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!

Big Ben strikes as Roadrunners are really flying at the airfield

NOT content with battling through the cross-country leagues on two consecutive days at the weekend and managing our teams, Roadrunners’ ladies’ captain Sam Whalley has also penned an in-depth report on the action…

THERE seemed to be very unwelcome pattern emerging as I made my way to Popham for the third Hampshire League fixture of the season, and the final one of 2018… rain.

Lessons had been learned in Aldershot last month, and we were not taking any chances this time. Rumour had it that Mark Apsey had packed his entire wardrobe, Gemma Buley was prepared for every eventuality, and I was not the only one to have also included spare underwear in my kit bag. Too much information, I realise.

Fortunately, by the time of the women’s race, the rain had ceased and we were just left with a headwind to contend with. The windsock at Popham Airfield is certainly always flying very well.

For those who haven’t yet braved this course, it is essentially made up of zigzags through two fields, with a short steep up and immediately back down, and a short uphill stretch through some woods. Oh, and the bits through the fields are long, gradual hills, in both directions. Two full laps for the women, and 3.5 for the men. Lucky them!

A few of our usual best performers were missing, due to injury and other events, but a team of eight women was a turn-out to be proud of, and although we knew we would not score as well as usual, we were all ready to give it our best. For me, this always means trying to catch the person in front, especially if they are over 35.

The race was won by Melanie Wilkins of Winchester. First Roadrunner home was Gemma Buley, trialling some new spikes, in 17th (out of 165) followed by the first of our vets, Helen Pool (41st, and 11th vet, but, to her annoyance, just behind her Reading AC rival, Sue Francis), and then Nicole Rickett (80th, and 37th vet).This gave the senior women’s team 12th place.

Under 20 Katie Rennie was next (19th U20), but we needed a third vet scorer, and this was to be me (51st vet). The vet women’s team finished ninth. Next to finish were Claire Seymour and Hampshire League debutante Alex Bennell, who, having watched her son race at these fixtures many times, wanted to try it for herself. Cecilia Csemiczky completed the team, following a battle with a friendly rival from Victory.

Every one of us felt we had run well, and were initially disappointed with the Strava ‘trending slower’ comparisons to times from previous years. The consensus in the end was that this year’s course was indeed slightly longer – phew.

In the men’s race we were truly spoiled with a team of 15. We are so used to see Rob Corney winning races that it was no surprise to see him well in the mix at the head of the field, placing between third and fifth throughout the race. It was eventually run by Aldershot’s Ellis Cross, with Rob an excellent fifth (out of 268), followed by Mark Apsey, in 14th.

Next came the first of the supervets, Ben Paviour (18th and second vet), and Mark Worringham (22nd and third vet), the latter apparently not running well at the moment. I beg to differ. Jack Gregory (34th) completed the scoring team. The senior men’s team were third, which was a fantastic result.

A third vet runner was needed to complete the vet men’s team, and it was Lance Nortcliff who did the honours, in 43rd (eighth vet). This meant the vet men’s team finished a fabulous first, and are top of the leaderboard, on aggregate. David McCoy, the younger, was next in, followed by another couple of vets, Andrew Smith and Pete Jewell.

Matt Davies was right behind, and I was pleased to see he had come back for more, after the Aldershot experience. Next were Mark Dibben, a Hampshire League newbie, and Chris Buley, with David Walkley, Alan Williamson and Nick Adley completing the team.

With two matches to go, current standings in the league are: senior women joint ninth, vet women seventh, senior men sixth and vet men first.

Thank you and well done to everyone who has participated in the league so far. The next race will be in Prospect Park, Reading on Saturday, January 12th. Why not give it a go?

With such a cracking turn-out in the Hampshire League, we were in serious doubt as to how the club would fare in the TVXC fixture at Handy Cross the following day. Rewind to the previous weekend, when Reading Roadrunners had triumphed in the TVXC race at Sandhurst.

The mixture of mud, grass, hills and woodland here is a perfect mix of cross-country terrains. It was also, apparently, suitable for spikes, now that there was a detour around the tarmac path from last year.

Rob Corney, David McCoy, Stephen Ridley, Brendan Morris, and vets, Fergal Donnelly and Andy Blenkinsop, brought the men’s team home in second place, while Chantal Percival, Gemma Buley, Sarah McDade and Mary Janssen (vet) took first place for the women, with Chantal first female overall for the second time this season.

The huge turn-out of 73 Roadrunners kept the other teams at bay, and the club finished joint first… an excellent result.

