Freer we go again as Alan leads the Roadrunners gold rush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 28th: Wokingham Half Marathon.

April 19th: Maidenhead 10.

May 12th: Marlow 5.

August 11th: Burnham Beeches 10k.

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

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

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

All details about the championships, which will include a new FV65 section in 2019, can be found at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Results now available at:

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

A Royle command performance in the city that never sleeps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muddy marvels! Roadrunners triumph in an Eton mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of the women’s race are here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of the men’s race are here:

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

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

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

The scoring teams were as follows:

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

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

Full results are now available at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, what a night! Mary reigns in Spain on weekend of culture


FOLLOWING his brilliant dispatch from the Berlin Marathon, Roadrunner Andy Atkinson has been pounding the streets of the continent again to bring us a first-hand report of another exciting race…

WHAT links architectural greats such as Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Cesar Pelli and Philippe Starck and sharp artists like Joana Vasconcelos, Alberto Giacometti and Jeff Koons with marathon running? Answer: they all come together in the Basque city of Bilbao.

On October 20th, international architecture and art were complemented by an equally international group of Reading Roadrunners, who came together to run the Bilbao night marathon, half and Carrera Pirata 10k.

Starting at the Estadio de San Mamés (ACXT, 2013), with a bag drop at the Euskalduna Palace (Soriano and Palacios, 1999) and a finish at the Guggenheim Museum (Gehry, 1997) for architecture alone the key race points won first, second and third prizes.

The race was billed as a “night marathon”, which immediately raised comparisons with Roadrunners’ outruns, groping through dimly-lit alleyways and tripping over raised ironwork and kerbs.

Yes, there were a few cobbles and tram tracks to negotiate and the going was a little uneven in places, but overall the “night” format worked very well. It is easy to see why this timing is quite popular in hot Spain. It is cooler, there is less traffic to handle and, work being over, the crowds were out in force and in fine voice. The Spanish also seem to spend a little more on street lighting, reducing the risk of an unexpected trip.

The race format was interesting in that all three distances were combined in one common start. So, once we had found the bag drop – not at the start, as we were to discover – we all lined up in four zones for the off. To get runners to stop at the correct distance, a system of filters was used in much the same way as the M25 separates off the M4!

The gusto of some runners made it equally hairy, with 10k runners zipping in front of marathoners to exit at the correct junction and then, for some unknown reason, rejoin the main traffic before splitting off again. 

The route was flat and fairly fast, sticking quite closely to the banks of the River Nervión through the heart of the town. However, the out-and-back riverside format had the unfortunate side effect of seeing the finish area approach on one side of the river, with cheering crowds and vivid illuminations, only to fade away as we slogged on to a far turning point.

The eventual finish made up for this – night accentuated the blazing lights alongside the Guggenheim and, never mind the neighbours, we were reeled in with music and cheering up to full volume.

Our performances were solid, but not spectacular and the jury is out on whether running at night is more efficient that in the morning. Our overall consensus was that morning is probably better, but who knows – there may not have been many owls in our group.

Fiona Ross (GB) took on the Carrera Pirata 10k, finishing with a very respectable time of 55:26. Most of the rest of us ran the half, with varying times.

A few notable performances included Fergal Donnelly (Ireland) at 1:27:11, Helen Pool (GB) at 1:36:54 and Nicole Rickett (Germany) at 1:43:58. Our guest on this trip, Seb Janssen (Netherlands), also managed a very respectable 1:52:48.

Two hardy Brits, Mary Janssen (right) and Mark Andrew accepted the marathon challenge, involving running twice around the half-marathon course. The repetition proved a challenge too far for Mark, who, afflicted by a stomach upset, withdrew after one lap, but managed a sprint to the loo, finishing in good time! Mary soldiered on to a brilliant 3:43:44

In the end however, she was not the biggest winner – Fiona picked up the sweepstake for most accurately predicting her finish time to within 20 seconds.

Finally, many runners live to run – not so with our group. We run to live and one of the great benefits of a Saturday night race was that most of that day and all the following Sunday we were free to socialise and explore the city.

It’s the Guggenheim museum’s 20th birthday and entry on both days was free. We made the most of this to review some interesting and controversial art (below). 

