the stresses of leadership at last behind him, Phil asked for members to indicate who had either marshalled at the London Marathon or obtained a club ballot place to run the big race in the capital.

An almost unanimous show of hands shot up from the packed attendance at Sutton’s Bowls Club in Lower Earley.

Phil said: “That is only possible because of Carl and his work with the London Marathon organisers going back over 23 years.”

He added: “Carl has been a member of Reading Roadrunners for well over 20 years.  Before becoming chairman he was the Bramley course director and also the event director for our TVXC fixture for many years. 

“He has been the course director at the Mortimer 10k for many years and remains in the role.

“Carl will also continue to be the club’s ambassador and point of contact for the London Marathon and will carrying on leading future club ballots on the matter. 

“He has given so so much to this club and the club has also been kind to him.  It’s here, at Reading Roadrunners, where Carl met Tina. They fell in love and the rest is history….

“Five and a half years ago the club found itself mid-term without a chairman.  According to the club constitution the general secretary is to deputise for the chairman, however Roger Pritchard, the Gen Sec at the time, thought he would apply another of the rules.

“That was to co-opt Carl on to the committee, and after a beer and a chat about club affairs, Carl agreed to be co-opted on to the committee and was then asked to become the chair.

“He’s involved himself with anything and everything to do with the club and he’s overseen a 20 per cent growth in membership during that period.   

“He also introduced the XC championships and arguably as impressive as anything else, over the course of Carl’s leadership the club has contributed over £100,000 to local charities.

“It’s no surprise that Carl is also a lifetime member of the club. Carl, on behalf of Reading Roadrunners, thank you. You’re certainly a hard act to follow.”

Then we all said a warm thank-you with a standing ovation for Carl, the man who took the club into London.

Phil (above) leads a 2019 team which includes five ladies new to the committee… Jill Dibben (treasurer), Liz Johnson (social secretary) and ex-officios Alice Carpenter, Claire Seymour and Vroni Royle.

They’ve taken the places of Roger Pritchard, Tom Harrison, Hannah McPhee and, of course, Carl himself.

Bob Thomas will continue in his role as the club’s general secretary alongside long-serving membership secretary Anne Goodall, social media guru Paul Monaghan and ex-officio Simon Denton.

The new men’s captain will be the flying Welshman, Grant Hopkins, who will serve alongside current ladies’ captain Sam Whalley.

Sam announced during the meeting that she has nominated Gemma Buley in the ‘improver’ category in the Reading Sports Personality of the Year awards. Watch this space for first news of nominations from our men’s section.

Meanwhile Kerri French will take over as race director of the Dinton Relays, to be run this summer at Woodford Park, Woodley.

Our picture shows (from left): membership secretary Anne Goodall and general secretary Bob Thomas with the committee new girls Jill, Alice, Claire and Liz. Picture: Colin Cottell

 

Parting is such sweet sorrow after Roadrunners’ Italian job

 

RUNNER-WRITER Andy Atkinson has recently reported from Roadrunners’ trips to races in Germany, Spain and the USA. “Wherefore art thou?” now, Andy? The answer is Italy for the Romeo and Juliet Half Marathon in the beautiful northern city of Verona. Here’s his dispatch…

IN my view, different countries suit different seasons. England’s season is the autumn, with golden leaves, cooler nights and often brilliant days illuminated by a low-slung sun. 

Canada’s season is winter, with crisp snow, frozen lakes, skating and skiing. 

But for late winter and early spring, there is nothing to compare with Italy. Although sometimes variable, the climate is often ideal for running — cool, even cold, in the shade, with a bright blue sky overhead and enough heat in the sun to sip Chianti outside.

Thus it was when I arrived at Verona with my wife Liz to run the Guilietta and Romeo Half Marathon. Motives for the visit were mixed as romance was also very much in the air.

The Half is set over St Valentine’s weekend and the city was busy with tourists eager to live the Shakespearian dream. 

The city authorities have embraced Shakespeare with gusto, turning fictional locations to reality and charging for admission accordingly. We took up the spirit of the weekend and queued with the rest for a go on Juliet’s balcony. (Above: the star-cross’d lovers).

We were doing the half with friend and fellow Roadrunner Fiona Ross, but went out a day earlier than her on the Thursday. 