Back to Handy Cross…. this course is a different beast altogether. The mud is muddier, the woodland more twisty, and the hills, yep, more hilly. Running this race a day after Popham, I realised, was tough. Especially after two months out with a glute injury. Glute strength was very much required for Handy Cross.

I was not the only one to be doing the XC double; Nicole Rickett, Gemma and Chris Buley, David McCoy and Matt Davies were also as foolish as I was, while some others who had raced at Popham were taking on (and conquering) the multi-terrain Mapledurham 10k and 10-mile races.

In contrast to Sandhurst, it was a smaller contingent of 43 Roadrunners and guests who braved Handy Cross. David McCoy, Fergal Donnelly (vet), Calum Baugh, Chris Burt, Paddy Hayes and Richard Usher (vet) made up the scoring men’s team and they finished fourth, after Fergal was forced to, almost literally, crawl around on the floor of the food tent in search of his dropped position token.

Chantal Percival was first female yet again – amazing! – with Gemma Buley, and vets Mary Janssen and Nicole Rickett completing the scorers.

The women’s team was third, which meant that the overall team placing was second. Well done to everyone who ran – it is much appreciated. My husband didn’t run, as he was in the USA, but I’m pleased to say his vest got a good run out; I hate to see a new club member without kit!

With two fixtures to go, Reading Roadrunners are in second place overall. The next race will be a mudfest hosted by Tadley Runners, on Sunday, 20th January. Let’s all go!

Pictures: Matt Fowler Photography, Nicole Rickett, Gemma Buley, Sam Whalley.

Results links:

Hampshire League women:
Sandhurst:
Handy Cross:

Caroline Jackson Achieves 100 Marathons

Caroline Jackson finally achieved entry into the prestigious 100 Marathon Club last week when she crossed the finish line at Larnaca Marathon 2018.

‘It feels like a dream. Having my friends & family here with me is just the icing on the cake’ Caroline commented.

Not only has she run 100 Marathons but she’s ran them in style clocking up over a third outside of the UK and all in 7 years. She’s also been on the podium many times including first lady at Limassol, Cyprus marathon and second lady at both Hunsruck in Germany and Liverpool.

It was a group occasion as Caroline was joined by her partner Paul Monaghan  (they call themselves #TeamJackMon) and many members of Reading Roadrunners plus other friends from various clubs at the Larnaca marathon were she finally nailed her 100th. Her family were also there to witness the presentation and join in the celebrations after she crossed the finish line.

Well done from all of us at the club.

 

 

 

Freer we go again as Alan leads the Roadrunners gold rush

GREEN VESTS dominated proceedings at the Berkshire Road Running Championships presentations at Bracknell.

Although Roadrunners are encouraged not to indulge in triumphalism at times like this I’m afraid there was an air of …er, well, triumphalism.

That’s because we took home two of the four men’s trophies up for grabs, thanks to Rob Corney and Alan Freer, as well as four of the end-of-season runners-up awards, through Pete Jewell, Alex Harris, Andy Atkinson and myself.

Our ladies also bagged four medals for the four events which constitute the 2018 season, thanks to Gemma Buley, Helen Pool, Paloma Crayford and Helen Dixon.

Alan (MV60) and Rob (senior men) had completed a clean sweep of victories in all four rounds of the competition – the Wokingham Half Marathon, Maidenhead 10, Marlow 5 and Woodley 10k.

Alan has pledged to try to repeat his all-gold feat next season, and is one of several senior Roadrunners considering making a tilt at the England Age Group Masters team through the Fleet Half Marathon qualifying race in March.

Alex Harris had to be satisfied with silver despite beating the eventual M50 champion, Wayne Lillis of Newbury, in all three of the races where they clashed. Similarly, Gemma was denied a nailed-on  champions trophy when she missed the 10k race to support her husband, Chris, at the Brighton Marathon.

Ladies captain Sam Whalley was left to sort out and distribute a huge trawl of gold, silver and bronze medals won by Roadrunners throughout the season.

Our other medallists during the season were Stephen Ridley, Ben Whalley, Lesley Whiley, Erica Key, Sarah Dooley, Sally Carpenter, Sarah Bate, Mary Janssen and Susan Knight.

Sam (right) was too modest to mention that she had also won a medal herself. But she said: “I would like to congratulate everyone who won a medal or trophy. 

