Roadrunners do relay really well to earn honours at the Palace

Multi-talented selector-captain-runner-baker-reporter SAM WHALLEY tells the inside story of Roadrunners’ relay teams’ big day out in the capital…

THE SEAA (or southern) road relays are a huge event in the Reading Roadrunners calendar these days. For many years they were held at Aldershot, with the women’s race on a Saturday, and the men’s on a Sunday. 

In recent years they have mostly been held at Crystal Palace (one year at Bedford Aerodrome was not popular), and we have grown from a minibus to a coach. We are grateful to the club for funding this for us; it’s so good for team spirit to be able to travel together, and takes some of the stress out of the day.

This year, I had enough interest to put together two senior teams and one vet 40 team for the women. I hadn’t noticed that this year, for the first time, they would also be accepting women’s teams in the vet 50 category – a breakthrough and another step towards equality. Whatever next — vet 60?

Mark Worringham acted as team captain for the men again, and was inundated with runners wanting to be part of the squad. He entered three senior teams and one vet 50 team, with himself and Seb Briggs being speedy enough to run as vet 40s in the seniors A team.

The rules with this and similar events are such that you can enter a certain number of runners per team, and no one may run who has not been entered on the original list. This allows for a bit of shifting around if there are any last-minute injuries, and while no athlete can run more than one leg in one age category, a vet runner could run a leg in both a senior and a vet team, if necessary. Fortunately, there were no on-the-day changes needed this year, for either the men or women, and no one was asked to double up and run two legs. Relief all round.

Arriving at around midday, we had enough time to use the delightful facilities, do a bit of shopping — coffee and event hoodies were the order of the day — check out the course, including the infamous steep-then-gradual hill, a changed finish from last year, and, for the men, an extra 0.7k loop around a car park, per lap.

It was also a good idea to watch the junior races, to check out how the handovers worked. 

Officials at such events have been doing their thing for years, and can be a bit shouty if you get it wrong. To the relief of our first-timers, there was no baton involved; you were just told to go once your incoming runner had crossed the chip mat. 

For Mark and me, there was also the task of collecting race numbers and chips and completing the team declarations, which involves writing down exactly who will be running which leg for which team. It’s no small job.

The women were off first, at 1.30pm. There were some nerves in the camp, with a few feeling more than a little intimidated. It’s fair to say that the best of the best run in events like this, including GB marathoner, Tracy Barlow, and local parkrun course record holders, Naomi Mitchell and Jess Gibbon.

Added to that the crop tops and skimpy shorts (OK, pants), and confidence can be knocked, especially considering where we were all at in our race schedules and general health. 

I had run a marathon the week before, Sarah Dooley and Liz Johnson were a week away from their marathon, Mel had not long returned from a long period out with injury, Claire Woodhouse had had her second baby only six months ago, Gemma Buley, Aga Faulkner and Sally were nursing niggles, and Claire Seymour and Magda were at the end of colds. Apart from that, I think everyone was raring to go.

Both senior and vet teams run together, so it was Gemma Buley, Aga Faulkner and Sarah who were tasked with getting the A, B and vet teams, respectively, off to a good start. They did not disappoint, running fantastic times of 17:25, 21:39 and 19:01 for the 4.8k.

They handed over to Laura Peatey, Sally Carpenter and Magda Bennett, who again ran brilliantly, with 18:53, 22:23 and 19:57. 

On the third leg were Mel Shaw, Claire Woodhouse and Claire Seymour, who handed over the metaphorical baton in 18:55, 23:01 and 22:52.

Waiting in the start pen with Liz Johnson and Claire Raynor, it was wonderful to hear Liz declare “She’s quick” as Mel ran in, looking strong. Having missed last year’s race due to injury, Mel’s journey must be one of the comeback stories of the year. 

Liz herself has gone from strength to strength since taking up running only a couple of years ago. Feeling somewhat daunted by her escalation to the A team, she did herself and the team proud, bringing them home in 20:44 (her personal target had been 22 minutes), which gave them an overall finishing position of 32nd out of 55 complete teams. Fantastic!

Claire Raynor, who had also been watching her son Mattie race, was next off for the vets, with unfortunate timing that meant she was caught up quite quickly in the entire first leg of the men’s race, which started moments after she had set off. 

