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

Table-toppers! Worringham’s wonders in league of their own

SHE baked the cakes, she managed the team, she ran the race and now she’s done the write-up! Sam Whalley reports from Prospect Park on another momentous weekend for Reading Roadrunners…

WHEN I first joined Reading Roadrunners in 2015, all I heard was that the Sunday Thames Valley Cross Country is the league to do; that Saturday one is really competitive, only for the fast people.

Having been inspired to join a club, however, by my time watching my daughters run XC in that very league, I was not deterred, and, despite not being a fast runner, I have never felt unwelcome.

We’re always excited, therefore, when the Hampshire League fixture is the most local one, which Reading AC host in Prospect Park, because it provides an ideal opportunity for our club members to try the league for themselves.

And such has been the buzz around all XC fixtures this year, that we were overwhelmed by the number of Reading Roadrunners who wanted to come along.

Some were donning their green vest for the first time. Others were completely new to XC, and weren’t sure what to expect, so the usual advice was issued: the front end of the race will be incredibly fast, your mile/km splits will mean nothing, and try and catch the person in front.

We can always rely on Rob Corney to try to do just that, a new streamlined haircut helping him to lead the senior team home.

Despite nursing a rest-day-induced (his claim) niggle, Rob had a storming race and was third overall, only seconds behind two Aldershot runners, and an improvement on his fourth place here last year.

Rob was followed in by Jack Gregory, with a really good run, in an excellent 12th, his best position so far.

With this being the fourth fixture of five, the biggest hope for silverware this season lies once again with the vet men, currently sitting at the top of the league. And they did not disappoint.

You know you have a strong vets team when the likes of runners like Lance Nortcliff and Andrew Smith are superfluous to the scorers.

The scoring this time was well taken care of by a tightly-packed Ben Paviour (20th), Mark Worringham (22nd) and Seb Briggs (26th), as second, third and fourth vets. Seb’s sprint finish battle with an Under 20 runner from Aldershot was a real highlight, but the younger legs won out in the end.

These first five finishers put the senior men’s team in second place, and joint fifth on aggregate, while the vet men were again first, and remain at the top of the table.

Although the scoring was completed by these five, the job of the rest of the team — as there were 31 more men! — was to keep on pushing and keep the scores of the other teams down.

David McCoy (the younger), was next, with Lance, Ashley Middlewick (nicely warmed up from his cycle from Frimley Lodge parkrun), Andrew, Pete Jewell, Brian Kirsopp, Matt Davies and Calum Pratt all managing top-100 positions. Pete and Brian were also among the top 10 for the M50 age category.

Standing at the finish line, it was clear that every single person had run their absolute hardest, and the efforts of all were appreciated. I’d have liked prior knowledge that David Clay always finishes his races a little unsteady on his feet — gave me quite a worry there, David — with his competitive spirit leading him to try to chase down a Reading AC runner.

There are too many names to mention, but full results are here: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190112_hlmen.html

As usual the women’s race, earlier in the afternoon, was less well attended, and for some reason was the smallest women’s field of the season so far. Nevertheless, our club was out in force, with 19 of us making up a significant proportion of the competitors.

Leading the senior women home was Gemma Buley, in an excellent 18th place, new coaching obviously paying off. She was followed by Hampshire League debutante Sarah McDade, and our first vet scorer, Helen Pool.

These three women placed the senior women in sixth, and seventh on aggregate, a really pleasing result, especially since we were missing two of our strongest performers, Chantal Percival and Bithja Jones, due to injury.

As I was obviously still running, I didn’t see our second vet, Sarah Dooley, and XC newcomer Katherine Foley cross the line, but they were both awarded the same time, so no doubt there was some friendly rivalry there.

They were followed by Liz Johnson, delighted to be making the scoring vet team on her XC debut, despite her pre-race fear that she would be rubbish (not her exact words). The vet women’s team was fifth, and is also fifth on aggregate. These senior and vet results were our best of the season so far.

There were some stand-out performances, with Angela Burley, Katie Rennie, Sarah Harford and Claire Seymour all making the top 100, and Alice Carpenter, Beth Rudd, Chloe Lloyd, Tina Woffington, Divya Samani and Ruby Lee all new faces in this league, alongside the experienced Hampshire League runners Maureen Sweeney and Cecelia Csemiczky.

