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Introduce to members in Club House

So you win again! How Ed Dodwell and our XC vets grabbed the glory

CLIMBING was the theme of this weekend’s racing for Reading Roadrunners. The dreaded ascent up to the mansion house in Prospect Park was the big feature of Saturday’s Hampshire Cross Country League fixture and that was followed today by the killer 3k drag up to the finish of the Woodcote 10k and the iconic remake of The 39 Steps at the Cliveden 10k. Club captains SAM WHALLEY and JAMIE SMITH have again filed accounts of the cross-country action and their reports follow my own missive from Woodcote…

QUIZ question: Who has been the most successful Reading Roadrunner over the last year?

Step forward please… Ed Dodwell.

As Ed climbed the podium to collect his customary M60 prize after the Woodcote 10k he said: “I’ve been very lucky. In the last 19 races I’ve entered I have had two second places and 17 wins.”

That’s not luck, Ed… that’s good running!

Roadrunners would have cleaned up at Woodcote but for four little problems…

1 There was no team prize. Had there been one, our four guys in the top 18 — Chris Lucas third, Brian Kirsopp ninth, Fergal Donnelly 17th and Tony Page 18th — would have walked away with it. No other club had more than one athlete in the top 20.

2 First lady home was our second-claimer Ellie Gosling. Unfortunately she was wearing the wrong kit!

3 No prize for Sarah Dooley for winning the W40 group… they handed it to someone else by mistake! Was coach Sarah miffed? Just a bit!

4 And no M70 prize for yours truly. There wasn’t one! Pity, the day had been going OK right up until the time I head-butted the pavement.

But there were still trophies for Dodwell, Jane Davies (F60 prize in her second tough race in less than 24 hours) and Lucas, a winner of this race in 2018 but a bronze-medallist this time after being run out of it in the last 400 metres.

Amazingly, three Roadrunners chalked up PBs on this tough course. On his comeback from injury, Tony Page managed an improvement of 28 seconds, George Nyamie progressed by 25 seconds and new member Julie Sugden (right), donning a green vest for the first time, found it made her over a minute quicker.

Brian Kirsopp, a winner last year, had to settle for second place in the V50s but my spies tell me that the man who beat him, David Parton, may soon be racing in a green vest.

There were 29 Roadrunners contesting the Woodcote event and 22 competing at Cliveden, where Ian Giggs was our first finisher and Elizabeth Ganpatsingh our first lady home.

Here’s SAM WHALLEY’S report on the Hampshire League fixture…

With this being our second visit to Prospect Park this season, the BBO XC Champs having been held here in November, there were to be no surprises in store.

The course, though, felt markedly different. I heard the mud described as soft, sticky, claggy… it was certainly deeper in places, especially on the hills and through the woods, and the boggy end of the field was indeed boggy. The course was, as usual, short, at 5k, and we continue to be baffled as to why we don’t run an extra loop that the men run, to increase the distance to nearer the advertised 6k.

Regular TVXC winner Freya Martin was once again first for the team, in an impressive 13th, followed by Hannah Green, making her debut for the club, in an excellent 37th. Helen Pool completed the team, in 44th (8th vet), and the team placed a fantastic fifth.

Mel Shaw, not really feeling the love for this league after a few years away from it, was hot on Helen’s heels in 46th, while Jane Davies did battle with a Reading AC rival for 52nd (11th vet, first V60), during what she called her warm-up for the Woodcote 10k. 

Chloe Lloyd continued her great run of form not far behind in 62nd, and our other Hampshire League debutante, Emma Paton, completed the vets’ scoring team in 73rd (24th vet). The vets team was a brilliant third.

Also having strong non-scoring runs on the day were Sam Whalley (that’s me!), Alex Bennell, Claire Seymour and Cecilia Csemiczky, with Cecilia just being pipped by her arch-rival from the Victory running club.

Well done to everyone who ran, and thank you to those who came out to support, mostly on the worst hill — what a motivator!

With one fixture to go, the women’s team overall is sixth on aggregate, while the vets are third, just one point ahead of Stubbington Green. We had a team of 11 at this race; It would be great to have an even bigger turn-out for the finale at Popham Airfield on February 8th. If you’re free, join us!

And here’s JAMIE SMITH’S report on the men’s race at Prospect Park:

A fantastic turn-out of 19 Roadrunners lined up for the penultimate Hampshire League fixture. It was great to see 11 runners making either the debut this season or turning out at the Hampshire League for the very first time. 

Having run the same course in December at the BBO, everyone was well aware of all of the hills and, indeed, once again the mud that was to come. 

Speaking with lots of the new faces, there was a mixture of excitement and nervousness pre-race. The Hampshire League is seen to be a step up in class from the TVXC, and one that really should not be there. This was best summed up after the race by first-timer Daniel Rickett: “Really enjoyed that” he said. “If I can do it anyone can!” 

Unfortunately, having picked up a few niggles in the recent TVXC event and with the depth to the team these days I had the chance to watch the race from the sidelines. It was thoroughly impressive to see the commitment and enthusiasm from all who wore the green vest yesterday.

At the front of the race there were plenty of top-level runners, including recent TVXC  winner Jack Gregory, who led the team home with his highest-ever finish of tenth. Jack has set himself a number of goals for this year and a top-10 finish in the Hampshire was one of those. One down, three to go!

Finishing in a fine 23rd was Ben Paviour, who was making his debut this season. Ben was second vet40 to finish after a run that was nearly perfect apart from an unfortunate stumble on one of the downhills.

Behind our leading pair the scoring team was made up by Mark Worringham in 33rd (fifth vet), Mark Apsey in 37th and this season’s cross-country ever-present Chris Burt in 57th.

This led to the senior team finishing in a fine sixth place, cementing our current sixth place in Division One for this season.