After an overnight stop at a Gatwick hotel, with two other Roadrunner friends, John and Lorraine Bailey (who also happened to be travelling to Verona, but on a skiing trip), we arrived in time for some sightseeing and food before sleep. 

Fiona’s trip was not so smooth, if a little more adventurous. Italian air traffic control decided to strike on the Friday of her journey, delaying arrival by a day and making all subsequent flights doubly busy. 

The best flight she could get was to Milan, with a train transfer to Verona. This, at least, gave her plenty of opportunities to practise her Italian, while we strove to minimise the delay by collecting her number at the expo.  

The delay was compensated on Saturday evening by more speaking practice with Fiona’s Italian connections — her sister, Italian husband and two delightful children live near Padua and travelled over to meet us. 

After some difficulty finding anywhere to eat on such a busy weekend, we settled down at a swish, but minimalist, restaurant. Liz, who is studying Italian, promptly dug out her homework and got both father and children to help her. I don’t know if you call that cheating or creative exploitation! 

Interestingly, the race pasta party was AFTER the run and thus not much help to us on that evening.

The half marathon is one of three races run on the day — a ‘fun’ 5k, the half itself and the ‘duo’. The last is a relay designed to be run by couples, presumably keeping to the Romeo and Juliet theme. One half of the couple runs the first half of the race and the other takes over at halfway (which is back at the starting point as the course is a two-lapper). 

This format conveniently keeps the couples apart except at the changeover — I suspect a very clever device to maintain harmony between lovers. Liz and I needed no separation and, more or less, stuck together from start to finish. 

Fiona, restrained by no such fettering, sped onwards to a near five-minute personal best. We later commented that, if Romeo was in pursuit, he would not have caught her!

Overall, this is a very good race. It is flat and fairly fast, provided you can negotiate some uneven cobbled streets. It is not too big at about six thousand runners, most runners are Italian and of a good standard and it is well organised.

Spectator support is enthusiastic and positive, the route takes in the best sights of the city and weaves through interesting streets in the old town. The finishing line commentary is excellent and, after reaching the 21k-mark still in harmony, Liz and I were greeted with our own special announcement. 

Verona is welcoming, well worth a visit and forms a beautiful backdrop to lively races. 

Pictures: Fiona Ross and Liz Atkinson.

Headline and caption: William Shakespeare.

Record breakers! Matt finishes Corney’s gloss in Bramley glory

TWO new Reading Roadrunners club records were set and three team trophies captured at the highly successful 25th anniversary Bramley 20/10 races.

Rob Corney demolished the club’s long-standing ten miles’ benchmark and Matthew Richards improved his own 20 miles record by exactly one minute.

There were team prizes at the longer distance for both our squads, Seb Briggs and Lance Nortcliff helping Richards take the men’s honours and Caroline Hoskins, Sarah McDade and Katherine Sergeant clinching the women’s award.

And, more than 24 hours after the event, the club collected a third trophy from our flagship event following a dispute over the men’s ten-mile team prize.

Newbury, ironically led by our second-claimer Matt Green, were originally announced as winners, but Roadrunners’ men’s team captain Phil Reay contested the award, claiming that the prize should go to our three scorers – Corney, Jack Gregory and Grant Hopkins – on aggregate times rather than positions. FR Systems, who organised the chip-timing and results, later confirmed that Roadrunners were the rightful champions.

The issue followed an amusing few days of kidology in the Roadrunners camp. Corney and Gregory calculated that they would have a good chance of the team prize if they could find a quick third finisher and they settled on Hopkins as the man to do the job. “No pressure,” they told him. “But…”

The bearded Welshman (left) showed he could take a massive step up with a stunning nine-minute PB, coming home 35th in a time of 62:44 and completing a brilliant weekend after a first-place finish at a parkrun on the previous day.

Corney, meanwhile, was celebrating his SIXTH club record, taking no less than two minutes and 42 seconds off the mark which had stood to Howard Grubb way back in 1995 and more than three minutes off his own PB.

“It’s always nice to break a club record,” said Rob, “and I was quietly confident I’d get it today. The original aim was to try to go as close to 51 minutes as possible, preferably under. It just turned out to be one of those races where you feel good on the day, so when the first mile came up at about 4:45 I just went with it.”

He went though the first 5k in 14:48, a time which would have slaughtered the club record at that distance, and from there the result was never in doubt.

