Berlin Marathon: A view from the tail end of the field

AFTER the Berlin Marathon, our intrepid correspondent Andy Atkinson reports from the front line…

THE trouble with big races – there are so many participants it is hard to spot anyone. The trouble with marathons – the front runners have gone home, are in bed, or on the plane before the tail-enders finish. Thus it was with Berlin.

Some fantastic performances from our front-runners, Rob Corney, Brendan Morris and Gary Tuttle, but did we see them? No.

But just as we were returning from a post-run light lunch, who pops up, but Rob with his sis, Susie, who kindly agreed to take this photo!

Unable to escape in time, Rob was asked the inevitable: “How does it feel to take the RRs marathon championship?” and answered with usual modesty that it was an honour to be classed with such runners as the former champ. How was his run? “Great for the first 30km.”

Very heartening to hear that even champions fade on such a long run.

This interview begged a comment from the former champion, Keith Russell, who just happened to saunter into our departure lounge at TXL.

“How does it feel?” we ask again. More modesty from Keith: “Rob is a great runner and his achievement is well deserved.”

Asked if he will be back, Keith confirmed that he is returning to form and thinks he can get his times down. With Brendan not far behind, it should be an interesting couple of years. Keith was in Berlin to support the Roadrunners, showing great club spirit.

So, the highlights of the marathon viewed from the latter half of the pack…

The day before: In-line world championship skating at astonishing speeds. The winner covered the marathon course in 57.58.

The after-party: After presentations to Eliud Kipchoge, the new marathon world record holder and Gladys Cherono, the women’s winner, we did the best we could on the dance floor, but I had to admit defeat and retire well before the night was out. Past and present champions are made of sterner stuff and continued on into the night.

The bit in the middle: I entered the marathon ballot as part of the team “Aaron and the Andrews”. This was the result of a post-parkrun coffee… Mark was later to comment that it was the most expensive coffee he had ever had.

One Andrew and Aaron did pretty well at 3:28:18 and 3:27:45 respectively. The other Andrew (yours truly) was a little further behind at 4:38:19, so it was just as well there were no team prizes to lose. Mark and Aaron were a little disappointed with their performances, but it was hot and both are recovering from niggles and illness.

Although slower than my last two marathons I was quite pleased that I managed to finish strongly and get round without injury.

I am gearing up for the NYC Marathon, so this was a result in itself.

My better half, Liz, had another great run and was the only person I know to enjoy the experience and look relaxed from beginning to end.

Astonished to find herself accompanying a runner with a name (not a number) on his bib, she enquired further. “Ronaldo da Costa… what are you doing here at the back. Did you get up late?” (Ronaldo was the world marathon record holder in 1998 with a time of 2:06:05).

I think that did the trick as, after a few exchanges of where each other lived, he sped off never to be seen again. He finished in 4:03:59… not bad given that he was at the back for the first few miles.

Liz likes to talk her way around a course and was delighted to be accompanied and supported by Tony Eastaway for the first half of the run. She adds that Tony’s support helped her to a new marathon PB.

Tony had a difficult run, finishing in 6:07:29. With characteristic grit, he rallied at the end and finished well. I am sure the experience will be good preparation for his shot at the NYC Marathon in November.

Our group of runners were accompanied by a fantastic support crew including Louise Atkinson, Linda Wright, Veronica Andrew, Veronica’s mum and sister. Also running were our neighbours, Linda and Joella Flintoff, supported by Grant Flintoff.

Other supporters we know of include those mentioned above… Susie Corney, Keith Russell and Anna Richmond. It is the supporting teams as much as our fellow runners that make the race such a fantastic event.

And that’s not to mention the live bands on just about every corner of the route. Just as I was flagging at about kilometre 32, Purple Rain belted out from one of them. Was Prince reincarnated? From my position it was hard to tell, but the echo kept me going for a good few miles!

Overall, a five-star race not to be missed!

Corney’s record collection: Another one bites the dust

ROB CORNEY went yet another step towards rewriting the Reading Roadrunners record books when he set a new mark of two hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds at the Berlin Marathon.

Already this season he had destroyed the old records at 5,000 metres, five miles, 10k (twice) and half-marathon.

For his latest trick Rob (below) shaved 21 seconds off the previous marathon mark set by Keith Russell in Amsterdam five years ago.

And on a great day for the club Keith was on hand to support his successor and break the news of his triumph with a post on our Facebook page.

Second Roadrunner through the Brandenburg Gate, and also in a personal best, was Brendan Morris in 2:38:53, and there were also PBs for Sam Hammond, with 3:31.30, and Liz Atkinson, with 5:39.15. Sam took a massive 16 minutes off his previous best and Liz (pictured below) went one better with 17.

Other Green Vests starring on the iconic German course were Gary Tuttle (3:07.29), Aaron Chai (3:27.45), Mark Andrew (3:28.18), Andy Atkinson (4:38.19), Colin Byers (4:58.54) and Anthony Eastaway (6:07.29).

Having taken over seven minutes off his previous best set in Dusseldorf last year, Rob revealed the secret of his success.