Having been ushered to the side so that the 141 men could start, I did not envy her one bit. Nevertheless she had a great run, coming in at 21:33, and ninth out of 10 complete teams — a great result!

I was the penultimate woman to set off for the final leg of the senior women’s race. Yes, I realise I am way too old to be in an under 40s team, and I had thought I would be safely on the bench as third reserve. Alas, three women having to pull out meant that I had to get my tired legs back into action and complete the team. Captain’s duty. 

Watching the YouTube footage, anyone would think that I was in leg two for the men, as an entire swarm came past me at great speed. I was pleased to maintain my position, and finished in 22:35, with the team in 54th. Job done.

By this time, the men’s race was well underway, having started at 2.30pm. I hadn’t had as much opportunity to speak to the men individually, but knew that at least Matt Richards (left) and David McCoy had a marathon on the immediate horizon, Rob Corney, Lance Nortcliff and Andy Mutton had a niggle or two, and Pete Jewell was returning from illness. 

There might have been other reasons for people not feeling their best, so apologies if I was not aware — it definitely didn’t show! 

Seb Briggs (A), David McCoy (the younger)(B), Chris Buley (C, below) and Brian Kirsopp (vets) ran the first 6.2k leg in respective times of 18:20, 18:38, 20:27 and 21:06, setting their teams up in fantastic positions.

They handed over to Rob Corney (16:59), Ryan Faulkner (in his first team event for the club)(19:28), Ian Giggs (21:56) and Colin Cottell (22:46), who also had brilliant runs. 

The third leg runners again ran really impressive times — Matt Richards (above, 17:36), Chris Lucas (19:03), Lance Nortcliff (20:04) and Pete Jewell (21:59). 

By now, the lead runners were beginning to lap those further back, and things were looking pretty messy out on the course: men warming up and down, women cooling down, spectators everywhere, and park users generally in the way. 

I think the lead bike had stopped doing its job by this point, but having that on the track at the start and finish of each lap did not help matters. Those actually in the race had to have their wits about them to keep up with what was going on around them. 

Up for the fourth legs were another new Roadrunner, Sibrand Rinzema (18:24), Jamie Smith (19:22), Tony Page (21:18) and Tony Walker (21:53). The latter’s anchor leg brought the vet 50s home in 13th out of 20 complete teams. Well run, guys! 

I don’t know when was the last time that RR had a vet 50s team at these relays, but a precedent may have been set now.

Meanwhile, the seniors continued for their remaining two legs. At the point in the YouTube film, Tonbridge coach Mark Hookway was counting runners into the stadium. He knew every vest of every club. When he saw Sibrand, in 18th, he said something along the lines of “Don’t know who these guys are.” Were the green vests suddenly a threat? They had certainly been noticed. 

Leg five was run really well by Mark Worringham (18:05) and Matt Davies (19:26), but Andy Mutton (23:03) was clearly not comfortable. I hope he has been resting this week. 

On the anchor leg were Jack Gregory, Chris Burt and Ollie Watts. Jack ran a storming 17:47 and brought the team across the finish line for the final time in 17th place.

This was a huge improvement on their 25th place finish of the previous year, and was set to see them qualify for the National Road Relays on October 6th. Chris and Ollie also ran well, with 19:31 and 22:37, but the latter had reported a rather lonely leg, with the race drawing to a close. The B team finished in 48th, and the C team 68th, out of 73 complete teams. Great performances all round.

The results were up as we arrived back in Reading. The A team was listed as incomplete, with both Rob’s and Matt’s times missing.

Team manager Mark set about investigating why, and reported back that, somehow, Rob had not been listed on the original electronic entry form. While this does not seem possible, even with such a problematic entry system, which is prone to crashing, the SEAA were adamant, and with no way of proving otherwise, the team had been disqualified. Devastating!

Regardless, the fantastic performances still happened, those brilliant times were still run, and it was incredible to be part of a club with enough members of that standard. What a great day! In the words of Mark Hookway, as Jack came into the finish: “These have done well… Reading Roadrunners!” And yes, they had indeed.

The SEAA six (women) and twelve (men) stage relays will take place in the spring. Get your names down now (there will be brownies).