Like true tourists we did both bus and boat trips. Bilbao has consciously attracted famous international architects and engineers in revitalising its run-down areas. If you like modern art and architecture, it is a place not to be missed and the bus or boat are a good way to get an appreciation.

A recovery run on Monday, with beautiful weather in such a spacious city, was delightful. Another way some of us recovered was to cross-train with a swim at the Azkuna Zentroa swimming pool in an old wine warehouse re-modelled by French architect Philippe Starck. The quality of the building and the experience of swimming there is matched by few other pools. And all this is not to mention the jazz, bars, an excellent hotel and general ambience of the city.

So if you run to live, Bilbao is a great place to race. Use one of the three races as an excuse to get there, forget the PB and have a good time!

COMING SOON: Andy Atkinson reporting from the New York City Marathon.

Chantal’s the glory girl as vets enjoy a day out at the seaside

SOMETIMES we struggle to get reports from Roadrunners events. This week we are privileged to have TWO from the same meeting, with Sam Whalley and Colin Cottell doing the honours. Here’s the contribution from ladies’ captain Sam…

ANYONE who had seen the weather forecast for Bournemouth midweek might have been put off attending the first Hampshire League cross-county fixture of the season. But then again, it would have been proper XC weather. Unlike what it actually turned out to be – very mild and quite sunny.

The Bournemouth fixture is the furthest away, and it can be difficult to persuade enough people to travel, particularly with rumoured travel disruption just outside of the town.

Imagine my delight when nine women and nine men turned up – a bit of a difference to the respective three and seven we had seen a year ago; the word is spreading.

First of our women back was Chantal Percival, with a placing of 15th, the highest we have seen in the club for some time, and a position that earned her an offer to run for Hampshire in the Inter-Counties XC champs, had she been eligible.

Hopefully we will see Chantal (second from right in our team line-up) receive a similar offer in the Berkshire XC champs at the end of the year.

Making up the overall scoring team were Gemma Buley (47) and Bithja Jones (49), the latter running her first XC race for the club. Afterwards, Bithja said: “I hated it from km 3 to km 5, and now I feel like I loved it.” Yep. Sounds about right.

Sarah Dooley (73rd) and Nicole Rickett (137th) were our other vets to score, Nicole feeling like she had run her best given her recent holiday and busy work schedule, which involves shoe-horning in runs whenever she can.

Travelling by train with her Southampton University Athletics Club team-mates was Katie Rennie, making her debut in the Hampshire League, and giving us our first Under 20 runner in the team, at least in recent years.

Next was Claire Seymour, still basking in the glow of her Chester Marathon PB last week, albeit on tired legs, followed by Nicky Chadwick, who, like me, was inspired to run XC by a daughter who needed ferrying to the fixtures. The team was completed by Alix Eyles, making a return to racing.

I was delighted with the performances of all of the teams and hope this level of popularity continues throughout the season.

And here are the words of wisdom from Colin…

LONG gone are the days when Reading Roadrunners were represented by one man and his dog (well, actually, there was no dog) at the annual Hants Cross-Country League fixture in King’s Park, Bournemouth.  It was more a case of ‘we do love to be beside the seaside’ as the green vests descended on the south coast, if not exactly in their hordes, but in sizeable numbers.

The 70-mile journey proved to be time well spent as the green vests turned in a host of top performances.  We were up against some of the premier running clubs in the country, notably Aldershot, Farnham and District, never mind in Hampshire, and at the end of an afternoon of high-class racing,  Roadrunners’ veterans stood proudly at the top of the vets’ league and in seventh position in the first division. 

Meanwhile, our ladies, who had raced earlier in the afternoon in bright and unseasonably warm conditions, were in eighth position in their league, and sixth in the veterans’ table. 

In what is an inexperienced women’s team at this level of competition, pride of place must go to Chantal Percival.  Continuing her rich vein of form after her 1.27 half marathon the week before, and in her very first Hants League event, she ran a storming race.  

As high as 11th place at one stage, she faded only slightly on the last lap to come in 15th, but still well ahead of athletes of the calibre of W45 England international Kath Bailey. 