With one race to go our men’s vets team have all but secured the league title. They won the fixture yesterday thanks to a fine run from Andrew Smith, completing the team as 15th vet 40.

Congratulations to those who have scored and made this league win possible. Beating the Aldershot team is no mean feat.

In the men’s vets individual competition, we have an exciting conclusion to the season with mud-lover Mark Worringham currently in fourth place only one point away from third ahead of the final race at Popham airfield on February 8th.

Thanks to everyone who turned out on a cold and very windy day. Let’s be seeing some more of you, either at Popham or next season!

Hampshire League ladies: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2020/20200111_hlwomen.html

Hampshire League men: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2020/20200111_hlmen.html

Woodcote results: https://www.woodcote10k.org.uk/copy-of-results-2019

Cliveden results: http://onyourmarksevents.org/results-2020-cliveden-10k.html

Pictures: Pete Jewell, Jeanette Allcock, Nigel Hoult, Eddie Thorpe, Matt Davies, Chris Drew.

Love is all around as our ladies vets grab the Berkshire title

MELANIE SHAW reports from the Berkshire Cross-Country Championships and was too modest to mention in her intro that she led the Roadrunners’ veteran ladies team to a gold medal triumph…

THE Championships were a superb event. Race director Sam Whalley once again proved her superhuman skills in organisation to produce a slick, competitive and certainly difficult course at Ashenbury Park. 

She even managed to bake for the runners. A huge, unwavering thank you should go to all the amazing volunteers who braved the wind and cold to marshal the race and ensure its success. They should consider a career in aircraft control or, failing that, professional cheerleaders. They certainly kept me going.

From a competitor perspective — I am sure we all face races with trepidation (I certainly do) and this is normal. I want to take the opportunity to say nerves make us strong, they mean that our team and races matter to us; we want to do well. Nerves are to be celebrated, not feared: don’t let them put you off racing.

The conditions were arguably perfect for cross-country; wet,wet wet, and as Marti Pellow once sang: “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes” and we certainly felt it in our toes after the end of a muddy, slippery, sodden 10k. 

In some places — most notably the last 200 metres — it seemed more akin to running through a swamp than a park in Woodley. I considered swimming through the larger puddles.. it may have been more effective in places.

This was a day to celebrate the brave; the new 10k distance in competitive fields is not for everyone and certainly put off a few. However, the marvellous Shweta Siakumar stepped forward nervously to help the women’s senior team and without her they would not have been eligible to score for the team prize. 

Wearing her rather lovely new trail shoes, Shweta attacked the course. What a hero! Her participation meant the ladies secured second place in the women’s team event. 

Chloe Lloyd, first senior finisher, and Swinda Falkena, second finisher, completed the team. It just shows that if you are brave enough to show up you will be rewarded and Shweta was rightly delighted with her medal following a tough race.

There were some inevitable tumbles on the course, Chris Burt taking a second slip this season, so perhaps we can have a new Roadrunners award for most XC wipe-outs. Mind you, the speedy Helen Pool even took a fall (apparently the most dignified and graceful topple) on her own turf, so it just shows you how difficult the terrain was. 

Despite the conditions, roadrunners were out in spectacular full force. Jack Gregory secured third senior in the men’s race and with the men’s senior team of Sibrand Rinzema, Brendan Morris, Chris Burt, Chris Lucas and Calum Pratt won the second senior team prize.

Roadrunners vets also pulled out a fantastic performance in draining conditions, team captain Jamie Smith leading home the squad, with Tony Page and Lance Nortcliff following to guarantee third place in the men’s vets race.

With Sam ‘cool as a cucumber’ Whalley occupied with an abundance of race procedures and management — terrifyingly the caterers asked on the morning if it was an event at Newbury Showground — I had the absolute pleasure of stepping in as women’s captain and what a day to take on the role!

Bragging rights earned: Every one of the ladies who competed today took home a medal! They were amazing. Claire Raynor faced the technical run on her birthday like an absolute pro. Together with the legendary Lesley Whiley and Claire Seymour (who was unjustly wary of the field) they took home the vets’ bronze medals. 

The Roadrunners team also took the gold vets team medal, Mel Shaw (again weird talking about me in the third person, but I will get over it soon), Helen Pool and Sarah Dooley taking the shiny gold medals.

So, to conclude, a beautiful sunny day out in the mud, with fantastic rewards for the brave and valiant runners. I’d like once again to applaud the volunteers. This would not have been possible without you. I salute you. 

On a personal note, thank you for keeping us running when at times it would have been easier to give up and also for keeping us en route when disorientated in the sun. We would have quite happily run in the bushes to hide.

Feeling inspired? You should be! Fear not, you can recreate this joy next week in the final XC fixture of 2019. The Thames Valley League sees us once again splashing our way round the glorious hills and hummocks of Ashenbury Park on December 22nd at 11am. 

Thanks for that, Mel. Now the rest of the action…

The Henley mafia cleaned up at the Muddy Welly 10k in Crowthorne, Caroline Hoskins being first lady home. Carrie’s win meant the FV50 prize went to her great friend Julie Rainbow, whose son Matt, the Reading AC speedster, was first overall. Ed Dodwell picked up yet another MV60 prize.

There was a big personal triumph in Spain, where the popular Paloma Crayford finally crashed through the marathon’s four-hour barrier.

Paloma ran 3:52.59 in Malaga, an improvement of nearly 12 minutes on her time in London earlier this year.

“I’m feeling rather emotional as Malaga was my mother’s home town,” said Paloma after the race. “I would love to say that I am out celebrating but I’m drinking herbal tea. My body is feeling a little battered as the last three to four miles were painful . 