“It really is worth entering this championship; it’s just unfortunate that the entry isn’t automatic when you enter one of its races. I did my best to remind everyone before each event this year, so I hope these wins will inspire even more of our members to enter when the time comes.”

Men’s captain Phil Reay said: “The club has won several accolades in 2018 and it’s fantastic to see the trend continue with our haul of silverware in the Berkshire Athletics Road Running Championships.  

“Congratulations to all our medal winners and to Alan Freer and Rob Corney who won the overall championship in their age group. Winning the championship requires, speed, dedication and consistent performance over four distances… well done, gents.”

The county federation have announced the four fixtures which constitute their championship in 2019. These are:

February 28th: Wokingham Half Marathon.

April 19th: Maidenhead 10.

May 12th: Marlow 5.

August 11th: Burnham Beeches 10k.

The 10k event, a multi-terrain race, is a new fixture for next year and the date is unlikely to please runners who takes their holidays in August.

Similarly the Maidenhead 10 won’t suit everyone, coming as it does nine days before the London Marathon. When it was suggested that the Bramley 10 might be a better bet, that was pooh-poohed on the grounds that it was too close to the Wokingham race.

The Maidenhead-VLM clash will deter a few veterans but won’t bother the young superstars like Gemma, who has vowed to target both.

All details about the championships, which will include a new FV65 section in 2019, can be found at http://www.berkshireathletics.org.uk/content/2018-road-running-awards.

Our golden oldies! Me and Mrs Jones, we got a thing going on

CAPTAIN Sam Whalley reveals the big decision she had to make which was crucial to Roadrunners’ ladies winning gold at the BBO Championships…

MY car thermometer read 6.5°C as I set off to the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Cross Country Championships. It was going to be a chilly one.

The venue was to be Newbury Showground, which, from my experience as a Berkshire Schools XC Championships spectator over the past few years, I knew to be pancake flat. Oh yes, apart from that hill they added in just for the day!

We needed a team of eight women for this fixture, and with only six interested parties a couple of days before the entries were due, I was prepared to put myself in the team, despite having little confidence in my post-injury ability.

Julie Rainbow stepped forward (yes!), and I was even more delighted to strike a deal with Bithja Jones (right); I would look after Bithja’s children while she ran. This made much more sense for the team.

We only had one senior woman in our team, and it was only one we needed. Chantal Percival, this time well aware of the 6k course distance (unlike at Datchet last weekend, where the 6k she expected was actually six miles) was right up with the elites on lap one, and only slipped back slightly by the finish.

Nevertheless, she still maintained an excellent third place overall, behind Anna Boniface of Reading AC and Jess Franklin of Newbury AC.

With Jess being an FV35, and with the strange way the prizes work at the BBO, this meant that Chantal was also given the prize for second senior woman. An excellent haul!

With no chance of a senior team prize (that went to Reading AC), our hopes were pinned on the vets, as we had managed third place last year.

First of our vet ladies was Bithja Jones (see, I knew it was best that I watched the children!), with Helen Pool and Julie Rainbow our second and third scorers.

Next in was Nicole Rickett, followed by Lesley Whiley, Susan Knight and Claire Seymour, with the latter having tried to distract herself from any running pain with thoughts of her sister, who was in labour at that time. All had enjoyed their runs, despite reports of a strong wind all around the course, and an extra 0.5k that shouldn’t have been there. I noticed that this extra 0.5k had disappeared from the under 17 men’s and women’s 6k race later in the day, when my daughters were running.

The prizegiving seemed to take a long time to arrive. As well as Chantal’s medals, we were really chuffed for Bithja, who collected the prize for second vet, and even more chuffed to pick up the shield for first vet team. Or we would have been, had the shield been returned by Reading AC in time for the competition!

The team scorers will have to be content with the tiniest medals in the world in the meantime. Oh yes, and they will need to provide their own ribbons too.

I am so proud of what the women’s team achieved today – well done to everyone who ran, and thank you for turning out for the team.

Fielding a team of 12 men during a busy racing year is always going to be a challenge, although last year it seemed slightly less so, with the fixture being local in Prospect Park. Next year it is our turn to host, so let’s see what happens then.

Six seniors were needed to score as a team, so with only three entered, it was left to the individuals to decide whether to run or not. David McCoy decided he would like nothing more than running 10k before his impending night shift, and we were pleased to have him on board.

Lap one, and DMC was first RR. Lap two, the same. But bring on the finish, and it was Lance Nortcliff who rounded the corner first, with David on his shoulder (left).