Gemma Buley and Bithja Jones, the latter also contesting her first Hants League race, also ran strongly, finishing 47th and 49th respectively. 

The results for all our women can be found here:

I am afraid I haven’t very much to say about the men. I was running, and by the time I had finished they were all on their second cup of tea. Suffice it to say they performed to the same high standard to which we have recently grown accustomed, Mark Apsey having a great race, Andy Mutton also going well and Chris Buley making a top debut.

I did hear Mark Worringham complaining that he was 15 seconds down on last year, and that he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, but I will take that with a pinch of sea salt given that he came in first V40, with Lance Nortcliff second.

With Andrew Smith and Pete Jewell giving great support, all I can say is Lord help all the other teams, when our vets gets all their ducks in a row.  

Full results for the men are at

I won’t trouble you with my own travails, except to say that it if had been a cricket match, the phrase ‘he didn’t trouble the scorers’ would have been appropriate. 

I can at least say that I continued my proud tradition in recent years of being the last male green vest to cross the line, although on this occasion I was only a whisker away from pipping Stuart Jones, another excellent debutant, to the post.

I tried a new tactic of trying to pace myself using my TomTom – I usually don’t switch it on at all for cross-country –  but found that after starting at 3.55 per km pace, and feeling easy, this dropped away steadily, until that final mad and ultimately futile dash to the line. 

The next Hants League fixture is on Saturday, November 10th, at Wellesley Woodlands, Aldershot. 

How Roadrunner Jane Davies put the ‘great’ in grandmother

ROADRUNNERS’ latest international Jane Davies tells the inside story of her debut for the England Age Group Masters team at the Chester Marathon…

SUNDAY, October 7th, saw me up before dawn tucking into a tin of cold rice pudding… my pre-marathon breakfast of choice.

By 7am I had donned my England vest and lots of layers of warm clothing and outside the sun was coming up. Our first task was to scrape the ice off the car before heading into the city to Chester racecourse. 

At race HQ, there was already a buzz and a warm welcome at the England Athletics tent. Pre-race team photos were a challenge as we had to strip off down to race kit in glacial conditions.

Our paparazzi moment was soon over and there was time for a quick canter around the racecourse before heading to the special start pen for the Celtic Challenge competitors. We were just behind the elites and puffed up with pride.

We set off at 9am with a loop around the city before heading out into the countryside and crossing the border into Wales.

My race plan was to average 5 minute-kilometres, but my new Garmin was telling me that I was doing 4m 35s. A quick decision (and it proved to be a good one) was to keep going at that pace for as long as possible, ticking off each kilometre.

It was certainly a gamble as I had done 3h 41m at Brighton in April and my race plan for Chester was a finish time between 3.30 and 3.40.  

My progress was helped by lots of family support en route; my husband, Phil, who I saw twice and who was in charge of my performance-enhancing jelly babies; my daughter, Helen, with her friend, Lizzie, and our granddaughter, Lexi, had found themselves a Welsh vantage-point; my son, Michael, daughter in law, Claire, and our baby grandson, Zac, were close to the start and later cheering me on as I came along the home straight at the finish.

My parents, Ann and Richard, were with me in spirit, supporting from their home in Suffolk, so I had four generations of family support in all.

I was in good spirits throughout the race with just one flat patch early on around the six-mile mark, but soon came through this and out the other side.

At the 20-mile point, when marathon gurus tell you that you are psychologically halfway, I knew I had to keep strong and have faith that my training would pay off. It certainly did and I overtook a lot of fellow runners during the last six miles.

The route was mainly flat with a few undulations until the last mile when we found out they’d been saving up a serious hill for us. It was SO tough at that stage of the race and we all had to dig deep to conquer it.

Finally, the racecourse was in sight and the finish gantry – euphoria!  Now I know how the horses feel. 

As we crossed the finish line to the roars from the crowd, we were rewarded with a wonderfully calorific goody bag (not a nosebag!) and a chunky medal.