“I had to stop a couple of times to have a good drink and was battling with my mind to just keep going and push on. I’m hoping I’ve done enough to scrape through for a place in Boston in 2021.

“Now I’m off to meet my 90-year-old aunt. She lives a 20-minute from the course but I need to allow an hour as I’ll be shuffling.”

Paloma’s achievement will go down as another big success for the Katherine Sargeant-Sarah Dooley coaching team.

Berks XC results: http://www.berkshireathletics.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019/events/Berks%20XC%20Results%2015.12.19.pdf?fbclid=IwAR15x7nrFygjiBhlkA0XVYFNZecS1xXlsKuM0xOXxbs3vaE-YzgeDZnOkXY

Muddy Welly results: http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=12013

Malaga Marathon results: https://sportmaniacs.com/es/races/zurich-maraton-de-malaga-2019/5df63a9f-ef58-4275-88bd-303eac1f122f/results#rankings

 

Worringham’s warriors tops again as new girl Freya shines

AFTER another busy weekend of cross-country action, ladies captain Sam Whalley wraps up all the Roadrunners’ news from at home and abroad…

As if standing around volunteering at a local parkrun in the cold wasn’t enough, 24 Reading Roadrunners made the journey, through driving rain, to Winchester, for the second Hampshire League fixture of the season. 

Sparsholt College was a new venue, and promised grassy fields and woodland. I don’t believe anyone had mentioned hills, although these were to be expected, or steps. Steps? Even the flat bits looked to me like they were on a camber. And of course there was mud, plenty of it. Even heading to the area allocated for club tents was pretty slippery, and one of two may have taken a tumble.

Having been ill on the Friday, I was delighted to see such an impressive turn-out of women, which meant I didn’t feel obliged to complete the team. However, I was slightly disappointed to not have been able to experience the ‘brutal’, ‘horrible’, ‘horrendous’ conditions first hand, because that’s what it’s all about, after all. I can certainly confirm that I was wet and very cold, and almost as muddy as if I had run.

First back of our nine women was new second-claim member, Freya Martin, who runs first-claim for Tadley Runners. Although she didn’t feel she had run as well as she would have liked, Freya (right) was a real asset to the team, in 23rd position, which is excellent for a race of this standard. 

Next for the club were Helen Pool, in 62nd (8th vet), and Sarah Dooley, in 70th (15th vet), to make up the women’s team, who finished eighth.

Chloe Lloyd was 94th and Claire Raynor 118th (34th vet), with Claire completing the vets’ scoring team to earn us fourth place.

Alex Bennell and Claire Seymour put in really strong performances, as did triathlete Kira Moffat, making her debut in the Hampshire League (coerced by friend of ten years, Claire Raynor, who hoped this baptism of fire — well, water really — wouldn’t signal the end of their friendship), and Cecilia Csemiczky, who had run the Nice-Cannes marathon only a week before. She kept that quiet!

We will be missing Katie Rennie this season, having switched her first and second-claim status in order to secure a London Marathon place through the University of Southampton; we cheered her on regardless, and hope to see her back with us next year.

Fourteen men made up the men’s team, in a race which was of an incredibly high standard. There were comments from some that they felt that their finishing position was not representative of the effort they had put in, such was the tight packing of teams such as Aldershot, Farnham and District, with over 30 runners in total, including six in the top ten, out of 298 men.

First to finish was Jack Gregory, in 34th, followed by Mark Worringham, in 60th (4th vet, above), Mark Apsey, in 63rd, Jamie Smith (68th) and Brendan Morris (74th). This meant the men’s team was fifth, which was a fantastic result.

Chris Burt (below) was next, in 86th, with Tony Page (105th, 13th vet) and Lance Nortcliff (115th, 18th vet) completing the vets’ team. The vets’ team was first, again, which was absolutely brilliant.

There were also gutsy performances by Matt Davies, still feeling his recent marathon in his legs, Pete Jewell, Andrew Smith, who handed me his finish token from a very muddy, bloody, hand, and Mark Andrew, an infrequent participant in the Hampshire League, but who can definitely hold his own in this field. Colin Cottell opted not to finish the race. Despite the conditions, which, it was pointed out, were almost identical to those in Aldershot on the same weekend last year, this was an incredible day for the club, and everyone gave it their absolute best. The next race will actually be in Aldershot on November 30th.

The weather was somewhat different on Sunday, for the third Thames Valley XC fixture of the season, hosted by Datchet Dashers, where 65 Reading Roadrunners were in action. I always give this race a miss — three feet of elevation, what’s that about? — and had volunteered for admin. It’s a great way to put faces to names, and you get a real feel for everyone’s race.

Not put off by Saturday’s experience, Chris Burt had a strong run on a very different course, and led the club home, in ninth place. This position alone shows the calibre of the previous day’s race! He was followed in by vets Fergal Donnelly, in 23rd, Tony Page, also still not tired from the Hampshire League, in 35th, Andy Blenkinsop (43rd), Brian Kirsopp (47th) and Darren Lewis (49th). That was enough to earn us fifth place.

Matt Davies was another who did the XC double this weekend, while Stuart Hyslop and Mike Hibberd made their debuts.

There’s no stopping Sarah Dooley at the moment, and she was first of our woman (and vet woman) to finish, in 31st, even after a bout of Hampshire League fun 24 hours earlier. Claire Marks was next, as second vet, in 33rd, with Renée Whalley in 34th. Chloe Lloyd had also ‘done the double’, and she was 45th. That put our ladies in sixth place and the club also sixth overall.

There was great running by everyone, and we look forward to the next race, hosted by Sandhurst Joggers, on November 24th.

While the two XC leagues provided some challenging conditions, the prize for the toughest task of the weekend should probably go to first-time marathoner Nicki Randall, (left), who conquered the 27.5-miles Endurance Life trail race on the Gower peninsula in west Wales.