“I didn’t go into the race with Keith Russell’s record in mind,” he said. “I knew if I ran the splits I wanted I’d get it so I just put it to the back of my mind.

“I target 1km splits in races. They come up pretty quickly so it’s easier to stay in control of your pace. The plan was to hit 3:30min/km.

“Obviously the first 10k was slightly fast… no one needs negative splits anyway. I spotted Simon Goldsworthy (ex-Reading University) shortly after the start and crossed to run with him. We found ourselves in a nice little group going just above our target pace.

“Just after halfway Simon started to ease ahead and I, being sensible for once, held back with the group.

“As you can tell from my splits, 35-40k was a struggle and there were some pretty dark points where it was a battle to keep moving. But that’s why we run marathons, isn’t it?

“I saw Simon again and passed him at about 39k as he was going through a low patch and I’d managed to pull myself together.

“After that it was just a matter of trying to pick my feet up and run for the line.

“I think Keith Russell was more excited about my time than I was. He’s a great sport and unfailingly encouraging! I can’t wait to see Keith fit and racing well again.”

Former club men’s captain Keith said: “I have no mixed feelings about losing the record at all. Rob is a great guy who trains hard and is very supportive to everybody else so I was more than happy that he was the one to take my record.

“I’ve been rooting for him to do so for ages and, to be honest, I’ve held the record since May 2009 (before improving it myself in October 2013), so it’s about time somebody else had it. Hopefully Rob’s breakthrough is just the start of a glut of sub-2:30 marathon performances.”

After Sunday’s race, Rob joined the rest of his team-mates in a pub, and he said: “Brendan Morris, who ran another great race for a big PB, then put on his second magnificent performance of the day!”

Meanwhile the tributes poured in from club-mates on social media and men’s captain Phil Reay said: “I’m running out of superlatives for Rob Corney. He’s re-written the club’s history books this year. His hard work and dedication have really paid off.

“There were a couple of things from Berlin which really stand out and encapsulate the culture of the club and the good all-round people we have there.

“Firstly that our previous club marathon record holder Keith Russell was in Berlin genuinely willing Rob on to break the record and was the person to break the news.

“Secondly, Rob had an amazing day and the spotlight was on him, but he still made the time to congratulate another of our members on a PB in a 10k.”

So, what’s next for the club’s No.1 speedster after a year which has also seen him chalk personal bests at 15k, ten miles and parkrun as well as victory in a 60k ultra-marathon in Snowdonia?

Immediate targets include a half-marathon in Sweden and he has an entry in the Abingdon Marathon on October 21st.

By then, of course, the records books may have been rewritten again. I understand that Matt Richards, who was nine minutes quicker than Corney in the London Marathon in April, is confident of running a very good time in the Chicago Marathon on October 7th.

And Mark Worringham, fresh from his 11th-place finish in the M40 marathon at the World Masters Championships in Malaga at the weekend, will be chasing another good time in the Chester Marathon on the same day.

Will Keith Russell, far from fully fit at the moment, bid to get his record back? “Of course. That goes without saying.”

Buley, madly, deeply! How Gemma wowed Wycombe

GEMMA BULEY was the big winner at the eighth round of the Reading Roadrunners’ club championship, the Wycombe 10k.

Gemma was first lady home at Adams Park and led our girls to take the team prize.

In doing so she moved up to 199 points and pretty much sewed up this year’s senior ladies title.

Gemma finished 22nd overall in 46 minutes 20 seconds, just 36 seconds and one place ahead of Katherine Sergeant, who also came first of the F40s.

Melanie Shaw, fourth lady overall, and Sally Carpenter helped Roadrunners clinch the four-to-score team award.

Paloma Crayford rounded off a day of success as the first F50 finisher.

Also among the age group winners was Alan Freer, who didn’t let a heavy fall stop him from collecting the M60 prize.

“It was a real pleasure to chase Alan round the course,” said Gemma, “although he gave me a fright when he fell over about 7k in. He was incredible descending on those hills and he jumped straight up, completing the course with blood trickling down his face and knees.

“I’m in absolute awe of him. He gave me a good run all the way round.”

Alan said: “I was only on the ground for about five seconds.” At the finish he still had well over three minutes in hand over his main F60 opposition, Marlow Striders captain Mike Thompson.

Alan had already made sure of the F60 championship but was still chasing points in the ‘all racers positioned by age grade’ title race.

Gemma was quick to praise her team-mates’ achievements. “I was so pleased for Mel Shaw contributing to winning the team prize as she says she never wins anything. She did so well in the heat.

“Katherine carried her water round, offering it to me out on the course. Such lovely team spirit as always in the Roadrunners.”

Gemma was also on hand to accept the second-place team prize for Roadrunners’ men as our four stars had already left the Wycombe Wanderers ground.

The successful foursome was Andrew Smith, Tom Peirson-Smith, Paul Kerr and, first home in his debut event in our colours, James Rennie.