Pictures: Claire Woodhouse, Gemma Buley, Mel Shaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh what a Knight! Roadrunners put on a capital performance

AFTER a day out in the big city on marshalling duties, ladies captain SAM WHALLEY reports on a highly successful British championship event for the Roadrunners…

THE second May Bank Holiday Monday is always the date for what is now called the Vitality London 10,000.

Why is it 10,000 and not 10k, asked my daughter, with it being on a road and not a track? I don’t know, is the answer. 

Still, it is an incredibly popular race, with almost 20,000 finishers today. For many, it is the closest they will get to ‘running London’, as the course starts on The Mall and takes in sights as far as St Paul’s and the City. 

There are a couple of stretches where the course is two-way and, if you’re lucky, you get to see the elites on their way to the finish.

Our club is allowed to apply for six free male and female places for this race if we participate in the Autumn road relays, and Carl Woffington organises this for us. 

These places are ‘captain’s pick’; we want to choose some fast runners as this is a British 10k championship race, with team positions at stake, but it is also nice to reward some of our less elite runners. 

Personally I like to recognise those who have put themselves forward for team events throughout the winter.

Our men’s team was: Jack Gregory, David McCoy (the younger), Chris Lucas, Brian Kirsopp, Lance Nortcliff, and Pete Jewell. Rob Corney qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-32 minute 10k elsewhere.

The women’s team was: Nikki Gray, Laura Peatey, Helen Pool, Sarah Dooley, Angela Burley and Claire Seymour. Gemma Buley qualified for a complimentary championship place through running a sub-38 minute 10k elsewhere.

From our marshal spot on the Strand we were able to see the runners at just before 2k and just after 7k. The race was won by Mo Farah (above, with Susan Knight) and Steph Twell.

There were 37 Reading Roadrunners listed in the results, and it was hard work trying to spot them all. As usual our eyes were tuned to spot green vests, so apologies if you did not get a cheer — you were invisible.

I will never understand the non-wearing of the green vest. Indeed, in an event such as this, it is a bit risky; not wearing a club vest is a violation of the championship rules and your time would not count towards the team total. You don’t want to be that person.

It will come as no surprise to read that first club member to finish was Rob Corney, in 29th place. Only a week or so after another great marathon, Rob (right) proved once again he was worthy on an England vest (which he will wear in the Toronto Waterfront marathon in October). 

Rob’s PB of 30:29 is another new club record, taking 56 seconds off his previous best.

Rob was backed up by Jack Gregory, in 32:41, still managing to run great times despite the inevitable restrictions and tiredness that come with having a new baby in the house, and James Rennie, in 34:00.

Not yet 18, James is showing so much talent, including some for even pacing, with his first 5k being 16:59.

Today James (left), who switched his allegiance to Reading AC since entering the race, latched on to the international Gemma Steel to help him achieve his very evenly-paced PB. (He must have left her for dust in the end; I notice her finish time was 34:31).

The second men’s team was made up of David McCoy (34:10), Chris Lucas (left, 34:51) and Chris Burt (36:48), but the PBs did not end there. There was also a first sub-37 for Mark Dibben, a sub-38 for Chris Buley, and PBs for Brooke Johnson, David Lennon and Peter Rennie, so far as I know of at the time of writing. 

Brian Kirsopp was running his second 10k of the Bank Holiday weekend, having raced at Birmingham the previous day. He finished today’s race only five seconds slower. Lance Nortcliff felt unwell during his warm-up and made the sensible decision to not start the race.

Gemma Buley didn’t run with husband Chris but did finish at exactly the same chip time as him, leading the women’s first team home in 37:59. Gemma was supported by Nikki Gray, with a PB of 39:11, and Laura Peatey, also with a PB, in 41:14.

The second women’s team was made up of Helen Pool (41:34), Sarah Dooley, in another PB of 41:42, and the ever-improving Liz Johnson, again with a PB, in 46:42. 

There were also PBs for Carmen Fuentes-Vilchez, Angela Burley, Susan Knight, and Hilary Rennie, with others possibly to be confirmed. Susan (below) was delighted with her achievement, coming as it did less than a week after her 57th birthday.