In fact he won by almost five minutes and club chairman Carl Woffington, waiting at the finish, said: “ Rob was so far ahead we were starting to wonder if something had gone seriously wrong with the race.”

He now holds club records at parkrun, five miles, 10k, ten miles, half marathon and marathon.

Rob’s training partner Jack Gregory (54:38) was just pipped for second place by the Southampton runner Matthew Bennett.

Besides Corney and Hopkins there were personal bests for Chris and Gemma Buley (right) as well as Chloe Lloyd, Moira Allen, June Bilsby and Jenny Boxwell. 

But the real bragging rights of the day went to the club’s social secretary Hannah McPhee, who sliced an amazing 20 minutes off her previous best for the course.

Gemma, following up her successful Hampshire Cross Country League campaign, was third lady home behind the Reading AC speedster Naomi Mitchell, and her time of 63:22 represented an improvement of more than five minutes.

She was helped to second place in the team competition by birthday girl Julie Rainbow, the second FV50 to finish, and Chloe Lloyd (left), who benefited from some well-judged pacing by Stuart Jones to secure a six-minute PB.

Back out on the course, Matt Richards was showing the 20-milers the way home and his finishing time of 1:52:39 took exactly 60 seconds off the club record he set at the same event two years previously.

And while Corney will target an autumn marathon this year, Richards, who beat him at London last year, will head to Boston in April in winning form. “It was not as comfortable as I would have liked,” he said. “I probably went a bit too hard on the first lap but I’m definitely on track for Boston.”

The second Roadrunner under two hours was Seb Briggs, third vet home in 1:57.37, and the trophy was secured by Lance Nortcliff with 27th place in 2:08.28.

Lance’s comment “Matt and Seb were racing but I was on as training run” suggests he will be in good shape for the London Marathon.

In the women’s race our first finisher Caroline Hoskins (2:19.13) had no less than 12 minutes to spare over her nearest FV50 opponent and with Sarah McDade (2:21.26) and Katherine Sergeant (2:21.47) in close support they were convincing winners of the team bling.

PBs at the two-lapper were achieved by Sarah Dooley, Fleur Denton, David Walkley, Andrew Butler, Alice Carpenter and, by the little matter of 24 minutes, Ben Fasham.

As ever, the true heroes of the day were the behind-the-scenes back-up crew of committee members, marshals, volunteers and other helpers who made the event such a success.

Corney himself said: “Congratulations are in order to the race organisers and all the volunteers who put their time and effort into the race. They should be very proud of the result and are a huge credit to the club.”

Race director Adele Graham said: “Huge thanks to everyone. You are all awesome.”

Speaking as someone who plodded around towards the rear of the 20 miles race, I would like to add special thanks to some of our noisy, proactive marshals, like Peter Higgs, Simon Denton and Chris Cutting, who provide such great support on the course.

Particular gratitude must go to Sian James, who came straight to the race off a 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to marshal on the nasty incline at mile six, running down to pace runners up the climb while shouting encouragement. Priceless!

Pictures: Chris Drew, Mike Sankey and Melvyn Lovegrove

Results: http://results.sporthive.com/events/6502862085676377600

How Corney’s jolly green giants finished the XC season in style

CONCLUDING our series of in-depth bulletins on the 2018-19 Hampshire Cross Country League season, SAM WHALLEY reports on a highly successful conclusion to Roadrunners’ campaign for honours…

THE final fixture of the Hampshire League season is often the least well-attended of the five, with winners in each category having already been decided. Still, it is always worth turning up and trying to improve upon individual and team positions.

Such was the attitude of the 24 Reading Roadrunners who made the trek to the Hampshire League race at Dibden Inclosure, in the New Forest. 

With the vet men already set to win their league, and the seniors sitting in joint fifth, the race was on, literally, for podium finishes all round. You just know things are getting serious when Mum and Dad Apsey come along to spectate.

Club hero Rob Corney (right) looked incredibly comfortable on the first lap, and extended his lead during the second, to make club history by winning the race, beating Aldershot’s Philip Sewell, who is the individual league winner, by over 20 seconds. 

Jack Gregory was next to finish, in 11th place, and this propelled him into the top ten, for a ninth-place finish for the season overall. 

Third Roadrunner home was Ben Paviour, in tenth (second vet), followed by Mark Apsey, in 17th, which was enough to improve his individual position from tenth to seventh overall. 