Sixteen-year-old James was sixth to finish overall in a time of 42:14. Bearing in mind that almost everyone was about five minutes over par over a challenging trails course on a stinking hot day, that shows he is proving a very useful recruit.

Andrew Smith’s performance took him to 200 points and the guarantee of at least a share of the men’s V40 title.

Ninth overall, his team prize followed key roles in both the club’s recent relay triumphs on the Ridgeway and at Runnymede.

There are also new leaders in the M50 (David Fiddes) and M65 (Andy Atkinson) title races, as well as at senior level (Chris Buley).

But Chris (left), hampered in this race by a knee injury, was not celebrating like his wife. He knows what  he has to do to take the title, but he has a sense of foreboding about what’s coming next.

“Rob Corney is running against me at the Englefield 10k,” he said. Good luck with that, Chris!

Englefield is on August 26th but the next round of the championship is the Burnham Beeches Half Marathon on August 12th.

That event is listed as a ‘road’ race…. but then so was the Wycombe 10k! Someone misinformed our excellent championship organiser….

*Our main picture shows Mel Shaw, Katherine Sergeant and Gemma Buley bookended by race officials.

*Results: http://racetimingsolutions.racetecresults.com/Results.aspx?CId=16269&RId=909&EId=1

*Standings after round eight are on the club championship page.

What Katie did next: The return of the prodigal daughter…

 

ROADRUNNERS coach Katie Gumbrell is about to make a comeback following a summer sabbatical. Here she explains the reasons for her absence…

“It doesn’t matter that I was asked me to write this by our resident hack, David Dibben, or that it’s taken 16 re-writes to get it done, this is massively self-indulgent.

“I’ve had a little bit of a break from coaching. Contrary to the rumours (largely self-manufactured), this has not been to assist Gareth Southgate at the World Cup, pregnancy, nor a run-in with the law. Truth is, I have three jobs, a family, hobbies other than running and sometimes those things get in the way (life is rarely about time, just priorities). 

“I was asked to support a new coach, Vroni Royle, for a few weeks, as she aimed to gain her Coach in Running Fitness qualification. This coincided with a couple of Wednesdays of work interference, some volunteering elsewhere and a family crisis or two for good measure. Oh, and an assignment for my MA in Mindfulness in Education and a gym instructor qualification.

“It became rather more straightforward to have a break from coaching for Reading Roadrunners, rather than leave session plans for someone else to deliver.

“While supporting another coach was great development for me, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to offer the best coaching to my athletes at the same time. Since planning for other people takes significantly longer than planning for oneself, I just didn’t have the capacity to do both.

“I also took the opportunity to have a think about what volunteering as a coach means to me. While I’m a relatively new and inexperienced coach, I’ve been a teacher for over 10 years and the two roles aren’t entirely dissimilar.

“For me, that means carrying my professional integrity into my volunteering role, which means being the best I can be on any given day.

“In coaching terms, it’s about knowing my athletes and their goals, and planning sessions around them. That’s fine, since most of the Roadrunners athletes are distance runners and, regardless of the overall distance of the long-term goal (10k, marathon, whatever), a Wednesday night session should suit all athletes.

“Runners can then plan in the training they will need to specify for their event around the Wednesday night. I have done this planning for many runners and they’ve had some great successes.

“My thinking culminated in a decision to restart my coaching group. In order to avoid being accused of poaching athletes, which would be a contravention of the Code of Conduct from UK Athletics, I sought advice from Simon Davis, the club’s Coaching Co-ordinator, about how best to let people know that I was going to be available again. Simon suggested I go via the club committee, which I duly did.

“So, I am going to resume a coaching group on 25th July, once term’s ended and at least some things have calmed down a bit. The group will be aiming to have a good time while training hard, whether the overall goal is to get faster, run for longer, find a lost mojo, regain fitness, pootle about, whatever!

“Everyone will be welcome; no one will be obliged.”

*Coach Katie is pictured in her natural habitat, at her favourite watering hole.

 

Midweek marvel Loretta conquers bonkers marathon

ROADRUNNER Loretta Briggs has enjoyed an amazing marathon success… on a THURSDAY!

At the Dorney Lake Marathon, Loretta…

*SMASHED the ladies’ course record by four minutes…

*IMPOROVED her personal best at the distance by a whopping 12 minutes and..

*GRABBED a Good For Age qualification for next year’s London Marathon.

But the Emmer Green mum, who finished in 3hr 33mins and 58 seconds,  reckons her biggest achievement was in simply FINDING the event.

The Dorney Lake race is organised by a company called Running Miles, who specialise in staging low-key events, mainly in midweek, in Berks, Bucks and West London.

“It wasn’t easy to find,” said Loretta. “I did some online digging for marathons before the August cut-off for London GFA entry.

“That’s not easy as most of them are in the spring, or in July when it’s too hot.

“For my Milton Keynes marathon in May it was 29C so things didn’t exactly go to plan and I ran 3:49. But I knew I had more in me this year.

“The Dorney race was so dull, though. It was ten out-and-backs along the lake… not even round it, just up and down, up and down…

“However it is UKAA registered and should hopefully qualify me for London GFA next year. The GFA for my age is sub-3:50.