Total elevation gain in the event was 3,115 feet which, as Nicki points out, is nearly the height of Mount Snowdon. At the start it was “lashing it down and really windy.” Nevertheless her finishing time of seven hours and six minutes was good enough to win her F55 age group!

“Thankfully the rain eased as we made our first climb from the beach up to the moor,” said Nicki. “Then the trail got muddy… proper serious mud that sticks to your shoes.”

After another couple of tough climbs, a run along another beach, a coastal path, lots of undulations and more mud, our hero in green and her husband Martin finally made it through the line.

“That was my first marathon,” she said, “but it probably won’t be my last. In fact I will probably go longer now. I love trail running, it’s such a lovely way to see the countryside.

“These events are so friendly and inclusive and there’s a mobile buffet at the checkpoints.”

Another brave Roadrunner competing on the Gower coast was Maddy Smith, who described the 14.8-mile half marathon as “definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done.”

Maddy (pictured right with boyfriend Dan) finished in a time of 2:56.39 and was 34th female. “It was the first trail half marathon I’ve ever done,” she said, “and the furthest I’ve ever run.

“Luckily it stopped raining for about three hours for our race and the sun came out to allow some stunning views. I’m feeling incredibly sore now but it was a great experience.”

Conditions were a lot better in Athens, where the great and the good of the local running scene gathered to celebrate the 100th marathon run by Roadrunners” second-claimer Mary Wilson.

A veteran of nearly 200 volunteering stints at local parkruns, Mary has also competed in marathons in the United States, Thailand and Spain.

She’s pictured with Roadrunners’ chairman Phil Reay, his partner Christina Calderon, Reading Joggers chair Jayne Woodhouse and Steve Harlowe.

Phil described the run as “one event too many for Christina and me. It was a “long and painful slog on a very hilly course.”

Nevertheless Christina survived to finish her second marathon in a month just after completing the Grand Slam in the Centurion 100-mile series.

Results: http://www.tvxc.org.uk/results/team?race_id=91

Pictures: Chloe Lloyd.

Dutch courage pays off with big PB for Swinda in the Big Apple

Roving reporter SAM WHALLEY brings you up to date with all the news from the weekend races at home and abroad…

THE unique Marlow 7 was the place to be if you wanted to pick up some bling this weekend.

Three of our amazing veterans — Ed Dodwell (M60), David Dibben (M70) and Carrie Hoskins (F50) — picked up prizes at this reportedly well-organised, value-for-money race, although for Carrie it was the trophy for second female overall.

Rita Dykes was unlucky not to get the F70 prize. She was quickest in her age group by 22 seconds but she lost out because it was awarded on the ‘gun’ rather than ‘chip’ time.

David said: “Last year in this race I was pleased to knock three mins off the course record for an M70, previously held by the great Jim Kiddie.

“Today I knocked another three and a half minutes off that. My wife Jill improved her personal best at this distance by 72 seconds and was over four minutes quicker than this race last year.” First Roadrunner to finish was Fergal Donnelly, following his excellent form throughout an autumn of tough trail races and half marathons. Just goes to show how good off-road training is for your overall performance!

Marlow 7 results link: https://www.racesonline.uk/results/2019-results/marlow/marlow-7/

In the Marlow half marathon, Richard Usher was first RR back, in 1:32.06, while Katie Gumbrell brought it home for the women, in 2:12.25. This is a tough course!

Marlow Half results link: https://www.racesonline.uk/results/2019-results/marlow/marlow-half/

The prize for the Roadrunner taking part in the toughest race of the weekend went to Gary Tuttle in the Mission Mount Somers Half Marathon in the south island of New Zealand.

The clue is in the title… ‘Mount’. This is basically a trail race up a volcano. The degree of difficulty can be gauged by the winner’s time, 2:06, and the final finisher’s.. over SEVEN hours. In the full marathon staged simultaneously, the winner ran 4:13 and last man over TEN hours.

Gary (right) finished 16th in the Half in 2:44.59 just a fortnight after his sub-3hr PB marathon in Auckland. “No PBs here,” he said. Never mind, that should toughen him up for a spot of XC action when he returns to the UK.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, Roadrunners’ Dutch star Swinda Falkena was celebrating a 10-minute PB in the notoriously tough New York City marathon. Swinda ran 3:47.38 and her boyfriend, Sibrand Rinzema (top picture), was the first Roadrunner to finish in an impressive 2:51.56.

“It was a tough course,” said Sibrand, “but I really enjoyed the ambience. It was good until 25k, on a pace for 2.35 but I had a hunger knock and needed to walk/run after 32k.

“Swinda really enjoyed it as well, and didn’t even think the bridges were too bad. The final part in Manhattan just slightly uphill was tough, but she managed to not slow down too much.”

Like Sibrand, David McCoy also managed a sub-3hr time, finishing in Central Park in 2:58.35, but it wasn’t such a great day for the veteran marathoner Dave Wood, who struggled round in 5:42.05. “That was horrible,” said Dave. “Having been injured throughout the summer and only doing three training runs I got what I deserved.”

Over in France, first Roadrunner home in the Nice-Cannes marathon was Tony Walker (right), who was delighted with 3:12.01, a time he said would be good enough to renew his Good For Age status. Andrew Butler finished in 3:45:11, David Walkley in 4:06.02, Pete Morris in 4:33.18, and ‘marathon man’ Martin Bush, struggling with a foot injury, in 4:51.37.

Hel’s bells! Executions, torture.. then we raced a half marathon

TRAVEL writer-cum-race reporter ANDY ATKINSON tells the inside story of another successful trip abroad by a group of Reading Roadrunners…

DID you know that the “Gravensteen”, or Count’s Castle, was built by Philip I of Alsace as a show of power and wealth and to keep the burghers of Ghent in order? No, neither did I. That is not until I heard one of the quirkiest audio guides I have ever encountered. 