Tina Woffington and Sandy Sheppard had a fantastic day out in the atmosphere, while Jenny Dimmick celebrated her newly-regained mojo with Gill Manton, the latter fresh from a PB in the Westminster Mile yesterday.

I don’t know if I am the only person who caught up on all the TV footage as soon as they got home, but I am taking two things from it. 

Firstly, the 800 women who were running in their underwear were part of the Celebrate You initiative, which aims to use plus-size models and normal-sized women to promote body confidence and prove that exercise is for everyone. Aha, that explains a lot. 

Secondly, the first three women to finish were noted for the strength they had built during the tough, hard, muddy winter of XC. Just saying..

Well done to everyone who ran today — you did us proud!

Results: https://www.vitalitylondon10000.co.uk/results/2019/

Pictures: Tina Woffington and Pete Morris

Runners on The Road

Runners on The Road

Come and join us for International Events!!

Often throughout the year many of us Roadrunners organise our own trips abroad. Someone will come up with an idea and we'll then eventually post it on Facebook.

These events are usually marathons but many incorporate half marathons & 10Ks also. We also have members who travel to international parkruns.  Often many may just come to support, so it's ideal if you just want a holiday.

The problem is many people can feel left out or new members may not have noticed old posts on Facebook.

If you have a trip planned in next year or so, or have a great idea then please contact me or email your idea and rough details to runnersontheroad@readingroadrunners.org or just tag me in (Paul Monaghan) and mention details on Facebook. Note you're not obliged to do this and it's totally understandable that you just may want to arrange your own trip with friends. But come on we all love a good holiday.

 

Upcoming Trips:sible text


 

Seville, Spain 2020

Distances  Marathon
parkruns? None in Spain at Present
Date  23-Feb-2020
Contact  Paul Monaghan & Caroline Jackson
Details One of the best cities in Spain. Famous for it's cathedral & tapas bars. The race starts in the centre and through the streets of Seville. At one point passes the stunning Plaza de España. Race is mainly flat. About ten of us from the club are travelling to this. Entry & details on website here

 


 

Paphos and Limassol Marathons

Distances  Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K
parkruns?  None in Cyprus
Date  15-March and 22-March 2020
Contact  Paul Monaghan & Caroline Jackson
Details Cyprus the island that has approx 320 days of sun a year!  A great place to get some late winter sun.  The Paphos marathon starts at the wonderful Aphrodite’s Birthplace and starts at 7.30am.  There are free coaches for all runners to the start from the Harbour in Paphos.  Free Unlimited Beer at the finish and a fantastic award ceremony overlooking the Mediterrean.  There is also a wine 5k run on the Tuesday which includes transport there and back to the winery, lunch, visit to the museum and winery,  and bottle of wine for all finishers.  Link here for the Paphos event https://logicomcyprusmarathon.com/

Limassol marathon takes place on Sunday 22 March. On the same day there is also a 10k, 5K , and Half Marathon.    https://www.limassolmarathon.com/

There is a great after party at Limassol too at the new marina.

Please contact us if you need any advice on where to stay and flights etc.  We have done these races before and have lots of knowledge on both Paphos and Limassol.

Check out this article I wrote last time we ran them in 2019

 


 

Marseille Marathon 2020

Distances  Marathon, Half Marathon, 6K & 10K or Relay
parkruns?  None nearby
Date  12 April 2020
Contact  Paul Monaghan & Caroline Jackson
Details Giving this one a go also a good opportunity to get away over Easter.   We are flying out on the Good Friday and back on Monday.
Marseille, a port city in Southern France and located on the Mediterranean Coast.
We are staying at the Ibis by Vieux Port.

Website: https://www.timeto.com/en-GB/sports/running/run-in-marseille-by-harmonie-mutuelle-2020

 


 

Rhodes Marathon 2020

Distances  Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K
parkruns?  None in Greece
Date  3-May 2020
Contact  Paul Monaghan & Caroline Jackson
Details We have ran this one before and can recommend it.  It’s a beautiful run in the on this great Greek island.  The run starts early mainly to avoid the heat but its still a scorcher.

The pasta party the night before the event is amazing.   Further details

https://www.rhodesmarathon.gr/en/