“Also, I was first lady and broke the women’s course record by four minutes, in an albeit small, and slightly bonkers, field. 

“Anyone who turns out on a Thursday to run ten out-and-backs over a marathon distance must be bonkers, including me. Definitely running nerd territory. But a win is a win.”

Loretta came home 13th overall in a field of 66 and said: “There were a few obsessives there on the day… 100 Clubbers etc!”

Despite her success she said: “I’m not sure I really enjoy running marathons at all. Past 20 miles is not fun for me. But I’d be very glad to have another pop at London.”

Loretta is married to the Roadrunners’ distance star Seb, and within two days of her fine performance at Dorney there was another Briggs showing his paces.

Six-year-old youngest son Tommy made his debut at Reading parkrun alongside his dad and came home in 28 minutes.  “He loved it,” said a proud mum.

  • Loretta and Seb are pictured above with sons Louis and Tommy and their niece.
  • Right: Tommy (left) collecting his award for being the first six-year-old finisher at the Green Park Mile

Nott a problem as Corney completes record hat-trick

ROB CORNEY smashed his third Reading Roadrunners record in the space of just eight days when he won the Royal Berkshire 10k at Green Park.

Rob’s time of 31 minutes 30 seconds took eight seconds off the previous club best which had stood for 23 years. And it followed new records in the Marlow 5 on the previous Sunday and in the Track 5k barely 40 hours before.

His time of 15:23 in the Friday night handicap event improved Mark Worringham’s old record by 15 seconds… but was not his biggest moment of the week at Palmer Park.

Just 48 hours before, Rob had so impressed national coach Nick Anderson that he invited our man to take part in an England training camp later this summer.

At Green Park, Rob says he “got lucky” in finding someone to push him to a new course record in the race in which he was pipped on the dip by Oxford’s Jon Holmans in a photo finish last year.

That someone was the Wiltshire champion Simon Nott, who led the Roadrunners star for the first 7k. “I was definitely dragged round,” said Rob. “It was a bit off a shock to find myself sitting behind someone at 31:30 pace.

“I didn’t fancy a repeat of last year’s sprint finish, so I had to grit my teeth and maintain the gap. It was nice to see the clock reading what had been my target time for the season.”

Nott chased him all the way to the line, finishing just nine seconds in arrears.

Another West Countryman, Dan Mapp, was third, with Jack Gregory, the winner of this event in 2014, in fourth.

Afterwards Jack (right, No.2342) revealed that he has left Reading AC and joined Roadrunners as a first-claimer. That’s a great signing, as he has a 10k PB even quicker than the all-conquering Corney!

Reading AC speedster, Naomi Mitchell, was first lady finisher in 36:59.

These were the stars of a race which attracted 60 Roadrunners on a baking hot day, far more than the Binfield 10k (10 RR) and our club championship 10-mile event at Hook 10 (16 RR).

Dave McCoy (the Irish one) finished second at Hook, Alan Freer won the MV60 award and Katherine Sergeant came in second FV40.

There were no age group prizes for our club at Green Park, although my son Mark, coached by Corney, was second in the MV40 group with a big personal best. I made it a family double with a similar placing in the MV60s and Alex Harris was runner-up at MV50.

Pride of place among the personal best achievements went to Sarah Richmond-De’voy, (left) who completed a full house of PBs for the year at every distance she has competed.

In doing so she emulated Gemma Buley, Roadrunners’ first lady finisher in 41:48 despite running with a heavy cold. That was passed on to her by husband Chris, recovering but still not sufficiently to finish within half a minute of his wife.

Our second girl over the line was Loretta Briggs, also with a PB to follow up her excellent performance in the Milton Keynes Marathon.

More PBs came from Beth Rudd (below), with a three-minutes improvement, David Clay, following up his first sub-20 park run the previous day, and Ivan “that was a bit toasty” Harding. Vince Williams (first time under 45), Sarah Bate, Paul Morrissey and Ben and Jess Johnson also set new marks.

But there was no doubt about the performance of the day from the man who Track 5k organiser Fergal Donnelly called “not just a phenomenal runner, but a great sport.”

Rob has proved himself as a top clubman in the last month by staying behind to marshal the junior races after his victory at the Shinfield 10k and then allowing himself to be the patsy at the Track 5k.

There it was convincingly proved that the only way to beat Corney is to start a race a damn long time before he does.

Next he will prove his worth again at the Ridgeway Relay, where he has volunteered to run leg six, the daunting climb over the Downs out of Goring, for men’s captain Phil Reay’s all-star squad.

After Sunday’s latest record splurge he took the trouble to email me to pass on praise to many other club-mates who ran well and for the efforts of Glynne Jones, Emma Caswell, Chris Drew and the rest of the RR volunteers marshalling the start/finish area.

Corney’s contribution to the club was best summed up by the immortal words of Emma Caswell: “Bloody all-round amazing.”

 

Pictures by Ian McGuinness.