Full of interesting anecdotes about Philip I, his wife, Elisabeth, the executions and tortures routinely inflicted there, it certainly takes your mind off the exhausting climb up winding stairways to the pinnacle. Once up there, however, and elated that the climb is finally over, you have the town before you!

It was not surmounting old ruins, however, that attracted a group of Reading Roadrunners to the Belgian town, but a different kind of challenge.       

October 27th saw a running festival take place and we were targeting the half marathon – flat, fast and situated away from the town centre, there are no real hills and cool weather promised good times. Ghent is also easily accessible by Eurostar – an ideal venue for a short bit of running tourism. 

Of the ten of us originally up for this, two were non-starters! Fiona Ross and myself, with illness and injury respectively, decided not to run. Undaunted by this little difficulty and unwilling to give up on the chance of a weekend away with good company, we switched our entry to the 10k walk. 

This was much more civilised, allowed for some sightseeing and photos, and was rewarded by personal bests for the two of us of about 2:09:00. Probably not astonishing in the world of race walking, but should there ever be a “leisure walking” event, we would be up there!

The rest of the group took the half marathon race rather more seriously and were rewarded by some exceptional results. Fergal Donnelly turned in his second best-ever time at 1:25:57 and Mark Andrew completed at 1:35:50; but the greatest credit should go to Helen Pool. 

With a two-and-a-half minutes PB of 1:32:02, Helen was on the podium as second female overall and first in her age category. As cool and collected at the finish as the start, she made it look easy!

The rest of the group also performed well – Dan Rickett was well within his predicted two-hour time at 1:54:47, John Bailey and Liz Atkinson chased each other in at 2:26:17 and 2:28:31 respectively, despite John sporting a shoulder injury, and Lorraine Bailey followed with a solid 2:37:10. Liz and Lorraine bagged the second and third FV65 placings in the process. 

We were joined for the event by Reading parkrunners and long-term friends of Reading Roadrunners, Aleid Busser and Adrian Wadham. Aleid turned in a superb 1:59:39 as first FV70 and Adrian 2:05:24 as first MV75. 

Veronica Andrew also attempted the half, but under-trained and a little under the weather, she wisely decided to call it a day at 10k before things went pear-shaped. Her prudence paid off and she is none the worse as a result.

As for Ghent – not so well known as its flashier neighbour, Bruges, it is, however, very quaint, with a long history as a mercantile town. It sits on the rivers Lys and Scheldt and is criss-crossed with canals. 

As well as the castle and mercantile history, Ghent is famous for the “Adoration of the Lamb” triptych by the Van Eyck brothers in St Bavo’s Cathedral and, at the other end of the artistic scale, “Graffitistraatje”, where you can try your hand at your very own graffiti. 

The half marathon has only been running for about three years, but next year it is planned to route through the city centre. This will add interest, but perhaps not speed — much of the centre is paved with cobbles. I am also unsure of how they will deal with all those thousands of bicycles that zoom around. Between the cyclists and the trams, walking, never mind running, can be a hazardous experience.

Overall verdict: A well organised, multi-terrain, friendly race with a super finish line in the Topsportshal Stadium and the bonus of a big bottle of exceptionally strong Belgian beer in the goody bag.

Cartoon: Veronica Andrew, from her personal collection.

Pictures: JohnBailey, Dan Rickett, Andy Atkinson, Fergal Donnelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helsinki & Tallinn Marathon Weekend 2019

Report by Paul Monaghan

The idea of running in two countries during one long weekend was just too good to miss. A flight to Helsinki, Finland, then do a parkrun followed by a boat trip to Tallinn, Estonia to run the Marathon. Caroline Jackson & myself Paul Monaghan did our research and this seemed easily possible. We put the feelers out on Facebook and on website about 6 months before Marathon to see who’d be interested
As per usual we were joined by Pete ‘The Train’ Morris & Martin ‘Bushy’ Bush. Ian ‘IPL’ Giggs, Linda Wright & Kingsley R Stirling who also joined us for this trip.Flight to Helsinki was uneventful and we all checked into our hotels as per usual. A few tourists in Helsinki but not too over the top.

Prices were expensive as we’d predicted but transport was relatively cheap. So after some sightseeing (Helsinki Cathedral was stunning) we took a short boat trip on spec to a small island called Suomenlinna without a clue in the world what was there.

The island is basically an 18th century sea fortress. Many soldiers were walking around the island on parade which was quite amusing. Anyway we spotted an old brewery which seemed vaguely interesting so we decided to visit and sample the goods. It was here we read on our phones the devastating news ‘Tokoinranta, Helsinki parkrun cancelled’ to say we were devastated was an understatement. The other closest parkrun was over 100 miles away but we had to catch a boat at 1:30 to follow. We decided it wasn’t worth the risk so we’d just do the marathon, Well all besides IPL Ian Giggs that is (See my other article IPL Giggsy).

Helsinki was not bad for restaurants even if slightly on the extensive side so we eventually found a great place overlooking the central square. Two of our crowd I won’t mention decided they’d go culturally overboard and dig out a McDonalds to eat. I mean why eat at a nice restaurant in Helsinki when there’s a Big Mac & fries on offer that’s not going to eat itself? Luckily they redeemed themselves by suggesting Hard Rock for drinks later on 😊

Boat trip was great the next day. We thought it would be a small boat but we actually had a 10 deck cruise ship. A love boat trips so this was a great adventure. Bushy was in his element as there was a full-size souvenir shop on board. Never really been one for long cruises but this was great fun. Giggsy was weighing how many laps around the boat would be a parkrun.