They tell me the race that ensued was planned, just to give me something to write about. Whatever, it was entertaining, with David just clinching the ‘win’ as Lance cheered him on.

Another two vets were needed to score, and it was Andrew Smith and Andy Blenkinsop who did the honours, having changed places during the final lap. Following them in were Pete Jewell, David Caswell, Alan Williamson, Peter Reilly, and, having fallen foul of misbehaving shoelaces, Chris Manton.

The senior prizes were picked up by a whole load of youngsters, so our hopes were again with the vets, with the vet men having won the shield for first team last year.

It is a strange phenomenon of the BBO and Berkshire championship races that a veteran man can be 35 or over, rather than 40, and so, with all of our vets over 40, we felt somewhat hard done by. Nevertheless, Lance picked up the medal for third vet, and the team was also able to claim third place – excellent!

Newbury AC, on the other hand, cleaned up with both the senior and vet men’s trophies. Well done to all of the men who contributed to the team today; it is much appreciated.

* Results now available at: https://www.thepowerof10.info/results/results.aspx?meetingid=255462

* Pictures: Peter Reilly and Bithja Jones. Our team pictures shows (from left): Susan Knight, Bithja Jones, Helen Pool, Chantal Percival, Claire Seymour, Julie Rainbow and Nicole Rickett.

A Royle command performance in the city that never sleeps

FOLLOWING his run-and-write dispatches from Berlin Marathon and the Bilbao Night Marathon recently our intrepid reporter Andy Atkinson has filed another acutely-observed and highly literate missive from the New York City Marathon… 

THERE is something about the New York City Marathon that is a magnet to runners. It is not the oldest modern marathon, that accolade goes to Boston; neither is it the prettiest, London or Paris are more scenic; nor even the fastest — the world record was broken at Berlin this September. 

But running in the Big Apple is exciting — just reciting the names of streets, bridges and districts conjures up images from stage and screen and have you humming a Sinatra hit.

The run takes in First and Fifth Avenues, Upper East Side, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Verrazzano and Queensborough bridges. Canyons between high buildings, car horns, police whistles, daylight at midnight and rattling subway trains all signal that this really is the city that never sleeps. 

So it was that a group of Reading Roadrunners found themselves with a common purpose in New York. Whether by ballot, good for age, or sports tour, we were each keen to tick this one off our bucket lists. 

We already had an inkling that this was not to be a walk (or should I say, run) in the park — prior choices had to be made for getting to the start on Staten Island — on the bus or ferry around 6:30am. Added to the usual jet lag, this meant that there would be little sleep the night before. 

Another hitch was that the run starts with a mile-long climb on to the Verrazzano Bridge, and some testing climbs thereafter. 

Reading Roadrunners, being notoriously sociable, also compounded the task by meeting for a last supper the night before.

There is still no consensus on whether wine with the meal improved or detracted from performance on the day. From the results, there was no discernible correlation either way.

Reservations about the run were demolished at the start. The day dawned cool, bright and clear, with stunning views of the city from the Staten Island ferry. After the usual interminable hanging around which accompanies big races, we were lined up at the foot of the Verrazzano Bridge in much the same way as an aircraft pulls up at the end of a runway. The equivalent of jet engines spooling up for take-off was the cranking up of “New York, New York” and we were off.

Unfortunately for me, I got carried away by the enthusiasm of my (rather fast) accompanying runners and went out too quickly. That was despite advice the day before from experts at the Expo not to do just that. I only wish I had done as some did — relax, enjoy the stunning views and, maybe take a few selfies! 

My fellow Reading Roadrunners did much better, with Fleur Denton (below) coming in at under four hours. Catherine Leather and Liz Ganpatsingh both turned in times around the four-hour mark and Vroni Royle achieved a stunning PB at 4:26.31. Christina Calderon ran a practically identical time of 4:26.39 and Ian McGuinness 4:32.56. 

Phil Reay and myself both ran around the 4:50 mark, but I suspect that Phil went out more sensibly and, consequently, felt far less pain than me. I hardly think he could have endured more pain, but he is an ultra-runner, so you never know. 

Anthony Eastaway substantially improved on his Berlin marathon time, coming in at under six hours. Our group included guest Tri20 and former RR, Edwina McDowall, who ran a brilliant 3:01.09 and Mary Wilson from Reading Joggers, who ran 5:42.14. 

With exceptionally fine weather, the city looked superb and New Yorkers were out in force. Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Harlem all responded with bands and singers, and crowds waving placards . “You are running better than the White House” was my favourite. 