Results: http://www.royalberkshire10k.com

Traffic can’t hold up the Corney record machine

ROB CORNEY completed part two of his grand scheme to rewrite the Reading Roadrunners’ record books when he won the Marlow 5 in 25 minutes and 42 seconds.

That was despite being, quite literally, held up in traffic during the race.

Rob lost time when the pace car pulled up in front of him to avoid back-markers running on the wrong side of the road at a point where the course revisits a street used at both one and four miles.

“I had to slow down,” he said. “It definitely cost me a few seconds.”

Nevertheless his time in the fourth round of this year’s club championship improved the previous best set by Mark Worringham at Headington two years ago by 21 seconds.

Then Corney revealed that his achievement in his first competitive race at the distance was the second time he had broken the old mark in a week.

“I was through five miles in pretty much the same time during the Shinfield 10k on Monday,” he said.

It was Rob’s second club record of the year, he having lowered the long-standing half marathon mark to 1:09.20 with his second-place finish behind Scott Overall at Wokingham.

His next target will be the club’s 23-year-old 10k record of 31:38, set by the Ethiopian Zak Tsegay, when he races the prestige Vitality London event on May 28th.

And once again he is ahead of the game, having been inside that time when he went through 10k during the Maidenhead Easter 10 miles event.

But Corney was only one of seven Roadrunners to mount the podium at Marlow, with our ladies squad of Gemma Buley, Katherine Sargeant, Helen Pool and Julie Rainbow having captured the team prize, all four of them running personal bests.

There were also individual prizes for second-claimer Ben Paviour (MV40) as well as Ed Dodwell (MV60), who was claiming his fourth such award in the space of a remarkable 15 days.

Gemma Buley was our first lady home, and fourth overall, in a time of 32:07, a PB with more than six minutes to spare. She had celebrated her 26th birthday six days earlier with a two-minute PB in the Shinfield 10k.

Katherine captured the FV40 age category prize to follow up her excellent time of 3hr 14mins in dreadful conditions at the Boston Marathon.

Helen also made a second trip to the podium with runners-up prize in the FV40 group, having shaved seven seconds off her PB.

And Julie made it a clean sweep of PB’s among our successful girls, coming in as fourth scorer to clinch the award.

Roadrunners were controversially denied a team prize double when the race organisers decided that Paviour was deemed to have entered to represent his first-claim club, Herne Hill Harriers.

Ben was wearing our green vest and finished fifth overall in 27:10. With Corney’s first place, Stephen Ridley in eighth and Ben Whalley 22nd, that should have left us clear winners. 

But the organisers were having none of it and our next finisher, Pete Jewell, despite PB’ing in 42nd position couldn’t quite get us across the line.

Pete had plenty of consolations… a county championship silver medal, all 50 points in his club championship group as well as 50 more in the prestigious age-grading section (pipping even Corney), and a first PB for five years.

He was one of no fewer than 13 Roadrunners who picked up Berkshire championship gongs in the final event of the county’s road-running programme.

Gold for Corney, of course, in the senior men, and a bronze for Ridley; silver for Ben Whalley in the 40-49 group; silver for Jewell and bronze for Alex Harris in the 50-59 section and a clean sweep in the 60+ category, where there was gold for Alan Freer, silver for myself and bronze for Andy Atkinson.

The ladies among the bling were Gemma, with a senior silver, Helen Pool with a 35-44 silver, Sam Whalley with a 45-54 bronze, while in the 55+ group coach Lesley Whiley took silver and Susan Knight bronze.

All that success led to nine more medals, including two golds, in the county’s overall awards for their four events at Wokingham, Maidenhead, Woodley and Marlow.

Alan Freer emulated Corney by finishing with a perfect record of four golds, so they will both have a fifth gold to help them celebrate.

There will be silver for Alex Harris (V50) and Andy Atkinson (V60), plus a bronze for myself.

Among the ladies there will be more silvers for Gemma and Helen Pool and bronze medals for a couple of new names enjoying county success, Helen Dixon (seniors) and Paloma Crayford (FV45).

Some of those girls were also able to celebrate taking full points in there club championship… Gemma (senior), Helen Pool (V35), Katherine Sargeant (V45), Lesley Whiley (V55), Heather Bowley (V65) and Cecilia Csemiczky (V70).

The men who picked up the full complement of points were Corney (senior), Ben Whalley (V40), Pete Jewell (V50), Alan Freer (V60), David Dibben (V65) and Jim Kiddie (V70).

Those not already given a mention should go to the head of the long list of those who claimed a PB… Tracey Hicks, Vince Williams, Adele Graham, Hilary and Peter Rennie, Stewart Wing, Helen Dixon, Susan Knight, Paloma Crayford, Sam Whalley, Katherine Sargeant, Julie Rainbow, Fergal Donnelly and Pete Jewell should take a bow ahead of the usual suspects, Gemma Buley, Helen Pool, Stephen Ridley and Rob Corney.

The club championship roadshow quickly moved on to the second of its three 10-mile events, this time at Hook. 