After leaving the boat at Tallinn Pete Morris was on a mission to do the 10K also so he dragged Bushy along ahead to the hotel well ahead of us. There were entries on the day so both managed to enter along with Kingsley who’d booked it in advance. We had to wade through the 10K runners to get to the expo but the atmosphere was electric and it was a sunny day and besides it was only a short walk from the hotel.. What a stunning old town this was, even the authentic costumed cheer leaders were giving it loads at the start. We were hoping the weather would be this good for the marathon the following day. We sat at an outside bar near the 10K finish and soaked up the atmosphere. We finally had time to appreciate hotel later. It looked like it had come straight from an Agatha Christie novel; complete with 30s Art Deco décor and an ancient metal cage lift which I just loved.

During the evening finding somewhere to eat proved slightly problematic. It was Caroline’s pre birthday meal so we decided to try and find somewhere nice. Bushy & Pete are quite happy with British style burger bar so we left them to it. The other’s also managed to find a great place.

We eventually settled for a cracking Italian restaurant which was bathed in dim lights on the outside terrace. Was similar to the kind of places where we ate in Verona. This was a top notch place without having to trade in your jewellery for a decent bottle of vino and a nice meal.

We met the others later on in the local Depeche Mode bar. I’m a big fan so loved this place. All drinks & cocktails named after Depeche mode songs as well as their music constantly playing. I’m surprised this idea has not spread to other cities. A ‘Steps’ Bar anyone? J

It was race morning and also Caroline’s birthday. Last year she had her birthday in Bordeux, France as we had the Medoc marathon and this year she’d be running one also. Hey who wants an easy day anyway? How many birthdays do we forget? Or should I say would rather forget. The hotel had laid on breakfast at 7 and we were next to the start so we could relax and not have to rush and find toilets etc for a change.

Kingsley & Linda were doing the ½ so they started later but for the rest of us it was the obligatory pics at the start.

The Marathon starts at Viru Gate which was part of the defence system of Tallinn City that was built in the 14th century. I doubt if they had marathons in the 14th century but if they did they may not have appreciated as much as we did, Was an amazing view looking at the gate towers though the electrifying atmosphere as the race got under way.

Did I spot TV cameras? Oh no they’d worked out #TeamJackMon were in town or rather they’d latched on that Bushy had ran over a 1000 marathons and wanted to catch him before he wandered into a souvenir shop en-route.

 

It was a great start as we circled around the old town before heading off into the country. There were a few bands on route which added to the atmosphere. Some of these smaller marathons have more entertainment along the course than the so-called Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons but don’t really advertise it. One thing about this course that sticks in my mind is we ran about 2k through a zoo. All was fine until we ran past a cage were an angry looking bear was rattling on the bars of the cage. Felt sorry for the poor animal locked up. Friendly marshals & aid stations were plentiful on this virtually flat scenic course so it’s definitely one I’d recommend.

These marathons don’t get an easier whether it’s home or abroad. All are 26.2 miles so sometimes it’s just the thought of a beer at the end and a decent after party that keeps you going. I’m baffled why we keep running them but at a push I’d say it’s the traveling & the people that keep us focused. Believe me it’s sometimes difficult to stay motivated so always a good idea to vary the location. Anyway we finally crossed the finish line and the birthday girl had managed to beat me and everyone else in our crew for that matter ‘I’ve had enough of marathons’ were her famous words uttered for the umpteenth time as a bottle of water and flyer for next year was trust in her hand. Crowd support at the end was great.

Talking of after parties we resigned ourselves to all meeting for a beer at local bar near hotel after the race. As I get slightly bored in one place we decided to take a trip to baggage to find other runners whilst Caroline & I waited for the rest. We stumbled upon free food & (alcoholic) drink which we were not aware of. Runners from all over Europe were there including one German guy who’d ran over 1,500 marathons. We just had to get a pic of him & Bushy. I’ll just say that this could well be the best after race party we’ve attended though there’s some stiff competition from Rome, Paphos, Liverpool & Lanzarote to name but a few. Caroline even ended up pouring beers for other runners. Well it was her birthday.

As always, time is never on our side but after a quick break we were out again in the evening. You may have gathered Caroline & I enjoy authentic places and try to avoid British & Irish bars like the plague. To be fair the others were up to this also.  The bunch of us along with Linda’s new friend Julia found what was called ‘The Oldest Bar in Tallinn’ which was a down stairs basement. Hang on, had I just stepped out of the Tardis? We seemed to have been transported 400 years back in time. The Karja Kelder had vaulted ceilings & dim lights and stressed out staff trying to cope with demanding 21st century customers. They even sold pigs ears here. Anyway this was great fun especially as we had 2 people amongst us who couldn’t cope with anything besides basic food. After about 10 menu changes we eventually settled down to some great beer & food. Linda’s new friend Julia seemed to find us all entertaining and immediately signed up to do another marathon abroad. Malaga anyone? I never realised we were all a travelling cabaret act but if it gets people running & healthy then it’s fine by me. Guess we could start charging for live Bushy & Pete Morris arguments. Surely there’s a market for that? On this occasion they did it for free and it turned out a great evening. Guess there was only the birthday cake missing. As you may have guessed we were the last people out in Tallinn.

All good thigs must come to an end so the next day it was a case of Caroline & I cramming in as many sights as possible. We fought our way through hordes of stick carrying tourists to visit Freedom Square, Maidens Tower, Toompea Castle and the excellent St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral before finally heading to the boat port to catch to floating hotel back to Helsinki and then our flight home.

All in all, a great trip with great pals. Marathons abroad can be difficult especially in scorching hot weather (though I must admit to secretly enjoying the pain). But as always the excuse to meet more like minded people and experience a different country & culture is an absolute bonus. Next port of call Palma, Majorca Marathon in a couple of weeks. As always, anyone who wants to join us or other roadrunners on a running jaunt abroad then give us a shout on Facebook or visit Runners on the Road on our website.