As borough boundaries were crossed, so shouted greetings were renewed. A particular memory of mine was a six-row deep gospel choir outside a church in Brooklyn bursting into song just as we passed. Drawing towards the end, at the foot of the Madison Bridge, a clearly heard chant was “last damn bridge, last damn bridge”. 

To finish, you run down Fifth Avenue and into Central Park — not something you can do every day of the week, but by then I don’t think many of us were taking in the view. 

At this point, support from loved ones can make all the difference. My wife, Liz, and her sister, Rosemary, were out on the course at mile 19 on First Avenue and then, after a quick sprint across Harlem, at mile 22 on Fifth. 

Liz later told me that she had run/walked a half-marathon just following our group. But it was worth it for the cheers and hugs. Finally, spurred on by an increasingly numerous and noisy crowd, the end was in sight — just enough strength left for that last little sprint… not! 

After crossing the line, wearing that big medal and wrapped in distinctive blue ponchos, we stumbled like a convocation of monks towards the exit chanting “never again, never again”. But, as we all know, we soon forget…

Andy’s verdict: The New York marathon is a deceptively difficult run. Although it contains no steep hills, it consists of a series of inclines. Many of these are long approaches to bridges, or, in the case of the Verrazzano, over the iconic bridge itself (pictured below). 

In Manhattan, the run up First Avenue is a long rise and comes well after the mid-point, thus seriously testing stamina. Once in Central Park, although the net relief is downhill, the uphill parts are demanding. 

New York Roadrunners produce a useful map showing how our splits worked out and it is fair to say that we all ran a much slower second half. Many commented that things got seriously difficult after mile 14. 

We were blessed with fine weather, and the run would be less attractive on a more typical November day. But, even so, the city, support and spectacle would make up for poor weather and tough topography. New York City rightly sits at the top as a marathon major.

  • A fuller version of this report will appear in the club’s November newsletter next week.

Muddy marvels! Roadrunners triumph in an Eton mess

NOT content with managing our team as well as running for it, ladies’ captain Sam Whalley has produced a report on BOTH the weekend’s cross-country events…

A FORECAST (albeit incorrect) of light rain did not deter 24 Reading Roadrunners from making the journey to Wellesley Woodlands, Aldershot, for the second of five Hampshire League fixtures. This was a new venue last season, and we had enjoyed running here in February of this year.

As is typical for Hampshire League races, the course for each race was to be made up of laps of different-sized loops.

A potential disaster was averted when star performer Chantal Percival managed to overcome a bout of travel sickness in time to prepare for the women’s race. No thanks to Google Maps for its rather twisty traffic-avoiding route there!

We were also delighted to welcome complete XC newbie Justine Morris to the team. “Are you fast?” we asked, as, while all abilities are welcome, it is sometimes nice to know in advance whether you will be required to score for the team. 

We were in luck; Justine’s 10k time placed her in the quick category, although how she stayed upright in road shoes, when most of the rest of us were wearing 12mm spikes, is nothing short of a miracle.

As we made our way to the start line, with 10 minutes to go, our final reassurance came in the shape of Pip White and Bithja Jones, who were cutting it pretty fine, but a joy to see, nonetheless, as we were missing a poorly Sarah Dooley this time. Quick recovery, please, Sarah!

With Aldershot hosting, it was no surprise that they were out in force, but Reading AC matched them, with 20 runners apiece. We did feel a bit surrounded on the start line, by the red, white and blue vests (the red, white and greens were too far forward to trouble us too much).

Numbers generally were up this year, with 118 women last time we ran this course, and 214 this time. The course was a mixture of grass and woodland and, with some tight turns, this became quite congested in places.

Aldershot’s Emily Hosker-Thornhill won the race, a whole minute ahead of the second-placed Louise Small, and with the Aldershot team taking the first four spots.

As hoped, Chantal was the first RR home, in a fantastic position of 13th, even better than her 15th-placed finish in Bournemouth last month.

Bithja was next, and our first vet, in 37th (9th vet), followed by Helen Pool in 70th (24th vet). A great start, giving a team position of ninth. Next in was Pip White, in 100th. We still needed another woman for our vet score, though, and this was to be Justine, in 103rd (39th vet), giving the vet team seventh place.