Whether or not next year’s championship includes the Marlow 5, I would strongly advise anyone who has not already done so to give this race a try.

It’s my idea of a value-for-money event, being comparatively cheap to enter, well organised with generous vouchers for prize-winners from Runners’ Retreat, a quality T-shirt for finishers as well as a bag full of goodies and results published almost as soon as you cross the line after a race which provides a great chance of a personal best. 

Respect to the Handy Cross club for their organisation!

Pictures by Fiona Ross and Matt Fowler

Full results at can be found here

Richards defies the brutal one-day London heatwave

 

MATTHEW RICHARDS was the Reading Roadrunners star on a blisteringly hot day at the Virgin London Marathon.

Richards was the first Roadrunner home in the sensational time of two hours 32 minutes and 39 seconds.

His red-hot performance matched the temperature in the capital as he ran a new personal best time, eclipsing even the brilliant time produced by Mark Worringham at Brighton a week previously.

The club’s 20-miles record holder (left) showed he could add another storming 10k to that distance, running a personal best and a negative split to finish 45th overall.

Apart from Richards, a lot of his club colleagues wilted in the heat and there was general disappointment that what people had trained for so hard for so long was simply impossible on the warmest-ever day in the history of the race.

A lot of victims of the 24-hour heatwave felt like losers afterwards, but the winners could turn out to be the organisers of the Abingdon Marathon. Roadrunners are already queuing to sign up for the Oxfordshire event on October 21st, determined to use their training in more favourable conditions.

Back at Greenwich, the options were simply to scale back on one’s ambitions… or pay the price!

There were personal bests on the day for Liz Atkinson, Sarah Richmond-De’voy and, of course, the Queen of Improvements Gemma Buley (3:33.37, pictured right), but the real Roadrunners stars were right at the back of the field, where Hannah McPhee and Jenny Gale took over seven and a half hours to complete their brave, roasting journey.

Our athletes set off boosted by a string of helpful tips from club marathon record holder Keith Russell, who must have known his figures weren’t going to be threatened in such conditions.

Most people’s experience was summed up in a nutshell by Steve Ridley: “I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a PB, so started backing off. Wheels came off properly from miles 14-18…”

Another of the club’s elite runners, Seb Briggs, who had been the first Roadrunner to finish in 2017, said: “Absolutely astounding from Matthew Richards, who managed an incredible time and placement. Brilliant work.

“The Roadrunners at Mile 23 were fantastic again and it’s difficult to overstate how much of a boost they give you at what is probably the hardest part of the 26.2.”

Briggs (below) admitted that his time of 2:42.14 was way off what he envisaged when he started training for the event back in December. “But it was more than acceptable considering the heat,” he said.

“My time was put into perspective by the fact that I finished in the top 200. I started the race with a target time for 2:35 but with the energy-sapping heat and my right leg starting to cramp up I had to readjust my target and enjoy the experience.

“I had the pleasure of running alongside the impressive Brendan Morris for the majority of the way. Approaching 30k he told me he didn’t think he could sustain his pace before speeding off while I chugged along, seeing him go further and further into the distance. Cheers for that!”

Brendan, the hero of a ‘secret’ half-marathon victory in the capital a month before, said: “I tried to reserve some energy to pick up the pace in the final 10k but when I put the hammer down I simply couldn’t get my legs to go any quicker.

“The last few miles seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t look up at the scaffolded Big Ben as it seemed a hell of a long way away and not getting any closer.

“I knew the PB was not a possibility from five miles out but I was still happy with my time (2:41.48) taking into account the conditions on the day.

“It was clear a lot of people were struggling in the heat. I was hoping for a top-250 finish, so finding out I had come in at 183rd confirmed it was a run I should be happy with.”

Another runner to take a realistic view of the conditions was Alex Harris, who said: “It was one of those days when you just had to focus on survival and getting round safely. Pretty much everyone was way off their target time.”

That didn’t stop Alex, recently new to the V50 age category, from coming within nine seconds of a personal best with a time of 2:56.58.

“I didn’t look at my time until there was 600 metres to go and by then it was too late,” he said.

“I was totally cooked after eight miles and I couldn’t see how I could finish, so I stopped looking at pace/splits and just focused on getting round.

“Anyway I was really happy with my time as the conditions were brutal.”

Those conditions caused a scare for Sarah Dooley, who collapsed at the finished and was wheeled off to the medical tent without being able to collect her medal and goody bag.

“The race was a bit of a disaster for me,” she said. “I had to make two toilet stops due to stomach cramps, then I had trouble breathing in the last few hundred metres and couldn’t breathe when I crossed the line.”

Sarah still managed to complete the course in a highly creditable 3:39.10.

Another runner to make several toilet stops was my training partner Joe Blair, but that was because he was sensibly taking on board plenty of water.

Joe, doing the Brighton-London double on consecutive weekends due to charity commitments, said: “I decided to follow collective advice and start slowly. That paid huge dividends.

“I took on water every mile, mainly to douse my hat, wrists and neck. But the heat really drains you and in truth I still had a bit of Brighton in my legs.