Tina reported that she had loved it, and Ruby thanked those who had offered her support and encouragement. Cecilia was just a little disappointed that she hadn’t managed to beat her nemesis, Marilyn from Victory.

Full results are here:
https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2019/20190112_hlwomen.html

All in all, a fantastic set of results from both men’s and women’s teams, and the camaraderie on the day was exceptional.

The next and final fixture of the season will be at Dibden Inclosure in the New Forest, on Saturday, February 9th. All members welcome; let’s try to finish on a high.

Note: You do have to be a fully paid-up member, and wear a club vest/T-shirt.

Pictures courtesy of Liz Atkinson & Pete Morris

Champs Roadrunners celebrate new kid on the block Rennie

LADIES’ captain Sam Whalley reports from the Berkshire Cross Country Championships, another proud day of success for the club…

TWENTY-FIVE Reading Roadrunners were entered into the Berkshire Championships and although this is a team selection race for the inter-counties XC championship, held in Loughborough in March, it is also a good opportunity to try to pick up some team prizes.

St Andrew’s School in Pangbourne was the venue. This is not one which is familiar to me, so I was unable to advise on whether it would be grassy, hilly or otherwise. However, the organisers suggested that trail shoes might have been preferable to spikes, given certain stretches of the course.

It was, it turned out, a course of two halves: flat playing fields which led to woodland, with twists, turns, tree roots and plenty of undulations.

First up, for a change, were the senior and vet men. The under 20 men were also in this race, but were able to duck out after 9k (3.5 laps), while the more grown-up men continued for a total of 4.5 laps, and a total distance of 12k.

For the past six years, this race had been won by the same person — Alex Tovey from Birchfield Harriers — and this year was to be no different.

He did, however, have Rob Corney on his heels this year, and they seemed to switch places throughout the race, with Rob eventually a fantastic second, a place up on his position last year.

I was sure to give the Reading AC man who shook hands with Rob at the prize-giving a hard stare; I do hope Rob decides to stay with us (we do have brownies, after all), and that the incoming chairperson will seek to offer our high-performing athletes the expert coaching and support they make be seeking elsewhere.

I’ll step down from my soapbox to say that the next Roadrunner to finish was Mark Apsey, who, having been selected for Berkshire as a reserve last year, was determined to earn an automatic qualifying position this time, and he did just that, with a really strong run, and fifth place. Jack Gregory was next in, followed by Mark Worringham, who managed to equal his second vet placing from last year, this time beaten by Newbury’s James Craggs, who also took individual gold at the BBO XC champs in November.

These championships are ones where a male is considered to be a veteran at the age of 35, rather than 40, and consequently most of our male vets find themselves in competition with different people.

Completing the seniors’ scoring team of six were Chris Lucas, David McCoy and Ashley Middlewick. Ashley had had us all worried when he volunteered to marshal at Woodley junior parkrun before the race. A great thing to do, by the way, but on race day?

We needn’t have worried, as he managed to arrive in good time, even if he was still standing around in tracksuit bottoms and coat four minutes before the start. Talk about making me tense.

Ashley, and the others, all ran excellently, and the seniors team was awarded the overall trophy, for the first time since the 2009/10 season, with 58 points to Newbury’s 83.

Chris Burt was next to finish, having had a brilliant run. We would have also expected Lance Nortcliff to be in the mix by this point, but on lap two he had twisted his ankle in the woods, and was unable to finish the race.

It was Ben Whalley, then, who finished as second vet scorer for the team, much to his own surprise. In fact, having flown home from a two-week work trip to the USA four days before the race, and nursing an iffy knee, Ben was far from confident in his ability.

This was worsened by a frantic search for his wallet on the morning of the race, and stepping in something revolting. A warm-up jog with chef Apsey was ordered, and a chat about the best way to cook a Christmas goose seemed to get his head in the right place.

Andy Blenkinsop was next Roadrunner vet to finish, followed by Brian Kirsopp, this year having entered in the correct age category (although thankfully they have changed the system and it is not possible to mistakenly select the incorrect one). The vets team was therefore second, after Newbury AC.