Next to finish was Under 20 runner Katie Rennie, who this time had travelled by minibus with fellow Southampton Uni students, followed by me, just glad to get around with minimal discomfort after more than two months out with a glute injury, and the ever-reliable Claire Seymour. Cecilia Csemiczky completed the team. Above, some of our team face the camera. From left: Bithja Jones, Katie Rennie, Pip White, Justine Morris, Chantal Percival and Helen Pool.

Nicky Spillane had brought her daughter for the Under 17 women’s race, but decided to spectate and support, deeming her foot to be not well enough to race.

Although the women’s course is only 5.9k, what we lacked in distance, we certainly made up for in weather conditions. Light rain turned to torrential rain, then hail, and back again. It was grim, and as we approached the finish, that top field had become somewhat swampy. The men’s race was going to be interesting…

Full results of the women’s race are here:

https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2018/20181110_hlwomen.html

We returned from the women’s race to find that the tarpaulin had become a channel for a small river, and locating kit bags, coats and, as importantly, our food stashes, was a challenge. I would even say it was chaos, with everyone trying to change in and out of kit.

With the men about to endure a 9.1k route, though, including passing the finish area three times, there was no rush for us women to leave the tent and brave the rain, with the driest viewing spots obviously going to be in the woods.

The strength and depth of the Aldershot team was clearly in evidence here, with the first ten runners being theirs, all within two minutes of each other, and Bramley course record holder Jonny Hay winning the race.

Our first man home, Jack Gregory (above), was 28th, followed by Mark Apsey in 31st. Chris Lucas was 46th, and then the first two of our vets, Lance Nortcliff (63rd, and sixth vet), and Andrew Smith (102nd, and 22nd vet). These results gave the team eighth place. Mark Worringham was missing from this fixture, due to family commitments, and a third vet was needed to complete the vets team. This was to be Ben Whalley, in 138th (37th vet), and sporting the retro vest that once belonged to Matt Richards’ dad.

Be warned, if you ever forget your vest, this is the spare that I carry around, along with an RR technical T-shirt. The vets team finished in fifth place, but are joint first on aggregate. Great work!

Next to finish was Pete Jewell, who had a cracking race, and, as usual, managed a big smile for his supporters. Then came Brian Kirsopp, followed by Stuart Jones, who I’m assuming enjoyed the Bournemouth fixture so much, he couldn’t help but return.

Newcomers Liang Guo and Tim Grant were next to finish, followed by regulars David Fiddes and David Walkley, the latter christening some newly-purchased spikes. Completing the team were more newcomers in the shape of Alan Williamson and Matt Davies.

I think it is fair to say that by the time 314 men had run their laps, the going underfoot was not in the least bit suitable for road shoes, which Matt, as a first-timer, had worn. Well done for getting around unscathed!

There wasn’t much hanging around to be done after the men’s race either, with the focus on getting home and cleaned up (see picture above)!

Full results of the men’s race are here:

https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2018/20181110_hlmen.html

It is well worth investing in some decent grippy trail shoes, or, if you are planning to compete in Hampshire League or championship fixtures, some spikes, as most of their courses are grassy or woodland-based. Not all of the TVXC courses are suitable for spikes, and we are advised of this before each fixture.

On that note, I was amazed to see Chantal, Cecilia, Stuart, Liang, Tim, Alan and Davids Fiddes and Walkley looking bright and breezy and ready to tackle the TVXC fixture at Eton the following morning. Had it been another rainy day, the prospect might not have been so appealing, but, as it happened, the sun was out, the air was still, and we only put up the event shelter to allow the cover to dry out, with the tarpaulin and tent sides hanging out to dry in my garden. 

The TVXC results from Datchet’s fixture are now out, and with Rob Corney first male, and Chantal Percival first female, both our men’s and ladies’ teams finished second, but that was good enough to give us overall victory in the fixture .

The scoring teams were as follows:

Men: Rob Corney, David McCoy, Brendan Morris, Fergal Donnelly (vet), Paddy Hayes and Gavin Rennie (vet)

Women: Chantal Percival, Gemma Buley, Jane Davies (vet) and Mary Janssen (vet)

Full results are now available at:

http://www.tvxc.org.uk/league-results

Above: Rob Corney and Dave McCoy lead the Datchet race from Bracknell’s Neil Kevern to the backdrop of Windsor Castle.

Pictures: Phil Reay, Pete Jewell, Bithja Jones, Claire Woodhouse.

Wet, wet, wet! Marathon week of mixed emotions for Paloma

ROADRUNNER Paloma Crawford is thanking her lucky stars after a week which started with heartbreak, continued in high drama… and ended in jubilation.