“I finished comparatively strongly and it was only when I finished that I allowed myself to accept the achievement of two marathons in eight days. So far I’ve raised over £2,400 for my charity, Marie Curie.

“The heat took quite a few casualties and I’m just grateful that I made it round.”

One of those casualties occurred near the Roadrunners marshalling at Mile 23. There Chris Manton had to carry a fallen runner off the course to the medical facilities.

Another runner upset by the heat was our own Melanie Shaw, disappointed not to be in a position to challenge for a PB after a year out with an injury deferral.

“I was totally wiped out by the heat,” she said. “You’ve no idea how hard it was out there today.”

Back out on the course, Hannah (right) and Jenny, the bravest of the brave, were still battling and it was almost 6.20pm when they finally made it to the Mall.

Roadrunners’ ladies captain Sam Whalley paid this tribute to her girls: “Huge kudos to Hannah and Jenny; I can’t imagine what it must have taken to keep going in those conditions.

“It took me back to the disaster that was Brighton 2017, where the high temperatures had me reduced to an alternating walk/shuffle for the second half of the race.

“Anyone who ran yesterday should be really proud of themselves for getting round. Look what the heat did to that marathon great, Mary Keitany. It was an exceptional day.”

The Roadrunners’ spirit was summed up by Seb Briggs when he said: “Looking forward to next year already.”

Another triumph for Corney in Woodley 10k

 

ROADRUNNER Rob Corney warmed up in style for the London Marathon with victory in the Woodley 10k.

It was his second big win of the year and followed success at the Devon Coastal Marathon as well as setting a new club half-marathon record at Wokingham and his superb third place in the Maidenhead Easter 10.

Corney stormed home in 32mins 18secs from the Bracknell Forest runner Neil Kevern, with James Samson, of Datchet, third.

Roadrunners also took ninth and tenth places, with Mark Apsey at last beating his target 35-minutes barrier with 34.49, followed in by Dave McCoy.

Corney was one of three Roadrunners to pick up a Berkshire county championship gold medal, being joined by Alan Freer (MV60) and a new name to FV55 honours, Sarah Bate.

There were also silver medals for Helen Pool and Pete Jewell and a bronze for Mary Janssen.

Both Freer and Corney lead their categories after three events with a perfect 30 points and look assured of overall gold when the competition comes to a climax at the Marlow 5 on May 13th.

A-category first places went to Caroline Hoskins (FV50), who was fourth lady overall, as well Ed Dodwell (MV60, below) and Roger Pritchard (MV70), plus of course Corney in the senior men.

There were plenty of other Roadrunners celebrating personal bests after the Woodley race, most notably Stewart Wing, who slashed just over SIX minutes off his previous figure, finishing in 42:01.

Vince Williams also improved his mark to 45:32 and remarked wistfully: “Apparently that was my idea of taking it easy before London.”

Among the ladies cheering new figures were Paloma Crayford, achieving a pb for the fifth race in a row with 49:36, Fleur Denton in 48:36 (“best since I got married”) and Maria Norville, whose time of 54:59 was seven minutes better than in the same race a year previously.

Sarah Bate (below) made it a double of county bling and PB, Candy Cox got a second PB to follow up her new mark at the Maidenhead 10 and there were also new best times for Peter and Hilary Rennie, Helen Dixon, Suzanne Drakeford-Lewis, Jo Rippingale and Laura Chandler.

All of them probably agreed with Corney when he said: “The Woodley 10k was a nice race. It was good fun and well organised.

“There were some good runners, so I got the measure of everyone in the first couple of km before opening up a lead.

“It was a comfortable run, about 30 seconds slower than my first 10k in Maidenhead, but I had half an eye on London.

“I like the fact that my two wins this year have come from completely different races… trail marathon and road 10k.”

Corney has promised a renewed assault on county championship medals, club championship points and more race victories after his big date in London.

 

Worringham super show and England call for Davies

 

MARK WORRINGHAM was the Roadrunners’ hero at the Brighton Marathon, finishing 13th in a field of nearly 20,000.

The former club men’s captain took nearly four minutes off his personal best, coming home in a time of two hours, 32 minutes and 46 seconds.

His successor as men’s captain, Phil Reay, led the tributes to his star vet. “Like a fine wine, Mark just gets better with age,” he said. “To run a marathon in that time and take almost four minutes off his PB is incredible.

“Mark gets a lot of plaudits for his times and achievements but what is really impressive is his bravery and courage.

“He attacked the Brighton course, running the first half in 1:13.37 to see what he had in him. Respect.”

Just ahead of Mark, the race had a dramatic climax, the long-time leader Dan Nash losing his massive lead to Stuart Hawkes in the final mile, the Tipton Harrier winning for the second year in a row in a time of 2:22.33. But, unknown to the huge crowds on the seafront, the outcome was decided, just like most Formula One Grands Prix…. in the pits!

Young Welshman Nash had been forced to make not one but TWO unscheduled stops to use the portaloo facilities.