Pete Jewell, Grant Hopkins and Andrew Smith were not far behind, the latter struggling with a knee issue. Grant and fellow championship newcomer Chris Burt had been a little alarmed by the speed and competitiveness at the front end of the field, but nevertheless both managed to record 10k PBs during the race.

Tim Grant, David Caswell, Bryan Curtayne and Nick Adley were the remaining vets in the team, and the vets B team was fourth. What a great club this is, to be able to field two complete vet teams!

The women’s race followed, with an incredibly small field of only 12 seniors, 10 vets, and six under 20s, with the youngsters completing two full laps to the others’ three.

We had only entered one senior woman for this race, Chantal Percival, but unfortunately she injured her ankle the day before, and was unable to compete. Fingers crossed that her third place finish at the recent BBO championship will be enough to earn her a Berkshire vest.

Our vet women, then, were our only medal hopes… no pressure! As Pete Jewell gave them the lowdown on the best places to run throughout the course, both for efficiency and injury avoidance (this is a real benefit of running separate male and female races) I did tell them that we needed four to score… again, no pressure!

The race was won by Bracknell’s Amelia Quirk, who you might have seen on TV last week, representing Great Britain in the Euro cross country championships. You could say the standard was high, and we were missing some of our usual top performers, due to injury.

First Roadrunner home, as expected, was Helen Pool, as fifth vet, with Nicole Rickett having a great run in seventh. Lesley Whiley ran her usual, strong, ‘start slowly and pick them off’ race, and was ninth, while Susan Knight tried to keep her in her sights, and was tenth.

By my calculations (actual maths), the vet women’s team was second to Newbury’s first. When it came to the actual prize-giving, though, it was announced that there was only one complete team.

An inquiry found that Lesley was missing from the results, and a further investigation revealed that men’s captain Phil Reay had given her Chantal’s race number, and no one had noticed that it began with a 4 rather than an 8. Honestly, give a man a job!

Fortunately (for Phil), the Berkshire Athletics people were in a very good mood, and it was all sorted, with the women receiving their silver medals, the same as last year. Great result!

Normally this would be where my report ends, but on this occasion we also had an under 17 male running later in the day.

James Rennie wasn’t sure how he would do in the 5k race, knowing what a competitive field it was. However, he started off in around tenth place, and ran an extremely well-paced race, finishing an incredible fourth. This earned James an automatic place in the inter-counties — well done!

We will have to wait to find out which of our other athletes will be selected for Berkshire. Full results from the championships are here: http://www.berkshireathletics.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018/events/county%20cross%20country%20results%2016.12.2018%20pangbourne%20for%20county.pdf

Pictures: Peter Reilly and Phil Reay

Golden girl! Here’s why we all love the amazing Jane Davies

LADIES captain Sam Whalley has once again been competing on the XC circuit and then scribbling from the Press Box. Here she files on another golden day for the Roadrunners…

AFTER he won junior gold in the European Cross-Country Championships, Jakob Ingebrigtsen said: “It was a tough race. I have never done anything like this before, and it’s fun to compete in these conditions.”

Conditions? Well it was raining a bit. But tough? The young Norwegian would find more than a few twists and a couple of logs in Prospect Park or Parliament Hill, or even at Horspath in Oxford, venue once again for the SEAA Masters XC Championships.

I bet he hadn’t had to erect and dismantle an event shelter in gale force winds either. (How many Reading Roadrunners does it take to put up a tent on a windy day? As many as you’ve got. This was seriously one of the hardest things I’d had to do all year).

Anyway, there are some of us who love racing in these championships. There is something appealing about being in a race where everyone is over 40. The chance of getting lapped is lower, for one thing.

For others, though, this is just one race too many in a busy competition calendar, and with December already busy for most people, we did not manage to field full teams in all of the age categories, which was a shame.

We were also missing a couple of runners on the day, with Sarah Dooley and Jim Kiddie having picked up injuries the previous week. Thank you, Sarah, for coming to support us anyway — so nice of you!

As part of my recruitment campaign, I had billed this as one of the flattest courses we run. I did half-heartedly look for a course map when I arrived, but assumed it was probably unchanged.

Oops! After we crossed the first field, we were shown right instead of left. Something was amiss — we were heading towards the hilly woods! One and a half laps of the hilly woods, in fact; I felt bad for those running the race for the first time.