Paloma, who has set new personal bests at almost every distance this year, had targeted last month’s Venice Marathon, hoping to chalk up another good time.

“Having run Brighton and Malaga last year, I was keen to look at another overseas event this year,” she said.

“The Venice Marathon coincided with the school half-term holiday and that seemed sufficient justification to run there.

“With my family keen to support me in Venice – unlike at the Liverpool Marathon in May when they opted to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on the TV – so the flights and hotel were booked.

“In the last few months I put in the hours and the miles in training necessary to get me ready for Venice.

“Training was going well but on the day before our flight I was diagnosed with a hernia and advised not to run by my consultant. I was absolutely gutted.

“Still, with the flights and hotel booked we flew out to enjoy the delights of Venice and to provide support, as spectators, to those running.

“The weather leading up to the Marathon was generally good, which was a blessing for the sightseeing part of our trip.

“On the Friday before the event I visited the race expo to try to defer my place to next year. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible, although I was given my race number, a bag of goodies and a T-shirt, which usefully did not have ‘Finisher’ on it.

“After purchasing a neck warmer, I was tempted to buy new running shoes and gear to race on the Sunday. However, my husband intervened just as I produced the credit card.”

Come race day, the weather in north-east Italy took a massive turn for the worse, and Paloma and her family were able to witness the drama unfold as the closing kilometres of the race were covered by a quickly rising tide of floodwater (left and below).

The later finishers faced life-threatening conditions and a total of 17 people were killed in the region over the weekend by a combination of storm-force winds and torrential rain.

Paloma (pictured above with daughters Maia and Anna) said: “Although I couldn’t run I am pleased that my family and I stood on the penultimate small wooden bridge to lend our support to those running in the worst weather conditions ever for the event. 

“As the elite runners were finishing, conditions worsened and I felt truly sorry for the club runners and those running for their chosen charity. Many simply took off their running shoes to wade through ankle-deep water.

“I was very disappointed that I was unable to run, but looking at the conditions I was also quite relieved. The Venice Marathon remains unfinished business and I will return to complete the course.”

But Paloma’s story has a happy ending, for she flew home to discover that she had drawn a lucky ticket in the Roadrunners’ marshals’ ballot and has won a place in the 2019 Virgin London Marathon.

“I was absolutely delighted,” she said. “I never win anything, so it was a total shock. Now I need to recuperate from my hernia operation later this month and begin preparations for London next April, where I pray the weather will be more favourable.”

Sweet “Run” Chicago

Chicago Marathon Week 2018 by #TeamJackMon (Paul Monaghan and Caroline Jackson)

UK, Europe, North Africa, even New York we have ran them all, but now was time to return Stateside and a good for age qualifier gave us a chance to have a crack at Chicago.

Elizabeth Johnson, Caroline Jackson, Brooke Johnson, David McCoy & Paul Monaghan just before the start.

We weren’t the only Roadrunners on this trip, amongst the other participants were Brooke and Elizabeth Johnson, David McCoy, and Simon Davies, and some of other friends from the 100 Marathon Club plus fellow traveller & runner Peter Mizzi .

It’s as much about the city & culture as the race so we decided we’d spend a week visiting and believe me it was a week well spent. We can’t recommend this city enough as it can be described with most superlatives we can think of.

For the first few days we were fortunate enough to stay with one of Caroline’s friends Sandi who she had last seen 18 years ago. We’d stay with her and her family on the outskirts of Chicago and then spend the remaining time Downtown. We therefore were able to experience the city from a local as well as a tourist’s perspective

Sandi had a very nice meal prepared when we arrived and was great for them both to catch up, they were just as interested in our culture as us in theirs so we spent most of the evening comparing different American & English versions of words over a home cooked dinner followed by cookies.

The next day it was down to business so we headed to the expo which appeared to be similar to the expo in London. We walked there with David McCoy and his girlfriend Christina. It was our lucky day as we got to meet Paula Radcliffe and also get our bibs personally signed.  Caroline had previously met her at a running event sponsored by Nike back in 2014 but nothing beats having and been able to treasure her sign our very own Chicago race numbers. We may even get to frame then (eventually).  Riddled with jet lag we headed back to Caroline’s friends for an early night and some traditional Deep Pan Chicago Pizza (a very thick crust and what appears to look like a great pie rather than a Pizza), but it was delicious if not calorific. Just the tonic for a marathon the next morning (Hope no nutrition experts are reading this)

Paul & Caroline are joined by Paula Radcliffe

Next morning we had to rise before sunrise at 4.15am, it was dark and raining on our subway ride into downtown. We did love the trains in Chicago as it felt like we were on a movie set high above ground. The transit system is officially nicknamed the “L”. It’s elevated subway with open air segments dates from the earliest days of the elevated railroads.