The ladies was also won for the second successive year by Helen Davies, of Ipswich, in 2:38.41.

Roadrunners’ second man home, Paddy Hayes, slashed a massive ten minutes off his personal best … and then treated us to a brilliant summation of the big event.

“Brighton was where it all began for me,” said Paddy (below). “It was my first marathon in 2015, where I first felt that awful feeling of running completely out of available energy and trying to push on for the final few miles without slowing too much. I felt that again last Sunday.

“I was trying to bring my PB down from 3:14.34 to something much quicker, so I gambled and went with the sub-3hr pace group.

“I knew it wouldn’t last, but I wanted to see how long I could cling on for. I enjoyed the first half immensely, despite or maybe even because of the ups and downs around Rottingdean and Ovingdean.

“The fourth quarter of the race was pure punishment. The sub-3hr group had gone away around half way, and I focused on seven-minute miling until around mile 22.

“In an otherwise scenic race, the stretch around Shoreham port is painfully uninspiring. The power station, sawmills and warehouses aren’t much to look at and there are relatively few spectators.

“After turning for home I had to keep asking my legs for one more mile at 7min pace, then one more at 7.15 as fatigue began to bite.

“Eventually the race re-joins the seafront promenade, the finish line now in sight, albeit three and a half miles away. I crossed the line at 3:04.02, feeling that familiar combination of appalling pain and elation.

“It’s worth repeating just how much difference is made by the support of fellow Reading Roadrunners, both spectating and running.

“It was particularly cheering to see Mark Worringham over at the head of the race.

“Naturally I was pleased with my time but I later spotted that the London Marathon have tightened up their Good For Age criteria and capped the number of places.

“It appears I need to find another four minutes, left out on the road somewhere in Shoreham.”

For Paddy’s training partner, Dan Brock, the race had a contrasting outcome… no PB but a Good For Age qualification.

The British Airways long-haul captain finished in 3:11.58, slightly off the pace of the 3:09 he ran at Abingdon last year. He plans to use that GFA qualification to run Chicago in October and use his Brighton certificate for Boston next year.

“These are both places we fly to on the jumbo,” said Dan, “but I think I’ll go as a passenger for the races.

“Boston is a favourite destination of mine as the city is setup for running and whenever I’m there I’ll always run.

“If I can find a 10k or another event when I’m down-route, I always try to enter. I enjoyed a good 10k in Mexico City last year, but the 7,832 feet of elevation made it hard going.”

Dan (right) will be one of eight Roadrunners in the Simon Davis training group heading out to next month’s Copenhagen Marathon, and he had plenty of praise for his team-mates.

“Most of my long runs are done with Simon’s fantastic Sunday morning group,” he said. “I really can’t begin to say how wonderful they are. Everyone encourages each other and a large proportion came down to Brighton to support… very loudly.”

Another Roadrunner to return an outstanding time was Chris Buley, finishing his very first marathon in 3:21.17.

“I didn’t know what to expect and it was a really enjoyable experience,” said Chris. “I loved every moment of it and was very pleased with my time.

“Running towards the power station was particularly tricky and the only dull part of the race.

“I was going really well until mile 21 when I had severe cramping in both legs. My left leg cramped and then my right… it was agony! I’ve never had such bad cramp.

“Next time I have to be a bit smarter with fuelling for the last five miles as, for once, my fitness felt great.

“It was nice to see fellow Roadrunners along the way, so thanks to those who gave me a big cheer and smile.”

Improver-of-the-day title went to Michael Hibberd (3:21.38), who chopped a massive 28 minutes off his previous time, while Mark Andrew (3:25.32) had to settle for a two-minutes improvement.

Roadrunners’ first lady to finish was Jane Davies in 3:41.35, and it was the start of a bitter-sweet week for her.

“That’s well outside my PB of 3:22.08 which I ran in London in 2013, so I’m about four minutes a year slower,” she said.

“It was a GFA for me, but it’s easier for the ladies. The GFA rules for London have changed though, so I won’t definitely get a place.”

But Jane’s mood changed from disappointed to euphoric a couple of days later when she learned she had been called up for the England Age Group Masters marathon team.

Her performance at Brighton, after which she cooled off in the sea (left), sparked an email from England Athletics confirming her selection to represent her country against a Celtic Nations team on a date yet to be announced.

Jane’s performances for a lady approaching the closing months of her spell in the FV55-59 age category never ceased to amaze, as do those by the inimitable Ashley Middlewick.

Ashley’s body of exercise for the weekend consisted of a cycle ride from Reading into London on Saturday, another from South London down to Brighton on the morning of the race and a further ride home afterwards.

In the middle of all that he contrived to slip in a parkrun at the new Hazlewood course in Sunbury-on-Thames, where he was the FIRST finisher. Oh, and he ran the marathon in 3:08.03.

The day’s racing at Brighton kicked off with a 10k in which both Roadrunners competing, Vroni Royle  and Nicola Gillard, chalked up personal bests.

They were no doubt helped by being pulled along by a high-class field with pacemakers… but not by stopping for their drinks!