“This is a completely different course,” I said to Nicola Gillard as we climbed the first hill, so she would know I hadn’t deliberately misled her. We now knew something about the course that the men would run too, although they were to do an extra lap, with 10k to our 6k.

XC stalwart Cecilia Csemiczky said afterwards that she preferred the course; negotiating woodland, grass, ups and downs made for a more interesting race, with some runners less strong on the technical parts. It was certainly less straightforward than in recent years, and I was pleased to be able to take advantage of a close competitor taking a wrong turn. I did call her back. Honest…

On to the results, then. In this race, there are overall individual results, then individual results in both five-year and ten-year age categories, along with overall team results, and team results in each ten-year age category. Got all that?

I usually report results in the order that the races occurred, but there was no bling to be had there, and we want a big finale.

Suffice to say, there were 225 men in the race, and the scoring team of Peter Aked, Mark Andrew and Tim Grant was 25th. These were all over-50s runners though, and they fared better among the over-50s, being 18th team. Colin Cottell and David Fiddes, the latter having just recovered from a cold, completed the over 50s team.

Bryan Curtayne was our only over-40 runner, although he seems to be missing from the results at the moment, while Alan Freer and Andy Atkinson had good runs for the over-60s, with Alan in 20th place, out of more than 50 over-60s runners. This is a championship for the whole of the south of England, don’t forget. Well done, everyone!

It was the women who really shone this year, though. There were 125 in our race, with overall scorers Jane Davies, Helen Pool and Angela Burley bringing the scoring team home in seventh.

Two of these were over-40s, with Helen being 17th over-40 out of 49, but they needed one more to score for their over-40s team. That was me, and that team was sixth. Nicola Gillard and Claire Seymour ran well, and completed the over-40s.

We only had one over 50s runner, Susan Knight — who is continuing her excellent form. Well done to you all, and hope to see you in the mud again soon.

I’ve saved the best — over-60s women — until last. Dubbing themselves A Hare and Three Tortoises, the team was made up of the superfast Jane Davies, new marathoner Liz Atkinson, ultrarunner Kathy Tytler, and regular Cecilia Csemiczky, who has begun to feel a bit hard done by as an over-70 with no over-70s category to run in.

In recent years, however, the women in this age category have either picked up team medals, or almost picked them up, missing out by only a point or two. We knew then, that with the just-turned-60 Jane on board, their chance of a team prize was high. And we were right, as they collected the team bronze, a great result!

Even better though, and a surprise even to herself, Jane proved that she was the fastest over-60s female in the south, with an individual gold medal.

We have said it would be useful in these races to have numbers on our backs as well as fronts, and this is why — Jane was 27th overall, but obviously did not know the age categories of those ahead of her.

As captain I could not be prouder of this amazing woman, and hope it is the first of many over-60s awards to come. She and the rest of the team are an inspiration to us all. Again, well done, and thank you for making time to run for the club.

Pictures: Andy Atkinson, Sam Whalley

Results: https://www.race-results.co.uk/results/2018/seaam.pdf

When King David reigned in Spain with great feat of Clay

ON a weekend when most Roadrunners were wallowing in cross-country mud, three of our club-mates were competing in sunny Spain. One of them, Liz Johnson, has sent us this report from the Valencia Marathon, where David Clay produced a stunning personal best…

RUNNING a marathon isn’t easy. Many people train for months to be at their best on the day (you crazy 100 Clubbers aside) so if you have a marathon booked in for early December it is maybe not textbook training to have completed another marathon six weeks before, Matthew Brown, or tackled Ironman Wales in September, David Clay…

Anyway, that was the situation Matthew and David put themselves in before the Valencia Marathon.

 

I, being a bit of a magpie and liking all things shiny, was a tad more sensible and satisfied my need for race bling by entering the Valencia 10k, which takes place at the same time. It also allowed me to return to my previous calling of professional marathon support/cheer crew.

Nestled on the eastern coast of Spain, Valencia is a compact, and flat, city that is an eclectic mix of old and new. The temperatures in early December are a balmy 18 degrees and it’s sunny. Perfect running conditions.