We arrived at Grant Park (the location of both the start and the finish of the marathon) just before 6am and thankfully the rain stopped. As it became light we just had a few clouds covering the skyscrappers. The location of our bag drop was directly next to the Buckingham Fountain, this is a great Chicago landmark dating back to 1927 when it was announced as the largest fountain in the world, the fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana that border the lake.  Obviously this became a good spot for photo opportunities and videos.

Both Paul and I had the same start corrals and our start time was just after 7.30am.  With some good music and the announcement of Mo Farah on the start line, there was a good buzz and feeling of excitement as we eventually crossed the start line. Unless you’ve ran a big city marathon the feeling of euphoria as you start is hard to explain, but I guess it’s part of the addiction we have to marathon running.

We both found the marathon to be pretty similar to New York, although Chicago runs through 29 different neighbourhoods and New York runs through 5 boroughs.

All the different neighbourhoods allowed us to experience and run through different cultures, architecture, historic buildings and residences. Caroline enjoyed the neighbourhood of Pilsen, we got to see and hear Latin American music & dance, and the Mexican’s were great spectators.

Paul liked Chinatown, festive and bright and full of character. We entered Chinatown through the Chinatown gate at mile 22. We were greeted by cheerleaders, Chinese music and dragon costumed dancers.

It did rain a little whilst we were running, it was quite a heavy downpour at one point but it did not dampen our spirits  as the constant cheering crowds & music were a welcome distraction. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to cross the finish line in dry conditions.  As 45,000 were running this event, the finish was slightly congested as to be expected, but the organisers coped with this so well and didn’t rush us along as they do in so many events.

Caroline finished in 3hr 47mins which was her 97th marathon and Paul finished in 3hr 54mins, (we’ve lost count how many he has now done…) J
David McCoy & Brook Johnson both ran a sub 3 hr with a brilliant 2:44 & 2:55 respectively. Elizabeth Johnson also ran an excellent time for her debut marathon finishing in 3:58 whilst Simon Davis ran a 5:14.

As usual we finished pretty close together, Caroline had enough time to take a few photos and have a little chat with fellow runners.  We walked to collect our medals and grab our goody bags.  There were also bananas, baby tomatoes and something more refreshing, a free can of the locally produced Goose Island IPA, this certainly went down well.  The girls giving out the goodies were very cheerful and broke into song making us smile; I think they felt like celebrating with us.

After the race and when we had warmed up a little and got changed, we headed over to the post-race party which was held on Butler Field, about a 5 min walk across from the fountain and baggage area. We caught up with Simon, Liz and Brooke and also some of our other pals including Peter Mizzi who was on top post race form as per usual and even managed to supply us with American styled slippers 🙂 . We all agreed that it was a fantastic experience, more so for Liz who had just completed her first marathon.

Rather bizarrely the weather in Chicago throughout our stay went from one extreme to the other, heavy rain storms to hot and sunny at 29c and then down to 10c on the day we came home.

After the marathon from Monday onwards and when we relocated to a hotel downtown we tried to visit as many of the local attractions as we could, our hotel was perfectively located as we were just off the Magnificent Mile.

The Architect boat tour is one we’d definitely recommend as give an amazing insight into the history of the city whilst cruising the river to a backdrop of high rise buildings. This we followed with the excellent Chicago Riverwalk joining some pals from the 100 marathon club.

Another great trip was the Languitas brewery tour brought to us by a very entertaining and passionate guide. This commenced from a room that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Charlie & the Chocolate factory. We half expected Willie Wonka to greet us on arrival.

We even visited Chicago theatre land to see the excellent Tootsie brought to life for a stage musical.

The Navy Pier is like a city within a city and also a must see. Best time to visit is in the evening with its many restaurants, boats and attractions plus great photo opportunities against the Chicago night time sky line. It’s just buzzing with life and in a league of its own.

 

No trip would be complete without a trip to the Hancock Tower to visit the bar & restaurant Signature room on the 95th via an elevator that reaches it in 40 seconds (the fastest in the Western hemisphere so rumour has it ). We enjoyed it so much we visited twice, the last time watching an unforgettable sunset across the city whilst sipping cocktails.