It’s hard to believe the club could have a team where someone of Mark Worringham’s calibre is fifth home, but such is the impressive depth of the squad at the moment. Mark completed the scoring team in 24th (third vet). 

The Wednesday evening training group that these guys are organising for themselves is obviously doing the trick. And despite feeling like he had run badly all season (it’s all relative), this secured Mark’s position at the top of the vet men’s leaderboard, with Ben Paviour not having run enough of the races this year to qualify (you have to run four of five). 

The senior men’s team was second, which gave them an end-of-season position of third – mission accomplished!

Next across the line was Chris Lucas, in 31st, followed by Lance Nortcliff, in 36th (sixth vet), having had his run interrupted by the appearance of some New Forest ponies on the course. This vet placing was enough to give Lance a second-place finish overall, and the vet men’s team retained their title. Great work!

The course having been listed as unsuitable for spikes led Andy Mutton to have an interesting run in road shoes. In fact, the course was OK for short spikes. 

Ashley Middlewick was next, with a parkrun already in his legs, followed by Chris Burt, making his debut in the league, but looking forward to next season. Brian Kirsopp was unable to catch Chris this time, but can celebrate being third MV50 nonetheless. 

Andrew Smith, on his way back from injury, was next, with Chris ‘I hate XC’ Buley, in 100th place, out of 194 runners. Another parkrunner, Ian Giggs, followed, with Colin Cottell, and the last two park-runners, Hampshire League newbie, Paul Monaghan, and Pete Morris, completing the men’s team. You have to wonder what kind of runs people could have without a parkrun beforehand? 

Pete Jewell unfortunately pulled up with a hamstring injury on the first lap, and did not finish.

The women’s team has been plagued by injury this year, and you have to feel for Gemma Buley, whose new coaching has taken her from strength to strength, as she doesn’t always have a strong team to back her up. 

Still, we did manage to get a team out for every race this season, and a number of women have tried this league for the first time, so this is progress.

Saturday’s fixture saw Gemma (right) finish 12th, her best position yet, and this gave her an overall tenth place on the season’s leaderboard. Well done, Gemma! She then had time to refuel, and put some layers on, before returning out to the course and cheer on every single one of us on her cool-down.

As we were missing some of our stronger runners, with Chantal Percival, Bithja Jones, Helen Pool and Nicole Rickett nursing injuries and niggles back to full health, and a jet-lagged Sarah Dooley having other commitments, our next runners to finish, vets Caroline Jackson and Claire Raynor, came in 69th and 70th.

Caroline has done very little in the way of XC before, preferring to run one marathon after another, but found that she enjoyed this short race, and said: “If all XC was like that, I would do more.” Breaking news, Caroline… all XC is like that, and it may even help with training for the longer distances. 

Claire Raynor is a new member, and another one of us who has been bringing Reading AC children to these events for years. In my spare club T-shirt, Claire had a great race, in spite of her worry that she might be last, picking people off from start to finish, showing that her training for the Manchester Marathon is going well. 

Despite both these two having run parkrun in the morning, I was still unable to catch them, and they completed the senior women’s scoring team, which finished 12th on the day, and eighth overall for the season.

I was the third vet scorer for the team, in 77th, and the vets team finished in ninth, and sixth overall.

Chloe Lloyd was back for more after her debut at Prospect Park, and this time she meant business, and had ditched the leggings for shorts. Chloe came in in 91st, closely followed by Claire Seymour, in 94th, out of 146 runners. Claire is the only one of our women to have run every fixture this year. 

Cecilia Csemiczky didn’t make the journey this time, recovering from a chest infection, but we must thank Cecilia for her participation and support throughout the season. 

I am also grateful to Phil Reay for coming along to record the numbers for us this time, and maybe next year we will see him back at full fitness and running in the league.

This turn-out and set of results was a fantastic end to a great season in the Hampshire League. It would be brilliant to see even more runners join us next year. 

The fixtures are generally on the first or second Saturday of the month, and run from October to February, so pencil in those dates! I’m off to treat myself to some new spikes.

Pictures: Paul Monaghan and Phil Reay

Men’s results: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190209_hlmen.html

Women’s results: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190209_hlwomen.html

  • Following the cancellation of the final Thames Valley Cross Country League fixture of the season, due to be staged by the Bracknell Forest club at Lightwater, Roadrunners have been confirmed as runners-up in the overall league positions.