The temptation of some winter sun was too much and we all assembled in the city a few days before the race. This allowed some acclimatisation, paella eating, tourism (we saw the ‘Holy Grail’ and an exhibition on Mars where David managed to slightly concuss himself on a holographic Martian), and some gentle warm-up runs through a long, narrow park that surrounds the north-eastern edge of the city centre in what was once a riverbed – pretty cool.

The Expo was well organised although not huge compared to some of the bigger city marathons. What was a pleasant surprise was the reasonably priced merchandise! Sponsored by the Spanish brand Luanvi, we all picked up some nice little long-sleeved training tops for 15 euros – bargain!

On race day morning, we gathered for the customary breakfast of porridge. The race was due to start at 8.30am so, being cautious, we agreed that we would be at the bus stop to take us to the start line before 7am. Given that David usually turns up to things ten minutes after they’ve started this seemed like a sensible plan.

The marathon handbook assured us that extra buses would run to accommodate us all. I think the Spanish definition of ‘extra’ is somewhat different to the expectations of three eager Brits!

The first bus to arrive was absolutely packed and hardly anyone at our stop got on it. We shuffled expectantly along the pavement waiting for the stream of extra buses. Fifteen minutes later we were still waiting and beginning to get nervous.

We then decided to try the metro, which would involve a 20-minute walk at the other end but we wanted to feel like we were doing something. This too was a fruitless task and 20 minutes later we were back in the ever-lengthening bus queue.

After what seemed like ages (it was now 7.50am we managed to all squeeze on to a bus, with David wedged between a seat and a luggage rack. Not ideal pre-race prep but we made it to the start with minutes to spare.

The 10k route was really congested and due to the lateness of my arrival I found myself quite near the back and having to contend with people walking before the 1km marker. I had hoped for a PB but doing the first km 40 seconds slower than I needed to be doing soon put paid to that hope. It was a nice route though that took in the old town and I finished strongly (another negative split) in 48:58.

My next task was to get out on the course to support Matthew and David (after getting my medal engraved, obviously).

I was aiming to see them at around 16/17km and again at 25/26km mark as the loops of the course meant it was a short walk for me.

On my way there I managed to spot the elite field sprint past. The men’s race would eventually be won by Leul Aleme in a super speedy 2:04:31 and the women’s race by Ashete Dido in an impressive 2:21:14. I managed to obtain a high-five off David and a wave from Matthew as they went past. Spotting duties then fell to David’s partner Becci at 30 and 39km.

While we were out on the course, there were many back at home on the tracking app and WhatsApp eagerly watching and wondering whether David’s surge of pace half-way through was sensible. He later agreed it wasn’t

David and Matthew both had different goals and reasons for running Valencia. David wanted to banish the demons of a very hot London 2018 where he felt he hadn’t run to the best of his abilities, while Matthew wanted to enjoy a more controlled marathon than Amsterdam. It’s safe to say they both smashed it.

David casually knocked a whopping 55 minutes off his London time, reducing his PB from 4:19:09 to 3:23:55, although he very much looked like he wanted it to be over 400m from the finish line.

I am now slightly peeved that I can’t rib him any more about me having a sub-4hr time and him not, but seeing all his hard work and training over the summer and autumn pay off just about makes it all right… just.

Matthew, on the other hand, finished the marathon with a big smile on his face only six minutes outside his Amsterdam time in 4:04:54. He also claimed to feel only ‘slightly achy’ in the hours after the race, much to a nearly crippled David’s disgruntlement.

Matthew really enjoyed the course with a lot of it run on wide, uncongested boulevards. It was very much a ‘city’ marathon with great scenery and, apart from near the beginning, the public support was loud and sometimes deafening. The finish line, built over water, was a stunning way to end. Definitely a race he would recommend.

At the end of the race, when he was a bit unsteady on his feet, David was quickly attended to by the medical helpers (nothing serious, just a bit tired and nothing a little sit down couldn’t cure). It was everything you would expect from an IAAF Gold event and the medal was top notch. The added bonus was being able to recover on the beach in December.

The day was rounded off with champagne, tiny sandwiches, and more champagne. All in all, a pretty successful trip and we will reconvene, with a few other Roadrunners, to do it all again in Berlin next September. Can’t wait!