 

 

Worringham makes his Mark with marathon PB in Germany

STAND-OUT Roadrunners’ performance of another hectic weekend of racing was a personal best of two hours 30mins 59secs by Mark Worringham at the Frankfurt Marathon.

The club’s former men’s captain slashed nearly two minutes off his previous best, finishing in 110th place.

“I’ve mixed feelings to be honest,” said Mark. “I really felt in the shape to go under 2:30, but at the same time it’s a decent PB and the 2:30:59 is a whole lot better than the 2:31:00 that was on my watch!

“The hope was to get under 2:30 and then retire from competitive marathoning, so it looks like I will have to keep going.

“It was a more sensible first half than my last marathon at Brighton (1:14:20 v 1:13:30) and I still felt quite strong at 20 miles. At 22 miles sub 2:30 still looked likely, but the pace slipped further and further off, and at 24 I was really struggling.

“The last two miles must have been slow as hell, but at least I kept running, if it can be called that.”

Another Roadrunner racing abroad to finish a marathon with slightly mixed feelings was Magda Bennett, who ran 3hrs 45mins in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana.

Despite chopping seven minutes off her time on the same course four years ago, Magda had been hoping for something a little quicker.

“It was a classic case of being too ambitious,” she said. “I felt great in the first half, sticking to my plan of 7.50-8.00 min-mile pacing. Unfortunately the pace dipped at 12-13 miles and at 17 miles I was overtaken by the 3.30 pacer. 

“There was no way the body could move at 8-min miling at this stage. So, I felt it was game over. The heat was a struggle and I couldn’t take on enough water. It was the usual battle of will-power to get to the finish. And at the finish I couldn’t move another step.

“It’s a great course, but the cobbled street at mile 25 was cruel. Still it was a good for age and I was 11th in my age group, so I’m not disappointed.”

Once again Katherine Sargeant was in top form on the road, following up her superb time in Moscow last month with a PB in the Dublin Marathon. The Roadrunners coach ran 3:03:58 for what turned out to be another win in her age category and an improvement of 52 seconds on her time in London in April.

Katherine was originally placed second in the FV50s but the local girl provisionally awarded the prize was actually born in 1986!

Also celebrating with her again was Tony Streams, whose time of 3:19:08 was another new PB — by seven seconds.

Biggest PB among the Roadrunners athletes in Dublin was by Angela Burley, whose time of 3:46:02 was over 12 minutes better than her performance at this year’s VLM. There were also PBs for Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez, dipping just under four hours for the first time, and Calum Baugh with an impressive 3:16:10.

There was also a group of Roadrunners competing in Belgium (below), and the highlight of their trip was a second lady finish and PB by Helen Pool in the Ghent Half Marathon.

Despite this being her third ‘half’ in the space of four weeks, Helen won her age group by over seven minutes with a time of 1:32:02, an improvement by more than two and a half minutes. 

The weekend’s action had been kicked off on Saturday by the No.1 marathoner himself, Martin Bush, who completed his 1,059th race over the classic 26.2 miles distance at Beachy Head on Saturday.

Always a tough race, this one was run in foul conditions with a lot of rain and mud, and Bushy suffered a heavy fall.

It didn’t stop the great man finishing the course (time not yet confirmed) and it certainly won’t stop him running marathon No.1,060 at the iconic Cannes-Nice event next weekend.

Back closer to home yesterday, the 11th round of the club championship, the Rickmansworth 10, resulted in a gun-to-tape win for late entry David McCoy (below) in a superb time of 57mins 55secs. And, while the rest of the field were racing it out, the cheery Ulsterman confessed he was using the race as a training run for next weekend’s New York Marathon.

McCoy had already sewn up the senior men’s title in the club championship and yesterday’s fourth-place finisher, Chris Burt, has now secured the runners-up spot. Chris had to be satisfied with a PB of five minutes!

Another Roadrunner to achieve a personal best was 13th-place finisher Tony Page, and by doing so he pretty much cornered the market in PBs recently.

Since the start of September Tony has run PBs in the Swallowfield 10k, the Basingstoke Half Marathon, the Abingdon Marathon and now at 10 miles. Oh, and he threw in a parkrun PB for good measure.

Tony of course picked up 50 club champs points and Bryan Curtayne 49 to keep their positions at the top of the M40 group, with Chris Manton collecting 48. However, it was Clive Bate’s 47, which added an extra 11 points to his total, that now sees him in third place, with 192.

The men in the vet 50s category have been battling it out all year. David Fiddes’s 50 points took him to 196, but David Caswell’s 49 have seen him propelled to 198, and joint first in the table with Brian Kirsopp. Gary Clarke picked up 47 points.

The vet 60 men’s category remains unchanged, with Alan Freer (second in his age category for the race), and Joe Blair collecting their respective 50 and 49 points.

The vet 70 men’s category is now concluded, with David Dibben, who was first in his age category, adding a final 50 points to complete his wins at every race distance, and leaving Jim Kiddie in second.

First home among our ladies was Chantal Percival, who was third in the women’s race and confirmed afterwards that she will be available for the RR squad for the rest of the Hampshire Cross Country League season.

Today’s race had only vet 40 women contesting positions in their category. Suzanne Bate’s 50 points took her up to third in the table, while Gill Manton’s 49 saw her jump a few places, up to fifth.

The club champs roadshow culminates with the final fixture, the Mapledurham 10, on December 1st. This race incorporates the climb of the dreaded ‘Tourette’s Hill’, so good luck with that!

  • Thanks to Sam Whalley for supplementary reporting and John Bailey for the image from Belgium.