Ladies’ final places: 1 Datchet 11pts, 2 Windle Valley 14pts, 3= Roadrunners and Maidenhead 20pts. Men’s final places: 1 Datchet 6pts, 2 Roadrunners 20pts, 3= Bracknell and Windle Valley 20pts. Overall: 1 Datchet 6pts, 2 Roadrunners 13pts, 3 Windle Valley 15pts.

Full details at: http://tvxc.org.uk/content/league-tables

Life of Brian looking on the bright side with England vest

FASTEST postman in the west Brian Kirsopp is celebrating winning his first England vest but admits: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do it.”

Brian earned his international call-up by finishing third MV55 in the fiercely-competitive Chichester Priory 10k in a new personal best time of 36 minutes 39 seconds.

His qualification was the culmination of a highly successful six weeks of racing in which he:

  • Took second place in the Run Home Marathon in 3:14.05 (clinching a MV50 club championship and marathon championship double)
  • Picked up the MV50 prize at the Gutbuster 10 mile race
  • Scooped up another MV50 trophy at the Woodcote 10k
  • Produced strong runs for Roadrunners’ Hampshire League and Thames Valley XC League teams  and at the South of England AA Championships on the fearsome Parliament Hill course.

Now he can look forward to representing the England Age Group Masters team at the Great Birmingham 10k on May 26th.

Brian and his Masters team-mates will line up at the front just behind the international elites in a race which usually attracts live television coverage.

But first he can proudly look back on what he thinks was a “massive achievement.”

“It all started back in December when I ran every day for at least three miles,” he said.

“That was in an event called Marcothon, a Facebook group that encourages runners to do three miles or 25 minutes every day for the month.

“Towards the end of the month I entered a marathon organised by Saturn Running and thought I’d completely fail given the extra mileage and tired legs. On the contrary I found that my endurance got me second place in a time that I had targeted with a few minutes to spare.

“That really increased my confidence for the Gutbuster, at which I also gave everything and found that I could still have a good finish.

“My main focus was to win my age category at the Woodcote 10k. I managed to do the first downhill 5k in under 18 minutes and held on up the climb to win in a course PB of 38:24.

“That showed me that if I trained harder I could run faster. It gave me the self-belief that I could achieve my goals if I changed my mental outlook to racing.”

By that stage Brian had received the England Athletics email announcing Age Group Masters representative opportunities, but considered they were “something the faster runners did and way out of my league.”

When he learned that the qualification target for his age group was 39 minutes, he thought: “That’ll be easy.”

But then he looked up last year’s results at Chichester, where the third-placed MV55 ran 35:57, and said: “My heart sank. Even if I ran my track 5k PB of 18.25 twice that would still leave short by quite a margin.

“But I entered anyway knowing I had nothing to lose and that the experience would do me good.

“Sandy Sheppard gave me a lot of encouragement, as did the club captains Phil Reay and Sam Whalley. I knew I was capable of running faster but I also knew I had to beat myself mentally as that’s where I fail in races.

“At the club dinner-dance Phil told me in no uncertain terms to “toughen up” and to “bite the bullet” and just go out and do it.”

Race day didn’t start well. After a late night at the dinner-dance he set his alarm for 6.15am, only to wake at 4.45am. “I suppose that’s quite normal for a postman,” he said, “but unhelpful before a race when sleep is important.” However, his customary double-strength coffee set him up well for the day.

“I left early because the roads were frozen,” he said. “When I started out my car temperature gauge said minus five. By the time I got to Odiham it had gone down to minus 11. Fortunately when I arrived at Goodwood it had gone up to minus one. Cold, but not uncomfortably so.

“Looking at the other runners in my pen (35-45 minutes) I could tell it was going to be fast-paced. They were nearly all Harriers or AC runners.

“There is a danger of setting off too quickly in that company, what with the adrenaline and atmosphere, and I did exactly that.

“My target pace was six-minute miles for the first half and then to see what I had left. But I shot off at the gun and did 5:37 for the first mile.

“It was slightly downhill so I forgave myself and tried to slow it down but still did 5:49 for the second mile.

“That actually felt comfortable, so I kept that pace and did the next mile in 5:51. But it was slightly uphill and took a lot out of me. Looking at my watch at the 5k point, I realised I smashed my PB for that distance with 17:58.