My race stats : 

  • Finish time : 3.22.23  (PB : London marathon 2013 : 3.22.15)
  • Second in F55 category
  • 59th female out of a total 831 = top 8 per cent of women overall
  • Overall – 553 out of 2785 = top 20 per cent

I would recommend the Chester marathon for its excellent organisation, lovely venue, wonderful marshals and for all the friendly local people who came out to support. 

Plans now are to enjoy the cross-country season running for the club then to tackle the London marathon once again in April.  It will be my tenth London, 30 years after I first ran it in 1989.

The sky’s the limit for ambitious Roadrunners relay squad


ROADRUNNERS celebrated their first appearance in the national road relay championship finals with an ambitious target…. now let’s get there every year!

Men’s captain Phil Reay said: “The future’s bright for us. We’ve set a new benchmark. It was the first time in 31 years we have made it there, but with the strength in depth we have I expect these finals to be an annual fixture on our calendar.”

Roadrunners’ senior men were a highly-creditable 71st at Sutton Coldfield, having been elevated one place from their finishing position following the disqualification of Gateshead Harriers.

Our under-strength line-up on the Birmingham course included just two of the squad who did so well to qualify from the southern finals at Crystal Palace, Jack Gregory and Seb Briggs.

They were joined by two members of the B team, Chris Lucas and Jamie Smith, veteran squad anchor man Ben Whalley, and late call-up Ian Giggs. Reay said: “They all did the club proud.”

Like most of the other teams, Roadrunners front-loaded their line-up with their quickest runner, Jack producing our fastest leg in 18mins 42secs, good enough for 46th place.

Such was the strength of the opposition that Reading AC’s top man, the Great Britain international Jonny Davies, could only manage 12th place. Anyone who saw the clips posted on the club’s Facebook page by the acclaimed film-maker Pete Morris couldn’t failed to be impressed by how fast these guys were racing… and that was only the second-strings!

Nevertheless Seb managed to maintain most of Jack’s good work by coming home in 19:16 for 46th place. Chris ran 20:32 for 58th, Jamie 22:47 for 68th, Ian 22:51 for 72nd and Ben stayed in 72nd with 21:09. Our accumulated time was 2:05:17.

Among the big names who were missed by the Green Vests after their heroics at Crystal Palace were Matthew Richards and David McCoy, who both ran personal bests in the Chicago Marathon the following day. Matt clocked 2:31:20 and David 2:44:32.

The club had fielded a total of seven teams in the SEAA championships at Crystal Palace, with several club members stepping up to the challenge of running in more than one team after late cry-offs.  

“Every single runner gave 100 per cent,” said women’s team captain Sam Whalley later. “It was a grand day out.”

For the women, ever-consistent Carrie Hoskins was the fastest  Roadrunner over the 4.8k course, recording 18.32, followed by Gemma Buley in 18.54 and Katherine Sargeant 19.15.

Both Claire Seymour and Susan Knight went the extra mile by running two legs after two of those originally selected couldn’ t make it.

“It was tough but good,” said Susan. “It was a bit steep quite early on, but it doesn’t go on for ever.” Crystal Palace split times:

Senior Women A (4 stages of 4,800m): Gemma Buley (18.55), Jane Copland (19.54), Pip White (21.06), Sophie Hoskins (20.56).

Senior Women B: Sally Carpenter (22.48) , Sam Whalley (23.53), Susan Knight (23.31), Claire Seymour (25.38).

Veteran Women A: Helen Pool (20.03), Katherine Sargeant (19.17), Loretta Briggs (21.34), Carrie Hoskins (18.28).

Veterans Women B: Susan Knight (22.10), Claire Seymour 23.28), Angela Burley (22.55),  Julie Rainbow (21.26).

Senior Men A (6 stages of 6,100m): Mark Worringham (19.06), Jack Gregory (18.28), Mark Apsey (19.20), Rob Corney (18.32), Seb Briggs (19.40), Steve Ridley (19.36).

Senior Men B: David McCoy (19.55), Jamie Smith (22.24), James Lockhart (22.41), Ben Whalley (21.43), Chris Buley (22.54), Chris Lucas (20.26).

Veteran Men: Ben Whalley (20.50), Lance Nortcliff (20.11), Colin Cottell (in action above, 23.55), Mark Worringham (20.38).

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!