Brendan tunes up for the Windy City with PB in a soggy town

PREPARING hard for next month’s Chicago Marathon, BRENDAN MORRIS headed to the Wild West for a training half marathon and came home with a personal best and this brilliant report…

IN the words of David Brent: “I heard they dropped an atomic bomb on Swindon… did about ten quid’s worth of damage.”

Well, that’s probably a bit unfair, but by running the Swindon Half Marathon I’ve apparently viewed the highlights of the town. I hope the organisers have a self-deprecating sense of humour and the “highlights” of the town they list are tongue-in-cheek, yet I can confirm that they seem to be unfortunately accurate…

My relationship with Swindon consists of fond memories of failure and rejection. As a teenager a close friend of mine and I started supporting the football club. It was the early Noughties, when a couple of fake IDs ordered from the back of FHM ensured you could simultaneously be old enough to buy eight cans of Fosters for £5 in the corner shop on the way to the ground and yet secure a child’s train ticket and child entry (£2!) to the ground (as long as we acted sober and avoided breathing cheap lager on the entry stewards). 

We watched them be relegated into Division Two. Sometimes we would stay in town after the game and sample the best of the clubs and pubs Swindon had to offer, where if rejection didn’t meet us at the door, it would smack us in the face on the dance floor. I also failed my driving test there, so was keen to make amends.

The race is advertised as being mostly flat. When looking at the profile of the course online, you can quickly see that though most of the course is fairly flat there is a definite hill at mile 11. About 40 metres of elevation over a mile, then the majority of the final mile is a steep downhill.

I felt in good shape, thanks largely to the track sessions with team-mates led by Jack Gregory. A team I then ditched to run the Swindon Half (the rest of the guys were running a stellar performance in the Southern Road Relays in Crystal Palace) because that’s the kind of clubman I am…

The game plan, was to aim for a PB (sub-74 minutes preferably). I knew I would slow on the hill at mile 11, so I wanted to be a good 20 seconds up on the target time by the foot of the hill. 

The race is a fairly small event for a large town (2500 entrants) and catered well in terms of bag drop and toilets; pretty much no queuing, easy to get to etc. 

The race starts at two of the town’s highlights —the County Ground (grey concrete walls) and Magic Roundabout (grey tarmac). 

Standing on the start line, the clouds were looking more and more grim and I think we all knew the rain was on the way. Conditions were slightly muggy and the rain when it hit (about one mile in) was actually quite refreshing. It was non-stop from a mile in, all the way to the end and seemed to intensify as the race went on. 

It was from the first mile marker that I took the lead. One runner stuck on my heels for another couple of kilometres but then I heard him drop away quite quickly. The next few kilometres were fairly lonely; sweeping perimeter roads broken by roundabouts every 500 metres or so with supporters huddled under bus stops, trees and umbrellas. 

I was running pretty well, felt fairly comfortable and was hitting the target pace. I was trying to gauge how far behind second place was by listening to the small groups of supporters and the gap they left between clapping me and the person behind. I could tell second place was gaining on me.

At around five miles I could clearly hear the squelching of second place’s shoes on the soggy roads. He caught me around nine kilometres. We stuck together for about a mile and had a pleasant conversation. Our conversation revealed that he was quicker than me. 

He was clearly more comfortable than I was at the pace we were running and he was targeting a PB of his own; a sub-73 minute time. 

I made the decision (if you really do make these kinds of decisions) to let him get away. He slowly moved away from me, but I still used his presence to help pace me. I tried my best not to let him get too far ahead and to keep to my target pace. I was just about managing, but it was definitely getting more difficult! 

By the ten-mile mark a spectator shouted “23 seconds” at me. I knew that this was the time I was behind him, so that was probably equivalent to about 120 metres (but looked a lot further).

The next bit of drama occurred at one of the advertised highlights. No, not Swindon College, or the Great Western Shopping Centre, or even the Oasis Leisure Centre. I’m talking about the Nationwide Building Society Headquarters. This was at the foot of the dreaded hill. 

The course took you into the very start of the car park of the headquarters, before you made a quick U-turn around the end cone and made your way back out to the main road.

As I came towards the end cone there was clearly some commotion. A couple of marshals were yelling “Come back” and l soon realised that the leader had continued into the car park when he was meant to make a U-turn around the final traffic cone. 

In fairness to him there were no signs saying that a U-turn was required and I found out from him after the race that the lead motorbike he was following went further into the car park to make the sharp U-turn possible, so he was simply following the lead bike. 

After making this error he was now only a short distance ahead. I was close enough to hear him spend the next couple of minutes muttering profanities to himself; so probably about ten metres. His anger seemed to propel him up the hill. He was pulling away from me again. 

By now I was just giving it all I had. “Come on, hard effort up the hill, and then cruise to the finish!” I knew by the start of the descent I was one kilometre from the end. I looked at my watch and was behind where I needed to be. It looked like I needed to run the last kilometre in 3.10 to get me under the 74 minutes I was aiming for. I used the downhill and lengthened my stride. 

The only thing that seemed to slow me down was my leg speed. I desperately tried to lift my knees as high as I could and not fall flat on my face. I didn’t really think that I could do it. I didn’t dare look at my watch but just focused on the finish line. 

The hamstrings were starting to burn, but I could then see the timer. I still had ten seconds of time to spare and I was almost there! Second place and more importantly a new personal best (73 minutes 52 seconds).

No prizes for second place. No prizes for first either! It didn’t matter, it was always about the time and the race marked the end of the hard marathon training and the transition into the taper. 

Chicago is less than three weeks away and hopefully I can keep myself in one piece and maintain fitness for the big one. 

*The race was won by the Wimborne AC athlete Christopher Wood in 73.44.