“The first 6k of the course is on mildly undulating roads and the last 4k is on the Goodwood motor racing circuit, with the end, fittingly enough, being on the Finishing Straight. On entering the track I’d developed a stitch and was worried that I was going to start being overtaken.

“I finished my fourth mile in 5:58 but held my position. The next mile was painful. I had slowed to 6:02 with a chasing pack closing me down, so it was time to put Phil’s words at the dance into action.

“I managed to get back to 5:56 for the last mile and pushed with everything I had left for the rest of the race at 5:32 pace to finish in 36:39, a PB by one minute and 19 seconds.

“I knew I’d run the fastest I’d ever run… but was it enough? I saw the results being pinned to a board near the finish and looked to see how many had beaten me. THIRD MV55! Beyond all expectations I’d done it and now I’ll be wearing the coveted England top. Onwards and, hopefully, upwards.”

Quick to congratulate the Roadrunners’ latest international, captain Phil Reay said: “I first met Brian at an awards ceremony four years ago where he was collecting several gongs. He’s been stockpiling age category awards ever since.

“He’s a regular scorer for the club at team events and I’m delighted all his hard work has resulted in an England vest.”

The first seven men home in the Chichester Priory 10k all broke 30 minutes, with William Mycroft, of the Enfield and Haringey club, taking the win in 29:32.

The women’s title went to former Olympian and regular Diamond League star Steph Twell in 33:17.

Brian will become the third Roadrunner to wear an England vest in the last year after Caroline Hoskins (above) represented her country at the 10k distance last May and Jane Davies (left) did so in the Chester Marathon in October.

Several more Roadrunners will be chasing England Age Group Masters honours in the Fleet Half Marathon on March 17th.

Running up that hill? It doesn’t hurt me, say gutsy Roadrunners

MANAGER, competitor and blogger SAM WHALLEY reports on a super performance by Roadrunners at the iconic Parliament Hill Fields course…

A WHOPPING team of 35 Reading Roadrunners travelled to Hampstead Heath, London, for the South of England AA Cross Country Championships. Many had heard so much about this event, with its epic uphill start, that they just had to come and see for themselves.

The majority of us travelled by team coach, but our youngest runners were among those who made the journey independently. As we made our way across the site to set up our base, we were just in time to catch a glimpse of our Under 17 runner, James Rennie, doing battle over the 6k course. 

It is not easy being the only runner for a club, so our unexpected cheers were welcome. James  (right) went on to finish 76th out of 230 – an excellent result.

Next up was Under 20 Katie Rennie, James’s sister. Having competed in the Hampshire League this season, Katie is well used to being part of the senior women’s races. In this championship, however, she was required to race separately, in what turned out to be an incredibly small field of only 69 young women. 

Despite carrying a recent injury, Katie (left) had a strong race and was determined not to be last, which she wasn’t. No doubt she will feel much more at home with the senior women next time. Well done, Katie!

Ten of us made up the senior women’s team, a mixture of regulars and newcomers, with some a little anxious about what lay ahead. 

We all expected Gemma Buley to be first back, but I could tell that she was having an exceptional race when I saw her on a part of the course where the front runners loop back; in four years of running this course, I have never seen a club member on this part of the route. 

Gemma (right) was delighted with 86th place, and a time seven minutes faster than over the same course at the Nationals last year. What an achievement!

Next in were Sarah Dooley (243rd), Marie-Louise Kertzman (394th) and Sarah Alsford (402nd), making up the scoring team. The women’s team was 39th out of 71 complete teams – not bad at all.

Pip White and Nicole Rickett finished within seconds of each other, and were followed by Liz Johnson, Beth Rudd, myself and Claire Seymour, with the entire women’s team home within 45 minutes. 

Claire and I were particularly chuffed that, for the first time, we didn’t miss the start of the men’s race… result! From the post-race chatter it was evident that every one of us had enjoyed the race, and there was even talk of investing in spikes for next season.

The men’s race prides itself on being the only XC championship race still run over the 15k distance. This fact, and its 90 minute cut-off, doesn’t seem to deter people from entering, and well over 1000 men lined up at the start.

First RR back was, of course, Rob Corney (left), in an incredible 36th place. Rob had hoped to improve upon his 78th place from last year’s Nationals, and he certainly did that. He didn’t find it easy though, and I must admit that the face I saw on the finishing straight was not the one I usually see as Rob cruises around local races; there was real effort here – well done, Rob!

Next in was Jack Gregory, making the top 100 in 96th, followed by Seb Briggs (170th), Chris Lucas (239th), David McCoy (the younger) in 245th, and Lance Nortcliff (361st).

Initial team results were incorrect, as an administrative error meant that some of our men were listed as ‘Reading Road Runners’ and some as ‘Reading RR’, and as such were not all counted as members of the same squad. 

When corrected our men were promoted from 23rd place to 22nd, out of 69 complete teams.

Andy Mutton and Grant ‘no parkrun in these legs’ Hopkins were next, finishing within the hour, with Chris Burt, Brian ‘not a thing left to give’ Kirsopp, Chris Buley, Calum ‘poker face’ Baugh, Robin Lomax, Brooke Johnson, Gary Tuttle, Ian Giggs, Mark Andrew, Bill Watson, David Caswell, Alan Freer, and the Peters – Reilly, Morris and Higgs – completing the team. 

Pete Morris impressed the younger members of the team, as a vet 60 with seemingly endless levels of energy and passion for running. Peter Higgs finished the race pain-free, but sadly also free of course markings, as it was all dismantled around him. Still, he gave it his all.

The day was summed up perfectly by Sarah Alsford: “If a race isn’t hard, how will you get to enjoy that runner’s high?” 

Same time next year, everyone?

Results: https://results.sporthive.com/events/6493491764160327168

Pictures: Peter Reilly and Pete Morris.

Bloody hero Dave in stitches as Rob and Gemma sew up wins

ANOTHER huge turn-out of Roadrunners was rewarded with two individual triumphs at the latest TVXC race. Once again ladies captain Sam Whalley reports from the front line…

IT WAS a cold but sunny day that brought 64 green-vested Reading Roadrunners, and one guest, to Tadley for the penultimate race of the Thames Valley Cross Country League season… a pleasant improvement on the snow we had experienced there last year.

We had a number of first timers — Brooke Johnson, David Clay, Samuel Alsford, Renée Whalley, Bryan Curtayne, Oliver Watts, Katherine Foley, Liz Johnson and, somehow, Lynda Haskins, who, for the first time ever, had found herself with a free Sunday. 

It was a dramatic debut by David, who bravely finished the race with blood pouring from his knee, an injury (right) which required seven stitches at the A&E.

David hopes to make a full recovery in time to resume plenty of training for his big spring target, the Hamburg Marathon on  April 28th.

Back at the race, some green vests had been borrowed, and Tina Woffington was so excited to be participating in her first TVXC of the season that she had forgotten her £3 entry fee and had to have a whip-round.

The Tadley course is not a great one for spectators, giving only really one spot close enough to the start/finish area that is wide enough for people to congregate, and even that is a hilly trek. Still it was nice to hear the cheers of our supporters, especially on that tough second lap. 

The lack of mud, due to the recent dry weather, and the resurfacing of the usually ankle-deep bridleway, did not seem to make the course less energy-sapping, and XC spikes were a definite advantage on the hills. At least it is one of the shorter courses. 

Team results are still being processed, but we can delight in the fact that both the first man and first woman were in green — whoop! 

Rob Corney is used to winning races, and was wondering who he could be running with; it can be pretty lonely out at the front, apparently. 

Gemma Buley played down her first TVXC win by saying that some of her usual competitors weren’t there. Smiley photographic evidence would also suggest that Gemma just had a great run.

Scoring for the men, then, were Rob, Mark Apsey, Brian Kirsopp (vet), Chris Burt, Robin Lomax, and Richard Usher (vet). Mark claimed he had not raced well, but fifth place is not so shabby.

I think it’s time we all started having whatever Brian is having for breakfast; he has to be one of our most in-form runners at the moment.

The women’s scoring team was made up of Gemma, second-claimer Renée Whalley, and regular vet scorers Mary Janssen and Lesley Whiley. 

Sixteen-year-old Renée (left), being used to running the 4-5k races of the Hampshire League and other championship races, was pleased to find herself well in the mix with the senior men, despite the longer distance of 5.3 miles.

Results: http://tvxc.org.uk/results/detail?race_id=86

Pictures: Chris Drew, Pete Morris, Ashley Middlewick. Chris’s Flickr album from the race can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris-drew/sets/72157702632294692